Ep 143 - Korean Beauty Explained

sheet mask being removed by esthetician

Snail mucin, glass skin, sheet masks, microneedling patches—these are just some of the K-Beauty trends to influence the esthetics industry. In this episode of ASCP Esty Talk, Maggie and Ella talk about the history of K-Beauty and discuss what makes K-Beauty so popular.

ASCP Esty Talk with hosts Ella Cressman and Maggie Staszcuk  

Produced by Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) for licensed estheticians, ASCP Esty Talk is a weekly podcast, hosted by licensed estheticians Ella Cressman, ASCP Skin Deep magazine contributor, and Maggie Staszcuk, ASCP Education Specialist. We see your passion, innovation, and hard work, and are here to support you by providing a platform for networking, advocacy, camaraderie, and education. We aim to inspire you to ask the right questions, find your motivation, and give you the courage to have the professional skin care career you desire.


About Ella Cressman:

Ella Cressman is a licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, business owner, ingredient junkie and esthetic cheerleader! As an educator, she enjoys empowering other estheticians and industry professionals to understand skin care from an ingredient standpoint rather than a product-specific view.

In addition to running a skin care practice, Cressman founded a comprehensive consulting group, the HHP Collective, and has consulted for several successful skin care brands.

Connect with Ella Cressman:

Website: www.hhpcollective.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ella-cressman-62aa46a


About Maggie Staszcuk:

Maggie has been a licensed esthetician since 2006 and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College. She has worked in the spa and med-spa industry, and served as an esthetics instructor and a director of education for one of the largest schools in Colorado before coming to ASCP as the Cosmetology Education Manager. 

Connect with Maggie Staszcuk:

P 800.789.0411 EXT 1636

MStaszcuk@ascpskincare.com or AMI@ascpskincare.com


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About Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP):

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0:00:00.5 Ella Cressman: DMK is the world leader in paramedical skin revision education with certification programs designed to give license professionals a thorough understanding of the skin and an in depth study of the DMK concept of remove rebuild, protect, maintain. Created by the Botanical visionary Danné Montague-King, DMK offers skin revision, training and education for all ages, skin conditions and ethnicities in more than 35 countries. Harnessing the bodies, innate healing mechanisms to change the health of the skin. Learn more @dannemking.com That's D-A-N-N-E-M-K-I-N-G.com. 


0:00:56.5 Maggie Staszcuk: Hello and welcome to ASCP's Esty Talk. I'm your cohost Maggie Staszcuk and ASCP's cosmetology education manager. 


0:01:03.9 EC: And I'm your other co-host Ella Cressman licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, ingredient junkie and content contributor for Associated Skin Care Professionals. 


0:01:14.0 MS: So Ella, today we're talking about K-Beauty. 


0:01:18.1 EC: Okay. [laughter] 


0:01:19.9 MS: I think everyone in the skin industry has probably heard this term K-Beauty, whether you are well versed gurus, or you've only just heard the name muttered. And one of the reasons for its popularity is that Koreans are masters at caring for their skin. So what's the big deal. Do they know something we don't are their products better than ours? We're gonna talk about it. So first, a little history, thousands of years ago, Korea was an agriculture based economy and everyone spent their days outside under the sun, and they were searching for ways to heal that sun damage. It was ingrained in their culture and has since been embraced by Korean beauty today? How do they target that dehydration, the sun damage in their skin. And during these times, thousands of years ago, they were utilizing the natural ingredients at their disposal. Like Camellia, Mung bean and rice. Ella I defer to you on some of these ingredients. 


0:02:19.0 EC: These are all very hydrating. So Camellia is actually really great at hydrating the skin, but also encouraging moisture to stay in the skin. So a preventing tool. Mung Bean is... Sounds disgusting, but it's super anti-inflammatory. So when you're talking about staying out in the sun, there's a lot of issues and also inflammatory pigment, like PIH and whatnot. Mung Bean would be great to calm skin from exposure, environmental exposure, but also to address pigment, which is another thing with that Fitzpatrick demographic, they're at a higher risk for pigment damage. And then rice, rice is a fantastic ingredient for a lot of reasons. And we see that fermented rice actually is probiotic for the skin, but also it can be used as a keratolytic. So we see like jasmonic rice for example, or jasmonic acid that comes from rice. That is exfoliant. So we have exfoliation, we have anti-inflammatory and we have hydration here, and this is ancient times. And what do we look at now? Exfoliation hydration and anti-inflammatory. So it's pretty cool. 


