Last Updated on March 11, 2020
Disclaimer: I am not against using Korean brands or people who follow these trends. This is just my personal view and how I feel about it so feel free to disagree.
2017 was all about Korean beauty or ‘k-beauty’ for short. Markets all over the world were flooded with sheet masks, serums, oil cleansers, and cushion foundations from Korean brands.
Everyone was experimenting with the 10-step Korean beauty routine and slathering different sheet masks every day. Just try searching ‘Korean skincare’ and you will see dozens of ‘I tried the 10-step Korean beauty routine’ articles popping up in the results.
Yes, Korean women have really good skin and we all envy them. Everyone wants to know the secret of their ever so flawless looking young skin.
But the k-beauty routine is simply not the answer as much we would love it to be as easy as slathering few products on our skin every day.
Is K-Beauty a Marketing Hype Then?
Sadly, yes. The entire hoopla around this k-beauty trend is just another marketing gimmick by beauty companies to sell their products to us.
South Korean skincare brands like The Face Shop, Innisfree, and a dozen others just made a fortune by expanding their market base all over the globe. Their products are priced quite high and a close look at the ingredient list and you find that its just another product loaded with synthetic chemicals.
The only difference I found was the use of exotic Korean ingredients like matcha tea(green tea), volcanic ash, Yehwadam, snails secretions and what not! But that’s yet another trick used by these beauty companies all over the world to trick us into buying these products.
Coming to the 10-step k-beauty routine, you will notice we all follow most of these steps already on a regular basis. Let me show you it’s not so different from what we have been doing all these years.
The Infamous 10-Step K-Beauty Routine
Step 1: Oil cleanse
Korean women use oil-based cleansers as the first step to remove makeup, dirt, and debris. And so do we, using olive oil, coconut oil, cleansing milk or micellar water to remove makeup is quite common. You might be skipping this step if you don’t wear makeup on a daily basis and it’s totally fine.
Step 2: Foam cleanse
The second step is a water-based cleanser to clean away any oil residue and dirt left over after the first cleanse. We all use face-washes to clean away dirt and oil at the end of the day after removing makeup every day.
If you are someone who wears makeup on a daily basis, chances are you already double cleanse every day- once with a makeup remover/micellar water/oil, followed by a face wash.
Step 3: Exfoliate
After cleansing, the next step is exfoliating skin to remove dead skin cells and debris and reveal fresher skin underneath. This is not supposed to be followed daily, but rather once or twice a week.
Step 4: Tone
Toning is the fourth step. Toners help maintain skin’s pH levels and remove any soap residue left behind on the skin. This again is a crucial part of the CTM routine we all are advised to follow regularly and nothing exclusive to the Koreans.
Now, this is something unique to the Korean skincare. Essence is a watery product, a bit more concentrated than a toner but less than a serum. It hydrates the skin and is supposed to aid skin repair and cell regeneration.
Step 6: Serums
This step concentrates on treating skin issues like pigmentation, ageing, acne, wrinkles etc using serums/boosters or ampoules. Serums have concentrated ingredients targeted to address different skin issues.
We use spot treatments, ointments prescribed by dermatologists or drugstore treatments, most of which, are available as serums.
Step 7: Sheet Masks
Sheet masks are used to hydrate, nourish, and further treat the skin. A sheet of paper/cloth is soaked in concentrated serum which is supposed to be left on the skin for 15-20 minutes. This step again is supposed to be done 1-2 times a week.
The only difference between the traditional face packs we use and the sheet masks is that the latter is easier to use while being packed with synthetic chemicals like silicones that can clog your pores. In my opinion, homemade face pack using kitchen ingredients are better to use than sheet masks (and a lot cheaper too).
Step 8: Eye cream
Eye creams are lightweight yet more nourishing and hydrating than face creams as the skin around the eye is delicate and thin. This step can be skipped by teenage girls or girls in early twenties(unless you spend long hours staring at a computer or mobile screens).
Again something we have been doing for ages now.
Step 9: Moisturizers
Once again, something we all are familiar with. Hydrating and moisturizing skin is an essential part of skincare and the Korean women follow it just as we do.
Step 10: SPF
Using sunscreen is essential to protect skin from UV radiation. We use it religiously and so do the Koreans.
