I often feel like we live in an age where if you’re not spending thousands on makeup and skincare, you’re doing something wrong. I have been feeling so incredibly overwhelmed by the hyper-consumerism we bloggers promote and between the 10 step skincare routines and seriously expensive products, it’s hard to find where you fit in. About a year ago I started using Korean beauty products. I dipped my toe in with a few sheet masks and then gradually progressed to the point where I was spending an hour on my skincare routine every night. An hour. I have two kids guys, time is a massive luxury in my life. Then a few months ago I had a ridiculous breakout. The kind of breakout that humbles you and makes you reconsider every single product you put on your face. The kind of breakout that has you running elimination tests and revising your diet and buying new concealers. It was bad and I figured it out all on my own. How? I just stopped and listened to what my skin was telling me.
Your skincare routine shouldn’t be driven by what some YouTuber or blogger has told you, it should be driven by what your skin truly needs. What I love about Korean skincare is that this ethos underpins almost every product. It strays drastically from the Western ideal of a 3-step skincare routine and forces you down this rabbit hole of double cleansing, multiple toners, essences, ampules and serums and gel-like sunscreen. Yes, my loves, it is overwhelming and if you are not putting your skin at the centre of your routine, it’s even more overwhelming.
I know that what I have just told you may sound like a pretty simple concept, but I think it’s one we often forget about, especially in this time of fancy packaging and blogger reviews. Just ignore all of that and ask yourself, what does my skin need? Is it dry? Is it oily? Is it a combination? Do I have breakouts? Do I have hyper-pigmentation? Once you have this figured out, start researching the products you need for your exact skin concern. Start with one product. Test it out. Give it time. Sometimes when you start a new routine, it can cause your skin to purge, this is especially true for the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid and Poreless Power Cleanser. Don’t let this put you off, great skin is on the other side of the dreadful purge.
Yesterday I shared my skincare routine on IG stories and I got a bunch of questions. Mostly around what the products do. Today I am going to briefly recap my routine, link to the products I use and give you a very brief introduction to the ingredients you should be looking for in Korean skincare products.
Ok, let’s talk about my specific routine. I have combination skin. It’s oily in places and dry in places. I manage ok most of the time but my biggest skincare concern is large pores which get clogged and create blackheads. Blackheads are gross and I hate them and they tend to gravitate to my cheeks. For years I have been looking for a product (ANY product) which would help with this. I have spent so much money and time and nothing has made a difference. And then I started using the COSRX products and slowly but surely I started noticing a difference. I don’t think my pores have gotten smaller but I seldom get blackheads and when I do the BHA liquid clears them pretty quickly.
My routine goes something like this:
Step one: oil cleaner – I use the Dear Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil, R375, Glow Theory
An oil cleanser is perfect for those of us who wear make up every day. It just goes the extra mile towards loosening your makeup so it truly comes off when you go in with the foam cleanser. If I am not wearing makeup, I skip this step.
Step two: foam cleanser – I use the Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Foam Cleanser, R115, The Body Shop
I don’t use a Korean skincare product for this step simply because I love this cleanser. In the past I have used the Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam, R250 from Butterkup Beauty I also really love this cleanser and I tend to reach for it in winter when my skin is quite dry.
Step three: exfoliator – I use the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, R315, Glow Theory
Korean skincare is all about chemical exfoliators and this one has earned cult status. I love it. I only use it once a week and it has made a huge difference in helping me maintain a clearer complexion and reducing the number of blackheads I get.
Step four: toner – I use the AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner, R390, Butterkup Beauty
Have you ever used a product that has just changed the game? This is one of those. I was sceptical when I started using it because let’s be honest, “miracle” is a pretty strong word, but flip, it has TRANSFORMED my skin. 10/10 recommend, especially if you are having a breakout. My skin is so balanced right now it’s ridiculous.
Step five: second toner – I use the COSRX Two in One Poreless Power Liquid, R330, Glow Theory
Toning twice might seem excessive but one of the major issues I have with my skin is enlarged pores. This toner has helped so much I am afraid to remove it from skincare routine hahaha.
Step six: serum or essence – I use either the So Natural Skin Booster Milk Oil Serum, R380, Butterkup Beauty (Not available online) or the COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, R330, Glow Theory
I know a lot of people say you can use both a serum and an essence but it just leaves my skin feeling too heavy so I use one or the other. These are different from each other, the So Natural Skin Booster Milk Oil Serum contains Milk protein extract, Geranium oil, Nano vitamin E, Grapefruit peel oil, Basil oil and has a wonderful hydrating function that leaves my skin feeling moisturised and light. The COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence is the GOAT of essences. No jokes. It’s made with 96% snail secretion filtrate (snails are not harmed or killed in the process), and visibly repairs and revitalizes skin. Believe me when I tell you that the difference is so obvious. I will use this product for as long as COSRX makes it.
Step seven: moisturiser – I use the Missha Near Skin Total Ceramide Cream, R350, Butterkup Beauty
This is such a great moisturiser and is perfect for winter when my skin is prone to dryness. To be honest, my skin is quite oily in summer and because of that moisturisers terrify me. So I tend to let my serum and essence do the job of my moisturiser and that works well for me, but if you are looking for a great moisturiser then I would recommend this one for dry skin.
Step eight: sunscreen – I use the COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50 PA+++, R255, Glow Theory
Hear me when I say this, I HAVE NEVER EVER IN MY WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE USED A BETTER SUNSCREEN THAN THIS ONE. NEVER.
It is perfect for wearing under makeup, it’s light, non-greasy, absorbs quickly, provides excellent sun protection, is super affordable, hydrates my skin. I have not one bad thing to say other than why does it not come in a huger bottle?
So what should you be looking for when trying out Korean skincare?
- Aloe Vera – reduces scarring and soothes agitated skin.
- Centella Asiatica – great for treating acne, hydrating and healing. It’s one of those miracle ingredients.
- Ginseng – great for protecting our precious pores from free radicals and brightens skin tone.
- Hyaluronic Acid – GIRL! This stuff has changed my life. Hyaluronic Acid is awesome because it draws moisture into your skin, I believe it is the key to achieving smooth, flawless and hydrated skin. It’s one of those ingredients I look for.
Best places to shop online for Korean skincare in South Africa? Easy, there are only two I adore:
So if you have actually read this entire post and you have now made your way to the very end, let me say thanks, because I know it was long. I want to remind you guys that we are conditioned to believe that simple means inferior, or somehow less effective than complex, and it’s not true. If you have researched Korean skin care, the thought of a 10-step skin care routine is probably really daunting. It was to me. All I have done is share what has worked for me. What will work for you will depend on your skin, and I would encourage you to take it slow. Do your research, read as much as you can before you purchase. Ask questions. If you came here with the assumption that Korean skin care was going to be the China mall of skin care, you probably got a shock when you saw the prices. These are not cheaper alternatives to high end products, these are better alternatives to high end products. They offer us the opportunity to care for our skin with clean, unfragranced, natural, cruelty free products. If you have any questions, please give me a shout. If I know I will tell you, if I don’t, I will help you do some research. These products have changed my life. And I just want to share that.