ICYMI, Korean women are known for being intensely devoted to their skincare routines. The traditional “7-Step Skincare Method” is a strict seven-step daily regimen that involves multiple cleansers and layered prods—for some women, it borders on religious. But K-beauty doesn’t stop there. The industry’s latest obsession is called glass skin, and it’s not as crazy as it sounds. The endgame is skin that’s “clear, poreless, radiant and translucent—just like a piece of glass,” says Sarah Lee, the NYC-based co-founder of the beauty brand Glow Recipe. “It’s different from the ‘7-Step Skincare Method’ in that glass skin is a goal rather than a technique.”
And she would know. Always in search of the best skincare out there, Lee and her Glow Recipe co-founder Christine Chang first learned about glass skin during their regular travels to Seoul. The duo collectively has 20 years of experience in the beauty industry, both in Korea and the U.S., and you might remember them from the series Shark Tank in 2015 where they pitched their skincare company. On their travels, they began hearing the term “glass skin” used to describe a certain kind of luminosity that’s almost reflective. Lee and Chang then introduced the term to U.S. customers in 2014 when they brought in their brand, Yuripibu, which was previously exclusively available in Korea (yuripibu literally means glass skin in Korean).
While the trend is cutting edge, Lee says the idea of glass skin is rooted in ancient times. “Women would use rice water to wash their faces and they crushed pearls into their night creams to get a brighter, more even complexion,” she says. Glass skin builds on that once-upon-a-shimmer idea but refines it into a more modern, glossy finish. “It used to be that shine on the face was a bad thing, but now that glowy effect is exactly what women want.”
The word has been spreading from K-Pop stars like Jeon Ji-Hyun, CL and the band Girls Generation, who have reportedly brought glass skin into the spotlight. “K-Pop stars and celebrities serve as unofficial beauty ambassadors,” says Lee. “They’re known for their flawless, ‘glass-like’ skin—with and without makeup.” These K-Pop stars also happen to be the clients of one of Korea’s top celebrity makeup artists, Park Tae-Yun, who, along with fellow Korean celeb makeup artist Son Dae Sik, is credited with popularizing the “no makeup makeup” phenomenon in Korea. “Glass skin is definitely related to the no-makeup look in Korea in that flawless, translucent skin is key,” says Tae-Yun. “K-Pop stars have broadened the awareness of Asian women’s natural complexion. They’ve been a key vehicle in introducing the glass skin look.”
The trend has also been getting serious traction thanks to L.A.-based beauty Instagrammer, Ellie Choi. Her posts outlining her in-depth skincare routine using drug-store products have gone viral, racking up tens of thousands of likes. “I personally don’t like wearing much face makeup besides blush,” says Choi. “I started taking care of my skin so that I would have that dewy look.”
So now that we’re enlightened, how do we get polished-looking pores? We unpack the steps below.
“You want to first melt away all traces of makeup and rinse with lukewarm water as it breaks down the residue better than cold,” says Lee who recommends a good makeup-removing cleansing oil for this step. “Your second cleanse should be with a hydrating formula that removes excess oils without stripping the skin.”
Exfoliating every other day is also vital as it “sows the seeds for that angelic glow,” reveals Lee. Or in Choi’s words, it helps “kick the buildup.” Lee recommends swapping in an exfoliating cleanser a few nights a week. “When you’re done, let your face air dry—every drop of water means more moisture for your skin.” For even quicker results, Lee recommends using a gentle, water-based exfoliant like Blithe Patting Splash Mask Rejuvenating. “You apply it two to three times a week in the shower. It boosts further cell turnover and makes way for a fresher, smoother complexion.” Follow up with a super-charged face mask to seal in moisture while sleeping, says Lee.
“The key to achieving the dewy look of glass skin is major hydration [and] the fastest way to make that happen is to do the ‘7-Skin Method,‘” preaches Lee. Not to be confused with the “7-Step Skincare Method,” “7-Skin” is one step within the whole regimen and it’s all about layering toners. “It’s where you pat on seven super light layers of a good hydrating toner before moving on to your serum or moisturizer,” says Lee. “It’s actually one of the most viral skincare trends coming out of Korea right now.” While your skin is still damp after cleansing, Lee recommends using toners with the “7-Skin Method.” “Let each layer sit for a few seconds before repeating six more times. What you’ll see is noticeably plumped-up skin, like your face just drank a tall glass of water.”
A cornerstone of the glass skin routine is a hydrating essence, declares Lee. “It’s the signature move of every Korean woman’s beauty ritual.” Lee really recommends her own Yuri Pibu Artichoke Power Essence. “It helps to diminish the appearance of pores and smoothes the skin’s surface with hydration.” Speaking of hydration: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. “Women often have a bounty of creams on their vanity, but what you need is something containing serious skin-plumping and moisture-trapping oils like our Make P:rem Tension Cream. It locks in hydration, leaving normal, dry—even oily—skin smoother, softer and slightly shiny, but in a really good way.”
The makeup technique of strobing with your skincare can also enhance the sought-after shine of the glass skin look, adds Park Tae-Yun. “What matters most is the texture of each formula and amount of application. Using minimal colour and sheer, natural layers of buildable coverage creates an illuminated ‘lit-from-within’ look.'” Tae-Yun, who has created his own Korean makeup line Ges Gep in collaboration with Son Dae Sik, recommends a liquid highlighter after priming and concealer/foundation. His words of wisdom: “All things glowy and glossy need a smooth surface, and to me, a smooth canvas is the base of glass skin.”