Beautiful Seoul

Mongolia may boast the best cashmere, and there’s a certain cache to wearing French perfume, but ask anyone with an awareness of the beauty industry where the world’s top skincare products come from and they will likely point to South Korea. This prestige began in 2011, when South Korean skincare companies improved upon the formula of a German tinted moisturizer known as BB Cream, sparking an international frenzy for tubes of the multi-tasking miracle potion promising cosseted skin, coverage, and SPF protection. Now, countless Korean innovations have found their place in beauty cabinets worldwide, including sheet masks, softening waters, and products derived from snail secretion filtrate.

The list of available products may be endless, but the goal of a Korean beauty regime is focused. In Korean Beauty, a 2013 documentary released by the Asia Society Korea Center, scholars and scientists are consulted to ultimately reveal an unchanging set of preferences that have defined the Korean aesthetic for centuries—key among them, luminous skin.

It is with that very dewy complexion in mind that Korean skin-care range Laneige makes its Canadian debut at Sephora this month. The classic, hydration-focused collection counts enriched mineral water as a key ingredient for its ability to deeply soften epidermal layers, adhering to the Korean beauty philosophy that skin should be perfected from the inside out. Routinely applying products in succession is key, and many Korean ranges provide up to 10-step programs to thoroughly treat skin. In the case of Laneige, a Brightening Sparkling Foam Cleanser is a suggested starting point—with a texture like shaving cream, the cleanser’s infused water cuts through grease on the skin. Intervening steps may include a Water Bank Hydrating Serum infused with six water-retaining minerals and a gel-based Water Bank Moisturizer capable of cooling skin’s internal temperature by 2 degrees, thus calming inflammation (cooling properties are frequently an important bullet point on a Korean product’s description). However, the star of the Laneige collection is a newly-developed Water Sleeping Mask. A non-greasy lotion that functions like sleep in a jar, the mask leaves skin supple and plump in the morning regardless of how many hours of rest one actually managed. It is so effective at diminishing signs of fatigue that one jar sells every 15 seconds in Asia. “Beauty sleep,” indeed.