Thanks to a skincare-obsessed culture in Asia, there's always a new way to plump, rejuvenate, hydrate, and purify your skin—and the ingredients are cutting-edge. Bonus: Unlike most Western beauty products, Asian skincare tends to emphasize natural ingredients over harsh chemicals. And what could be more natural than snail slime?
Here's a breakdown of all the ways they're ahead of the skincare curve:
The Basics: Acer mono sap—as it's called on the label—is an experiential ingredient that enhances the delivery of active ingredients.
The Benefits: Tree sap molecules are smaller than water molecules, so they absorb more easily and deeper into the skin. It delivers a myriad of beneficial nutrients, vitamins and minerals like amino peptides and calcium to lift, rejuvenate and hydrate skin. (And because of its antioxidants, maple tree sap is a common health drink in South Korea.)
Try This: May Coop Raw Sauce Toner, $42 peachandlily.com. May Coop Raw Moisturizer, $40 peachandlily.com.
The Basics: Snail enzyme is a high-efficacy active ingredient comprised of proteins, glycolic acids and elastin commonly found in skin creams and sheet masks.
The Benefits: This trusted slime is derived from the same stuff snails produce to heal cuts on their soft bodies from rocks and other rough surfaces. In beauty products, snail mucin firms and restores skin by replenishing moisture and supporting cell regeneration (which helps fade acne scars, smooth uneven complexions and reduce hyperpigmentation).
Shop It: Dr. Jart+ Premium Time Returning Serum, $54; sephora.com. MISSHA Cell Renew Snail Cream, $37; sokoglam.com.
The Basics: The essence derived from the flower is a potent active ingredient containing vitamins A and C and other minerals and antioxidants. It also has antibacterial and aromatherapeutic properties.
The Benefits: Products with this skin-saving oil are designed to delay signs of aging, soothe and moisturize skin, reduce redness and inflammation and provide astringent and antiseptic benefits to acne-prone skin.
Shop It: Aromatica Rose Absolute Eye Cream, $29; thearomatica.com. Isoi Bulgarian Rose Blemish Care System, $64; glowrecipe.com.
The Basics: This active ingredient contains a compound called melitten, which has anti-inflammatory properties that are said to be stronger than hydrocortisone. It's used around the world in skincare products as an anti-ager.
The Benefits: Bee venom breaks down cell membranes, which tricks your body into thinking it's under attack. It responds by increasing circulation, triggering the production of collagen and even relaxing facial muscles. This helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles, which is why some use bee venom as a natural alternative to Botox.
Shop It: Nature Republic Bee Venom Roll On Spot treatment, $18; amazon.com. Mizon Bee Venom Calming Fresh Cream, $36; urbanoutfitters.com.
The Basics: Long considered a healthy delicacy in Asia, algae—a.k.a. seaweed and kelp—is extremely nutrient- and mineral-dense, and rich in essential amino acids and vitamins A, B, C, and E.
The Benefits: Beauty products formulated with the marine botanical extract are hydrating, softening and energizing, and ideal for dry skin. When fermented in facial sheet masks, sea kelp's skin-loving amino acids, antioxidants and proteins are broken down to smaller, more easily absorbed molecules to majorly hydrate, repair and soothe skin.
Shop It: Whamisa Organic Sea Kelp Facial Sheet Mask, $14; glowrecipe.com. MISSHA Pure Source Sheet Mask (Sea Kelp), $2; misshaus.com.
The Basics: Highly regarded as a non-irritating antiseptic agent for treating acne, Australian-native tea tree oilcontains terpenoids that have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
The Benefits: This holy grail ingredient is gentler on skin and has less side effects than the gold-standard breakout-fighting ingredient benzoyl peroxide.In addition to effectively removing dirt and makeup without stripping skin dry, tea tree oil clears away sebum buildup and calms redness. It's great for those with sensitive, oily or combination skin.
Shop It: LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence, $38; nullskin.com. Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Foaming Cleanser, $21; thearomatica.com.
The Basics: This extremely popular hero ingredient is a naturally-occurring polysaccharide found in our skin tissues, keeping our skin soft, supple and plump. When we stop producing it as we age, our skin dries, sags and wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning it attracts water—and it can hold more than 1,000 times its weight in H2O.
The Benefits: If your skin lacks moisture, you want this in your regimen. Well-hydrated skin helps prevent premature aging, breakouts and excess sebum production.Serums containing hyaluronic acid extract leave skin supple, firm and plump with moisture. Also found in some makeup primers and foundations, it's liquid gold for that coveted dewy look.
Shop It: Mizon Original Skin Energy Hyaluronic Acid 100, $42; urbanoutfitters.com. Aritaum Baby Face Mist Power Hyaluronic Acid 60ml, $11; jolse.com.
The Basics: The makeup of pig collagen has shown to be similar to the collagen we produce ourselves to maintain a youthful appearance, though the effectiveness of applying collagen topically is debatable since its particles are too big to absorb into the skin.
The Benefits: In South Korea, women have claimed that applying this trending ingredient to the skin boosted firmness and elasticity. But because pig collagen can't penetrate the skin barrier, collagen-packed creams tend to sit on the skin and smooth fine lines only temporarily.
Shop It: Tony Moly Pure Farm Pig Collagen Hydrogel Mask, $4; koreadepart.com. Hollika Hollika Pig Collagen Jelly Pack, $20; holikaholika.ca.
The Basics: Skincare products containing starfish extract—packed with collagen, calcium and vitamins—have become something of a SoKo obsession recently, and though the ingredient is harvested from real starfish, companies like Mizon (which introduced a hugely popular line of starfish-infused creams) claims its products are "cruelty-free."
The Benefits: Knowing that starfish can regenerate lost limbs, the idea is that these formulas can also restore your skin to a brighter, plumper, ultra smooth, even complexion by aiding in cell turnover. The ingredient's received tons of high praise—and a cult following—but the verdict's still out on whether or not it's truly effective. Some studies have suggested that starfish extract could be used as a treatment for hyperpigmentation.
Shop It: Mizon Returning Starfish Cream, $32; urbanoutfitters.com. Mizon Returning Starfish Eye Cream, $32; urbanoutfitters.com.
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