Ji Hye Park, Korean Model

Before I even moved to England many, many years ago, I was travelling all over Asia as a musician. With my job, I get to meet a lot of people from different cultures, learned how to speak (and sing) bit of Chinese, Korean, German, Spanish, Japanese, and etc. And I love that part of my job even though I was away from home for a long time. My favourite has to be the Korean Culture- pretty much the same as us Filipinos- we love (EATING generally) spicy food, karaoke, drinking with friends or coworkers, watching dramas/telenovelas and achieving that  “Chok chok”, young, glowing, radiant, flawless skin. “CHOK CHOK” which essentially translates to “plump and moist” by the way. In short, beauty obsessed (and pageant obsessed lol! YEP Hello Miss Universe Philippines;D)! South Koreans know their beauty! And here’s what Marie Claire says: South Korea is about “12 years ahead of the United States in terms of (beauty) technology” and “outpacing other countries in beauty innovation” and, in the skincare world, has become “the new France.” 

How did Korea become this global beauty mecca? Well, interestingly enough, this Korean beauty obsession with flawless skin isn’t a recent trend; it links back to the royal dynasties when having clean, refined, translucent skin meant that you came from a noble family (same as the Filipino culture). This concept still carries on and the demand for brightening and skin refining in Korea has helped create new technology treatments in the country where laser treatments cost 80% less than those in the U.S or the UK. These hyper-targeted treatments and products are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S and the UK where many women are conscious of sun-freckling and/or hyper-pigmentation. And that is what led to Korea becoming the new France: legacy of beauty heritage that defines flawless skin as an essential status symbol à the standard for perfect skin being sky-high and globally unparalleled à drives technology innovation in beauty faster than any other country. It all begins with the culture and the consumers. Korean women are voracious beauty consumers; they spend 7x more on beauty products and skincare than women do in the West. Korean consumers are extremely overparticular and do hours upon hours of research on blogs and beauty/health websites before purchasing a single serum – this national beauty obsession drives the industry to meet demands with the newest and latest innovations. This focus on beauty began to raise international attention with the worldwide uptake of BB Creams with other active ingredients targeting acne, hyper-pigmentation, wrinkles, etc. Women from all over the world take skin care seriously, but Korean skin care is in a league of its own. Different climates and cultures regulate how a person approaches skin care. When it comes to Korean skin care, the women from this region have hundreds of years of history with caring for the skin in ways that get rid of wrinkles and create supple skin. If the fountain of youth is going to be discovered anywhere, my bet is on Seoul.

Ji Hye Park, Korean Model

So it didn’t take long for me to be hooked with K-dramas, K-pop, Korean food and ESPECIALLY K-Beauty! If you’re familiar with any aspect of Korean beauty, it’s probably their famous ten-step Korean-skincare routine! I know it has been all over the magazines, press, and the blogging world over the last few years and it’s obvious why. It's interesting and maybe a bit extreme to some! But while Korean women do typically include more products (even up to 12, 13 steps) in their skin-care-routine than Western counterparts, it’s not as if they’re using all ten to twelve products twice a day everyday. Each product enters the rotation for a specific purpose.

Jun Ji-hyun, Korean Actress

Now, many Koreans are naturally fair skinned, but it cannot honestly be said that they are born with good skin. It comes with a good amount of time and effort before they achieve that glowing skin every girl (or guy) would wish for. I’m a strong believer of “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones”. I’m sure most of you know one girl who looked less-than-attractive as a child or teenager, but ‘transformed’ over the years. Now, I dare say she must have invested a lot more time and effort in grooming herself – she probably grew her range of skin care products, added more clothes to her wardrobe and paid more attention to her skin, hair and nails. If she can do it, so can you! Just put in that extra effort, and you could look as great as a KPOP star or that famous Korean actress! But just remember good skin is not about having buttloads of products— it’s about having the RIGHT products that do the right work and then using them in the right order. You NEED to properly cleanse, exfoliate, treat, moisturise, and protect your skin (HELLO SUNSCREEN) and it should only take you a few minutes! Just think about this, it takes you an hour to put on your makeup in the morning, you should at least make an effort to care for your skin in the evenings.

