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 16 Best Undereye Masks and Patches for Dark Circles and Puffiness

As Instagrammable as sheet masks are, they simply aren’t intended for the unique issues associated with the skin around eyes. Sure, a well-fitted face mask might deposit a few beneficial ingredients near your eyes, but sometimes you just want to target the periorbital area — without the mess of a drippy sheet mask. So it’s no wonder that there has been a veritable eye-mask boom, leading to a much-welcomed deluge of sticky, comma-shaped patches made specifically formulated to target the dark circles, early-morning puffiness, and texture changes that happen to this especially delicate section of skin.

Whether you want an overnight option for fine lines, a quick cooling fix, or a once-a-week way to hydrate and brighten, here are the 16 best eye masks on the market for those moments when you’re looking for a little more intensity than what a daily eye cream can provide.

Wander Beauty Baggage Claim Gold Eye Masks

The gold foil of Wander Beauty’s Baggage Claim Gold Eye Masks isn’t just for Instagram (though they do make for a great skin-care selfie). The precious metal actually helps retain heat so the hydrating serum doesn’t evaporate, allowing hyaluronic acid to absorb more effectively.

$25 for six patches (Shop Now)

Joanna Vargas Bright Eye Hydrating Mask

If you can’t get an appointment with aesthetician Joanna Vargas herself, these once-a-week sheets are the next best thing thanks to three kinds of peptides that promise to tone the under-eye area.

$60 for five patches (Shop Now)

Circcell Insight Collagen Eye Treatment

Talk about futuristic. The mechanics behind Circcell’s Insight Collagen Eye Treatment require you to press a fluid chamber to release an activator formula onto each patch. It’s the best way to get the most out the highly concentrated freeze-dried collagen within.

$90 for four patches (Shop Now)

Yes To Coconut Energizing Coffee Super Eye Mask

Yes To Coconut’s Energizing Coffee Super Eye Mask is made of 100 percent cotton and contains coconut extract to hydrate the delicate under-eye area, as well as coffee (hence the name) to boost circulate and reduce puffiness. Throw it on for ten minutes and you’ll see a noticeable difference once you take it off.

$4 (Shop Now)

Shiseido Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Pure Retinol Express Smoothing Eye Mask

If you’re not yet using retinol in the eye area, Shiseido’s Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Pure Retinol Express Smoothing Eye Mask is a great place to start. The stretchy material keeps them perfectly in place for 15-minute line-reducing sessions.

$70 for 12 patches (Shop Now)

Belif First Aid 360 Eye Care Mask

Not all eye masks are patches. Belif’s First Aid 360 Eye Care Mask is a cream-gel formula made to be left on overnight so it can fight the look of fatigue long before you’re even awake.

$36 (Shop Now)

Wrinkles Schminkles Eye Smoothing Kit

Wrinkles Schminkles’ Eye Smoothing Kit comes with patches that are 100-percent, medical-grade silicone, allowing you to reuse them up to a whopping 30 times.

$30 for three patches (Shop Now)

Verso Reviving Eye Mask with Retinol

Verso’s Reviving Eye Mask with Retinol contains a hydrogel formulation in its patches that allows the gentle retinol within to penetrate for optimum impact, leaving under-eye skin moisturized and de-puffed.

$48 (Shop Now)

Rodial Dragon’s Blood Eye Mask

Rodial’s Dragons Blood Eye Mask combines a botanical extract known as dragon’s blood with the effectiveness of a bio-cellulose format to cool under-eyes into a less puffy state.

$39 for eight patches (Shop Now)

Sisley Paris Eye Contour Mask

Sisley Paris’s Eye Contour Mask might look like a simple tube of gel, but the formula promises to act like a patch once applied, reducing swelling and the look of lines — even after it’s removed.

$149 (Shop Now)

Patchology FlashPatch Restoring Night Eye Gels

Patchology’s FlashPatch Restoring Night Eye Gels take advantage of the body’s natural nighttime repairing abilities by sitting firmly under the eyes while you sleep, depositing an all-star cast of smoothing and brightening ingredients, like retinol and cucumber extract.

$60 for 30 patches (Shop Now)

Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels

As if de-puffing peptides didn’t make these impressive enough, the water embedded in these Skyn Iceland’s Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels is actually Icelandic glacial water. The result is a super-cooling effect to diminish the appearance of swelling.

$32 for eight patches (Shop Now)

Tatcha Luminous Deep Hydration Revitalizing Eye Mask

Originally created to help heal burns, Tatcha’s Luminous Deep Hydration Revitalizing Eye Mask are made with sheets that seal revitalizing, antioxidant-rich botanicals into the skin for intensive hydration.

$95 for ten masks (Shop Now)

HydroPeptide PolyPeptide Collagel

The caviar extract in HydroPeptide’s PolyPeptide Collagel works with collagen and hyaluronic acid to smooth out the look of crepe-y skin under the eyes.

$48 for eight patches (Shop Now)

111Skin Celestial Black Diamond Eye Mask

Beloved by celebrities like Victoria Beckham, 111Skin’s Celestial Black Diamond Eye Mask minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and crepiness with skin-plumping hyaluronic acid, retinol, and peptides. After just one use, the eye area looks visibly brighter, smoother, and healthier.

$115 for eight patches (Shop Now)

Erno Laszlo Multi-Task Eye Serum Mask

Erno Laszlo’s Multi-Task Eye Serum Mask targets all your concerns: dark circles, puffiness, fine lines and wrinkles, and crepiness. It does so with a powerful blend of algae extracts, vitamin B3, and soothing allantoin.

$38 for six patches (Shop Now)

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