Over the past year or so, I’ve developed an interest in Korean cosmetics and skincare. I find Korean makeup and skincare to be very innovative and, as I’ve discovered, very influential in the world of Western cosmetics.
Even if you’ve never gone out of your way to research and experiment with Korean beauty trends, it’s still possible that your makeup and/or skincare has been influenced by them. BB creams, cushion foundations, sheet masks; all of these beauty game-changers and more originated in South Korea.
In Korea, a cultural emphasis on healthy skin (as opposed to using makeup to cover imperfections) has allowed their skincare industry to flourish. Far more consumer money is spent on skincare products than makeup, which drives cosmetics companies to push for new ideas and high quality products at competitive prices.
A Korean skincare routine is built around multiple steps, layering light products that target specific skin concerns. This is what drew me to Korean skincare. I’ve never been blessed with smooth, clear skin. I’ve suffered with acne and oily skin since my teen years, which unfortunately didn’t subside in my early 20s as I hoped it would.
After years of trying over-the-counter cleansers and prescribed topical treatments, I tried one last-ditch attempt at the doctors in January this year, when my skin seemed to be getting worse. I was sent away with another cream and a course of antibiotics, which again, didn’t make much of a difference and just dried out my skin.
Fed up and willing to try anything, I thought why not give the Korean products that I’d been learning about a chance. After some research, I found COSRX, a skincare brand that caters to oily, acne-prone skin. I started with a cleanser and toner, and gradually built up a collection of skincare steps.
Since using COSRX products, I’ve seen a noticeable improvement in the condition of my skin. My skin’s texture is much smoother, its appearance brighter, and the little bumps on my forehead have completely cleared. Despite these positives, I’ve still been experiencing problems with cystic acne breakouts and stubborn acne scars. I recently added COSRX Centella Blemish Cream to my routine, and so far, I’m impressed. I was not expecting this cream to be so fast-acting. Within days, my acne scars have started to fade and the cystic spots on the sides of my face have calmed down and are clearing much quicker than if I left them alone. The Centella Blemish Cream is giving me more control over my acne and my skin doesn’t look so angry now. It’s early days, but so far I’m loving this cream and it’s a welcome addition to my routine.
These are the products in my current skincare routine:
Low-pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
A gentle cleanser with a pH of 5.0 – 6.0, which removes build-up of sebum and dead skin cells. The low pH formula helps to maintain the skin’s acid mantle (in simple terms, a combination of sweat and sebum which forms a film on the skin and acts as a protective barrier to external threats such as bacteria and pollutants). Healthy skin has a pH of around 5.5. A lot of cleansers can be too alkaline for the skin, stripping away natural oils and causing dryness.
- Tea tree oil
- Betaine Salicylate – performs as an exfoliator and anti-acne agent. Gentle alternative to salicylic acid.
AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner
This toner is designed to exfoliate and hydrate the skin and prevent whiteheads, blackheads and blemishes.
AHA’s: Water soluble acids which are good for treating dull, lacklustre skin. Helps to break down dead skin cells for a brighter, healthier complexion.
BHA’s: Oil soluble acids which deep cleanse pores, removing oil, dirt, pollution and dead skin cells.
- Willow bark water – anti-inflammatory plant extract with astringent properties (makes skin less oily)
- Glycolic acid (AHA) – acts as an exfoliant, promotes cell turnover
- Betaine Salicylate (BHA) – alternative to salicylic acid
BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
Exfoliates to prevent blackheads.
- Willow bark water (50%) – works as an astringent to tighten open pores.
- Betaine Salicylate (BHA)
Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
A light alternative to heavy oils and creams. This essence hydrates the skin and improves its elasticity.
- Snail secretion filtrate (96%) AKA snail goo. Yep, snail goo, which provides hydration and temporary skin plumping effects.
Centella Blemish Cream
This cream can be applied as a thin layer to treat acne scars and control sebum or in concentrated amounts as a spot treatment. I use this cream at night, after the toner stage.
- Centella Asiatica – antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Hastens the healing of damaged skin.
Acne Pimple Master Patch
These hydrocolloid patches come in three sizes and treat breakouts by eliminating infection and bacteria. They also stop you from touching/picking at your spots. The patches work by absorbing fluid from the pimples. I find these work best on spots that are coming to a head. Put one of these on at night, and when you take it off in the morning, white patches appear on the patch. This is the fluid from the pimple. After using this, spots are flattened and heal quicker.
Before & After:
Next on my wishlist is the COSRX Aloe Vera Oil-Free Moisture Cream. I’d also like to find a good eye cream and some sheet masks. If there are any Korean skincare fans reading this, do you have any recommendations? Which brands and products should I branch out to next? Let me know in the comments below!