Now that we’ve introduced you to the long and wondrous process of Korean skincare, we thought we’d get down to brass tacks. Today, we’re discussing the root of all K-beauty: ingredients.
When it all comes down to it, a product is only as good as its ingredient list. Knowing what benefits certain ingredients serve is the key to making informed choices—and as Asian beauty enthusiasts (or AB-ers, as Reddit would say), we’re always mindful of what we put into our skin. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it is a tricky business keeping track of all those names.
To help you out, here’s a cheat sheet of 9 miracle-working ingredients most commonly found in Korean skincare. Bookmark it for future reference!
1. SNAIL MUCIN
No Asian beauty ingredients list is complete without snail mucin. Naturally produced by snails to heal cuts and scrapes on their fragile bodies, this Holy Grail slime put Korean skincare on the map thanks to its hydrating and regenerative powers. Mostly found in facial creams and sheet masks, this goo helps soothe acne, reduce hyper-pigmentation, and provide skin with long-lasting moisture.
TRY: DewyTree Ultra Vitalising Snail Cream (P1,499), Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream (P550), COSRX Advanced Snail Power Essence (P900)
2. HYALURONIC ACID
Hot on the heels of snail slime is the ubiquitous hyaluronic acid. This powerful humectant naturally occurs in our own skin tissues and can hold 1,000 times its weight in water. Unfortunately, our bodies produce less of it as we age—which eventually leads to sagging, dryness, and wrinkles. But hey, thanks to Asian skincare, you can now buy this hydrating hero by the bottle!
TRY: COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Essence (P850), My Scheming Hyaluronan Hydrating Mask (P80)
Otherwise known as “bee glue,” propolis is a gummy, resin-like substance collected by bees to seal, sterilize, and protect their hives. It’s an ancient remedy known for its healing medicinal benefits. In modern skin care, this anti-bacterial substance aids in cell renewal, making it a great anti-ager! It also soothes irritation, fights blemishes, and decreases inflammation—a godsend for both mature and troubled skin.
TRY: It’s Skin Power 10 Propolis Effector (now on sale at P825), Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence (P700)
Another ancient beauty remedy comes in the form of ginseng, a popular ingredient in East Asian herbal medicine. Like bee propolis, this plant extract boasts powerful anti-aging benefits. Its antioxidants protect against the free radicals that bombard your skin day by day. Scientific proof also vouches for its brightening benefits, making ginseng-infused skincare a great way to glow!
TRY: Esfolio Red Ginseng Mask 10 Pieces (now on sale at P1,215), UGB Premium Rejuvenation Eye Cream (now on sale at P3,375), Baroness Red Ginseng Mask (P80)
5. ALOE VERA
Sensitive skin types, aloe vera is your new BFF. This plant is famed as an after-sun care product, but its soothing properties don’t stop there. Its also a cooling agent that helps prevent redness and calm breakouts. And thanks to its high water content, its hydrating powers are at superhero level! If you want to kick things up a notch, consider sipping aloe vera juice daily to help heal your skin from the inside out.
TRY: Aromatica Organic Aloe Vera Gel (P495), Esfolio Aloe Vera Soothing Gel (now on sale at P315), Tony Moly Pure Eco Aloe Gel (P348)
6. VITAMIN C
To say we’re obsessed with Vitamin C would be a gross understatement. After witnessing its major brightening effects, it’s become a staple in our daily routines. You’ll often see it listed on serums as “L-Ascorbic Acid”—the most common form of Vitamin C. This antioxidant fights free radicals, boosts collagen production, and most importantly, lightens dark spots. Bid adieu to hyper-pigmentation, acne scarring, and patchy skin tones!
TRY: It’s Skin Power 10 Formula VC Effector (P685), My Scheming L-Ascorbic Acid Mask (P80), Leaders Insolution Coconut Bio Mask with Orange (P148)
Seeing spots? Meet arbutin. Like other brighteners, it prevents the formation of tyrosinase in your skin—a UV-activated chemical that causes darkened scars and sun spots. By incorporating arbutin into your regimen, you can reduce the amount of pigmentation your skin takes on after a long day under the sun. Arbutin is known for being gentle, so even sensitive skin types can use it!
TRY: UGB Arbutin Mask 8 Pieces (now on sale at P890), Baroness Arbutin Mask (P80)
Honey has been long-time member of the K-beauty club for three main reasons. First, it helps soothe and prevent acne as a natural anti-bacterial treatment. Second, it’s chock-full of antioxidants that effectively slow down the aging process. Lastly, its moisturizing properties bring out your skin’s natural glow. If you suffer from constant dryness, this is the much-needed boost you are searching for.
TRY: Holika Holika Honey Sleeping Pack (P475), Banila Co. Ms. Flower & Mr. Honey Cream (P2,300)
9. TEA TREE OIL
Tea tree oil is one of go-tos of Asian beauty when it comes to eradicating acne. In concentrated amounts, its disinfecting properties can banish pimples and fight bacterial infection. It won’t moisturize your skin, mind you, but a light dab of this essential oil makes for a great spot treatment.
TRY: Leaders Insolution Tea Tree Relaxing Mask (P98), Innisfree It’s Real Tea Tree Mask (P110), Skinlite Tea Tree Deep Cleansing Mask (P70)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
K-Beauty 101: Your Ultimate Guide to the 10-Step Skin Routine