With the rise of K-pop culture all over the world, the flawless, supple and glowing complexion of young Korean celebrities has left us all envious of their beautiful, young-looking skin. Indeed, much there is much hype about K-beauty, from the 10-step Korean skincare to Korean cosmetic brands and even medical aesthetic treatments.
How can we improve our skin texture to look like these Korean superstars?
Well, first, we have to delve into what are the features of the “Korean glow”. This can be generalized into: minimal pores, smooth glass-like texture, radiant and fair complexion free of imperfections, and a tight looking appearance with few signs of ageing.
Now, there are many different regimens, some as simple as slathering on a serum and moisturizer and some as extensive as going through 10 steps. But, no matter how many steps they go through day in day out, no product – fine-line smoothing, plumping, brightening, or otherwise – is as effective as an injectable, a laser, or a high intensity ultrasound based treatment. However, to achieve the Korean glow, treatment must be individually customized to the issues that are prohibiting you from achieving the glass glow.
Below, we will discuss features of the “Korean glow” and how best to achieve each of them.
Skin Texture and Pores
The first step in achieving the “Korean glow” is to have a smooth glass-like skin texture. As we age, a complex cascade of ageing happens in our skin. After the age of 20, our skin loses about 1% of collagen each year. This loss of collagen as well as elastin in the dermis leads to progressive sagging of the skin. Slowing of the epidermal turnover rate and cell cycle length also leads to progressive thinning of the skin. Not only does collagen decrease, the hyaluronic acid levels in our skin also decreases, which leads to drying and wrinkling of our skin. Therefore, as we age, our skin starts to become loose, saggy and we start noticing an increase in fine lines and visibility of our pores.
Enlarged pores is also one of the commonest complaint people have after wrinkles. What makes our pores look big? One of the most important factors that gives the appearance of a large pore vs a small pore is the size of the pore opening. Secondly, pores also look smaller and less obvious if they are cleared of blackheads and blockage. Lastly, collagen loss – when we lose collagen as we age, it also means the skin around the pores gets looser, making the pores look larger.
So, how do we achieve the glass-like skin texture of the K-Pop celebrities?
To minimize the appearance of wrinkles and pores, 3 things have to happen on the skin:
1. Tightening and thickening of the dermis (the deeper layer of the skin) by means of new collagen formation and replenishing the levels of hyaluronic acid
2. Reversing the slowdown in skin turnover
3. The surface of the skin should be clean of debris and pores cleared of comedones and blackheads
Hence, treatments should be able to achieve the above to be able to give us glass-like skin. Of course, we continually lose collagen as we age, hence no treatment is permanent when it comes to minimizing pores and we will generally need to stick to a schedule of aesthetic procedures to be able to maintain the effects of treatment.
Skin texture and pore treatments can be broadly classified as:
1. Exfoliative and cleansing treatments
By removing dead skin debris and blackheads from our skin, we can clean up the pore opening and reduce the appearance of the pores. By exfoliating dead skin cell debris, we also encourage our skin to produce new epidermal cells and make our skin look more radiant. Treatments that can achieve this includes exfoliative and deep cleansing facials such as hydrafacial, mild superficial exfoliative acid peels and laser peels such as the Hollywood and Carbon Peels. By regularly using cleansers that exfoliate and cleanse such as ones that include salicylic acids or Vitamin C, we can also help prevent and reduce the build up of comedones and debris on our skin, while glycolic acids can help to increase skin turnover and reduce fine wrinkles.
Lasers work to minimize the appearance of pores by stimulating collagen production in the dermis. In the market today, there are numerous lasers, each providing a different effect. The important factor here is to stimulate collagen production in the skin, so lasers that do well in this respect include fractional ablative lasers such as fractional CO2 lasers, fractional non-ablative lasers like the fractional (MLA/DLA) Picolaser or high energy lasers such as long pulsed Nd:YAG lasers that help to stimulate collagen within the dermis. These collagen-building lasers can help your skin fight against signs of ageing such as fine wrinkles, enlarging pores and laxity.