0:03:26.0 MS: So interesting. Yeah. So we're seeing it all today. So what is K-Beauty specifically? Let's talk a little bit about their philosophy. It's an emphasis on a more holistic approach to skin health. So Ella just took us through a couple of those key ingredients and the basis, again, hydration, exfoliation, brightening properties. They have a more gentle, nurturing approach to skincare, and it's also highly personalized and consistency is key. So they're attempting to get a healthy hydrated, bouncy, look to the skin. 


0:04:00.8 EC: Glass and glazed. 


0:04:02.0 MS: Yes. 


0:04:02.1 EC: Okay. That's on K-Beauty. 


0:04:02.2 MS: Yes. Glass and glazed. Totally. Hydration and nourishment are the emphasis for their regimen. Which I think is a 180, a little bit in how Americans approach their skincare, where we are immediate results, exfoliation, anti-aging are major buzzwords. 


0:04:22.5 EC: Turn it and burn it. 


0:04:23.7 MS: Turn it and burn it. Yeah, absolutely. 


0:04:27.4 EC: We want it now. 


0:04:27.5 MS: Yeah. And I think when we look at or at least my experience has been when clients come through the door that is what they say. If it's not burning, it's not working. 


0:04:35.5 EC: I know. And it takes... We've talked about that. It takes so much education for that. We just... I just was talking about it this week. That the... Well we've obviously mentioned it before burning, sloughing peeling, shedding malting does not actually always mean results. And this is the perfect example with Korean beauty. There's something to be said for hydrating nourishing, and setting the stage. So doing more prevention. Oh, what do they call it? Pre-juvenation... 


0:05:05.6 MS: Yeah. 


0:05:05.9 EC: Versus rejuvenation. 


0:05:07.5 MS: Yeah. And that's interesting that you just brought that up because I hear oftentimes you have these, I wanna call them children like 19-year-olds going out and getting Botox because they're referring to it as preventative or pre-juvenation. They don't have the wrinkle yet, but they are getting that treatment in anticipation of the wrinkle. 


0:05:29.1 EC: Absolutely. Same way we exercise so that we don't have, you know, problems later because if we have it later, it's going to be too late. And so this is a great... To me, this illustration in my head is if you take someone who's been completely inactive until they're in their 40s, and then you put them into a marathon, how are they gonna fare versus someone who's been training since they're 19? How are they... Who's gonna win. 


0:05:55.5 MS: Yeah. No, you, I mean, you make up a really good point, but on the flip side, oftentimes a lot of the fine lines that people have on the surface of their skin really is just dehydration. 


0:06:06.1 EC: Can you say that again for the people in the back. [laughter] 


0:06:11.1 MS: Taking this K-Beauty approach, if we're adding hydration, we're nurturing and nourishing the skin, you may not see those fine lines and wrinkles, or they're less likely to occur. 


0:06:21.6 EC: I think, in this same example, we're talking about the marathon where the Botox... Hey listen, I'm a big fan, but where the Botox... If you're just doing Botox as prevention, then it would be like putting on the E-stim on... Have you seen those E-stim thing doing that?  


0:06:35.7 MS: Yeah. Oh yeah. 


0:06:36.8 EC: You've seen the commercials where their legs are shaking and stuff and calling that a workout. There are so many other components for that. If you do the Botox good. Yeah. Good on you. But then also that's not addressing the skin, you're just addressing the muscle, not the skin, the skin health. If you want to extend the results or if you wanna protect your investment, you gotta be using a moisturizer, but not just any moisturizer, not slugging, but hydrating. 


0:07:02.2 MS: Yeah. 


