My Journey into Korean Beauty, An Education

Recently I’ve been swept into the K-Beauty trend or Korean Beauty trend. “Is this were you use a gajillion products in your routine?”/ “Isn’t that the same trend that’s pushing snail slime?” You ask? To which I say – yes, all true. The Korean Beauty trend has gained a lot of attention from the now ubiquitous serial-killer looking sheet masks seen all over Instagram to the focus on a disciplined, multiple product regimen.

I decided to explore this trend more in depth because I wanted to see for myself where the truth stood between hype and results. Would using such uncommon ingredients be more beneficial? Is the multiple product approach better than one that is streamlined?

It was a little daunting at first when hearing about 10-step routines and just the categories (cleansers, toners, essences, serums, pressed serums, oils, ampules, moisturizers, sheet masks, rubber masks, splash masks – OH MY!) alone are enough to intimidate any beginner or novice. I enlisted the help of natural K-beauty purveyor Glow Recipe which provides handy , informative guides and insights on latest trends as well as Sokoglam‘s Charlotte Cho who is a wonderful source for all things K-Beauty.

It was through watching their videos, reaching out on Instagram and a couple of e-mails back and forth that I was able to form my insights which is that like any beauty regimen, the Korean Beauty regimen is all about what works for you. For the most part, the reason for so many steps is because the K-Beauty philosophy is comprehensive rather than tedious and purposefully overwhelming. After researching the products and categories, I believe it’s really important to think about everything holistically in terms of how products will interact with each other and what they bring to the table independently.

1169267_472189379651088_1691649265_n

One of the first things I noticed was that despite those uniquely out-there ingredients, most of the ingredients list tend to be fairly common and not that different from what one might easily find in a Sephora store. Take for example the snail goo sleeping mask from Missha (Cell Renew Snail Sleeping Mask) shown above. Sounds pretty cool right? The actual product is really just a rich creamy lotion, no hint of goo but an abundance of synthetic fragrance. In my experience, there wasn’t anything that distinguished it from other moisturizers despite being called a sleeping mask. I suppose in this regard overnight moisturizers might as well all be called sleeping masks and day time moisturizers, activity masks?

What I did gravitate toward was Glow Recipe, a site where products are really celebrated from being uniquely different. While the brand curates “natural” offerings, the green beauties out there may notice some iffy ingredients such as PEG’s but in general I didn’t see too many bad ingredients. Think of this purveyor as carrying brands akin to Origins, REN, Grown Alchemist, where they’re not entirely ‘green’ but a daliance isn’t going to be ideology shattering either. I love how enthusiastic the ladies at Glow Recipe are with sharing their latest finds in which each product is given a chance to shine – their latest discovery is the Aqua Peel which is an acid treatment applied through a soaked over sized Q-Tip, pretty cool right?

With Glow Recipe, I found that the Whamisa line really spoke to me and I purchased their Organic Flowers Toner [Deep Rich] which is described as a bouncy essence like hydrating step and Organic Flowers Facial Oil which I purchased purely to see how Korean oils may differ from ones we purchase here. The Organic Flowers Facial Oil reminded me of the Acure Oil in terms of packaging and was noticeably light and quick absorbing. As a fan of face oils and being spoiled by brands like Odacite and Yuli that just can’t be beat when it comes to freshness, nothing about the Whamisa Oil stood out to me per se although it proved competent as a night time oil (it contains citrus oils which automatically classes it as an evening only product for me).

Still, the toner immediately found its way into my routine, nestled between cleansing and a fine botanical mist. I found the emollient texture to add a certain bit of moisture cushion which is much welcomed during the winter. I also like that it relies on Aloe Vera, botanical extracts and natural fermentation which is something we see in green beauty as well.

In fact, I recognized that a lot of things that worked for me with Korean Beauty also worked in line with green beauty from the reliance of high quality ingredients, plant based actives and designing a comprehensive system focused upon individual skin conditions. I was able to take the teachings of K-Beauty and apply it to my fairly green top shelf:

12628130_554793268016217_1953714662_n

My evening K-Beauty inspired Green routine starts with double cleansing. In Korea and Japan, women believe that to take off the layers of the day requires a multi-step process starting with the make-up, sunscreen and water-proof products. This is usually an oil based cleanser and in my case on light days, I use an oil-based cream cleanser like In Fiore’s Treate. After the surface is cleared, it’s time to really cleanse and freshen the skin and Korean beauty usually incorporates a light foaming, pH balanced cleanser that is usually SLS and alcohol free. Of course, for this step I use my beloved Yuli Halcyon Cleanser, which I find to use much higher quality and advanced ingredients – I really do consider it to be THE gift to us green beauty fans.

