It’s been a few years since Korean skin care first landed on our radars but the beauty world’s collective fascination for all things. Korean skin care is known for its groundbreaking formulations, surprising ingredients and flatlay-ready packaging. It got us obsessed with sheet masks, introduced us to bee venom and snail mucin and even prompted us to google words like “chok-chok,” ampoule and essence.
What Is Glass Skin?
Glass skin is a term for exceptionally smooth, even-toned and lustrous skin that’s so flawless it has the appearance of glass. It’s simply a clear and elegant way of describing a certain type of enviable complexion. Like its predecessors “honey” and “dewy” skin, glass skin aims for an intensely moisturized skin that gives off an almost transparent complexion and a very youthful, lit-from-within glow.
How to Get Glass Skin
While some skin care trends are focused on particular products that promise instant visible results, achieving glass skin requires a multi-dimensional approach. The surface of the skin must be extremely smooth, without bumps or rough texture. Directly beneath the surface, there should be a large amount of water in order to create the moist and lustrous appearance that catches and reflects light. Finally, the skin should look plump and firm.
Achieving this coveted dream-like visage requires a consistent skin care routine consisting of a cleanser, toner, serum, exfoliator and a hydrating moisturizer. And because intense hydration lies at the core of a glass skin regimen, Chao recommends opting for watery products with humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin and considering using either multiple layers of one hydrating product or several layers of different ones.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to achieve clear, glowing, glass-like skin.
Step 1: Double cleanse
Asian skin care introduced us to double cleansing, and we haven’t looked back since. A clean canvas is a must when it comes to your skin care routine, especially at night when your face has collected all that dirt, grease and makeup residue. Start with a cleansing oil or micellar water for your first cleanse, then follow with a gentle foam wash or cream cleanser.
Step 2: Exfoliate
We can’t talk clear and smooth skin without mentioning exfoliation. Whether using a physical exfoliator (such as crushed walnut or gentle jojoba beads) or a chemical type (like glycolic or lactic acid), this step will slough away dead skin cells that dull skin and clog pores. Don’t overdo it, though. Two to three times weekly is ideal to avoid irritations, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Step 3: Tone
Traditional toners are often ignored because some find them to be too drying, but in Korean skin care, they take on an entirely different role. Layering is key here to achieving the extremely hydrated skin that’s necessary for glass skin, so the 7 Skin Method—applying up to seven layers of toner to your skin—in general, works well for this.
Step 4: Add an essence
Essences, the less-concentrated relatives of serums, tend to be more lightweight and watery in consistency (a cross between serums and toners). Like targeted treatments, they’re formulated to address skin concerns like pigmentation and redness but with the added purpose of delivering mega moisture and hydration.
Step 5: Treat with a serum or ampoule
The Korean counterpart of serums, ampoules typically contain a higher concentration of multitasking active ingredients. [These] concentrated actives help nourish the skin, reverse signs of aging and promote collagen to help provide firmness, minimize pores and even out skin tone. Some ampoules are only meant to be used over a certain period of time (to target skin emergencies), so for daily use, switch to a hydrating serum with moisture-boosting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and vitamin E. “For structural firmness, vitamin C and retinoids will encourage collagen production most effectively,” adds Chao.
Step 6: Moisturize
Moisturizing is a no-brainer in any skin care routine, but when you’re aiming for that luminescent look, you’ll want to reach for one that is lightweight yet packs maximum moisture. Look for nourishing botanical extracts, powerful hydrators and antioxidants. Cica, which is short for centella asiatica or gotu kola, is a sought-after ingredient in Korean skin care because of its healing, anti-aging and barrier-restoring properties.
Step 7: Apply an eye cream
You can’t make glass skin happen if you’re rocking dry patches and bags under your eyes. Pollock recommends adding an eye cream or serum to nourish the fragile eye area that tends to be drier than the rest of your face (and that regular moisturizers may not be able to fully quench.)
Step 8: Seal with a face oil (daytime only)
Adding a face oil is the ultimate finisher for your glass skin routine. Not only is it a fantastic way to nourish your skin and seal in moisture, but it also protects against the daily stressors that destroy our skin barrier. Plus, it doesn’t need to be a step all on its own. Alternatively, consider adding a few drops to your serum or moisturizer daily. Whichever you choose, just remember it should always come last! While you can add oil to other layers, no other layers can penetrate oil—so you’ll be wasting perfectly good products thereafter (unless it’s SPF!).
Step 9: Use SPF (daytime only)
Without skin that’s protected from the sun’s rays, consider your glass skin dreams positively dashed. This is because no matter how many steps you have in your skincare regimen, put simply: Skin that’s weathered from UV rays won’t shine. SPF is a year-round must. And one with the right ingredients—think lightweight formula and lots of moisture—is the best solution here.
Step 10: Sheet Masks
Masks are arguably the ones the beauty world is most obsessed with. It’s hardly surprising; a skincare step where you have no choice but to kick back and relax for a while—what’s not to love? Add to that, they also happen to be the easiest way to soothe the skin, repair damage and lock in and replenish moisture. Within 10-20 minutes, you can enjoy healthier skin and a brightened complexion to boot. We’d recommend doing this 2-3 times per week.