The Korean beauty scene is rife with confusing, yet now commonplace terms — words that once felt odd but now are part of the beauty lexicon. But any K-beauty junkie worth her weight in BB cream can throw these terms around like a second language. She knows her essence from her ampoule, her sheet mask from her sleeping mask, her ginseng from her snail mucus.
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But as our knowledge and awareness of the Korean beauty landscape continues to evolve and products become more widely available in the U.S. market, more unfamiliar words are worming their way into our cosmetics consciousness. We talked a bit about one new term — V-Line — that has already made its way Stateside, but there’s another one close on its heels: Jeju.
While it might sound like a cutesy product name dreamt up by someone at Tony Moly, the word actually refers to a place — Jeju Island. Located just off the southern tip of South Korea, Jeju is known as the Hawaii of Asia, according to Glow Recipe cofounder Sarah Lee. “It’s a dream vacation spot for [people] around the world,” she says.
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It is also similar to Hawaii in that it’s a volcanic island, explains Glow Recipe’s other cofounder Christine Chang. “The soil [on Jeju] is mixed with volcanic ash, and [the terrain] is rocky, so anything grown there has an extra vitality,” she says.
Its appeal to the beauty industry is the purity of the ingredients — Jeju is one of the most botanically diverse, least polluted areas in the world, according to Lee. It’s been certified as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Realizing a beauty gold mine when they saw one, the government of South Korea has even started sponsoring brands to set up R&D facilities and labs on the island to study the most promising natural ingredients.
According to Lee, while the term Jeju started to creep into beauty product labels and marketing back in 2003, it wasn’t until the last two or three years that they really saw an explosion of popularity and awareness around the term. And now those products are finally headed Stateside.
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We asked Lee and Chang to share some of the most popular native ingredients to Jeju, as well as the products that make the best use of them. Ahead, find out the most potent, game-changing products from Jeju. And make sure to memorize that word — you’re going to be seeing a lot more of it in the coming months.
So prized is the pristine image of the island that beauty giant Amorepacific’s entire concept of their Innisfree line is centered on the “natural benefits of Jeju” message, says Lee. “Today, the ‘made in Jeju’ stamp is a key purchase criteria for Korean women,” she explains.
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One of the most popular collections in the Innisfree roster is the brand’s green tea line, of which the Green Tea Seed Serum is a customer favorite. The moisturizing serum uses a mix of green tea water — made from fresh Jeju-harvested tea leaves — and green tea seeds to hydrate the skin and boost its moisture barrier.
Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum, $26, available at Innisfree.
Another standout from Innisfree is the brand’s new Jeju Sparkling Mineral line, which Lee says launched just a few months ago. The line is formulated with sparkling thermal water that comes direct from the island and claims superior brightening and skin-nourishing powers.
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Lee says the star of the line is the Sparkling Mineral Powder Cleanser, a powder cleanser that, when combined with water, creates “a carbonated cleansing experience and a bubble massage effect.” She adds that skin “feels hydrated, velvety smooth, and supple. I personally love the fizzing of the powder when added to water, as it provides such a refreshing, sensational experience, and when splashed on skin, it reminds me of a cooling glass of Perrier on a hot summer’s day.”
Innisfree Jeju Sparkling Mineral Powder, $4, available at Glow Recipe.
The island’s super-fresh water has many brand fans, including The Face Shop, whose new facial mist takes advantage of Jeju’s “Samdasoo” water, which Lee says is famous for being rich in minerals. “This product is an all-day hydrator to refresh tired or fatigued skin,” says Lee.
Blossom Jeju is a recent find that has Chang and Lee buzzing. The products are based around the Jeju-grown camellia plant and oil. Says Lee, “As the island is extremely windy, the camellia plant found there is uniquely high in antioxidants from battling the local elements.”
Blossom Jeju manages to harvest that potent antioxidant power and combine it with delicate formulations that create a protective layer on the skin to protect it from environmental damage and premature aging.
Lee cites the Pink Camellia Soombi Essence Serum as a personal favorite, noting that the “feather-light essence is crafted using a blend of pure oils and is packed with nourishing proteins and antioxidants to provide breathable and lasting protection. This concentrated boost of moisture instantly brightens, improves, and firms skin tone and texture.”
Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Soombi Essence Serum, $64, available at Glow Recipe.
Artisanal skin-care brand The Lotus takes both its name and product power from the famed lotus blossoms that originate at the Buphwa temple on Jeju Island.
Says Lee, “The founder [of The Lotus], having grown up at the temple, personally works in the lotus ponds surrounding the temple to find the freshest, purest extracts for her formulas.”
Lee notes that while the lotus is one of the sacred flowers of Buddhism and a prominent cultural symbol in Asian cultures, it also has some serious skin-care benefits. Its naturally occurring antioxidants, flavonoids, fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals rival “even the most potent modern chemical compounds,” says Lee.
In addition to hydration, the lotus also increases skin elasticity, exfoliates with its naturally occurring AHAs, soothes skin inflammation, helps prevent breakouts, balances oily skin, and minimizes the look of pores. That’s one powerful flower.
Those qualities are best used in the brand’s Essence Lotion, which is formulated with 70% lotus extract and features deep hydrating powers without feeling heavy or greasy on the skin.
The Lotus Essence Lotion With Lotus Leaf, $40, available at Glow Recipe.
By Megan McIntyre