22 February 2020
South Korea is known to be a trendsetting superpower when it comes to beauty, skincare and dermatological innovations. The beauty trends in South Korea- from makeup to skincare and medical treatments- tend to set the direction for the trends in Asia and the world. Some of the biggest beauty trends like gradient lip colors, glass skin, Rejuran Healer and the Hiko nose thread lift originated from South Korea a couple of years ago and remain popular in Singapore and Asia. Non-Asian countries have also followed suit with these treatments making headway into Australia and Europe.
Two months ago, I was in the epicenter of K-beauty and Korean plastic surgery, Seoul for a global threadlift conference. During this trip, I had the opportunity to touch base with Korea’s leading plastic surgeons and dermatologists. It was an honor to learn from and gain new insight from these top doctors and their experiences in Seoul. A lot of these insights and tips were very useful in refining my aesthetic practice in Singapore to ensure even safer and better outcomes for my patients.
One of the highlights for me when I attend conferences like these is to learn from unpublished data and findings from experts. Even though there is a wealth of published studies for us doctors to refer to, there is still a time lag from when these findings finally get published in mainstream journals to be accessed. Expert meetings like these also allow doctors to learn from each other and understand the aesthetic trends and directions in medical innovation in the next few years at least.
I’ve written this post on beauty and anti-aging dermatological trends in Korea to share with you for 2020. These insights were gained from my trip to Seoul and the doctors that I met. I believe that these trends will inevitably shape the direction of trends and our ideas and concepts of beauty in Singapore in a matter of time. So here’s your sneak peek into the future of beauty, anti-aging and skincare trends!
Stem cell therapies are slated to be the next breakthrough in anti-aging and rejuvenation of the skin. If you stroll along the streets of Gangnam, you will find many dermatological clinics offering stem cell treatments alongside aesthetic staples like Botox and dermal filler injections. Stem cells are widely considered to hold promise for conditions and diseases where few successful treatments are available such as cerebral palsy and strokes.
Stem cells are the undifferentiated in our bodies that have the ability to develop into more specialised cells like blood, brain and whole organs. Because of their unique ability to develop into other cells, stem cells are thought to have tremendous potential to replace cells and tissues damaged by disease, aging or injury. One of the most well known uses of stem cell therapies is stem cell transplants for leukemia.
All of us have stem cells in our bodies; stem cells can be found in our skin, blood and fats. In the skin, stem cells can be used to regenerate collagen in the skin and form collagen building cells (i.e. fibroblasts) and repair damaged and aged skin at a molecular and cellular level1.
Some studies have shown that stem cell injections into the skin of the face lead to increase in collagen and elastin formation in the skin, overall improvement in skin hydration and elasticity and reversal of signs of aging such as wrinkles2,3. Some studies have also shown that stem cell injections can also lighten pigmentation4. Stem cells also have a role in hair regeneration; stem cells have been found to reverse some of the causes of hair loss and regenerate hair follicles5. Some doctors offer stem cell treatments for the face as standalone treatments for anti-aging; some prefer to combine stem cells together with other treatments such as dermal fillers and fractional CO2 laser. Stem cells can improve the recovery from fractional CO2 laser and build even more collagen.
Before you start looking for stem cell injections for your skin or hair growth; please note that stem cell injections or therapies are not approved in Singapore by the Ministry of Health for dermatological or aesthetic treatments. Stem cell therapy is not considered mainstream medicine in Singapore. Stem cell treatments are not without its controversies too. Most of the successful treatments that you might have come across regarding stem cell injections are considered experimental.
Most stem cell therapies are unproven and can be potentially harmful, especially if improperly administered or administered without safe protocols. Most stem cell clinics overseas are at best loosely regulated by local authorities, if at all. Complications, such as growth of tumors and loss of vision have been reported after these patients received stem cell treatments in the US, Mexico and China.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy is another controversial medical treatment that has achieved a cult status (along with penis foreskin facials) thanks to famous celebrity fans like Kim Kardashian.
In platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, blood is first withdrawn from your arm. The blood is then centrifuged to separate the platelet rich plasma component of blood. It is this platelet rich plasma component that is introduced back into the skin via injections, microneedling or fractional CO2 laser. This platelet rich plasma component contains at least 6 types of growth factors. Growth factors are proteins in our bodies that stimulate wound healing, collagen formation, new blood vessel growth for repair and rejuvenation of the skin and scalp6.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy is also nicknamed vampire facial. Just like stem cell injections, platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been used in facial skin rejuvenation, hair restoration and wound healing6. Acne scar, wrinkles and stretch marks have also been treated with platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections7..