0:07:03.1 EC: Then you, have to do that. And this is what I feel the K-Beauty is born of, honestly. Looking at the skin and saying, how can we work with it to make it look hydrated, not look to make it hydrated. To ensure that it has what it needs to function properly. 


0:07:24.8 MS: Yeah. I think you totally said it like with the Botox and we're going down a rabbit hole here, but it's targeting the muscle, not targeting the skin. Where K-Beauty's approach is all about one being customized and specific to the skin's needs, providing that nourishment and that hydration. And it's all about the skin. 


0:07:42.2 EC: Yes. 


0:07:43.0 MS: Yeah. They also have a multi-layered routine. So you can Google K-Beauty and you'll see pop up over and over and over either a 10 layer, 15 layer, 20 layer regimen, which sounds insane. I don't think anyone's got time for that, but again, it's all about, serums and essences and moisturizers specific to the skin's needs to, provide nourishment and hydration. 


0:08:12.1 EC: I think that sounds cumbersome. Here we are just talking, on a previous podcast about all the products we have and how we're knocking 'em off of our countertops, but, we're like that's too many steps, but the truth is it is, I think a different approach would be products and we've called it... Remember our podcast on skinimalism?  


0:08:34.0 MS: Yes. 


0:08:34.5 EC: And, where they've got one product that does all of these things. And so I'm curious if the philosophies we wanna put this on, allow it to penetrate and then put this on, allow it to penetrate. And if that's the case, I would say there are other options for more sophisticated delivery ingredients that will push things into the skin at certain levels. I'm thinking particularly of Hydroxyzine, for example. You can have a product that's formulated with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and minerals, because the skin needs minerals and it's formulated in a way that is going to penetrate the skin and do something and nourish or inspire or protect whatever that is. That's what I'm gonna buy. 


0:09:22.6 MS: I totally agree with you. And also the thought that goes through my mind is, 10 layers, man. You're gonna get to a point where the skin is done. You can only put so much on, and then I feel like the product is just gonna be balling off your face. 


0:09:35.8 EC: Have you seen that TikTok where they're painting their nails with one... The girl's painting one coat. I don't remember how many layers, but it's like a hundred layers and her nail is so big. 


0:09:46.9 MS: No. 


0:09:47.1 EC: Yeah. It's like the... Like two inches high. And that's what I think of when I think of all these layers, because just sounds sticky and gooey to me. 


0:09:56.4 MS: Yeah. That's a lot, that's too much in my opinion. 


0:10:00.4 EC: But it could be that's how they find the customizing that you talked about previously. It's because they're going to really... By doing it this way, pick specific ingredients or specific steps for you. Versus, okay, this has... This product has nine things in it and seven of them are what you need and the other two is not gonna hurt. 


0:10:21.1 MS: Yeah. It could be, I don't know. A part of their philosophy as well is really understanding your own skin and with time and effort, you can be in control of your skin, which I think is a little bit, contradictory when we're talking about this 10 step multi-layered approach. If we are customizing to everyone's needs, are there really 10 steps specific to everyone's different needs?  


0:10:49.8 EC: I don't know. I'm in marketing, that's all I'm gonna say. 


0:10:52.7 MS: Yeah. 


0:10:53.0 EC: Like, come on. 


0:10:53.1 MS: I agree. 


0:10:54.6 EC: I think that people get excited, oh this is customized just for you. But then you know that it's not. I think of weight loss commercials, or I think of dinner menus or burger king for the love of God started that have it your way. All they're really saying is no tomatoes. It's not like it's... 


0:11:15.8 MS: It's all one burger. 


0:11:16.7 EC: Hold on this is Dan's special hamburger recipe or whatever. No, it's just no tomatoes or whatever. I think a lot of that, you have to be conscientious of marketing and understanding true customization. I think a lot of times customization comes with the cooperation of a professional aesthetician and what you do at home. 


0:11:36.1 MS: Totally. 


0:11:36.8 EC: Not a lot of times, all the time. That's when you're customizing. Because with... When you're working with the pro, this K-Beauty, that's fantastic. But how often are they encouraging change? When are they swapping out some of these steps for something else who's leading this?  


