From elaborate 10-step skincare routines and star-approved skincare tips to facial essences and popular skincare ingredients, the Koreans can’t seem to do any wrong when it comes to beauty and skincare.
Brands such as Laneige, Sulwhasoo, Etude, and Innisfree continue to be household names in this part of the world, and we also embraced indie, lesser-known brands like Huxley, Whal Myung, Pyunkang Yul, and Dear, Klairs partly because we know that these brands develop products that are suitable for Asian skin and weather.
Just last year, we welcomed the cult-favourite Glow Recipe with open arms and even reviewed the famous Watermelon range ourselves to see if it works well in our humid weather – you can read all about it here.
As maskne continues to be problem for everyone around the world, skin experts are predicting that soothing skincare, clinic-grade products, and ‘skipcare’ are the way to go in the upcoming year. Keep on reading to find out more about these and other Korean skincare trends of 2021, according to three beauty experts.
Korean skincare trends in 2021: Soothing, anti-irritation products
As mask-wearing continues to be mandatory, all the major skin troubles brought on by our protective face masks (termed ‘maskne’) is of course still a top concern for us which is why Lee Hwa Jun, senior analyst for the Beauty and Personal Care platform at Mintel, a global market research firm, tells us that skin-soothing skincare would appeal to the current market.
With more and more of us seeking our anti-irritation products to comfort our skin, popular soothing ingredients such as centella asiatica (cica) has been sought after extensively in 2020 and is expected to be in demand this year as well, together with other skin-soothing ingredients like artemisia and ceramide.
Sarah Lee, co-founder and co-CEO of Glow Recipe, agrees. “The rise of skin conditions such as maskne, is the result of heat and bacteria congestion on your face as a side effect of wearing a mask for extended periods of time.
As a result of all the skin stress from 2020, we foresee the rise of more skin-soothing, calming, and barrier-strengthening ingredients that will boost skin immunity. In fact, ingredients like centella asiatica, mushroom, mugwort, and ginger will be more prominent in the K-beauty space.”
Like Hwa Jun, Sarah is also expecting ceramides to have a resurgence next year as “it’s one of the most effective barrier-supporting and skin-strengthening ingredients to boost a compromised skin barrier.”
“We will definitely be seeing more innovations focused on detoxification and barrier recovery in the form of redness and irritation relieving treatments, or innovative facials and masks that help detoxify while soothing and moisturising skin,” she lets on.
Korean skincare trends in 2021: Clinic-grade skincare
According to Lee Jungmin, founder of Ksisters, aesthetic clinics in Korea aren’t as accessible as they used to be due to the pandemic. While this isn’t much of an issue for us here in Singapore, the rising demand for clinical homecare treatments is certainly relevant to us.
“Women are growing more interested in learning the technology and ingredients behind their skincare products. Because of that, they are also becoming more open to exploring and upgrading their skincare products to the next level as their way to focus on their own self-care,” she shares.
Korean skincare trends in 2021: A return to classic ingredients
“In Korea, we’re seeing a resurgence of classic ingredients such as niacinamide and retinol because they have proven time and time again to work well for our skin,” Jungmin expounds.
And even though everything seems to point to probiotics being the major trend right now, Jungmin shares that these timeless ingredients will remain relevant in 2021.
However, she also believes that there will be newer ingredients being introduced this year that are worth a shot as technology continues to advance. “Thanks to the existing confidence in the general quality of K-beauty products, consumers tend to be more open to trying new K-beauty ingredients, which is great.”
Korean skincare trends in 2021: A heightened focus on anti-pollution skincare
As many of us are stuck in our respective urban cities due to travel restrictions, our skin is also being increasingly exposed to air pollution. It may seem like a mystifying concept, but Sarah divulges that it’s actually one of the fastest-growing categories in beauty.
“Even if we can’t see with our naked eye, there are tiny, invisible particles floating in the air from many different sources, like cigarette smoke, fuel, exhaust, and gases that can get into your pores and lead to inflammation. Especially residing in a central, urban city, air pollution is definitely a concern,” she says.
Indeed, air pollution has been a trending topic for many years in Korea too, shares Jungmin, which is the reason why a lot of Korean brands perform a clinical test on their deep-cleaning products to see if they can provide a gentle formula that removes ‘fine dust’.
For Jungmin however, she posits that not all skincare products will benefit from having anti-pollution properties incorporated into the formulas. “I feel that anti-pollution properties would make more sense if it’s in a cleanser or a wash-off mask like the ones from new Korean brand Ohiohoo,” she says.
Korean skincare trends in 2021: Skipcare
If you’re a skincare enthusiast, chances are you would’ve seen this buzzword first making an appearance in the beauty scene in 2019. But this year, we can expect the ‘skipcare’ trend to evolve, according to Sarah.
“Skipcare is all about paring down your routine for a simple, minimalist approach. As this trend has continued to gain traction in 2020, we see this evolving in 2021 with more efficient and effective multi-tasking products with versatile usage, or hybrid skincare,” she shares.
Even Jungmin and Hwa Jun concur. “Young consumers are especially interested in leading a minimal life and subscribing to simple beauty routine, and skipcare definitely fits in that narrative,” comments Hwa Jun.
Further adding to the rise of minimalist skincare, Sarah shares, “In 2020, people were leaning more towards the no-makeup makeup look with a bigger emphasis on skin care and natural skin. Going into 2021, we definitely see this minimalist approach to continue gaining popularity, especially as beauty consumers are being more conscious of their consumption and moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle.”
And since Glow Recipe has been a brand that always believed in going minimal with the number of products and maximising your skincare, its latest launch – called the Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops (S$52 from Sephora.sg) – is definitely worth checking out.