I’ve a detailed post on platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy/ vampire facials for the skin and face and you can read about it in this post Vampire Facials and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). At this point you might be wondering about the differences between stem cell therapy vs platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections. Even though treatments have similar benefits, fundamental differences exist in their functions, composition and preparation.
Platelet rich plasma therapy consists of a mixture of platelets and growth factors obtained from blood. In stem cell therapy, a mixture of undifferentiated stem cells obtained from blood and other sources such as bone marrow and embryos are used.
The mechanism of action is also different for stem cell therapy vs platelet rich plasma therapy. Stem cells have the potential to regenerate new cells and tissues to repair damaged tissues. In platelet rich plasma, the growth factors cause regeneration and repair. The range of applications and conditions for stem cell treatments are also potentially wider than platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy.
Similar to stem cell therapy, platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatments for face, hair and skin are not allowed in Singapore. Currently in Singapore, platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections are only allowed for repair of injured Archilles tendons and ligaments.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy is also not without its risks. Some of the reported risks of platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy. As mentioned in my blogpost on PRP injections, there are 2 confirmed cases of HIV transmission after these patients underwent PRP injections on their face (vampire facial).
There is a safer alternative to stem cell therapy and PRP/ vampire facial injections: Rejuran Healer. Rejuran Healer is one of the most sought after treatments in my clinic in Singapore and avoids some of the controversies surrounding stem cell treatments and platelet rich plasma injections/ vampire facials.
Also known as Baby Skin injections or 婴儿针, Rejuran Healer injections contain salmon DNA fragments called polynucleotides (PN) or polydeoxyribonucleotides (PDRN). My post Rejuran Healer: What You Need to Know Before Getting It will explain the mechanisms and benefits of Rejuran Healer/ Salmon PDRN injections in detail. Essentially, salmon DNA fragments and PDRN have been used for decades in plastic surgery and dermatology for wound healing, skin rejuvenation, pigmentation treatment and hair growth.
Salmon DNA/ PDRN kickstarts the regenerative capacity of the cells when injected into the skin leading to tissue repair. This leads to skin healing and repairing itself from damage due to aging, sun exposure and acne; while building collagen in the skin. Some of the benefits Rejuran Healer are:
● Increased collagen levels and reversal of signs of aging e.g. fine lines and wrinkles
● Smaller pores ● Reduced and shallower depth of depressed acne scars
● Better skin hydration and texture
● Improved skin recovery
These benefits of salmon DNA/ PDRN make Rejuran Healer a versatile skin treatment for most skin types- whether you are looking for all round skin rejuvenation; wanting to treat signs of aging or even age proof your skin or treat depressed acne scars. These results of Rejuran Healer can be seen as early as 4 weeks after treatments.
If you’re considering getting Rejuran Healer treatments, please take the needle marks and bruising are slight but may be obvious for some. Recovery typically takes 3-7 days. Rejuran Healer is also a treatment for the skin; it does not correct issues deeper to the skin like sagging and deeper wrinkles. For best results when it comes to correcting signs of aging, combination treatments with other therapies like Botox, dermal fillers or thread lifts can be considered.
Skip-care is the antithesis to the elaborate, multi-step skincare routines that have come to define Korean beauty regimes in 2020. For busy women (like myself) looking for an effective and efficient approach to their daily skin care routines, skip-care is a breath of fresh air in the beauty/skin care scene where we constantly get overwhelmed with new ingredients and messages where more is better.
In skip-care, beauty products and steps are streamlined to a couple of essentials. The advantage of skip-step is that it avoids some of the problems with multi step skincare routines such comedones and skin irritation.
The concept of skip-step isn’t new; it is something that I’ve been recommending my patients and readers: understanding your skin’s issues and conditions and using active ingredients in skincare products to target these problems- be it hyperpigmentation, acne, sensitive skin…etc. For example, vitamin C and sunscreens are a power pair in the day time; ceramides for sensitive skin or during colder climates…etc. Focus on what your skin needs, do away with excess and maximise the steps in your skin care routine. Personally, I use a 3 step skincare routine every morning and night.
For guides on choosing multi-tasking skincare ingredients, active ingredients and reviews, you can read my posts:
Some of you might not realise this, but you might already be using botanical skincare. Botanical skincare ingredients refer to skincare ingredients that are derived from plants. Plant oils like marula oil and rose hip oils are common examples of botanical skin care.
Botanicals ingredients are trending right now because of their ‘natural’, ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ appeal. Three trending botanical ingredients right now are Bakuchiol, CBD and Centella Asiatica (aka cica).
