In the skincare world, no one outpaces innovation faster than South Korea and their obsession with cultivating the most results-driven ingredients and packing just-as-potent, professional-grade effectiveness into over-the-counter creams at lightening speed has—and continues—to bring constant newness that’s useful and downright transformative right to our bathroom shelfies. Remember when Korean BB creams hit the market a few years back? They became instant staples and sparked a total BB cream craze, inspiring legions of other beauty players to introduce versions of their own along the way.
While newness may be front and center when it comes to exciting and emerging trends, there are a handful of OG innovations that helped put K-beauty on the map (see BB cream, above)—and that we couldn’t wait to introduce to you on Glowrecipe.com. Here, the cult-favorite, got-to-try-them-if-you-haven’t-already breakthroughs that started it all.
Blithe Pressed Serums ($49 each)
Before the revolving door of multitasking hybrids, came these powerful treatment products that are part serum, part moisturizer and wholly a miracle for anyone looking to cut down on clutter and save time. They’re pretty much magic; so much so that brands like Algenist and Tula have recently jumped on the pressed serum bandwagon, too.
The triple-threat Tundra Chaga formula is the first product we launched with in 2014, and went on to become an instant Shark Tank favorite and the first K-beauty product to sell out on QVC. The reason? It’s packed with 60% chaga mushroom extract that’s cool instead of heat-processed (a K-beauty technique that helps preserve precious nutrients) and fermented olive and argan oils to boost hydration, even out texture, and smooth fine lines in one swipe. Plus, it has an unexpectedly bouncy, pudding-like consistency that you won’t find anywhere else to melt into skin and nourish without feeling heavy.
If you have oily to combo skin that tends to be red and pimple-prone, then you’re going to want something soothing and lightweight like the Crystal Iceplant gel. It’s equal parts potent and comforting with 63% ice plant extract, an especially hardy plant that survives in harsh climates. This all-in-one formula won’t clog pores, feels cool on contact, has major anti-inflammatory properties, and is rich in antioxidants to plump and repair dehydrated skin while calming irritation in a matter of minutes.
Need a little more assistance battling fine lines and wrinkles? Try the Velvet Yam version, which has a richer, velvety texture and is loaded with heavy-duty hydrators like mountain yam, macadamia oil, and shea butter. In Korea, mountain yam is coveted for its ability to brighten and even out skin tone and texture, which is exactly what you’ll notice with consistent use.
If your skin is parched or you’re in the market for some major glow, turn to Blithe’s latest formulation—the Gold Apricot Pressed Serum. A brightening mix of 31% apricot extract, niacinamide, and turmeric is blended with olive and sunflower seed oils to create a luscious whipped balm that hydrates like a boss and gives skin an instant glass skin finish. It’s so concentrated that a little goes a long way, so all you need is a pea-sized amount. Just warm it up between your fingertips and gently press onto clean, slightly damp skin. We also love using it like a non-shimmery highlighter; tap a tiny amount on the areas where light would naturally hit your face—cheekbones, bridge of the nose, and brow bones—on top of makeup for a high-shine effect.
Blithe Splash Masks ($45 each)
The art of the “splash” dates back to a centuries-old Korean bathhouse ritual of rinsing skin with milk, which is naturally high in lactic acid, to brighten and exfoliate. These high-tech blends, which we coined as “splash masks” when we introduced them on our site in 2015 (they’re actually called patting water packs in Korea) deposit active ingredients that target a myriad of problems at once: dullness, hyperpigmentation, rough texture, dryness, and breakouts. And the world has taken note: Similar versions from Darphin and Boscia have popped up over the last year. Why? Simply put, they’re a no-brainer beauty breakthrough that makes life—and your skin—so much better. All three Blithe formulas have a soothing mix of botanical extracts and exfoliating lactic acid, but each add an additional hero ingredient: green tea to help calm, citrus to brighten, and a blend of berries that preps skin with protective antioxidants. Regardless of which one you choose, just splash a capful onto your face in the shower, wait 15-30 seconds, then rinse. Big-time payoff in the form of smoother, clearer skin with practically zero effort.
Lindsay Modeling Rubber Masks ($6 each)
Long before glitter masks took over our Insta feeds, there were these satisfyingly goopy, rainbow-hued rubberized masks from Seoul. (Live under a rock and haven’t seen them yet? Here they are in action.) Once available only at dermatologist clinics and celebrity-catering spas in Seoul, in 2014, the K-beauty brand Lindsay developed an at-home version housed in a single-serving cup that delivers the same fresh-from-the-facialist glow anytime. And since, they’ve gained such popularity that brands like Skyn Iceland and Dr. Dennis Gross offer a modeling mask in their lineup now. Each of the seven OG Lindsay options contains a smattering of skin-nourishing minerals, including a special sea kelp extract that helps transform the base powder into a gelatinous mixture. The how-to: Mix with water, spread on a thick layer, take a selfie and watch the likes roll in. Peel off after 15-20 minutes and bask in the glory of instantly nicer skin.
MD’s Picks Water Rubber Masks ($9 each)
The K-beauty follow-up to the OG rubber masks mentioned above? These next-gen modeling masks that give serious face gloss. Their main points of difference are to provide a potent injection of hydration thanks to a base of licorice extract, centella asiastica, and ginger and to leave skin with a subtle sheen, rather than a matte finish like their rubbery predecessors. Don’t expect them to get fully hard either; they dry into a soft, slippery, jelly-like film that’s super gentle on skin and easy to peel off. Choose the one that addresses your main skin concern: goji for antioxidants, clarifying for clogged pores, aqua for a double dose of moisture, gold for calming, and pearl for brightening. No similar products to report as of now, but like the others, it’s just a matter of time before the trend goes mainstream.
Which K-beauty product is your fave? And which one are you dying to try?
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