13 Aug
2NE1, “It Hurts” video still

Several years ago my best good friend cheekily informed me that “Korea was the new Japan”.  This was big news, as she and I had initially bonded at the start of our friendship over a mutual love of Japanese food and culture and anime (of course anime).

Over the course of the next few years she would attempt to entice me with K-pop or Korean dramas and Eat Your Kimchi, a super fun blog by non-Korean couple living in Korea, about food, travel, adventures, and culture. Despite her best attempts, however, I never quite contracted the K-Fever.

…and I am not saying that I have now, mind you, however a few months ago, a few friends recommended some Korean beauty products to me, and I drank the K-oolaid. Fell down the K-rabbit hole.  Whatever.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, an obsession was born.

Products to brighten your skin! Products to reduce redness! Products made from snail mucus and fermented rose petals and mushroom extracts! Products to make you look like this!

2NE1 Fault Magazine Interview, 2012

Here’s a run-down of the products I have tried over the last few months – which ones were duds, which ones have become Holy Grails, and every thing in between.  Disclaimer, and I feel I need to add this because I am wretchedly paranoid.  Anytime I write something I am plagued by doubt and insecurities, convinced that someone is going to call me out on some minor (or, major -eek!) detail that I’ve gotten wrong. Something I missed. As some sort of amateur hack who has no business voicing an opinion.

So as a reminder, I am no cosmetologist or aesthetician.  I am not a professional Reviewer of Things.  I am certainly not a foremost expert on All Things Korean (or anything Korean, really). I am just a woman with an opinion. An opinion which may not be the same as yours! But an opinion which I would like to share with you, nonetheless.

Before doing so, though, there are a few other things I would like to share in terms of resources.  Korean cosmetics and skincare is apparently a complicated business in terms of which products do what, and the multi-step processes that go along with them.

Here’s a decent breakdown from Into The Gloss, which pretty much says that you should be spending the same amount of time in the evening taking your face off and treating it after, as you do with the spackling of it on in the morning.  And here’s another really great article from Style.com in which one expert asserts that the commonly talked about Korean 10 Step Process is not actually a real thing. Here is an article that talks about the difference between tones/serums/essences/ampoules, and here is a blog that you should look at because it’s basically the most beautiful blog I have ever seen.  She talks about a few must-haves, but I just can’t stop looking at her photos. Here’s a lady at the Huffington Post who gave all of it a try. Basically any google search for Korean Skin Care Products/Routine will unearth a bunch of great information, but you can really make yourself nuts about it.

From what I understand, the process for youthful, dewy skin looks like something like this.

1. Pre-cleanse with makeup removing wipes
2. Cleanse with an oil cleanser or foaming cleanser or balm
3. Exfoliate (not an every day thing)
5. Essence
6. Serum (or ampoule, if you need it, for an extra boost)
7. Sheet Mask (twice a weekish)
8. Eye cream
9. Moisturizer (I think these are sometimes called emulsions)
10. Night cream before bed / SPF in the morning

Obviously, this can be streamlined for budget and time constraints, once you find the things that work best for you.  And in the morning, for example, I imagine you can cut it down to less than half those steps.  You’re probably not wearing makeup to bed.  Hopefully.

I’ve purchased all of these things on my own, except for a few things gifted to me by my best good friend.  None of these were given to me by the companies or the retailers. Also, the things I am listing below are not in any order of where they might belong in the process listed above.  I’ve sort of just been buying things willy-nilly, here and there, and so if anything, it’s in order from earliest purchase to most recent.



The first few items I purchased:

The Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick  is a a bit of a luxury item. A low PH cleanser with fermented damask rose extract in a twisty push up container. Retails anywhere from about $25 to $40 or so. I really loved this.  The instructions say to apply directly to your face and then lather it up, but it’s probably less stressful on your skin and will use less product if you lather up in your hands and then apply to your face. My face never feels tight, or worse, flaky, after using this. The container makes it super convenient for travel, so that’s a plus too.

The Lioele Water Drop Sleeping Pack ; this and other packs (or sleeping masks) of it’s type are, I believe, applied after the rest of your night time beauty regimen, to sort of seal everything in for the rest of the night, and then you wash it off in the morning.  An oil free gel, it’s supposed to reduce bloating and redness and the particular appeal of this item is that once you massage the product onto your face, it beads up into water droplets on your skin.  Not sure I understand how that’s helpful (don’t we want to keep moisture in, not out?) and it seems kind of gimmicky.  I tried it a few times and gave it away.  It just didn’t make much sense to me.

Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream contains snail mucin, which is all about cell regeneration.  My best good friend warned me that she tried a product with snail mucin in it and it made her break out but I was so high on the idea of slathering snail slime on my face that I’m afraid I might have pooh-poohed her. The product itself is nice enough, a light gel consistency with a bit of a cucumber fragrance.  But I didn’t like how sticky my face felt afterward, and sure enough, it did break me out.  This was another one I gave away.

The IOPE Air Cushion is probably the most amazing cosmetic product I have ever used.  Sorry for the hyperbole, but I stand by it. It is basically a compact with a BB cream soaked sponge in it. It comes with a non-absorbing puff that wicks the formula off of the sponge and “…effortlessly applies evenly onto your face, for that dewy no-makeup, makeup look”.
The first time I used it, I was a little disappointed; it got patchy and flaky (like all my makeup started doing around two years ago BECAUSE I AM GETTING OLD) but then I realized I hadn’t moisturized properly. The next few times I used it, I fell in love. The coverage at first is sheer to medium, but definitely buildable. Check out this blogger’s photos for an idea of how it worked for her.  And it’s just…really easy to use. Easier than smearing actual BB cream on your face. Also, it’s got some really sturdy packaging, a pleasant scent, and out of all of the things I have tried so far, it is my number one recommendation.  At $35-$45 though, it’s not inexpensive.

Missha Time Revolution – The First Treatment Essence Mist contains fermented yeast extract which is supposedly good for skin recovery.  Many bloggers claim this helps for whitening and supple skin, but, eh…I can’t see an difference on my end.  It’s a fine mist, which is nice, but it smells kind of strange.  I can’t see that it’s hurting me, so I will probably use it up, but after it is gone, I will be on the lookout for a new essence.  Suggestions are welcome!

To sum up, or as the kids say, TL;DR -I can definitely recommend the Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick  and I strongly urge you to try The IOPE Air Cushion. If the other three interest you, be certain to read up on reviews and research on the Lioele Water Drop Sleeping PackMissha Time Revolution – The First Treatment Essence Mist , and the Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream. Obviously, just because I didn’t love them doesn’t mean that you won’t, so let me know if you give them a try!

Up next – Masks! And Cuteness Overload!

Minna says

Your K-madness is infectious! However! I refuse to try any snail mucus products because of my Uzumake-initiated-adult-onset-phobia. (I'm currently using The Face Shop Herb Day 365 Mung Bean Cleansing Foam - I didn't realize contained parabens - whoops; that Lioele Water Drop pack (I totally enjoy for little-kid-reasons); the Mizon Real Oatmeal Essential Lip & Eye Remover (smells pleasantly like oatmeal); several LUSH products; my own concoction for an oil cleanser; and Etude House Precious Mineral BB Cream Perfect Fit... gotta give the cushion a try! Oh, and there's TonyMoly hand cream on my work desk, because panda jar.)

Minna says

PS: I enjoy the product reviews on https://www.fanserviced-b.com/.

S. Elizabeth says

I tried that Etude House BB cream and it didn't quite work for me, so I ended up giving it away. And yay for adorable TonyMoly handcreams! I have the peach one that totally looks like a boob. I'd love to hear more about your home-made oil cleanser, when you have a moment !

Minna says

I started here (https://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/) and went with one of the caster oil + other oil blends (I think it was the dry skin ratio), using jojoba oil instead of the sunflower seed oil mentioned because that's what I had on hand.

Hannah says

have you been to the subreddit AsianBeauty yet? (https://www.reddit.com/r/AsianBeauty/) ? there's also an exchange board so if you don't like something someone else will surely buy it from you!

lau says

so interesting! i've been using the snail cream every night, actually, and i think it's been helping my skin! i've never really moisturized before (i know, i know, i'm bad at being a lady) – my beauty regimen at night only consists of using making up remover / cleansing wipes and then putting that stuff on. my skin isn't great or anything now, but it definitely feels like i've been missing out on not doing any sort of moisturizing. but seeing that whole list of things to do, yikes. i have a lot left to learn, haha.

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