12 Korean Beauty Trends To Try In 2021

Snail mucin. Bee venom. Glass skin. These are just some of the beauty trends to emerge from South Korea in the past five years. Whether you’ve dabbled in a bit of donkey milk (good for rejuvenating the skin with protein and fatty acids) or you’ve played it safe with a weekly face mask, K-beauty is everywhere. In fact, Allied Market Research says that by 2026, the K-beauty market will be worth an estimated $21 billion. According to Jenni Middleton, director of beauty at trend forecasting company WGSN, “During the coronavirus pandemic, consumers searched more for K-beauty, looking for innovative products to add to their lockdown beauty regimes.”

Like most cultural phenomena, K-beauty is ever-changing—what was big last year may not be as popular this year. As Middleton observes, we’re seeing the traditional 10-step routine give way to a more minimalist approach as conscious consumers react against fast fashion and excessive packaging. Elsewhere, playful gimmicks such as color-changing effects or jellylike substances are being passed over in favor of science-backed formulas.

1. Hanbang ingredients

Hanbang ingredients are traditional herbal ingredients used in Korean medicines and they’ve long been a staple in Korean life. For example, ginseng root, houttuynia cordata, sacred lotus, and rehmannia boast antiaging, anti-inflammation, and regenerative properties.

2. Acid layering

K-beauty has been incorporating more acid into its products, but with a gentle approach that focuses on striking the balance: Too much can irritate and aggravate your skin, too little will yield no results, so products with an optimal amount is key. Use the right balance of AHAs and BHAs (plant and animal-derived acids) to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and smooth skin texture.

3. Carrot seed oil

Carrot seed oil is an unsung hero at the moment, although it has been used in K-beauty for more than 10 years. It contains vitamin A and is a great antioxidant. It’s antiaging, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory—so it’s ideal for anyone looking to brighten up their skin.

4. Gentle retinol

K-beauty’s ‘skin first’ approach will continue through 2021, especially given that self-care and skin care are so important right now. There’s no denying retinol’s powerful antiaging properties, but the K-beauty approach uses a lower percentage, so the skin stays healthier and less irritated. Retinol is highly efficacious without causing unnecessary damage.

5. Centella asiatica

[The year] 2021 is less about what’s ‘buzzy’ and more about what’s tried-and-true, with a focus on calming the skin. Centella asiatica [an herb grown in Asia, known for being anti-inflammatory]—or ‘cica’—is huge right now. With everyone dealing with the prolonged stress of the pandemic and dreaded ‘maskne,’ soothing irritated, angry skin seems to be at the forefront of people’s minds. Cica is the ingredient that everyone wants to add to their routine.

6. Clean beauty

More brands are developing products free of chemical additives, artificial ingredients, and fragrance. Products will be even more gentle with effective plant-based ingredients, and many brands are becoming vegan as well. Consumers are more aware of what they put on their skin.

7. Pre-, pro-, and postbiotics

This year, inner and outer wellness brands and products will gain more popularity. For example, brands that focus on pre-, pro-, and postbiotics; microbiome-friendly skin care; and consumable supplements, which benefit both the skin and the gut.

“K-beauty will shift more towards a holistic approach, linking skin care and internal health. I take probiotic supplements for my bouts of eczema and I love using K-beauty products with fermented ingredients. I regularly use 107—it uses aged [seven- and 10-year-old] vinegar [that promotes good gut health]. Their vinegar tastes delicious with honey!”

8. Flexible minimalism

A few years back, we were oversaturated with the ‘10-step Korean skin-care routine.’ The ‘skin-care diet’ [using fewer products and steps] that followed was a pushback against that, but it was too restrictive for those who wanted more results than could be attained with just the basics.

Flexible minimalism is a focus on clean and simple product lines, which makes customizing your routine easier. There will also be a push towards pared-back lists of ingredients. Single and minimal ingredients are appealing because of their simplicity and high concentration of the hero component.

9. At-home indulgences

Skin care has a functional element—it has to work and deliver results—but I expect products that provide meditative, soothing, and spa-like moments to take off in a big way. They can transport you mentally and emotionally to another headspace.

10. Hyphenate and hybrid skin care

We’ve started seeing ‘skipcare’ as a K-beauty trend, where the focus is on a pared-down, simple, and minimalist routine. We will be seeing more efficient and effective multitasking and versatile products—what we like to call ‘hyphenates’ or ‘hybrid’ skin care.