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0:12:38.7 MS: I will say, there are a lot of innovations in K-Beauty, and I think you mentioned earlier that it starts somewhere. So in theory a lot of these trends are starting in Korea and making their way over to the US. So some of the things that supposedly are K-Beauty and that maybe we're now seeing in our products that we're using is snail mucin. Are you familiar with that ingredient?  


0:13:06.6 EC: I am. [chuckle] 


0:13:08.2 MS: What is your opinion Ella?  


0:13:09.6 EC: I think we did a podcast on... That was over a year ago called Even not on my Face. My opinion on that is if it works, then slide on in. If it works. 


0:13:20.6 MS: Yeah. 


0:13:21.1 EC: Well, but if you're a vegan then it probably won't really align, but if it works, I think that there's other hydrating ingredients that might be preferred that I might start with, I'm curious how they figured this out. That's what I think of. Where's the origin of understanding that snail mucin was hydrating, but... 


0:13:37.8 MS: Yeah. Well, some that may be a little bit more familiar are sheet masks and then also microneedling patches. 


0:13:46.4 EC: You know what's so funny, it was a couple of weeks ago, we had a conversation and you asked me if I've ever tried K-Beauty. I was like, "No, I sure have not." And then you mentioned that and I was like, "I actually have." [laughter] 'Cause I didn't even realize to this point that this had crept into my routine from K-Beauty, I was thinking it's 97 step routine, but at home I did. Remember I'm an Instagram targeted ad sucker, so I did buy these microneedling eye patches. I'll bring some up next time I come up, and of course sheet masks are so, so cool. They're so... The ones that work. But they're awesome, I love sheet masks. They feel great. At home, I can vacuum. I can do everything that I wouldn't... Normally, I'd have to sit there with another mask, but yeah. 


0:14:34.9 MS: What did you think of the microneedling patches?  


0:14:37.1 EC: Nothing. 


0:14:38.3 MS: Yeah. 


0:14:39.6 EC: Not much. They're really not marketing. 


0:14:40.9 MS: Yeah. 


0:14:41.2 EC: So they're more of these triangular facing inward they're not even needles, they're plastic. Special-coated plastic stuff. And I'm like, "Oh no, they're not. They're not." So. 


0:14:52.1 MS: Yeah. 


0:14:53.2 EC: Marketing. 


0:14:54.0 MS: I have some patches as well, and I kind of feel the same way. I put it on my skin, and I was like... Well, it's a little Band-Aid, like you say, these little whatever it is, plastic things on them, and I feel like I've gotta punch my face for anything to happen, and then that's it. So I'm walking around the house, punching my face to... 


0:15:11.4 EC: And they're... You're supposed to be wearing them overnight?  


0:15:13.3 MS: Yeah. 


0:15:13.9 EC: Oh, they would end up on my nose, my forehead, all over the way I sleep. Plus the other part of that is... Taking them off, they are sticky. 


0:15:23.2 MS: Yeah. 


0:15:23.8 EC: And I watched my delicate eye skin, lift of half an inch off my face, I was like, "Oh, how can this be good?" But I digress. 


0:15:30.6 MS: Yeah, so let's talk about some Korean skin trends and you mentioned a couple of them, like glass skin. So this is all starting with K-Beauty. It's most well known. It is skin so smooth and clear. It is transparent. 


0:15:48.2 EC: Remember when we talked about Twilight?  


0:15:50.3 MS: Yeah. 




0:15:52.3 EC: I stand firm in that, if you want a transparent skin. 


0:15:55.4 MS: Totally. Totally. Yeah, yeah, this is another one and I don't know why I cannot say this word, but dumpling skin or dewy dumpling. And when I read this I was like, "Is this for real?" But apparently it is. I Googled it. It pops up everywhere. It's focused on moist hydrated skin of course and it's inspired by steamed... 


0:16:19.1 EC: Yes. 


0:16:19.3 MS: Glistening dumplings. 


0:16:20.2 EC: That's what I was thinking of when you said, they're bulbous, they're fresh-looking, they're smooth. Yeah. 


0:16:26.8 MS: What the heck, I guess, man. 