Like all Glow Recipe products, this first-of-its-kind skincare-makeup hybrid has multiple skin benefits and usages, making it the perfect addition to a simplified routine because it incorporates skin-loving ingredients like watermelon and niacinamide to brighten the complexion over time, but has the reflective, glowy finish of a traditional makeup highlighter without mica, glitter or pearl in the formula – it’s the best of both worlds, as Sarah puts it.
Another hybrid skincare you can consider include the Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Re-Cover SPF 40/PA++ (S$23 for 15ml; S$71 for 55ml from Sephora.sg).
This smart solution has a subtle green tint which cancels out redness, but it doesn’t stop there: it’s also formulated with cica, which helps to soothe irritation and calm inflammation. The result is a light coverage that reduces the appearance of breakouts and pigmentation but leaves skin still looking like skin.
For the lips, consider trying the Re(Cover) Hydrating Coconut Lip Oil by Marc Jacobs Beauty (approx. S$42 from Net-a-Porter). It imparts a glossy coconut-scented sheen that gives instant plumping effect while hydrating your pout effectively.
Korean skincare trends in 2021: Glass skin is here to stay
Even with mask wear being the norm, the signature Korean glass skin doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, according to all three experts. In fact, Sarah believes that it will always be relevant as it’s an extremely versatile concept.
“The concept of glass skin has been around in K-beauty for a long time and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
But let me be clear: glass skin does not mean ‘perfect’ skin. It’s a reflective glow, similar to a pane of glass, that we’re after, which is possible with all skin types and textures. It’s important to note that the signature glass skin look comes from having healthy, hydrated, and plump skin,” Sarah expounds.
Jungmin also feels the same way with glass skin, as the fundamental approach of this concept revolves around enhancing the skin’s condition, rather than faking good skin.
“A core philosophy of Korean beauty is having beauty come from within, and the glass skin concept definitely advocates that. In fact, I think that glass skin will be even more cherished this 2021 as we continue to make skin health our number one priority,” she lets on.
Korean skincare trends in 2021: Skincare as self-care
While we all know and acknowledge that self-care is no longer a selfish act in this modern era, it has certainly taken on a new meaning last year in what has been a stressful, challenging time for everyone globally.
Now, beauty rituals like a skincare regimen have been elevated as important aspects of one’s daily self-care routine, says Christine, the other half of the Glow Recipe duo.
“As an extension of this holistic approach, we foresee that there will be a demand for disruptive body care that does more. With skincare, we’ve seen a targeted, results-driven approach and this will apply to the upcoming body care boom in 2021. New innovations in the body care category will have a skincare-centric approach, resulting in products that will do more than hydrate skin.
In a similar vein, we see this trend not only raising the bar for body treatments to be as effective as our skincare treatments but expands the definition of a self-care routine to include all skin on the body. We expect to see formulas that leverage new textures, actives, and approaches to create an experience that is both sensorial and efficacious, from head to toe.”
Jungmin further adds on, “I think it’s important to think of skincare and self-care as something rooted in self-love and learning to achieve better – not perfect – skin. It’s about learning to embrace yourself as you are, and how to take care of yourself better physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
Korean skincare trends in 2021: Gua sha tools
One of the skincare tools that’s trending in Korea right now is the ceramic gua sha plate, according to Jungmin.
“Unlike the roller type that we’re used to seeing on social media, the ceramic gua sha tool have plenty of pointy arches and can be used together with a facial oil or massage cream on all areas such as the scalp, face, and body. With regular use, it not only helps relieve tension, but also helps improve blood circulation better as it targets the body’s pressure points better,” she explains.
Sarah also likes a good gua sha tool to perk up the skin before cleansing. “We’ve found that when using a cleansing balm, including a gua sha tool for facial massage is a great way to awaken and stimulate skin before cleansing. Our soon-to-be-launched Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm has the perfect amount of slip for a gua sha to easily glide across skin.”
You can get the Lavien Gua Sha Ceramic Massage Plate for S$70 on Ksisters.
Korean skincare trends in 2021: Multi-purpose products for busy urbanites
For those of you who just can’t seem to find the time to slow down and are finding yourselves rushing through your skincare process, Sarah advises that multi-purpose skincare is the way to go to save time – and money. Make products that have multiple benefits and also multi-usage like the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist (S$43 from Sephora.sg) your skin’s BFF.
“It’s a great option for on-the-go hydration from watermelon and hyaluronic acid, while the ultra-fine mist doesn’t disrupt any makeup from your day. We love using it as both skin care prep before makeup and a dewy skin finisher after makeup. And thanks to rice germ oil and apple cider vinegar in the formula, it can double as a toner as well,” she shares.
Want to squeeze in a scrub-and-mask session in one go? Reach for a mask-slash-scrub product like the Galinée Face Mask & Scrub (S$15 for 30ml; S$43 for 100ml from Sephora.sg) that exfoliates and purifies for clearer, brighter skin.
For Jungmin, she prefers to make use of short moments from her hectic daily life instead. “What do you do when drying your hair? Maybe you take that time to scroll through social media, or reply texts. But even though it’s only about three to five minutes, I usually use this short time as an opportunity to apply a sheet mask and provide my skin with a quick boost of hydration. It’s little, seemingly insignificant tricks like this that can help your skin,” she says.
“Also, did you know that the hot wind from drying your hair can cause skin to become drier? So, applying a sheet mask actually acts as a double protection, serving two purposes all whilst saving time!”
Meanwhile, our Mintel expert, Hwa Jun, is predicting that more and more all-in-one products, typically reserved for our male counterparts, will be designed for women this year, as a way to save time.