“Snail Slime and Sheet Masks are old news in Korea.”
Two years ago my old classmate and friend Nami and I co-founded Binu Beauty, a small beauty label. It all began when Nami used to bring back these wonderful soaps from her trips to Korea, where she’s from. She was living in Amsterdam for her university studies at the time, and whenever I’d visit her I’d just take a carry-on and not bring my own beauty products. So I would just use her soaps and immediately fell head over heels in love with the soft foam, the delicate scents and the effect I noticed they had on my skin. Their simplicity is what I love most about these traditional soaps – I remember yelling to Nami from the shower stall „And what should I use for the body? And for the face?“ „The soaps, of course!“ she’d yell back. For quite a whilewe’d half-jokingly talk about one day making soaps together – you know, on these girls’ nights after a couple glasses of wine. Eventually things just fell in place and the circumstances were right for us to seriously give it a go. I come from a marketing background and Nami is an engineer, so we really complemented each other.
We tested a bunch of different natural soaps here in Germany but we just couldn’t find any that compared to the quality of the Korean soaps. So we went ahead and brought them here.
Our production is based in the south of Korea, in Damyang. Nami’s mother hand-makes all of our cold-pressed soaps in her own little manufactory. The traditional soap bars are extremely versatile and are used as dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent as well as for body care there. I went to Korea in 2016 and helped hand produce soap – every single bar is hand made and unique.
“During the production of soap, glycerin develops. In industrial soap manufacturing, this substande is often extracted afterwards.”
During the production of soap, glycerin develops. In industrial soap manufacturing, this substance is often extracted and then added into other products. We leave all the glycerin in our soaps, because it has wonderful moisturising properties and naturally occurs in the skin. When I first started researching cosmetic ingredients while working on launching Binu, I was truly shocked to learn how unregulated the industry was. I had always thought that the consumer was protected against harmful ingredients. Ever since I’ve been on a journey towards a completely natural routine, but I’m still using up some conventional products that I want to replace as soon as I run out.
My days start with doing yoga, and then I jump in the shower – depending on the season and what I feel my skin needs, I alternate between our three soaps. Whichever one I use, I use for the body, face, and as a foamy replacement for shaving cream. Currently, I prefer the Red Ginseng Facial Soap, which is great for skin that’s out of balance. Mine is currently acting up because of all the weather changes.
I finally found my shampoo at our retailer Belladonna on Bergmannstr. – the Pflegeshampoo Ingwer & Bambus by Schoenenberger. For conditioning, I use the Rosemary Grapefruit Conditioner by Stop The Water While Using Me – which is a very fitting name, because while your hair marinated in conditioner, you should really stop the water for a bit.
After every wash, I put some coconut oil in my hair – I mix it with a little water to create a lightweight emulsion that absorbs more easily. I just work it into my ends before blow-drying.
I have hyperpigmentation on my forehead and have been testing the Age Protect Serum and Age Protect Creme from Santaverde, which are meant to better distribute melanin across the skin. I immediately saw results and my sun spots are already much less visible. After having used up my samples I can confidently say that these two products are well worth the investment for me.
To finish off, I use our Hydrating Serum by Binu, which is currently being reformulated but will be back in store soon! My skin doesn’t agree too well with pure oils, which is why I always mix them with a little water or toner into an emulsion. There are many lovely smelling oils that I like, and in the winter I always mix a couple drops into my moisturiser in the morning.
Whenever my skin needs it, I use a Hydration mask from Korean brand Innisfree, or on special occasions throw on a sheet mask. The Hydrogel Seed Mask from Whamisa is my favourite, and I love gently patting the remains into the skin to replace my serum.
“Natural beauty has a much higher market share in Korea than it does in Germany.”
Natural beauty has a much higher market share in Korea than it does in Germany. While in Europe we’re just starting to catch up with trends like sheet masks, snail slime and Italian snail breeders cannot keep up with the demand, all these are old news in Korea. They are so far ahead in terms of innovation and ingredients.
Korean women just always manage to look much younger than they are – maybe it’s because their credo is „Moisture, moisture, moisture … and sun protection“. I just started using the SunPact with SPF 50 by Whamisa, which is really cool. We are practically friends with Whamisa’s founders now, and Won gifted me this one. The SunPact leaves a bit of a white cast on the skin, but that’s to be expected from a natural sunscreen. While I don’t mind it so much on the face, I’ve had some bad experiences with sunscreen leaving marks on my clothing and I now actually use a conventional sunscreen from the drugstore. I am still waiting to discover the perfect natural option for the body.
