I discovered Korean skin care in the spring of 2016, originally through the blog Fifty Shades of Snail, and then “down the rabbit hole” of r/AsianBeauty on Reddit. Since there are several excellent, active blogs about Korean skin care I had no plan to even make a blog post about it… But then I stumbled across this photo of me from last summer and I was shocked by the difference in my skin. It’s so clear that Korean skin care has had a dramatic difference in the clarity, youthfulness and even tone of my skin, I decided I had to share it with y’all so you can get these same results. For some context–I have combo/oily breakout prone skin, and had some uneven coloring and aging concerns (I will turn 40 this year!) Keep in mind that I am wearing no makeup and have applied no filters to either of these photos of me.
I never really had a great (or even passable) skin care routine before this and I’ll tell you the reason why: before K-beauty, I never found any moisturizer that didn’t break me out into painful cystic spots on my cheeks (an area where I never usually break out). Oil-free moisturizers, those for sensitive skin, those especially for acne, those for dry skin… All broke me out. A couple of years ago I discovered Clinique Dramatically Different Moisture Gel and for once, it didn’t break me out, so it is all I used. It’s really not very moisturizing but at least it didn’t break me out! I do still use the Clinique DDM as an AM moisturizer, but most of the rest of my products are now Asian, and most of those are from Korea.
Last year I saw several articles on Buzzfeed etc. about the “weird 10-step Korean skin care regime” as K-beauty started to rise in visibility–and most of my friends, when I told them about my new routine, immediately said “I don’t have time for that”. So, yes, I do have several steps in both my morning and evening routines but it really doesn’t take that much time at all, and I do most of my evening skin care in bed while I watch Bob’s Burgers and wind down for sleep.
-Cleanse with Su:m 37 Miracle Rose Cleanser stick and a washcloth or konjac sponge
-Wipe with a simple alcohol-free rosewater toner (Thayer’s is great)
-Two pumps of Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence (hydrating and soothing)
-First cleanse/remove makeup with Kose Softymo Speedy Cleansing Oil
-Second cleanse with Su:m 37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick
-Wipe with rosewater toner
**Wait 20 minutes while watching Bob’s Burgers**
-If I’m feeling extra parched, apply a sheet mask (I like My Scheming, Innisfree, and Tony Moly masks) and wait 15 minutes (Keep in mind–I live in Colorado which is so damned dry it’s like living with a bunch of those silica packs that come in handbags)
Then I swipe on my products, letting each one sink in for a few moments. It’s usually recommended that you “pat” them in but I generally just rub them on very gently.
–Hado Labo Gokujyn “Lotion” (more like a hydrating toner, this includes hyaluronic acid for hydration)
-Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence
-(Optional–maybe 2x/week) Banila Miss Flower and Mr. Honey Essence Oil
–Missha Time Revolution serum in the purple bottle (it has a ridiculously long name!) 2-3 drops
-Eye Cream (currently using Tarte Marajuca Eye Treatment, but I’m not married to it, I’ll try something new when I run out)
Yes, I know it seems like a lot, but actually if you don’t count the time I wait for “actives” (BHA/AHA) it only takes me about 10 minutes, if that.
Reasons I love Korean Skincare:
-Korean consumers are very skin-care conscious, very picky, and have very little brand loyalty. What this means is that there is a large amount of market competition and brands race each other to put out effective products at a reasonable price. You can get really effective products from Korea for “drugstore prices”.
-The packaging is often adorable.
-I’m able to find a wide range of products that don’t break me out.
-Asian brands do sunscreen on a whole different level than Western brands. Sunscreen is another thing I almost never wore because even the oil-free ones felt sticky and greasy and broke me out horribly. The Biore brands that I love are weightless, and the Biore Perfect Milk is actually the best mattifying primer I’ve ever tried.
-Self-care: Keeping up with my skin-care routine gives me some self-care time every day and makes me feel luxurious and glamorous. Fifty Shades of Snail’s “FiddySnails” wrote an excellent article about how her skin care routine helps her depression and I can relate to this so hard.
-RESULTS. Seriously, look at my skin. JUST LOOK AT IT.
So, now you want to try Korean skincare, right? IMPORTANT TIP: Don’t just throw everything on your face at once. Patch-test everything, introduce products one at a time to make sure that if you have a reaction, you know what did it. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) is a concept that definitely applies to K-beauty–what works for me may not work for you!
If you want more info about K-beauty, I recommend these blogs:
I’ve linked all the products I’ve mentioned, but in case you are looking for retailers, I have ordered from and would recommend the following:
Amazon (but be sure to order Prime products ONLY. Items that are not prime-eligible are far more likely to be counterfeit.)
Memebox (big markups for some items, but some are only easily available to US consumers through Memebox, like my favorite Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream)
Jolse (free shipping on any amount)
RoseRose Shop (high shipping but low prices–if you are ordering a large amount, it’s worth it)
**I purchased all of the listed products with my own money, and did not receive any product or promotional consideration for this blog post. I do not currently have any referral links.