The Difference Between American and Korean Hair Products

By June 5, 2018

What’s the difference between American and Korean hair products? Here, we highlight what sets Korean products apart from their Western counterparts.

As some of my friends and followers of @ms.hairista know, I have become a huge fan of Korean beauty products over the past year.

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I have a thick head of tight curls, and I always brushed off the idea of using Korean hair products. Luckily, the cosmetologist in me realized that Korean hair care works beyond the scope of straight silky hair. Here’s why:

Korean hair care is all about lightweight oils and essences while American products have heavier formulas

Like skin essences, hair essences provide moisture in a lightweight, liquid, or lotion formula. Essences nourish the hair with concentrated ingredients to leave strands smooth and silky. Many hairstylists in Seoul swear by the idea of using a hair oil or essence on the daily, claiming they should be an essential part of everyone’s hair regimen. Many of these essences also come in oil form, leaving a thin barrier to protect strands. Hair essences, even those with an oil based formula, like the British M Organics Annatto Hair Oil, are meant to provide moisture without weighing hair down.

Unlike Korean essences, American hair moisturizers don’t necessarily focus on feather-weight formulas. American moisturizers can come in any form, from a lightweight conditioning spray to a thick, oil-based cream. Because Americans have such a variety of hair types and textures, there is a wider range in the consistency that moisturizers and leave-in products come in.

Korean products use more natural ingredients while American products with more synthetics

Unlike American hair products, Korean products like to keep it as natural as possible. For this reason, Korean hair care products tend to smell a lot like the ingredients that are in them. These floral and lighter herbal scents are not something us Americans are used to and might seem unappealing compared to the intense “passion fruit punch” or “mango dragonfruit” that’s labeled on a lot of American products.

I’m not going to lie, I’m a sucker for an “in your face” fragrance that makes my hair smell like peaches for days! But with that said, limiting the use of synthetically-fragranced products would be useful to those with fragrance sensitivities, which is apparently growing by the number.

Ingredients also strongly impact the quality of the product. For example, The Korean La’dor Triplex Natural Shampoo gives such a full yet gentle lather and leaves my hair feeling soft. With ingredients like turmeric, lavender, and lemon oil, this cleanser doesn’t strip my hair at all. Clean and soft hair without excessive dryness is the result that a quality cleansing product should leave behind, and the quality ingredients in this Korean shampoo allows this quality experience to take place.

Korean products focus on scalp health, while American products focus more on hair health

Once of the biggest differences between American and Korean hair care is the emphasis on scalp health on the Korean side. While Americans tend to focus on the manageability of the actual strands, Koreans believe the scalp should be the first thing to take into account. Scalp treatments and exfoliators are considered the foundation of a solid Korean hair care regimen. For this reason, many Korean hairstylists start their service with a scalp massage—a service that can often be considered an add-on for American stylists.

A large factor in how healthy hair grows is due to the condition of the scalp and the hair follicles. Products like British M’s Ethic Treatment claim to nourish the scalp and strengthen hair follicles, promoting shinier and healthier hair. I have also recently been loving the La’dor Tea Tree Clinic Scalp Pack, which removes scalp sebum and dead skin cells. The refreshing tingle makes you feel like you are actually starting with a clean foundation and brings the idea of “wash day” to a whole new level!

A lack of scalp maintenance can result in dandruff, an itchy scalp, infections, and a series of undesirable scalp conditions. Make sure not skip out on scalp treatments to keep your hair care routine in line.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to hair care systems, Koreans focus on prevention while Americans focus on manageability. As a hairstylist myself, I definitely believe that we shouldn’t let the K-beauty regimens slip us by as just a recent trend. Too many of us pile on hair products as if it’s our last chance in life to have a good hair day, but we fail to give mind to the effects of the substances we use on our bodies.

With that said, no one is asking you to completely let go of the Herbal Essences products you love so dearly. Indulging in our most-loved products and maintaining a healthy hair routine are not mutually exclusive. It’s about putting your health first while using products that create a luscious hair routine you can look forward to every day.

+ What do you think is the difference between American and Korean hair products? Share your thoughts below!

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