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The 10-step skincare routine is to Korean beauty what peanut butter is to jelly. They just…go together. Or so I thought. As it turns out, the assumption that transitioning to a K-Beauty routine means turning your bathroom into a storage closet for every product under the sun has been somewhat exaggerated. And if the emerging 2020 K-beauty trends are any indication, we finally get it. And by “it,” I mean the point Charlotte Cho was trying to make years ago.
The Soko Glam co-founder is rightfully credited for bringing the multi-step trend stateside, though she didn’t necessarily advocate for a militant, “my way or the highway” approach toward Korean beauty routines. She was mostly “blown away” by how savvy her Korean friends were about their skincare needs and wanted to share what she took away from the experience. Reminiscing on the visit to Korea that essentially transformed her own habits, she recalls seeing how crowded everyone’s vanity was compared to her’s.
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“Everyone made fun of me because I had, like, a bar of soap and one moisturizer. My Korean friends were like, ‘where is the rest of your skincare routine?’ So I went to my friend’s house and she showed me her vanity and there were at least 10 products there,” she recently told me. Like a good friend, this skincare pro walked Cho through the different products, sharing how each of them works and where they could possibly fit in someone’s routine. In other words, you don’t have to use every single step. Simply pick and choose what you need according to your lifestyle.
“What I’ve really learned from Korean women is that they’re savvy. From a young age, they know what to use. They were taught early. It’s part of their lifestyle,” she recently told me. So maybe things got a little lost in translation, but ultimately, this focus on the 10-step routine ended up being a win-win for everyone. At a time when makeup was more popular, Cho says “it ended up being a great way to educate” and “pushed Korean cosmetic companies to do better.”
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“And at the end of the day, you see results,” she says. “When you do learn to use each of these products and you actually incorporate it, you’re going to see results. That’s why the 10-step challenges went viral…because the before-and-afters would be amazing.” Also–not that she needs a co-sign–but I definitely agree. K-Beauty brands and experts like Cho are responsible for introducing us to some of today’s most popular trends (like glass skin) and unconventional, yet effective ingredients (like snail mucin). With that being said, here’s what Cho predicts will blow-up stateside in 2020.
Right now, one trend that’s percolating in Korea and will probably have a major moment in the U.S. is cream skin. I know what you’re thinking. “Is it a product?” “Is it a look?” “Whatever it is, is it actually creamy?!” Cho describes the “category” as a fusion between toner and moisturizer that isn’t as heavy as the name implies, but milky in texture.
“It is watery, but it’s enough to moisturize your skin,” she says. Think of it as a step away from the 10-step routine and into one that’s condensed and time-efficient. As the trend continues to grow, brands like Hanskin and Laneige are starting to create their own cream skin products, so we can get the benefits of the technique, like resetting our skin’s pH and added hydration, without having to create something ourselves.
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As far as ingredients are concerned, expect to see Centella Asiatica (also known as “cica”) grow in popularity. What’s to blame? Dirty air, according to Cho. “Pollution’s a big deal in Korea right now. A lot of people are complaining about irritation,” she says. “You’re going to see that more and more in products because people are really being affected by it.”
In case you need a quick refresher, Centella Asiatica is a medicinal herb infused with a ton of amino acids, beta-carotene, and phytochemicals (aka, a chemical compound produced by plants). All three cover a myriad of skin concerns, including inflammation and dehydration. So Cho’s totally right: consider adding to your routine, especially if you’re in a city or town where walking through smoke and other visible gunk is a regular thing.
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Ginseng isn’t a new skincare innovation either, though Cho says a certain extraction method will likely boost its popularity in the New Year.
“I finally found a brand called Danahan. They harvest their ginseng every four years and ferment it,” she said. “And they extract from the seed instead of the root. Most brands focus on the root. You can put flower petals into a formula, but it’s not really going to do much. But if you get to the seed, it’s sort of a game-changer in terms of anti-aging.”
Ahead, eight products to try if you’re already excited about next year’s forecast.
This new lightweight moisturizer smells good enough to eat and is enriched with Centella Asiatica to heal dry skin and irritation.
This lightweight, multitasking coverage option is also nourishing to the skin, thanks to a slew of ingredients you’d typically find in skincare products, including the ultra-moisturizing ginseng.
This cream toner is infused with avocado extract and other natural seed oils to ensure the moisture in your skin actually stays put.
Lightweight and infused with white leaf tea water to strengthen the skin barrier, this two-fer eliminates cleanser buildup (like a toner) and hydrates (like a moisturizer) in one easy step.
Unlike other exfoliant pads that usually irritate sensitive, acne-prone skin, these are soaked in soothing Centella Asiatica to cut down inflammation without causing further irritation.
This non-greasy matte sunscreen includes physical UV blockers (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide), as well as Centella Asiatica to soothe the skin as it’s braving the elements.
If you have dry or combination skin, this antioxidant-rich formula gets its ginseng straight from the seed for more effective absorbency and results.
This cult-favorite eye cream is infused with ginseng for diminishing those tired eye lines and Centella Asiatica to provide soothing relief. Remember–the skin around your eye is the thinnest.
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