I get lots of whims. If you’re my friend, whenever I get really excited about something, I am giving you all the details about it and telling you how wonderful and life-changing it is. It’s as though I am your in-person resource for reviews on anything, whether you asked me or not. That’s also why I always review my purchases on Amazon. Because if I’m out there relying on other people’s reviews, my opinion needs to get in there as well. For the people.
The latest thing I’ve been on about for like a year now is a Korean Skin Care Regimen. I started getting interested in different Korean skin care products after I’d been visiting a local Korean sauna spa, known as a Jjimjilbang 찜질방. This spa is amazing, I spend the whole day there and leave with all my tension and worries gone, my skin softer than ever, and smelling like heaven. Initially I had some reservations about going here, because the “wet” part of the spa with the different therapeutic hot tubs, pools & body scrubs is completely naked. The naked areas are gendered so you’re not in mixed company. Once you’re in, it’s completely not even awkward. It’s just a bunch of ladies hanging out. This is where I first saw someone using a sheet mask, that they sold there for like $3. This was my initiation into the world of Korean beauty indulgences.
I don’t know if it was just me becoming aware, or if it was suddenly taking off in popularity, but I’d also seen a Buzzfeed video around that time of “I tried a Korean Beauty Regimen for a Week and here’s what happened.” Then there were a few more articles from the likes of Buzzfeed, Bustle and Hello Giggles and the like about the hottest K-beauty products to put on your list. More American stores started carrying K-beauty products as well, in CVS, Nordstrom and Ulta.
So after a year of dabbling and trying to figure out what works best for me, what my skin needs, and how I can really cultivate My Best Skin Ever, I feel pretty good about the products I’m using. It seems like a lot, or too many steps, or it will take a lot of time, but honestly I can do my routine in 5-10 minutes, more or less depending on how many extras I’m adding in that day. All in all, the only time in my life that my skin has looked better is when I was pregnant. I’ve had acne prone skin since I was 12 years old, and I finally feel like I am at a comfortable place where I can be makeup-free and feel confident about my bare skin.
The first part of my skin care routine is cleansing. More specifically, double-cleansing. I’d always been warned against too much face washing will strip your skin and cause breakouts even further, but this process is actually better for deep cleansing and keeping your skin balanced.
The first cleanser is an oil-cleanser. This part gets all the gunk off your face, makeup and skin oils. Oil attracts oil. I use Mamonde oil cleanser that I purchased at H-Mart. Initially, I only used oil cleanser at the end of the day if I’d worn makeup. However after reading some other people’s experience and recommendations, I started oil cleansing twice a day, every day, and it has helped my skin become less oily (surprise!) and my pores appear smaller.
The next step is a water-based cleanser. I have a few that I use depending on the day or what I feel like my skin needs. Nooni whipping cleanser I like because it’s fun to whip up the marshmallow-like fluff. Though it’s not a K-beauty product, I like Kiehl’s blue herbal gel when I feel like I might be getting a zit. Mizon Snail Cushion cleanser is a good foam cleanser, with the added benefits of snail mucin (more about that later).
Another part that has helped get my face extra clean is using a brush. Either a soft manual brush that is great during the rinsing stage, or once a day (in the evenings), a Clinique sonic brush, that is similar to the Clarisonic. I feel like this has really helped in getting all the gunk out of my pores, which has reduced the appearance of the pores.
After double-washing and drying my face comes the toner. I used to think toner was just a thing you used to further clean the junk out of your pores, as the stuff I’d been used to was astringent and a little stinging. Now, toner is gentle and moisturizing, and helps balance the pH of your skin. Skin with a balanced pH is less likely to break out, and helps the rest of your products work to their full potential. So far I have tried Mizon Moisture Barrier Toner, Oolu Jasmine Moisture Liquid and SkinFood Peach Sake Toner. The Jasmine and the Peach smell absolutely amazing, very light and the scent doesn’t really linger more than 2 minutes after applying. I don’t like heavy fragrances whatsoever, they will end up giving me a headache before long. Anything that smells too much gets the boot.
