Cosplay (where grown adults dress like their favourite anime characters), virtual dating games, hilariously OTT boy bands — Japan and Korea are responsible for some of the world’s most weird and wonderful trends. This extends to their beauty industries, too, as I discovered on a recent trip to Japan.
Strolling through their department stores, you’ll find products made from bee venom and volcanic ash casually sitting alongside the more ‘normal’ skincare goods. The other thing about Japanese and Korean women is that they don’t mess around when it comes to their beauty regimes. They don’t use products that are crazy for the sake of being crazy — they only use ones that work!
So, with that in mind, we’ve compiled 7 of the weirdest K-beauty and J-beauty products that are actually worth getting your hands on.
1. Snail slime face cream
Yep, this is exactly what it sounds like! While the thought of slathering snail mucin all over your face is a little disturbing, plenty of Japanese and Korean women do it every day in the form of face and even BB creams. Why? Well, it’s said to be a miracle moisturising and anti-aging ingredient, thanks to the fact that snail slime improves the skin’s ability to hold water. This trend has just hit the US, so it’s only a matter of time before it becomes mainstream in other parts of the world.
2. Bubble masks
This Korean skincare trend went viral on Instagram and YouTube last year. Their appeal lies in the fact that they not only make you look hilarious, they’re actually fantastic for cleaning out your pores. You see, the reason the masks bubble up is because they’re formulated to react with the oxygen in your skin — and this same process is what allows the ingredients to penetrate deep into the skin for a thorough cleanse.
Shop the Sooryehan Purifying Bubble Mask.
3. Egg white cleanser
Turns out, egg whites are good for more than just #gymgains. I saw egg white beauty products everywhere in Japan — a testament to their growing popularity in Asian countries. People have actually been smearing eggs over their faces for decades (due to their pore-refining, skin brightening properties), but it’s only recently that they’ve been harnessed in skincare products for more convenient use.
Shop the Skinfood Egg White Pure Foam.
4. Face lotion sheets
This one isn’t even that crazy — it’s just straight up genius. Basically, they’re compressed balls, which when soaked in toner or facial essence, expand into fully-sized face masks. They’re a lot more affordable than most face masks (great for anyone on a budget) and are fantastic for travelling.
Shop the Muji compressed face lotion sheets.
5. Peel-off eyebrow tint
If you, like me, swear by getting your brows tinted (because who can be bothered filling them in every day?), you probably get sick of having to go to the beautician every few months. But thanks to this innovative, peel-off brow tint from K-beauty brand Etude House, you no longer have to! You simply apply the gel to your brows, leave it on for two hours, then peel it off — and voila, you’re good to go!
Shop the Etude House tint-my-four-tip brows.
6. Cocoon silk balls
These may look like your run-of-the-mill cotton balls, but don’t be fooled. They’re actually cocoons made from silk worms that Korean women use to gently exfoliate their skin. Like the snail slime, the proteins in the cocoons are said to help the skin maintain moisture — as well as removing blackheads and excess sebum. The balls have holes in them for your fingers, so you simply soak them in warm water for a few minutes and massage the skin in a circular motion.
Shop the Nature Republic Cocoon Silk Balls.
7. Tree sap ‘raw sauce’
This K-beauty product isn’t a serum, or a toner, or an essence. Nope, it’s a ‘raw sauce’ made from 93% maple tree sap. Apparently, the molecules of maple tree sap are incredibly small (even smaller than water), meaning it delivers active ingredients for hydration and nourishment into the skin quickly and effectively.
Shop the May Coop Raw Sauce.