Not too long ago, I myself had what I considered to be horrible skin. I had acne since my teens and had finally come to the realization that it wasn’t going to improve since I was already well into my thirties. One summer night I got an idea to do some Pinterest “research.” I found that Korean women had been doing skincare and beauty right for a very long time. I stumbled upon a whole new world.
Now when I say I had horrible skin, what I mean by that is not only did I have acne on my face, but acne on my back and shoulders as well, with scaring. I was totally embarrassed by this and would dread summertime when it was bathing suit season. That summer night changed the way I treat my skin completely.
One of the biggest things I realized it that while I tried my best over the years to “cure” my acne and control my oil, I had it all wrong. The Korean skincare routine focuses on layering skincare products and keeping your skin hydrated so that it does not need to over produce sebum (oil). This single factor now allows me to wear bathing suits with confidence.
Here are some of the best tips, tricks and products that have helped me have glowing skin, with only a few pimples every now and then. Not everything is part of the Korean skincare routine, but I’m including everything as they have all been instrumental in helping me have the clear skin I have today.
1. Stop Over Cleaning Your Skin
One of the first things I learned is that I was washing my face too much and trying too hard to control oil. I was essentially washing away the good oil and moisture of my natural skin. So, I cut back to cleansing my face once a day or sometimes not at all depending on my activity level for the day. The next thing I learned was that the Korean skin care system recommended washing your face with 2 different types of cleansers; a cleansing oil and a foam cleanser to remove impurities. My number one favorite beauty product above all else is the oil-based cleanser Banila Clean It Zero Makeup Remover, which comes in Original, Purifying, Revitalizing, and Nourishing.
Additionally, my go to foam cleanser is Sparkling BB Cleansing Foam by Kwailnara. Most Korean Cleansing Foams will suffice. If I’m in a hurry I will still use Basis Bar Soap, as it is mild and fragrance free. This helps with body breakouts as well. This single step made the biggest and most immediate difference in my skin within a few uses. The Basis Bar can be a bit drying in itself, so I make sure to moisturize immediately after using.
2. Moisturize, Moisturize and Moisturize Some More
I once thought that the more I moisturized the oilier my skin would be. I was completely wrong. The more I moisturized the more balanced my skin began to look and the softer it felt and surprisingly the less oily it was. I now moisturize as soon as I feel dry or flaky. I actually prefer to use a non-Korean product for this, and I have several that I rotate between. My main preference for a moisturizer is Aveeno Skin Relief 24 Hour Moisturizing Lotion. If I am going without make up, which is most of the time, I make sure I do not leave the house without this moisturizer. I use this on both my face and body. It feels like it completely moisturizes you without feeling greasy. My other choices include La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluide Protective Moisturizer and Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. When I’m on the go I keep a small version of Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly in my purse.
3. Find The Right Skincare Routine
So, as I mentioned above, I generally follow the Korean skincare routine. I don’t follow it to the tee as much as I did when I first started. I do as much as I can, when I can remember. I did print out a copy of the entire Korean skincare routine and a “calendar” of when to use what and posted it on my bathroom medicine cabinet to remind myself. As you try different things, over time you can create your own routine that works for you and your lifestyle (meaning don’t beat yourself up if you don’t follow all the “rules”). As I mentioned before I did a lot of research on Pinterest. You can find an endless amount of beauty tips and routines to follow all over Pinterest. Another helpful online tool has been YouTube. I don’t have a favorite beauty vlogger, but I have watched several tutorials by TheBeautyBreakdown. The Korean skincare routine and beauty products have been the only things that have made my skin glow.
4. Find the Right Products
There are numerous steps that are required if you do choose the Korean skincare system. These products have worked wonders for each step that I have tried.
Step 1 – Oil Cleanser: Banila Clean It Zero Makeup Remover as mentioned above. If you try only one thing, let this be it.
Step 2 – Foam Cleanser: Sparkling BB Cleansing Foam by Kwailnara as mentioned above. Most Korean foaming cleansers will have their own version, and may come with ingredients like green tea, “volcanic” components, rice water or egg extract to name a few.
Step 3 – Exfoliator: I do this sparingly because my skin is sensitive, so only 1-2 times per week. My favorite is not a Korean exfoliator, it’s actually Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. Don’t neglect your body, Salux Nylon Japanese Beauty Skin Bath Wash Cloth will ensure your skin is silky smooth.
Step 4 – Toner: I love, love, love Mario Badescu products. The Mario Badescu Spritz Mist and Glow Facial Spray Collection, 3 Piece Set – Lavender, Cucumber, Rose set allows you to spray morning, noon and night. I also use Witch Hazel almost every day or whenever I feel like I need my skin to feel fresh.
Step 5 – Essence: Mizon Water Volume Ex First Essence feels like you are just putting water on your face but will keep you so hydrated. UPDATE: I’ve tried a few new essences, so stay tuned for a follow-up post.
