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The K-Beauty Menagerie: 4 Unique Skincare Ingredients Worth Trying


The K-Beauty Menagerie: 4 Unique Skincare Ingredients Worth Trying
Ruth Kim
Ruth Kim

Sep 05, 2017

Remember when you first eww'd at the thought of smearing snail slime all over your face? You soon learned what wonders the gastropod could do for your skin. So don't sniff at the latest "unusual" ingredients coming out of Korea. Find out why beauty lovers are making a beeline for these brow-raising, unique skincare ingredients, from donkey milk to horse oil (and no, there’s no animal cruelty involved!).



Korean skincare doesn’t horse around. If an ingredient can benefit your skin and be infused in a cream or essence, then you bet it’ll make its way into the next headline-making product on the front page of K-beauty — even if said ingredient is, uh, literally straight from the horse’s mouth. Yep, today we’re talking horse oil, plus three more unusual ingredients you’ve seen on your beauty radar. So let’s make like a fish and dive right in. 

Horse Oil


We’re off to the races with horse oil, an ingredient that deserves a brief preface. Contrary to what you might think, no horses are harmed specifically for the making of horse oil-infused skincare products. In fact, the oil is a byproduct of horses that are processed for their meat — and before you inhale sharply in shock, know that horses, like cows and pigs, are commonly killed for human consumption in countries like Belgium, Japan, Italy, Kazakhstan, and many other countries outside of the U.S. But rest assured that the oil used in skincare products comes from the byproduct from the horses that have already passed on.


unique skincare ingredients


So what’s so great about horse oil? For starters, it contains a surprising amount of linolenic acid, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that work wonders to moisturize, repair, and prevent inflammation on the skin. The skincare fanatic behind beauty blog Vanity Rex goes in-depth in her spotlight on horse oil, her findings backed heavily by research on the oil’s promising antibacterial and redness-reducing properties. But the most appealing aspect of horse oil is that its composition is like that of human sebum, which essentially means it penetrates more quickly into your skin, resulting in “sustained moisture” for your skin, explains beauty blogger Mrs. James.


Feed your horse oil curiosity with the Get It Beauty favorite, Guerisson 9 Complex Cream, which is touted for providing 72 hours of lasting moisture and lightening dark spots with the help of vitamin E, ceramides, and extracts of peppermint leaf, apple mint leaf, sage and rosemary. Horse oil also comes in the form of hand creams, horse fat-infused sheet masks, and soothing gel creams.


Donkey and Goat Milk


Milk has long been known for its health and beauty perks (hello, Cleopatra). Enriched with a cocktail of vitamins and nutritious minerals, the creamy white liquid moisturizes dry skin, promotes healthy cells, and diminishes fine lines by strengthening the skin’s elasticity. Best of all, milk contains lactic acid, a naturally-derived AHA that gently exfoliates to reveal a smoother and brighter complexion.


unique skincare ingredients


In particular, donkey milk has been a popular choice for cosmetic use, as it contains 60 times more vitamin C than cow’s milk. Rich in fatty acids and ceramides, donkey milk forms a protective layer on skin for ultimate moisture retention. Proponents give high praise to the milk for its skin compatibility, which means it’s friendly to sensitive and normal skin types. Additionally, goat milk is another lactose alternative that’s high in lactic acid with skin-toning properties.


Add some dairy to your skincare routine with moisturizing creams infused with goat milk or donkey milk, as well as in a variety of skincare fare. The Imselene Donkey Milk Holic Sleeping Mask Pack is a current hot product for its ultra-hydrating properties that you can slather onto skin right before you hit the hay.


Bird’s Nest


unique skincare ingredients


Another bizarre (and slightly controversial) ingredient making its way into youth-rejuvenating creams and sheet masks is bird’s nest. No, we aren’t talking about twigs and dirt. The bird’s nest in question is made by swiftlets, cave-dwelling birds that craft their nests out of layers of hardened saliva. While bird’s nest extract has been consumed as an anti-aging, anti-cancer delicacy for over a thousand years, the nutritious ingredient has only recently been incorporated into cosmetics. Unfortunately, despite many brands’ claim that the extract has skin-repairing ability, there is still insufficient research to actually prove if it has dermatological staying power. We recommend that you always check where the extract stands on the list of ingredients, like this vigilant Reddit user does; the extract should be one of the first few ingredients listed in order for your skin to benefit from what the extract is hyped to do.




When a temple viper snake strikes, its venom paralyzes the muscles of the unsuspecting prey. While cosmetic companies are not injecting bona fide venom into your skincare products (or at least we hope not), Syn-ake is the synthetic version that mimics the effect of a peptide found in the toxin. First created by Swedish chemical company, Pentapharm Ltd., this “anti-wrinkle chemical” acts as a more affordable alternative to Botox, reducing fine lines in a similar way as the injections do. Much like the real venom, the topical treatment “paralyzes” the muscles, reducing contractions and cell movement to keep skin smooth and wrinkle-free.


unique skincare ingredients


There are a few drawbacks, though. According to The Derm Review, it’s been reported that the treatment is harsh on sensitive skin, and reveals that the results of a clinical trial showed no more than 52 percent reduction in wrinkle size after a month of application.


Of course, the anti-aging effect is only temporary, because gravity always wins. Nonetheless, it may be worth a try to ward off those pesky fine lines while you can. Get it in sundry forms, from essence formulas to sheet masks.


Of course, there’s a zoo of other ingredients that can elevate your skincare game, from the popular snail mucin with its powerful skin-repairing properties to antimicrobial bee venom and even salmon oil-infused dark circle-concealing eye creams that pack an omega-3-infused punch. Pick your poison, if you will, and let us know what your favorite unique skincare ingredients are in the comments below!




Ruth Kim
Ruth Kim

Ruth is a 20-something creative with a fixation on black coffee, black boots, and the beautiful black hole that is all things K-beauty. A Southern California native, she loves to share her current skincare favorites and lifestyle inspirations on her Instagram @ruthhlesslyy.



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