Episode Title:Ingredients Koreans Use Instead of Retinol
If you’ve been dabbling in the world of Korean skincare for a while, you’ve probably realised that retinol doesn’t have the same hold over the Korean beauty industry as it does in the West. On today’s episode of the Korean Beauty Show podcast, Lauren is running through some of the many ingredients Koreans turn to for anti-aging benefits instead of retinol.
If not retinol, then what?
K-Beauty is never lacking in a supply of awesome and effective ingredients in their products and their go-to anti-ageing ingredients are no different. Let’s start with some of the more popular ones which are also commonly found in Western Beauty.
Collagen is what keeps us looking young.
Plump, young, and firm skin is a result of high levels of collagen. As we age, our collagen levels begin to deplete and our skin loses elasticity. It also begins to thin and sag.
The rate at which our collagen levels deplete is about 1% every year after the age of 25.
Having said that - there are things we can do to encourage and stimulate our collagen production and help our skin out during its ageing journey. One of those things you'll find a lot in Korean skincare is collagen.
While applying topical collagen doesn’t have the intense anti-ageing benefits of Vitamin A and C, it is still great to pop into your skincare routine as it works to give the skin an instant hit of hydration.
Mature skin tends to be on the drier side and products containing collagen can help moisturise the skin and offer satisfying levels of hydration.
K-Beauty collagen products to try are:
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-ageing ingredient. It is ideal for getting rid of pigmentation and dark spots, two commonly found conditions in ageing skins.
Not only does Vitamin C have antioxidant properties that work to repair and renew skin cells, it also resulting in glowing skin and a healthier complexion. For this reason, Korean skincare (much like western skincare) loves Vitamin C to stimulate the synthesis of collagen for tighter, firmer skin.
Korean anti-ageing products with Vitamin C include:
Niacinimide and K-Beauty are a match made in heaven. A form of Vitamin B3, this ingredient has a host of benefits that include:
K-Beauty products featuring niacinamide (and a whole bunch of other anti-aging favs) include:
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that are the building blocks of collagen and elastin fibres in our skin.
Small Science Lesson: There are hundreds of different peptides but there are two that we want to look out for in our skincare. These are tetrapeptides and hexapeptides.
Both differ in their chemical structure and properties and therefore offer different results. Tetrapeptides boost elasticity and firmness, while hexapeptides offer brightening properties. Both are great, but if you want to target a specific anti-ageing issue it’s helpful to know the difference.
Must try Korean skincare with peptides are:
(Both of those products contain Tetrapeptides AND Hexapeptides)
Other Korean skincare alternatives to retinol are a little lesser known abroad. These include things like adenosine, red ginseng, idebenone, glutathione and EGF.
Adenosine naturally occurs in the body as ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) and is the storehouse for energy molecules.
When used in skincare, adenosine can help reduce the appearance of fine lines, stimulate collagen production, and soothe inflammation and damaged skin. That's why Korea's version of the FDA recognises it as an anti aging ingredient.
Some of our favourite Korean skin care products containing Adenosine are:
There are two types of ginseng used in Korean medicine and skincare - red and white ginseng.
White ginseng (which uses 4-6 year old ginseng root) is peeled and dried without heating it. Red ginseng on the other hand is 6 year old ginseng root that has been steamed first, then dried.
Even though both types of ginseng have beneficial properties, red ginseng is the more potent. It is a great anti aging ingredient because it can protect the skin against UVB-induced damage. This is likely due to the chemical changes that occur during the steaming process.
The Korean species of ginseng (Panax ginseng) has many biologically active ingredients including ginsenosides, polysaccharides, phytosterols, peptides, polyacetylenes, fatty acids, and polyacetylenic alcohols. There are 3 that are unique to red ginseng.
Not all Hanbang brands are alike - although brands market themselves as "Hanbang" they don’t use the same high quality of ingredients as others. For example, there is a difference between cultivated and wild ginseng. The cheaper the product, the more likely it is that they are using cultivated ginseng, which doesn't have the same benefits and is not medicinal grade.
Idebenone is a synthesised replica of Coenzyme Q10. Touted for its antioxidant properties, it also reduces the appearance of fine lines.
Skincare manufactures have been drawn to the ingredient because of its power as an antioxidant and free radical fighter. For this reason, it’s also great for sensitive skin.
Whilst a new player in the world of skincare, idebenone is considered safe to use.
Our top recommendations to give idebenone K-Beauty a try are:
As it makes the leap out of the world of medicine and into beauty, you'll see more and more of this. One of the most potent antioxidants, Glutathione is a godsend both for our bodies and, now, our skin.
Apart from its ability to fight free radicals and oxidative stress, it has also been praised for its brightening properties and ability to combat pigmentation.
Some of our favourite products are:
Found naturally in the body, EGF, are proteins responsible for cell regeneration. Initially developed for the medical field, it was popularised by South Korean cosmeceutical brands, which claimed that EGF could advance the acne healing and promote collagen production.
This remains one of the most popular ingredients you'll find being used in Korea's plastic surgery, hair transplant and dermatology clinics.
Some of our favourites to try at home are:
While some people find retinol to be the Holy Grail of skincare, for others it is simply too harsh or not practical to use. This is particularly so for those of us who spend lots of time in the sun or have weak, damaged skin.
To learn more about Korean skincare's approach to retinol, take a listen to this episode of the Korean Beauty Show podcast:
If retinol doesn’t work for you or you are simply looking for alternatives, K-Beauty has the answer. To learn more about Korean skincare, or to chat about your own skincare routine, reach out to one of our lovely team members here at STYLE STORY.
We are always here to help and love nothing more than matching you with your perfect skincare companion.
"Korean beauty hasn't traditionally focused on ingredients like retinol because Koreans don't like a lot of the side effects that go along with regular retinol use. Instead, the Korean beauty industry has focused on developing a range of other ingredients that have anti-aging benefits."- Lauren Lee, Host of the Korean Beauty Show podcast
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