It was a cool winter day when I noticed the “sun burn” that I’d had on my cheeks since this past summer hadn’t gone away. It was now nearly spring and I hadn’t spent nearly enough time outside for the red sun burn on my cheeks to have stayed bright red all winter. That’s when it finally hit me, this was not in fact sun burn. It was something else entirely! What to do? My skincare routine at this point consisted of well…nothing! I washed it with cleanser occasionally, but mostly just with water. My complexion had never been fantastic, but it had never been all that bad either. Yet here I sat, past 30 years old with acne (both hormonal and not), dry flaky spots near the corners of my mouth, and this odd red what I had thought at first was sun burn until I realized it couldn’t be that on my cheeks. It was time to start treating my skin right!
I’m not a dermatologist. This is not medical advice. I’m not anyone skilled in the fine sciences of treating skin care issues, I’m just a 30 something gal who decided for the first time in her life since her teen years, she should probably do something to take care of her face, since damn. This acne was getting out of hand, along with this dryness and redness! So please understand this isn’t medical advice, this is just what worked for me. As I’ve learned with skincare since I’ve started taking care of my skin, your mileage may vary. However, there are some basics that you should follow to give your skin a fighting chance at being awesome.
It was then I thought to myself, hey, I’m currently living in Korea, I should really take advantage of all this apparently amazing skincare products here that I’ve heard so much about. So I started my research into Asian & Korean beauty, and proper skin care. No matter what types of products you use, the basics of skincare are all the same.
The Basics of Skincare
Part 1: Know Your Skin
What’s your skin type?
There are 4 basic skin types: oily, combination, dry, and normal. Oily skin is pretty self-explanatory. It’s skin that is oily all over your face. Combination skin usually has both oily and dry or normal skin. Oily areas are usually your “T zone”; your forehead and nose/chin area. Cheeks are usually dryer. Dry skin is pretty self-explanatory too, is your skin never, ever oily? It doesn’t have to be flaking, but it could be. Normal skin is the happy medium most of us aspire to. Not too oily, not too dry. Just right.
Any skin type can have dehydrated skin. Symptoms of dehydrated skin can include stinging when you use moisturizer on it, dry flaky areas and even excess oil production. Just because your skin is oily doesn’t mean it has enough moisture! You might not have oily skin, it could be that your skin is so dehydrated it’s trying to compensate by over producing oil.
Other Common Skin Issues
- Dullness/Uneven Skin Tone
- Scaring & Pigmentation
Part 2: Take Care of Your Skin
You know that tight feeling that you get after washing your face with your face wash? Yeah, that’s bad. It’s your skin telling you it’s being dried out. If you find that happening to your face, your cleanser is too harsh on your skin. The same with those stinging products. Too harsh! “But I thought that meant they were working?!” you exclaim. Yeah, me too! Stinging, a dry/tight sensation it all means it’s too harsh and drying on your skin. It doesn’t have to be that way to get your skin clean. You don’t need to strip your skin of all of it’s oils. Those oils are natural, they are there for a reason: to keep your skin hydrated. Your face needs oils. If you strip the oils away it will just produce more oils to compensate.
Chances are you will want to add some moisture to your skin to help keep it plump, moisturized, and youthful. Moisturizer doesn’t have to mean heavy, thick creams. It can mean thing watery ampules, essences, serums, and light lotions! Depending on your skin type these types of products may be more helpful than others. However, for all skin the best place to start is with a decent lotion that isn’t too heavy and isn’t too light.
Treat The Issues
If you are like me, you probably have some skin issues you’d rather not have, like oh I dunno: acne? If you have really severe acne, or another skin care issue that is more severe do go and consult with a dermatologist. However, for most of us it’s probably things like mild acne, scarring, age spots, wrinkles and the like. All of these issues can be treated, but not necessarily with only one or two products.
One of the things I like best about the Asian Beauty skincare philosophy or system is how flexible it is. I can change what I put on my face to give it what it needs now, which might be different than what it needs in the summer (which is totally true!). This means you may end up using more products than you might otherwise (then again you may not, some people only need minimalist routines). It really comes down to listening to your skin, and using products with ingredients that treat the issues your skin has.
