The latest in skin-care trends, straight from the other side of the world.

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Daunting is the word we think of when describing how one can feel when navigating the skin-care aisles. With new products and innovations popping up each week, it’s difficult to keep up with which topicals are best for our skin. Europe dominated the skin-care market in the past, but we now look to a different part of the world for new innovations: Asia. With the continent rooted in cultural traditions of craving brighter and more luminous skin, it’s no surprise the technology has made its way to us, making it easier than ever to achieve the enviable glowing complexion. To help us deconstruct this topic, we chatted with Dr. Martie Gidon, MD, FRCPC, FAAD, a cosmetic dermatologist at Gidon Aesthetics & MediSpa, Michelle Lee, founder of MaskerAide Inc., and Kristen Ma, co-founder of Pure + Simple, to help us understand what some of these Orient-based innovations are and how they can benefit our skin.

Whether it’s just the ingredients or more specifically the products themselves, Japan, China and Korea have become the epicentres for cutting-edge technology and ingredients—from green tea for its antioxidant qualities to snail slime for its anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties. While bee venom and snail slime may not be at the top of your list of treatments just yet, these innovations remain within arm’s reach so we can incorporate them into our beauty regimens.

Sheet Masks

Most people don’t know that sheet masks are actually an Asian innovation and have been used in Japan for over a decade now, while North America was slow to get on board. The benefits of sheet masks abound. “[Sheet masks] have a functional design, are mess-free and act as an incubator,” locking in all of that goodness you’re putting on your skin, explains Lee. Many brands have made their mark with sheet masks, including MaskerAide, which offers six options for different skin-care types and concerns while incorporating various ingredients, such as ylang-ylang oil, argan oil, hydrolyzed collagen, vitamin E and elastin, to promote smooth, hydrated and younger-looking skin ($6 each, maskeraide.com). The key to getting the most out of sheet masks: Use them weekly or as needed, according to your skin concerns.

Our favourites:

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Jurlique Purely Age-Defying Firming Treatment Mask ($69, Holt Renfrew) and Pure + Simple Skin Restoration Mask ($17, pureandsimple.ca)

Konjac Sponges

Dubbed “the next big thing,” konjac sponges (pronounced like the classy brandy cognac) are made from konjac roots, which originate in various parts of Asia. As Ma explains, they are a “more environmental answer to cleansing cloths, as well as satisfying our desire for smoother skin through regular exfoliation.” Konjac root is a deep-cleansing substance that is also commonly used as a gluten-free dietary option, but when it comes to skin care, konjac sponges are the winners for buffing skin to a smooth and soft finish while removing blackheads and leaving skin thoroughly cleansed and polished. Hard when dry but a gel-like sponge when wet, these little exfoliators pack a serious punch. And with a range already available from Boscia, including the Konjac Cleansing Sponge ($19, sephora.ca)—and, rumour has it, another coming from the makers of MaskerAide later this fall—they will be popping up all over the place.

Liquid Lotions

Serums aren’t new, but the latest trend of liquid lotions, softeners and concentrates harnesses the power of a serum in an in-between product that’s basically a hybrid serum-moisturizer. Liquid lotions are “light-textured products similar to a serum and meant to be used under moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid [for moisture], antioxidants or sunscreen,” explains Dr. Gidon.

Our favourites:

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Sephora Liquid Moisturizing Skin Concentrate ($28, sephora.ca) is lightweight, so the skin can absorb it and reap the hydrating benefits while it leaves our skin illuminated and smooth. We love it because it adds that extra layer of skin-quenching goodness throughout the cold winter months.

Infused with a derivative of the shiitake mushroom, the Shiseido Ibuki Softening Concentrate ($30, sephora.ca) moisturizes skin deeply while also building skin’s resistance to external stressors.

Finally, Living Proof Neotensil (purchased through a medical professional, for more information go to livingproof.com) is a targeted under-eye treatment that acts as a shrink wrap of sorts to diminish the appearance of fine lines while protecting the most sensitive skin on your face.

Brighteners & Toners

Most people crave luminous and bright skin—that sort of glow that comes from the inside out. While skin whiteners and lighteners have been used in Asia to achieve a fairer complexion in line with cultural beauty ideals, Ma explains how they’ve evolved for the North American market “to target pigmentation, sun spots and aging skin.”

Our favourites:

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The Ultimate Aqua Blanc lineup of products ($15 to $46, racinne.ca) reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation and helps even out skin tone with its key ingredient, snow lotus callus. Racinne’s research and development is based in Korea, making it one of the leaders in the brightening trend.

Vivier Pharma Vivierskin Seequin 4 IDS ($136, medical spas and clinics) is a medical-grade skin brightener with a high concentrate of vitamin C in its formula, which is an anti-aging force to be reckoned with that promotes laminated skin.

BB Creams & CC Creams

Not exactly new on the beauty front, BBs and CCs are now makeup staples for beauty gurus. Catering to the need of many on-the-go women for multi-purpose products, Ma attributes much of their success to the natural finish they provide. Ma further explains that BB and CC creams follow the Korean “cushion compact” trend of makeup application—lightweight formulas deposited by sponge bases—that achieves that natural and dewy glow many people covet.

Our favourites:

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Guerlain Super Aqua-Serum BB Hydra+ ($85, Guerlain counters) employs the technology of a serum, as well as offering lightweight coverage and a smooth base that minimizes the appearance of fine lines.

The next step in the evolution of skin care is the CC cream. Meant to “colour correct” while enhancing skin’s natural features, Biotherm Aquasource CC Gel ($38, biotherm.ca) is a lightweight formula that corrects uneven skin tone and conceals blemishes while enhancing skin’s natural luminosity.