South Korean star Song Hye-kyo once revealed the secret to her glowing skin. The 41-year-old once revealed that she treats herself to a DIY face pack. The recipe is simple: Blend a spoonful of powdered milk, honey, and an egg together. Apply it to your face and leave it on for 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.
On the other hand, Song Joong-ki has another trick up his sleeve. He swabs a cotton pad with milk and swipes it across his face. Meanwhile, actor Goo-Hara swears by a cucumber facial for anyone suffering from dry skin. Other stars like Hyun Bin and Nam Joo-hyuk emphasise the importance of moisturising and using sunscreen.
The methods to retain that unblemished skin are aplenty, and we can thank the Koreans for this. As the Hallyu wave spurs to astronomical heights, everyone wants a slice of the K-beauty pie and for good reason. There’s more curiosity about their skincare regimes and the products they use. The K-skin philosophy is about layering serums and moisturisers that hydrate the skin, explains Ridah Syed, medical aesthetician at skinfluencer London, a dermatology clinic. This routine helps your skin to thrive, but also focuses on protecting your skin, rather than using products for damage control.
You are aware of the basic routine, which involves cleansing, toning, and moisturising. The K-beauty routine has a few extra steps and rules. So, if you want to go that extra mile, here’s what you need to keep in mind.
A thorough cleansing ritual
First and foremost, cleanse your skin thoroughly.
If you are doing the double-cleanse, here’s how to go about it. The first cleanse, which should be an oil-based cleanser, will break down and remove any makeup, dirt, sweat, and excessive oils on the face. Opt for an oil-based cleanser in the beginning, as it helps in cleaning the skin from oil-based impurities. The second one is usually a mild foamy cleanser.
There’s the 4-2-4 method too, and we can thank South Korean star Bae Suzy’s tutorials for this one. It is a four-part skincare ritual, which is like the double-cleansing method. Here, spend four minutes removing makeup by massaging cleansing oil into your skin. After this, apply a foam cleanser. Rinse your face with water; two minutes of lukewarm water and two minutes of cold water. By doing this, you have thoroughly cleansed your skin, before beginning the skincare routine. You can now apply toner, which balances the skin, before you apply anything else. Take a leaf out of BTS’ V’s book. He stays hydrated on flights as he keeps applying toner and lotion.
Look for the right serums
In K-beauty, you apply serums that are humectants, which are food additives that reduce the loss of moisture. Syed emphasises that one of the key products used is the active, hyaluronic acid, which is a potent humectant making it crucial ingredient for skin, especially for those with dry skin. When it is combined with niacinamides, it supports a healthy skin barrier.
After this, use moisturisers and other actives before finishing the process with a heavier product such as a lotion or cream, which will trap the moisture into your skin, she says.
The importance of hyaluronic acid in your skincare routine
There’s much hype surrounding hyaluronic acid, which is an active ingredient, for good reason. “This active behaves like a sponge attracting and retaining moisture from the environment, as well as from within the skin,” says Geraldine Janse Van Veuren, brand manager of Comfort Zone, an Italian beauty brand, available in Dubai. “It can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water, making it incredibly effective in hydrating the skin and keeping it plump,” she says.
A careful layering
K-beauty is all about how you layer your products. Layering ensures that the products penetrate the skin and efficiently. “This can be especially true for dry, dull skin at night, when layering hydrating serums helps to restore lost moisture and ensure skin does not dry out too much,” adds Syed.
All skin types cannot cope with layers of thick creams and lotions, especially oily skin, and acne-prone skin, as it can clog pores and trigger outbreaks. “The K-beauty method offers an alternative, as it primarily uses lightweight serums formulated with actives,” says Syed.
Layer in order
If you want that unblemished skin, make sure you layer your products in order, warns Syed. Different types of products and ingredients improve skin hydration, using different mechanisms. Understand what you’re applying on your face and why you’re doing so. If you have doubts, ask a dermatologist and beautician.
“For instance, humectants such as hyaluronic acid add moisture to the skin often by drawing it from the surrounding environment, while emollients such as ceramides seal in moisture and prevent evaporation from the skin,” explains Syed. Be sure to layer water-based products first, then the heavier oil-based ones.
Why you should moisturise well
Skin flooding, or drenching the skin in moisture is quite beneficial, especially for a climate like the Middle East, says Veuren. “Well-hydrated skin is important in protecting against external elements that can have a negative impact on its appearance and compromise its barrier function,” she explains.
K-Pop star Yeosang from the popular band Ateez once shared a tip. “Don't slather moisturiser everywhere,” he had once told the fashion portal Allure. “I put toner all over my face, but moisturiser-wise, I don't put it on my forehead. If I do, I get pimples," he had said.
Don’t let go of your masks
At the end of the day, it feels so good to relax with a sheet mask. South Korean star Park Seo-joon, who looks practically ageless, had once revealed that he applies a mask every day.
His What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim star Park Min-Young doesn’t stop at one, she uses several masks a day as she had revealed during the promotions of her show in Singapore. “There are days when I have makeup on for many hours, so I try to take off my makeup every break I get in between filming and put on a mask. I can use up to two to three masks a day when filming,” she had said.
Does washing your face with milk work?
South Korean star Song Joong-ki isn’t the only one who washes his face with milk every night; even pop-star Han Sun-wha has crafted her mask out of bean powder and milk. In fact, Song Hye-kyo in 2021 said that she warms up the milk and applies to her face on the last stage of cleansing.
The idea behind the routine is to focus on the skin, and not the products. There’s a science behind this logic. According to US-based medical site Healthline, milk contains vitamin A, D, E, K, and lactic acid, which are anti-aging products. Milk can be used as a mild exfoliating agent to remove dead skin cells, and milk in masks can even help in clearing dark spots. However, Healthline mentioned that there is no evidence that using milk is better than an ordinary cleanser.