Last week I randomly stumbled into cult Korean beauty store Tony Moly, which sits right in the heart of New York, in Koreatown to be exact. The walls are lined with more BB’s, sheet masks, moisturizers and crazy snail infused sheet masks than you could possibly imagine and the makeup aisles feel like Willy Wonka’s candy shop. The colorful cutesy packaging (look for containers shaped like apples, pandas and golden eggs) are just waiting to be Instagramed. Based on my newest beauty discovery, I was inspired to research and discover the true magical secrets behind Korean skincare.
Do you ever notice how Korean women have the most beautiful, porcelain skin? If you assume this is all because of genes than you are totally wrong. They actually work quite diligently to achieve that perfect skin, and take a different approach to makeup than we do on the Western side. In Eastern cultures, skincare is a part of their culture, and while the American approach to skincare is more reactive (like, “Oh my god is that a wrinkle forming!? I need a eye cream!”), Korean women start being proactive from a very young age and treat their skin and complexion like the ultimate investment. It is not just financial investment but a time investment. So although you might be following a strict cleansing and moisturizing regime every night before going to bed, but you are still not even coming close to some important steps that Korean women use to help them achieve that spotless, beautiful skin.
Now, I am sure you have heard of the famous “million-step” skincare routine when it comes to Asian beauty. Fear not. It’s actually made up of about 10 steps, and while this might seem like a process that would take up your whole morning and evening, it actually only takes about 15 minutes, and leaves your skin glowing.
This is how the Koreans do it, so read and learn.
1. Pre-Cleanse: Step one is part of the ever-popular “double cleansing.” First, use a good eye makeup remover or towelette (like Tony Moly Panda’s Dream Eye Makeup Remover Pad or Koh Gen Do Cleansing Cloth) to rid your skin of any liner, mascara, lipstick and even that tinted moisturizer around your hairline (my problem). Next, loosen the face makeup and buildup from the day with an oil-based cleanser (I love Amore Pacific Treatment Cleansing Oil). Tata Harper even launched a Face Cleansing Oil.
2. Cleanse: Next clean the pre-cleansed skin with a water based cleanser. Tata Harper has a “2nd step” cleanser that I really like, Tata Harper’s Purifying Cleanser.
3. Exfoliate: Use a soft exfoliating cleanser (like Be the Skin Face Polisher) and only focus on the areas that really need special attention like the t-zone or around the nose. Make sure to only exfoliate a few times a week, so think of this step as optional.
4. Tone: Toner is the step that gets your skin squeaky clean. We all know about toning from our teen years, am I right? Make sure to avoid alcohol-based toners, and look for something mild like Aromatic’s Lavender Relaxing Toner which smells like the real thing.
5. Essence: The main difference between an essence and a serum is that while the toner cleans and preps the skin, the essence improves the skin. Skin becomes breathtakingly crystal clear. I can’t like without SK-II famous Facial Treatment Essence (that I have decanted into a spray bottle, just like Cate Blanchett herself!) and Cremorlab’s Mineral Treatment Essence.
6. Serum: Curious about what a serum really is? Read my explanation here. These babies brighten, lighten and plump skin, improve texture, reverse the signs of UV damage and more with cutting-edge technology and powerful vitamins, minerals and botanicals. Sulwhasoo Ampules are super divine.
7. The Sheet Mask: These masks are basically super-charged sheet laced serums. I suggest using them as often as needed. My favorites are by SK-II (I know, this brand is Japanese, but I’m just saying). The cool thing about these masks is that there are hundred of different kinds that target a variety of concerns, and even sensitive areas like the lips, eyes, chin and neck. I love Dr. Jart+ and he recently launched a whole variety of masks each geared towards a specific concern. Check them out here.
8. Eye Cream: A thick eye cream, like Amore Pacific Time Renewal Eye Cream (that my facialist Dangene swears by), should be applied twice a day, morning and night. I do this religiously anyway, so this step is my favorite.
9. Face Moisturizer: During the day, try to use something lightweight, like Amore Pacific SPF 30 Future Response Age Defense Cream, that blends into skin really fast without leaving it greasy. Also don’t forget about neck when you are blending into your face. At night, use a cream that lets your skin breathe yet at the same time, locks moisture in the skin throughout the night, so you wake up looking fresh and beautiful. I love the feeling and texture of Dr. Jart+ Time Returning Cream.
10. SPF (AM only): Now you have finally arrived at your last and final step! Make sure that the SPF is all natural and Zinc based. I love Tatcha’s Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen, another Japanese favorite, that was inspired by the Geisha’s iconic makeup.
Remember, the most important Korean beauty makeup secret is less makeup, more skincare. You don’t need to exfoliate and mask every day, but whenever you can give your skin an extra boost.