Centella Asiatic is also known as cica or tiger grass in skincare. When I was in Seoul, I found that Cica is the star ingredient in products from a wide range of brands such as Dr. Jart and Tamburins.
The use of cica in skincare products was inspired after it was discovered that tigers rub their wounds against this plant for wound healing… apparently. Some of the benefits of cica include reducing inflammation and calming irritated and sensitive skin. I picked up a couple of Cica containing products from Dr. Jart to try and I’ll be sharing my review and an in depth look at Cica in another post.
Nose threadlifts and face threadlifts aren’t new, but remain a popular alternative to surgery as the longer recovery times and risks of rhinoplasty and facelift surgeries deter many. The Hiko nose thread lift and threadlifts of the face and neck still highly favoured in Korea where plastic surgery for nose and face augmentation are normalised.
The main reason why I was in Korea was to attend the MINT threadlift World Expert Conference in Seoul. It was an eye opening experience for me to meet and learn from world experts in the field of threadlifts and dermatology. Most of the plastic surgeons and dermatologists that I met in Seoul were very open in sharing the latest research findings and developments in threadlifts and non-surgical rhinoplasties and face lifts.
The central position of the nose in the face makes it an anchoring point for our eyes when we look at someone’s face. The shape and height of our noses also affect the rest of our facial features the three dimensional profile of our faces. For example a flat and broad nose bridge may make the eyes look further apart.
Nose thread lifts are a safe and effective non-surgical option for nose enhancement. Several dissolvable threads are placed in the nose bridge and nose tip. These threads help to lift up the nose bridge and tip for a higher and slimmer nose bridge and nose tip. The threads used in nose thread lifts also have the advantage of enhancing collagen formation; so even though the threads naturally dissolve away, the results of the nose thread lift can be sustained for a longer duration.
To see how a nose threadlift is done and an FAQ on nose thread lifts and nose fillers, please read my post, Hiko nose threadlift: All You Need to Know.
Face threadlifts are a popular treatment choice in Korea to lift and slim the face. According to the doctors that I met in Korea, each patient gets 4-5 pairs of threads on average to lift and contour their face. This minimally invasive treatment lifts up sagging in the face and neck and is especially useful for treating jowling, laugh lines (nasolabial folds), marionette lines and double chins. For patients looking for immediate results or have severe sagging, face threadlifts are a safe option. Just like the nose threadlift, face threadlifts also have the advantage of increased collagen formation for sustained results.
Nose thread lifts and face threadlifts will continue to trend in 2020 and years to come; with newer thread types and more refined techniques for safer and better results. Already, we have seen threadlifts evolve tremendously in the last decade with newer thread materials and improved techniques. These improvements have translated into better safety and longer lasting results for patients.
And there you have it, a look into what’s new and trending in Korea; which will set the direction for the beauty treatments and skincare trends in Asia in the next few years. More sustainable skincare and beauty options like botanicals and skip-care look to be popular in the next couple of years in Korea and Asia. Although some treatments that highly sought after in Seoul, stem cell therapy and PRP injections are controversial and are not allowed in Singapore. However, treatments that build collagen in the skin and tissue for skin rejuvenation and sustained results like Rejuran Healer and threadlifts are available in Singapore and seem likely to remain popular.
1. Current and Future Perspectives of Stem Cell Therapy in Dermatology. Prodinger et al. Ann Dermatol. 2017 Dec; 29(6): 667–687.
2. The efficacy of conditioned media of adipose-derived stem cells combined with ablative carbon dioxide fractional resurfacing for atrophic acne scars and skin rejuvenation. Zhou et al. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2016;18:138–48
3. Improvement of photoaged skin wrinkles with cultured human fibroblasts and adipose-derived stem cells: a comparative study. Zhou et al. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2015;68:372–81.
4. Whitening effects of adipose-derived stem cells: a preliminary in vivo study. Chang et al. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2014;38:230–3.
5. Advances in Regenerative Stem Cell Therapy in Androgenic Alopecia and Hair Loss: Wnt pathway, Growth-Factor, and Mesenchymal Stem Cell Signaling Impact Analysis on Cell Growth and Hair Follicle Development. Gentile and Garcovich. Cells. 2019 May 16;8(5).
6. Current Evidence for Clinical Efficacy of Platelet Rich Plasma in Aesthetic Surgery: A Systematic Review. Frautschi et al. Aesthet Surg J. 2017 Mar 1;37(3):353-362.
7. Systematic review of the use of platelet-rich plasma in aesthetic dermatology. Leo et al. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015 Dec;14(4):315-23