0:16:28.4 EC: Bao buns or whatever... 


0:16:29.3 MS: Bao buns, there you go. That I can say, I keep wanting to be like, "Dumpling? What is the dumpling?" 


0:16:34.6 EC: How about dumpling?  


0:16:35.3 MS: Dumpling, okay. 


0:16:35.6 EC: You say it with a southern accent and I think it sounds way cooler. 


0:16:38.3 MS: That's it. That's it. Okay, and then honey skin, this visual really works for me. So if you're thinking of the sheen and the tone of honey and the inspiration and emphasis here again is on just like smooth, glistening, hydrated skin. 


0:16:54.6 EC: You know what would happen like karmically if I had honey on my face?  


0:16:58.7 MS: What would happen?  


0:17:00.1 EC: A windstorm. 




0:17:02.9 EC: I would come out like Harry and the Hendersons. I know it, that would be what happened. But I understand that. I still think that's super shiny, glassy, dewy skin when I hear a skin glass, I think of... You remember in the '90s, late '90s, early 2000s to the mid 2000s, that over-retinoled face?  


0:17:24.9 MS: Yeah. 


0:17:25.3 EC: Over-processed face, that's when dermal fillers first came out Botox was first a thing and they were really going for it. Like this heavy glycolic peels followed with intense at-home retinol, that was glass skin. 


0:17:38.9 MS: Yes, it was by default. 


0:17:40.3 EC: By default. And for me when I see that, I think unhealthy. 


0:17:43.9 MS: You're right. 


0:17:44.6 EC: I think, "Ooof over-done. Over exfoliated." 


0:17:49.4 MS: Yeah. 


0:17:49.9 EC: That doesn't look healthy to me. To me healthy skin does look bouncy, but it doesn't look glassy, glazy. 


0:17:57.5 MS: You're right. 


0:17:58.0 EC: It looks fresh. 


0:18:00.3 MS: You're right, it's almost like sweaty skin. 


0:18:02.3 EC: Yeah, sweaty, Schvitzy. I just got a Schvitz facial. [laughter] The other thing too is talking about the trends going down, I wonder if this is how slugging was born from these trends and then turned into... 


0:18:18.4 MS: Yeah. I feel like it has to have been. 


0:18:19.9 EC: It has to. 


0:18:21.1 MS: Yeah. Well, Korean skin, I think we've narrowed down their biggest goal here is hydration and dewy-ness. And I think to your point Ella in America we're kind of afraid of that look because it implies maybe sweatiness or oily skin and a lot of our products are focused or have been in the past focused on modifying. 


0:18:40.1 EC: And it's trends, it comes and goes. 


0:18:41.4 MS: Yeah. 


0:18:42.0 EC: The thing is, the healthy skin is always in style, but do we want matte poreless completely flavorless, salty cracker skin or do we want dewy fresh glazed skin? I did have this honey skin a couple of weeks ago when I was still at the office, first of all it's a high in the mountains in my opinion and then there's stairs and so I went upstairs and I was like... And I surely had some, two drops coming off my skin. 


0:19:13.4 MS: Honey skin by default. 


0:19:14.2 EC: Yeah. Honey skin, because of two flights of stairs way way way above sea level. Anyways. So [laughter] I think that... I don't know. I think dewy skin, there's a difference between dewy, sweaty, and unhealthy skin. 


0:19:30.2 MS: Yeah. It's a fine line. 


0:19:30.3 EC: Fine line. 


0:19:32.3 MS: Yeah. I was surprised to read that they are all about brightening but not bleaching. 


0:19:38.7 EC: 100%, yes. You know what a really really cool... Well bleaching, because there's some problems that have come along with bleaching. Where you can see problems with bleaching is in a lot of the Caribbean. There's a lot of people who tried to bleach their skin and there's been a lot of malefic effects. And so the same has happened in India and Asia, where this bleaching has resulted in really big wounding of the skin. And so brightening is the key and it's not about restoring, it's about stopping it from happening in the first place. And so a lot of the ingredients that come out in these skincare products are intended for that. 