11. Skin detoxifying and barrier strengthening

“The belief that ‘skin is a reflection of your mental state’ comes from Korea, and growing up, my mother emphasized this to me many times. We’ll see more barrier-strengthening ingredients that boost immunity, such as mushrooms, plus detoxifying herbs including mugwort and ginger. Ceramides [which form a protective layer to help prevent moisture loss and visible skin damage] will make a comeback too.”

12. A boost in body care

In Korea, many body-care rituals originate from the bathhouse culture, where milk treatments are slathered on the face and body, and baths are steeped with skin-beneficial ingredients, such as green tea and probiotics. During a difficult year, personal self-care has taken on new importance for many, so we expect to see the definition to include all of the skin, from head to toe.

VOGUE article

The Most Exciting New Skincare Products of January

Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide24 Hydrating Moisturizer

For plump skin, try Olay’s Collagen Peptide24 Moisturizer. Its lightweight formula has vitamin B3 to brighten your complexion and collagen-boosting peptides to firm skin and diminish fine lines. When the two work together, you’re looking at a hydrated, smooth complexion. 

$39 (Shop)  

Yes to Avocado Hand Cream

If there’s anything 2020 taught us, it’s that we need to wash our hands all the time. With hand-washing comes dry skin and the Yes to Avocado Hand Cream will fix those dehydrated, cracked hands right up. The avocado-based formula replenishes skin, and hyaluronic acid will maintain hydration. 

$5 (Shop)  

Mario Badescu Caffeine Eye Cream

If you didn’t get enough sleep, that’s OK because Mario Badescu’s Caffeine Eye Cream will make you look like you got a full night’s rest. The moisturizer in this tub is filled with caffeine for brightness, hyaluronic acid for hydration, and jojoba oil to help treat dryness. 

$18 (Shop)  

Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum

Dermalogica’s Neck Fit Contour Serum is filled with firming ingredients to give you a tight, line-free neck. The list includes rye seed extract, which smooths skin, and resurrection plant to strengthen the area. It’s applied with the built-in roller bar that also gives a cooling effect. 

$82 (Shop)  

Clinique Smart Night Clinical MD Multi-Dimensional Repair Treatment Retinol

The Clinique Smart Night Clinical MD Multi-Dimensional Repair Treatment Retinol flattens out fine lines with the power of retinol. Plus, it also has hyaluronic acid and squalane to give you a boost of hydration while you sleep. 

$69 (Shop)  

Simple Instant Glow Cleansing Wipes 

The new Simple Instant Glow Cleansing Wipes do way more than flawlessly take off stubborn makeup. Each cloth is made with niacinamide to brighten skin and glycerin to moisturize. So once your skin is clean, it’s also glowing.  

$5 for 25 wipes (Shop)  

The Inkey List Succinic Acid Acne Treatment

Meet the Inkey List’s first spot treatment: Succinic Acid Acne. This magical little tube is loaded with succinic acid, an anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps to reduce oil levels in your skin, as well as salicylic acid to exfoliate, sulfur powder to unclog pores, and hyaluronic acid to ensure skin stays hydrated. 

$9 (Shop)

L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t bronze up your complexion. The L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops give fairer skin tones a subtle glow when you mix five drops of this serum made with dihydroxyacetone (a sugar that when mixed with proteins on your skin makes it tan) and hydrating hyaluronic acid with your favorite moisturizer.

$17 (Shop)  

Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray

Your skin’s about to be drunk in love with Drunk Elephant’s Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray. It’s a cocktail of coconut water, vitamin F, and sake extract to calm redness and hydrate the skin. Use it as a step in your skincare routine after cleansing or as a refresher during the day. 

$42 (Shop)

Holifrog Halo AHA + BHA Evening Serum

The blend of alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids in the HoliFrog Halo AHA + BHA Evening Serum is going to give you clearer skin once you start using it for a few weeks. Not to mention, this formula is packed with moisturizing oils like that of rosehip and prickly pear, so no need to worry about all of those acids drying your skin out.   

$62 (Shop)

ALLURE article

The Best Toners for Every Skin Type

Toners are an important part of the skin-care equation, especially if your end goal is dewy, luminous skin. However, a lot of people still don’t know what exactly toners are or what they do. Board-certified dermatologist Tiffany Libby explains that a toner is designed to help remove the debris your cleanser might have missed and to prep your skin for the next step in your routine. “I think of them more as an adjunct or add-on to your skin-care routine,” Libby tells Allure.

Toners of the past were known for their astringent properties, which often dried skin out. Today, however, toner formulations have been improved to target an array of skin concerns, such as the loss of collagen or excess oiliness that can lead to breakouts — all made with varying ingredients, depending on your skin-care goals.

