Snail mucin, volcanic ash, that bee thing? Welcome to Korean skincare. Dermatologists explain the bizarre ingredients used in the popular skincare, and their benefits.
What: Known as one of the most popular K-skincare ingredients, snail mucin or snail secretion is mucus that snails produce as they move. It helps moisturise the skin and promotes collagen production, promoting skin healing including acne scars, bumpy skin, and cell regeneration. It comprises skinloving nutrients too, including zinc (an antiinflammatory) and vitamins A and E, which are antioxidants. Dr Kiran Lohia explains, “It was found that escargot farmers (snail farmers) had much softer hands from handling escargot or snails — hence they ended up realising the softening benefits of snail mucin. I simply think it is a very hydrating product and can make the skin softer but it does not compare to retinol, however. I consider it a decent adjunct for dry skin.”
Benefits: Snail mucin is packed with nutrients such as hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein enzymes, antimicrobial and copper peptides, and proteoglycans. It will make your skin softer, more supple, and can help improve the appearance lines. “It is actually very safe to use, although it has a rare risk of allergy. I recommend patch tests of any product on the inside of your arm for 2-3 days to test for allergy,” opines Dr Lohia.
Brands: CosRx Snail Mucin range, Benton Snail Bee range, Earth Rhythm Overnight Gel With Snail Mucin.
What: Known as the “Eastern Coffee”, Ginseng is a popular ingredient, which is a root of a plant that is harvested for six years before reaching the peak of its strength. It assists and augments blood circulation, which leads to the production of collagen. With its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it protects the skin from external aggressors, and adds a splash of energy to the skin.
Benefits: Ginsenosides in ginseng have been shown to have multiple medical effects such as anti-oxidative, anti-ageing, and anti-cancer properties. Data has shown that oral ginseng may help in treating melasma, and in improving complexion. There are possible benefits in atopic dermatitis (eczema) and balding from alopecia areas, explains Dr Lohia.
Brands: Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng range, Kiehl’s Cactus Flower Tibetan Ginseng Hydrating Mist, I’m From Ginseng range.
What: Volcanic ash, which actually comes from volcanoes, contains antioxidants and has the ability to stimulate collagen synthesis. It is also mineral-rich, which helps cleanse and protect the skin. It aids in the absorption of excess oil on your face, and prevents over-drying of the skin. “Volcanic Ash Clay, which is found in face creams, helps keep your skin hydrated and moist for a longer period of time. An excellent choice for skin detoxification, drawing out excess oil, dirt, and other toxins. These effects are thought to be achieved by absorbing these components, leaving behind clearer and softer skin,” thinks Dr. Niketa Sonavane, celebrity dermatologist and founder of Ambrosia Aesthetics.
Benefits: Dr Sonavane suggests, “Volcanic ash particles aid in the removal of any unnatural substances that may be present on your skin such as pollution and excess make-up. It absorbs sebum like clay, making it especially beneficial for those with oily, acne-prone skin, and also heals inflamed, irritated skin. Basically, if your skin feels polluted for any reason, volcanic ash is a good ingredient to use.”
Brands: Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Cluster range.
What: Willow Bark Extract, derived from the bark of the willow tree, has been used for centuries to soothe irritated skin. This adaptable ingredient contains salicin, from which salicylic acid is derived, it’s antiinflammatory and antibacterial, clearing pores and alleviating acne and irritation. It is a lipophilic beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that can penetrate skin oil and dissolve blackheads, while also controlling future oil production and inhibiting bacteria. It also has lovely pore-minimising effects. The extract has been shown to produce results comparable to synthetic salicylic acid but without some of the drawbacks. Salicylic acid, even at low concentrations of 0.5 to 1 per cent, can cause irritation, redness, flaking, and dryness. Those with sensitive skin may encounter more breakouts as a result of the salicylic acid. Salicin in willow bark extract, on the other hand, is a much gentler version of salicylic acid.
Benefits: Willow bark extract, overall, is gentle and low-risk, and it can even be used on sensitive skin. It is ideal for oily and acne prone skin types. While using it, those with dry skin should consider using a rich, ceramide moisturizer. High in tannins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other minerals, it helps to calm the skin, reduce the appearance of pores and ageing, and aid in cell regeneration. It is a popular ingredient in cleansers, moisturisers, toners, and masks. It is safe as long as none of the products you use contains active ingredients that do not work with salicylic acid. Retinol and vitamin C are two examples of ingredients that should not be combined with salicylic acid.
Brands that use it: CosRx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
What: Just like snail mucin, propolis is yet another multi-tasking skin care ingredient found in Korean skincare. It is a compound produced by bees.
Benefits: With so many properties, propolis is used for every other skin issue. Dr Chytra Anand, celebrity cosmetic dermatologist, Kosmoderma Clinics and Founder of SkinQ, explains that it is an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant agent for speedy wound healing, cold sores, facial herpes, and other issues. It is also used in mouthwashes as it has mild anti-bacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, and is found in ointments, mouth washes, creams.
Brands: Minimalist Azeclair, CosRx full fit ampoule, Pevonia Soothing concentrate
What: Centella Asiatica is widely used in Korean skincare as a natural ingredient to soothe, hydrate, and heal the skin. One of the key active compounds in Centella Asiatica is madecassoside, a rich antioxidant that aids skin cell repair, and helps reverse the signs of ageing.
Benefits: “Also known as Gotu Kala, Centella Asiatica is a tropical medicinal plant. It has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is established for wound healing and to boost type 1 collagen in the skin. Ideal for small wounds, early stretch marks, burn marks, surgical marks, which is suitable for all skin types,” Dr Anand explains.
Brands: Cosrx Centella Blemish Cream, Purito’s Centella line, Earth Rhythm Phyto Gel With Centella Asiatica And Horsetail Extract.