In this article today, I’d like to share with you what I think are the best Korean anti-aging skincare products, no matter what your age or skin type.
When researching what skincare products to use, I always focus heavily on product formulations (what ingredients products contain and how they benefit your skin). This way I know I’m not just falling for hyped-up products, but my skin is getting what it needs to look better AND I’m not wasting my money.
Important Preventative Tips For Any Age
Before you go on to read about the best Korean anti-aging skincare products to add to your skincare routine, I’d like to go over the 4 most important things you can start doing today to prevent signs of aging from occurring to your skin (no matter what your age). This is because preventing skin aging is much easier and more effective than reversing skin aging that has already occurred!
1. Wear SPF Every Single Day
Protecting your skin from the sun is the single biggest thing you can do to prevent and slow down skin aging. This is because most of the aging that occurs to skin over a lifetime is the result of ultraviolet radiation from the sun (it’s called photo-aging).
Of course, someone who starts using SPF in their early 20’s will have less signs of skin aging by the time they are 50 than someone who only starts using SPF in their early 30’s. But trust me, starting later is better than never starting at all and you will still prevent a lot of further skin aging from occurring. And adding some of the anti-aging products I recommend in this article will also help to minimize any signs of aging that your skin already has.
Now here’s a tip: when I was looking for my first sunscreen two years ago, I had a lot of trouble deciding which one to buy and just kept putting it off (there are seriously so, so many to choose from). I would recommend just purchasing a couple or few different sunscreens for now and seeing which looks and feels better on your skin.
Another important tip about sun protection: If you live somewhere that has quite intense UV ratings all year round (such as Australia) or you generally spend a lot of your day outside or in areas where there is a lot of sunlight reflection (such as water or concrete), sunscreen will not be enough to protect your skin from photo-aging. So invest in some extra sun protection gear such as a wide-brimmed hat, and don’t forget to reapply sunscreen throughout the day!
2. Protect Your Skin Barrier – Hydrate Your Skin and Cleanse Gently
Protecting the outermost layer of your skin (the skin’s barrier) is not only important when it comes to preventing acne and other skin conditions, but it’s also really important when wanting to prevent skin aging.
Your skin barrier’s role is to keep moisture locked in, as well as to keep environmental irritants (such as pollution and bacteria) out.
Scientific studies have shown that skin barriers that are damaged (have changed or disturbed structure and function) result in visible signs of skin aging. Supporting the health of your skin barrier becomes increasingly important as you get older, because its function naturally weakens with age.
The two most important things you can start today to improve the health of your skin barrier (and therefore prevent skin aging) is to:
A. Keep Your Skin Hydrated
Your skin’s barrier requires water to function adequately, however water is lost to the environment throughout the day (through trans-epidermal water loss).
It’s important to look for skincare products that contain ingredients collectively known as humectants to help keep your skin hydrated (the most effective humectants are glycerin, hyaluronic acid and panthenol).
Types of Korean skincare products that contain lots of humectants and are therefore hydrating for your skin include hydrating toners, some serums and moisturizers.
- Skin Hydration: The Importance of Humectants In Skincare Products
- The 5 Best Korean Moisturizers For Oily Skin
- The 4 Best Korean Hydrating Toners
B. Only Use Gentle and Low pH Cleansers
Did you know that cleansers are the most skin barrier-damaging products in your entire skincare routine?
Using alkaline (high pH) and harsh cleansers (or simply just over-cleansing) can alter the natural pH of your skin and in turn prevent your skin barrier from functioning properly – resulting in too much trans-epidermal water loss.
And remember, a skin barrier which isn’t functioning properly leads to more visible signs of skin aging!
You’ll usually know that a cleanser is too harsh by how it leaves your skin feeling immediately after you use it. If your cleanser leaves your skin feeling dry, tingly or squeaky clean – then your cleanser is likely too harsh.
