I’m here again instead of working (as I should be) on my masters thesis (a slow, painful journey) because I must have had too much caffeine and my brain is jumping around, JUMPING, I say! In any case it is bad and I know it is bad because I am looking at my hands and they are shaking. I only had a cup this morning so I have no idea what is up with me, perhaps a lack of sleep? But I feel okay, sleep wise. So I guess the conclusion is, I dont know what is up.
Anyway the thing I have been thinking about writing about on the blog is a thing that I don’t quite know how to talk about: it’s the korean skincare regime. Being neither korean nor a skincare expert, I wonder at how accurate anything I have to say about their regimes are. But a combination of k-drama watching (thanks, DOTS) and marketing images (thanks, laneige) have had me obsessed with 1. getting that same kind of dewy glowing skin that they all have and 2. wondering if it’s all photoshop.
But no – I have korean friends, and their skin is ace. So there must be something there. Recently the boyfriend went to Korea on a work trip and came back with a haul of skincare for me (seriously, this boy is A+) and also, sent me a link to the KOREAN TEN STEP SKINCARE ROUTINE which is his way, I suppose, of telling me that he wants me to wash my face properly. At first I was all, don’t tell me what to do with my face! because, you know, feminism. But I really wanted to look like Song Hye Kyo. That woman has stupidly good skin. It’s so irritating. And I must have it.
So I’ve been on the korean ten step skincare routine for 2 weeks now. Do I look like Song Hye Kyo? No. But my skin is markedly better. And there is something strangely soothing about a routine, even if ten steps sounds a bit loca to be doing everyday.
Basically, these are the ten steps:
1. Wipe your make up off with a wipe. (I’m using the face shop brown rice wipes that shane bought me from korea, but i think you can get them here in singapore. Or else the Biore ones are very good.)
2. Wash your face with an foam cleanser. But I don’t like foam cleansers, so I swapped this out for an oil cleanser. I swear by oil products! They have changed my life forever. I used to use only the Erno Laszlo oil + dead sea mud bar, but that one is a little hard to travel with, so I switch it up between that and the the Shu Umeura cleansing beauty oil, in the yellow bottle variant (because it was the cheapest of the lot). I bought it on Roz’s recommendation and it’s really good but it is ridiculously expensive, like over a hundred bucks. But I figure you spend lots on make up, so you better also invest in washing it off! Also it works great for me and for Roz and for a bunch of other people I know, but I think it really depends on your skin because I have another girlfriend who swears that it makes her break out. Plus it’s really a working woman’s cleanser because it’s so damned expensive! If you’re a student I would say get a cheaper version, like the NIVEA mud cleanser (I did a test + review on that here). I’m actually really pleased with the mud cleanser because even now, a year on after that review, I still have people coming up to me on the streets saying that they used the mud cleanser and had it work great on them. Nivea is actually a really great drugstore brand lah, it’s just that after my cleanser finished I wanted to try something new because I was curious. Lol!
3. Remove your eye makeup and swab your skin once more to make sure all traces of your make up are gone. Technically the Shu umeura cleansing oil does this for you, but I still go once more with a cotton pad soaked in the Micellar water, and sometimes if I didn’t wash my face properly the first time there’ll be some gunk left over. You’ll be surprised how hard it is to get all your make up off thoroughly. Most make up brands have their own version of the micellar water, but the one I’m currently using is from Nivea. Micellar water is nice because it really doesn’t leave your skin feeling oily or sticky, although it is technically made up of oil molecules. What! I told you I swear by oil products. And I did some research on this, and a LOT of people swear that micellar water changed their lives.
To be honest I think steps 2 and 3 are basically very similar, but the koreans do it twice, so ok lor, do it twice. Actually you could just pick one and stick with it.
4. Exfoliate once a week. I’m using a black sugar scrub that (again) the boyfriend bought for me from korea. I think it’s from the face shop. Or innisfree? Something like that. Basically he has a korean friend who brought him to all the places and showed him what products are really popular amongst the korean girls, so it must be the best, etcetera etcetera.
