Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who & Where?

In case you didn't catch it in the last post, I own a LOT of product.  There's a few reasons for that.

A.  Price point;
2.  the sheer number of brands and products and that are available;
III.  my philosophy.

A.  Price Point

I obviously cannot mention this enough.  The prices of K-Beauty products are significantly lower than their western counterparts.  Western eye creams start around $40.  I don't know about you, but I don't have $40 to waste on an eye cream that may or may not work.  You can easily find a good K-Beauty eye cream for $10-$15.  And it doesn't stop there!  The essences, serums, night creams - everything can be purchased for under $20/item.  The next time you're in Sephora or Ulta, take a look at their prices and compare.

2.  Brands

Tony Moly is one of my absolute faves and the first big K-Beauty brand I discovered.  They carry a plethora of products for the entire body, hair included.  They are a leader in the industry and can be found wherever K-Beauty products are sold.

 If you find yourself looking for product and you come across the most adorable cartoon egg (ala Sanrio - think Hello Kitty) you've ever seen, then say hello to Holika Holika!  Don't let Gudetama fool you!  These products pack a punch and get the job done.  HH also sells body care from head to toe.  I particularly like their Aloe line, which boasts a 99% pure aloe concentration, and smells amazing.

The packaging department at Etude House had totally outdone themselves - and the rest of the
K-Beauty industry.  This brand caters to the pretty pink princess in all of us!  They even have a Disney collection.  Etude House carries a large collection of skincare and an even larger selection of makeup.

This is the world of the Piggy - Witch Piggy, Milky Piggy, Green Piggy.  The Piggies may seem cheesy, but Elizavecca carries great skincare at fabulous prices. My faves: Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask and  Witch Piggy Hell Pore Control Hyaluronic   Acid.

I love Neogen!  This was the first set of products I purchased when I was in (the) South Korea(n airport).  Neogen is about the serious business of skincare.  In my opinion, their products are highly effective and innovative, and come with a slightly higher price ($5-$10 higher).  Try their Gauze Peeling Exfoliators or their Green Tea Cleansing Stick!
Mizon is also serious skincare.  While their products are just as effective as others, they don't have the price tag to match.  Their Snail Mucin products are legendary (yes - snail mucus - we'll get into that later).  I adore their eye cream and ampoule.

A few other favorites are shown below.  But where can you purchase these wonderful products?  I thought you'd never ask!

My journey first began with Randy at  Randy regularly travels to South Korea and has curated a ridiculous number of Korean sheet masks from a ridiculous number of brands, which are sold at ridiculously low prices.  You can also find a selection of other K-Beauty items there as well.  The site is easy to navigate and each product listed has how-to instructions and an ingredients list.  Masksheets is based in the US, which means faster ship times.  Randy does a wonderful job of keeping hot items stocked and bringing in new items as well.  Subscribe to the site to receive a discount and Randy's monthly newsletter!

Another sheet mask site that is well on its way to becoming a leader is gumiidotshop.  This is a newer supplier of Asian sheet masks and skincare, meaning you can find items from Japan, Taiwan, etc., as well as Korea!  Gumii prides itself on customer service, which I have experienced first hand.

What's really cool?  Gumii's main concern is making sure their customers get the most of their products.  Each product comes with English instructions, written reviews and tutorials by other users!   Gumii carries an extensive but completely different inventory than it's industry rivals (try the Squalane Mask - it's phenomenal - review soon!).  Register with Gumii and receive a discount and free shipping with purchase over $10.

One trend I have observed recently is online stores discontinuing sales on their own sites (Memebox, etc.) and fulfilling orders through Amazon.  The Amazon juggernaut has been quickly devouring everything you can imagine.  I'm sure it's hard for smaller companies to compete with their prices.  I don't have to tell you about Amazon.  They're into everything everywhere.  K-Beauty is NO exception.

iHerb is a site that's just come up on my radar.  I discovered them while doing the research for the last post.  Their prices are very reasonable and, dare I say, rival Amazon's numbers???  Shut yo' mouth!  I haven't ordered from them yet, but I will, and I'll report back.

