• The past two years have seen the global cosmetic industry disrupted by Korean skincare routines. Here is Oasis Living’s guide to navigating this fascinating (and slightly bonkers) realm

    Along with the rise of the Internet, DVD players, and banging rave music, the 1990s were also the time when hallyu – or the Korean Wave – really began. This refers to the global reach and rising popularity of South Korean culture which started with the spread of K-dramas and K-pop, and most recently, K-beauty.

    K-beauty, or Korean beauty as you may have already deduced, has become quite the buzzword. As K-stars began to appear more frequently in the global spotlight, the public started to take interest in the looks of artists like PSY, Wonder Girls and BTS, and wanted to know just how they managed to get their skin looking as smooth and supple as the day they were born.

    Thus, a hefty demand for K-beauty products was born and the beauty world was shaken to its core.

    Indeed, if the trend continues as strongly as it seems to be today, global sales of South Korean skincare products are estimated to reach Dh26.4 billion by 2020, according to market research firm Mintel.

    The difference

    The reason that K-beauty regimes are such a hit is because the focus lies on skin health for beauty rather than promoting makeup products. They veer more towards achieving an ultranatural look. It doesn’t harm that the products used all have amazing eye-catching designs too.

    The products focus on hydration and reducing pigmentations and include a number of weird and whacky ingredients such as snail slime, bee venom, and starfish extract, to name just three.

    The routines all involve a fair amount of cleansing and moisturising, featuring a mix of oil and water-based products. Essences, serums, toners and a variety of other creams also make an appearance. This has led the cosmetic industry to dub the products as ‘cosmeceuticals’ due to their proposed medicinal benefits.

    Steps to perfection

    Depending on who you ask, a Korean skincare regimen can range from anywhere between five to a whopping seventeen steps. Ultimately, it depends on your skin and its condition at the time as environmental factors must also be considered.

    The nine-step routine is most popularly employed and discussed. Here it is:

    1. Oil cleanser: Start your night routine with an oil cleanser to remove any particle/debris left-over from the day's oil based products like makeup or sunscreen
    2. Foam cleanser: A double cleanse? You betcha! While the first wash gets rid of oily particles, the second water-based one is geared towards dirt and sweat. You may be skeptical now, but the difference is definitely noticeable
    3. Exfoliator: Not recommended daily, exfoliating helps clean out clogged pores as well as slough off dead skin cells. If your skin is sensitive, limit this to a weekly exercise. Otherwise, twice to thrice a week works
    4. Toner: After cleansing so thoroughly, the toner helps hydrate the skin and prepare it for the next steps. Use an alcohol-free toner to keep from drying out
    5. Essence: The importance of this is debated with many opting a toner + serum combo over this but experts from online K-beauty platform Soko Glam credit this as being one of the most essential steps. They say it treats the skin on a cellular level, targeting wrinkles, fine lines and uneven skin tones
    6. Serum, Boosters, or Ampoule Treatments: Not necessary for everyone, mostly to treat brown spots and pigmentation
    7. Mask: Once or twice a week is enough, and the kind of mask depends on what you'd like to expose your skin to, be it a hydrating one or one packed with Vitamin C
    8. Eye cream: Targeted to what you believe needs to be treated
    9. Face cream/moisturiser: The lock on your previous steps to seal everything in
    For your morning routine simply wash your face with water in the morning and then carry out steps 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9. Then apply sunscreen and you're good to go.

    If you're interested in embarking on your own K-beauty journey, check out Soko Glam (sokoglam.com) which is an established K-beauty online shop. It even sells beginner bundles.