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.

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The Best Face Scrubs Under $20

I feel as though physical exfoliation is one of the most satisfying skin-care practices because of the instant gratification it can provide (hello, immediately refreshed skin). Not only does exfoliation feel amazing and leave skin instantly more luminous; a good face scrub paves the way for the serums and moisturizers to follow, according to board-certified dermatologist Jeannette Graf.

“Exfoliating can help skin-care products penetrate 20 percent better,” she tells Allure. But here’s a word to the wise: As with most things, there is such thing as too much of a good thing in the case of scrubbing your face. You can avoid over-exfoliation by capping your scrub sessions to a maximum of three times per week.

Whether you need something that’s extra gentle for sensitive skin or want a scrub with a little extra oomph for perpetually clogged pores, I’ve got you — and your wallet — covered. Happy scrubbing, folks.

Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub

It’s not ideal to use a face scrub every day, according to dermatologists — so if you’re going to kick up your exfoliation, use the most gentle scrub possible to prevent damage to your skin barrier. The daily scrub from Cetaphil is packed with pH-balancing glycerin, so it hydrates while it sloughs away dead skin cells.

$10 (Shop Now)

Bioderma Sebium Exfoliating Gel

If you’re prone to acne, dullness, and hyperpigmentation, here’s a prime pick for you. The itty-bitty granules in Bioderma’s Exfoliating Gel physically exfoliate until they burst with salicylic and glycolic acid, which chemically exfoliate away impurities. With this formula, you’re getting twice the exfoliation in one product.

$15 (Shop Now)

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefuit Exfoliating Scrub

Dermatologists love the Best of Beauty-winning Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser from Neutrogena, and the scrub version is full of all the same clarifying ingredients, plus tiny microbeads that give an added boost of physical exfoliation.

$11 (Shop Now)

No7 Radiant Results Revitalising Daily Face Polish

No7’s Daily Face Polish contains ginseng root, which, all by itself, comes with a multitude of skin benefits. According to dermatologists, ginseng contains all sorts of antioxidants and vitamins that prevent fine lines, acne, and even hyperpigmentation.

$9 (Shop Now)

Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub

You can always count on an Aveeno product to be gentle on even the most sensitive skin types, and its Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub is no exception. With antioxidant soy extract, gylcerin, and jojoba oil, this scrub exfoliates just as much as it soothes and nourishes.

$12 (Shop Now)

Bliss Micro Magic

Just like the treatments available at Bliss Spa locations, the Micro Magic scrub will leave you feeling totally refreshed. It’s basically a gentle, at-home version of a microdermabrasion that sloughs away dirt and oil with volcanic pumice while its aloe vera soothes and de-puffs.

$13 (Shop Now)

La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Scrub

If sensitive skin plus physical exfoliation sounds like a recipe for disaster, let the Ultra-Fine Scrub by La Roche-Posay change your mind. Super-fine pumice particles — suspended in a cooling gel formula — provide just the right amount of grit without feeling scratchy. Plus, this stuff leaves skin with a quenched suppleness you might expect from a water-based gel moisturizer.

$18 (Shop Now)

L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Scrub Nourish & Soften

This L’Oréal Paris sugar scrub is everything a sugar scrub should be — but better. The Pure-Sugar Scrub is infused with not one but three different types of sugar, suspended in a creamy mixture of coconut oil and cocoa butter. The skin-softening formula isn’t overly abrasive, yet it leaves skin visibly glowing after one use. As you probably guessed by the ingredients, the formula smells like baking batter — but just like real batter, you definitely shouldn’t eat it. That said, it does doubles as an excellent lip scrub if you’re compelled to use it near your mouth.

$10 (Shop Now)

Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub

Oily-skinned folks, listen up. The creamy white exfoliator from Simple contains rice powder to absorb excess oil, and the gentle silica particles — a replacement for microbeads — work to manually slough off dead skin, leaving you positively glowing.

$8 (Shop Now)

Yes To Coconut Energizing Coffee 2-in-1 Scrub & Cleanser Stick

In case you prefer toting your cleansers around in stick form, consider this portable scrub by Yes to Coconut, which makes exfoliating way easier than ever. Not to mention, Yes To’s coconut and coffee combo smells amazing.

$10 (Shop Now)

Olay Micropolishing Cleansing Infusions Facial Cleanser with Crushed Ginger

This micro-polish cleanser from Olay reminds me of formulas that are five times its price. The tiny granules feel pleasantly sandy and break down into a creamy consistency as you cleanse, leaving skin visibly glowy post-rinse. Plus, the formula has a zingy scent that smells like summer and happy days, thanks to crushed ginger and citrus.

$10 (Shop Now)

St. Ives Energizing Coconut & Coffee Scrub

Fun fact: This concoction from St. Ives was born after the brand asked fans which scrub they’d like to see next on shelves. This enlivening coffee and coconut combo won. Fans of the (albeit, controversial) Apricot Scrub will love how this provides the same level of super-deep exfoliation (thanks to an infusion of crushed walnut) with the added benefits of skin-softening coconut and circulation-promoting coffee.

$5 (Shop Now)

Yes To Grapefruit Daily Facial Scrub

Citrus scents in the shower are a pick-me-up as much as they are a wake-me-up. The grapefruit extract in Yes To’s citrusy scrub is naturally high in vitamin C (so it boosts collagen production and helps reduce hyperpigmentation), as well as lycopene, which naturally aids in protecting skin from UV damage.

$7 (Shop Now)

Bioré Charcoal Pore Minimizer

The beaker-like nozzle of Bioré’s Charcoal Pore Minimizer makes you feel like you’re in chemistry class every time you use this black scrub. The charcoal powder pulls out oil and pollutants like a magnet, and it all rinses away with the gel.

$10 (Shop Now)

Mario Badescu Kiwi Face Scrub

The super-creamy formula, which features kiwi seeds and alpha-hydroxy acids (which you can read more about here), leaves your skin smoother than ever — and yet it’s astonishingly nonabrasive. The pearlescent mint-green color is so stunning!

$15 (Shop Now)

ALLURE article