If you’re looking for a gentle and low pH cleanser that won’t damage your skin barrier, then I highly recommend the following two Korean cleansers:
- Soon Jung – pH6.5 Whip Cleanser (I’m currently using this cleanser in my routine) – Available at Yesstyle and Jolse
- Tosowoong – Enzyme Powder Wash – Available at Yesstyle and Jolse
How often you cleanse your skin is just as important as which cleanser you use. Try to limit cleansing your skin to only once a day (evenings is best) and always follow with some sort of hydrating product afterwards.
3. Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Although ultraviolet radiation results in the greatest visible signs of skin aging (known as photo-aging), other lifestyle factors such as smoking, sleep, poor diet, alcohol consumption, emotional stress and lack of exercise all contribute to the aging process of our skin.
Smoking is particularly damaging for the skin. This study showed that photoprotected skin of chronic smokers exhibits significant remodelling of the elastic fibre network and that chronic smoking significantly increases the stiffness of both the dermis and the epidermis. These changes may be why we see skin wrinkling and loss of skin elasticity associated with smoking.
This report mentions that the skin of chronic smokers at the age of 40 years resembles skin of non-smoking 70 year old adults! They also mention that the damage that smoking does to the skin is irreversible.
This study found that smoking was associated with an increased severity of forehead, crow’s feet, and glabellar lines, under-eye puffiness, tear-trough hollowing, nasolabial folds, oral commissures, perioral lines, and reduced lip fullness.
4. Exfoliate Your Skin Regularly, But Not Too Regularly
In Korea, exfoliating the skin regularly is treated just as seriously as wearing SPF every day! It’s kind of common knowledge and people incorporate exfoliation into their skincare routines from quite a young age.
Your skin actually naturally regenerates new skin cells every day (and pushes away dead skin cells to maintain youthful and plump looking skin). However, as we age, the speed at which our skin naturally regenerates and sheds slows down.
This in turn makes the skin look dull, dry and rough, making lines and wrinkles more visible. It also means that your skin is less effective at absorbing other skincare products.
If you want younger, brighter and healthier looking skin, I highly recommend using a chemical exfoliant regularly in your skincare routine.
In particular, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are the best type of chemical exfoliant when it comes to anti-aging. They work by gently breaking up the chemical bonds between dead skin cells to reveal healthy and smooth new skin.
Not only does this improve visible signs of aging (by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and fading hyperpigmentation), but it also helps to prevent further wrinkles from developing by:
- Increasing the production of collagen and increasing collagen thickness in the dermis of the skin
- Increasing the hyaluronic acid content in both the dermis and epidermis, helping to boost hydration levels of the skin
However, over-exfoliating can do damage to your skin too! When you first start using a chemical exfoliant, you should limit application to only 1-2 times a week. You can then increase the frequency of use if your skin is tolerating the product well (without any burning, itching or flaking of the skin).
The Best Korean Anti-Aging Skincare Products
The 4 skincare tips above will go a very long way in preventing signs of skin aging. But I’d also like to tell you about 5 Korean skincare products that have really good anti-aging properties and would therefore make good additions to your skincare routine if you have skin aging concerns. All these products are currently part of my skincare routine and I can honestly say that I have noticed huge improvements in how my skin looks.
- Beauty of Joseon – Ginseng Essence Water
- COSRX – Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream
- Neogen – Dermalogy Real Vita C Serum
- Isntree Clear Skin 8% AHA Essence
- iUNIK – Beta-Glucan Power Moisture Serum
1. Beauty of Joseon – Ginseng Essence Water
Why I love it: This product has been a game changer to my skincare routine and I couldn’t write an article about the best Korean anti-aging skincare products without including a ginseng product! Ginseng is an important part of my skincare routine as it contains potent antioxidants that have been shown in numerous studies to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is extremely hydrating and soothing and it helps decrease the appearance of the lines around my eyes. It also brightens my skin (A LOT!) and I love the earthy ginseng scent.