0:20:20.4 MS: Interesting. 


0:20:21.0 EC: One that's really cool is tranexamic acid. 


0:20:23.5 MS: Oh, yeah. I think we've talked about that before. 


0:20:24.4 EC: Yeah. That's a really cool one. And it's born out of this region, and it was accidentally found to have this brightening effect. It was actually taken for menstrual cramps or blood pooling. And then the people who were taking this were realizing their skin was brightening and they're like, "Oh, let's try this on the face and voila." Now it's a major brightening skincare ingredient. 


0:20:47.0 MS: Wow. 


0:20:47.5 EC: Pretty cool. 


0:20:48.3 MS: Pretty cool. And then of course the no makeup, makeup look is very popular and I feel like that's everywhere. I think that somewhat was born out of COVID as well. 


0:20:58.5 EC: I think so too. I think you're right. I don't think I'm ever gonna follow that. I'm probably gonna be that person who is out of style that way, 'cause I love my makeup. For me in COVID, I look like Jasmine from Aladdin [laughter] 'cause I was like, that's the only thing I could show. So I was really playing that up. But I think it's very much you see it in the generations. It's definitely the influence, especially in... Did you guys see this season's Vogue magazine?  


0:21:24.4 MS: No. 


0:21:26.4 EC: Oh this is very interesting. The styles but also the makeup that are on these fashion shows because they did a lot of fashion photography in Vogue, and the makeup is very simplistic. 


0:21:36.8 MS: Is it?  


0:21:37.4 EC: Yeah. 


0:21:37.9 MS: Okay. So sticking with that trend. 


0:21:39.4 EC: For now. Let's see. I can't wait to see what the spring brings. 


0:21:41.8 MS: Well, you asked me on a podcast, if I stick with a regimen and I said, no, I change it up. 'Cause my counter is full of just random product and that goes for makeup as well. And so I go through these moments where I'm like, "Hmm, what am I gonna use today?" And I think I'm gonna put on this concealer and this foundation and do up the eyes. And then the next day I'm like, "Eh, no makeup today." 


0:22:04.8 EC: Lucky. [laughter] I will not leave the house without mascara. 


0:22:10.1 MS: It's a problem Ella, because I kid you not, I'll open up a thing of foundation, I'll be like, "Yep, this has gone bad. Well let's just put it on and see what happens." 


0:22:17.3 EC: And what happens?  


0:22:18.5 MS: [laughter] Oh, I break out and it's terrible. And do I throw it away? I do not. 


0:22:21.5 EC: How... Okay. Let's ask this question just as a sidebar. How do you test your makeup to see if it's good or bad? I'm curious. 


0:22:31.3 MS: I smell it. 


0:22:32.3 EC: Thank you. Okay, good. And that plato smell in lipstick is when it's gone bad, right?  


0:22:38.4 MS: Yeah. Or it's smells worse than plato, [laughter] there's bacteria growing. 


0:22:43.4 EC: That's play don't. 


0:22:45.2 MS: [laughter] That is play don't, yeah. 


0:22:47.0 EC: Do not play. 


0:22:47.7 MS: Yeah. Do not play. 


0:22:51.1 EC: I have a confession. 


0:22:51.9 MS: Tell us. 


0:22:53.5 EC: I recently moved and so I had to go through all my makeup and I had this Mac eyeshadow kit, that like was the snow globe version. 


0:23:02.8 MS: Yeah. 


0:23:03.7 EC: Limited edition. [chuckle] I think it came out in 2009. 


0:23:07.4 MS: [laughter] Okay. I am right there with you. I have makeup that dates back to high school. 


0:23:12.4 EC: Oh jeez. 


0:23:13.4 MS: But it is ideal for me, Ella. [laughter] Now listeners, we wanna hear from you. Have you tried K-Beauty products and do you agree or disagree with Korean beauty philosophy? Share your thoughts with us on social media by commenting on our Instagram, or Facebook posts, or by emailing getconnected@ascpskincare.com. Thanks for listening to ASCP Esty Talk. And for more information on this episode are for ways to connect with Ella and myself, or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes.Page Break 


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