Special K ... get the lowdown on beauty's hottest new trend
Korean beauty is the new big must-have to hit the UK. Katie Wright on the Asian brands set to reach our shelves
After decades of revering French women and their no-nonsense, pharmacy-backed approach to looking good, a few years ago a new international skincare idol emerged.
Korean ladies reportedly spend an hour each morning and night on an elaborate 12-step process that results in skin so dewy and perfect, they eschew foundation altogether.
While we collectively agree that we value sleep more than skin, and wouldn't be sacrificing any shut-eye in the name of a few wrinkles, the popularity of 'K Beauty' products has continued to rise, so much so that at the end of July, Superdrug will be launching a range of five new 'SoKo' (South Korean) brands.
"Korean beauty is a huge trend in the industry, with some of the most innovative and Instagrammable products and ingredients on the market," says Simon Comins, Superdrug commercial director.
"In addition to the products the big brands are launching, we also wanted to be able to offer our customers authentic Korean beauty brands, which is why we are introducing Scinic, Soo'Ae, SNP, Dewytree and JinJu to the UK market."
But is it possible to incorporate the Korean method in your daily routine in fewer than 12 steps? Here, the experts explain what it's all about and how to do K Beauty the easy way.
What are the principles of K Beauty?
"Korean women see their skin as a whole. They treat it with great respect and prefer milder solutions and repetition, rather than harsh and aggressive treatments," explains Katalin Berenyi, co-founder of Erborian.
"Instead of seeking the efficiency through only a few products, as we do in Western countries, Korean women are seeking the efficiency through a sophisticated process of 10 to 15 products, used one after the other in a savvy order and timing."
"The steps may vary from as few as six to as many as 14," says Allan Lever, founder of MasqueBar. "Korean skincare is 'cultural' - it's a way of life. Before face masks, Korean mothers taught their children to use natural ingredients as a basis of 'masking' - using ingredients with benefits for specific skin needs. Most Korean women now have a busy life and do not do the full routine every day, but instead pick and choose their products of choice."
Which K Beauty products should we be using?
"The main objective in Korea is to have an absolutely pure and purified skin. For this reason, all Korean women use at least two, sometimes three different steps to perfectly cleanse their skin, with different textures," Berenyi explains. An oil-based cleanser followed by a foaming one is common, followed by "lotion or lotions, at least one essence and can go up to three."
'Lotion' doesn't mean a cream, but a liquid that acts as a toner, while 'essence' is what we would call a serum and is packed with actives.
"After cleansing exfoliator is next, although is sometimes skipped and may not happen every night," Lever says. "Toner and serum are next - leading to a face mask. The face mask may be a sheet mask or alternatively a cream, mud or peel-off mask."
Eyes are a big focus in K Beauty, according to Lever: "Either an eye cream or easy-to-use under-eye hydrogel patches.
"The last step is the sleeping mask, which absorbs into the skin and does not get on pillows or sheets.
"Throw in the use of an essence and you will have that glow, or 'honey skin' as known in SoKo."