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Korea's secret beauty legacy

Korean woman used homemade skincare products with natural ingredients. / Illustration by Cho Sang-won
Korean woman used homemade skincare products with natural ingredients. / Illustration by Cho Sang-won

By Rachel Lee

Korean's passion for healthy, glowing skin is not a new phenomenon.

Such aspiration goes back hundreds of years ago when women used homemade skincare products, including scrubs, lotions, creams, and oils with natural ingredients.

Confucianism had a significant influence on women's beauty routines during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). Confucianism's emphasis on thrift and modesty meant a clean face was beautiful and also focused more on inner beauty.

Ingredients such as rice and sea tangles may sound a little odd, but they are the big beauty ingredients that have been passed down through the generations, a part of the country's beauty legacy, experts say.

According to beauty specialist Kang Bong-soo's book on diet and natural beauty, rice, rice bran, honey, peas and seaweed have been long used for skincare for nutritional benefits for skin as well as hair and health. These ingredients are especially adapted for use by those who need to improve their physical constitution.

Ground mung beans were used to make soap by blending the powder with water. The juice of the plant was used to make lotions. Safflower oil, which is abundant in vitamin E, was popular among women during the era for its moisturizing properties.

Rice bran, known for soothing enzymes and antioxidant properties, can be used for cleansing the skin.

Mixing the rice bran with water, gently massaging it on the skin and washing it off with water is one of the ways to clean the skin while moisturizing and smoothening the skin, Kang said.

For those who suffer from atopic skin diseases or itchiness, rice bran-infused water can be used as a moisturiser after a bath or shower. Letting it dry naturally is key when applying it.

Sweet chestnut shell was also one of the widely used ingredients since hundreds of years ago for antioxidant compounds that revitalise the skin. It also calms down spots when used as a night treatment.

The recipe for the mask calls for sweet chestnut shell, brown sugar, enzyme powder and honey _ a mix of all the ingredients are put on the face with a facial wrap on top overnight. Or it can just be used for 40 minutes and washed off with warm water, then finishing off with cold water.

"The treatment works well in the summer when the skin is over exposed to sunlight, causing dryness and wrinkles," the expert said.

Smooth loofah was a popular ingredient to make skin toner. It has been known for moisturizing effects while making the skin more resilient.

Not only good for the skin, but it has been used to prevent hair loss. Smooth loofah juice is applied before shampooing, which protects the hair from sunlight and restores the damaged hair.

"Such natural ingredients are still popular now as well-being is booming, and these are the country's secret sources used to make the world's leading skincare products," aesthetician Lee Yoon-chae said.




Rachel Lee rachel@koreatimes.co.kr


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