Since I started to cover K-pop for ishonest in 2017, I've interviewed approximately 142 idols — and counting. Through our conversations backstage or over the phone, I've learned that beauty, specifically skin care, blurs language barriers and gives us common ground. I may not have the expert ability to hit a high note while body rolling like Monsta X's Shownu, Seventeen's Joshua, or Chung Ha, but at the end of the day, we all wash off our makeup and dive into an extensive skin-care routine. Not only that, several beauty terms are exactly the same in Korean as they are in English, such as lotion, serum, eye cream, and cleansing foam.
About halfway through our chats is when things tend to start getting weird, though. Maybe it's the unconventional makeup I wear or perhaps no one has the chance to ask about their skin-care routines like I have, but K-pop stars often share incredibly unexpected secrets to their clear, poreless skin with me.
You can find out exactly who I'm referring to below, as well as more decidedly odd — yet surprisingly — effective skin-care techniques for achieving glass skin from the mouths of K-pop stars. And while I was at it, I figured I'd include some not-so-weird tips while I was at it. I swear none of them are "drink water."
SF9's Young Bin: Sleep During a Specific Timeframe
Sleep is a no-brainer for improving your complexion, but Young Bin from SF9 makes sure he gets into bed at a certain time, when his schedule allows it. “In Korea, people say sleeping between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. is good for skin,” he explained.
ATEEZ's Yeosang: Skip Your Forehead
Of the eight members of ATEEZ, Yeosang takes skin care the most seriously, as told to me by San and Hongjoong. Yeosang accepted the title, noting that even before the group debuted, he took care of his skin. His top tip: Don't slather moisturizer everywhere. “I put toner all over my face, but moisturizer-wise, I don't put it on my forehead. If I do, I get pimples," he explains.
Seventeen's Joshua: Keep Your Sheet Masks Close
After a long day of evens with his group Seventeen, Joshua reaches for a sheet masks in the mini fridge he has in his room. “It's so refreshing,” he told me during an interview over FaceTime. He likes to keep brightening ones in stock next, as well ones spiked with aloe and snail mucin.
(G)I-DLE's Minnie: Live By the "One Day, One Pack" Method
While promoting "Latata," which was the (G)I-DLE's first single, Minnie told me she experimented with the "one day, one pack" method to get her skin glowing. Every day for a month, she did a sheet mask as part of her skin-care routine. Luckily, packages of 30, which like look like a thing of face wipes, are available as a sustainable option.
ATEEZ's Wooyoung: Wash With Rice Water
Before telling me this tip, ATEEZ's Wooyoung prefaces that he's never actually done it himself because he's genetically blessed with clear skin ("I'm lucky. Thank you, Mom!"), but he knows that it improves skin. “In Korea, after you clean rice, you clean your skin with it,” he says. So go ahead and save that water next time you make bibimbap.
(G)I-DLE's Shuhua: Keep a Face Mist With You a All Times
Among the ladies of (G)I-DLE, Shuhua has the most extensive skin-care routine, which includes steaming her face with a hot towel and reaching for a cleansing brush. "Her skin is good — that’s why she's confident about being barefaced," Minnie commented when I met up with the girl group in Seoul. The most unexpected part of it all is Shuhua always has a face mist with her. Minnie even noted Shuhua often buys new ones at the airport.
SF9's Hwi Young: Keep Your Face Wet After Washing It
After double cleansing his face, SF9's Hwi Young doesn't dry it off. Instead, he layers on toner and lotion while his skin is still wet. Washington, D.C.-based dermatologist Adam Friedman recommends doing this, too, to help skin lock in hydration and prevent dryness and irritation.
Red Velvet's Seulgi: Limit Experimentation Before a Big Event
OK, Seulgi's tip truly isn't weird at all, but it's worth noting: Keep your routine consistent when you have a big event coming (or comeback) coming up.
In the past, the Red Velvet member experienced irritation and breakouts after using new products. "When our comeback approaches, I try to take really good care of my skin, so I tend to try everything that is famous," Seulgi once told me. “But I ended up realizing that my skin actually became worse because there were products that didn’t fit my skin. [Now,] I like to go with my usual products and routine because it helps balance my skin."
Momoland's JooE: Apply Products With Only Ring Fingers
Before performing at KCON LA, the members of Momoland, starting with JooE, broke down the weirdest parts of their skin-care routines for ishonest. JooE demonstrated how she applies every single product solely with her ring fingers. This gentle touch typically is recommended for eye cream application, as your ring finger places the least amount of pressure on the most delicate part of your face. But for JooE, her entire face is treated with the same care.
