Six years ago (wow, six whole years), one of my first blog posts was about cosmetic products for sensitive skin. After living in Asia for several years, I was introduced to the world of Korean beauty aka. K-Beauty. Korean skincare is extremely affordable and since it is a lucrative business, Korean companies really invest a lot in the latest cutting-edge technology. Thanks to companies like Soko Glam, Memebox, and Peach & Lily, we can finally access K-Beauty in the U.S. In this post, I’ll talk about the 8-step Korean skincare process and also share my favorite products (full disclosure: it’s not all Korean brands). Major thanks to my friend, Ingrid, who is a fellow cosmetics lover and introduced me to many of the non-Korean products.
Before I forget, here’s my referral link for Soko Glam. You get 20% off your first order and I get a $10 credit if you order anything. I have a serious K-Beauty addiction so anything that you can do to help feed it would be appreciated!
I have really sensitive skin and used to use Shiseido exclusively. My skincare routine was becoming too expensive and I had been on it for years. I heard it’s good to change up your products because your skin gets “used to” cosmetics when you use them for a long duration of time. This is when I started experimenting more with Korean beauty brands.
Koreans have a CRAZY 8-step routine:
Step 1: Solid, Oil-based cleanser
Step 2: Water-based cleanser
Step 3: Toner
Step 4: Essence
Step 5: Serum
Step 6: Eye Cream
Step 7: Face Cream
Step 8: Masks/Sleeping Packs
– Sunscreen during the day
I probably do 7-8 of these steps daily, depending on my skincare needs. I’ll share the products that I really love and add a * to products that I can’t live without.
Step 1: Solid, Oil-based Cleanser
Koreans believe in double-cleansing. They first use an oil-based cleanser to take off make-up, sunscreen, etc. and then a water-based cleanser to remove any other impurities. When I first heard it, I thought it was a little excessive and may dry out my skin. Once I tried it, I was a believer. The oil-based cleanser actually nourishes my skin, not dries it out, and I use a gentle foam cleanser. My skin feels SO clean after double-cleansing and it’s finally ready to absorb Korean cosmetic good-ness.
I use a muslin cloth to wash off the oil-based cleanser. The Eve Lom ones are probably the most famous: http://www.sephora.com/3-muslin-cloths-P381435
1. Clinque Take the Day Off Balm*
– This product is fantastic and is a solid that melts when you start rubbing it into your face. It really removes make-up and sunscreen well.
2. The Organic Pharmacy Carrot Butter Cleanser*
– This is the ultimate holy grail in cleansers. It’s really expensive so I definitely do not use this daily. This is like a special occasion cleanser. I usually massage into my face, rinse my Eve Lom muslin cloth in extremely hot water, and then let it sit on my face like mini aromatherapy.
3. Banila Co Clean It Zero Classic
– This is the most famous oil-based cleanser in Korea. The pink one is the original formula and they came out with a blue one, purity (https://sokoglam.com/products/banila-co-clean-it-zero-purity), which is for sensitive skin. It’s less of a solid compared to Clinique and Organic Pharmacy.
4. Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil
– I haven’t personally used this one, but I do like the brand Erborian and trust them. I have friends who use this product and like it. I mostly end up using the Clinique one because I like it and I pick it up in Duty Free Shopping when I travel.
Step 2: Water-based cleanser
1. Neogen Real Fresh Foam Cleanser*
– I love Neogen’s foam cleanser. It’s actually foams up when you pump it out and is super gentle. If you have sensitive skin, I recommend the green tea one: https://sokoglam.com/products/neogen-real-fresh-foaming-cleanser. Sometimes the cranberry is sold out so I use the green tea one.
2. Fresh Soy Face Cleanser
– I love this gel cleanser. It’s also really gentle. I actually love Fresh’s line, but it’s more expensive and so I tend to only buy if there’s a sale.
Step 3: Toner
Toner is supposed to help balance out the pH level in your skin. This is honestly where I think the 8-step Korean process goes a little overboard since you’re supposed to use essence afterward. I personally think it’s a little too much, so I stick more with the essence.
1. May Coop Raw Sauce*
– May Coop Raw Sauce is a toner + essence in one. I’m a big fan of cutting down a step so I use this in my nightly routine. The consistency is thicker, almost sap-like, but it’s not terribly sticky. I really like how this feels on my skin and with the thicker consistency, I feel like it’s actually being absorbed. The first couple of times, my skin actually tingled while using it. To the point where I thought it might be too harsh for my face. But after a couple of uses, my skin adapted and it doesn’t sting anymore.
2. Son & Park Beauty Water
– If you are looking for a toner, the Son & Park Beauty Water always gets stellar reviews. I’ve never used it myself.
Step 4: Essence
Essence helps prepare your skin so it can absorb the next step, serum. I do believe in this step and wait about 5 minutes before applying serum afterward.
1. Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence
– Have you heard of the brand SK-II? It’s the holy grail of essence and uses an ingredient from sake called pitera. I’ve used SK-II before, but I didn’t really see a huge difference, especially for how expensive it is. It’s like $230 for a bottle! Missha’s essence is a great, cheaper alternative to SK-II. It’s a liquid so I just pour some on my hands and then directly pat onto my face. I prefer this over using a cotton pad because I feel like the cotton pad just soaks up all the liquid and it gets wasted.
I switch between Missha and May Coop Raw Sauce, usually based on who is having a sale!