Any beauty junkie could tell you: for the latest and greatest in skincare innovations, look no further than South Korea. While BB creams and sheet masks have become grooming staples in most people's regimens, the global beauty hub continues to lead the way with every trend. Big as it may be for editors and consumers, the Korean beauty impact is about more than just products- it's a philosophy. Committed to the idea of putting skincare before makeup, the look popularized by K-Pop stars emphasizes the fresh, glassy complexion of ultra-hydrated skin babied with powerful ingredients and the utmost care.
When VeryGoodLight founder, David Yi, left his career as a fashion reporter to launch his grooming site for men, gurus and newbies alike were already clamoring for Korea’s innovative products. While the big business of beauty is no secret the world over, the Colorado native had a leg up on insight; Yi was born to South Korean immigrants whose attitude towards skincare shaped his own.
After spending years as a reporter for WWD and Mashable, Yi is a pro at separating the trends from the time-trusted secrets for glowing skin.
"Anyone can prescribe to Korean beauty- it’s really that philosophy that's about maintaining your skin, it’s about hydrating your skin and being very thorough with cleansing," Yi says. While the rigor of K-beauty is not for the faint of heart, it can also be simplified to a skincare philosophy, as opposed to a rigid set of products and rules to follow. As for his own routine, Yi relies on a triple cleansing technique that uses an oil cleaner, facial foam and a beauty essence to ensure pores are squeaky clean and properly hydrated. "Korean beauty is essentially about layering hydration, " Yi says. With cleansing and hydrating at the top of K-beauty's priority list, one could still wonder why all the hype for K-beauty?
Though its cute packaging and multi-step regimens make K-beauty stand out in the market, it's the technology behind the products that keep Korean beauty at the front of the skincare conversation.
Mind, Body and Seoul
In addition to product rundowns and personal essays, VeryGoodLight takes readers straight to the source for an inside look at the beauty capital and its offerings. To see the widespread methodical culture of beauty in South Korea, David Yi took a trip Seoul, checking into the Oracle Clinic. With over 60 offices throughout Asia, the destination for Koreans and beauty tourists is a one-stop for lunch break procedures and the more invasive- but popular- surgical enhancements offered there.
Opting for a series of skin-perfecting medical treatments, Yi is hard pressed for an example of a similar experience in the United States. “It's really difficult to have a regular skincare regimen and that's because dermatologists and estheticians don’t work in the same building,” Yi Says. In Korea, the system is fully integrated, with estheticians typically working on-site with doctors. Under one roof, the medical merges with the cosmetic. David adds, “In South Korea, after you get your facial treatments you will, of course, go see an esthetician and they will cool off your skin with a rubber mask.” This in addition to pricing at a fraction of the cost in the States makes the pursuit of skin care an accessible one. Apart from the affordability factor, Korean beauty sets the pace for the rest of the industry and acts as a reliable marker for what’s next in skin discoveries.
The Beauty of Inclusion
As for the philosophy behind Korean beauty and its influence, there is more to learn from the culture than how to perfect skin. The lack of division between the medical and cosmetic parts of skincare is just one aspect of the culture integral to K-beauty. Whereas the western market more distinctly separates male and female cosmetics, the matter-of-fact take in the East is seeing men just as involved in their appearance. When it comes to products like powder compacts and concealers, the social hang-ups of the typical male-identified consumer simply do not apply. "In Korea that’s not even considered makeup, it’s considered skincare. In the states, if there’s color- it’s makeup. But I think that guys are going to be more receptive to that," Yi says.
With his site, David Yi is opening the conversation to include the non-binary leanings of Generation Z and sharing the overall attitude of Korean beauty. While this has caught on in popular culture with the onset of several beauty boys touting makeup in nontraditional ways, the general shift towards acceptability is less about making a statement. The function that beauty serves in South Korean society is something to observe, as products and treatments aim to make people feel confident regardless of gender.
It should be no surprise that when it comes to products, David Yi has more than any human could use in a lifetime. For the sake if brevity, Forbes got the rundown on what the beauty expert is loving right now.
(in order from left to right as they appear above)
" Su:m37 Rose cleansing stick is amazing for its gentle formula."
" Huxley's essence like oil like essence is perfect for those with dry skin."
" Dear Klairs, moisturizing toner is super soothing."
" Dr. Jart's Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask is something I use every night to prevent water loss."
"I LOVE CosRX's Honey Ceramide, my face feels baby smooth in the morning."
" Make P:rem's moisturizer is also really amazing for hydration – my skin is calmer whenever I use it."
"And I absolutely love this Pressed Serum made out of yam that feels velvet soft, like wearing your favorite sweater on your face. It's from Blithe."