Asian Beauty 101: How to Get That Dewy Glow
Posted on August 08 2019
Of all the contributions the Asian beauty trend has made to the Western beauty scene, the glorification of dewy skin may be the most impactful. There may always be room for a matte look, but fresh, glowing, bare (or bare-looking) skin is everywhere these days—it’s a look that’s both aspirational and down-to-earth. And though that dewy glow can be approximated with makeup, it’s best achieved through skincare. Instead of seeing our complexions as canvases to be painted over, we’re finding ways to make our skin a feature to be celebrated all on its own.
But though it appears effortless, bare(ish) skin with that coveted dewy finish does take work. It’s just that the work happens during our skincare routines rather than our makeup ones. Let’s explore how to get the look!
Hydrating Your Way to Dewy Skin
Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you to increase your water intake. Drinking an adequate amount of water every day is indisputably good for you, but I’ve never noticed much difference in the appearance of my skin when I’m less or more hydrated. No, I’m talking about hydrating your skin topically. Our skin may be our largest organ, but except in cases of dietary sensitivities causing breakouts or rashes, what we consume doesn’t affect it nearly as much as what we put on it.
By far the most critical thing you can do to achieve the dewy look is to pack your skin full of hydration. Asian hydrating toners (sometimes called “lotion” or “skin”), water-based serums, and sheet masks all help to add water to skin using humectants, which bind water so that skin can absorb it. Look for products containing glycerin and/or hyaluronic acid—these common and inexpensive ingredients help plump your skin up and keep it moist and radiant.
Of all the different hydrating product types available, I consider sheet masks the best and quickest way to a dewy complexion. I’ve been sheet masking almost every day for several years now, and I see a definite difference in the moisture content, elasticity, and general health of my skin compared to when I go too long without a good mask session.
Sheet masks are so effective for one main reason: the sheet. No matter what it’s made of, the “sheet” part of a sheet mask forms a physical barrier on skin, preventing the large volume of hydrating essence from evaporating and giving your skin time to absorb it in far greater quantities than it could without the mask.
What the mask is made of is important, though. The closer a mask sheet can fit and cling to your skin, the stronger the barrier it forms against evaporation, allowing for best results. That’s one of the reasons I go back to Taiwanese sheet masks again and again. While there are Korean sheet masks with materials of comparable adherence and comfort to the Taiwanese silk masks, I find the Korean versions are generally much more expensive to get here in the US. Taiwanese masks tend to be more affordable by the box here. And getting them by the box matters, since I mask regularly and like to have plenty of my favorites on hand!
When looking for a sheet mask to help me achieve that dewy glow, I look for a few things:
- Thin, pliable silk mask sheet, for the best fit
- A large volume of essence—at least 20ml per packet
- A hydrating, alcohol-free essence with humectants and anti-inflammatory plant extracts, to plump skin while reducing redness and evening out skin tone
The gold standard for me at the moment is the Annie’s Way Hyaluronic Acid + Seaweed Hydrating Mask, which I used for my first IGTV video, a demonstration of proper mask fit. The ultra-soft sheet clings like a second skin and carries a generous amount of essence with it. The humectant content in the essence allows the mask to stay moist for 45 minutes, so my skin can drink its fill. Removing the mask reveals bouncy, incredibly hydrated skin that’s so calm and bright it takes on a milky, translucent glow. LOVE. I’ve been using these masks several times a week!
Locking in the Hydration
The second step to achieving a lasting dewy glow is making sure your skin holds in the hydration you’ve just poured on it. Watery, humectant-packed products are great for boosting your skin’s water levels, but unless you seal it in with an appropriate moisturizer afterwards, the water will evaporate from your skin quickly.
For the dewy look without a greasy finish, I find that hydrating and relatively lightweight moisturizers work best. Oilier skin can get away with water-based gel moisturizers. For normal and drier skin, I love moisturizers with a gel-cream consistency, containing richer emollient ingredients but balanced with plenty of water and humectants. The driest complexions benefit from adding a drop or two of facial oil to their moisturizer to really supplement the moisture-retaining properties of the moisturizer.
The final piece to the dewy skin puzzle is the texture of the surface of your skin. A smooth surface reflects light more evenly than a rough one, so for maximum radiance, you may find your skin benefits from some exfoliation to remove excess dead skin cells.
When it comes to exfoliation, though, my advice is to start out as gentle as possible and work your way slowly up in terms of strength until you find your sweet spot. Overexfoliation causes a whole host of problems, including rapid moisture loss, sensitivity, breakouts, and rough texture, and overexfoliation takes a lot of time to heal.
If you haven’t exfoliated much before, start with the mildest options possible. Peeling gels are a great option, as are konjac sponges if you prefer tools over products. Peeling gels can be used a couple of times a week, konjac sponges every day.
Going from there, if you feel your skin could use something stronger, a gentle rice or sugar scrub or an acid toner with 5-8% AHA at a pH between 3 and 4 will be effective without being too powerful. Don’t use a physical exfoliant more than once a week, and only use the acid toner a couple of times a week until you’re confident that more frequent use won’t compromise your skin.
For most skin, a daily AHA at a maximum of 8% will be enough. If you still feel your textural issues demand stronger treatments, chemical peels and microdermabrasion treatments are options, but I’m very cautious about recommending those. Asking a dermatologist or qualified esthetician for advice is a good idea if you want to explore those avenues.
Final Note: What About Face Mists?
Face mists come up pretty often in discussions about achieving the dewy look. Personally, I can live without them (and generally do). A face mist can feel nice and refreshing on a hot day, especially straight out of the fridge, but ultimately, I don’t find them useful. Whatever dewiness they impart disappears as quickly as the mist evaporates. I use mists in place of toner occasionally, but more for fun than for any special benefits. If your budget is limited, focus on the sheet masks, moisturizer, and exfoliation (in that order), and pass on the mists.
I hope this helped you learn what you need to know to get the dewy look. Give some Taiwanese sheet masks a try, seal it all in with a good moisturizer, refine your skin texture with some occasional exfoliation, and enjoy the glow!
-Guest article by Jude Chao