I’ve been a fan of Korean products for quite a while now, especially since Althea Korea was made available here in the Philippines. It’s just so convenient and so affordable to shop there, that it has been so easy to test one product after another! Still, for the longest time, my skincare routine had been pretty basic. Thorough, yes, but it won’t be more than 4-5 steps at the most. That’s until I visited Seoul last May, got exposed to a seemingly infinite plethora of skincare possibilities, and consequently rekindled my love for Korean products.
Now that I’ve settled back into the daily grind, I have also gotten around to upgrading my skincare routine, and have added some of the new stuff I scored back there. I’ve patterned my new and improved skincare regimen after the trending 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine. Take note: patterned, and not copied completely. Because in as much as I want to do all 10 steps, I can’t. I just can’t. Or at least not all in one go.
One thing I’m learning (partly from the wise and brilliant vlogger Liah Yoo) is that you constantly have to listen to your skin. It’s a day-by-day thing more than a fixed routine, so by this, I am assuming that it’s okay to mix it up a little and not be scared to switch your products up from time to time. This way, your skin also doesn’t get ‘immuned’ to your everyday products so quickly.
Going into detail, here’s what I’ve been doing and using lately:
Disclaimer: I am still in trial stage for most of the products in this routine, so I don’t really know if everything’s as effective as they claim and seem. But here’s what I know for sure: So far, so good. My #1 basis for that is the clarity of my skin. I haven’t been breaking out, even on my PMS days, and that says a lot already.
[PM ONLY] Step 1: Oil-Based Cleanse. This means makeup removal, and they advise you use a product that’s oil-based to dissolve whatever’s on your face thoroughly. Of course I don’t wear makeup in my sleep, so the only time I do this is at night after a day out, right before bedtime.
My go-to product for this step is Banila Co’s Clean It Zero. It’s a cleansing balm that feels like Vaseline but dissolves as oil. It smells great, easy to use, and makes my skin feel clean and supple right after.
On other days, I use Sephora Collection’s Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover on a cotton pad for just my eye makeup and brows. Then for the rest of my face, I use either Equate’s makeup removing towelettes (a Walmart oldie but goodie) or Bioderma’s Sebium H2O (I bought their biggest bottle last October 2015 and it still hasn’t run out — OMG is this like Jesus’ wine?!) (Another side note: both are non-oil products, I know.)
Step 2: H2O-based Cleanse. This refers to washing your face, which I believe is the most crucial part of skincare. However, I’m finding that even though it’s the most important step, it doesn’t matter so much what cleansing product you use as long as it’s safe for your skin. Why? Because you just use it for washing. It doesn’t stay on your face for so long. So for me, as long as it washes out the gunk well and isn’t too harsh or too drying, you’re okay!
For this step, I alternate the following products depending on how my skin is feeling at that moment:
- Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser – I usually use this in the AM when my skin doesn’t feel as dirty as it is at night
- Acnes Creamy Wash – I first found this in Japan last year and gave it a try since it was so cheap (around PHP 150-200) and I have been using it since! It’s also available in Sasa and Bonjour in Hong Kong at around the same price point, and also in Malaysia but I can’t remember which stores. Oh and also in Olive Young in Korea but at a significantly higher price (around PHP 500 — I do not understand why!)
- Biore Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser – This is my newest facial cleanser which I got my mom to buy from the US–thanks to attractive magazine ads, and it’s so nice especially if you have oily skin! Very cooling and deep cleansing!
Step 3: Exfoliate. To get rid of dead skin cells and avoid pore clogging, I do this step 1-2x a week. I think people with oily skin like me have the permission to exfoliate more frequently, since we tend to have more build up of yucky stuff than drier peeps.
For this step, I mostly just use the classic St Ives Apricot Scrub. After which, my skin is most ready for smooth makeup application! This also helps prevent unwanted breakouts, since pores are less clogged.
Occasionally, I also use exfoliating pads and peeling gel such as that of Purederm. I always see this brand in Watsons and their packaging model is always Western-looking so I got surprised when I found out they were actually a Korean brand. Now I feel more comfortable than ever to use their products. LOL. Not to mention, they cost so cheap!
Step 4: Toner. To be honest, I’m not entirely aware of what a toner is for. But personally, I like using it as an additional cleansing step. I’ve used several kinds in the past, all of which are alcohol-based –the kind that stings a little once applied. But nowadays, I’ve gone to the gentler side of toning (?) and have been using Lush’s Tea Tree Water Toner. I’ve included this is one of my Favorites blog posts and up until now, I have not changed my mind.
Since tea tree is its primary ingredient, and it’s known to be antiseptic, I feel that this water toner helps ward off bacteria from my face and also helps controlling oil. I just spray it directly to my face from a couple of inches away– no need for cotton pads!
Step 5: Essence. Now this is a step that’s totally new to me! Sometimes I even doubt its purpose, but I am told that this is one of the steps that makes Korean skincare distinct! Based on my research, essence is a cross between a toner and serum in terms of function as well as consistency. It’s made to soften up your skin and prepare it to absorb the products in your next steps much, much better.
For this step, I am currently using Primera’s Miracle Seed Essence, as recommended by Liah Yoo. It’s the priciest product I’ve mentioned so far (retails at PHP 2,100), but hopefully it’s worth it. I also think that since it’s a tall bottle and each use only requires a few drops patted directly on the skin, that it’ll last a long time.