Resist the urge to use ALL THE THINGS, and do not slather your face in new products all at once! Slowly add new products, give your skin time to show you if it likes what you are putting on it or not. It’s best to give your skin at least 2 weeks to adapt to a new product before adding another new product. Otherwise, if you add more than one new product at a time, you won’t know which one is causing your new breakout or skin issue.
Skin is the largest organ of the body. It also gets exposed to some pretty harsh conditions. It’s imperative that it’s taken care of for overall health. Sunscreen is the best thing you can do for your skin to protect it against the ravages of the sun to minimize risks of skin cancer and prevent signs of aging.
4 Essential Facial Care Steps
I had tried the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) in the past, and it worked reasonably well. I stopped it because it was time consuming to do every day and really a bit of a pain. Plus it made my washcloths smell like olive oil all the time. I just couldn’t get them clean enough! But here’s the thing about skin, it produces oil. It produces sebum. If you remember back to your science knowledge or the last time you made some oil and vinegar based salad dressing you’ll remember that oil and water don’t mix. So why would a splash of water on my face help to get rid of built up oils and sebum? Well, it won’t. That’s where the oil cleansing comes in. Don’t be scared of it!
As an alternative to OCM there are oil cleansers. It sounds like an oxymoron but it’s not. Oil cleansers are blends of oils that have emulsifiers in them. So you put them on your face, massage it around then add some water and massage some more and it creates a white emulsion which you then rinse off. These cleansers work by removing all of the oil soluble stuff on your face, that water based cleansers can miss. It’s especially good at gently getting rid of things like makeup and waterproof sunscreen.
After oil cleansing comes the secondary cleanser. Usually it’s a foaming cleanser, but if you have dry or combination skin like me then this might be too harsh. In that case a cleansing milk or balm might be better for your skin. Whatever cleanser you choose it’s usually best to find one that has a lower pH. Believe it or not, your skin has it’s own pH levels. Skin likes to be slightly acidic around a pH of 5. Remember, a pH of 7 is neutral, anything below is acidic while anything above is alkaline. A good cleanser should be around the pH of your skin or a little lower. High pH cleansers can break you out, however this doesn’t always apply to everyone! Everyone’s skin is different, so try to find a cleanser that works for you. A cleaners only job is to get rid of dirt and debris on your skin, gently. Your cleansers should NOT break you out. If you are using a cleanser that breaks you out it’s not working for your skin! Try a different one!
Simply adding a moisturizer to my daily routine helped my skin immensely. It cut down on redness, and after a few days, the stinging went away and the dry, flaky areas were diminished! The wonders of moisturizing your skin! Moisturizing doesn’t have to mean a thick lotion. If you have oily skin, you may only need a light emulsion. Normal or combination skin might only need a light lotion, while dry and dehydrated skin may need a thicker cream moisturizer or even layers of moisturizing products. Essences, ampules and serums can also moisturize your skin and may be added to your routine after you discover a moisturizer that works for you. Your moisturizer should NOT break you out. If it does try a different one.
Sunscreen is the best thing you can do to protect your skin. However, don’t go overboard! You still do need that vitamin D from the sun, so keep that in mind. A little bit of sun is okay, but if you will be out more than half an hour or so, even if it’s cloudy, protect your skin with sunscreen. Here’s the thing not all sunscreens are created equal! You know how most American sunscreens are thick, oily, coconut smelling lotions? It doesn’t have to be that way.
There are lots of sunscreens that are not oily, don’t have a coconut smell and offer even better protection. Asian sunscreens tend to be much less oily, and nicer on the skin. So find one that you and your skin likes, don’t limit yourself to the big bottles of the sunscreen meant for your day at the beach. Again, your sunscreen should NOT break you out. I have two sunscreens so far for my face. My face is not a huge fan of either of them. It’s not a big deal right now as it’s winter, but I’m still looking for something my face likes better! The struggle is real, so don’t get discouraged if the first one or two you try doesn’t agree with your skin.
