Given the ever-escalating popularity of all things Korean in pop culture, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact moment you became a believer. Maybe you first came across the term double cleansing and felt tempted to try the famed 10-step beauty routine. Perhaps a late-night Google search led you to discover all the non-boring ways in which Koreans indulge their skin with masks while lounging at home (Rubber masks! 24-karat gold masks! Masks that foam and bubble!) Maybe you even started a K-Drama, promising yourself you’d watch an episode or two to see what the hype is about, but walked away with a full-blown addiction instead. The good news is that all those weekend binge sessions can double up as a handy resource for scoring firsthand intel on how Korean women keep their skin dewy, glowing and ageless at all times. These are the skincare rituals and habits that Koreans have grown up watching and learning from their moms and grandmothers, and with these K-Dramas, you can get in on the action too.
1. Cheat days are for food, not your skincare regimen
Tending to the whims and fancies of a narcissistic vice chairman can be a stressful task, which is why Secretary Kim of What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? is vigilant with her skincare routine. While her boss credits his radiance to his self-proclaimed aura, his secretary maintains fidelity to a regenerative nighttime routine. Topping her list of favourites is the Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Duo that proves it’s never too early to focus on anti-ageing in your regimen. Skincare enthusiasts also won’t want to miss the age-old Korean technique for getting the most out of your skincare products—the practice of patting in your serums to help the formula penetrate deeper into the skin and boost blood flow to activate the cells.
2. Your neck needs a skincare routine too
As one of South Korea’s top (fictional) players in beauty, Yoon Se-ri from Crash Landing On You is well-versed with the importance of a dedicated skincare regimen. Not even being stranded in a North Korean village with no access to hot running water can keep the heiress from following her nighttime routine, and thanks to a benevolent military officer, she finds herself with access to a few smuggled products from across the border. The one that catches her eye is the Manyo Factory Bifida Ampoule, an anti-ageing essence that activates deep skin cells and smoothens age-related wrinkles. While the right products can go a long way, she would like you to remember that your skin does not end at your face—remember to smoothen four-five drops of your serum over your neck like her as well to keep your skin smoother and radiant for longer.
3. Get technical with facial devices
We now know that a scented candle tops Yoon Se-ri’s list of desert island essentials, but once she is couched in the comforts of her home again, the millionaire-heiress makes a beeline for her facial massager: the VANAV UP6 Total Skincare Device, a handheld tool for facial therapy and 3D vibrational massages. If you’ve been on the fence about inviting tech tools into your facial routine, the payoff comes in the form of increased absorption of nutrients into the skin—follow her lead, and treat your face to a spa-like massage with the device after applying the last layer of moisturiser in your nighttime routine.
4. Light up the night with an LED mask
If you are looking to treat your skin to some TLC during the quarantine, you’ll want to cop the luxe LED masks spotted on The King: Eternal Monarch. Having found a fan in Goo Seo-ryung and Lee Gon on the show for sneaking in some extra care for their skin in their downtime, the metallic mask opts for light-based therapy through 1,026 LED lights to boost skin health, promote collagen and bid farewell to blemishes.
5. Make-up is for men, too
When it comes to moisturised and mattified skin, why should girls have all the fun? As one of Seoul’s top attorneys in Touch Your Heart, the reclusive Kwon Jung-rok finds his face splashed across the daily news bulletin more often than he’d like—but he ensures that he looks the part with a vanity shelf stocked with the entire range of Boy De Chanel, the luxury design house’s dedicated make-up offering for men. Look closer, and you’ll spot a moisturiser, foundation and concealer for ensuring a shine-free visage through the day, as well as a hydrating lip balm that his movie star girlfriend likes to borrow as well.
6. Get started with gradient lips
No caked-on liquid mattes to see here, the K-Beauty approach to natural make-up is manifested in the love for gradient lips, featuring a soft gradation of colour from light to dark for a tinted, just-bit-into-a-berry finish. However, if you were worried about stocking up on endless lipsticks from the same colour family, allow Cha Eun-jae of Dr Romantic 2 to set your mind at ease. As a second-year surgery fellow, her daily schedule leaves her with little free time, which is why she looks for multi-tasking products that work as hard as she does—like the Laneige Layering Lip Bar that packs six colours into one bullet to offer visibly plumper lips in a single swipe.
7. Think make-up, think moisturisation
K-Beauty’s skin-first approach is industry gospel, and you’ll find that the most-coveted make-up products are laced with skin-loving ingredients. As an art gallery curator by day and k-pop fangirl by night, Sung Deok-mi of Her Private Life is partial to inviting a pop of colour into her make-up looks, as evidenced by the Sooryehan YEON Silk Rouge Lipstick that she favours for a pigmented finish. Coated with ginseng ceramide for locking moisture into the lips, a nourishing formula like hers for a failsafe choice for keeping flaky lips at bay. If you don’t have an acclaimed artist for a boyfriend to paint it on for you in the mornings, it helps to stick to the basics: start out with a canvas of lip balm, blot any excess on a tissue and then begin to apply the colour from the centre moving outwards to avoid any smudges or smears around the edges.