Prevention is always best when it comes to anti-aging and keeping wrinkles and sagging skin at bay. Using hydrating products such as a moisturizer and protecting your skin from the sun with a high SPF sunscreen will go a long way to prevent skin aging.
In fact, Korean skincare focuses heavily on skin hydration and sun protection as a means to prevent skin aging. Products that gently exfoliate the skin are widely used in Korea too, which can also help prevent fine lines and wrinkles.
You therefore won’t find as many Korean skincare products marketed as ‘anti-aging’ as you would in the West.
So, what kind of Korean products can you use to help prevent skin aging (apart from the methods I just mentioned above)? Well, I’m here to show you some powerful Korean serums and ampoules that have anti-aging benefits.
Even though these serums aren’t marketed as ‘anti-aging’, they contain a range of ingredients with anti-aging properties.
TL;DR: (Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here are the products I recommend in this post):
- The Plant Base – Time Stop Collagen Ampoule – Buy here at SokoGlam
- COSRX – Triple C Lightning Liquid – Buy here at SokoGlam
- I’m From – Ginseng Serum – Buy here at Yesstyle
- iUNIK – Beta-Glucan Power Moisture Serum – Buy here at Yesstyle
- Purito – Snail Repair Advanced Serum – Buy here at Jolse
- Dr. Ceuracle – Royal Vita Propolis 33 Ampoule – Buy here at Jolse
What Type Of Anti-Aging Ingredients Should I Look For In Serums & Ampoules?
Although I’ll be recommending what I think are some amazing anti-aging products in this post, I always like to make sure that I’ve equipped you with all the knowledge to read any product ingredient list and know if it’s likely to work on your skin or not.
I’ll preface this by saying that if you already have fine lines or wrinkles that you’d like to get rid of, scientific evidence suggests that retinoids are the most effective ingredients for this (although visible results take quite a long time).
However, there are a range of other ingredients which have been shown to have anti-aging properties, including:
- L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
- Snail Mucin
- Green Tea
- Mushroom Extract
- Sea buckthorn (oil or extract)
These ingredients mostly work by preventing damage from occurring to the structure of your skin (and therefore preventing fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging). Unfortunately, they aren’t as effective as retinoids at reversing damage that is already there.
The good news is that there are some amazing ingredients (called humectants) that work to hydrate and therefore plump your skin with water, which can make a huge difference to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles! This is why you will often find one or more humectant ingredients added to anti-aging skincare products (my favorite humectants are glycerin, hyaluronic acid/sodium hyaluronate and panthenol).
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and poly hydroxy acids (PHAs) are exfoliating acids that also work well to smooth out the skin and can improve the appearance of existent fine line and wrinkles (although you probably won’t find these in serums or ampoules). Urea also works really well at exfoliating the skin (and it’s also a powerful humectant), however you probably won’t find this under-rated ingredient in any serums or ampoules either.
What Ingredients To Avoid In Korean Serums & Ampoules
What ingredients you prefer to avoid comes down to a personal choice, as well as how sensitive your skin is. Other factors such as whether your skin is prone to acne or being extremely dry also affects which ingredients you should avoid.
However, over the last year of researching intensely for this website, I’ve started avoiding any products that contain essential oils and certain alcohols (ethanol and denatured alcohol).
Essential oils are extremely sensitizing and can cause skin irritation and even allergic reactions (see my post on why you should be avoiding essential oils in skincare products).
Alcohol really comes down to a personal choice and I believe, how dehydrated or sensitive your skin is and how often you use alcohol-containing products. Alcohols are still included in many products as they help to improve formulations and they also help with the absorption of product into the skin.
If you’d like to try a product but are worried because it contains alcohol (remember, I’m talking about ethanol or denatured alcohol), I would look at the whole formula first. If the formula seems quite hydrating (does it contain humectants such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid?), then it probably won’t be so drying on your skin.
Also, some people experience stinging when they use alcohol-containing products on their skin. I was surprised to find out that this stinging is actually the result of alcohol getting in contact with nerve endings through damaged skin. This may be the case if you have acne (since pimples are a type of wound) or even tiny little breaks in your skin from eczema, rosacea or other skin conditions associated with skin dryness.
The 6 Best Korean Anti-Aging Serums & Ampoules
As always, I’ve spent many hours narrowing down what I think are the 6 best Korean anti-aging serums and ampoules.
