Korean Beauty Believer

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

Additional steps:
– Exfoliating
– 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.

Organic Pharmacy
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.

Banila Co
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
Neogen Foam
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.

Fresh Soy Face
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.

May Coop
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.

Son Park
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.Missha Essence
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!
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RBJello’s Beauty Finds

Skin Analysis

Skin Analysis

When I was in Singapore, I did a skin analysis with one of those machines that look like they came straight off a UFO. The skin analysis was very in-depth with percentile rankings for wrinkles, UV damage, brown spots, bacteria and so much more. It was actually a scary exercise because it made me feel old!

I told my beauty consultant that I have extremely sensitive skin so I was limited by the products she could recommend to me. I wanted to share some of the products she introduced to me and some of my old stand-by favorites too.

Daily Exfoliating Cream

Jurlique Daily Exfoliating Cream $25 (and up) 

My mother actually introduced me to Jurlique’s hand cream a few years ago so this Australian brand has been on my radar for awhile. The beauty consultant recommended this as a daily exfoliator and I’m absolutely hooked. Most of the ingredients are natural, including oats, green tea, macadamia oil and honey. It comes out as a thick paste that smells sweet from the honey and you mix it with water in the palm of your hands. Afterward,  you apply it to your face in a “press and release” motion (no circular scrubbing). It is incredibly gentle to use every day and my face feels smooth and hydrated afterward.

Shiseido Multi-Defense UV Protector

Shiseido Multi-Defense UV Protector SPF 50 ~$48

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you probably already know how I’m a religious Shiseido fan. It is one of the few skincare lines that I’m not allergic to. After this skin consultation, I learned that my sunscreen SPF was not high enough. I was introduced to Shiseido’s Multi-Defense UV Protector. It’s incredibly lightweight (comes out as a very thin liquid) and my skin absorbs it really quickly without feeling oily. There’s a little bit of a scent and it’s not my favorite smell in the world, but I can live with it. It’s a small bottle (about 3-4 inches in height) so you can throw it in your purse and take it to-go easily.

Apparently, this particular product is only being sold in Asia, but Shiseido offers similar products in the U.S., like their Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector. Kiehl’s also sells a similar product, Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50+. I used it many years ago, but I’m allergic to it now.

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RBJello’s Travel Tips

Vapur Bottle

Vapur Reflex Water Bottle ~$10

Summer is already in full swing and I’m sure many of you have upcoming trips. In the past few months, I’ve been really fortunate to travel to some amazing destinations like Eastern Europe and China. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite travel products and tips. Feel free to share some of your own!

Vapur Runway

Vapur Runway Bottle

Major shout-out and thank you to Larinna at iheartspandex who introduced me to the awesome Vapur water bottles. I bought mine almost a year ago and it’s still my go-to travel water battle. These bottles are light-weight, collapsable, freezable and dishwasher safe. Oh, did I mention they are also BPA-free? I love taking mine to the airport and filling it up at a water fountain after I pass through security (so that I don’t spend $4 on a bottle of water).

Colorescience's Mineral Powder Sunscreen SPF 30 Brush

Colorescience’s Mineral Powder Sunscreen SPF 30 Brush $50

As I’ve discussed in an earlier post, I have the most sensitive skin skin on the planet and I’m allergic to most lotions and sunscreens. Colorescience’s mineral powder sunscreen (I use the Medium 1300 shade) is a lifesaver and I love it because I can throw it into my purse and use it any time. I don’t have to carry a whole bottle of sunscreen or worry about refilling trial sizes of sunscreen. While it is expensive, once you buy the brush, the refills for SPF 30 are $19 (prices are higher for SPF 50). Don’t be fooled by the small brush. The sunscreen lasts a long time and its worth every penny.


Vaseline <$5

I swear by Vaseline and Aquaphor. They’re both miracle products and I always bring a small travel size Vaseline with me on trips. Not only can you use it for your lips, dry elbows and dry soles/heels of your feet, I use mine as a make-up remover. I’m not kidding about my skin allergies (I’m allergic to Cetaphil. The stuff that doctors recommend for babies). Vaseline is a great eye make-up remover. Since it’s a jelly, you don’t have to worry about it spilling in your bag and creating a mess in your luggage.

Baby Powder

Johnson’s Baby Powder (1.5 oz) <$2

My old co-workers always knew when I was going on a run because my cubicle would start to smell like baby powder. Besides adding baby powder in my socks before a run, I always bring some with me on trips. If you’re going on a trip that requires a lot of walking, I recommend picking up a travel size bottle of baby powder from your local drugstore. Baby powder helps keep your feet dry, preventing chaffing and blisters (plus your shoes smell good too). My sister clued me in on this tip about three years ago. My feet and I thank her.

Sensitive Skin

First off, get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about sensitive skin due to allergies. About two years ago, I started having reactions to my daily products, including lotions, sunscreens, cosmetics and shampoo. It was the most annoying thing in the world. Wherever I used the product, I would break out in hives. My skin would get bright red, itchy and feel like it was on fire.  My old products, like Cetaphil, Lubriderm, Kiehl’s lotion and shampoos, made me absolutely miserable.

I finally saw an allergist last week and did a hard core skin patch test (I could not get my back wet and could not shower for 3 days). I found out that I’m allergic to nickel and thiomersal. I’m hoping that I can avoid these and also avoid looking like a bright red tomato.

The past 2 years have been a vicious trial and error cycle to see which products I don’t react to. I thought I’d share my recommendations for products in case you have sensitive skin too!

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunblock ~$10

This is one of the few affordable sunblocks that doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy. I do not recommend Neutrogena Skin Sunblock Lotion SPF 60+ (made my skin feel clay-like) or Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock Lotion SPF 60 (the zinc oxide made my skin white and ghost-like).


EltaMD UV SHIELD SPF 45 ~$23

I use this sunscreen on my face and it has no fragrance. EltaMD is a popular recommendation from dermatologists.

The Skincare Night Moisture RechargShiseido The Skincare Night Moisture Recharge $42.50

It took me ages to find a night time lotion that I was not allergic. Worth every penny. The lotion is so lightweight that you can even wear it in the day. Doesn’t make my skin greasy at all but leaves a natural, luminescent glow.

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing LotionAveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion ~$7

I have no idea what is in Lubriderm but it made me swell up badly. I got one of the worst reactions from it. I highly recommend this lotion from Aveeno.

I’m still looking for a good eye cream so if anyone has any recommendation, feel free to suggest one!