Your Korean friend in her mid-30s has the skin of someone at least 10 years her junior, and gasp—she doesn’t even use essence! (More on that here; it's important, trust me.) As it turns out, there may actually be some truth to the whole “there's something in the water' speculation (it's roasted barley). Here's a rundown of what she may be putting in her mouth rather than on her skin that's helping to give her that age-defying glow.
The Side Dish
An average Korean person eats 40 lbs of kimchi every year, and I’m actually surprised it isn’t more. This spicy fermented cabbage seasoned with garlic, salt, vinegar, and chili peppers is present at almost all Korean meals (I even eat it with my homemade Bolognese). The fermentation process produces lactic acid and lactobacillus bacteria (a probiotic!) that boosts the immune system. It's also high in vitamin C and beta-carotene which can improve your skin’s elasticity.
It’s common to see a pitcher of chilled boricha, or roasted barley tea, in the fridge during the spring and summer while the drink is served warm during colder months. Full of antioxidants and fiber, the nutty-tasting drink made from whole grains helps to cleanse your body of toxins, preserve skin elasticity and promote better blood circulation. The tea is a common substitute for water in every Korean household and kid-friendly because it is caffeine-free—it's literally what's in the water.
Doenjang is a fermented soybean paste mainly used in a spicy and salty stew with tofu and veggies (and clams if you want to get fancy). Considered a classic comfort food, it has a pungent flavor which definitely makes it an acquired taste. It pairs well with Korean BBQ or scorched rice. Because the soybean is fermented, it has a much higher nutritional value than regular soybeans. It's abundant in vitamin E, one of the most powerful antioxidants that helps protect and repair your skin by neutralizing free radicals and prevents cellular damage from occurring.
Makgeolli is a fermented rice wine rich in vitamins, minerals that's traditionally served in a bowl rather than a cup. Amino acids such as lysine and methionine keep skin firm and vitamins B2 and B3 are known to brighten skin. Leave it to the Koreans to come up with a way to get their drizzy on (though it does contain less alcohol than beer) and improve their skin all in the same night.