So I got into this Korean skincare thing some time in the last week of October, when I read the Fashioinista article on a 12-step Korean skincare routine. When I read that this helped the writer’s hormonal breakouts I was sold. By this point, thanks to Differin (the retinoid prescribed by a dermatologist) I was clearing off the worst of my acne, but it kept coming back due to stress and the point just before you get your period.
Luckily, I was just about to fly into Hong Kong for a tournament just a few days later, which meant I could go ahead and buy a bunch of things there without too much problem. I was set on purchasing Laneige products in Hong Kong because I feared the markup in Singapore, and figured I’d purchase innisfree serums, essences and masks for when I came back to Singapore, since those aren’t too expensive. (Also I only had carry-on luggage and couldn’t buy that many liquids while overseas.)
When in Hong Kong, I realised that apart from the cult favourite Laneige Water Sleeping Pack, the mark ups for Laneige products in Singapore aren’t too bad. The Trouble line isn’t very much more expensive than the cost of it in Hong Kong (maybe SGD2 more, the Sleeping Pack was closer to SGD16 more expensive).
I wanted to break into the skincare stuff slowly, which is one of the reasons why this took so long to post. (More details on the different products below).
- First week of November: Switched from Avène to Laneige. Started to use a sample size of Laneige Light Essential Skin Refiner (essentially a toner) after every wash. Swapped my twice-daily all-over face moisturizer to the Laneige Trouble Relief Cream as an all-over moisturizer, the Laneige Trouble Relief Spot Gel for spot treatment, and used the Laneige Water Sleeping Pack twice for extra moisture.
Image from my Hong Kong Haul
- Second week of November: Began using innisfree green tea seed eye cream (using an eye cream for the first time in my life), innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask and sheet masks.
Image from Week 2’s innisfree haul
- Third week of November: Bringing in the Clarisonic MIA 2 again for exfoliation once a week, added in innisfree green tea seed serum, innisfree anti-trouble spot essence R for spot treatment, and bought some antioxidant sheet masks from Sephora. Also bought the innisfree green persimmon pore toner as my Laniege toner is only a sample size and is running out quick.
Week 3’s innisfree haul
As you can see, I’m slowly introducing layers into my skincare so I don’t freak my skin out with a sudden new barrage of products. Also, if I ended up allergic to anything it meant that I could more easily identify the problem.
So the two-step cleansing process is also a big part of the Korean beauty regime. I had no idea what this meant until I found out it basically means using a cleansing oil as a makeup remover in the evening before using your standard facial wash. Was confused why Western beauty writers were making a big fuss over this, until I realised that most people use makeup wipes or just remove their makeup with their standard facial cleansers.
I’ve (unwittingly) been on this two-step process for years, probably since I started using makeup regularly. (I still use them when I travel, can’t help it, it’s just too convenient). I used to use Biore’s Aqua Jelly makeup remover, but switched over the the Biore Cleansing Oil sometime in the beginning of October. (Funny story that, I basically went overseas for a week-long tournament and realised I forgot to bring makeup remover. Went by the supermarket and just picked this up randomly.) It’s been my regular makeup remover since, and I love massaging it slowly into my skin. The oil breaks down your solidified oils trapped in your pores.
The twice-daily constants. From Left to Right: Laneige Light Essential Skin Refiner, Laneige Trouble Relief Cream, innisfree Green Tea Seed Eye Serum, Laneige Trouble Relief Spot Gel. Vaseline is combed through the brows to tamed them, and is also a handy lip balm.
Skincare routine for day:
- Cleanser [Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash]
- Toner [Laneige Power Essential Skin Refiner in Light/innisfree Green Persimmon Pore Toner)
- Serum [innisfree green tea seed serum]
- Eye cream [innisfree green tea seed eye cream]
- Moisturizer [Laneige Trouble Relief Cream]
- Spot treatment [Laneige Trouble Relief Spot Gel/innisfree Jejubija anti-trouble spot essence R]
- Foundation with SPF (I like Laneige’s BB Cushion and Happy Skin SS creme foundation and ZZ Cream foundation for this. If not, I take Jane Iredale’s Tinted Moisturizer but that only has SPF 15. I also like to dust my Guerlain UV shield on top.)
