Dull, dry end of summer skin? Korean skincare to the rescue!
Updated: 4 days ago
Here we are in the last days of summer 2020 and if your skin is anything like mine, it’s feeling a bit parched. You might be thinking that sun exposure is the main reason our skin gets dry in the summer - and that sunscreen should provide all the protection we need. In fact, it’s more complex than that.
Points to you if you’ve been judicious about slathering on SPF all summer. As we know, sunscreen protects the skin from UV damage. Interestingly, recent studies have concluded that UV damage is directly correlated with decreased water content in the stratum corneum (outermost layer of the skin). So the first step to sorting that summer dehydration is protecting yourself against those rays in the first place.
But sadly, that’s not enough! If you’ve been frolicking in a swimming pool or hanging out at the beach (I know, I know! It's 2020... who's frolicking? but you get the idea here) you’ll have exposed yourself to drying agents in the water; chlorine and salt respectively. Instinctively we all rinse off as soon as we get in from the pool/beach, but not before some havoc has already been wreaked - and unless we're scrupulous about double cleansing, chemical/minerals remain (stacked over SPF) if we've only taken a quick summer shower.
If you’ve indulged in a few mojitos or glasses of rosé then you’ve added another dehydrator to the mix: alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic which means that it literally expels water from the body causing the skin not only to become dry, but to feel less plump, and more easily show fine lines. The effects are cumulative and take a short while to appear so it’s sometimes only after we start wearing our sweaters in the late summer evenings that we begin to notice that our early summer glow has given way to parched summer dullness. (note: when I’m enjoying wine or a cocktail I always consume one glass of water for each alcoholic drink - really do think this helps.)
Enough of the bad news - what can we do to sooth, hydrate and brighten our skin at the end of summer to prepare it for the cooler months ahead?
K beauty to the rescue!
This time of year (ok year-round but especially end of summer) I turn to K-beauty. K-beauty and skincare (Korean skincare) has been steadily increasing in popularity in the US over the past five years. And for good reason; hydration is the cornerstone of K-skincare. Without hydration we're fighting a losing battle against fine lines and textural irregularities. Korean skincare products have ingredient decks that feature things like hyaluronic acid, beta glucan, glycerin and panthenol (to name a few); all superstar hydrators.
I've been testing out several products from YesStyle and I am excited to break them down for you. Not only are they ingredient powerhouses but they are affordable as well! Wahoo!
Clear the decks
Let’s start with cleansing balms: I rarely end an evening without doing a double cleanse. This is even more important when we’ve layered SPF with sea salt or chlorine. I have many Korean favorites but one that I return to and rebuy over and over is Clean it ZERO by Banila Co. This cleansing balm loosens up makeup and sunscreen without stinging my eyes or leaving a residue. Clean it ZERO sets the stage for my second cleanse to wash it all away. This is crucial for me as all my hydrating skincare that follows needs a clear platform to be effective!
Exfoliation is a key partner in the hydration process- effectively clearing a path so that all the hydrating ingredients can penetrate. An Isntree product that has my attention is the Isntree Clear Skin Essence, Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Q7gLx0. 4% glycolic acid and 4% lactic acid along with licorice can gently exfoliate while brightening the skin. This essence is particularly amazing because, at a 4.5 PH, it acts as a gentle exfoliator (if Sunday Riley Good Genes is too harsh for you this one might be a great alternative). With it’s thin-serum consistency and non-sticky texture this is a great product to gently but effectively brighten dull skin.
Layer one of hydration: The toner
You’ve likely heard me sing the praises of green tea, for good reason. Green tea is soothing, it is anti-inflammatory and best of all it is an antioxidant superstar! My favorite green tea of the moment is the Green Tea Fresh Toner from Isntree (out of stock on YesStyle but you can find it here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/31L9PJr) that boasts an impressive ingredient deck starting with (of course) green tea but also has centella asiatica (more on this amazing ingredient soon), hyaluronic acid, licorice, allantoin and beta glucan. These are ingredients that are soothing, hydrating, brightening and anti inflammatory. I especially love this toner before my LED sessions. I have said it before; green tea 20 minutes before an LED sesh may help produce results 10 times faster than LED alone! Crazy, isn’t it?