Of course you can order products directly from the manufacturers, but I will warn you: since these are Korean companies, the products are coming from Asia (mostly from South Korea, but also from Taiwan, Hong Kong or Japan).  This means your order will have to clear customs, which, on average, can take from 4 to 10 weeks.  If you're low on stock and you know that you'll have to reach out to your fave company overseas - PLAN ACCORDINGLY!  Also check to see if they have an American counterpart here in the US.

III)  My Philosophy

I call it "Skin Confusion"!  Yes.  It is ridiculously similar to Beachbody's "Muscle Confusion" system.  When you introduce a product into your skincare regimen, initial results can be amazing, just like the initial results from a new workout program.  The difference I see between muscles and the epidermis is in the results over a long period of time.  Once your body is used to a workout, it hits a plateau - there is no change in weight or muscle gain/loss.  My skin, after using the same products over time, tends to revert to its old ways, becoming oily, acne prone and gross. Not anymore!  Thanks to the price point of these products and the vast variety out there, I can purchase a number of products and alter my regimen to suit my daily needs.  Feeling oily and scuzzy today?  Use a cleansing mask with pore tightening ingredients!  Feeling dry tomorrow?  Try the nourishing cleanser along with cheese cream moisturizer.  My skin doesn't get bored because I cater to its immediate needs.  Let me clarify - there are no studies about this that I know of.  I'm just sharing what I've gleaned from constantly dealing with my own skin for the past blahblahblah years.  But it's an interesting concept, right?  Hmmm.....

So...there it is, in a nutshell.  Just a few of my faves.  I consider myself a newbie at K-Beauty, so there will be more to come.  Until then, enjoy and have fun!

Friday, June 9, 2017

The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine!

Yes - there are 10 steps.

I know what you're thinking.  It's what every working (at home or away) American female thinks when confronted with a routine. "Ain't nobody got time for that!"  But I challenge you to look at your skincare differently.  Think of it as the few minutes out of the day that you take the time to take care of yourself.  You live in your skin for a very long time.  And we all know the better you take care of your things, the longer they last.  Your skin is no different.  This is an opportunity to pamper yourself.  And it's fun - especially once you start seeing results!

The next question that may cross your mind - won't so many products irritate my skin?  I also wondered this.  Korean skincare products, as opposed to our Western counterparts, are designed to be gentle.  You will be hard-pressed to find products with any harsh chemicals or intensely grainy substances.  There are a few manual exfoliation products, which we will discuss, but they have a softness that you tend not to find over here in the lower 48.  Their products are also designed to work together, in complement with each other, so they can be layered with causing irritation.

On average, it takes me about 5 to 7 minutes to go through my steps.  This does not include sheet mask days, as we learned in the post about sheet masks.  You do not do 10 steps every day, but there will be a day or two during the week when you will do all 10 steps.  That being said, let's get to it!

1)  Oil-based Cleanser

Tony Moly / Banila Co.
I initially shied away from the idea of an oil-based cleanser.  After all, my skin has always had an oily component.  When I was younger, my skin was oil slick and acne prone.  As I've gotten older, my skin has gone to an oily T-zone and is dry in patches.  Adding more oil to what's already oily would cause even worse breakouts, right?  This made no sense to me.  What I've learned is exactly the opposite.  The oils in these cleansers are "good oils" that help to extract the "bad oils" - the sebum, oils in makeup and other products - from our skin.  Oil removes oil.  So go ahead and give it a try!  These cleansers come in a liquid form, which is pumped or poured into your hand, or a sherbet form.  The sherbets have the consistency of a petroleum jelly (think Vaseline), and come with a scooper.  Scoopers keep your product clean and hygienic - keeping those fingers out of the product keeps bacteria at bay.  Simply pump, pour or rub into hands, gently rub onto face, right over your makeup, and rinse thoroughly.  Use your oil-based cleanser whenever you need to remove makeup, sunblock, etc. from your skin, once or twice a day.  One and done!