Now that skin is bare and fresh, I acid tone with First Aid Beauty’s Radiance Pads to give a gentle resurfacing which only helps skin absorb more moisture to follow. This is the most gentle acid toner I’ve used and it was recommended by a reader (thank you!). Next I use 3 drop-fuls of Whamisa’s Organic Flowers Toner and press into my skin in upward circular motions. This gives my skin a good moisture base to build from. Then I follow with Tatcha’s Luminous Deep Hydration Serum to really amp up the hydration factor with hyaluronic acid and Okinawa red algae which is very deeply moisturizing as the name suggests and gives skin some bounce. Next, with my skin loaded up from the water, glycerin, hydrating actives and hyaluronic acid, I mist it with MUN’s No.11 Rejuvenating Rose toner which is based on water and rose water (which the aforementioned actives will bind to skin) and also contains hyaluronic acid. In Korean Beauty, this is the pressed oil/ampoule stage so I press 1.5 to 2 pumps of Yuli’s Liquid Courage antioxidant serum to my skin as it is the most concentrated product and I want to give time for my skin to absorb all of the good stuff. Liquid Courage itself contains a unique ingredient in the form of a bio-ferment of black garlic which kicks up the antioxidant capacity, and don’t worry I can confirm that there is no unpleasant garlic odor, only a soft neroli fragrance. With serums, I allow one to two minutes for it to absorb before continuing.

During this time I diligently apply my Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Serum which is one of my favorite as it contains peptides, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid as well. I do a dot on each ring finger and dab across my under eye. This Eye Serum relieves that bit of tightness that I sometimes feel and sinks in quickly. I press any leftover product to my smile lines and around my lips.

12424391_233243010340942_1751916846_n

As the final step I use Tatcha’s Soothing Triple Recovery Cream which locks in all that hydration and itself is formulated with the highest concentration of colloidal oatmeal which is a very powerful anti-inflammatory. This anti-aging moisturizer also contains Indigo extract and is based on water and olive based squalane. The Soothing Triple Recovery Cream also does not contain essential oils and coupled with the colloidal oatmeal has won the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

So while I know this might look like a lot immediately, once each step is broken down everything starts making sense in their place. So what began as an exploration of a new trend really just showed me that it was a different take on the tried and true: do what works for you! I’ll likely continue to incorporate some things from Korean beauty because they’re quite playful and out of the box with product ideas and a lot of things actually work very well, however I’ve come away with a deeper appreciation for high quality ingredients that us green beauty fans have treasured all along.

Sunday Pampering Routine

Sunday is usually the day I spend longest on my skin. I like to think of it as the opportunity to rest and repair from the previous week, and then get my skin ready for the coming week. 


The first step is I usually do a gently moisturizing but deeply cleansing routine. To do the trick, I prefer using a balm. My current favorite is the Skin Savior Multi Balm from One Love Organics ($68) which is a waterless balm that cleanses, moisturizes, and conditions the skin. I love it because the plant oils and butters really get the extra oils and grime that accumulates throughout the week so when I rinse off with a muslin cloth, my face feels really soft and light. The formula is really rich and dry skin will love this especially during the winter while those with oily skin will appreciate the pore-clearing effects of the plant oils (like attracts like in this case). With skin clear and ready for more pampering my next step..

I use the Metamorphic Elixir from YULI ($50) which delivers the extra pampering and conditioning my skin is looking for between the skin-plumping moisture binding hyaluronic acid, soothing anti-aging Eternal Rose complex that infuses 3 different kinds of rose extractions, and the rich natural antioxidant retinols that repair and renew skin. This just feels comforting as skin becomes soft and plump while it is primed for treatment from a powerful mask..

If I’m in the mood for some exfoliation, I turn to Tammy Fender’s Epi-Peel ($80), which is a balancing, invigorating scrub/peel that will clear all of your pores and get rid of dead skin and debris that have accumulated on your face. What is really amazing is that there is no stinging or redness but my skin felt clarified and looked glowing when I washed off the mask. I wouldn’t ever go back to abrasive chemical peels after this. If I’m more in the mood for a pore refining antioxidant kick though, I turn to:

Kahina’s Antioxidant Mask ($62), which I have reviewed here. The clay mask boasts a healthy dose of antioxidants from the vitamin e rich Argan Oil and a lot of other high-quality botanicals such as Pomegranate, Rosemary, and Acai. It is a soft, gentle mask that actively clears out the pores and draws out cloggers which leaves my skin with a minty, clean feeling but never stripped. 

