Korean skincare is all about layering. While growing up, I basically just cleansed my face and used a moisturizer, but the Korean skincare routine brings along numerous steps to help your skin look youthful and glowing. It’s not about having products that overflow on your bathroom cabinet, it’s about having the right products for your skin and using them in the most beneficial order.
1. Practice mouth stretches.
Channel your inner Eliza Doolittle and say A-E-I-O-U in an exaggerated way. Repeat three times. It sounds silly, but many swear this trick improves circulation and brightens skin tone. It certainly can’t hurt, so I’ll let you be the judge.
2. Detox your private parts.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan of vaginal steams, called “chai-yok,” which involve sitting naked on an open-seated stool above a steaming pot of water filled with medicinal and aromatic herbs such as mugwort for 30 to 45 minutes. The treatment supposedly helps women with infertility issues by “cleansing” the uterus and balancing hormone levels. V-steams have plenty of (very) vocal critics, but the practice’s devotees swear by them. At the very least, you’ll get a relaxing, surprisinglyhalf hour to yourself — so yeah, they’re worth it.
3. 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 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!
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Use a charcoal sheet face mask.
Buying sheet masks is as common as getting Kleenex in South Korea. An 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 to 20 minutes while you relax. I like this one from Dr. Jart.
7. 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.
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