There, you see, there is not a major difference between your current skincare routine and K-beauty. The only additional step is the use of an essence.
There are a few lessons to be learned from the Korean women regarding their skincare routine which I will discuss in another post but the entire k-beauty trend is just a marketing hype used to enter new markets and mint money.
In fact, there is a new trend already in the market- ‘the J-beauty’ or the Japanese beauty. Japanese beauty brand Shiseido was quite popular, but like all other brands has lost market share when k-beauty arrived.
But with J-beauty on the rise in 2018, it will be making a comeback along with other Japanese brands like DHC, Spawake and Miniso (already in India).
So don’t be surprised when Japanese Brands takeover every e-commerce website (Miniso is already doing this with its offline stores).
Coming to sheet masks, a new favourite among celebrities, bloggers and the general public. I have seen people buying dozens of sheet masks together from different Korean beauty brands.
Some bloggers even did the “7 days, 7 sheet masks” series (they are paid for it by companies who sell it). First of all, they are not to be used every day, rather 2-3 times a week.
Secondly, these sheet masks have a lot of unnecessary ingredients in them. Just look at this ingredient list from a The Faceshop Potato Sheet Mask and spot the unnecessary harmful chemicals.
“Water/Eau, Glycerin, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Butylene Glycol, AlcoholDenat., Betaine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Dimethicone, Phaseolus Radiatus Extract, Betula Platyphylla Japonica Bark Extract, Rumex Crispus Root Extract, Carbomer, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Triethanolamine, Parfum/Fragrance“
I know there some Korean brands with effective products and clean ingredients that work. But again, we can find such results with so many beauty brands available in the market.
Skincare goes beyond just some products and actually depend on how you use them, your diet, lifestyle etc. So why spend a fortune on these expensive k-beauty products?
I know there are a lot of K-beauty fanatics out there who may disagree with me and I have no hard feelings against them. If you have seen good results on your skin from a Korean skincare product, please continue to use it.
But you need to know there other brands as well that perform so well like The Ordinary, Juicy chemistry, Aroma Essentials, Raw Beauty etc. and have no harmful chemicals in them. The problem is some of them don’t have huge marketing funds with them and hence remain unknown to a huge part of the market.
I found this article from Insider showing us the real scenario of the beauty business (must read). The projected sales of the beauty industry in 2018 stands at a whopping $445 billion and the industry is growing every year.
And these 7 players own a major chunk of the market share. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and hence, now and then, these beauty companies come up with new trends to make us purchase products from them.
At first, these companies told us that oils are not good for skin and cause acne and brought all these oil-free formulations, alcohol-based toners etc to keep oil at bay. Now, these same companies are selling us expensive face oils saying that oils are actually good and necessary for good skin. Also, all those glitter, gold, rubber and bubble masks are a waste of money and don’t actually do any good for your skin.
Coming to hair products, there are so many brands out there selling us silicones and mineral oil in the name of Moroccan Argan Oil-the latest obsession with beauty companies. They first created sulfate-based shampoos in place of traditional soaps to clean the hair.
These lead to dry hair and frizzy hair so they developed silicone-based conditioners and serums to go with it. Now, these same companies are launching sulfate and silicone-free haircare ranges realizing the demand for safe skincare products and the growing organic beauty industry.
And let’s not get forget the makeup trends. One day you are supposed to be a bronzed goddess, so the markets are flooded with bronzers of all kinds, telling us to stock up those, and the next day fresh skin is in!
In the last couple of years, we have seen lipsticks evolve from the traditional bullets to crayons and liquid lipsticks, but now the beauty companies are going back to the traditional lip bullets and calling it the latest trend (Like Seriously??)
The beauty companies have to come up with new trends every day to make money. But don’t be overwhelmed or feel left out, these trends are not for everyone.
The internet is a wonderful place to stay informed and aware of different ingredients, products, brands and their uses. So lets not blindly believe what these companies are selling us and take charge of what we put on our skin.
Also, let’s not subject our body to experimentation just because everyone else is doing something. Before buying something, think whether you will actually benefit from the product and if it is really something that you can’t do without, then make a purchase.
Don’t spend your precious money on something due to FOMO.
Let me know in the comments below if you follow beauty trends or not, and why?