The Happy Hour Routine: How Beer Baths Can Get Your Skin a Different Kind of Lit
With Oktoberfest in full swing, we thought we’d take a minute to indulge in an unusual little beauty secret straight out of Korea: beer baths. From Lee Sung Kyung to (reportedly) the First Lady of North Korea, the skin savvy are marinating in beer, as well as the Korean alcohol cheongju, for crystal clear, baby soft skin. Here, how beer baths can give a whole new meaning to happy hour.
I don’t know if all of you are aware how serious Korean people are about their alcohol, but it’s no secret to anyone who’s grown up around our culture or dipped their toe into the Hallyu Wave that Koreans can DRINK. I remember a few years back I learned that, per capita, South Korea consumed more alcohol than Germany, Russia, and Ireland combined. It may sound like a perpetual sloshfest, but it’s more than that; it really is an integral part of the culture. Having a few bowls (yep, we drink out of bowls sometimes) of makgeolli (막걸리, a traditional rice wine) after a hike with family or commiserating over bottles of soju (소주, a distilled rice liquor) with friends and coworkers at dinner is a vehicle to grow closer to your loved ones. I’m not saying that crazy nights out don’t happen; it just isn’t always about waking up on the floor of a friend’s apartment cradling a box of pizza every time you drink.
Beer is also massively popular in Korea and has gotten to be so synonymous with KFC (Korean fried chicken) that the word for beer in Korean “maekju” (맥주) and the English word “chicken” have been mashed up to create the term chi-maek (치맥), which refers to having beer and chicken together. Beer is something that everyone from your average Korean citizen to famous celebrities all indulge in. However, it looks like the beauty elite, including Lee Sung Kyung from Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, Korean celebs like Choi Ji Woo and Uhm Jung Hwa, and even the First Lady of North Korea, have taken the Booze Love to a whole new level — by actually bathing in the stuff.
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I know. Beer baths sound absolutely excessive. But it looks like there may be some real reasons as to why this could be beneficial for the skin. Squad member @cocopark raved about Swanicoco’s now-discontinued Beer Bubble Pack, which contained real hops extract and brewer’s yeast. @sheryll has sung her love for ferments many times, and fermented ingredients are a staple in both Korean diet and skincare for their powerful regenerative and antioxidant properties. Beer is no exception. Beer contains a compound called xanthohumol, a potent antioxidant, as well as containing a slew of other beneficial components like vitamin B (which helps skin repair and supports the immune system), yeast (which eliminates waste matter from the skin), hops (effective in purifying the skin clean and making it baby soft), and minerals like copper, zinc and iodine. Whew. I feel like I’m talking about a multivitamin.
If you don’t happen to be a Korean celebrity with access to spas that let you bathe in Budweiser, you can try this out yourself — all you need is access to a tub (and loads of beer, of course)! It actually isn’t too complicated; just fill your tub up with water a few degrees above body temp, and then mix in about 720 ml of beer. No need to use anything fancy — the cheap stuff will suffice. Turn on your favorite jams and soak in it until you feel sufficiently pruney. The few times I take baths, I usually rinse off afterwards, but it’s totally up to you if you want to leave all the hop-y goodness on your skin. I’d recommend doing this in the evening though; showing up to work smelling like beer may result in some uncomfortable questions from coworkers and superiors, LOL.
As with any new treatment, proceed with caution as there’s always potential for a negative reaction to occur. There’s also been reported that people may experience small bumps when first indulging in beer baths, but that is normal — it’s supposed to be an indication that pent-up toxins are being released.
If the idea of beer baths seems a little intense for you or you’re not a fan of baths (I get it, I always feel like a lobster slowly being cooked), beer cleansing is also a treatment you can test drive — apparently this was a staple in Cleopatra’s beauty routine. You can take the foam from your beer to use as your actual cleanser or mix some into the water you’re using to rinse off your cleanser and pat in the water instead of toweling off. All the aforementioned goodies in the beer is supposed to help with wrinkles and brightening up your skin tone. After drying off or patting in, simply move on with the rest of your skincare. This type of treatment is supposed to be gentle enough for you to do on a daily basis to maintain healthy looking skin.
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Another fav of Korean celebrities are cheongju baths. Cheongju is an alcohol made from the clear distillate of makgeolli. It’s not the easiest thing to find outside of Korea, but if you’ve ever had makgeolli before, you’ll know that it needs to be shaken up before you drink it to disperse the sediment at the bottom. Cheongju is basically the clear portion on top that’s visible when the drink has settled. That gets siphoned off during the makgeolli making process and is further distilled. Hyo Min of the famed girl group T-ara and actress Hong Soo Hyun, who starred in the recent K-drama Rich Family’s Son, are both famous for taking baths in water mixed with cheongju, soaking their lower bodies in the brew. This reportedly helps encourage blood circulation to help relieve fatigue as well as thoroughly cleanse the skin, as the alcohol helps melt away any buildup and residue. I don’t know about you guys, but my feet are a mess from a summer of wearing flip-flops, so an alcohol foot soak may be in order for me.
Oktoberfest is in full swing, and although I may not enjoy drinking beer myself, I’m crying with relief that fall weather is finally starting to come in. Do you think any of you will be trying out beer baths or beer cleansing to celebrate the festivities? Sound off in the comments below (and drink responsibly everyone 😀)!
— with reporting by Minji Kim and Diana Kim