Americans traditionally praise Europe as the epitome of sartorial trendsetting, but when it comes to beauty the world’s most inspiring innovators are in South Korea. It all started in 2011 when BB creams, a product native to Korea, trickled into the U.S. market. They amassed a cult-like following, and suddenly, Americans began turning to Eastern Asia as the de-facto resource for all things beauty. A slew of other Korean skincare products have made their way to the U.S. since then—but what should we be looking out for next? DuJour spoke to four experts from the top South Korean brands about the most promising new beauty trends.
1. The Cushion-Compact
The product, first introduced by AmorePacific, features a CC cream-soaked sponge in a pocket-sized compact; simply press down on the applicator and it’ll deliver the perfect amount of weightless liquid. “This breakthrough technology has been hugely successful in Asia, raking in $300 million in sales,” says Brad Horowitz, the CEO of Amore Pacific North America. “It’s changed the way women think of a foundation, providing a ‘perfect complexion’ in as little as 30 seconds.” Horowitz says the cushion compact has replaced 40 percent of foundation category sales in Asia. AmorePacific’s cushion compact—and another iteration from Sulwhasoo—is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
2. A Multi-Step Regimen
For Korean women, a daily skincare routine can encompass nearly 10 steps. “It’s not simply a matter of putting on lotion or sunscreen in the morning,” explains Daniel Yoon, the communications director of UNIL, a manufacturer of Korean hair tools. The process involves “double cleansing”—using a cleansing oil followed by a cleansing foam—then toner, pre-hydration exfoliators, treatment serums, essences and creams. Adds Horowitz, “Each step in the regimen boosts the result of benefit of the next step.”
“We believe that hydration is a fundamental of the best-looking skin,” says Sara Lee, the co-founder of GlowRecipe.com, an e-commerce site that sells Korean products in the U.S. In fact, there’s even a specific Korean word used to describe well-hydrated skin. “It’s called ‘choc-choc’,” says Richard You, the U.S. General Manager of South Korea-based Dr. Jart+. “The ‘choc-choc’ refers to the state when your face still has some water on it after cleansing. Korean women believe that this state comes from healthy skin that can retain lots of water.” You believes hydration is the secret to sheer and natural-looking foundation coverage. He also adds that application is key—Korean women skillfully massage and pat products into the face, which is believed to offer optimal absorption.
4. Sheet Masks
“Korean sheet masks are very popular in Asian countries. It only takes about 15 minutes or so to get instant results,” says You of the masks, which can be made from cotton, felt or hydrogel. The wet, paper-thin sheet usually covers the face entirely, and is easy to apply. Says Horowitz, “Many Korean women use sheet masks every night before going to bed.”
5. Essence Serums
One of most promising products making its way to the US is the “essence serum.” Lee, a 10-year veteran of the beauty industry, describes it as a “lightweight, concentrated serum that really packs a powerful punch.” As a crucial part of the meticulous Korean skincare regimen, essences deliver nourishing and anti-aging benefits. Lee recommends the Hungarian water essence from belif, one of Korea’s top natural brands.