5. Swab your face with toner. So usually I do step 1-4, then shower, then after the shower, do step 5. I use the Son & Park Beauty Water that the boyfriend bought me from korea. Ok, now I’m starting to feel a bit guilty because when writing this post I realised that he bought me most of my skincare, and he really did a lot of research on it because when he presented me with each item he had a long list of instructions on what to do. HAHAHAHA. The Beauty water is apparently always sold out, so I’m quite glad he got it for me lah. It’s a korean miracle product that they use backstage for shows, celebrities use it, etc etc. It’s some multitasker that cleanses, tones, exfoliates, and hydrates. I dont know about exfoliating, because it’s very watery, so it doesn’t really feel like it scrubs the skin. But if you google it, people go batshit bananas over this water, and my skin really feels better, though I’m using so many new products now that I’m not sure what exactly to attribute my new skin to exclusively.
6. Essence. Essence is the cornerstone of korean skincare, but to be absolutely honest I am not really sure what the big difference between essence and serum is. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that they are essentially the same thing, even though most brands will tell you they target different things, and I suspect they’re basically marketing terms. None of my American friends know what an essence is, they all use the word serum for that step in your skincare routine. Besides, I dont think there are any miracle serums/ essences that target EVERYTHING, and each serum is supposed to do something specific (brightening/ peel/ soften skin/ intensely hydrate/ etc etc), so I think you should just pick one that targets whatever youre concerned about.
And for goodness sake, pat on your serum. Because if you rub it all over your face youre just pulling your skin around. I’m using the Laneige ultimate white plus renew serum because SONG HYE KYO, ok? And also because I only started using sunscreen at a very late age, and I’ve been trying to fix all the sunspots I have by using brightening serums, so most of my skincare is geared towards that. But to be honest I switch up my serums and moisturisers a lot. So right now I’m using the laneige, I used to use a different variant of the laneige serum, and even before that I used a Kiehls serum. And once a week I use the Kiehls Nightly refining Micro-peel concentrate, which works like a peel to make your skin softer. But you serum can never be used without a moisturiser, so..
7. The sheet mask. I cant imagine that anyone uses a mask every single night, but apparently the koreans do. This is my least favourite step so I always skip it, I would say I do a mask once in two weeks if I’m lucky. I hate it because when you stick a mask on it is COLD AS HELL, and then you cant move around or it might fall off, and before I did lasik that meant i had to just lie down for twenty minutes cos i cant wear glasses over a mask, it feels and looks weird, and that means for twenty minutes while doing the mask I cant even read or watch TV cos I can’t see. I don’t really have a favourite mask either, I just use whatever my friends give me or those sample masks you get when you buy stuff at korean skincare shops (they give out samples nonstop!!). Generally I leave the mask on for 20 minutes (no more than that, or it actually works to dehydrate your skin for some reason), then move the mask to my neck for 10 minutes, then rub the remaining serum on the mask into my hands / feet if theres extra.
8. Moisturiser. Doesn’t the sheet mask also moisturise? Koreans, do you have too much time?? But I have committed to following the korean routine and follow it I must. I use different moisturisers depending on what I need. I like the Erno Laszlo Hydra-Therapy Memory Sleep Mask because it’s VERY hydrating with this gel like texture, and when you wake up in the morning you feel AMAZING. Despite the name, it’s a gel moisturiser, not a sheet mask, so it’s more convenient to apply. The only con that I can note about this moisturiser is the price point: it’s pretty expensive, and I have it because a dear friend from NYC gifted it to me. Now that I’m working I could probably buy another one when this one runs out, but if I were younger/ still schooling, it’d be pretty tough. I (and my mom) also love the Laneige water bank, which everybody swears by – it’s cheaper as well. And whenever I travel to foreign countries I bring the samples along to give to friends who all love it too.
9. Eye cream. I only started using this this year because everyone, and I do mean everyone, was yelling at me about it. Apparently you can never go back from wrinkles around your eyes.
I was like: so what? Embrace it! I don’t mind having wrinkles.
And my older girlfriends were like: you are an idiot.
So fine, I started using eye cream too. I use the Laneige white plus renew eye cream, it has a cooling metal applicator so it massages the area around your eye to decrease swelling. I’m not sure if the metal thing really works, but it feels great. After this round of Laneige ends I was thinking of buying a L’oreal eye cream because it’s much cheaper and it’s supposed to be really good, but we’ll see.
10. Sunscreen. I assumed this was for the day use only, but apparently koreans apply sunscreen at night too. Why? Because your computer screen emits UV rays. That is a bit much for me, but ok. I use a Sunplay sunscreen (SPF50++) which is a watery sort of gel as the last step of my skincare in the morning before make up, and then I periodically spray on a layer of sunscreen during the day (the Biore UV perfect SPF50 spray) on top of my makeup.