Layer Two of hydration: The serum
One of my favorite hydrating serums is one I've spoken about before: Iunik Beta-Glucan Power Moisture Serum. If you aren't familiar with this little gem and you have dry, reactive skin (hello redness?!) you may want to take note. Beta Glucan simultaneously provides major hydration and prevents water loss (TEWL) as it soothes sensitive skin. Technically beta glucan is a polysaccharide derived from yeast or oats. It is truly a favorite ingredient of mine and a wonderful alternative to hyaluronic acid (beta glucan is indeed MORE hydrating than hyaluronic acid...who knew?!). This serum from Iunik is 98% beta glucan making it one of the most hydrating serums I own...that says A LOT! I use this all year and love it on it's own but I also really love to cocktail this with an essence to boost the hydration (typically I'll add a little of this serum to my beloved Sukoyaka Suhada Urea moisture essence and pat it in the skin....what a pair). This would be lovely added to the above Isntree Green Tea Toner as well!
Layer three of hydration: the ‘water cream’
This time of year my skin is ready for a ‘drink of water’. I’m not yet ready for the heavier creams of winter but I absolutely need more than the light serum and sunscreen that was part of my early summer routine. Enter the water creams that Korean and Japanese skincare brands do so well. They’re the perfect blend of hydration and moisture. While I love many I have a few that are perennial favorites. One that I’ve recently added to my repertoire is the Bonajour Green Tea Water Bomb. This moisturizer is literally the bomb! (ok….bad joke) :). Apart from green tea, this moisturizer also has several other hydrating ingredients: vitamins b5 (panthenol- not only hydrating but soothing as well), sodium hyaluronate (a close relative of hyaluronic acid), and polyglutamic acid (5x more hydrating than hyaluronic acid)! Its milky gel consistency literally saturates the skin in hydration while green tea, allantoin and licorice sooth any minor inflammation in post-summer skin. Oh, and I can't forget the vitamin B3 (niacinamide) in this one that brightens skin and helps reinforce the skin's barrier function. PHEW! This is certainly one of my favorite mid-summer finds….not to mention the simple tube packaging along with the crazy good price tag are icing on the cake.
Another favorite in the water creme category (albeit this is J-beauty, not k-beauty but I had to include it!) is the Hada Labo Perfect Gel. I’ve been singing the praises of this water gel-cream moisturizer for years. Packed with multiple forms of hyaluronic acid and also urea (super hydrator) there’s a reason this baby is a cult classic Hada Labo product. In fact this is one of my ‘go to’ products for when my skin is in ‘big time’ need of hydration.
The last moisturizer I’ll cover (I’ll leave the rest for my YouTube video this week - and will link all at the bottom of this post!) is the Mugwort cream from the brand I’m From. Don’t let the name distract - it is a beautifully formulated moisturizer with (can you guess?) several hydrating, soothing/anti-inflammatory, brightening ingredients. This particular cream boasts over 70% mugwort - particularly good at calming the skin. Mugwort is a great ingredient for those with psoriasis as it is incredibly anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. It is a healing, soothing, might I say "dark horse" of an ingredient. This lightweight cream combines mugwort with licorice and a whole host of fermented ingredients to brighten the complexion. I predict we'll see a lot more of this lesser-known (in the US) ingredient in the upcoming year!
There are so many other fantastic finds in the K-beauty space. The dedication to brightening and hydration make them the perfect end-of-summer picks to layer in to our current routines.
Stay tuned this week to YouTube where I will share the rest of my K and J-Beauty picks (it's current skincare favorites time!) that not only pamper our skin but take it easy on our bank accounts.
(in the mean time, drink your water!!)
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Products Mentioned in post:
Banilla Co Clean it Zero https://amzn.to/3wIo9jg
Isntree Clear Skin 8% AHA Essence https://amzn.to/3uIEQJF
Isntree Green Tea Fresh Toner (on Amazon*) https://amzn.to/31L9PJr
Bonajour Green Tea Water Bomb https://shrsl.com/2gw88
Hada Labo Perfect Gel https://amzn.to/3wRUAvR
I'm From Mugwort Cream https://shrsl.com/2gvv1
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