Asia has one of the most competitive skincare and beauty markets in the world. Consumers are savvy and demanding; and beauty brands are constantly innovating in order to stay competitive and capture the attention of the rising middle-class. Many of these innovations are just starting to filter to the West.
Much like the French, the Asian beauty philosophy is all about great skin - skincare and makeup that looks natural, radiant and youthful. But in Asia, great packaging and elegant formulation is everything. If that floats your boat, here are some genius skincare and makeup products that are going to change your beauty game. Willa Zheng, one of our Sydney-based Beauticaters, who also happens to be Chinese, is very cluey on everything coming out of Asia beauty-wise. She put her four firm favourites through their paces.
1. The Konjac Sponge
As every dermatologist will tell you, good healthy skin starts with regular exfoliation. For me, the Konjac sponge is the most luxurious and fun way to polish my face daily. This humble root vegetable (yes, it’s edible!) is best deployed on days in between your Clarisonic and other heavy lifting exfoliants. I know flannel towels are having a bit of a moment right now but they can be a bit rough. Konjac sponges are way kinder if your skin is sensitive or you have unhealed blemish scabs – an all too common occurrence if you, like me, like to pick at your pimples. Konjac sponges seem to buff my face, keep it smooth, without disturbing these fresh wounds. But the best way to understand this product is to try it for yourself. Why not, they’re cheap as chips on Aliexpress or eBay.
2. The Cushion Compact
One of the biggest product categories to emerge in Korea in recent years is the cushion compact. It’s basically liquid foundation (usually a BB cream) held inside a snap-lock sponge compact. If you’ve ever been a fan of the beauty blender or have a habit of applying your makeup on trains and buses, you should seriously give cushion makeups a go.
It’s applied by pressing the included puff (housed in a separate inner compartment) into the sponge and then tap all around your face. It’s very quick and efficient. The result is an incredibly even, lightweight, natural finish that doesn’t cake (no matter how many layers you build) and is ideal for women who don’t like putting on foundations. Women in Asia have embraced the cushion compact revolution, as it allows them to top up their sun protection (most cushion compacts have high spfs) during the day, and apply foundation flawlessly on the go.
So how can we get our keen mitts on a cushion compact? The biggest selling Korean brands are Hera, Iope, Laneige, and Amore Pacific (prestige brand), but they’re rather hard to find outside of Chinatown beauty speciality stores. Happily, Lancôme launched its first cushion compact foundation earlier this year, named the ‘Miracle Cushion’. Made in Korea, by one of the countries biggest cosmetic manufacturers, it’s authentic to the cushion compacts already embraced by Korean women yet comes in a wider range of shades than you may find in Asia.
What really struck me when I tested the Lancôme Miracle Cushion was how dewy it was. My face was radiant and glowed, like a K-pop star. Unfortunately, this also accentuated my large pores. Normal to dry skins will love this foundation.The coverage is sheer, but buildable to a luminous medium finish.
3. The Sleeping Mask
If you haven’t realised it yet, Asia is cray-cray about masks. In stores, you can find sheet masks, rubber modelling masks (a capsule powder to be mixed with water and then peeled off. The next big thing!), sparkling powder masks (a bath bomb for splashing or patting on the face), steam masks (for hair), and masks for almost every part of the body. For Asian women, masks aren’t a once-in-a-blue-moon treatment, but a key part of their regular skincare ritual for maintaining hydration and radiance. Chinese actress, Fan Bingbing, is known to go through at least 600 sheet masks a year!
A couple of years ago, mega Korean brand, Laneige, gave the humble overnight face- mask a makeover and renamed it the ‘sleeping mask’. Its popularity spawned a whole new category of sleeping masks that now compete with sheet masks. I personally prefer the sleeping mask, because it’s not as messy and doesn’t frighten your cohabitants. They go clear once massaged in the skin and you’ll wake up with the same hydrated, glowy appearance that Asian masks are famous for.
The Body Shop recently released a sleeping mask in Australia, clearly inspired by the success of sleeping masks in Korea. It’s got a whimsical name too – Drops of Youth Bouncy Sleeping Mask – and an interesting cream-gel texture that can be best described as like coconut desert pudding. You pinch (or use the enclosed spatula to scoop) a small amount and massage it into your skin as a final night-routine step, instead of night cream, and leave it to work its magic overnight. Your skin will feel tacky for a couple of hours but by morning, it’s plump, hydrated and smooth to the touch. Just like waking up from a fairy tale.
4. The Acne Patch Dressing
I confessed earlier my sinful habit of squeezing pimples. Unfortunately, this tends to reinfect the pore and make the pimple worse. Enter this hero product. It’s a hydrocolloid dressing - a highly absorbent, waterproof and yet breathable gel, cut into skin-coloured circles to absorb the infected pus and stop me from picking at it. Put it on when you have a whitehead coming on, or right after you’ve popped one of your pimples. The patch turns from a clear skin-tone to an opaque white colour as it soaks up the pus.
Without this patch, much of the infected pus would still be trapped under the skin, causing my zit to return with a vengeance faster than I can say ‘Bruce Willis’. Some people wear these patches at night because it’s quite thick (Nexcare also makes thin dressings), but I find it is barely perceptible when I leave it on during the day. Nexcare’s acne patch has cut down my pimple healing time significantly. This is the one product I wish I’d discovered years ago!
Story by Willa Zheng.