Looking Good: K-Beauty Haul

About a month ago, I was in Seoul... and went a little crazy.

From being completely resistant to Korean beauty products (I didn’t want to give into the hype and the cutesy packaging was a big turn-off for me), I am now K-Beauty’s biggest fan. And yes, K-Beauty is actually a thing (K-Beauty—the umbrella term for all South Korean imports in the skin care, makeup and bath-and-body categories)!

Let’s just say I arrived at Incheon International Airport with an additional 20kgs worth of beauty products (in my defence, I had also bought stuff for other people!). As if that wasn’t enough, Ive been addicted to sites like Global inter park and koreadepart to satisfy my need to try every single Korean product. I’ve gone so far as to build an excel sheet to keep track and bought a mini-fridge to house all of them. 

In this page five article, I’ve decided to write an as-quick-as-possible summary of a K-beauty routine with my own routine as an example.

 A quick disclaimer

I have very oily and acne-prone skin, as well as PIH (post-inflammatory pigmentation) AND sensitive skin caused by a horrible burn to my entire face that landed me in the emergency room. It doesn’t help that I also live in Singapore where it is always hot and humid. In summary, I have skin that is a chore to maintain, and a day without a pimple is a miracle. So that is my starting line, and my goal? To never have to wear foundation. It’s a long shot, but I’m aiming high! 

The K-Beauty Routine:

From personal experience, I know that entering into this great, big world of K-Beauty is extremely daunting. There is just SO much information, I feel that you have to decide on 1 or 2 bloggers/K-Beauty experts to follow and stick to their advice, because if you try reading all of them (like I have) you’ll find the information all starting to jumble up into one huge mess - Which is definitely do not want my skin to become. I have even gone one step further and gotten the book, Korean Beauty Secrets: A practical guide to cutting-edge skincare & makeup by Kerry Thompson and Coco Park (Told you I was serious).  

If I had to pick my favourite K-beauty blogger, it would definitely be Snow White and The Asian Pear, whom I discovered when I was desperately trying to figure out how to layer on different products. My biggest takeaway from her blog is this, "At the heart of Asian skincare philosophy: customise your routine to suit your skin". 


So here are the foundational steps perfectly summarised by Fanserviced-B :

1. Cleansers
2. Actives
3. Hydraters
4. Occlusives
5. Treatment/Protection

The steps above may look a bit odd at first, but let’s break it down.

Cleanse = Oil-based and water-based cleanser as well as a cleansing toner. Be aware that there are many types of toners such as hydrating, calming, pH balancing and astringent toners. Think of it this way: You don’t want to apply a product only to have it wiped off by a cleansing toner, so apply those right after cleansing and before other products. On the other hand, you do want your skin’s pH levels “balanced” before applying your products so you should apply a pH-balancing toner before other products. 

In summary, cleansing and pH-balancing toners before actives, while hydrating/calming toners after actives. 

Actives = Actives include Vitamin C (LAA - L-Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin A (retinoids such as retinol and tretinoin), and acids like Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), and Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA). 

Think of Actives as an extension of cleansing, so they are applied immediately after cleansing (Remember that this means applying actives after your cleansing toner and if you are using a hydrating toner, you apply the actives before your hydrating toner). Actives are fussy things, they need a low pH environment to work, and even at the ideal pH, they also need at least 20 minutes to do the job effectively. Let’s not even get into how they are required to be apply from the lowest pH to the highest! 

Hydrators = Toners, Essences, Serums and Ampoules. Essence is a light liquid that usually targets a specific skin concern. A serum is similar but generally has a higher concentration of the beneficial ingredient, and then there are ampoules which are even more densely concentrated than the serum. So in general, it is toner —> essence —> serums —> ampoules. 

Occlusives = These are usually your creams and oils which basically contain lots of lipids (oils/fats/emollients) and they stop the hydration you just added to your skin from escaping. So think of this step as the “sealing” step which work best when applied over wet skin or together with humectant ingredients. So if you are planning on using a sheet mask (which is a hydrator), put the mask on first and seal it in with a cream after! 

Treatment/Protection = This step varies between morning and night. In the AM, use sunblock (a must!!) and re-apply every few hours and for an additional treat, misting throughout the day.

And now for my current skincare routine in order

“Double Cleansing” is the first step you’ll come across when researching and this entails an oil cleanse to get rid of oil based impurities followed by a water-based or foaming cleanse that gets rid of water-based impurities (in the most basic terms anyway). I double cleanse both day and night because I’m very acne prone and I feel that this works best for me. 

Day: THE FACE SHOP Rice Water Brightening Oil (not pictured), COSRX Good Morning Low pH Cleanser and the COSRX One Step Pimple Clear Pads (if I am having a breakout)

Midday: I vary between SU:M7 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick or NEOGEN Real Fresh Foam (Green tea) - this step is pretty much an excuse for me to use my other cleansers for fun.

Night: BANILA CO. Clean It Zero Purity for Sensitive Skin, COSRX Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser and the COSRX One Step Pimple Clear Pads

+ Toning
Day & Night: COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying treatment toner (which is helps lower the skin's pH level and conveniently preps the skin for the following actives)

Day: OST Vit 20C Serum (wait 20 minutes away from direct sunlight unless you like to orange-tan look)
Night: COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid (wait 30 mins) -not pictured, COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-SOL and COSRX BHA Pore-minish Serum (if I’m not too sleepy, I wait another 20 mins)

Day & Night:
 COSRX Natural BHA skin returtning Emulsion, SKIN&LAB Bio-activating essence, INNISFREE Green Tea Seed Serum, COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence and COSRX Centella Blemish Ampoule

COSRX Centella Blemish Cream (it is actually a spot treatment but since I have plenty of acne scars, it’s a daily cream for me) , DR JART+ Re-cover Green Cure Cream, BELIF Firming Eye Cream (not crazy about this product so I mostly use it on my neck)
Night: COSRX Centella Blemish Cream and BELIF Firming Eye Cream (on eyes and neck)

Biore Watery Essence SPF 50 ++++ (Japanese - the only ones with the technology of PA++++, Korea only has PA +++ which just means higher protection against UVA rays)

Mid-day: IOPE Air Cushion Matte SPF 50++ and Aritaum Baby Mist Tea Tree or Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Seawater Mist

Night: COSRX Pimple Patch (this is hands-down my favourite Korean product ever and crazy effective)

And here is my TFC Beauty Timetable for all the extras:

Here's my time table

And there you have it - My new skin care routine! Now I better go put my eye masks on before I forget!