Patients are striving for 'glass skin'—here's what that means

By Alpana Mohta, MD, DNB, FEADV, FIADVL, IFAAD | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published August 13, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Glass skin refers to clear, smooth, radiant skin popularized by Korean skincare.

  • Korean skincare is trendy due to its uniqueness, innovation, and the influence of Korean culture.

  • Prioritize healthy skin over glass skin. Customize treatments based on your patient’s skin type, maintain hydration, ensure adequate sun protection, and keep skincare routines simple with no more than one active product in the morning and one at night.

Over the past few years, the global Korean skincare (K-skincare) industry has experienced tremendous growth, with a market volume of $7.6 billion in 2023,[] and is expected to reach $11.4 billion by 2026, according to news sources.[] The hashtag #koreanskincare on TikTok has amassed over 2 billion views, with users sharing compelling before-and-after videos showcasing the transformative effects of Korean skincare products on their troubled skin.

One such K-skincare trend is "glass skin," often perceived as a synonym for perfect skin. The term originates from the Korean phrase "yuri pibu," which translates to "glass skin, " representing luminous, smooth, and clear skin, according to an article in Cosmopolitan.[]

Why is K-skincare so popular right now?

Let's be real here. Everything Korean is just popular, like crazy popular. From K-pop to Korean dramas and K-beauty to Korean fashion, it’s a cultural wave sweeping the world. K-skincare, in particular, has gained massive popularity because it is unique, innovative, and quirky.

Government support and market growth

The popularity and quality of K-skincare, says Refinery29, are attributed to the active investment by the Korean government in the beauty industry. Korean beauty brands have received support from organizations like the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) to expand their presence in international markets.

Is it truly superior?

K-skincare differs from Western skincare by prioritizing gentler formulations, reducing inflammation, and maintaining skin hydration. While Western trends often rely on exfoliating acids that can cause skin irritation when misused, K-skincare incorporates milder alternatives like polyhydroxy acids.

K-skincare draws on its heritage and traditional Korean medicine, incorporating "hanbang" herbal and naturally derived ingredients. This emphasis on restorative skin care resonates particularly in the post-pandemic era. Snail mucin, allantoin, rice extract, bee propolis, centella asiatica, ceramides, and niacinamide offer skin moisturizing, soothing, and barrier-protective properties.

Realistic expectations

It is worth emphasizing that glass skin should not promote unrealistic, flawless, or poreless ideal skin. Interviewed by Cosmopolitan, renowned esthetician Alicia Yoon says that glass skin means achieving one's healthiest skin. Even individuals with occasional breakouts and acne treatment can prioritize skin health. Skin hydration, moisture, and radiant complexion are integral to the glass skin routine. 

Trending skincare for glass skin

According to a report by Exploding Topics, an average woman spends around $4,000 per year on skincare and uses up to twelve beauty products daily.[] The most popular skincare ingredients trending now include niacinamide, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), beta hydroxy acid (BHA), vitamin A, retinoids, squalene, and azelaic acid. The report also labels the following as the emerging skincare trends in 2023: 

  • Alt-retinol

Alt-retinols are plant-based substitutes for retinol. Bakuchiol, derived from babchi plant seeds, was as effective as retinol in reducing fine lines without irritation in a small 2019 study. Azelaic acid, another alt-retinol derived from grains, reduces acne and hyperpigmentation.

  • Copper peptides

Copper peptides, the so-called “botox in a bottle,” stimulate collagen production, enhance skin elasticity, and have anti-inflammatory properties. They also help reduce redness and acne scars.

  • Algae extract

Brown, green, and red algae, with their abundant antioxidant content (vitamin C, vitamin B, zinc, and magnesium), are currently popular in skincare. They minimize fine lines and wrinkles by reducing collagen-degrading enzymes.

Steps to attain healthy skin

Patients often overwhelm themselves by using an excessive number of products simultaneously. The result? Unexpected skin reactions and compromised effectiveness.

If you want to help your patients achieve smooth and radiant skin, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends keeping their skincare routine simple.[] Prioritize healthy skin over the pursuit of glass skin.

Focus on ingredients that support skin health, like essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.[]

Start and end the day with a gentle water-based cleanser—combat breakouts with cleansers containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, niacinamide, or vitamin C.

Introduce retinol for fine lines and prevention at night, but go slow for sensitive skin. Use serums with vitamin C, kojic acid, azelaic acid, or glycolic acid to improve dark spots and texture. Balance by using one active in the morning and another at night.

Moisturizers are a must, regulating oil production and sealing in serum benefits. Remember broad-spectrum SPF 30+ and PA++++ sunscreen for all skin types.

Exfoliate weekly with BHAs or AHAs to unclog pores.

Sensitive skin benefits from skin cycling, including "rest days" to prevent irritation and inflammation.[] The routine involves a four-night cycle: exfoliation with glycolic or salicylic acid, retinoid with retinol or retinaldehyde, and two recovery nights with fragrance-free moisturizers. This promotes skin repair and recovery.

What this means for you

Explain to your patients that skincare trends may come and go, but the foundation of a good skincare routine remains constant. Just because trends shift doesn't mean you must abandon your tried-and-true skincare regimen. The key lies in understanding that skincare is a long-term commitment tailored to individual needs. While exploring new products and techniques is exciting, skincare basics, such as cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection, are timeless. 

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