Before we really start diving into the glorious world of East Asian beauty, let’s discuss what exactly that entails. South Korea is considered the forefront of skin and beauty right now while the Western world sadly lags behind (but we’re picking up some ideas!). Natural ingredients free of parabens and fillers coupled with beautiful or cute packaging are the standard. Korean ladies expect bang for their buck and because they are so meticulous about what they use on their skin, companies are constantly innovating their products.
Now, many people have heard of the 10 step Korean skincare regimen… wait… the 14 step regimen… wait… how many? Exactly. There’s no specific number and no rocket science behind what exactly you should use. Really, there are three simple steps in any regimen (cleanse, treat, moisturize), but how and what you use is all up to you and how you feel!
Cleanse: Double cleansing, beginning with an oil cleanser (rinsing) and then a foaming cleanser is ideal. Oil cleansers remove oil based impurities like sebum and oil based makeup. Foaming cleansers are usually water based so they remove water based impurities like sweat and water based makeup.
Tone: Asian toners, unlike Western counterparts, do not typically contain alcohol which can dry out skin. Toning can rebalance skin, remove any possible lingering impurities, and prep skin for absorbing all the wonderful treatments you’re about to apply!
Essence, ampoule, serum: Each of these are considered treatments because they are concentrated ingredients to focus on skin concerns. They can target wrinkles, acne, hyper-pigmentation, etc. They should be used in this order! The idea is to apply the thinnest formulas (essences) to the thickest (serums).
Emulsion, night moisturizer, sleeping pack: These are all moisturizers. Again, the idea is to apply the thinnest (emulsion) to the thickest (sleeping pack). These aren’t all required steps for moisturization. In fact, I don’t regularly use an emulsion or sleeping pack. They are just added benefits and more hydration if you need them.
Eye cream: Eye creams are suggested for every age! Be sure to lightly tap the cream around the eye area to ensure you aren’t pulling at the delicate skin.
For day, you would use a moisturizer with SPF added. Some people use a treatment (essence, ampoule, serum) during the day as well.
*Sheet Masks: 1-3 times a week, you can use a sheet mask which would be used after your toner, but before anything else. (*Note: Some people will also do them after their treatment, but before moisturization.) Be sure to check the directions: many Asian sheet masks don’t require you to wash off the essence afterwards, but you’ll want to be sure. There’s many other types of masks out there like for the lips, eyes, and hands. There’s even wash off masks (usually used between the second cleanse and toning) that include ingredients like clay or collagen. Have fun with it!
*Exfoliation: 1-2 times a week (depending on your skin’s sensitivity), you can include a physical or chemical exfoliation. Physical is something with ingredients that actually slough the dead skin off (microbeads, ground ingredients, etc). Chemical (not scary, I promise!) has ingredients that lift dead skin off like an AHA or BHA cleanser. These would be used after the second cleanse, but before the toner. (A lot of k-beauty chemical exfoliators use natural exfoliators like citrus or papaya to exfoliate dead skin cells. Cool, huh?)
I really hoped this helped you guys in starting to decipher some Asian beauty code. It can be a rabbit hole and a little intimidating if you aren’t careful so just start with the basics–cleanse, treat, moisturize–and go from there. Really, you can’t go wrong because there are a lot of great products and they are so much fun!
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