Of course I wanted to include products that contain ingredients with anti-aging properties, but I was also really fussy and excluded any products that contain alcohol and/or essential oils.
So, finding products that fit both these criteria took some time and involved me finding out what goes into (and doesn’t go into) a pretty big list of Korean serums and ampoules. I’ve listed the full ingredients list of all the products I chose so you can also see what ingredients make them so good.
#1. The Plant Base – Time Stop Collagen Ampoule
You may not have heard of this brand or this ampoule in fact, but guess what – it’s actually one of the best-selling serums/ampoules on the SokoGlam website.
You know the saying “don’t judge a book by the cover”? Well, I’m here to tell you not to judge a brand by the cover – and by that I mean not to disregard products if they’re not made by one of the very popular and well-known Korean skincare brands.
Yes, this ampoule has some pretty big anti-aging properties – as it contains 76.52% mushroom extract, adenosine and a blend of botanical extracts high in antioxidants to stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
There are actually two types of mushroom extracts in this ampoule – both of which have anti-aging properties:
- Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom) – which has a long history of usage in traditional Chinese medicine and is known to stimulate collagen production and have skin hydrating properties (as it is rich in beta-glucan polysaccharides)
- Tremella fuciformis (Snow mushroom) – helps the skin stay hydrated and research has found that it has powerful anti-aging properties
BONUS! This ampoule is also extremely hydrating (as it contains all my favorite humectants: glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, panthenol, beta-glucan AND aloe vera!).
Read more about the benefits of licorice root extract in this article: Is Licorice Root Extract Effective At Fading Hyperpigmentation?
AND, to top it all off, this ampoule contains vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant which has been in use in the skincare industry for more than 50 years. Research has shown that it helps protect the skin against UV damage, pollution and other environmental stressors.
Full ingredients list: Hericium Erinaceum (Mushroom) Extract (76.53%), Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Water, Glycerin, Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract (180mg), Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Polyacrylate, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Morus Alba (White Mulberry) Bark Extract, Opuntia Coccinellifera Fruit Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Diospyros Kaki (Persimmon) Leaf Extract, Polyacrylamide, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Tromethamine, Carbomer, Allantoin, Acetyl Glutamine, Panthenol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Dextrin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Adenosine, Caramel, Disodium EDTA, Laureth-7, Beta-Glucan, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Ethyl Hexanediol, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia (Macadamia) Seed Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, Pantolactone, Terminalia Ferdinandiana (Kakadu Plum) Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin, PEG-5 Rapeseed Sterol, Cholesterol, Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Sterols, Ceteth-5, Ceteth-3, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Silica, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate
#2. COSRX – Triple C Lightning Liquid
You might be surprised that I’m mentioning a vitamin C serum here. Doesn’t vitamin C fade hyperpigmentation, not prevent fine lines and wrinkles?
Well, vitamin C actually does both since it’s a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes the free radicals (from UV radiation) that cause oxidative stress to skin and lead to premature skin aging AND it is also essential to the production of collagen in skin cells.
In fact, vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) has been found to not only increase the production of collagen in the skin, but it also helps protect enzymes which stabilize the three-dimensional structure of collagen AND it inhibits the enzyme collagenase 1 (which breaks the peptide bonds in collagen).
So vitamin C is really helping to produce more collagen while preventing collagen that is already there from breaking down!
This vitamin C serum is my favorite Korean vitamin C serum. It contains 20.5% L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C), which happens to be to optimal concentration of vitamin C in terms of effectiveness for fading hyperpigmentation.
It also contains 72% black chokeberry (which helps to stabilize the high concrentation of vitamin C in this serum, as it can oxidize quickly when exposed to light and air).
Again, as a bonus this serum contains hydrating (butylene glycol and sodium hyaluronate) and soothing (licorice root extract and allantoin) ingredients.
Full ingredients list: Aronia Melanocarpa fruit extract (Black Chokeberry), Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), Butylene glycol, Sodium lactate, Licorice root extract, 1,2- Hexanediol, Pullulan, Sodium hyaluronate, Cassia obtusifolia seed extract, Allantoin
Where to buy: Available exclusively from SokoGlam
- The 5 Best Korean Vitamin C Serums & How Vitamin C Can Benefit Your Skin
- Everything You Need To Know To Choose The Best Vitamin C Serum
- Which Form Of Vitamin C Works The Best? L-Ascorbic Acid Vs. Vitamin C Derivatives
#3. I’m From – Ginseng Serum
I’m From products feature plant-based ingredients sourced from some of the most pristine locations across South Korea, including ginseng, mugwort, sea buckthorn (vitamin tree), honey and fig extract. This brand has become very popular over the last year or so with the increasing trends in plant-derived ingredients and clean, sustainable and cruelty-free products.