“I’ve become a bit of a missionary among my family members and try to get them all to use natural cosmetics.”
Last Christmas I whipped up a batch of rich, creamy Body Butter to give to all my family as a present. Now my father uses his for his face and always has a good glow going on – but I’m glad I got him to switch from his Nivea Cream at last! I’ve become a bit of a missionary among my family members and I try to get them all to use natural cosmetics. Our serum has already converted my mom.
I discovered the Shea & Kukui Nut Body Butter from Golden Glow at Vivaness, a natural cosmetics trade fair in Germany. The brand is from a small town in the middle of Germany and their body butter now has a spot reserved right next to my bed so I always have a nice-smelling treat within arm’s reach. There are so many great small brands here in Germany now that all take very different approaches to natural beauty, and it’s very exciting to discover new ones at trade fairs. Next year, we all want to do a joint stall together.
I recently started using the Fine Deodorant, and it’s working even better than my previous natural one from We Love The Planet. I have the Fine x Foxycheeks Stick „Minty Something“, which i like because it’s a stick and the minty scent is so lovely that it kind of replaces the perfume for me on some days.
To counteract the white cast that sunscreen leaves on my face, I use Dr. Hauschka’s Foundation. It’s quite sheer, which means that I can use one colour throughout the entire year. My Eyeliner from Nature Republic is Korean, too – it has a traditional Khol shape which I’ve been seeing brands from all over the world are doing now. Mascara was one of the first items I switched, and now I only use natural options – the Volume Mascara by Dr. Hauschka is a great one.
I love multi-use products that I can apply as blush, eyeshadow and lipstick at once. A bit of blush dabbed on the eyelids always makes for a very fresh look and I love to use the Und Gretel Tagarot Lipstick in Apricot as a creamy blush, too. I carry a lipstick in any of my bags at all times for that reason – my current favourite is the bright red Aroha from Nui Cosmetics.
At night the most important thing, of course, is to properly take off your make-up – something our soaps are great for. About thrice a week I use the Bamboo Charcoal Facial Soap and let it absorb for a couple minutes to clear any deep impurities. We also make these little face brushes that are traditionally used to create the soft creamy foam from bar soaps, and which work great to give your face a gentle massage while cleansing. They’re a lovely alternative to battery powered face brushes.
In the evening I use everything that I want to really absorb. I love the signature Organic Flower Ferment Toner by Whamise – like most Korean toners, it has a slightly more gel-like texture that’s extremely hydrating. Depending on how my skin feels, I use a peeling mask a couple nights a week. Right now I am testing the Enzyme Peel Mask from Organic Pharmacy, which has Fruit Acids and Vitamin C that help lighten hyperpigmentation. I am not very loyal to any one mask though!
“I would love to try one of these one-hour Chinese facial massages sometime soon!”
Twice a year I go to Jana Pakozdi at Haut und Sein in Mitte and afterward my entire body just feels so thoroughly relaxed – even though it’s just a face treatment! Before I found Jana I had never really went to get facials. Maybe it’s because my mom never went to see a beautician either, so it’s not a ritual that she passed on to me. Now I’m really enjoying it a lot and actually would love to try one of these one-hour Chinese facial massages sometime soon!
I’ve been going to Mod’s Hair on Bonbijouplatz for more than seven years now. Nobody ever notices when I’ve just been to the hairdresser though, because I always get the exact same procedure – highlights and a length and cut that adds body to my very fine hair. The last time I went, my hairdresser was actually just like „No, we’re not giving you a trim today, your hair is still looking so healthy.“ He just knows my hair like no one else. Ever since I started getting my hair dyed using oil based colours, it’s been a lot healthier and doesn’t break as easily anymore. When you have fine hair, things like that really make a difference.
Perfume is definitely still on top of the list of items I have yet to replace with a natural alternative. I’ve tried a lot of natural scents that were nice, but I just haven’t found my „signature scent“ yet. I’m still using a conventional one to be honest. Since I found out that „parfum“ as an ingredient doesn’t have to be broken into its components on INCI declarations, I only spray it onto my clothes and not directly on the skin. Now the hyperpigmentation I used to have where I would normally spray perfume is just gone. There’s a lovely store in Prenzlauer Berg, MDC Cosmetic, that sell a great selection of natural fragrances, but they are on the pricier side. I think I really do need to actively search for my perfect natural scent!
Photo + Text: Katharina Bürger @binubeauty interviewt by Aniko Legner @nogelato for Powder Paper