So I recently discovered K-beauty, which is Korean skincare. Apparently, for all its faults, Korea really has their shit together when it comes to taking care of skin. The basics of Korean skincare are these: there are 7-10 steps to a daily routine (you can read more here).
In the US, we're obsessed with streamlining everything (micellar water, anyone?) and spending as little time as possible doing stuff like this so we have more time to scroll through Instagram.
However, as I investigated further, I realized that a) actual Koreans aren't like, hard-and-fast on the ten steps every night thing, and b) there is nothing wrong with taking time to care for YOUR FACE. It's the thing people see first. It's the thing you have to live with the rest of your paltry life. Putting in some time and effort into maintaining or improving it is probably not the end of the world.
The steps are:
1. Oil cleanser
2. Water-based cleanser
5. Essence (there is no real "English" word for what essence is. It's basically a lightweight moisturizer that aids in cell renewal and repairing skin)
6. Treatments (ie: for acne, dry skin, etc. depending on what you need)
7. Sheet Mask
8. Eye cream
10. Sun protection (I can only assume this is relevant for mornings only, right?)
After doing some research, I decided to try it out for a month and just see what I thought. To make my life (slightly) easier, I bought a kit from Ulta by Julep that basically gives you the four absolute essentials. The rest of the products I filled in with things that I thought would suit my skin's needs, things I saw got good reviews on Amazon, and stuff I already owned and used.
As for the routine: I'm a night showerer, so I did all the steps at night. For the first two weeks, I did like, 4 steps in the morning, but it just seems so excessive. Also, I think my skin was disliking it. I'm more of the mindset that my body knows what it needs, and if I provide the basics and a little help, it'll take care of itself. So I backed off mornings, mostly. I do apply SPF religiously, though.
READ ON to see how I fared.
- Oil cleanser: Cleanser, essence, and night mask from this Julep Kit. As someone with problematic combination skin, oil cleansers have always made me skittish, but now I get it. It smells nice and citrusy and feels amazing (not to mention great for removing makeup). The essence is a "skin milk," and it's a great lightweight moisturizer. Love it. Lastly, the night mask is easily the most luxurious thing I've ever put on my face. So silky!
- Water-based cleanser: Cetaphil, in conjunction with my Clarisonic (not pictured)
- Exfoliator: Clarisonic.
- Toner: from Origins. Smells great, works, it's Origins. So I love it.
- Essence: in addition to the "skin milk," the other essence I tried was from Myconos. It feels great going on and absorbs quickly. I don't know if it's DOING anything, per se, but it feels really nice when you don't want a full on heavy moisturizer.
- Treatments: I don't really have any major problems at the moment (thank GOD), but I use this acne cream when stuff happens.
- Mask: There is a truly horrifying picture of me attempting a sheet mask on my Instagram. Do not recommend. Honestly, sheet masks are texturally awful. Just give me a regular old clay mask once a week and I'll be good.
- Eye cream: I had tried two different eye creams, neither one really seemed to make a difference. The first, not pictured, is by Pure Biology. It gets amazing reviews on Amazon, but I really didn't notice any difference in anything when using it. So I switched to this one, which I picked up at TJ Maxx for like, a third of the price. Not sure if it's doing anything, but the little rollerball applicator feels AWESOME.
- Moisturizer: While I was going on this bender, I also ordered this Lotus gel moisturizer. Again, it's a nice option for when I don't want the full on "night mask" moisturizer level of the Julep cream, but something a bit heavier than the essences. Really nice, I like it so far.
- SPF: I always use foundations with sun protection, but I also got this Face Blur stuff, which has SPF 33 and acts like a primer. Love it.
So does all this crap actually work?
I'm pretty lucky in the skin department. Aside from occasional breakouts, redness that comes with being Irish, and dark circles, my skin's pretty good.
|Week 2. I tried smiling so I looked less like I was gonna murder you if you say my name in a mirror 3 times.|
By week two, you can see the blemishes I had have all cleared up. No difference in my eyes or skin tone, but things are clearer for sure.
|Week 4, please ignore how gross my hair looks.|
A month in, and my skin looks really good. It's not flawless, but I haven't broken out since I started doing all this, and it feels nice and smooth. Also, I think my pores are smaller. Dark circles are here forever, this is who I am.
So do I recommend this? Yes, within reason.
Seven to ten steps a night is RIDICULOUS. Shorten it up. Figure out which steps actually benefit your skin then stick to it. At present I'm still using the cleansing oil, Clarisonic/Cetaphil, toner, skin milk, and either the night mask or Lotus cream. And the eye cream when I remember it exists. I think that's sufficient.
It's always nice to take time to care for yourself. Do you think this is excessive, or are they onto something in Korea? Let me know.
BONUS LINKS for more info:
Soko Glam is the holy grail website for K-beauty. They have information AND pre-made kits you can buy depending on your skin type to help ease you into this madness.
Another great place to shop for K-beauty (skincare AND makeup) is Riley Rose.