Astro's Rocky: Cleanse With Contact Lens Solution
When the translator told me backstage at the K-Expo that Rocky washes his face with contact lens solution, I had to take a couple of seconds to let the Astro member's disclosure sink in. I looked to him for reassurance. "Contact solution?" I asked. He nodded his head in approval. Turns out, his mom passed down the unexpected tip to him. "I'm just doing what my mother told me to do," Rocky said. "So when my mother's not looking, I'm always passionately doing an extensive skin-care routine." Dermatologists don't endorse this tip, as contact lens solution can cause skin irritation and redness, so I don't suggest following Rocky's lead on this.
EXID's Hyelin: Vaseline Is All You Need
"She's just born with absolutely great skin," fellow EXID member Jeonghwa added after seeing the shock on my face. Vaseline can help clear cystic acne, but I would never rely on it as my sole skin-care product. More power to Hyelin, though.
Dreamcatcher's JiU: Slap on a Potato Sheet Mask
Among the several sheet masks that spotlight a single ingredient, like tea tree, pomegranate, and rose, the thought of reaching for one made with potato never crossed my mind until Dreamcatcher's JiU brought it up at KCON LA. While chatting about our favorite K-beauty trends, she mentioned she's really into potato sheet masks. "They help to soothe and brighten skin, so when it's hot outside, a potato sheet mask is really helpful," she said. Unfortunately, U.S. e-retailers don't stock the potato variety of The Face Shop and The Saem's sheet masks, but you might be able to find them at your local K-beauty store.
Monsta X's Shownu: Apply Products With Three Fingers
During a backstage interview, Hyungwon held up three fingers and revealed that Monsta X's leader, Shownu, applies skin-care products with only three fingers. He doesn't have any fancy reasoning for why he does, like gentleness or promoting lymphatic drainage. Instead, "I don't like getting the product all over my hands," Shownu explained.
Momoland's Jane: Spritz on Face Mist Before Cleansing
Before taking off her makeup, Jane likes to spray on a face mist. Typically used to set makeup or give skin a midday dose of hydration, I'd never thought of face mist as a makeup remover until the Momoland member brought it. Jane's tip even inspired fellow member Nancy to try it, too.
Monsta X's Kihyun and Momoland's Yeonwoo: Slap on Your Products — Literally
Patting — as opposed to rubbing — on your skin-care products is commonplace in Korea, but as Monsta X's I.M. told me, that's too delicate a term for the way Kihyun applies serums and such. "When I see him, he's not patting his face," I.M recalled. "He's slapping his face, and it makes a huge sound." Minhyuk even started hitting his neck to mimic the noise Kihyun makes.
Chung Ha: Washing Your Face Three Times in a Row Is Key
Chung Ha isn't a face wipe kind of girl. To cleanse her face, the soloist goes through a multistep process that prefaces the rest of her extensive skin-care routine. "Even if you put so many good products on, there's no use if your skin isn't washed thoroughly," she told me over the phone.
The first step is eye makeup remover. Next, Chung Ha follows with an oil-based cleanser to completely dissolve her makeup. Then she reaches for a water-based cleanser to wash away dirt and sweat from her face. Lastly, Chung Ha likes to do what she calls "bubbling it out" with a face wash that, well, bubbles. I recommend the Belif Pore Cleaner Foam Cleanser if you want to try that step.
Astro's Sanha: Combine Vinegar with Water for a Face Wash
Contact lens solution isn't the only odd thing members of Astro wash their faces with. Moonbin explained during the same interview that Sanha dilutes vinegar with water and then washes his face with the concoction. Sanha later admitted he hasn't seen a change in his skin since incorporating the pickling ingredient into his routine, so I'm not going to take my chances with it either.
KARD's Jiwoo: Cover Your Face in Dampened Cotton Pads
Cotton pads aren't just for removing makeup and swiping on toner. They also double as a makeshift sheet mask. "Because it's so dry in Korea in the winter, I like to make a quick pack," KARD's Jiwoo told me when she visited the ishonest office in 2017. "You wet cotton pads with toner and place them all over your face. Instead of opening a new sheet mask, it's a way to get quick hydration." And Korean cotton pads are so much better than the ones you find at the drugstore in the U.S. They are thicker and more absorbent, so they'll stick to your face like your favorite sheet mask.
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