Could Self-Heating Products Be The Secret To Great Skin?

Temperature is a legit selling point for Korean women, so much so, that how many degrees a product is able to lower the skin’s surface temperature is often one measure of a product’s efficacy. Overall, keeping skin cool is the aim, and it’s been said that a 1-degree increase in temperature causes the skin to crank up sebum production by 10%. This is why the face becomes an oil slick in hot weather. So then it’s no wonder that Korean women use cosmetic refrigerators and crazy looking ice masks to keep skin cool. But don’t go freezing your face off just yet. Korean culture reveres balance, so, on the flip side, heat is also important for maintaining good skin.

Anyone who’s been to a traditional Korean bathhouse will understand all the different ways the body can be subjected to heat. Heat, whether from a burning hot or scalding steam room, or a sauna made of clay, salt, or jade, will expel your body's toxins. Specifically, for skin, heat dilates the pores to help eject impurities. Heat also aids in maintaining skin health as it increases the circulation of blood, ushering along proteins and nutrients to take away waste. Plus, it lends a major helping hand with product absorption, too. This is why Korean skin experts will always stress the crucial step of gently massaging and warming up products in your hands before application. At a more extreme end of the spectrum, heat is also a powerful anti-ager. The famously excruciatingly painful Ulthera ultrasound treatment utilizes heat to tighten and lift facial muscles, and is hugely popular in Korea.

One fascinating by-product of this trend is self-heating products that, through some act of sorcery, heat up all on their own to give you the bathhouse benefits in your own home — and without all the public nakedness. Read through for some of the most popular ways Korean women are incorporating the benefits of temperature control into their beauty regimen.

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Self-heating isn’t the only miracle this mask performs. Once slathered on, you'll feel a warm, invigorating tingle as the clay and charcoal formula coaxes and cajoles out stubborn blackheads and impurities in the pores.

Caolion Premium Blackhead Steam Pore Pack, $38, available at Glow Recipe.
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One of the most luxuriously calming perks of getting a facial is having a hot, aromatic towel draped over your face. To simulate that same sensation, or to at least come pretty close, try this microfiber hot towel treatment from Innisfree — it's perfectly face-shaped and will transform you into a real-life emoji.

It’s also super easy to use. Just soak in water, squeeze out the excess, and microwave for 20 seconds. Plus, add in a few drops of your favorite essential oil to get the benefits of aromatherapy, as well. When used before a pore-cleansing treatment, the extra five minutes with it on help the treatment go the extra mile by opening up the pores.

Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Steam Towel, $8, available at Memebox.
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On board a Korean Air flight once, I noticed everyone had on these disposable self-heating eye masks. The reason for their popularity is their effectiveness in soothing weary eyes and keeping them from drying out. This is because tears are made of water and oil produced by glands that are stimulated by heat. When plucked from its sealed package, the mask warms up due to oxidation, keeping eyes moist, and you feeling refreshed.

Airplanes aren’t the only place these masks can come in handy. Many office workers in Korea like to have a few at their desks to plop on in order to combat eye fatigue from staring at their computer screens for hours.

Kao Megurhythm Steam Hot Eye Mask, $12.57 for 14, available at Amazon.
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Ginger is an ingredient that’s known for its warming energy, and taking some of that energy and applying it topically can have some major anti-aging benefits. Rich in antioxidants and nutrients, ginger helps even skin tone and improve elasticity. Though I can’t say I felt too much of a warming effect when I tried this wash-off mask from Innisfree, just 15 minutes with it on did leave my skin feeling revitalized, and smelling deliciously fragrant.

Innisfree Ginger Oil Warming Mask, $15.47, available at Korea Depart.
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Heat is also beneficial for your hair because it opens up the cuticle, allowing product to get to where it needs to. One of my favorite DIY hair masks involves slathering my hair in an ultra-rich formula and then wrapping my head in cling wrap (trust me, I see them do this all the time in Korean salons). The cling wrap traps heat from the head and creates a warm atmosphere for hair cuticles to yawn wide open and get a serious injection of conditioning treatment. For those who don’t want to bother with stretching plastic wrap around their heads, opt for this self-heating treatment, which produces similar results without the hassle.

Kocostar Hair Therapy Deep Conditioning Steam Hair Wrap, $7, available at Nordstrom.
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Things can get a little gross with this steam treatment. When applied over the pores, the paste heats up, and 10 to 15 minutes later, you can actually see the oil and gunk that has risen to the top of the pores. But, like all pore treatments, nothing will ever get all the blackheads, so I like to follow it up with a pore strip to pull up the stubborn ones, which will have been loosened up from the steam treatment.

To tighten the pores back up, try the Egg Pore Tightening Cooling Pack, which also has a cooling, soothing effect on your assaulted pores.

Tony Moly Egg Pore Blackhead Steam Balm, $14.50, available at Beauteque.
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This all-natural heating pore treatment from Jeju Island has a silicone brush at the nozzle, which is such a popular packaging trend that multiple brands have created their own version, including Scinic and Tosowoong. Massaging gently with it activates the heating gel to expand the pores with ease, getting rid of all that blackhead-causing blockage.

PureHeal's Volcanic Pore Heating Gel, $46.34, available at Korea Depart.
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Massage creams are huge in Korea. Massage is central to the Korean skin-care regimen as it improves circulation and also helps with absorption of products. There’s plenty to rub in with this massage cream from the natural brand, Primera. It’s rich in vitamins and essential oil complexes to hydrate and nourish skin. And the addition of sunflower sprouts help protect the skin from the environment and build up the skin barrier.

Primera Essential Massage Cream, $34, available at Peach & Lily.
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While heating is great for the few moments of your day or night dedicated to treating your face, for the rest of the day, it’s best to keep your skin as chilled out as possible. Cooler skin means less inflammation and slower oil production, which means less problems with acne and runny makeup.

While it’s recommended to experiment with using a combination of heating and cooling in your skin-care routine, in general, it’s best to balance out a heating ritual with a cooling one to even out the skin.

This pressed serum is a multi-tasking rock star and the perfect candidate for finishing up your skin-care routine with a blast of cool. Not only does it combine the potency of a serum with the moisturizing effects of a cream into one convenient step, the gel-like formula contains extracts of ice plant to provide cooling hydration and reduce oiliness. It also contains fermented oils to seal the face up and block out harsh radicals in the environment, making this cooling cream a no-brainer.

Blithe Crystal Iceplant Pressed Serum, $49, available at Glow Recipe.
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