Skincare routine for night:
- Makeup Remover [Biore Cleansing Oil]
- Cleanser [Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash]
- Toner [Laneige Power Essential Skin Refiner in Light/innisfree Green Persimmon Pore Toner]
- Serum [innisfree The green tea seed serum]
- Eye cream [innisfree green tea seed eye cream]
- Moisturizer [Laneige Trouble Relief Cream]
- Spot treatment [Laneige Trouble Relief Spot Gel or Innisfree Jejubija anti-trouble spot essence R]
Random night supplements I might throw in if my skin needs it:
- Clarisonic MIA 2 – I know I know, the Korean skincare regime is all about being very gentle to your skin. But I don’t go for facials (which Korean women go for . A lot.) or have any other deep cleansing methods (too afraid to try oil pulling cos I’ve read about all the breakouts it can cause) so I need at least one thing to help prevent cystic acne.
- Differin – the miracle retinoid that I talked about in my last post. I mostly use it to spot treat cystic acne now, rather than apply it all over the face like I used to.
- Exfoliator – this can be my St Ives Apricot Scrub or my Clarisonic MIA 2. Trying not to use this more than once a week now, especially since I’m now using a clay mask regularly.
- Innisfree Volcanic Ash Clay Mask – this is a clay mask. Clay masks basically work by sticking on your face and as it dries and you wash it off, pulls off dead skin and excess dirt and sebum with it. Note, most women leave it on ‘til it gets all dry and crackly but that’s too long, and it would have sucked out some of the moisture on your skin by that point. Remove it just as it gets dry. I recommend washing them off by the fifteen minute mark. A lot of people say that clay masks are able to act as a sponge and soap up your impurities, and so deep cleanse your skin. I’m gonna go with this dermatologist who says they only work for the surface, and therefore only remove surface level impurities. Their minerals may work in making your skin looking lighter and brighter, they won’t affect your cystic acne, unfortunately. I find that it does help with pimples and blackheads, especially those with minerals that have anti-inflammatory properties; my skin definitely looks clearer at the end of each use. Clay masks work very well with oily and combination skin, and using this means that I cut down on exfoliating my skin with a scrub. I like to use it at least once a week.
- Sleeping pack – I’m using the fabled Laneige Water Sleeping Pack. This is applied as the last step on a regime, so like a ‘mask’ you put on before you sleep. Some people think that sleeping packs are just moisturizers, but I think sleeping packs are formulated with a lot more properties in mind. The Laneige Water Sleeping Pack for instance, has anti-oxidant and skin softening effects.
My new babies: Laneige Water Sleeping Pack and innisfree Super Volvanic Pore Clay Mask
- Sheet mask – these are like cotton pads soaked in an essence or serum that have moisturizing properties, along with other specific things depending on the formula on the sheets. So whitening, anti-blemishes, anti-oxidants, etc. Sheet masks tend to be expensive though, so if you’re broke just follow Michelle Phan’s tip for DIY sheet masks and soak cotton pads in essences then apply on the face ‘til dry. I intend to do that once I’m done with the sheet masks I have. I leave these on for half an hour, massage what’s left of it on my face, spot treat if necessary, and then go to sleep after.
Sephora sells a variety of sheet masks that retail for SGD4. I’ve used the green tea one so far and felt that it worked for my then-oily skin and reduced the inflammation of my acne. Bought anti-oxidant masks, hoping for glowing skin.
Amongst the many samples I received from innisfree included a bunch of their sheet masks. The ones included (green tea, cucumber, manuka honey and rose) are all for hydrating purposes. Used three out of four of them so far, and happy to report that they’re pleasant and relaxing to use, and my skin does feel hydrated in the morning!
If this sounds like a crazy load of products to use don’t worry. The standard skincare routine I used above (about seven steps each) don’t take more than ten minutes. It’s really using a sheet mask or clay mask at night that would add an extra fifteen or twenty minutes, for obvious reasons. Do that only two or three times a week and you’re good.
I tend to use Differin as a spot treatment now, only for the cystic acne. (I long for the day this will no longer be necessary.) Otherwise I use the Laneige spot treatment, and for the really bad ones, the innisfree essence.
Other things I plan to buy:
- innisfree soybean energy essence (for the days that I feel tired, which is just about every day)
- innisfree Eco Science White C Double Serum (which I intend to use after I’m done with the sheet masks)
- A full bottle of Laneige Light Essential Skin Refiner (because this stuff is so awesome)
(Then there’s all the stuff I want to get for my hair too, it’s time I started taking care of that. Been using a sample of innisfree camellia essential hair oil serum and it has been amazing so far.)
GENERAL REVIEW ON ALL THE PRODUCTS
So far, I’m really happy with all (but one) of the products I have.
The only one I have a problem with is the innisfree Green Persimmon Pore Toner. It doesn’t have alcohol in it, so that already makes it a lot better than various toners I’ve tried, and it smells refreshing and all, but I just don’t like the way my skin feels after I use it. It feels drier, somehow. I think I’m going to just buy a new bottle of the Laneige Power Essential Skin Refiner. There’s a reason why the reviews for it have been amazingly positive: it’s moisturizing, and rather than close your pore, it really feels like your skin is being prepped for the rest of your skincare regime.