3. Collagen stimulating injectables
Ageing leads to the gradual loss of collagen as well as total hyaluronic acid level in the dermis of the skin. Injectables such as polynucleotide injections (e.g. Rejuran Healer injections), hyaluronic acid injectables (e.g. Profhilo, SkinBooster, Filmed NCTF 135HA) can help rejuvenate our skin by replenishing collagen and hyaluronic acid levels, and thus helps to tighten the appearance of pores.
4. Wrinkle reducing botulinum toxin
Botulinum toxins such as Botox, when injected into our expression muscles can help to soften our expression and prevent expression lines from becoming static lines and thus prevent formation of permanent wrinkles. When injected into the skin instead, Botox on the other hand can help to relax the erector pili – fine muscles in the skin that control pore size and hence help the skin look more refined and smooth.
5. Topical creams
Creams or cosmeceuticals that help with pores generally need to fulfil 2 requirements: increasing skin turnover and stimulating collageneogenesis in the dermis. Important ingredients to look out for include: alpha-hydroxylase acids such as glycolic acid, citric acid/ beta-hydroxylase aids such as salicylic acid, and vitamin A derivatives such as retinols, or the prescription retinoic acid. These can increase skin regeneration, smoothness, and elasticity, thus minimizing pores.
Due to the dryness that comes with ageing. It is also important to use moisturizers that help to seal in moisture in our skin so that it does not dry out and appear wrinkles and old.
These daily creams may seem trivial, but the accumulative effect of regular care can significantly change the quality of our skin and slow down the loss of collagen.
6. Energy based devices
In addition to the regular lasers, injectables and topical creams, high energy based devices should also form a part of a pore care regimen on a yearly to bi-yearly basis. Radiofrequency devices such as Thermage and ultrasound based devices like Ultherapy have a very strong capacity to stimulate new collagen formation in the skin. This not only helps fill up collagen in the dermis and hence help tighten ageing pores and reduce fine lines, it can also tighten the collagen rich superficial musculoaponeurotic system (SMAS) layer in our skin. This layer has been likened to the scaffold layer of the skin and by tightening the collagen fibres in this layer, we can reverse the laxity and sagging that comes with ageing.
Skin tone and complexion
The second part of achieving the “Korean glow” is to have a clear and radiant complexion. This means addressing issues that can lead to our skin tone either appearing uneven and treating spots on our skin that appear due to accumulated sun damage over the years
To achieve this, treatments include:
1. Skin lightening creams
Skin lightening creams can help to reduce pigmentation tat develop as a result of chronic sun exposure. These include the prescription medications such as hydroquinone and hydroquinone alternatives such as cystseamine (Cyspera), alpha-arbutin, bearberry extract, kojic acid and topical tranexamic acid. The creams work through different pathways to suppress excess pigment production by the pigment cells in our skin, thus helping to lighten imperfections and spots on our skin.
2. Regular use of sunscreens
Prevention is better than cure.
Prevention is better than cure. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun can lead to premature photo ageing. Ultraviolet rays causes a deterioration of biological functions and ability to manage metabolic stress in the skin that leads to functional and aesthetic decline. By using broad spectrum sunscreens, we can reduce the amount of ultraviolet rays penetrating into our skin and protect against ageing.
Retinoids bind to retinoic acid receptors and retinoid X receptors that induces a cascade of cellular processes that ultimately lead to an increase in collagen production and epidermal thickening, thus helping to reduce the appearance of skin sagging and wrinkling. Using this as secondary protection can help us fight off the damage done by ultraviolet rays.
Lastly, pigmentation or dyspigmentation that has formed can be treated with a variety of lasers. Pigment lasers typically target pigmentation that has developed and help to shatter these into smaller particles so that they can be cleared by the body. These can target not only spot pigments, but can also target uneven skin tones and help us achieve that even, radiant glow.
5. Oral supplemets
Oral supplements containing antioxidants such as L-cysteine, Glutathione, Co-Q10 enzymes are antioxidants that can help our bodies defend against oxidative free radicals that accelerate photo ageing. These supplements again help suppress excess pigments from forming due to sun damage.