Just as products and formulas vary from country to country, so do professional treatments. One woman's weekly laser facial is another's once-a-year treat.
Such is the case with dermatologists: In the U.S., visits usually require booking an appointment in advance. Treatments generally aim to solve “major” problems like persistent acne and rosacea, and center around injections and lasers, while day-to-day concerns are typically directed to a bottle of Cetaphil. But in South Korea, dermatologists are everywhere and it’s not uncommon to see one as often as once a week. I’ve popped in to have milia around my eyes extracted, the pores on my nose vacuumed, and a devastating pimple popped before an important dinner.
Because Korean dermatologists consult many more people across a wider spectrum of woes, they're able to amass skin-care knowledge from thousands of cases over the years. This has given rise to practices developing their own lines of products based on what they've seen work and not work — further contributing to the growing popularity of derma-cosmetics.
Derma-cosmetics, which got their start hundreds of years ago when Korean monks concocted skin tinctures from herbs they grew in monastery gardens, are skin solutions that combine cosmetics and dermatological science using plant-derived ingredients. They're different from stateside versions, which tend to be more chemical in formulation and are oftentimes created by large pharmaceutical companies.
Currently, derma-cosmetics make up only 3% of the Korean skin-care market, but are growing by 15% annually. This is due in part to their answers to specific skin-care problems, as well as to high efficacy relative to price (they're typically recognizable for no-frills packaging). Another reason derma-cosmetics cost less is because they aren’t sold through department stores and are, instead, distributed through hospitals and clinics, and more recently, through drugstores and pharmacies.
Fortunately for those of you not based in Seoul, many of these brands are now available in the U.S. Ahead, I've rounded up some of the most popular, under-the-radar derma-cosmetic lines and the hero products we can thank for creating a nation of glowing complexions.