Ingredients I love: Ginseng root water and extracts (anti-aging), glycerin (hydrating), niacinamide (anti-aging and great for fading hyperpigmentation), panthenol (hydrating), dipotassium glycyrrhizate (derived from licorice root extract – soothing), allantoin (soothes and protects from moisture loss), adenosine (anti-aging), cocoa extract (contains potent antioxidants that protect the skin), sodium hyaluronate (cousin of hyaluronic acid – hydrating)
Full ingredients list: Panax Ginseng Root Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Propanediol, Niacinamide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Water, Hydroxyacetophenone, Glyceryl Glucoside, Xanthna Gum, Panthenol, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Allantoin, Adenosine, Panax Ginseng Callus Culture Extract, Theobroma Cacao(Cocoa) Extract, Dextrin, Glucose, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Panax Ginseng Berry Extract, Lactobacillus/Panax Ginseng Root Ferment Filtrate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ethylhexyglycerin, Disodium EDTA
How to use it: Apply this essence/toner immediately after cleansing to help return the skin to it’s normal pH range and restore hydration. I poor a few drops onto the palm of my hand and pat it all over my face and let it absorb into my skin. I like to apply extra to the fine lines around my eyes.
2. COSRX – Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream
Why I love it: This moisturizing cream has been a staple in my skincare routine since I started looking after my skin. Yes, at first you might think it’s a bit icky to put snail mucin on your face, but BELIEVE me! This cream belongs on the list of best Korean anti-aging skincare products. I have gone through countless jars of this stuff and I haven’t found a moisturizer that works better. It keeps my skin so plump and hydrated and also works to brighten and heal my skin. I also love that this cream is so lightweight and doesn’t make my skin oily or sticky.
Ingredients I love: This cream contains a whopping 92% snail secretion filtrate, which has been shown to have numerous anti-aging benefits for the skin because it is packed with nutrients such as hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein, proteoglycans, and antimicrobial and copper peptides. I include it in my skincare routine because it helps to stimulate the formation of collagen and elastin, protecting the skin from free radical damage, repairs damaged tissues and restores hydration!
I like that the ingredients list for this cream is very so minimal, making it suitable for sensitive skin too.
Full ingredients list: Snail Secretion Filtrate, Betaine, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Arginine, Dimethicone, Sodium Polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Stearic Acid, Allantoin, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol, Adenosine
How to use it: After cleansing, toning and using treatment products (such as exfoliants and serums), scoop out a dime-sized dollop with a spatula and smooth all over your face and neck. Follow with sunscreen during the day and as an option, add a few drops of rosehip seed oil. I also like to add a little extra under my eyes in the evening and I find it helps the skin stay extra plump and hydrated throughout the next day.
3. Neogen – Dermalogy Real Vita C Serum
Why I love it: A vitamin C serum is a must in an anti-aging skincare routine, which is why this product belongs here in the best Korean anti-aging skincare products list! First of all, I love this vitamin C serum because it really works at brightening my skin. It’s even somewhat hydrating and makes my skin appear plumper and more even. Second of all, it is formulated with sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP), a gentler and much more stable derivative of L-ascorbic acid, making this vitamin C serum suitable for sensitive skin. In fact, SAP has been shown to have soothing properties too! This serum has worked wonders to fade the hyperpigmentation that appeared during my second pregnancy last year. Another thing I love about this vitamin C serum is that it’s more affordable than most other vitamin C serums on the market.
Ingredients I love: So I mentioned SAP above already. Although it’s a derivative of L-ascorbic acid, it’s still very effective (and my skin can vouch for it). I also mentioned that it’s much more stable than L-ascorbic acid, meaning that it won’t oxidize when exposed to light, oxygen and heat.
For extra anti-aging benefits, this serum also contains niacinamide (also great for fading hyperpigmentation), vitamin E (tocopherol acetate) and cocoa extract. It also is formulated with some really good hydrating ingredients (sodium hyaluronate and panthenol).