The star of this serum is ginseng – a slow-growing perennial plant with fleshy roots.
Ginseng has been used in traditional medicine in eastern Asia for more than 2000 years and today it’s one of the most popular hanbang ingredient used in Korean skincare products.
There is lots of scientific research which has shown that the major bioactive constituents of ginseng have strong antioxidant effects. Studies have shown that one particular group of compounds found in ginseng (ginsenosides) are able to prevent the aging of skin – mainly by reducing wrinkles and preventing UV radiation-induced skin damage (also known as photo-aging).
This serum contains 7.98% red ginseng extract harvested from the pristine Geumsan County in Korea. Red ginseng is superior to white ginseng as it has been aged for 6 years, steamed, and then dried.
Read more about the benefits of ginseng in this article: Why You Need Ginseng In Your Skincare Routine & The Best Korean Products To Try
Apart from ginseng, this serum also contains another plant-derived ingredient with anti-aging properties: green tea extract – which contains polyphenols that have potent antioxidant and skin-soothing properties. It also contains adenosine, for some extra anti-aging oomph!
This serum contains an additional mix of plant extracts: licorice root extract, peony root extract, angelica root extract, rhubarb root extract, Japanese catnip extract and Amur cork tree bark extract – which all have anti-inflammatory properties (which make them great for soothing skin).
Lastly, this serum is also hydrating as included in the formulation are glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
Full ingredients list: Water, Red Ginseng Extract, Butylene Glycol, Betaine, 1,2-Hexanediol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Panax Ginseng Seed Oil, Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Root Extract, Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract, Angelica Gigas Root Extract, Rheum Palmatum Root Extract, Angelica Pubescens Root Extract, Schizonepeta Tenuifolia Extract, Phellodendron Amurense Bark Extract, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethiconol, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Ethoxydiglycol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Tromethamine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans, Hyaluronic Acid, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Adenosine, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance
Where to buy: Yesstyle
#4. iUNIK – Beta-Glucan Power Moisture Serum
You may not have heard about the benefits of beta-glucan as it is a lesser known skincare ingredient – a polysaccharide sugar that is found in the cell walls of oats, barley, mushrooms, and yeasts.
BUT, let me tell you why beta-glucan is an ingredient you should definitely include in your skincare routine if your focus is anti-aging.
First of all, you aren’t seeing things and I haven’t made a mistake typing out the full ingredients list below… This serum really contains 98% beta-glucan, and only one other ingredient (sodium PCA)!
And that is AWESOME because:
Beta-glucan not only has the ability to hydrate the skin (which helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles), but it also has strong antioxidant properties (which help to prevent skin aging). AND as a bonus, beta-glucan has anti-inflammatory properties.
That means that this serum has anti-aging, hydrating and soothing properties, and the fact that it only contains beta-glucan means that it is well tolerated by sensitive skin too.
Check out my article on iUNIK serums: A Guide To iUNIK Serums: Which Is The Best For Your Skin?
Full ingredients list: Beta-Glucan (98%), Sodium PCA
#5. Purito – Snail Repair Advanced Serum
I really needed to include a serum featuring snail mucin in this article because it’s one of my favorite skincare ingredients and it makes such an incredible difference to how my skin looks.
Snail mucin has amazing hydrating properties. This is because some of its main components are hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid and allantoin (which are all humectants that help to keep the skin hydrated and plump).
But that’s not all! Snail mucin also has anti-aging, wound healing, anti-bacterial and skin brightening properties.
In terms of anti-aging, snail mucin works by boosting collagen and elastin production in the skin.
One of the reasons that I love snail mucin is because it improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles pretty much immediately (as it plumps the skin so well).
Read more about the benefits of snail mucin in this article: Why Snail Mucin Is So Good For Your Skin
I really like the formulation of this serum – and I really like Purito products in general for their back-to-basics formulations and hypo-allergenic, cruelty-free and environmentally friendly products (including packaging!).
