At this point, you’ve probably heard all about Korean skincare, also called K-beauty. The multistep, carefully layered approach is all the rage. And there are plenty of influencers and bloggers out there getting great results. It’s certainly possible to carefully curate a lineup of 10 or more products and apply them meticulously morning and night. We’d probably all have flawless skin if we did that.
But most of us don’t have the time it takes to follow such an intense regimen. We’re willing to make some trade-offs. We’ll take pretty good skin in exchange for sleeping in a little longer and getting out the door on time.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the Korean approach to skincare. Even if you don’t want to invest hundreds of dollars and hours every week into your skin, there’s plenty to gain from considering this method. Let me tell you about some quick and cheap strategies you can borrow from Korean beauty culture and where to start if you do want to begin expanding your skincare routine. You won’t even need to wake up early to try these techniques out.
The types of businesses you see in a given area tells you a lot about what that culture values. In America, you can find a fast-food restaurant just about anywhere. In Korea, you’re just as likely to find a skin clinic. One of the most popular services at these clinics is facial massage. The good news is that you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to experience this. You can try it yourself in the shower.
It starts with a simple facial massage. As the steam from the shower opens up your pores, begin using gentle circular motions to massage your skin. Then try tapping in a circular pattern. Start with your forehead. Then move down to the cheekbones, followed by the cheeks, and then the jawbone.
This gentle massage will help wake up your skin and increase circulation. That means your skin gets more nutrients to protect and repair itself. Better circulation also increases your overall glow. Just be sure to be gentle with your skin – don’t press too hard or tug at it. And lock in the moisture the steam delivers to your skin by using an oil or gentle cleanser and following up with moisturizer.
You can also add exfoliation to this process by using a washcloth. Washcloths don’t just have to be for removing makeup! Try massaging your face with a clean washcloth soaked in hot water. Use gentle, circular strokes, moving upward along the face. The hot water will work with the steam to open your pores, while the textured surface of the washcloth gently buffs away dead skin.
What to Do After Your Shower
Once you’re done with your morning shower, you’re likely ready for a cup of coffee. But if you want to embrace Korean beauty strategies, consider swapping your joe for a cup of tea instead.
You probably know how much I love green tea. It’s certainly a popular beverage in Korea, and for good reason. It’s great for your skin. Green tea is absolutely chock-full of antioxidants. It boasts more than any other tea. In fact, by weight, green tea is approximately 45% polyphenol. And these polyphenols have tremendous anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory benefits. Reducing inflammation is one of the best things you can do for your skin and your overall health.
One of the key antioxidants in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG for short). This antioxidant is powerful but rare. Green tea is one of the best places to find it. And EGCG’s ability to decimate free radicals means it helps ward off a number of age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s. It can help you flush toxins out of your body and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels.
If you’re nowhere near your golden years, you may be more interested to know that green tea can also help fight acne – even if you don’t want to actually drink it. In fact, you can soak a cotton ball in steeped green tea, apply it to an area of your skin prone to breakouts for five minutes, and rinse – or don’t if you are going to bed. It will help existing blemishes heal and prevent new ones from forming. I have patients who have told me that green tea has helped their acne as much as cortisone cream.
Don’t Like Green Tea? Try This Instead…
An alternative to green tea that many people are less familiar with is roasted barley tea. This might be one of Korean beauty’s better-kept secrets. But many Koreans consider this naturally caffeine-free tea to be so full of health benefits that they even offer it to babies! Like green tea, barley tea is high in antioxidants. It supplies vitamin A, vitamin C, selenium, phytonutrients, and tryptophan.
Fans of barley tea credit it with helping them regulate blood sugar, lose weight, and improve digestion. It also has antibacterial properties that may help keep you from getting sick. The vitamin C it supplies can help your immune system as well while also boosting your collagen levels.
If you’d like to try barley tea, look for it on the menu at your favorite Asian restaurant so that you can see if you like the taste. Then try making it for yourself at home (it’s available on Amazon and other websites). Many bottled versions contain added sweeteners or flavors that you’ll want to avoid. So stick with just a plain tea bag or loose tea and hot water. You can add a little honey if you prefer a sweeter taste. Do keep in mind that barley tea isn’t a good choice for those with gluten sensitivities. But if you’re looking for a great alternative to caffeinated tea to sip in the afternoon, give barley tea a try.
Add These Stretches to Enhance Skin Elasticity
So far we’ve discussed facial massage, exfoliation, and tea. All of these are easy to incorporate into your morning routine. Here’s one more simple addition you can make.
Most of us stretch as we get out of bed. You may not have a full-body routine that you go through (though your stiff muscles might appreciate it). But you probably take just a moment to stretch your back and let your body adjust as you get out of bed.
Adding some mouth stretches to this process can help energize your face and get blood flowing to your skin. After all, the 50+ muscles in your face need to wake up too! An easy way to do this is to mouth the vowels A, E, I, O, and U in an exaggerated way. Do this three times. You can also try smiling as wide as you can to help loosen up your facial muscles. Hold each smile for a second or two, then relax your face. Repeat this five to ten times. As an added bonus, you’ll probably feel happier about being awake by the end!
Products That Can Help
Of course, we can’t talk about K-beauty without at least mentioning some products. Many of us don’t find an elaborate routine feasible every day. But if you’re looking to just try a product or two to amp things up occasionally, here are a few suggestions.
The first is sheet masks. I’ve written about these before, so you can check the archives if you want more specific suggestions. Sheet masks are a great option if you find yourself with some extra time on your hands and want to spend it doing something good for your skin. If you’re trying to stick to a consistent wake-up time in the morning, this is a great way to use your extra time on the weekend. You can find sheet masks at a variety of price points and for many different skin concerns. Just make sure the one you choose is free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates.
Another option is an essence. An essence will add a boost of hydration to your skin. Think of an essence as a liquid moisturizer. Because essences typically contain small molecules, they can get really deep into your pores. Follow the directions and begin with a couple of drops.
Use an essence after you wash your face. Then follow it with your serum and moisturizer. Yes, you’ll want that final layer of moisturizer to lock in all the other nutrients you’ve layered on your face and to ensure your skin is as hydrated as it can possibly be. Hydration is absolutely key to that glow you’re going for.
Trying new products can be fun. And some people find having a long routine to follow relaxing, especially in the evening. But most of us don’t have the time, money, or inclination to keep up with that many steps! Or even if we do, we only have time at night. Try incorporating these simpler routines into your existing habits. You can do most of them without adding any time to your morning routine. And they really can make a difference in your skin.