But I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that my skin has definitely been a lot less oily, and a lot fewer pimples are popping up. I’m typing this a couple of days before my period is due (TMI I know but wait listen), and this is usually when my skin tends to freak out. I spent about five hours just now in a shoot with a full face of makeup in an non-air conditioned studio (the shoot was just over three hours long and I was constantly changing in and out of clothes throughout, but more on that later) and this is usually a recipe for a breakout, or at the very least the introduction of a new pus filled monster. Wiped everything off with a makeup sheet and some Vaseline, took another couple of hours to get back to my room to rinse everything off with some sweet cleansing oil and nada. Not a single new red one (and my skin was already looking pretty good in the morning). I wasn’t going to do this post for another couple of weeks to see how the skincare was really working out, but then today happened and I just had to.
So yes, I conclude that this regime has been great in helping to stabilize my mood swingy skin, and all this moisturizing (plus the drying effects I previously mentioned that came with using Differin) has really calmed down the overactive sebaceous glands.
I still don’t believe in using four or five different types of essences and serums. I might layer up to two depending so long as they work on different things (a serum for anti-oxidants and an essence for hydration) but I wouldn’t keep layering products that essentially do the same thing. And seriously, putting that many things just can’t be not stressing your skin out.
THINGS I HAVE LEARNT
- SANITIZE YOUR HANDS BEFORE TOUCHING YOUR FACE. Like seriously, I can’t believe it took me this long to do that. I used to just wash my hands with water before using a facial wash. I think I was afraid of drying out my hands by washing it with soap regularly but it helps to use a less harsh hand soap with some moisturizing properties (plenty of Japanese brands do have that) and then
- incorporate a hand cream in your skincare regime. Because hands are the first places to show age, or I hate the feeling when my hands are all cracked and gross.
- When it comes to application, your hands are your best friend. There are plenty of videos out there that show you how to specifically apply different products in different ways. Serums are meant to be patted and smoothed into the skin, creamier lotions and moisturizers are to be massaged in circular upward motions. Eye creams are gently tapped on around the entire eye, do not tug at your skin as you do this.
- Therefore, do not use makeup wipes to take off your makeup. Even when using something as excellent as Biore’s makeup wipes, I still tend to scrub at my eyelashes to remove mascara, or inadvertently rub too hard against parts of my face. Massaging an oil-based makeup remover takes everything off easily and gives you more control of the process at the same time, and can also break down hardened sebum on your face.
The three must-haves: anti-bacterial handsoap, a cleansing oil and a facial wash.
- For the love of god, don’t use toners that have alcohol content. Don’t. Using Laneige and innisfree toners have opened me up to all the amazing possibilities toners could be – they open your pores to prep your skin for all the products you’re going to put on top, they moisturize, they don’t strip your skin of all its oils. (Seriously, Kiehl’s is still showing off their highly astringent, highly drying and highly alcoholic blue toner).
- Steam your face before you cleanse it. You basically want your pores to open up to make the extraction easier. I usually let the hot water in the shower run for a few minutes, and then gently pat some of the water on my skin before using a facial soap. You’d want to do the same before applying a clay mask or any exfoliater to make it more effective.
- Apply the lightest products to the heaviest. Most people are about the order that which you’re supposed to apply everything. Simple logic, you want the product to have penetrated your skin, not be sitting around on the surface before you go mix something else in (which ends up diluting the product). Korean serums and essences tend to be pretty lightweight, so you can apply that first, followed by lotions and the creamier moisturizers.
- Wait for the product to seep in before you apply more gunk on your face. I can’t stress how important this is. You should wait at least a minute before applying the next step. I cut time then by applying products on other parts of the body/face while I wait for the first product to penetrate. Use lip balm, apply body lotion or hair serum while waiting for the next step. Just don’t forget to wash your hands before they touch your face again.
- Skincare isn’t related just to your face by the way. Don’t forget to moisturize the rest of the body and use sunscreen!
Other things I use on the rest of the body. All-over body lotions, sunscreen and hand lotion.
I hope all this has been a comprehensive read about skincare! If you’re interested in finding out more, here’s some more literature!
The Fashionista article that started all this: Here’s What Happened when I Tried The 12-Step Korean Skin Care Regime
Elle’s Writeup on the Korean Skincare Regime
Skincare Ingrediant Combinations to Avoid
Korean Skincare: The Differences Between Serums, Essences & Ampoules
What’s your current skincare regime? Let me know in the comments!