Board-certified dermatologist Sapna Palep tells Allure toners that hydrate and smooth out fine lines often contain antioxidants, amino acids, and hyaluronic acid. While toners that treat acne often include salicylic or glycolic acid.

Just as there are different ingredients for you to choose from, there is more than one way to put product on. Application is very easy and Libby says it’s really up to an individual’s preference: you can use your hands or cotton pads (Palep’s preference). And beyond the traditional bottled liquid, toners can also come in other delivery systems, such as gel sticks and face mists. (Libby particularly loves the spray formulations.)

But with so many toners out there in the market, it can be difficult to know what to pick for your specific skin needs. Scroll down to find the right toner to add to your skin-care routine.

Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate

If adding a toner to your mix feels like an unnecessary middle step, the Best of Beauty-winning Liquid Exfolikate by Kate Somerville may change your mind. Think of this toner, packed with alpha hydroxy acids and fruit enzymes, as a multi-purpose treatment that helps get rid of dead skin buildup so that your products absorb better. Spritz it on a night right before your moisturizer and sunscreen.

$58 (Shop Now)

Clean & Clear Lemon Juice Toner

Some facial toners use alcohol to clear away dirt and oil, but it can seriously dry skin out. Clean & Clear’s Lemon Juice Toner does the exact same thing, sans the stripping alcohol. There’s also vitamin C in this Allure Best of Beauty 2020 winner to help brighten and even dullness and dark spots.

$6 (Shop Now)

Mamonde Rose Water Toner

Mamonde Rose Water Toner is made with 90 percent rose water to give skin an intense boost of hydration. Not only will your skin will feel soft after using it, you’ll also get that dewy look that so many of us are constantly chasing.

$23 (Shop Now)

Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic

If you’ve been using and loving the Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic for as long as I have, you know it’s basically magic in a bottle. It’s made with hero ingredients — such as glycolic acid, aloe vera, and witch hazel — recommended for clearer, softer skin.

$29 (Shop Now)

Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner

Those who are blemish-prone will want to pay special attention to the Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner. It contains alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (like glycolic and salicylic acid) to gently remove dead skin cells and clear pores of dirt and grime — both of which will prevent breakouts in the long run.

$28 (Shop Now)

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid Moisturizing Toner

Can a toner really be moisturizing? The 2019 Best of Beauty winner Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid answers that question and more. Thanks to a formula full of ceramides, an ingredient that helps restore any lost moisture, skin is left feeling soft and supple after every use.

$39 (Shop Now)

Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner

Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner is made with a powerful blend of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids to control excess oil production without stripping away too much moisture. Plus, the 2019 Best of Beauty winner has a refreshing eucalyptus and peppermint scent that makes it a joy to use.

$29 (Shop Now)

Too Cool For School Rules of Mastic Facial Tonic

As the only mist on this list, Too Cool For School Rules of Mastic Facial Tonic doubles as a toner and hydrating spray you can use in the morning and then throughout the day. It contains ceramides and mastic oil, which strengthens the skin’s resiliency and helps heal damaged skin.

$14 (Shop Now)

E.L.F. Cosmetics Supertone

The E.L.F. Supertone toner livens up dull and tired skin, thanks to exfoliating glycolic acid, while soothing aloe reduces redness and inflammation.

$8 (Shop Now)

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner

I came to the Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner because I have an unhealthy obsession with all things rose, but I stayed because it’s just that damn good. The 2017 Best of Beauty winner contains rose fruit extract, rosewater, and angelica leaf extract — all known for their nourishing and soothing properties. Plus, it’s alcohol-free, so it won’t dry your skin out.

$45 (Shop Now)

Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer

Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer is a two-in-one formula that both strengthens skin’s natural defense barrier and moisturizes. Double the hydration, double the fun?

$33 (Shop Now)

Lumene Glow Lumenessence Brightening Beauty Lotion

Lumene Glow Lumenessence Brightening Beauty Lotion contains only the best ingredients to get you glowy skin. Yes, it has vitamin C, but it also has wild arctic cloudberry, which helps fight off oxidative damage and strengthen your skin’s natural defense barrier.

$15 (Shop Now)

Milk Makeup Matcha Toner

Milk’s Matcha Toner is truly unique for many reasons, but the obvious? It’s a solid, gel-stick toner, made with anti-inflammatory matcha green tea and oil-wicking kombucha, to soothe skin and prep it for its next skin-care product.

$28 (Shop Now)

ALLURE article