I must admit, being Korean, and working in the beauty industry, the pressure is multiplied to have impeccable skin. I was definitely groomed from birth by my mother, aunts and countless maternal figures on how to eat, wash, and care for my skin. It’s just part of Korean beauty culture, which isn’t about products at its core, but about skin-preserving methods and techniques. But on the days I need a quick fix, here are six of my go-to hacks that’ll transform your skin from blah to amazing, any day.
1. Give your face a steam massage in the shower. Skin clinics are down every block in South Korea, where you can get a facial massage as easy as a budget manicure. I recommend not only using circular motions with your fingers, but also tapping in rotating motions-starting on the forehead, then the cheekbones, cheeks, and working down to the jawbone. Massaging increases circulation and creates a dewy complexion. For added benefit use an oil cleanser to maximize hydration.
2. Use a charcoal sheet face mask. Buying sheet masks are as common as getting Kleenex in South Korea. And all the rage ingredient? Charcoal. It detoxes and exfoliates your skin, and all you have to do is let the sheet sit on your face for 15-20 minutes while you relax. I like this one from Dr. Jart.
3. Exfoliate with a washcloth soaked in hot water. My aunt is 70 and has no wrinkles. Her secret? She uses a nubby washcloth to massage her face every day, using upward moving, circular strokes.
4. Apply a facial essence between two layers of moisturizer. Many modern Korean women feel that essences are the key to sealing in all the goodies of your daily cleansing. Essences are mild, skin nutrient filled solutions (not toners) that hydrate your skin and are applied after cleansing (here’s one of my new favorite ones by Mizon). The next step is to add a serum, and then you can add your moisturizer for maximum skin elasticity and hydration.
5. Try Blurring to create HD perfect skin. You know when roll out of bed and think OMG, how do I just hide all of this? You actually can. Try the Korean blurring trick, which basically means using one or several smart coverage products (my go-to is Iope’s Air Cushion foundation) with a makeup brush to wipe out and "blur" unwanted imperfections. If you use an air-cushion foundation, a signature Korean cosmetic, you can blur like a pro, because the formula flexes from ultra sheer to total-coverage with each application without every looking heavy.
6. Use an overnight sleeping mask. It’s during sleep that your skin cells turnover and do their hardest work at cell recovery. This is the best time to hyper-moisturize and work on a tired complexion. I like to apply an intensive sleeping mask to correct any dullness. When you wake up, weeks of wear and tear will have come off of your face. Trust me.
7. Try a lip tint/oil for lips. These nutrient-rich lip oil treatments slide like butter (yes, really) onto your lips, and also give you a sheer pop of color with zero stickiness. I love this one by Julep, which has a blend of Korean Camellia oil, as well as avocado and rosehip oils.
8. Drink barley tea. Ever gone to a Korean restaurant and gotten a nutty tasting tea? It’s probably roasted barely tea, which is what is served to Korean babies from birth to fortify their skin and overall well-being. Barley tea is rich in anti-oxidants and one study showed that drinking it can improve blood circulation. Some suggest it may even double as a weight loss drink. You just can’t go wrong!
Nuy Cho is the mother of one and the founder of NuyBeauty.com.