Beauty: From AHA to Yeast – Korean Beauty Ingredients You Need to Know

Korea has taken the world by storm, starting with the onslaught of K-pop music, K-drama, and now K-beauty. Since the introduction of BB cream to the Western market in 2011, people have been raving about Korean beauty products and their intense 10- to 12-step skincare regimen. Currently, K-beauty is big news and is set to only get bigger!

At the heart of this growing beauty trend are the key components present in most of its products. From bee venom to snail slime, lets break it down: Here’s some of these unique ingredients:


These two compounds are scientifically known as Alpha Hydroxy Acid and Beta Hydroxy Acid. AHAs have been widely used for reducing signs of aging, dry skin, and correcting an uneven skin tone. BHA or salicylic acid is known to have multiple benefits for numerous skin types and concerns. When combined in a product, these ingredients are known to gently exfoliate the skin, getting rid of dead skin cells on the surface. They also get rid of excess oil while prepping your skin for the application of other beauty products.


Aside from being a healthy Asian delicacy, algae or sea kelp is also considered an effective beauty ingredient. Rich in essential amino acids and vitamins A, B, C, and E, algae-based products are hydrating, softening and energizing. It can also help stabilize minerals that aid in skin moisturization.

Bee Venom

Bee venom, bee glue, or propolis is a gummy resin like substance collected by bees to seal, sterilize and protect their hives. It is also considered the “Botox of nature,” with its ability to penetrate the skin and instantly make it appear lifted, plumper and firmer. This ingredient works by breaking down cell membranes, making your body think it is being attacked. Thus, the body responds by increasing circulation, producing more collagen, and relaxing facial muscles.

Bee venom also helps smooth fine lines and prevent wrinkles.

Hyaluronic Acid

This naturally-occurring polysaccharide can be found in our skin tissues. As a moisturizing ingredient, it serves as a humectant capable of holding 1000 times their weight in water. However, as we age, we stop producing it. This causes our skin to dry, sag and wrinkle. That’s one reason why people with mature skin should use products containing this ingredient.

Serums containing hyaluronic acid locks in moisture during the body’s reparative hours, leaving the skin more elastic, firm and plump with moisture.


Another beauty ingredient produced by bees is honey. This all-natural ingredient has been used for centuries and was proven to have various benefits. With its natural anti-bacterial properties, honey prevents and treats acne and other skin irritations. It is also filled with anti-oxidants, which helps slow down the aging process. As a naturally hydrating substance, it is easily absorbed by the skin and helps create a natural glowing complexion.

Snail Slime

Snail mucin or snail filtrate is widely used in most Korean skincare products such as serums, facial masks, moisturizers and fading creams. It is best known for its anti-aging properties by stimulating collagen and elastin production. It also firms and restores skin by replenishing moisture and supporting cell regeneration.

This ingredient helps in fading acne scars, smoothing uneven complexions, and reducing hyperpigmentation.

Starfish Extract

Beauty products that contain starfish extract are known to restore your skin to a brighter, plumper, ultra-smooth, and even complexion by aiding in cell turnover. Recent studies also show that starfish extract may contain potentially skin whitening materials that can help in the treatment of hyperpigmentation.

Tree Sap

Sap serves as the trees’ “venous system,” transporting nutrients from root to leaves. They are often packed with skin care essentials like vitamins, anti-oxidants, and amino acids. That’s why Korean beauty products usually include different tree saps for specific skin needs.

Red ginseng sap is best used for sensitive skin, with its ability to strengthen the immune system. Dry skin would benefit from products with bamboo sap. To brighten up dull skin, look for products with white birch sap. And maple tree sap, which is good for all skin types, are used as a base formula in most K-beauty cosmetics. That’s because it delivers active ingredients to your skin fast.

Yeast Extracts

More than just producing kimchi, Koreans also found a way to use fermentation to further their beauty innovations. Fermentation is a natural process where yeast produces enzymes that are beneficial to the human body. That yeast extract is now used by Korean beauty companies to help in the skin’s cellular renewal.

Meanwhile, amino acids produced from fermentation—such as glycine—helps to firm skin up and encourages the production of collagen aiding the skin’s anti-ageing process. Fermented ingredients also act a natural moisturizer for the skin, helping to lighten brown spots and even out skin tone.

Korean skincare and beauty products have been catapulted into the limelight, thanks to the beneficial and lasting effects of these non-traditional ingredients. While some of these components may be controversial, its beauty effects on consumers around the world cannot be denied. Just because an ingredient sounds a little weird, doesn’t mean it can’t help you achieve that youthful and healthy glowing skin you’ve always wanted. Try it!

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1 Comment

  1. Maria
    March 1, 2017 / 2:30 am


    This is cool! I should try korean products. I love your blog BTW 😀

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