SKINCARE101: 10 Not So Common Ingredients Widely Used in K-Beauty

by - November 29, 2017

Welcome back to my blog ♥

Before moving to detailing every skincare routine step aside, I decided to talk about some not so common ingredients that became trendy in the k-beauty market, and that made many of us confused as to why and who should use them.

This is the 3rd part of this Skincare 101 series where I wanna cover the following parts during the next few weeks:

What is your skin type?
Korean skincare routine basics for beginners
- 10 not so common ingredients widely used in k-beauty  ← We are here
- Double cleansing: why should we double cleanse?
- Exfoliation: Chemical vs Physical
- Wash-off masks: Types and purposes
- Toners: Types, and how are they different from western toners?
- Acids and Actives: Vitamin C, BHA and AHA
- First essences: What are they exactly?
- Serums, Ampoules: What is the difference?
- Moisturizers: Lotion, Emulsion, Gel and Cream: What's the difference?
- Eye creams: Why should you use and eye cream?
- Sheet masks: Tips and Tricks
- Pores: how to deal with them?
- Acne: Products that helped me and my siblings to get rid of my acne.
PS: Keep in mind that I will include in each step some recommendations by skin type.

Snail? Horses? Bird nests? What are these? Should I use them?

If you are into Korean or Asian skincare in general, you would have probably heard about some not so common ingredients becoming trendy like snails, horse oil, milk donkey, starfish and so on... Here are some of their awesome benefits:

Snail Mucin:

If you live in Morocco, then you are probably familiar with not only how slimy these little creatures are, but also how delicious they are (yeah we eat them, don't judge. Snail soup or whatever it is called is one of the most delicious street foods here)
If you aren't, then depending on where you live you might consider them as some exotic tiny disgusting creatures, and might be quite weirded out by the idea of putting their slime on your face, but honestly I'm not. I used to gently rub a snail over my acne (and bugs bites) to speed up the healing process and diminish the itching even before getting into Korean beauty.

So what does it contain?
Researches have proven that the slime snails usually produce to protect and heal their fragile bodies from the hard and harsh external factors is actually packed with nutrients such as hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein, proteoglycans, and antimicrobial and copper peptides and other compounds that stimulates the formation of collagen and elastin, protects skin from free radicals, soothes skin, repairs damaged tissues and restores hydration. It can be used to treat dry skin, wrinkles and stretch marks, acne and rosacea, age spots, burns, scars...etc, It's practically a holy grail ingredient that can treat almost every skin concern

Is there any animal cruelty in the process?
As far as I know, there isn't. You can check this youtube video where they show how they harvest snail slime. It is interesting to watch.

Shop it: COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, $17.5, Amazon; COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All in one Cream, $17.5, Amazon; Mizon All In One Snail Repair Cream, $13.5, Amazon

Starfish Extract:

My mum was a really huge fan of Mizon Returning Starfish creams since they made her skin plump and reduced the appearance of her fine lines in the long run, but by the time she wanted to repurchased it was already discontinued...
There is next to no research about starfish extract benefits to the skin, and they few made ones say that it does a great job healing wounds and scars, but other than that, there is nothing I could find.

Horse Oil:

The first time I've heard about this oil is around 2 years ago when Guerisson came with their  9 Complex Horse Oil Cream, and since then it has been on my To Try list but never got around to purchase it.

Unlike most of the other animal fats, horse oil is packed with unsaturated fatty acids which is similar to natural sebum and thus accepted by our skin easily. It contains Linoleic acid (an omega-6) that is also found in vegetable oils and is known for its high moisturizing properties and its great ability to rebuild the moisture barrier of the skin and thus prevents the skin from becoming dry and dehydrated. As well as Alpha-Linolenic (an Omega-3) commonly found in seeds and vegetable oils, that is known for its great anti-inflammatory properties, which means it is good at calming the skin and de-swelling the pimples.

Is there any animal cruelty in the process?
Unfortunately, yes. But not in the way you think. They don't kill race horses specifically to extract this oil from them (which would be H.O.R.R.I.B.L.E), they extract this oil from horses raised for food and who are killed for their flesh.

Shop it: Guerisson 9 Complex Horse Oil Cream, $19.5, Amazon; Guerisson 9 Complex Horse Oil Hydrogel Gold Mask *6ea, $13, Amazon; Guerisson 9 Complex Essence, $14.5; Amazon

Donkey Milk:

Another interesting ingredient. This ingredient is known to be fairly similar to human milk, but is kinda hard to get since a female donkey produces 1L a day only, and stops lactating way sooner than other animals do.
Koreans aren't the first ones to start using this milk for beauty, since Cleopatra the old Egyptian queen used to soak her body in baths filled with donkey milk to get a soft and bright complexion - Story time:I've always seen scenes of Cleopatra bathing in milk but thought it was cow milk xD I even faked once "accidentally" pouring milk on my head because I thought it would make me a queen when I'll grow up... I was really naive.