This serum contains 93% snail mucin (AKA snail secretion filtrate). As a comparison, the very popular COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence contains 96% snail mucin. The COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream contains 92% snail mucin (this is probably my favorite Korean skincare product of all time!). So, that’s actually way up there in terms of how much snail mucin you get in this serum.
This serum also contains a lot of Centella asiatica-derived ingredients (madecassoside, Centella asiatica leaf extract, asiaticoside and Centella asiatica extract) – giving this serum powerful soothing properties too.
Read more about the benefits of Centella asiatica in this article: The Best Korean Centella Asiatica Skincare Products
And as if snail mucin isn’t hydrating enough on its own, Purito has also added glycerin and panthenol, which are two of my favorite humectants.
Full ingredients list: Snail Secretion Filtrate (93%), Glycerin, Water, Sodium PCA, Pentylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Madecassoside, Centella Asiatica Leaf Extract, Asiaticoside, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethyl Hexanediol, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, Panthenol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glycosyl Trehalose, Disodium EDTA, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate
#6. Dr. Ceuracle – Royal Vita Propolis 33 Ampoule
Okay, I really wanted to limit the number of serums/ampoules in this article to 5, but I just couldn’t leave this ampoule out.
Not only do I really love propolis as a skincare ingredient (which is the main ingredient in this ampoule), BUT this ampoule contains a beautiful mix of other ingredients to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while soothing your skin too.
Dr. Ceuracle is extremely generous, as this ampoule contains a whopping 33% pure propolis extract (hence the 33 in the name of this product). Propolis is an extremely under-rated skincare ingredient in the Western world. It is a resinous mixture produced by honeybees that is used to fill in honeycomb crevices for protection.
Propolis has powerful antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are believed to be due to the high amount of flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) and phenolic esters found in propolis. This means that propolis has many benefits for your skin, including its ability to:
- treat acne vulgaris
- increase collagen production
- soothe the skin, and
- decrease inflammation
Read more about the benefits of propolis in this article: Why Korean Skincare Loves Bee Propolis & How It Can Help Your Skin
Two of the other ingredients that caught my eye in the ingredients list are green purslane extract and sea bucktorn fruit extract. Both of these ingredients can help to prevent skin aging.
Purslane is a weed-like succulent plant which has skin-soothing properties, but is also a potent antioxidant (as it contains high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E as well as other antioxidant compounds such as glutathione). As I described earlier, antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Sea buckthorn fruit extract also has strong antioxidant properties as these small orange berries naturally contain vitamin C, various B vitamins, vitamin E and many phenolic compounds.
As a bonus, this ampoule also contains niacinamide and adenosine, which both have anti-aging effects on the skin too.
I really like niacinamide in particular, as it also has skin-lightening properties, helps to reduce pore size, improves skin texture and decrease sebum production. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it beneficial for acne-prone skin.
Read more about the benefits of niacinamide in this article: The 10 Best Korean Skincare Products With Niacinamide To Brighten Your Skin
Lastly, this ampoule contains additional humectants to help hydrate the skin (butylene glycol, panthenol, and sodium hyaluronate) AND it contains two awesome soothing ingredients: Centella asiatica and dipotassium glycyrrhizate (one of the main chemical constituents of licorice root extract).
So, to round all this up…this propolis ampoule is an amazing multi-tasker when it comes to skin concerns, as it has the following properties (thanks to the fantastic mix of ingredients in its formulation):
- soothing, AND
Aren’t you glad that I decided to include a 6th product in this article??
Full ingredients list: Propolis Extract, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Butylene Glycol, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Extract, Panthenol, Rosa Centifolia (Cabbage Rose) Flower Water, Niacinamide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethyl Ascorbyl Ether, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, Royal Jelly Extract, Spirodela Polyrhiza Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Carbomer, Arginine, Water, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Adenosine
Although Korean serums and ampoules generally aren’t marketed as ‘anti-aging’, there are many products that have anti-aging properties (you just have to know what ingredients to look for).
What I like about the products I’ve recommended in this post is that apart from reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, they all address multiple other skin concerns – including hydration, redness and irritation, acne, and hyperpigmentation. This means that you don’t need to layer multiple products – allowing you to have a simple (and more affordable) skincare routine consisting of less products.