Today I want to talk about something that is growing increasingly important to me, and that is… Korean skincare! As you may have gathered, I am not a high maintenance gal. I prefer to wear no makeup and do as little as possible to look presentable.
Honestly, if foregoing a complicated beauty routine means I get an extra 10 minutes in bed, I will make that sacrifice in favour of sleep. Growing up, I never really cared/knew much about beauty etc., and although I am now older and wiser, it still doesn’t mean that I enjoy slathering stuff on my face. It just doesn’t feel great!
Of course, as someone with sensitive skin, it makes finding the right products difficult and maybe that is why I have avoided/haven’t bothered with it for so long. Although that isn’t exactly true, as I have bought and partly used a number of products in Melbourne, but nothing was ever so amazing that I raved about it to anyone.
Friends, meet my skincare dream team!
Firstly, you may be wondering: why on earth would one person need to use so many potions and lotions? Good question! Until recently, even I didn’t understand – and this was after I had bought the products. For the uninitiated, I think this is a good time to introduce the beast that is The Korean Skincare Regime! What’s involved in this thing? Take a look right here:
- Cleansing oil
- Face mask
- Eye cream
- Sleeping pack
Okay, it probably sounds like I’m speaking gobbledygook at this point, so do not panic. When I first got to this country, I had no idea what the hell was going on (in many ways), and the skincare industry spooked me. It really is confusing – unless you are well-equipped to its lengthy, skin-beautifying ways and weirdly accustomed to layering your skincare products. And this, friends, is what the Korean skincare routine and the
overrated Leo DiCaprio vehicle Inception have in common: it’s all about LAYERS. So, let’s go!
- Cleansing Oil: Nature Republic Chamomile Cleansing Oil
Now, I am not usually one for smearing oil on my face, but Korea has shown me the light. This cold, dry winter has really hit home just how important moisturiser is. I have usually had problems with my combination skin being fine in parts and oily in others, and so have steered clear of anything remotely greasy, least of all oil itself. But stick with me! Many Korean women use cleansing oil to remove their makeup at the end of the day, and it really does work well as a gentle cleanser.
Cleansing oil operates on the premise that like removes like, and using oil will actually remove oil without removing too much… oil. Make sense? I should think not! Basically, you don’t want to dry out your skin too much and get that tight, sore feeling, because that will just lead to your face overproducing sebum (oil) like it’s going out of fashion. If you’re unsure, test it instore or try a sample and see how you go. In winter, cleansing oil is your best friend. This one from Nature Republic is nice and smooth and comes in such a pretty bottle too!
2. Cleanser: Currently switching between Nature Republic Royal Jelly Face Cleanser and good ol’ Cetaphil
So, once you’ve gently removed your makeup with the cleansing oil, it’s time for the actual cleanser to clean up the excess and just give your face a wash. Think of the oil as basic makeup remover, and the cleanser comes in to clean up the mess. Because this is Korea, there are obviously 1001 types of cleansers for you to choose from, and that’s cool. At least there’s no shortage of options!
Despite the fact I didn’t mention it above, my favourite foam cleanser here is Innisfree’s Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam. The Nature Republic Royal Jelly one just doesn’t work well with my skin, and although I’ve tried and tried, it’s giving me no love (hence the Cetaphil). So I gave it to a friend of mine with slightly less high-maintenance skin. I can highly recommend the Innisfree one though, and a review will come soon because it’s SO creamy and delicious!
3. Toner: Nature Republic (sensing a theme here?!) Bee Venom Toner
If you’re from Australia, America or anywhere else in the West, a toner refers to an astringent (usually with alcohol) which is used to ‘tighten the pores’ after cleansing. Not so in Korea. It took me a little while to figure this out, but basically a toner here is a light layer or moisture to be applied very quickly after cleansing.
Toner can sometimes be referred to as a ‘skin’ or ‘water’, and that’s because it really feels like you are just putting a thin layer of water (or skin, which sounds a bit gross so let’s just ignore that) on your face. Sometimes after washing my face, it will feel too hot and won’t be properly moisturised by a cream alone. A toner really settles it down, and this toner goes on smoothly and prepares it for step 4!