Now listen up gorgeous , this is going to be a long one…


1. PRE-CLEANSE: MAKEUP REMOVER & OIL CLEANSER. Step one is part of the ever popular “DOUBLE CLEANSING” method which I will be discussing more in the blog the next time. Now I always wear a lot of makeup. I start my routine with a  cotton pad soaked in gentle makeup remover. This really helps remove eye makeup  precisely (hello waterproof mascara and black liner I’m looking at you), which some people don’t really give a big deal about it but you NEED to get all your mascara off, as your eyes and eyelashes are quite delicate enough as it is without being caked with a week’s worth of old mascara. (ew) Also don’t forget your liner, lipstick. After that, I use an oil based cleanser on the rest of my face.  Apply on dry face directly with your fingers, and use gentle upward circular motions. Even those with oily skin can use an oil cleanser, it won’t make you oilier. What it will do though is break down all the oil-based debris thats left on you skin, such as makeup, sunscreen, and sebum, as well as smog and pollution. I’m loving  Tata Harper’s Nourishing Oil Cleanser and Banila Co. Clean It Zero Purity (for sensitive skin) - it’s a sorbet-soft, lightweight formula that transforms from a solid balm to a silky oil on the skin and effortlessly dissolve stubborn makeup and dirt.

2. CLEANSE : WATER-BASED CLEANSER.  Next clean the pre-cleansed skin with a water based cleanser. Yep, its time to wash your face again. Cleansing twice is not only practiced by Koreans, but its actually recommended by many aestheticians and dermatologists because it helps to thoroughly remove any impurities that can cause breakouts. Apply a water based cleanser , usually creamy in texture or foam up when you add water. Make sure that during both cleanses, gently massage the face to help increase circulation. My current picks are Neogen Dermalogy Real Fresh Green Tea Foam and Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick. I’m doing a review soon about these two. Another fave cleanser is Tata Harper’s Regenerating Cleanser and the Purifying Cleanser—-perfect 2nd step cleansers. Something many people don’t realise is that K-beauty rituals don’t always involve all-Korean products. There are western products that embodies many of the principles Korean skincare-savvy people seek —brand that use natural ingredients organically grown.

3. THE EXFOLIATOR. Exfoliating cleansers remove dead skin cells to reveal a brighter, smoother complexion. Don’t underestimate the importance of exfoliating. They also help with reducing the appearance of pore size as well as preventing blackheads. Some exfoliating cleansers are manual exfoliators, meaning they contain sugar or cellulose granules that physically remove the dead skin cells to newer cells. Manual  exfoliators tend to have  the word “polish” or “scrub” in the product name, while chemical exfoliators use words such as “peeling” or “enzyme”. exfoliate once or twice a week, and focus on your nose (you know, where blackheads LOVE to play) and the visible pores in your cheeks.  NEOGEN Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine is one of my faves, they’re gentle exfoliating pads that offer all the benefits of chemical and mechanical exfoliating in one. It provides gentle yet effective exfoliation of dead skin cells and impurities, leaving skin smoother and clear. The smell so divine! A soft exfoliating cleanser like Be The Skin Non-Stimulus Face Polisher is good! Only focus on the areas that really need special attention like the t-zone or  around  the nose. Use once or three times weekly.

4. THE TONER. Toners are quite important. It is an in-between step and often a step people will tell you to skip when you’re trying to simplify your skin-care routine. Why is it important?  You use this after cleansing, they help remove any leftover residues from your cleanser while also prepping and pairing your skin’s barrier to effectively absorb the moisturisers that follow. We’ve all heard of a facial toner, but it’s important to know that a typical Korean toner is vastly different in terms of function and ingredients from a western-style toner. Western toners are designed to provide an additional cleansing function and tend to have astringent properties, and you can find ones that are suitable for any skin type. In Korea, a lot of women use hydrating toners (packed with Humectants that aid in soothing and hydrating) instead of astringent ones. Sometimes referred to as a “skin”, “refreshers”or “booster”, is designed to add moisture to the skin that might be stripped away from the cleansing process, and to increase the penetration of the skincare products that follow. Just use a cotton pad to swipe all across your face and neck, I usually just pat in the product with my hands sometimes. Currently loving Son & Park Beauty Water as of the moment— a really clever cleansing liquid made from natural plant extracts that tones, exfoliates and hydrates to deliver smooth and revitalised skin!

