Earlier this year I made the decision of chucking the products I was using for my skin care and try something completely different that has been intriguing me for a while: the Korean Skincare Routine.
Back then, I was keeping my skincare minimal with a “less is more” approach, using apple cider vinegar as a toner and coconut oil as moisturiser, but the fact is – it wasn’t working. It was still cold from winter and the wind was constantly blowing, making my skin extremely dry, flaky and red. Obviously, because of my poor skin condition, my foundation didn’t look great, specially around the nose and forehead, and I had many unhappy sighs when looking at the mirror at work because of that.
I was really starting to get fed up about it and decided I’d have to completely change my approach, so I did a lot of research about products, brands and methods, and ended up opting for the Korean skincare ideology. I mean, just look at the youthful, glowing complexions of Korean Drama actresses and K-Pop idols – they must be doing something right!
What’s interesting about the Korean skincare routine is that it consists of layering several products on top of each other according to their consistence, so generally from liquid to creamy. The routine can have as many as 10 steps or even more, but usually, there will be double cleansing (cleansing oil + face wash), toner (also called refresher), essence, serum/ampoule, sheet mask, eye cream, lotion and day/night cream.
After researching different products and their ingredients, I established what would be my new routine and started ordering products from websites such as sasa.com and Amazon.
Let’s have a closer look to the products that have helped me gain control over my skin again:
Cleansing: Sum:37 Skin Saver Melting Balm + Sum:37 Essential Cleansing Foam
Instead of using a harsh cleanser that will get rid of make-up, but rip skin of it’s moisture, I started cleansing my face using the double-cleansing method. First, I would use an oil or balm to gently dissolve eye make-up and foundation. I really like the SUM:37 balm because it’s made from a majority of fermented ingredients, which are really good for skin due to the high amounts of minerals and vitamins. It also has an incredible sweet citrus scent and the texture is creamy and luxurious. After massaging my face with it for a few minutes, I emulsify it by adding a bit of water, then finally rinse with water. Although the balm comes off easily and doesn’t leave a sticky layer on the skin, I still like to use a gentle foaming cleanser afterwards to make sure no impurities are left. It’s very important to choose a gentle face wash for this step like the SUM:37 essential foam, which does not contain potential irritants and is suited for sensitive skin. After using the balm + face wash combination, my skin feels soft, clean and cool and is ready for the next step!
Exfoliator: Skinfood Brown Sugar Wash Off Mask or Ettusais Peeling Milk
Even the best skin care products available won’t be able to transform your skin if it is full of old debris and clogged pores. So, in order to make products work better and maintain a smooth appearance, it is important to use a gentle exfoliator every now and then. I like to use one at least once a week, but some people prefer to only exfoliate once a month, so it really depends on how sensitive your skin is and what suits you best! When a more thorough exfoliation is required I generally tend to use Skinfoods Brown Sugar Mask, as the big grains do a good job in sloughing off all debris and leave skin feeling refreshed and smooth. However, if my skin is sensitive or irritated, I use Ettusais Peeling Milk, which is a chemical peel that doesn’t require mechanical action to exfoliate skin, therefore causing less irritation. Both of them do a great job in removing that skin and making skin smoother.
Toning: SUM:37 Water-full Skin Refresher
You guys might have noted by now that I am a serious fan of SUM:37 – and no – I’m not being sponsored by them or anything. I just genuinely like their products. This toner or “refresher” is the first product I’ve purchased from SUM:37. Instead of a strong, alcohol-based toner, the refresher will restore skin’s pH while adding moisture to skin with fermented bamboo extract. Bamboo extracts are great because they can both provide instant hydration and also have anti-inflamatory properties!
Essence: Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence
This is probably the most important step of the routine. Essences are concentrated formulas that aim to improve the overall appearance of skin. That means they act on a cellular level to improve fine lines, uneven skin tone and redness, and add brightness by accelerating skins renewal process. I like to use Misshas First Treatment Essence because it’s got an array of amazing ingredients. Around 80% of it contains fermented yeast concentrate, which is rich in vitamin B that can increase metabolism rate, therefore promoting healthier skin. It also contains niaciamide, which is great to lighten and even out skintone, vitamin B3 to increase elasticity, and licorice root, which can brighten skin and also contains precious anti-oxidants. However, essence is not the kind of product that will show changes from one day to the other; it has to be used over a certain period of time to actually make a visible difference. After using about half the bottle, my skin was visibly smoother, my pores where smaller and my skin tone has gotten somewhat lighter. It also helps with fading new and old acne scars which is always a plus!