I bought this a while ago on one of my Skinfood hauls, and I am so glad I have finally started using it. Firstly, an essence is the next step in the Korean skincare routine beast, and it is a more concentrated moisturiser. You may replace this with a serum, and this should give you the clue that essences have more active ingredients and are supposed to target specific skin concerns. Basically the layers of the routine are getting thicker and more substantial. Don’t panic if you feel like you’ve entered the twilight zone because it is confusing, and I promise we’re almost done!
This essence is made for troubled skin, and I bought it when I was having a few issues with my skin. They’ve since cleared up, but I like using this because it seems to keep small blemishes at bay. The scent put me off a bit at first, because it’s quite a strong herbal smell, but I’ve since grown to love it. I’m pretty sure it contains eucalyptus oil, if that give you an idea of its scent. Also, I really like the consistency of this essence, and it makes my face feel super smooth!
(If you’re interested in a toner for troubled skin, you can pick up the matching toner here.)
Emulsion: Nature Republic Argan 20 Steam Emulsion (RAVE ALERT!)
OH GOD I AM SO CRAZY ABOUT THIS STUFF. I just… there are no words. The moment I first tried this emulsion, I knew it was love. But you may be wondering, what the heck is an emulsion?! And that is a great question! Some of the silly names for these products start to sound normal to me, and when you come to Korea you just learn to roll with the punches. And when it comes to skincare, an emulsion is basically a slightly heavier layer of moisture, that feels like a face lotion. Remember: LAYERS.
So, back to this Argan Oil Emulsion. Basically Nature Republic has my heart forever with this stuff. The scent is amazing; I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s fruity and floral at the same time and completely addictive. Even Gavin agrees! And the texture is smooth, creamy (but not too much so) and nicely moisturising. It’s perfect for this dry Korean winter and I would use it even it wasn’t because it’s just SO AMAZING! (Okay I’ll stop yelling now)
Cream: just finished Nature Republic’s Super Aqua Max Combination Watery Cream which I reviewed here, and am now using L’Occitane’s Ultra Rich Face Cream which I also reviewed here.
This is the final step in the (daily) routine and is one that is actually familiar! After you have built up the layers of moisture, and let them sink in between applications, it is time for your face cream. This will of course change depending on the weather, and because of these incredibly dry winter I am loving L’Occitane’s Ultra Rich Face Cream (which is practically Korean, anyway). It is full of 25% shea butter and feels so luxurious!
This last step is basically to seal in the moisture and provide a protective layer on your skin. That is one difference I really feel from going through this whole Korean skin care routine – it doesn’t feel like the moisture is just sitting on the top of my skin, instead it penetrates and moisturises from within. It sounds crazy, but it works!
And the results?
As someone who has never really fussed with skincare/make-up before, Korean skincare has been a huge eye-opener for me. Granted, I do need to do other things to make sure my skin is decent, such as eat enough vegetables (sometimes a problem here) and take zinc supplements (this is HUGE for me and will probably warrant a post in the future), but the effect of these Korean skincare products has been very noticeable. My skin feels so soft! And it feels so evenly moisturised and plump. I didn’t even know what plump skin felt like! But all I know now is that it feels goooood 🙂
I just took this shot now after a busy day at school, during which most of my powder would have come off (that may or may not be an opened cake wrapper on the couch behind me). Although this was admittedly taken under a bright light (and apart from a pesky but fading spot on my nose) my skin is generally pretty clear and again, smooooth! 🙂
I have also dabbled with Korean masks, wash-off packs and sleeping masks which will be covered in a later post (because mama is tired!) and which all also make my skin as soft as a peach. It’s amazing! As much as it may sound like malarky/gobbledygook/nonsense, there definitely is something to this layers thing. It may take you a liiiitle bit longer in the bathroom, but I honestly now look forward to it. Once you find the right products for you and start to see results, you may just feel the same too.
And another great thing about this is that I now can wear less face make up (usually just powder and sometimes even… NOTHING!), which is a convenient bonus!
I hope you enjoyed reading my run-down of the Korean skin care routine, and hopefully it is a bit less confusing now! Korea puts a lot of time (and money) into their products so if you’re interested, it’s worth trying them.
And if you feel like extra information, these pages definitely helped me make sense of it too:
- Lisa V Abroad: The Perplexing World of Korean Skincare
- Skin and Tonics: Asian Skincare Guide
- Saranghae: Korean Skincare Routine
- The Wanderlust Project: My Updated Korean Skincare Routine
Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow! 🙂 Steph x