5. ESSENCES. I love essences! I remembered it took only one essence and I got hooked with Asian products! The essence is definitely the heart of the skin-care routine. An essence is a lightly hydrating liquid containing skin-beneficial ingredients, usually targeted toward specific skin concerns such as hyper-pigmentation, dullness, raging or acne. It’s a skin-care category that was created in Korea hence it’s considered the most important step. It’s texture can range from that of a watery toner to a thicker, more serum-like consistency. Skin becomes breathtakingly crystal clear as it hydrates and increase cell turnover. I can’t live without SK-II famous Facial Treatment Essence and Cremorlab’s Mineral Treatment Essence, Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence is another new fave of mine. This year I’d like to try more Korean essences! They just instantly give me that “Chok chok “ feeling—a quality I desire very much.

6. AMPOULES, BOOSTERS, SERUMS. Though an essence and a serum can often be very similar, serums generally have a higher concentration of beneficial ingredients. An ampoule is used to describe a product thats more densely concentrated than a serum, but sometimes the terms “serum” and “ampoule” are used interchangeably . They usually have a thicker consistency and are used to target and treat very specific skin problems. They can help brighten the skin, fade sunspots, and smooth fine lines. The Missha Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule and Sulwhasoo Ampoules are both amazing and divine, they balance your skin to quickly restore damage for radiant, healthy and resilient skin.

7. SHEET MASKS. I’m sure by now everyone knows what sheets masks are. This is actually one of my favourite part, I’m a sheet mask hoarder after all.;D Sheet masks are thin sheets of material soaked in a treatment essence or serum designed to infuse the skin with an immediate burst of hydration, and they may also target specific skin concerns. Like what they say if the essence is the heart of the Korean skin-care routine then the sheet mask is the soul. It’s meditative ritual and relaxation is what I love about it and Korean masks sheets are so fun! You can have a tiger, panda, cat, dog masks or a laced one! So many choices! They’re applied to the face, and have holes cut out for the eyes, nose, and mouth then you can lie back and chill out for 20 minutes. Sheet masks can do a number of things— moisturising, some are exfoliating, brightening, and some are nourishing. Most sheet masks are meant to be applied after the toner/booster step, and for some people they replace the essence/serum step altogether.  They are available in a few different materials, and each of the varying materials performs a little differently: Fiber/Pulp, Hydro gel and Bio Cellulose masks. My top faves are from SK-II Facial Treatment masks (old time favourite Japanese brand), Manefit Bling Bling Hydrogel Mask, Skinfood Hydro Fitting Snail Mask Sheets and the Whamisa Organic Sea Kelp Facial Sheet Mask.

8. THE EYE CREAM. Regularly using an intensive eye cream can help keep dark circles, puffiness, and crow’s-feet at bay. The skin around your eyes is the thinnest and most delicate part of your skin so its important to gently tap the eye cream around your eye. This leads to better absorption of the product, and of course eliminates any of that tugging and pulling. I’d like to apply a thick eye cream like  Amore Pacific Time Renewal Eye Cream, twice a day . Also loving the Whamisa Organic Flower Essence and Mizon Intensive Skin Barrier Eye Care Set is also good in removing those dark circles.