Full ingredients list: Water, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (10%), Isopentyldiol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Niacinamide, Dipropylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Malpighia Emarginata (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Ascorbic Acid (12ppm), Citric Acid, Octyldodeceth-16, Xanthan Gum, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Sodium Metabisulfite, Ethylhexylglycerin, Coptis Chinensis Root Extract, Dextrin, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate (0.1ppm), Panthenol, Disodium EDTA, Limonene, Linalool
How to use it: Apply a few drops evenly to your face and neck after cleansing. I only apply vitamin C serum in the mornings I use exfoliants (AHA and BHA) in the evenings. I wait about 10 minutes to proceed with the rest of skincare routine (to let the product absorb into my skin properly).
Where to buy it: Yesstyle
4. Isntree Clear Skin 8% AHA Essence
Why I love it: AHA is an essential ingredient if you’re wanting to prevent signs of skin aging. This Isntree exfoliating essence contains 8% AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid), which is the highest concentration currently available on the Korean skincare market. I like that it contains a blend of 4% glycolic acid and 4% lactic acid. Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size of any type of alpha-hydroxy acid, meaning it can penetrate deeply and quickly, while lactic acid is more gentle and has hydrating properties.
Ingredients I love: I mentioned above that this product contains a perfect mix of 4% glycolic acid and 4% lactic acid. I love that it also contains glycerin (hydrating), licorice root extract (soothing), green tea leaf extract (anti-aging), aloe leaf extract (hydrating), Calendula flower extract (anti-inflammatory and soothing), sodium hyaluronate (hydrating), asiaticoside and madecassoside (derived from Centella asiatica – soothing), panthenol (hydrating), allantoin (soothing) and dipotassium glycyrrhizate (soothing ingredient derived from licorice root). See now why I’ve included this AHA essence in my list of the best Korean anti-aging skincare products??
Full ingredients list: Water, Lactic Acid(4.023%), Glycolic Acid(4.004%), Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Asiaticoside, Dextrin, Panthenol, Madecassoside, Allantoin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Glycereth-25 PCA Isostearate, Hydroxyethylcellulose
How to use it: Apply a few pumps evenly to your face and neck after cleansing two to three times a week. Avoid areas of your face that may be extra sensitive (such as underneath the eyes where the skin is quite thin). Always wear SPF after using any AHA-containing products on your skin (although you should be wearing SPF every day anyway). Avoid starting any AHA-containing products at the same time as retinol or vitamin C-containing products as this can cause skin irritation.
5. iUNIK – Beta-Glucan Power Moisture Serum
Why I love it: A powerful little anti-wrinkle serum that works by replenishing moisture to the skin barrier after cleansing. It pairs well with vitamin C, AHA or retinol-containing products as beta-glucan is also a strong antioxidant that helps to protect against UV damage. This serum is extremely effective at decreasing the appearance of the wrinkles around my eyes so I had to include it in my list of the best Korean anti-aging skincare products!
Ingredients I love: This serum contains 98% beta-glucan! Did you know that beta-glucan has a 20% better moisture retention that hyaluronic acid?!
Full ingredients list: Water, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Beta-Glucan, Sodium PCA, Ethylhexylglycerin
How to use it: Apply one dropper amount to your face and neck after cleansing, toning and using any exfoliating products, vitamin C serum or essences. Gently dap for absorption.
As you can see, Korean skincare focuses heavily on working to prevent signs of aging by using ingredients that either help to protect the skin from UV damage, brighten the skin and prevent hyperpigmentation, keep the skin hydrated and protect the skin’s moisture barrier or increase the cell turnover rate to help shed dead skin cells.
Using the products I listed in this article will go a long way in helping to prevent fine lines and wrinkles as well as preventing and fading hyperpigmentation.
BUT, please don’t forget to apply SPF every day, or all of your efforts (and money!) will be wasted.