Essence, Ampoule, Gels, Serums
This is where it gets interesting. There are so many specific skin care concern products you can customize to what is bothering you from acne, hydration, anti-aging or lightening dark marks. I’m currently using a Snail Mucin Ampoule and a Recovery Snail Gel. Snail secretion is great for your skin. It sounds a little yucky and people might be grossed out by the thought of putting snail slime on their face, but we use a lot of weird ingredients for all sorts of things. Think about eggs. You eat a chicken failed pregnancy, basically. So why not put some snail goo on your face? It promotes healing, collagen and cell renewal, and keeps your skin hydrated & supple. From my own experience, it definitely helps fade acne marks more quickly than anything else. It has no scent and does not feel any more slimy than other serums you might consider using.
I’m also using a SkinFood Peach Sake Pore Serum, but because of it’s consistency, I’m using it closer towards the end of my routine. The rule of thumb for applying skin care products is light to heavy. So use the most watery thing first and use the creamiest thing last.
Yaaaaasss! This is probably my favorite part. If you’re friends with me on SnapChat (add me: an.alien), you have 100% gotten a weird photo of me in a sheet mask. These masks are a great way to get an intense dose of a specific serum all over your face. You put it on and leave it for about 20 minutes. Afterwards you rub in in and absorb all the rest of it’s juicy goodness. I’ll even rub the used mask on my chest and arms and not waste a single drop of its serum. There are a LOT of options to choose from, and range in price from $1 and up. I bought a big pack of 20 assorted masks at H-Mart one day that had things like lemon (brightening), green tea (soothing), collagen, aloe, royal jelly, placenta, ginseng and much more. I’ve bought a bunch at a Sheet Mask Store in Manhattan (in Korea Town, after having dinner at a really fun Korean BBQ place Jongro BBQ) and gotten anti-aging, acne, brightening and soothing from several different brands and some with fun animal-face prints on them. A popular brand is Tony Moly, it’s all over Amazon and in stores like Ulta, and is priced right for you to try a variety of them. Sheet masks are not something I use every day, maybe one or two nights a week depending if I have time to treat myself. Hollika Hollika has the fun animal masks, while Innisfree focuses more on clinical, adult-geared packaging & descriptions.
Thicker more hydrating creams go in here. I bought Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream from Amazon after reading it is a cult favorite. I’m almost finished with my jar of cream, and I gotta be honest, I don’t know if it’s really good for me. I can’t tell a difference good or bad, and I only use that one in the evening since it makes my skin look shinier if I use it during the day. I’m walking a fine line of needing to have moisturized, soft skin and trying to not get oily skin. I’ve found that the SkinFood Peach Sake Emulsion helps, my skin is soft and matte after using this, so it works day or night. If my skin is extra dry, at night, I use Clinique Moisture Surge cream.
I’m on the lookout for a good eye cream right now. I had a bad reaction to one I was using, made my eyes itchy. There’s a lot of good options out there for anti-aging and dark circle concerns, and I’m leaning towards another Mizon product. What can I say, I like the brand. Though I have read that the Snail Essence Ampoule is good enough on it’s own to use under the eyes. So I’m not sure what I’ll get yet.
Ideally you should finish your day routine with a sunscreen, which I currently do not. I’m looking for a good one and I’m probably going to order either Missha All Around Safe Sun Milk SPF 50 or Corsx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50.
About once a week, I use a mild exfoliant, Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel. I use this in the morning, in the shower, after I wash my face. It’s very gentle and visibly effective.
I like clay masks for purifying my pores … I just ordered a carbonated clay mask that bubbles, so I’m interested in seeing how that turns out! It’s been mentioned on a lot of must-try lists lately.
The proof is in the pudding though, so here is a photo comparing me in April and June. It was to show off my hair, but it is of note I am wearing minimal makeup (only eye) in one photo and no makeup in the other. My skin really is in a good place right now, I feel good leaving the house without makeup, without waking up with the dread of “having” to do a full face.
Where to Buy…
- Reddit Korean Beauty
- Youtube Tutorials
- Blog Posts (like this super helpful one)