2)  Water-based Cleanser

Neogen / Tony Moly / Cosmetea / Tony Moly / Benton / Holika Holika
Oh yes!  This is called the double cleanse!!  See those exclamation points?  This is exciting!
The water-based cleanser is designed to open the pores and remove all of the other dirt and gunk that wasn't removed by the oil-based cleanser.  They come in a watery forms with a foam pump, gels, and even creams.  K-Beauty cleansers focus on retaining the skins moisture, not stripping it.  They are light, fluffy and fun and leave your face squeaky clean!  Use twice a day, morning and evening.  What more could we ask for?  Except maybe an.....

3) Exfoliator

Exfoliation is a process that can be accomplished on its own with a dedicated product, or combined in steps 2 or 4.  Exfoliation is that process of removing dead skin from the top layer of the epidermis, removing the dullness and leaving the skin glowing and radiant.  In my opinion, it's the step in Western skincare where we got it all wrong!  GENTLE!  Gentle is the name of the game in Korean skincare and it has not steered them wrong in centuries!  We have the tendency to want to scrub our skin to death - literally.  Overstimulation causes irritation - redness, dryness, breakouts.  K-Beauty is designed to be gentle.  So while it may not feel to the touch as though dry skin is being sloughed off, the product is doing exactly that, but in a much safer, much more effective way.

K-Beauty exfoliators are either chemical, manual or a combination of both.  Chemical exfoliators use safe acids and chemicals - alphahodroxy acids (AHAs), betahydroxy acids (BHAs), glycolic acids, etc. - to slough away dead skin.  They can be watery or creamy and go on with a cotton ball or specially designed cloth pad. They can even come in a peel that rolls away the dead skin from your face.  Manual exfoliators are grainy and have texture (like the apricot facial scrubs that we're used to, but much smaller granules).  Use your hands to apply.

Most exfoliators are rinsed from the skin, especially if they're combined with your cleanser.  Be sure to read the label.  You definitely don't want to leave an exfoliator on your face that's supposed to be removed.  Ouch!  Your exfoliator should be used no more than twice a week.

4) Toner

Ah, toner.  The portion of the routine designed to refresh the skin, tighten pores, balance pH, hydrate and improver skin tone and texture.  There's a lot taking place here.  Make sure to stay away from toners with a high alcohol content, if any, which can dry out the skin and cause irritation.  How can you tell?  Ingredients are listed on a product from highest to lowest concentration.  If the alcohol is listed first, odds are the content is high.  There are certain alcohols used that are non-drying, cetearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol being the most common.  These are emollient and are good for slowing down water loss.  I lean toward toners that consist of all natural ingredients, my favorite of which is Witch Hazel.  The smell to me is like heaven - sterile and clean!  A basic toner can be used twice a day, morning and evening.

K-Beauty manufacturers also make exfoliating toners. They contain chemical exfoliators - glycolic acid, salicylic acid, etc. -  to provide deeper cleansing and absorption.  Most are the consistency of water.  These toners come in varying strengths.  Due to the higher concentration of chemicals, it's suggested that you start using only once a week and build up to twice a week, depending on the product.  There has been a lot of buzz about these toners lately.  Many users think they work wonders and are all the rage!

5) Sheet Mask /
This is one of my favorite parts of the regimen!  I won't go into detail here, as my last post delved pretty deeply into this K-Beauty staple.  I do want to add that sheet masks can be used quite often.  Many people like to use them once a day.  I tend to use a mask every other day, and I select the type of mask based on how my skin is behaving that day.  If I've had a long night and was up late partying into the wee hours, I choose a hydrating mask.  If my skin seems dull, it's a brilliance mask.  If it's that time of the month, I'll use a calming mask and if it's dry - nourishing.  Use your sheet mask after you have cleansed and toned.  Follow directions for the duration of time that the mask should be used.  Which reminds me: IF YOU CAN'T READ THE DIRECTIONS (these are Korean products written in the Korean language), go back to the site where you purchased your products.  Every site has a "How To" link with the directions in English.  There should also be links with an English language ingredient list as well.