I give the mask about 20-30 minutes to do their thing, after which, I gently rinse with warm water. Then I reapply the Elixir to ready my skin for the onslaught of nutrients to my now fresh, clean, blank slate:

Then I slather on the antioxidant cocktail known as Liquid Courage from YULI ($125) which gives me a potent dose of antioxidants between the powerhouse of odorless bioferment of black garlic, acai derived Ferulic acid, peptides, and an antioxidant seed complex. There is something about this liquid that manages to just fix everything wrong with skin, if I put it on at night before bed, my skin always seems tighter and brighter in the morning like the lighting is just hitting your face perfectly the next day, it is like photoshop in a bottle, thats how good the repairitive effects of the product are. So once I quench my tired skin with this baby, I diligently apply..

Kahina Eye Serum ($78) – one of my favorite eye products that I’ve rediscovered. It’s lighter than the eye cream and perfect for those of us who are more concerned with preventing the signs of aging. I find that tired eyes that tend to have dark circles, some puffiness, and overall fatigue are healed. Unlike some eye products that can make the eye area tight and taut or dried out to remove puffiness, this hydrates my under eye area and makes it feel really rejuvenated. 

After I’m done applying the eye serum, the Liquid Courage would already sink into my hungry skin. So now that I have put in all the good nutrients and skin food for my skin, I focus on hydration

For the last step of my weekly pampering routine, I massage my skin with some Antioxidant Creme $95 which is the epitome of a solid moisturizer, described as a “multi-vitamin in a jar”. Oily skin types will love the quick sinking, light-weight of the moisturizer while dehydrated skin will appreciate the truly moisturizing benefits of this product that seemed to make my skin supple and build up the moisture barrier. Your skin won’t have an oily shine nor dry patches, it’ll just look primed and ready for the week.

 

Product Review: Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation SPF15

I’ve written about Koh Gen Do’s Aqua Foundation on this blog before, but I wanted to dedicate a post to it as this has been my go-to summer foundation. I was first turned onto this through Emily Weiss of Intothegloss (watch the beautifully shot video here). I loved how buttery the texture looked and I loved even more how it blended in with the skin. I am not crazy about foundations that are too obvious or cakey, and I usually don’t take advice from beauty representatives who apply so much makeup you can’t really see their true skin- I feel like they have something to hide.

When I went to my local Barneys to try this product, I noticed these gorgeous girls stop by to pick up this foundation. They all had bright, even toned skin that looked natural and it was only after chatting with them that I learned they had Koh Gen Do on. The seemless, translucent, but improved skin effect is definitely what I want in my foundation. You know that Dolly Parton saying, “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap?”- I feel like with beauty, “it takes a lot of money to look this natural”. 

——

Koh Gen Do is a Japanese cosmetics line that does both beauty and skincare. This foundation is said to have the perfect ratio (water, emollients, powder) to impart a glow that only healthy, moisturized skin can give off. In addition to this skin technology, they also use pure mineral water that balances ions on skin, and also delivers nutrients. Although many foundations claim to feature skin benefits, I feel like this actually kind of does what it says.

When I applied 2 pumps of this product to my face (the Rep advised using KGD’s own rubberized sponges) using just my hands, I noticed how quick it blended in without drying. It felt so light, almost like a light tinted moisturizer. Even at $62 a bottle, I knew I had to get it.

In my regular use, I’ve noticed that although it is a very light, near sheer foundation, it greatly improves the subtle look of skin to give you a glow that only comes from being well rested. My skin just looks healthier while maintaining a very natural appearance. In the summer heat, I’ve noticed the light texture is especially favorable as it doesn’t melt off or get messy over my face. It also did not dry or make my skin oily which some foundations do (Lancome Teint Idole dries me out so much). Although this isn’t a full coverage foundation, it does last for a substantial amount of time, if you aren’t too active, you can easily get 6-7 hours out of it which is perfect for dinner and a night out.

Additional tip: The women at Barneys recommended using KGD’s Oriental Plants Skin Lotion Spray to help set the foundation and impart dewiness. I agree that using a mist takes the foundation to another level but the Oriental Plants Skin Lotion Spray had too many not-clean ingredients for me as well as lots of alcohol derivatives. I substituted that for YULI’s Panacea Elixir which uses organic and wild grown botanicals and flower hydrosols. Not only did it do the job of imparting dewiness, but it also literally makes my skin better with its fresh, bioactives. And at $36 for 3oz versus $22 for 1.7oz, I was getting a better deal for a better, cleaner formulated product.