What do sheet masks, BB creams, double cleansing, and whisper-light moisturizers have in common?
They’re all Korean skincare sensations that migrated to the West.
South Korea’s northern neighbor is in the news for all the wrong reasons, but switch to the beauty channel and you’ll keep hearing about “K-beauty,” or Korean beauty.
Koreans know their stuff. They prize clear skin and are religious about sunscreen. They’re also not averse to a 10-step cleansing and moisturizing ritual … day and night.
In South Korea, beautiful skin is an investment. Korean women splash out twice as much on skincare as Americans, and the men aren’t far behind.
Since beauty is such big business in South Korea, cosmetics companies develop new products for the market that never see the light of day in the West. Like products containing snail slime, salmon eggs, tree sap, pickled egg shells, and pig collagen.
You have to have a strong stomach to try K-beauty, but the ingredient ick factor is more than overcome by the whimsical packaging featuring flowers, animals, or anime. These are products you won’t want to hide in a cupboard.
And they’re affordable. In most cases you won’t pay any more for K-beauty than for American brands.
The first major Korean beauty import was BB creams back in 2012. These creams are similar to tinted moisturizers but pack a lot more beauty benefits. They often contain sunscreen, antioxidants, and other skin-nourishing ingredients.
What we get here in the West isn’t the same as the original, however. Korean BB creams lighten skin tone as well. They often contain more skin-enhancing ingredients than Western versions. Which means it’s worth trying out a Korean brand if you can find it.
Luckily, finding Korean beauty products has never been easier, thanks to entrepreneurs like Charlotte Cho.
Cho describes herself as having a “Korean face [but] California attitude.” She grew up in California to Korean parents, but she’d wanted nothing to do with the Korean beauty products her mother used.
“I always thought [skin care] was something you had to care about when you were older and worried about wrinkles,” she said. 
But then she moved to Seoul after college to work for Samsung. She got bit by the beauty bug. Soon her friends in America were asking her where they could get the products she was raving about.
That’s how Soko Glam was born.
Cho founded the company with her husband in 2012. Three weeks after launching their website, they sold out completely. Their living room was full of boxes, they were handwriting all the labels, and they knew they were onto a hit.
Fast forward three years. Cho’s first book, The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin, came out. Soko Glam had expanded from featuring 5 brands to 25 different brands.
And Korean skincare was firmly entrenched in the American imagination.
So what can you steal from K-beauty?
Here are 3 Korean beauty secrets anyone can use.
1. Skin care trumps makeup
If your skin isn’t radiant enough to look fantastic without makeup, then it’s time to switch gears from cover-up to nourish.
Korean women rock the “no-makeup look” because of the effort they put into caring for their skin. They wear sunscreen, they exfoliate, they wear sheet masks … all to ensure their naked skin has that luminous porcelain glow.
It can be scary to stop relying on makeup for the look you want, but that could just be the motivation you need to get serious about skin care. Maybe a 10-step routine is too much for you, but could you add a serum or an essence to your routine? How about a weekly mask?
If you don’t have time for a mask, Soko Glam suggests applying one before you step into the shower. Hot water dries out your skin by stripping away natural oils, so avoid washing your face in the shower where possible. Wearing a face mask in the shower keeps you from being tempted. Plus, it leaves your skin extra-moisturized.
2. Double cleanse
How many products do you use to wash your face?
If you’re like most of us, you just use face wash.
But Koreans have a two-step cleansing routine. They start with an oil cleanser then finish with a water-based cleanser.
The oil cleanser removes makeup and sunscreen. It also gets off the surface layer of gunk so that the water-based cleaner can penetrate even more deeply. (Plus, if used over time it reduces fine lines and wrinkles.)
The water-based cleanser then finishes the job.
Soko Glam’s blog puts it bluntly: “Double cleansing is the backbone of any good routine and is undoubtedly the most important step in the routine—if your skin isn’t totally clean, your other products just won’t work as well, and your skin won’t stay clear.” 
3. DIY facial massage
Here in the West, we’re used to the idea of getting a whole-body massage, but when’s the last time you had a facial massage?
Cho gives a full break-down of how to give yourself a facial massage in her book, but the easiest way is to squirt some moisturizer into your palm, rub it for a few seconds to warm it up, then pat it firmly over your skin. Then, use your knuckles to massage the middle of your face and around the outside edges. Use the pads of your fingers to gently massage under the eyes. (Get Cho’s GIF-enhanced tutorial here.)
Daily facial massages can tighten loose skin, slim down the face by flushing out toxins, and tone facial muscles.
K-beauty has taught me that no matter how much I think I’m doing for my skin, it’s not as much as I could be doing. So much of skincare is habit. As I get older, I need to be updating my routine regularly.
And if that means putting some snail slime moisturizer on my face, I’m game. Anything for beauty!