9. THE MOISTURISER, EMULSIONS, CREAMS.  Yep really, another layer. If you haven’t noticed, Korean women are all about layering, to the point you feel your skin has been mummified. Koreans LOVE Hydration, Hydration, Hydration. It is probably the most important part of your nighttime skin-care routine while SUNSCREEN is the most important part on your day time routine which I’m going to explain later. It is likely the thickest formula that you’ll apply to your face, which is why it goes on last, and will make the most of your skin’s restorative midnight hours. Also don’t forget about neck when you are blending into your face.  The use of fermented ingredients are a big thing in Korean skincare, pat in a cream that contains fermented snow lotus extracts, bamboo sap and fruit water like the SU:M37 Timeless Moisturizing Cream. At the daytime I usually apply something lightweight like an EMULSION (Korean translation for “moisturiser”), sometimes refer to as lotion, is a moisturising treatment. It is lighter than a cream, but designed to hydrate and moisturise skin, and contains many of the same active and beneficial ingredients found in an essence, though its generally less concentrated.  For people with oily skin and live in a humid climate, this might be the only moisturiser in their skincare routine. Those with dry skin types, may opt to apply a more occlusive cream (most moisturising creams) over emulsions, some even FACE OILS after the moisturiser or cream particularly in the evening. Once a week, you can sub in a sleeping pack in place of your night cream to hydrate intensely. A sleeping pack, also called a sleeping mask, is an overnight skin treatment that comes in a tub or a tube. It’s designed to be applied on the face as your last skincare step in the evening in order to provide hydration and other skincare benefits while you sleep. It can be used in addition to or in lieu of a night time moisturising cream, depending really on your needs. My picks : HERA Aquabolic Emulsion, Su:m 37 Time Energy Emulsion, Belif True Cream- Aqua Bomb, Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream,  Dr. Jart+ Time Returning Cream and Son & Park Beauty Gel is a lovely moisturising gel perfect before putting makeup on. My favourite sleeping masks: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and Innisfree Green Tea Sleeping Pack. Sometimes lip balms aren't enough, I love treating my lips with Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, made with Moisture Wrap™, which forms a moisturizing protective film and Berry Mix Complex™, which is rich in Vitamin C to gently exfoliate dry flakes.

10. SUNSCREEN (AM ONLY).  Sun protection is simply the most effective, repeatedly proven defence we have against dark spots, skin damage, fine lines and wrinkles. The final step and product could also count as steps 11, 12, or 13 since it will be re applied throughout the day. Make sure that the SPF is all natural and Zinc based. Regularly wearing SPF, even if you’re just sitting in front of your computer near a window or nipping outside for a few minutes, is probably the one important thing you can do to maintain and protect the health and beauty of your skin. After putting on some sunscreen, I finish it with my cushion compact which I’m going to talk about more the next time. I’m currently loving Sulwhasoo Evenfair Perfecting Cushion, AmorePacific Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum, HERA UV Mist Cushion SPF 50+ PA+++ and the IOPE Air Cushion XP [SPF 50+/PA+++]. Hoping to try more of these cushion compacts as it really does give you that gorgeous, glowing natural looking skin like the Korean women have. It’s an easy way to incorporate SPF into your daily beauty routine, and it’s nice to be able to reapply SPF throughout the day in a way that doesn’t change your makeup—really, you’re just touching up your makeup. I love that it doesn’t cake or flake; instead, it leaves skin looking radiant. Top picks (for Sunscreens) would be Dr. Oracle EPL Daily Sunblock SPF50 PA +++ which is really lightweight yet moisturising, MISSHA Mild Essence Sun Milk  with UVA/UVB protection! I also love  Tatcha’s Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen, another Japanese favourite. 

Korean actress, Song Hye Gyo

So, what really sets Korean women apart from their Western counterparts? One word – TECHNIQUE. Korean women (and men!) have a dedicated routine that is motivated by prevention. They are proactive, rather than reactive, to skin issues and concerns. Koreans stay out of the sun, yet still religiously apply sunscreen, perform stimulating exercises, taught to cleanse the right way so they can reap the rewards later in Life. They live, eat and breath skincare . The key is daily prevention and nurturing, which eliminates any need for expensive facials. ;D I know it’s quite a lot but the first thing is don’t go cray and change everything if you wanna dive in to the Korean skincare routine. Not only because your skin might react poorly but because you won’t really know  how your skin responds to it. Sadly, not everything works the same on everyone. Many things you just need to explore for yourself, which is why patch testing and staggered introduction of new things is so important. You need to get to know your skin. Introduce one new element at a time. Three weeks is about how long it takes to see if anything is happening. Once those three weeks are over, you can infuse a new element or switch to something else. Sometimes the results are hard to see, but if you’re really paying attention, you should be able to really. Again IMPORTANT NOTE: To prevent irritation and breakouts, remember to patch test every new product and give yourself 2 weeks to 1 month in between introducing each new product; otherwise you won’t know which product had which effect - positive or negative! Lastly, I'd like to greet everyone a happy NEW YEAR! Hope this new year brings you lot of accomplishments, happiness and success! 

So have many of you jumped on the K-beauty train already? What do you think of the Korean skincare routine?

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