6) Essence

Stay with me, now.  We're over halfway there...

I consider Essence the powerhouse of the K-Beauty system.  Essences make all of the other steps more powerful.  Why?  Essences take care of the skin on a cellular level**, helping cells turn over - shedding the dead skin - and regenerate faster and more effectively to let the new radiant skin burst through.  Essences help to hydrate the skin (attacking fine lines and wrinkles), balance pH levels, brighten and even skin tone.  They moisturize deeply, helping Serums do their job.

Essences can look a LOT like toners, but they are not interchangeable.  They also come in various consistencies.  Missha's First Treatment Essence has an almost watery feel, whereas COSRX Snail Mucin Power Essence is slippery and has the consistency of a mucus (sorry - that's the least offensive fluid I could compare it to...).

No special tools or materials are needed for your Essence.  Simply use your hands to pat the liquid into your skin.  Essences can be used twice a day, morning and evening.

7)  Serums (aka Ampoules aka Boosters)

Elizavecca / Skinfood / Dearderm / Mizon / Neogen
If you're like me, you like to watch various makeup artists on YouTube and Instagram.  Lately I've seen artists add a dropper-full of liquid to their foundation or contour, or even dropper directly onto the skin.  What they are using are Serums.  A Serum is a more concentrated form of Essence.  It is designed to treat skin issues using powerful ingredients.  Sun damage, hyperpigmentation, redness, dryness, aging, brown spots, scarring, dullness, acne, large pores, etc. - you name it, there's a Serum for it!  The best part - you can layer your Serums to target each skin issue.  They can be used all over the face or as spot treatments.  Rub or tap directly into the skin, or mix with your favorite foundation or moisturizer. Note:  if you plan to head outside, be sure that your foundation or moisturizer has sun protection included before you mix with your serum.  It can be a bit difficult to add a sunscreen once this has occurred...Serums can be used twice a day, morning and evening.

8) Eye Cream

Mizon / Neogen / Benton
I don't know about y'all, but I've never been able to find an eye cream, here in the lower 48, for under $25.  And for a girl on a budget (or extremely cheap, like me) this is unacceptable.  But never fear! K-Beauty has eye creams, gels, and eye masks at nearly every price point!  Like the other products, ingredients boost moisturization as well as target typical issues like puffiness, and dark circles.  Use your weakest digit to gentle tap the cream or gel into the skin,

Eye masks are similar to the sheet mask.  They come in a variety of materials and numerous specialty ingredients, all designed to protect this most delicate area.  Lay on top of the eye area for the suggested amount of time. Some eye masks can be stored in the refrigerator, similar to a compress, which aids in the reduction of swelling.  Discard mask after each use.  Use eye masks as directed.

9) Night Cream / Sunblock

Enprani / Holika Holika / Benton / Purlisse
The best way to protect your beautiful skin, night and day - night cream and sunblock.  There are myriad night time moisturizing potions in every K-Beauty line.  Thank goodness the majority are inexpensive.  This means you can try a bunch and see which suits you best.  Or, as I prefer, get a bunch for shits n giggles!  You'll be amazed at what's out there.  And the textures run the full spectrum - from watery and light to the texture of cream cheese (LOVE IT!)!  And the ingredients - snail mucin, goat placenta, donkey milk, collagen, white tea, green tea, caviar, tomato, syn-ake, aloe, etc. It's a virtual salad for you face!

Yadah / Missha / Dr. Jart+
 And don't forget to protect that lovely skin when going outdoors.  Sunblocks can also be found with an abundance of protection levels.  Use daily, sunblock in the morning and night cream at night.

10) Sleeping Mask

This step is done only once or twice a week.  Sleeping masks are all about delivering intense moisture to the epidermis while you're sleeping - plain and simple.  These masks are especially great during the winter months when the air is dry or any time you've deprived yourself of hydration. Literally slather on in place of your night cream and...go to bed!  Rinse off when you wake up. Use once or twice a week.

That's it!  I know it sounds like a lot, but give it go.  It's so much fun and your skin will thank you!