Inside: How a simple web search turned me on to the wonderful world of Korean skincare. Read on to learn about my favorite Korean skincare products.
2020 was supposed to be a big year of international travel for my family. We had plans to take my daughter on her first visit to Asia, and we had spent months getting our little one pumped about our trip. We watched videos of the cities, read guide books, and studied as much as we could through the lens of culture. She was most looking forward to trying spicy noodles and dumplings and finding all the cute themed food at Hong Kong Disney.
And me? I had spent some time learning about Korean skincare. I must admit, I’m late to the game. It’s a bit of sensation in the United States these days, unless you live under a proverbial rock. Which, when it comes to skincare and fashion, I do.
I’ve never fussed with skincare or products. For starters, I just didn’t care. I’m not a fan of spending a ton of money, and my mom was always touting the benefits of super expensive, high end department store brands. With an eye cream costing upwards of $70, or a face serum costing almost $150, I could think of a hundred different things I’d rather spend my money on.
Why are skincare products so dang expensive in this country?
So the first thing that surprised me about Korean skincare products was the affordable price. Eye creams starting at $10 with hundreds of 5-star reviews. Serums and face creams starting at $10. Something sounded fishy. There’s no way these affordable products could possibly have high quality ingredients at those prices, right? Wrong. I clicked on product after product, and read the labels. Many were organic. Most used all natural ingredients like green tea, aloe vera, olive, vitamin c, and coconut oil.
How could this be?
Simple – they’re using the same high quality ingredients that they’ve been using for hundreds of years. Korean beauty and skincare has been part of their culture for a very long time. And because the Korean beauty space is hyper-competitive, along with lower labor costs, brands keep their prices as low as possible.
So I was really excited to stock up on high-quality, affordable Korean skincare on my trip to Seoul. But then my trip got cancelled.
And the realities of the pandemic set in. We were all of sudden thrust into “the Upside Down.” We were remote working and remote schooling. We were sitting at home and realizing that all our interests and hobbies were out of reach. We couldn’t just jump out and try a new restaurant or meet up with friends for a happy hour. We couldn’t travel and in some cases, we couldn’t even hang out with our families. My husband made the agonizing decision to quit the business he had built up for 5 years and got a new job. And as we stumbled through this new time, I was desperate for some sort of a routine. Some sort of self-care ritual to calm my nerves. Something to look forward to each day.
And I kept coming back to Korean skincare.
I learned about the 10-step ritual. I learned just how much I didn’t know about skincare – like the proper way to put on eye cream. I learned about how Korean women gently dab and tap product onto their face until absorbed vs rubbing it in. I learned about the “double-cleanse” – how you’re supposed to first clean your face with oil (it helps your makeup just melt off) and follow it up with a foaming cleanser to get it all off.
I learned that actual use of toner was, in fact, not to swipe the last bits of makeup off your face, but to instead help open your pores so that your skin better receives the products that follow. And it all seemed so comforting. Pampering. And maybe a little princess-y. I couldn’t wait for a chance to head to Seoul to do some shopping.
And then, while researching some products online, I realized that there was an online shop that sold Korean skincare products and SHIPPED THEM TO THE USA.
It’s called Style Korean and it is fantastic. There is always some sort of sale, and they also send you samples with each order. And if you can commit to purchasing $80 worth of product, they will even give you expedited shipping from Korea for FREE. And $80 goes a LONG way on this site.
I wanted to share some of my favorite products with you.
I really love this cleansing oil. First of all, it smells GREAT, and really does melt all the makeup off my face. InnisFree is an all-natural Korean brand that is “free” from harmful chemicals. The other neat thing about this cleanser is that you can do the “double wash” with just one product. I take the oil and apply it to my face, gently gliding over any makeup. Then I take a little bit more of the cleanser in my hand, add a bit of water and rub it together to foam it up! So you can use this as both an oil cleanser, and a foam cleanser. A little goes a long way. I love this product.
That’s a lot of letters. And I’ll go ahead and be honest that I have no idea what they mean. I do however know what “miracle” means, and this toner is freaking amazing. So, in true clueless fashion, I always sort of thought that the whole point of toner was to remove the last traces of mascara and stuff from your face. In America, that’s what we’re told. In Korea, they say that the point of toner is to replenish your skin after cleansing, restore hydration, and help to ph-balance it so it properly accepts the skincare products you add next. Interesting. Also, I learned that in Korea, women are taught to gently tap this into your skin until absorbed, instead of soaking a cotton ball and swiping it all over. Noted. Anyway, I’m a big fan of the products that do double-duty, so I love using this as it both tones and exfoliates in one step! I have incredibly dry, sensitive skin – especially in the winter months, and exfoliation is not fun for my skin. But this one is extremely gentle and I feel like I can see it visibly plumping up after I dab it on. A true miracle.
Ok, so after you double-wash, exfoliate and tone, it’s time to add an essence, serum or ampoule. I don’t really know the difference, although my limited experience has led me to believe that essences and serums tend to be more watery and ampoules are richer/thicker. This is the step in the Korean beauty routine that can be as many products as you want, depending on your skin concerns. If you are layering products, always go from the lightest to the thickest.
I have a bunch of different serums and ampoules (I mean, I have to get to $80 for the free, expedited shipping you guys!) and I’ll list my favorites. I switch up the ones I use (I rarely use more than one product because I’m a little lazy). But feel free to layer on as many serums and ampoules as you like!
This vitamin serum smells like heaven and immediately brightens my face. This is usually the one I reach for in the morning.
I really love the way this essence feels on my skin. It hydrates without being greasy, and gives my skin a great glow. It is gentle and great for sensitive skin like I have.
If I had to pick one product that I’m OBSESSED with, it would be this ampoule. Again, not entirely sure what an ampoule is, but this is a rich, thick, luxurious product that I absolutely LOVE. It says “night repair” on the package, but as I read through the hundreds of 5-star reviews, I noted the advice to use it both in the morning and evening, so that’s what I do. It feels absolutely delicious on my skin. If I could buy it by the gallon, I would, so I could slather it all over my entire body. If you only get one product (which would be silly since you get FREE expedited shipping if you spend $80) you should get this.
I really love this lotion. I have both the cream and lotion, and prefer the lighter consistency of the lotion. It’s easily absorbed into the skin and a little goes a long way. It doesn’t leave my skin shiny or greasy and makes it feel so soft!
I’ve tried a few different eye creams and this one from Heimish is my favorite. It smells delicious, has wonderful all-natural ingredients, and doesn’t make my sensitive eyes water or sting!
This cream comes with a nifty little tool. One side, for scooping the cream out so you don’t need to dip your fingers into the pot and potentially introduce bacteria, and the other side for gently massaging away any puffiness.
And the final step – smoothing on this thick lip sleeping mask. I love the grapefruit but there are a ton of different flavors to choose from. This also comes with a little tool to scoop it out of the pot – in Korea they really advise against using your fingers to dip and scoop out product. I apply a thick layer to my lips at night and wake up to incredibly soft lips in the morning. Like magic!
I hope you guys find some fun, affordable new products to try here. Here’s to your self-care!