This milk is known to be packed with nutrients such as proteins, phospholipids and ceramide that help regenerating and restructuring skin to help reduce wrinkle. It's also rich in minerals and vitamins (C, A, D, E) yet low in fats which makes it a great moisturiser for every skin type, sensitive skin included since it is hypoallergenic.

Shop it: Skin Ceramic Donkey Milk & Argan Oil Steam Cream, $39, Amazon; The Saem Royal Natural Donkey Milk Moist Drop Cream, $33, Amazon;


Originally used as an alternative to botox injections, this product became widely used in Korean anti-aging skincare (especially masks, ampoules and serums), is a synthetic form of snake venom that much like botox, works by reducing muscular contractions of the face as well as cell movement and thus keeping the skin smooth and prevent the formation or deepening of wrinkles.

Shop it: It's skin PRESTIGE SYN-AKE Agetox Cream, $41, Amazon; Dewytree Premium Syn-Ake Black Mask x10, $19, Amazon;

Bee Venom:

Whoever thought about this is actually a genius XD
Bee venom is actually used to trick the body and make it think that it's under attack and that is was actually stung by a bee, to make it redirect blood te that area and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin to strengthen the skin and keep it bouncy and elastic. It is also claimed that it kinda relaxes the muscles (just like the syn-ake) and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.

Shop it: Nature Republic Bee Venom Mist Essence, $19, Amazon; Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence, $17, Amazon

Caviar and Salmon Eggs:

Both these ingredients are know to be packed with minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, omega 3 and 6, vitamins, which helps maintain the skin moisture, brightens up the skin complexion and promote skin cells regeneration.

Shop it: Besolbo Royal Salmon Egg Return Cream / Sleeping Renewal Pack, $26, Amazon; Neogen Code 9 Gold Black Caviar Essence & Gold Tox Tightening Pack Kit, $48, Sokoglam (use this referral link to get 20% off your first order)

Sea Kelp:

Kelp and seaweeds are rich with amino acids, antioxidants and proteins, and known for their hydrating, softening and energizing properties, but I have never thought that they would make sheet masks out of fermented kelp instead of hydrogel or cotton sheets, but then, they come up with everything nowadays not only these.

Shop it: Whamisa Organic Sea Kelp Facial Sheet Mask, $14, GlowRecipe (use this referral link to get 20% off your order)

Pig Collagen:

Pig collagen is similar to the human one, that;s why they thought about including it in skincare and use it to smooth out the skin and boost its firmness and elasticity. But since pig collagen is voluminous, it can't really penetrate the skin so it only sits on top of the skin instead and gives it a smooth firm look temporarily.

Shop it: Elizavecca Green Piggy Collagen Jella Pack Pig Mask, $10, Amazon; SCINIC Pig Collagen Jelly Cream, $19, Amazon.

Birds nest:

Unlike the typical nests we know, Swiftlet nest is made out of this bird's dried and hardened saliva which makes it really impressive.
This nest is rich with nutrients such as amino acids and epidermal growth factor (EGF) that stimulate skin regeneration and promote blood circulation, which helps achieving a young, bright and radiant complexion.

Shop it: It's Skin PRESTIGE BN(Bird's Nest) Cream, $25, Amazon; It's Skin Prestige B.N. Eye Gold Patch, $24, Amazon.

Hopefully this post gave you a brief idea about what each of these ingredients are used for, this way it would be easier for you to know which one would work for you and which ones wouldn't.

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Until next time

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  1. So interesting! The Syn-ake seems so weird... haha, not in a bad way though. However.. I may or may not get Caviar and Salmon Eggs for some family members haha!

    1. It would be a nice kinda fancy present hahah.

  2. For someone who loves skincare products more than make-up, this post is perfect. I am so happy when I discover good content in the beauty industry. ♥ Can`t wait to read your article about eye-cream.

    1. Glad it helped, I'll post the remaining of these series soon so please look forward to it ^^

  3. This is so cool! Didnt know about snails cream though I remember my grandma applying raw donkey milk for a soft skin!

    1. You should absolutely try it, it's really great for the skin!

  4. Wow, I learned a lot here, horse Oil is very new to me. I know about Donkey Milk from being in Ethiopia! Sheri

    1. Donkey milk is so popular there! as for horse oil, it was weird for me as well since I'm not used to animal oils used for skincare.