*And then I use a completely different set of skincare when I travel, skincare that comes in travel sized bottles. That’s a post for a whole other time.
Tada – ten steps!
So after being on it for two weeks I had to sit down and ask myself if I honestly felt it made a huge difference to my skin, and if the time spent on it was worth the difference.
Before going any further, full disclosure: I’ve always had good skin. I don’t mean to be annoying, it’s just that it has been a combination of my mother’s home brewed herbal soups as a kid as well as genes, I suppose. But at thirteen, good skin is a gift. At twenty three, it’s a commitment. The recent years have been pretty sobering for me in coming to terms with the fact that I cant just use and abuse my skin anymore: it started going downhill when I moved out of home to live on campus, and it got worse ever since I started travelling so frequently. Airplane air is the worst, and your skin’s consistent readjustment to new climates and temperatures really messes you up. When I came back from Sydney last year, my skin was at its worst. For all its beauty, Australia’s weather is one of the most messed up I’ve been in – you can experience four seasons in a day, and it’s a total nightmare for skincare.
Ever since there it’s been an uphill climb. One of my greatest regrets as a kid was not being told how important sunscreen is – I dont think anything can reverse the amount of sun damage my skin has been put under, and it’s something I’m just going to have to live with. Do I have bad breakouts? No. But my skin used to have this healthy glow (which now I’m thinking, might have just been the glow of youth. And innocence. Too dark? Ok never mind) which it no longer has, and that’s what koreans somehow have managed to recreate, bottle up, and sell, in both skincare and makeup. I mean, not all the products I use are korean, obviously, but what I tried my best to follow were their steps.
And the difference? It’s there, that’s for sure. My boyfriend asked me if I’d been using the products he gave me.
Yes, I said, whats up?
It’s just, your skin looks great, he said, in a tone that suggested that what he really meant was I told you so.
(Ok I kid, he’s actually very nice and would never say that. Ok, maybe once. Or twice.)
I still don’t look like Song Hye Kyo. And I still dont really know if all ten steps are really necessary. Do you really need to wash your face thrice?! All ten steps take me a combined total of about fifteen to twenty minutes to do, more if I’m using a mask that night, which isn’t bad all things considered. But ten steps: that’s a minimum of ten products, and we all know the beauty industry doesn’t come cheap. It’s an expensive routine.
So why spend the time on it? The answer surprised even me: because I liked spending time on a routine. It’s relaxing, at the end of a long work day, to come back and slowly work on cleansing, toning, and moisturising your face, and feeling the difference every morning when you wake up, combined with the overall difference you feel over the time span of a couple of weeks. I have better skin now than I did before I started my ten step routine. People comment on it regularly. And when you have good skin, as cliche as it sounds, you feel good.
But I wouldn’t swear by it. And I dont think I’d lose any sleep if I cut short a couple of steps each day. At the end of the day it feels like an enjoyable routine with visible skincare benefits, but one that is a luxury. If I had to pick, I would say in order of importance what you HAVE to do would be to 1. clean your make up off really thoroughly, 2. SUNSCREEN and 3. Moisturize. Everything else, to me, is great, but not hardcore essential. And of course there are plenty of really great products out there that double up and do more than one thing: the beauty water, for example, tones, hydrates, and cleanses. Obviously your skin gets better with more layers of skincare (that’s the korean mentality, skincare layering), but it really depends on how important it is to you to have that kind of really translucent, dewy skin. I think a clear complexion is pretty swell already, and the korean glow is another level, a level which you have to pay to access. Obviously.
Ok, that random thought-vomit turned into a really long wordy post. On the plus side, I no longer feel jumpy because of the coffee. I guess that means I know what I should do the next time I cant focus: write a 2,800 word blogpost. What a great adjustment mechanism, am I right. More content all around!!
Actually speaking of content I’m pretty excited lah, because I have a bunch of ideas for things I want to write/talk about in the upcoming posts. I don’t know why I suddenly have so many things to say, it’s like my brain is getting talkative. It must be all the coffee. But it’s been great, things have been great, and it is truly a privilege to say this because to be honest I am coming out of a period of EXTREME UNCREATIVITY and UNPRODUCTIVITY, which is not to say that i hadnt been doing work, but to say that I havent been feeling happy with the writing I’ve been doing. Uninspired, is the term. But a talkative brain is a good sign, it is a sign that things are a-changing. And I welcome it with open arms.
Till the next post ~