10 Beauty secrets my Korean grandmother has passed down to me
10 Beauty secrets my Korean grandmother has passed down to me ; Growing up in Korea, I was surrounded by seas of lotions, creams and moisturizers everywhere I went; therefore, I never second-guessed the importance of skincare.
However, despite all the craze today around the ten-step Korean skincare regimen, the ubiquity of topical products after products, all of the different ingredients popping up here and there (from snail oil to placenta-infused creme), the only Korean Skincare ritual that my family has passed down to me, the only regimen my Korean matriarch, my grandmother, has strictly ingrained into my brain, is the one spoken about the least: the Korean diet.
And here are 10 beauty secrets my Korean grandmother has passed down to me:
GO TO THE BATHROOM, A LOT, WHETHER IT’S NUMBER ONE OR NUMBER TWO.
This may be the most important rule of all. If you go number one often, it means you’re well-hydrated. And that’s what your skin needs to look dewy, and hydrated. Hydration! If you go number two often, it means you’re excreting the toxins out of your system. And these toxins are what cause your skin those problems, it makes sense why their exit would be so beneficial for the health of our skin. Here’s where probiotics come in: for those of you who aren’t so familiar, Korean cuisine is always a balanced meal of grilled protein, rice (rarely bread), brothy soups, and lots of fermented vegetables as side dishes, such as kimchi, and miso paste.
Kimchi, a fermented, pickled cabbage iconic to our culture, is dense with minerals, vitamins A, B and C, fat-free and most importantly, loaded with probiotics, a gut-friendly bacteria that take shelter in your stomach once ingestion.
And how do these little probiotic soldiers help our skin? What probiotics do for our health and our skin, is almost immeasurable: our stomach, AKA the “second brain,” is actually the ruler of our overall health. And when our stomachs are off (think constipation, diarrhea, even just too much of the wrong food), our skin takes a beating almost immediately.
With probiotics, however, our stomach achieves that needed homeostasis much more easily: by being able to fend off a lot of what causes these problems and supporting the excretion process of pushing the radical toxins out of our system, our skin becomes stronger, happier, and healthier.
OVERDOSE ON FISH SKIN ( COLLAGEN ).
My grandmother took the “overfeed your grandchildren” to a new level (not complaining), and it was one of her biggest signs of affection when, after taking the bones out of the fish, she would chopstick over a chunk of the grilled fish on to my bowl of piping hot rice, instead of eating it herself (In Korea, since everyone knows all of the “good stuff,” aka the collagen, is in the skin of the fish, it was quite the symbol of love when she would give it away.)
Also fun fact: looking back, this is one of the funniest things my Korean school did: every day at 3PM, parent volunteers would come in to our class, and hand out 3 big pieces of anchovies for us to eat, so the collagen in it can help our bones stronger and help us grow.
NEVER GO A DAY WITHOUT BONE BROTH ( AKA COLLAGEN ).
Every Korean meal is accompanied with a bowl of hot soup, with bone broth as the base (chicken / beef / fish). There’s so much collagen in those soups, that after you’re finished with it, your lips are sticky (something you’ll witness as well, after a glass of collagen elixies).
STAY AWAY FROM DESSERTS AND ALCOHOL.
At the end of every meal, Koreans eat apples, tangerines, Korean pears, and watermelon, for dessert. We rarely eat cookies, bread or pastries– I never even knew what a chocolate chip cookie was, until I moved to California at the age of ten. Only very once in a while, Koreans indulge in bread, usually in the form of a small pastry or a birthday cake made with wholesome ingredients (would you believe me if I told you I had never had a peanut butter jelly sandwich until I was 10?).
Korean also often lack the enzyme to break down alcohol: essentially, what that means, is that alcohol is possibly poisonous to many of us (up to 44% of Koreans are born without this enzyme). Due to this, many Koreans rarely drink unless they are going on a celebratory bender (which I am in no way recommending that here); I probably have fewer than 1 cocktail a week. I was always a bit surprised to hear that some people drink 1–2 glasses of wine before bed; this sounds more painful to me than enjoyable.
The reason why we need to stay away from sugar and alcohol is mainly that we need to protect our liver. The liver is crucial in producing these healing agents that body needs to generate skin tissue, muscles, bones and hair.
STAY HYDRATED, AND DRINK LOTS OF FILTERED WATER AND TEA. LOTS OF IT.
This may be the most important rule of all. Growing up, I drank only filtered water. It was unheard of, to drink from the tap (really, every household has a water purification machine that you only see in doctor’s offices here in the states), so my fridge was always filled with pints and pints of the highest-quality water. Often, there are radicals in unfiltered water that bother our system, and therefore our skin— so don’t risk it — always go with filtered!
For your skin to look dewy and glowing, it needs to be hydrated at the cellular level, and usually, dry skin is caused by dehydration of the body, or malnourishment of certain fats. So remembering to drink throughout the day, is really important.
When you drink a lot of water, you’re also able to excrete the toxins out of your system faster.
EXFOLIATE ALL YOUR DEAD SKIN CELLS (“DDEH”) AWAY.
I grew up attending communal bath houses with my aunts and mothers, where we would dedicate a whole day to bathing, spending hours in saunas, and getting our skin exfoliated professionally with these viscose fabric mitts (the traditional, old school version of the electronic brushes that we use today).
Koreans take exfoliating to another level: we call the residual, dead skin cells “ddeh,” and once in a while, will scrub our skin raw—head to toe—to make sure that we have shed our outermost layer. When I moved to Los Angeles, and realized that this was not a regular activity in the States, I was so shocked.
SUNBLOCK, SUNBLOCK, SUNBLOCK. OR PARASOL.
Koreans are probably the only human beings that wear hats, scarves and long gloves in 100 degree plus weather, boiling hot weather– and not because we get cold to easily, but because we are trying to protect our skin.
We don’t go anywhere without applying sunblock, even on raining days; we sometimes cancel plans and don’t even go outside if it’s too hot, solely for the reason that it may be too damaging to our skin. And what do we use if there are no winter apparel to prevent the UV radiation? Parasols.
NEVER FORGET TO WASH YOUR FACE, OR HAVE A SEH-SU.
My grandmother didn’t ever push the ten-step regimen at me or any of my siblings, growing up. But what she did strictly enforce, is the seh-su.
She always told me, “think of all of the dirt and residue that is sitting on your skin after a day in this polluted city. Do you want to all those dirt bugs in your pillowcase?” (I may never go to sleep peacefully again, but this is probably my most effective reminder.)
LISTEN TO YOUR SKIN.
It’s a totally acceptable question in Korea to ask, “why does your skin look like that?”– not because we condone rude comments, but because our health conditions can be truly reflected in our skin. Koreans are deduce someone’s overall health or emotional state by assessing one’s skin– and it makes complete sense why: our skin is among the first organs to reflect any signs of nutritional deficiencies or imbalance. We can often tell what’s going at the cellular level when we study the condition of our skin.