Step 6 – Serum & Ampule: Tony Moly – The Fresh Phytoncide Pore Skin tightens pores and QYANF Vitamin C Original Liquid Moisturizing Serum (could no longer find this product) helps with acne, wrinkles and lightens your skin. I have yet to try Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule, but it has been touted as one of the very best. UPDATE: I’ve tried a few new serums, so stay tuned for a follow-up post.
Step 7 – Facial Oil: This is one step I have not tried, as my fear of being too oily has prevented me from doing so. I’ve been told that Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate is a cult classic.
Step 8 – Eye Cream: I have 2 favorites for this step. They are both equally refreshing and appear to make my dark circles look a little better in the morning. Mizon snail repair eye cream will last quite a while as you should only be using your ring finger to dab on a small amount under your eye. It helps moisturize and treat dark circles via through Niacinamide for skin brightening and fights fine-lines by using Adenosine and Peptides. This product has mucin from snail slime that helps skin regeneration, and the snail slime is a source of copper peptides which can help with wound healing. My next in line here is Laneige Eye Sleeping Mask. This product helps to prevent puffy eyes and makes skin around the eyes look bright and clear with the use of vitamins and caffeine.
Step 9 – Moisturizer: Aveeno Skin Relief 24 Hour Moisturizing Lotion, as well as the others mentioned above.
Step 10 – SPF or Sleep Mask: The theory is that you use SPF during the day and a sleep mask or pack at night. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluide Protective Moisturizer has SPF in it that will cover your face. Additionally, I like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Non-Greasy Moisturizing Sunscreen for the face. For the body, I go with Banana Boat UltraMist Kids purely because it smells so good. I choose a children’s sunscreen as I have read that children’s sunscreens protect better than adults (not sure how valid that is). My favorite sleep masks are the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask and Water Sleeping Mask. Our skin does all its reparative work while we sleep. Just as night creams are rich in nutrients, sleeping masks are even denser, but in benefits. Sleep masks are designed to feel lightweight without sacrificing any of the goodness. When you wake up in the morning you are left with gorgeously hydrated and healthy skin.
My daughter who is now 17 at the time of this post, swears by her Laneige skin care set. She struggled quite a bit with acne and trialed numerous products. HER ONLY RECOMMENDATION is this set. I love most of the products Laneige offers myself. The Overnight Lip Mask alone is worth its weight in gold.
5. Supplements and Diet
Your nutrition and hydration are keys to kick starting your glowing skin goals. This is something I still struggle with myself. Reducing sugar intake, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and cutting dairy can significantly impact your skin in a good way. Less meat and more fatty fish will also help you get that glow even faster. Lemons in any way, shape or form can work wonders for your skin and body inside and out. Green tea and water are you best bets for staying hydrated and keeping your skin looking it’s best. If you’re not a big water fan (like myself) try adding fresh fruit to give it some flavor and help detox your skin. Again, Pinterest is a great resource to learn about skin clearing foods like avocados, papaya, peaches, mushrooms, and dark leafy greens. If you don’t like fish, try increasing your Omega-3 supplementation, like Triple Omega. Other supplements that are optimal for skin care include Vitamin C (brightens skin and helps protect your skin), CoQ-10 (numerous benefits including collagen production), Vitamin E (heals damaged skin and balances pH levels of the skin), Biotin (improves your skin tone), as well as so many more.
6. Spa Treatments
Getting a facial will make you feel like a million dollars. Some people have very sensitive skin so just be sure to fully discuss your skin care needs with your aesthetician before getting a facial. I love dermaplaning. If you wonder why men look so good as they age, it’s partially because they shave, which constantly forces skin cell turnover. Dermaplaning simulates the dermis in that same way. The process of dermaplaning is one of removing dead skin cells by way of “scraping off” the top layer of skin and peach fuzz. It helps to minimize old skin scars from acne or sun damage, smooths your skin, removes fine hairs, reduces the visibility of large pores and skin pigment alterations, releases clogged pores and helps your skin to produce new skin cells and collagen for a more youthful appearance. Typically, adding a traditional “facial” option after your session will allow all the products to absorb even better and make your skin look flawless. This will vary based on your skin type and needs. As with everything, make sure you know the benefits and risks before getting a facial. Your skin care professional should tell you beforehand, but if not, ask!
7. Identify Health Issues
If you have tried everything under the sun and nothing seems to be working for you, it’s time to consult a dermatologist. I too went to a dermatologist and was ready to start on one of the most powerful and side effect ridden medications, Accutane. This came with plenty of warnings and dangers. Make sure your dermatologist covers all their bases before beginning medication. What I mean by this is that they make sure other skin and health factors aren’t contributing to your skin condition. Other possible health related factors that affect your skin include hormones, leaky gut syndrome, environmental and food allergies, auto-immune diseases and the list goes on. I found that when I stopped using hormonal birth control, my skin dramatically improved.
