I must admit, being Korean, and working in the beauty industry, the pressure is multiplied to have impeccable skin. I was groomed from birth by my mother, aunts, and countless maternal figures on how to eat, wash, and care for my skin. It’s just part of Korean beauty culture, which isn’t about products at its core, but about skin-preserving methods and techniques. But on the days I need a quick fix, here are nine of my go-to beauty hacks that’ll transform your skin from blah to amazing, any day.
1. Give your face a steam massage in the shower.
Skin clinics are down every block in South Korea, where you can get a facial massage as easy as a budget manicure. I recommend not only using circular motions with your fingers, but also tapping in rotating motions — starting on the forehead, then the cheekbones, cheeks, and working down to the jawbone. Massaging increases circulation and creates a dewy complexion. For added benefit use an oil cleanser to maximize hydration.
2. Exfoliate with a washcloth soaked in hot water.
My aunt is 70 and has no wrinkles. Her secret? She uses a nubby washcloth to massage her face every day, using upward moving, circular strokes.
3. Use a charcoal sheet face mask.
Buying sheet masks is as common as getting Kleenex in South Korea. An all the rage ingredient? Charcoal. It detoxes and exfoliates your skin, and all you have to do is let the sheet sit on your face for 15 to 20 minutes while you relax. I like this one from Dr. Jart.
4. Try blurring to create HD perfect skin.
You know when roll out of bed and think OMG, how do I hide all of this? Try the Korean blurring trick, which basically means using one or several smart coverage products (my go-to is Iope’s Air Cushion foundation) with a makeup brush to wipe out and “blur” unwanted imperfections. If you use an air-cushion foundation, a signature Korean cosmetic, you can blur like a pro, because the formula flexes from ultra sheer to total-coverage with each application without ever looking heavy.
5. Apply a facial essence between two layers of moisturizer.
Many modern Korean women feel that essences are the key to sealing in all the goodies of your daily cleansing. Essences are mild, skin nutrient-filled solutions (not toners) that hydrate your skin and are applied after cleansing (here’s one of my new favorite ones by Mizon). The next step is to add a serum, and then you can add your moisturizer for maximum skin elasticity and hydration.
6. Bring out the natural flush of your lips.
By merely enhancing your own lip color, your complexion will actually look younger and more vibrant. Try a favorite of mine, Dior Addict Lip Glow Color Awakening Lip Balm, which adjusts to the individual chemistry of your lips, making them radiant. And with wild mango as one of its moisturizing ingredients, it smells positively amazing.
7. Try a lip tint/oil for your lips.
These nutrient-rich lip oil treatments slide like butter (yes, really) onto your lips, and also give you a sheer pop of color with zero stickiness. I love this one by Julep, which has a blend of Korean Camellia oil, as well as avocado and rosehip oils.
8. Use an overnight sleeping mask.
It’s during sleep that your skin cells turnover and do their hardest work at cell recovery. This is the best time to hyper-moisturize and work on a tired complexion. I like to apply an intensive sleeping mask to correct any dullness. When you wake up, weeks of wear and tear will have come off of your face. Trust me.
9. Drink barley tea.
Ever gone to a Korean restaurant and gotten a nutty tasting tea? It’s probably roasted barely tea, which is what is served to Korean babies from birth to fortify their skin and overall well-being. Barley tea is rich in anti-oxidants and oneshowed that drinking it can improve blood circulation. Some suggest it may even double as a weight loss drink. You just can’t go wrong!
10. Crack open an ampoule for any skin SOS.
First things first: an ampoule is like a face serum on steroids. It contains the highest concentration of active ingredients to repair, rebalance, and recharge cells in the shortest amount of time (Dr. Grandel’s Beauty Flash is my favorite). Apply a few drops of the fluid, housed in a pinky-sized vial, before your essence to target and treat hyperpigmentation, dullness, and acne.
11. Practice mouth stretches.
Channel your inner Eliza Doolittle and say A-E-I-O-U in an exaggerated way. Repeat three times. It sounds silly, but many swear this trick improves circulation and brightens skin tone. It certainly can’t hurt, so I’ll let you be the judge.
12. Detox your private parts.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan of vaginal steams, called “chai-yok,” which involve sitting naked on an open-seated stool above a steaming pot of water filled with medicinal and aromatic herbs such as mugwort for 30 to 45 minutes. The treatment supposedly helps women with infertility issues by “cleansing” the uterus and balancing hormone levels. V-steams have plenty of (very) vocal critics, but the practice’s devotees swear by them. At the very least, you’ll get a relaxing, surprisinglyhalf hour to yourself — so yeah, they’re worth it.