The Western world was introduced to the Korean beauty term “glass skin” more than half a decade ago. K-beauty experts like Peach & Lily’s Alicia Yoon talked about it on podcasts, Instagram feeds were flooded with what previously seemed to be impossibly dewy skin, and K-pop stars became the prime examples of the coveted complexion trend. But it was a trend at all, if the fact that folks still want to achieve glass skin is any indication.
“Glass skin is a skin ideal in Korea,” Glow Recipe founders and frequent glass skin havers Sarah Lee and Christine Chang tell Allure matter-of-factly. But what exactly is glass skin? “It means skin that looks crystal-clear, poreless, translucent, [and] luminous — like a piece of glass.”
According to Lee and Chang, it’s all in the layering. Similar to the “7 Skin Method” — the K-beauty technique of layering on toner or essence up to seven times after cleansing — you want to use multiple lightweight layers of hydrating products so skin looks dewy and plump, akin to a baby’s bottom. That said, there’s no single, universally agreed-upon way to achieve glass skin, but with the help of experts, Allure editors’ first-hand experiences, and routines that have gone viral on social media, we’ve narrowed it down to a few key steps.
Meet the experts:
1. Double-cleanse with non-drying cleansers.
It should come as no surprise that a K-beauty concept involves the beloved double-cleanse.
“First, [use] an oil-based cleanser or micellar water,” David Kim, a board-certified dermatologst in New York City has told Allure. Don’t already have a favorite? We like the Best of Beauty Award-winning Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil and Simple Micellar Cleansing Water.
After your makeup and sunscreen has been sufficiently wiped away, move on to a gentle hydrating face wash — Best of Beauty winners La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser and Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser are both great — to ensure the not-so-obvious grime is gone without stripping your skin of the moisture that’s so important to the glass skin look.
You may want to save this step for nighttime, especially if you choose to use photosensitizing acids as your means of exfoliation. In fact, it’s acid-based peels and face masks — those made with alpha and beta hydroxy acids — that Dr. Kim has told Allure promote that glassy glow when eliminating dead skin cells. We love the Best of Beauty-winning Paula’s Choice 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel, but for the sake of avoiding irritation, don’t use it every single night. And always remember to apply (and reapply) sunscreen as the last step of your morning skin-care routine. (More on that later.)
2. Layer on the liquids.
Today’s toners are not the drying astringents of yesteryear, so they’re not counterproductive to glass skin’s goal of highly hydrated skin. “The idea is to thoroughly cleanse and clarify via your double cleanse, then use a toner as the first leave-on step that hydrates and treats,” Lee has told Allure. Two of our favorite options: Dr. Jart’s skin-barrier-bolstering Ceramidin Liquid Moisturizing Toner and Versed Baby Cheeks All-In-One Hydrating Milk.
To really get a headstart on the moisture, follow your toner with an essence. “An essence is ideal for those who want to really drive moisture into the skin,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut. A couple perfect for pressing into your skin: Hourglass Equilibrium Restoring Essence and Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence.
3. Apply a do-it-all hydrating serum.
Glass skin’s dewiness, even tone, and smoothness call for a cavalcade of different types of ingredients. Hyaluronic acid draws in moisture, vitamin C helps brighten and protect with antioxidants, and peptides are a sure bet for a smoother, firmer texture, but you don’t have to use three different serums to reap those benefits. Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum has got it all covered for under $30.
4. Moisturize and protect, of course.
Whether you choose to apply a separate moisturizer and sunscreen or just a very moisturizing sunscreen, hydration and protection are arguably the most important steps in the glass-skin routine. Now is not the time for a moisturizer or sunscreen that promises a mattifying finish — look for promises of glowiness in order for full glassification.