As a skincare lover, you’ve probably thought about the ingredients in your favorite products and exactly just what is going on your face. And if you’ve heard of snail mucin essence or horse oil cream, you’ll know that the Korean beauty industry is always researching and developing new, cutting-edge, ingredient-based formulas. K-beauty has truly become known for its (occasionally infamous) ingredients, and many of them are native to the Korean peninsula. In today’s post we’re going to take an in-depth look at four of the most common extracts we see in Korean skincare!
An important note: although its beneficial to understand the purpose of certain ingredients, and whether our skin reacts well to those ingredients, it’s also important to keep perspective. Ingredients come in different forms, different percentages, and work differently in different formulas, so it’s impossible to be sure how products containing “ingredient X” will perform. Be mindful, but ultimately all you can do is test each product for yourself.
Ingredient 1: Centella Asiatica
Centella, or “cica” as it is commonly referred to in K-beauty, became a hugely popular ingredient in 2018, with cica products practically falling from the sky. By late 2019, these products are still in high demand, and for good reason!
Centella asiatica is a leafy plant found in several parts of the world and has historically been used in Chinese medicine as both an internal supplement and a topical treatment. So, what can it do in skincare? Topically, it has been shown to reduce inflammation because of the madecassic acid and is widely known for its calming and soothing properties. Cica is also packed with antioxidants.
These properties make cica products an ideal option for those dealing with sensitive or damaged skin. For example, the Innisfree Bija Cica Balm Ex is a concentrated gel balm aimed at protecting the skin from external irritants as well as soothing and encouraging skin repair. The extremely popular Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask is an overnight treatment used to protect, restore and nourish skin’s natural barrier. These products utilise both the idea and results of centella asiatica to calm and soothe skin.
Ingredient 2: Green Tea (Camellia Sinesis)
A classic in skincare products from around the world, this key ingredient is very highly thought of.
Green tea is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect our skin against environmental damage and slow down the ageing process. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce redness and irritation. This is due to the polyphenols in green tea, called catechins, which have been shown to work as a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
The Green Tea Seed line is one of Innisfree’s most popular and well-known skincare lines, with products from cleanser through to cream. The products work together to provide skin with deep hydration and nourishment, resulting in a healthy glow and clear complexion. Because of the antioxidants, they’re also seen as great options for preventative anti-ageing.
Ingredient 3: Ginseng
Ginseng is one of South Korea’s most highly valued herbal ingredients. It features in EVERYTHING, from skincare to dinner recipes. You can even purchase ginseng liquor (nope, sadly it doesn’t make for a great tasting alcohol! Tried and tested…).
Ginseng is extremely popular in Asian medicine and is predominantly used as an immunity-booster. The use of ginseng in skincare dates backs to the Joseon Dynasty, which was founded in Korea in 1392 and lasted until 1897. The herb has a regal presence and takes centre stage in many luxury brands, perhaps most notably, Sulwhasoo. The multi-functioning ingredient acts as an antioxidant, protecting skin from external damage and premature ageing, and is also supposed to help regenerate and calm the skin.
One of Sulwhasoo’s most potent and luxurious ginseng products is the Essential Rejuvenating Eye Cream EX. The formula uses the enzymes from Korean Red Ginseng Saponin to reduce the appearance of fine lines around the delicate eye area, while the moisturizing elements, such as honey, keep skin supple and soft. It deeply hydrates, leaving your eye area feeling refreshed.
Ingredient 4: Propolis
You’ve most likely heard of propolis, but do you know what it actually is? Propolis is a substance produced by bees essentially to line their hives with. The bees harvest tree sap and combine it with beeswax, among other things, to produce the propolis and it’s used as a protectant.
Propolis is an exciting natural ingredient, and its wealth of properties has been utilized by Korean skincare companies (FYI- bees are not harmed when propolis is collected). This star ingredient is most famous for its anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and healing abilities, making it a go-to for those with acne prone skin. It’s also moisturizing, regenerative, packed with antioxidants, and soothes the skin. It really is a multi-functional ingredient that can work extremely well for all skin types.
The Dr Ceuracle, formerly Leegeeham, Royal Vita Propolis 33 Ampoule is a cult product in the Korean skincare community and is well-known for its glow-inducing abilities. The antioxidative formula moisturizes and heals the skin, leaving a youthful, supple, healthy-looking complexion. It’s one to never be without and a couple of drops added to a moisturizer can really make a difference!
It’s valuable to invest some time in understanding ingredients lists if you’re using skincare products. Not only is it beneficial to figure out how your skin reacts to different ingredients, but as we hope you’ve discovered with this article, it can be super interesting too! Being able to scan lists, know your skin, and understand ingredients to the best of your ability, is a great place to be in your skincare journey.
Katherine Spowart from skinfullofseoul.com