These 5 Asian Skin Care Trends Will Dominate the Beauty World in 2021

These 5 Asian Skin Care Trends Will Dominate the Beauty World in 2021

And so here we are. We have left the longest year of our lives behind us and entered into what could potentially become the second longest year of our lives. But hey, it is only the beginning of 2021, so there is still hope that this will be a good year for all of us after all (I hope I didn’t just jinx it by being so boldly optimistic here).

One of the best things about starting the year is the excitement of newness: new year, new us, new trends to explore! Now, fashion trends are of less interest for me right now. Given that most of Europe has entered what feels like the 100th lockdown, choosing the fancy purple sweatpants instead of the worn-out grey ones is basically as good as it gets right now in terms of trendy outfits.

But skin care—that is something I can still get excited about! When it comes to skin care trends to look forward to in 2021, I usually direct my gaze towards Asia, since this is where the most up-and-coming, cutting-edge, and bold trends emerge. And I predict that these five super hot Asian skin care trends will soon dominate your social media feeds and, potentially, also your bathroom shelves!

When it comes to skin care trends, I usually direct my gaze towards Asia, since this is where the most up-and-coming, cutting-edge, and bold trends emerge.


1. Maskne-Combating Skin Care

I am still dazedly in denial over the fact that so many of us believed that this pandemic would be magically over as soon as the clock hit 12 on New Year’s Eve. Of course, reality unfortunately set in really fast, and the truth is that we will all spend many more months wearing masks. Even once vaccinated we will not be 100 percent safe from the virus, and so mask-wearing will remain an essential part of our everyday lives for a long time.

Thus, “maskne”—acne caused by mask-wearing—will also keep pestering us throughout the first half of 2021, if not longer. Maskne is a tricky thing, and it is not easily treated, since the humid, warm climate under our masks is unfortunately the perfect breeding ground for blemishes, whiteheads, and inflammation.

In their quest to provide the perfect anti-maskne care, Asian beauty brands are bringing back reliable old favorites such as redness-fighting centella asiatica, skin-soothing panthenol, and antibacterial all-rounder propolis to counteract bacterial growth while maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Makeup is also becoming more skin-friendly, with blemish balms and tinted moisturizers, such as the immensely popular Phymongshe Aqua Blemish Cover Balm, making another pandemic-related comeback.


2. Microbiome-Friendly Skin Care

A massive trend in both Taiwan and Korea in particular is skin care specifically developed to support the skin’s natural microbiome. Our skin microbiome is a collection of microorganisms that live on the surface of our skin, often referred to as the “good bacteria” (though technically these organisms aren’t all bacteria) that keep our skin barrier healthy and intact. Treat the “bad guys” such as acne bacteria too harshly and we might accidentally also destroy the delicate balance of our skin-protecting microbiome. Harsh cleansers, too strong actives, or even too much or too little hydration in our routines may throw our skin’s natural bacterial defenses out of balance.

Lately, “microbiome-friendly” skin care has become a massive hit in Korea. Derma brands in particular, such as Dr. Jart+, have made an impact with their microbiome-respecting launches like the Vital Hydro Solution Biome Essence. Apparently, that particular Dr. Jart+ essence smells like slightly off “cheese water,” but given its lasting popularity I’m guessing this must mean its positive results are so impressive that the funky smell does not bother fans.

Now, some of the microbiome skin care recently launched is a bit … odd. Trendy K-beauty brand Centellian24, for instance, has developed their Tension-Up Microbiome Ampoule using microbiome cultures collected from the skin of people in their 20s. Apparently, these “youthful” microbiome cultures are supposed to bring youthfulness back to aging skin, improving firmness, texture, and collagen levels for plump, sexy skin. I don’t know about you, but in my 20s I had terrible adult acne and generally the worst skin of my life, so color me skeptical about this miracle ingredient.


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If you are interested in microbiome-friendly skin care, pharmacy brands such as La Roche-Posay, Avène, or Bioderma all offer a range of pro- and prebiotic skin care perfectly suited to keep our skin-protecting bacteria intact.


3. Sophisticated Body Care

Body care has always been more of an afterthought in the skin care world, with far less emphasis placed on finding skin type-appropriate, sensitive-skin friendly products. Lately, however, more and more body care-centric brands have been emerging that are taking a more holistic, multistep approach to beautifying the often neglected areas of our skin.

American clean beauty brand Nécessaire comes to mind, with their lusciously scented body products that ooze understated luxury. In Korea, Illiyoon has become a household name for affordable yet sophisticated and very gentle body care products, offering various textures and formulas to suit even the most fragile skin barrier.

For 2021, expect to see a whole new generation of body essences, exfoliators, and body washes—fragranced and fragrance-free—packed full with ingredient goodies such as ceramides, probiotics, or hyaluronic acid.

To get you started on developing your own spa-like, sophisticated body care routine, try French natural wellness brand L’Occitane, German organic celebrity favorite Dr. Hauschka, or eco-friendly Australian luxury brand Jurlique.


4. Single-Extract Essences

This Asian skin care trend started last year and is only getting stronger. Single-extract essences, ampoules, and serums have always been the main selling point of skinfluencer darling The Ordinary, and thus aren’t new per se. Asian skin care, however, rather shies away from highly concentrated actives and prefers to focus on natural plant extracts such as mugwort, houttuynia cordata, chaga mushrooms, or precious red ginseng.

Last year, 100 percent mugwort extract essences were the biggest thing to come out of Korea, but this year is all about heartleaf or houttuynia cordata, a cooking herb used in many Asian dishes or prepared as tea. K-beauty brand Goodal started the trend with its Houttuynia Cordata Calming Essence, which was one of the most popular Korean drugstore skin care products of 2020. Natural skin care brands ABIB and ANUA also launched a number of heartleaf-centered products, with the ANUA 77% Soothing Toner a strong contender to knock out the Goodal essence from its bestselling spot.

Meanwhile, natural indie brand Salar offers a variety of single extract essences and toners, with their Chaga Mushroom and Blackbean Ferment Essence Toners probably the most exciting and unique variations in the lineup. Trending K-beauty brand TirTir scored a hit during the pandemic with its Rosemary One Essence, which contains 100 percent rosemary extract from Jeju Island, a potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial herb perfect for maskne sufferers.


5. Vitamin C

This anti-aging, collagen-boosting skin superstar is of course not new to beauty insiders, but it has lately burst into the mainstream in new and exciting ways. Not only have high-dosage vitamin C serums become more affordable and more readily available, we now also have better textures to play with, thank god!

Though no product will probably ever manage to be more loved than the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum, more affordable brands from Korea have really been stepping up their vitamin C game. By Wishtrend managed to develop a less irritating, lower potency, water-based ascorbic acid serum that has been reviewed favorably by international influencers, while Korean skin care fans still prefer the less irritating vitamin C derivatives or even more “natural” vitamin C sources such as citrus fruit extracts.

Goodal’s Green Tangerine skin care range has dominated the brightening skin care category at Korean drugstore Olive Young for years now and is only growing stronger with each new product, the latest being an eye care cream and hydrating hydrogel patches. T’IAM launched the intriguing Vita Refre-C Toner, which mixes fresh vitamin C into a vitamin E enriched toner liquid with the touch of a button.


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It seems that the pandemic will continue to influence beauty trends this year, with consumers more focused on skin care than decorative cosmetics, and ingredients-based, science-backed functional skin care solutions at the top of most (online) shoppers’ wish lists for 2021.


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