What Ingredients Might Help?
K-beauty skincare has a lot of calming ingredients and soothing products formulations, which make it ideal if your skin isn’t quite as comfortable as it normally would be.
For me, the big hitters are extracts like snail, centella asiatica, rice, aloe and ferments. Propolis and green tea extracts can also help, especially if you’re acne-prone. Other ingredients to look out for include beta-glucan, ceramides and a low concentration of niacinamide (2-5%).
You’ll find hydration and a little oil, as well as emollients like capric / caprilyic triglycerides and silicones (if you’re not sensitive to them) can also really help.
And it’s sensible to give your actives a miss when your skin is grumpy, so keep the lid on the retinol and acids temporarily.
I’ve talked about rice here, centella asiatica and green tea here, propolis here and ferments here and here, if you want more detail on these specific ingredients. And we’ve got several articles on snail (one of our favourite K-Beauty ingredients) here and here.
Let’s not forget that extracts can be packed with antioxidants, which will help your skin repair itself and calm down inflammation.
Cleansing can be irritating if you don’t have the right one for your skin. I like to go for something super gentle when my skin is already irritated.
Whilst double cleansing is the foundation of the K-Beauty routine, I find my cheeks and neck can be sensitive and drier than my T-zone, so I don’t always double cleanse there. The Axis-Y cleanser is a double cleanse in one product so it is especially good for when my skin is irritated but I want it to be properly cleansed.
Toner and Essence
Hydration is key for irritated skin and ideally your hydrating products will have some great ingredients that will soothe and deliver antioxidants to help repair your skin.
Of the watery toners I have to hand, Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner has milk vetch root extract which may help to calm inflammation and of course Cosrx Full Fit Synergy Propolis Toner and Cosrx Centella Water Alcohol-Free Toner for obvious reasons!
Dr Ceuracle Vegan Kombucha Tea Essence is one of my key k-beauty products when I need to fix irritated skin: a toner cream-essence hybrid that is super soothing. It has lots of great extracts, including tea and centella, along with just the right amount of oil, as well as ferment and ceramides.
Serum and Ampoule
Beauty of Joseon have three good options – and I bet it’s four good options but I haven’t tried the Revive yet. Beauty of Joseon has all the extracts and they’re all hydrating: propolis, green tea and rice, any of which can be right for calming skin so pick your favourite!
Mary & May Centella Asiatica Serum is one of the best soothing serums. I think the thickness of this serum adds to its soothing abilities, but if you find it difficult to spread, apply it to damp skin, which also helps as it’s not particularly hydrating.
The Mary & May Idebenone + Blackberry Complex Serum is loaded with berry extracts, has a lovely hydrating feel and includes a specific anti-aging antioxidant, idebenone, which I’ve written about here.
The Axis-Y Artichoke Intensive Skin Barrier Ampoule has a similar texture to the Mary & May Blackberry: it’s not too thick so it spreads easily and its very hydrating. There’s lots of calming plant extracts, which give both instant and long-lasting soothing effects to troubled skin.
Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Water essence is a special k-beauty product: whilst it’s called an essence, it is definitely a serum texture. It has a lot of emollient ingredients you’d usually find in a moisturiser, so it is very beneficial for irritated skin. However, it’s a lot lighter than a cream and absorbs very well, which means you can add it to your routine without feeling like an oil slick!
Creams are a major component of a soothing routine because they can add extra nourishment for your skin and seal all the goodness in.
If you have oily skin, Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All In One cream might be enough as a last step – for my combination skin, it’s a big dose of snail and I’ll layer it with something more occlusive. It does have silicones but it’s not quite enough for my skin by itself.
Mary & May Idebenone + Blackberry Complex Intensive Total Care Cream is another excellent soothing option – plenty of antioxidants, ceramides and hydrating ingredients. Plus, it’s easy to smooth it on to your skin, no tugging that might further irritate your skin.
Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Water Sleeping mask is always my favourite last step in my routine because it locks in all that hydration from my earlier steps and stops water evaporating! The jelly-to-water texture
as you spread it onto your skin feels instantly calming and hydrating. The beta-glucan and natural moisturising factors (that are the same things found in your skin) help with barrier function.
A more hydrating sunscreen might help if your skin is irritated. Although my two favourites will be great for drier or combination skin, someone with oily skin might find them a bit too moisturising. However, as it’s pretty cold outside, if you have oily skin you may well be fine with these if you skip moisturiser.
Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun gel is the lighter of the two and Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun Rice + Probiotics sunscreen is more moisturising. I find both very soothing for irritated skin.
As you can see in my detailed review here, the Pyunkang Yul was my favourite but both are very good.