One topical medication that made a slight difference for me and is now sold over the counter is Differin Gel. My daughter (at the age 14) was using this for her skin along will a ton of other products others told her about. Once we realized the aforementioned beauty set did the trick on its own, she no longer needed this level of care.
All of your physicians should be communicating with one another, if not, ask them to start doing so immediately.
8. Other Goodies
The beauty industry is flooded with products, gadgets and tools to help you look your best. Here are a few that I actually use. In fact, they bet on you to keep this billion-dollar industry going. Always do your research and remember sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution. Natural ingredients can oftentimes work better than synthetic and vice versa. TikTok has a wonderful skincare and holistic/traditional community. Some of my favorites include sightsage and dr.mamina. Below are some of the tools I’ve personally used.
Jade Roller – A jade roller has been used for centuries to help tighten skin, increase elasticity and aid circulation and lymphatic drainage. According to Chinese legend, jade can balance your Chi, promote spirituality, it represents the heart chakra.
Microneedle – Microneedling is used to create tiny imperfections in the skin, which forces the inflammatory response, in turn forcing skin cell turnover. This treatment can help with acne scarring, large pores, fine lines and wrinkles. This is definitely one I would do my homework on before attempting at home. If you are sensitive to pain or have sensitive skin, you may want to forego it altogether.
Tea Tree Oil – I have used Tea Tree oil topically to treat acne and in baths to detox. Tea Tree oil and other home remedies like Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar have 101+ uses, including skin care. I prefer to use Tea Tree Oil sparingly in soaps like Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap and as an essential oil (a few drops in a warm bath). It appears to help fight bacteria just as well as benzoyl peroxide, it penetrates lower levels of your skin to help with tissue formation and acts as an anti-septic to heal your skin. This oil is so potent that it can even help treat other skin conditions like fungus, dandruff and vaginal infections. Be careful with Tea Tree Oil as it can be toxic to pets and some people are greatly sensitive to it. *WARNING – I recently read that tea tree oil can negatively affect your bodies hormones, so again…research!
Epsom Salt Baths – I swear I mention Epsom Salts in almost every post! These salts, which are high in magnesium, help you to relax, ease muscle pain, help with migraines, and decrease constipation. Epsom salts often include zinc, vitamin D, and potassium that are necessary to create beautiful skin. These baths are great especially if you have body acne or blemishes. Epsom salts contain sulfur which has properties of being anti-fungal, antiviral and antibacterial.
Shaving – To me, shaving is the worst part of my beauty routine. I must admit that sometimes I go weeks without shaving…ladies are you with me on that!? When I do shave, I am very particular about which razors I use. I actually prefer men razors, like Schick Hydro Sense Sensitive Razors because they shave so close and smooth. The women’s razor I prefer is the Gillette Venus Sensitive Women’s Disposable Razors and Gillette Venus White Tea Comfort Glide Women’s Razors because they are long lasting (takes a long time to rust) and provides a comfortable shave with little to no nicks. I recently tried the Flamingo Women’s 5-blade Razor from Target and this one from Amazon Hydro Silk Touch Up, both were okay, but not my favorites. The best after shave care that I have found is definitely slathering my legs post shave with Johnson’s Baby Oil Gel with Aloe Vera & Vitamin E. Also, don’t forget to exfoliate your legs before shaving and a couple days after. Exfoliation is great post waxing (wink wink) as well, just wait at least 24 hours post wax so the inflammation will be diminished. My favorite body exfoliator right now is Tree Hut Shea Sugar Scrub in Moroccan Rose.
I absolutely love the skin I am in now. I still get an occasional breakout or pimple. I have come a long way as my acne drove me to skin picking and I was literally on the verge of having an excoriation disorder. My skin was so bad and scarred that I rarely wore a bathing suit, tank tops and sleeveless shits. My skin has remarkably healed itself with some tender loving care. I also think getting off of birth control and other medications might have helped my skin regulate itself and ultimately heal.
Nonetheless, using the techniques and products mentioned above definitely helped me reach my skin goals. I truly feel radiant and that I look ten years younger than I am. I get compliments from friends, family and even strangers now. Personally, I don’t follow the Korean skincare routine as stringently as I’d like, but even doing minimal effort, my skin is healthy and lustrous. Sometimes I wonder, if I did practice the routine completely, that my skin might look damn near “perfect.” Let’s just hope we can all age as gracefully as these ladies.
Things Always Get Better - I have truly lived. I’ve had good times and bad times. I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister, a psych nurse and a soon to be wife. I love writing about my passions, what interest me, what interests others, and sharing all of my thoughts with my readers. I want everyone to have the chance to live their happiest life.
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