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If you’re a fan of the 10-step skin care regimen that Korean beauty is known for, chances are you’re familiar with the term “glass skin”: a smooth, clear, and intensely hydrated complexion that makes “dewy skin” seem dull.
“Glass skin is when your skin is at its very healthiest,” explains Alicia Yoon, founder of Peach & Lily. “In order for skin to appear poreless, luminous, and translucent, so many things have to happen. You can’t just be hydrated and look that way. Your skin really needs to be its healthiest in all aspects. Babies have ‘see-through skin’ and that’s because their skin is still so healthy.”
While the desire for “glass skin” initially originated in Korea, Yoon recalls when it first rose to popularity in the United States.
“What’s actually funny is glass skin wasn’t really a thing in the U.S. and in Korea, where English isn’t the primary language, the term ‘glass’ wasn’t being used by Koreans. What they say is a lot of words that describe glass. They’ll say ‘see-through.’ They’ll say ‘bouncy skin,’ ‘clear skin,’ or ‘luminous skin.’ There are just so many different ways to describe it,” she says.
Yoon was one of the first Korean beauty experts in the United States (aside from Ellie Choi, who went viral after sharing a glassy selfie on Instagram) who helped popularize the term. “It just clicked for me. All this time when I was trying to explain to people what your skin at its healthiest looks like, glass skin was the way to describe it the fastest.”
Glass skin and the quest to retain a luminous, translucent skin glow has been a popular trend ever since, but Yoon explains that the luminous appearance of glass skin really comes from within.
Achieving this look requires a healthy and balanced lifestyle, as well as a dedication to a skin care regimen. These certainly aren’t the kind of skin results you can just get overnight — even if you were blessed with incredible genes.
- oil cleanser and gentle foam cleanser for double cleansing
- serum or face oil
- face mask
Yoon recommends first washing your face with a gentle oil cleanser that won’t clog pores or strip skin of its natural oils.
Then, she suggests following it with a gentle cleanser that foams. Try Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser for the first step, and CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser for the second.
“Exfoliation helps to remove excess dead skin cells and removes blackheads on the skin,” says Belif’s Brand Education Specialist Grace Lee.
Have sensitive skin? Keep the exfoliating to no more than twice a week and try a gentle chemical exfoliator like Neogen Dermalogy Real Cica Pad.
Use a toner
“Toners help reset the pH of the skin and allow the next steps in your routine to absorb better into the skin,” says Erica Cox, licensed aesthetician and cosmetologist with Savor Beauty.
Cox recommends steering clear of toners with alcohol or witch hazel, which can dry out your skin. She recommends Savor Beauty Toning Mist, which has a pH level similar to your skin’s natural levels.
Try an essence
Incorporating an essence (a thin, water-based product that adds moisture to the skin) into your routine increases moisture retention in the skin and therefore aides in the absorption of products, according to Lee. “Not only does it moisturize the skin, providing a natural glow, but a functional essence heightens the benefits of any skincare routine.”
Not sure where to start? Try Then I Met You The Giving Essence. Reviewers rave about it for its thin, silky feel and the fact that it contains hyaluronic acid, which is hydrating for your skin.
Get a serum or face oil
Another staple in any glass skin routine is incorporating either a serum or hydrating facial oil that’s lightweight but loaded with antioxidants, which will protect the skin from free radicals that eventually result in signs of aging.
“For glass skin, choose serums with vitamins or hyaluronic acid,” explains Lee. This is because hyaluronic acid moisturizes your skin, “bringing out that natural glow,” she adds.
Another tip from Lee: Go for a plant- or herb-based face oil, such as The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane or Korres Wild Rose Brightening Absolute Oil. They’re light and absorb quickly on your skin and won’t cause breakouts.
If you’re a bigger fan of oils, try The Ordinary Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil. It deeply nourishes and calms skin without clogging pores.
Layer on your moisturizer
Look for a moisturizer that’s going to give you an instant burst of hydration, leaving skin looking smooth and supple, like Origins GinZing Energy-Boosting Gel Moisturizer. Fans say it goes on light, absorbs quickly, and moisturizes without leaving a heavy, greasy feel.
Protect your skin from the sun
Sunscreen is a non-negotiable step in any K-beauty routine. You want to look for one that’s hydrating, protecting, and won’t leave behind residue.
One of Yoon’s favorites is the Rootree Mobitherapy UV Sunshield. Not only does this water-based and lightweight sunscreen offer SPF50+ protection, it also absorbs easily into the skin. No white cast here!
Make sure you’re using the right face masks
Look for clay masks that will clean and reduce the appearance of pores without drying or irritating skin. Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask is a good place to start.
Sheet masks can work to hydrate and give skin an instant glow, while treatments with calming ingredients like honey provide skin with moisture and calm inflammation.
“Manuka honey is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial (thanks to methylglyoxal),” says Cox. “It helps to hydrate and clear skin while healing at the same time.”
If you’re not into the idea of slathering literal honey on your face — and if you can’t find Manuka honey at a store near you — try Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Mask instead.
Yoon, Cox, and Lee all believe that anyone, regardless of their skin type, can achieve glass skin. It all comes down to finding products that work for you.
“Everyone’s skin is different and with the right products that work for your skin, the look is achievable,” says Lee. “I have combination to oily skin, which causes breakouts here and there due to sebum. Also, skin concerns change within seasons, and even throughout the month due to hormones, but even with these skin troubles glass skin is achievable with time, care, and using products that work for my skin.”
If you have acne-prone skin, look for a serum or exfoliant that has salicylic acid like Juice Beauty Blemish-Clearing Serum. The Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original is great for spot-treating an occasional breakout.
Practicing healthy and balanced self-care is key here. You’ll want to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, minimizing your use of caffeine and alcohol, following a healthy diet that works for your body, and getting a good amount of sleep.
Eat more fat
Your skin barrier loves healthy fats because they help it stay hydrated, moisturized, and supple — all of which promote clear, healthy skin. Try upping your intake of the following healthy fats in your diet:
- Cold-water fish. When it comes to skin health, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are the closest thing to a dietary silver bullet in existence. That’s thanks to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, and antioxidant vitamin E, which may protect your skin from damaging free radicals.
- Avocado. These green machines are loaded with health benefits including oleic acid, a healthy fat that may reduce inflammation.
Load up on fruits and veggies
Blueberries are a great option — they may be small, but they’re high in anthocyanins, a compound that includes antioxidants and boosts your body’s ability to battle free radicals.
Other skin-friendly produce includes:
- leafy greens, like spinach and kale
- sweet potatoes
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Drink up — water, that is. Water isn’t only hydrating, but it may reduce your chances of acne by staving off dry skin. Somewhat paradoxically, a
Get some shut-eye
While it takes time and commitment, achieving lit-from-within skin is possible for most folks. But it’s not just about treating symptoms. It’s very much a lifestyle and requires a holistic approach.
What you’re putting into your body is just as crucial as what you’re putting on your face. With the right routine and a healthy diet, you can be on your way to a luminous complexion that will have you ditching the foundation in no time.
Johanna Ferreira is a writer and journalist. She’s the former deputy editor of HipLatina and is currently freelance writing. Her storytelling is centered around Latina womanhood, culture, identity, race, and beauty and wellness often covered from a sociocultural perspective. She has been published in O, The Oprah Magazine, Well + Good, Pop Sugar, Mitú, and Soko Glam’s The Klog. You can find her on Instagram.