Sheet Mask: My Beauty Diary Pink Aroma Collection Box
Ok, unless you just got around 15 spare minutes in the morning to do this step, using a sheet masks should be something reserved for the evenings. Sheet masks are like a one-time serum, so I usually use them straight after the essence, and leave them on for about 15-20 minutes. My favourites are My Beauty Diary masks, you can check out my review about one of their Aroma Collection Boxes here.
Serum: Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum / Missha Time Revolution
It might be tempting to just skip this step and go straight to the moisturiser, but you won’t be doing yourself any favour with that. Serums are really important because they pack an array of super efficient, super concentrated ingredients that simply wouldn’t fit in a regular moisturiser (think of all the added ingredients for thickness, emollients etc.).
Day: Currently, I’m using Innisfrees Green Tea Seed serum. It contains organic green tea and green tea seeds from Jeju Island, which supposedly is rich in minerals and amino acids and can penetrate the deeper layers of skin to provide hydration. The formula is rather liquid, but absorbs quite quickly and leaves a fresh, kind of fruity smell. I’m not sure this serum would be hydrating enough for very dry, flaking skin but for those who just need a daily dose of hydration, this serum will definitely do the job.
Night: In the evenings, I swap my light green tea serum for a heavier duty serum or ampoule: the Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule. This ampoule is said to be a dupe from the much more expensive Estee Lauder Advance Night Repair; they both contain the same main ingredient “Bifida Ferment Lysate“, which can increase skins ability to repair itself. To see results, this ampoule also requires regular and consistent use, but I do find that it helps improve skins overall appearance and health, and for the price, it’s definitely a good investment!
Eye Cream: Etude House Moistfull Collagen Eye Concentrate
If there’s something I wish I’d started with earlier, it would have been eye cream. I always thought because I did not have problems with dark circles, I didn’t need eye cream – until I started noticing new lines under my eyes and something that resembled crows feet whenever I smiled. The problem with those kind of lines is that, once they’re there, it’s hard to get rid of them! So ideally, eye cream should be used to prevent them from appearing, rather than trying to fix them. While I still haven’t found anything to completely get rid of those mentioned lines, I really enjoy using this Etude House eye cream. It has a thick, rich consistence and feels very moisturising. This eye cream contains a high amount of hydrolysed collagen to treat and prevent wrinkles, and I feel that, when used in the morning, it nicely smoothes out the area around the eye, making me look more awake. So, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from changing my skin care routine, it’s that it’s never too early to start using eye cream!
Moisturiser: Mizon All in One Snail Repair Cream
Nope, we’re not done yet; it’s time to slap on some moisturiser to keep that glow! Snail creams have been all the craze lately, and I can understand why. I purchased Mizon Snail Cream because it contained an extremely high amount of snail mucus – a staggering 92%. It’s a gel-like cream that goes on really smoothly and absorbs quickly. Whenever I use it, my skin feels instantly fresher, softer and more hydrated. Snail cream also fights fine lines and can lighten acne scars over a longer period of time, so the name “all in one” is more than appropriate in this case!
Night Cream: Cremorlab Snow Falls Melting Cream
Alright, alright, we’re almost done! To lock in all the previous goodness, a rich, sealing cream is needed. This will make sure that all the moisture added will not simply evaporate overnight. I’m using a very thick, rich cream by Cremorlab which is designed to look and feel like snow flakes. I know, how cool is that?! It has a delicious, luxurious texture and feels very moisturising on skin. However, it can be a bit sticky and takes a while to absorb, so I do have to spend some additional time patting it in. Because it is such a rich cream, I recommend this especially in winter, as it might just be a tad too sticky for the warm months…
Ok, phew, finally there! I have been maintaining this skincare regime for over 6 months now, and I can confidently say that this routine has improved my skin by HEAPS. I no longer have problems with flaky skin, the breakouts I used to get on my chin and jaw area have reduced by about 70% and my complexion is so much more smoother compared to what it used to be before. Even my make-up looks much nicer now that I don’t have to concentrate on covering up blemished and dryness. I’m still far away from having perfect skin, but I’m so satisfied with the results I’ve had so far! It does require a bit more time in the morning and evenings, but because it’s something I actually enjoy doing, I don’t really mind. I’ve learnt to look at skincare as sort of a treat, of doing something good for me, rather than seeing it as a chore. It’s all about having the right mindset!
What do you guys think about the Korean skincare routine? Have you thought about trying it or used Korean products before? Do let me know in the comments below and feel free to ask any questions you might have! 🙂
Until the next time,