Sunscreen isn’t the only thing you can do to protect your skin from the sun! I couldn’t live without my wide-brimmed straw hat and my sun parasol. Physically blocking the sun from your skin is a great way to keep it safe from sun exposure, so add it to your routine especially if you live in an area with strong summer sun like me. Plus my parasol really helps keep me cooler in the sun (and it’s pretty)!
Your Basic Daily Skincare Routine
Trust me, it’s not hard, it doesn’t take long and if I can do it so can you! It will literally take you 5 minutes or less with a basic routine!
- Oil Cleanser (Optional, most people don’t need this in the morning, oily skinned people may)
- 2nd cleanser
- Oil Cleanser
- 2nd Cleanser
That’s it. Make time for this in your day and your skin will thank you! I’ve been doing this for 5 months now and my skin has improved a lot! Check out my results below from August 2016 to December 2016! Honestly, I can hardly believe it. I still do get acne, but it’s much less. Even my hormonal acne has decreased! My skin is so much smoother and as long as I moisturize there’s no redness on my cheeks. Sorry for the difference in light, they were taken at different times of day in different locations of my apartment (by a bright window vs my dark bathroom).
Here is a brief overview of my current routine. I’ll be sharing my own experience in more detail in future posts!
AB = Asian Beauty
WNRP = Would Not Repurchase
WRP = Would Repurchase
HG = Holy Grail
AM (winter variation):
- Simple Micellular Water (WRP)
- Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel (WRP)
- Oz Naturals Vitamin C Essence (organic, cruelty free) (WRP)
- SkinFood Royal Honey Propolys Serum (WRP – looking for organic/cruelty free option)
- SCINIC Honey All in One Ampule (WRP – looking for organic/cruelty free option)
- SanDa Wha Revitalizing Lipsosome Lotion (cruelty free) (WNRP – works well, dislike citrus scent)
- Mamonde Moisture Ceramide Intense Cream (WRP – looking for Cruelty free brand that doesn’t sell in China)
- Dr Jart+ Ctrl-A Sensitive Sun protector SPF 35 PA++ or Exchange Select (generic brand) Sheer Sunscreen 70 (Not AB) (WNRP either)
Time taken: 5min
- Hada Labo Gokujyun Cleansing Oil (WNRP – It’s nothing special)
- Avalon Organics Wrinkle Therapy Cleansing Milk (WRP – Smells amazing! Skin could take it or leave it) (organic & cruelty free)
- Stridex Red Box (HG – Where was this when I was a teenager?! Helped my acne tremendously!)
- SkinFood Royal Honey Propolys Serum
- SCINIC Honey All in One Ampule
- SanDa Wha Revitalizing Lipsosome Lotion (cruelty free)
- Mamonde Moisture Ceramide Intense Cream
Time taken: 35 min – 20-30 min wait on Stridex for skin to return to normal pH
Summer variation: The same except no Mamonde Moisture Ceramide Intense Cream.
Disclaimer: The following contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase by using the links I will recieve monetary compensation at no additional cost to you. This does not impact my opion of the products or services I share with you. I only share products/services that I believe in. Wildwood & Sage is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Read my full disclosure statement here.
You may have noticed my routine only features a few cruelty free and organic brands. I’m trying to slowly remedy this situation as I run out of products. I will be doing a post on cruelty free Asian beauty brands (or at least kbeauty) brands. Stay tuned for that. I have removed parabens from my routine, I was previously using Cerave moisturizing lotion which was great, but it’s not cruelty free and has parabens, so I replaced that for SanDa Wha when I couldn’t find the Whamsia lotion I was going to try next locally.
If you are looking for natural kbeauty brands the best way to find them is through Glow Recipe. They carefully curate only the best natural Korean skincare brands. Get 15% off your first order with Glow Recipe by using my link. They also have great starter kits filled with trial sized samples so you can see if those products are right for you. It takes all the guess work out of starting your kbeauty routine!
Want to learn more about skincare or Asian/Kbeauty? Check out the resources below!
r/skincareaddiction – Beauty & Skincare related subreddit
r/kbeauty – Korean Beauty subreddit
CosDNA: Check the ingredients in any cosmetic or personal care item.
Snow White & the Asian Pear – Kbeauty Blog