What is “Glass Skin” and how do you get it?


The western world was introduced to the Korean beauty term “glass skin” more than half a decade ago. K-Beauty pros like Peach & Lily’s Alicia Yoon have been talking about it on podcasts, Instagram feeds have been flooded with seemingly impossibly fresh skin, and K-pop stars have become prime examples of the coveted complexion trend. But it was a trend at all, if the fact that people still want to achieve glass skin is any indication.

“Glass skin is a skin ideal in Korea,” say Glow Recipe founders and frequent Glass Skin owners Sarah Lee and Christine Chang Curls thorough. 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, where you apply toner or essence up to seven times after cleansing — use multiple light coats of moisturizing products to keep skin looking dewy and plump , similar to a baby’s bottom. However, there is no single universally accepted way to achieve Glass Skin, but with the help of experts, Curls Using 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 cleaning with non-drying detergents.

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,” said David Kim, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City Curls. Don’t have a favorite yet? We like the Best of Beauty Award-winning Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil and the Simple Micellar Cleansing Water.

Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil

Plain micellar cleansing water on white background

Simple micellar cleansing water

After your makeup and sunscreen have been adequately wiped off, continue with a gentle, hydrating facial cleanser — Best of Beauty winners La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser and Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser are both great — for the not-so-obvious Getting rid of dirt is gone without stripping your skin of the moisture that is so important to the Glass Skin look.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser on a white background

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

Image may contain: bottle and lotion

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

2. Exfoliation.

You may want to save this step for the night, especially if you’re exfoliating with photosensitizing acids. In fact, it’s acid-based scrubs and face masks — those made with alpha and beta hydroxy acids — that Dr. Kim told Curls promote that glassy glow as dead skin cells are removed. We love the Best of Beauty-winning Paula’s Choice 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel, but to avoid irritation, don’t use it every night. And always remember to apply (and reapply) sunscreen as the final step of your morning skincare routine. (More on that later.)

Paula's Choice 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel Gray tube of exfoliating scrub on a white background

Paula’s Choice scrub with 25% AHA + 2% BHA

2. Apply the liquids.

Today’s toners aren’t yesterday’s drying astringents, so they’re not counterproductive to Glass Skin’s goal of deeply hydrated skin. “The idea is to thoroughly cleanse and clarify through your double cleanse, and then use a toner as the first leave-on step that moisturizes and treats,” Lee said Curls. Two of our favorite options: Dr. Jarts Ceramidin Liquid Moisturizing Toner to strengthen the skin barrier and Versed Baby Cheeks All-In-One Hydrating Milk.

dr  Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid Moisturizing Toner on a white background

dr Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid Moisture Toner

Versed Baby Cheeks Hydrating Milk Toner on a white background

Versed Baby Cheeks All-In-One Moisturizing Milk

To really give moisture a head start, follow your toner with an essence. “An essence is ideal for those who really want to drive moisture into the skin,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut. A pair perfect for squeezing into the skin: Hourglass Equilibrium Restoring Essence and Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence.

Hourglass Cosmetics Equilibrium Restoring Essence white bottle of essence on white background

Hourglass balance that restores essence

Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

3. Apply an all-around moisturizing serum.

Glass Skin’s numbness, even tone, and smoothness require a cavalcade of different types of ingredients. Hyaluronic acid attracts moisture, vitamin C helps brighten and protect with antioxidants, and peptides are a safe bet for a smoother, firmer texture, but you don’t have to use three different serums to reap these benefits. Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum has it all for under $30.

Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum

Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Brightening Serum

4. Naturally moisturize and protect.

Whether you apply a separate moisturizer and sunscreen, or just a super hydrating 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 matte finish — look for promises of shine to achieve full glass formation.

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