It has been almost a year since I committed to this admittedly elaborate, mildly bankruptcy-inducing, gloriously enjoyable 10-step skin care ritual. Since then, what have I to show for it? Do I presently show any semblance to Jun Jihyun. Um. No. Did I see any improvement in my skin? Categorically, yes. My skin is happily acne-free and virtually blemish-free. I now dare leave the house with only sunblock, some concealer and powder, while still looking human.
Now I do not believe that this is solely due to a painstaking beauty ritual, as it is a team effort of better stress management, a bit more sleep, and maybe even my pescetarian diet. That, or maybe my hormones are just taking a break. Either way, it is easy to know when a skin care product works for you or against you, and below I list down the goodies that at present, work very well for me. Most of the new additions to this list were curated during my November trip in Seoul (also known as the days my credit card ran a marathon). Shall we?
1. Pre-cleanse – I picked up Skin Food Black Sugar Cleansing Water (KRW7000) without checking online reviews, which is a stupid thing to do in this day and age. But happily, it was not a snap buy to regret. A good substitute to my beloved Bifesta for half the price, this baby washes away the first layer of makeup, SPF and grime nicely and with no sting. Pump a few splashes on flat cotton, press gently on skin, and wipe away. For stubborn eye makeup (I see you waterproof mascara!) I’ve been using a small bottle of Shu Uemura Skin Purifier Cleansing Oil. I’ve used this stuff on my face until I learned it is basically expensive mineral oil (for shame, Shu Uemura. I trusted you!). Now I feel it is only safe to use on my coated lashes. A few drops on flat cotton, press gently on lashes, emulsify with a bit of water — very carefully because this stings! — and on to the next step.
2. Cleanse – Skin Food Anti-Dust Deep Cleansing Foam (about KRW15000) is also a hasty buy, mostly because Skin Food is just gloriously dirt cheap in Korea. Unlike other pure SLS cleansers, Korean cleansing foams lather quite thickly and leave very little residue. Nothing a good clean face towel or my new buddy, the Marionnaud Natural Cellulose Cleansing Sponge, can’t remove. In the morning, I prefer the no-foam cleanse of ACNAID EGCG Powder (P1500).
3. Exfoliate – The cleansing beads of Human Nature Balancing Facial Cleanser (P80) are bigger than that of Clarins White Plus HP Gentle Brightening Exfoliator (P2000+), so I’ve been using it sparingly, mostly on days when blackheads feel extra stubborn and mean. Every few days, I use my fancy friend Clarins, massaging the minute beads into a soft lather before washing off with a clean towel. My new exfoliating friends are the Marionnaud Natural Cellulose Cleansing Sponge and the Missha Smart Speeder Auto Cleansing Brush (around KRW87000). The cellulose sponge is great paired with a foam cleanser, ensuring a more even lather, and is gentle enough for daily use. The Missha Smart Speeder (a Clarisonic dupe, obvs), is more of a twice-a-week friend. So although the cleansing sensation of the auto brush is just fantastic, I keep to my senses and use it sparingly.
4. Essence – I have coveted the Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence (set with Night Repair, KRW85000) since I first read about it. A dupe of the famed SK II Facial Treatment Essence, I’m supposed to pour drops of this wonder product on cotton and dab on my face mere seconds after I cleanse. But I do not use cotton, nor do I run out of the bath for this. I prefer pouring a coin-size amount of essence on my palm and press lightly over the face. Was I expecting results right away? Yes, stupidly so. But after a month or so of usage, I did notice softer, more even skin thanks to this pricey baby. A continuing favorite is the Dr Oguma Aquakey facial mist (SGD50, set of one small bottle, one full sized bottle, with masks), which I was able to replenish thanks to a friend who went to Singapore. This is a great no-sting, all-around spray for post-commute, pre-and post-gym, under the sun, during flights, exposed to harsh conditioning, or any time the skin feels muggy, dry or oily. Somebody has to go back to Singapore soon to help me restock.
5. Toner – I’ve wanted to try the Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion Light (Php600+) for a while until I promptly gave up on it, not finding a reputable and affordable online seller. Once I did it was love at first splash. The ad blurb states that one drop contains an ocean. I cannot attest to that, but I can say that paired with Missha’s essence, this toner leaves the skin smooth and supple like a baby’s bottom.
6. Serum – On the last year of my 20s, I have fully embraced the need for serums that pack a punch. At night, I lay it on thick with both the Missha Time Revolution Night Repair (set with Essence, KRW85000) and the Missha Time Revolution White Cure Blanc Control Essence (KRW35000). White Blanc is a great alternative to my beloved Purelease; it goes on light upon application and gently erases dark marks and blemishes. Missha’s Night Repair was pegged as a dupe for Estee Lauder’s signature Advance Night Repair II, and I am a happy believer. Both serums are non-stick, non-greasy, and fragrance free. Make sure you let it dry and get absorbed before massaging the next one on, else it all goes to waste.
7. Mask sheet – This is one of the steps I tend to neglect. Ideally done once to twice a week, I only remember to do this maybe every other week, and not due to lack of mask sheets because of the loads that we got as samples from our Seoul haul. When I do remember though, my current favorite is the Dr Oguma AquaKey mask sheet. Fragrance-free and virtually non-sticky, I keep this in the ref and ply it on, the cool mask offering a luxurious spa-at-home experience.
8. Eye cream – Innisfree White Tone Up Eye Essence (KRW14400) is another no-research steal, but this time this gentle eye cream did not deliver at par to my expectations. I blame my dark eye bags for this feeling, but despite its lackluster brightening power, Innisfree’s eye essence is a good moisturizing, firming buddy. Alas, the quest for the holy grail of eye creams continue.
9. Moisturizer – Beyond was a nice new find, special thanks to Kim Soo Hyun whose face was plastered within every inch of the brand’s store. The fanfare notwithstanding, Beyond is a good, nature-happy brand, much like The Face Shop. Its Phyto White Emulsion was a famed product in Korea, and it proved a good choice. Now most people would prefer a thicker moisturizer, but with skin as oily as mine, that would be a danger zone. Beyond’s emulsion delivered oil-free moisture that feels light and lovely.
10. Sleeping mask – I remain loyal to Laneige Water Sleeping Pack_EX (KRW25000) and its fresh, pine-tree/snow day scent. It feels like spending a night at the spa whenever I pile this on. On days when I get a rash or some random red spot though, the Nature Republic Aloe Vera Gel (P300+) is my go-to cure.
11. Acne Care – I still keep a good stash of Dermglow Anti-blemish Cream and Dermglow Rejunevating Cream (set with toner and sunblock, P1900) for the periodic acne emergency. At times when the cystic bumps start to threaten me, I strip down the ritual to just the essence, the toner and these two creams for a week or two. Once the danger has passed, I revert to the 10-step.
Pictures are mine.
Nature Republic, Missha, Skin Food, Marionnaud, Laneige, Human Nature – in leading local malls and department stores.
Clarins – Rustan’s
ACNAID – Care to Bare Korean skin center
Dr Oguma – Singapore and also in HK and Taiwan, etc.
Beyond, Innisfree – Korea
Hada Labo – online reseller