Going back to essence as a step in skincare regimen, I find that it’s so much like an eyeshadow’s transition shade from light to dark–that even if you end up covering it anyway and sometimes you don’t even see it anymore in the final result of your eye makeup, you still cannot skip it! Because it has its own specific ‘bridging’ purpose that no other product can substitute!
Step 6: Serum. This one’s one of my favorite steps, since serums always have pretty glass packaging, and maybe because I have a thing for droppers..? Haha! While there are different types of serums for different skin needs, its basic function is for skin nourishment.
For a while, I’ve been using (albeit irregularly) It’s Skin’s Power 10 Formulas which I get, again, from Althea Korea. They sell them so cheap–prices start at PHP 390! Even cheaper than their actual store in Korea. (WHY!!!) However, given the price, don’t be surprised if their serums appear more watery than others. Still, if you’re on a budget or you’re just looking out to try new skincare products, It’s Skin has a good variety of serums you can check out. For me so far, I have used the yellow one (VC; for brightening) and the apple green one (VB; for oil/moisture balance) the most. Both feel good and lightweight on the skin!
Aside from these, the new serum I’m trying out now is Dear, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop. It’s thicker in consistency, and also has a slight heating effect on the skin. They say that’s how you know it’s legit Vitamin C. Haha! Basically it’s for fighting hyperpigmentation or acne scars, for brightening overall complexion and evening out skin tone. And so far, I’m liking it a lot!
As for application, I just use 1-2 drops of this and spread it out on my face using my hands. I only use this at night, and I am also advised to use sunscreen the following morning.
As for how long you should be using it — for Vitamin C products, they say it takes about 3 weeks of consistent use before results are seen. Then with serums in general, about 6-8 weeks. So, I’m really still just getting there. Hehehe.
[WEEKLY] Step 7: Mask. I only do this step whenever I feel like pampering myself. And since I haven’t been getting my crazy pimples lately, I’ve only been doing sheet masks, which I find are more hydrating… and also easier to use. No more third cleansing involved right after! Just peel off, throw it away, and then you are done!
I don’t really have specific must-use products for this. I’m almost always on the testing-out phase for sheet masks, because the choices are endless, but so far I’m liking products with the ff. ingredients:
- Hyaluronic Acid
- BHA / AHA
Step 8: Moisturize. I used to think that if you’ve already put on a serum and/or a mask, that you no longer need to put moisturizer, since they’re all supposed to nourish your skin, right? But apparently, they still have different functions, and moisturizers are still a different league of their own!
For this step, I’ve been using Labiotte’s Freniq Water Barrier Gel Cream. I got it as a freebie (it costs 33,000 KRW) for the micellar water (22,000 KRW) that I bought! Crazy, right? Rumors are true, apparently. Koreans really give out random surprises upon checkout! Anyway, #1, Labiotte is known for their wine lip tint that went viral for quite some time last year. Their lippies are so good, and what’s even better is their packaging! But this is a skincare post, so I’ll stop blabbering about that.
Back to the moisturizer, I like it because it’s a water gel cream, meaning it’s not a heavy cream that ends up feeling icky on the skin. No, this one’s very lightweight and also has soothing properties which is very much compatible with my sensitive skin. And even though I don’t really know much about this product, I feel comforted by the fact that they have “Plus Good Elements” and “Minus Bad Elements” listed on their packaging. It makes me feel that they are indeed selective with their ingredients and only chooses safe and gentle ones!
Another moisturizer I got from Seoul was Primera’s Alpine Berry Watery Cream. This was called a game changer by a trusted vlogger (Liah Yoo again hahahaha) whose skin is very similar to mine–oily and acne-prone.
Aside from the fact that I’m still testing out the Labiotte one, the reason why I’m putting off trying this out is because my expectations for this are on a whole different level. That said, I figured it should be the only new thing I’m testing out once I actually start using it, so I can easily see if it’s working well or not. *fingers crossed*
[AM ONLY] Step 9: SPF. I know all skincare gurus swear by this, but to be honest, this is still an optional step for me! 😦 I actually intended to buy Dr. Jart’s Every Sun Day Illuminating Sunscreen when I was in Korea but I couldn’t find it anywhere. They had similar Dr. Jart sunscreens but not the illuminating one. But I didn’t settle for any of those, because the only reason why I wanted that particular variant is so I can find excitement (illuminating — !!!) in putting on sunscreen!
But I am trying, ok!!! Recently I’ve been using seaNTtree’s UV Finisher Sunblock but only because it came bundled with another product I bought there. Total was just about PHP 300 for that and a toner, would you believe?!
To be fair, this sunblock/sunscreen (is there really a difference?) is pretty good, such that it doesn’t feel sticky and it doesn’t irritate my skin in any way (i.e. pimples). Plus, very high SPF — at 50! My friend’s derma, however, advised to using only up to 35 max on a daily basis to avoid breaking out. That–I need to research about.
Aaaand this wraps up by almost 10-step skincare these days! What’s missing? The eye cream! I keep forgetting I’m nearing the age 30 that I still have no attraction whatsoever to anything anti-aging.
If any of you have eye cream recommendations, please tell me about it because I know nothing about that as of now. Thank you! ❤