Yup. That’s me at 15 on the left, even though I look 35 there. Now, I’m not saying my skin now is perfect (far from it), but over the years I learned to understand my skin better and how to give it what it needs.
You can see from the left image that at age 15, I had a smattering of pimples, raging rosacea, oily skin (definitely wasn’t going 4 glow there), and a general unpleasant skin tone — probably the result of using a sparing amount of SPF4 on my body while obsessively ‘working on my tan’ at the pool.
Now I’m glad to say my skin tone has improved drastically, my pigmentation is fading, pores and blackheads are more under control, and I’ve found a way to stop picking at pimples and leaving scars on my face (more on that below).
A lot of that has to do with discovering (and harnessing the awesome power of) Korean beauty products. The famous 10 step Korean beauty regime may sound insane at first but I think the basic steps of Cleanse > prep > treat > moisturise make a lot of sense, and certainly turned my skin around.
So, let’s talk skin type first. I have combination/ dry skin, which means that while I can get oily around the T zone, certain parts of my face (cheeks and around my mouth) are dry. This might not make sense at first, but look at it this way — your face might get oily because it’s overcompensating for dryness. Sebum production goes out of whack. And we all know oil = pimples. So, a priority for me is to ensure I get enough moisture so that I can beat the oil (and breakouts).
My skin is also incredibly sensitive. It’s so sensitive it’s a perfect litmus test for dirty makeup brushes. One touch and I start to break out in hives. So, all my product recommendations are suitable for sensitive skin.
OK. Now on to the actual beauty routine. If you’re not already acquainted with the logic behind the Korean “10 step” regime, then you might want to check it out first.
Please note these are products I frequently use and love (based on my skincare needs that day) — I don’t use them all at once!
Products marked “HG” are my Holy Grails — I will not stop using/ buying these products until I find something better or they are discontinued (the horror!).
Oil cleansers: Double cleansing made a huge difference with my skin, and if you think your skin could stand to be brighter and clearer, double cleansing is the place to start.
- Sum37 Skin Saver Melting Balm (HG) [Edit: This HG balm of mine has been DISCONTINUED (THE HORROR), and I’ve been experimenting with others to find a good replacement]
- Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil EX
- SK-II Facial Treatment Gentle Cleansing Cream
- DHC Cleansing Oil
- Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm
Cleansing waters: I love using cleansing waters on lazy weekends, when my face is feeling particularly sensitive (and washing with a cleanser might be too stripping), or right before going to exercise, because you should never sweat with makeup on.
To further cleanse the face after oil cleansing, and also to remove the residue from your oil cleanser.
- Sum37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick (HG for me)
- Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam
- Neogen Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser
- COSRX Good Morning Low pH Cleanser (think it might be because of the name, but I only use this in the mornings)
In laymen terms, your ‘exfoliation’ step. Korean beauty believers tend to extol the virtues of acids > scrubs, and I’ve also found acids to be much gentler, more moisturising, and generally more effective (with long term and long lasting effects). My pores have shrunk, my blackheads are disappearing, and somehow my awful rosacea (as you can see in the horrifying Age 15 photo) is gone too.
- Biologique Recherche P50 (HG — I use this every night)
- CNP Laboratory Invisible Peeling Booster (HG — I use this every morning)
- COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
Don’t forget your eye area! It’s the thinnest skin on your face, and most prone to signs of ageing and damage. Also, you can always tell a person’s age from their eye and neck area.
- SKII RNA Power Eye Cream (HG)
To pH-adjust skin and prep it for better absorption of moisture.
- Klairs Supple Preparation Toner (HG)
- Whamisa Deep Rich Toner
To hydrate skin. My personal belief is that essences are most responsible for the ‘translucent’ quality of skin.
- Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence (2nd generation)
- Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX
- SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
- COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
Serums/ ampoules/ treatments:
This is where you treat your skin problems. Serums/ ampoules deliver a powerful boost of antioxidants and actives to treat current problems and prevent future damage.
- Holy Snails Shark Sauce (HG) — I have this is the original version, Hanbang, Lemon Shark, and Great White Shark (GWS for AM use)
- Dermatics MD Vitamin C Serum (AM use)
- DrGL Skin Repair (HG)
- Banila Co Miss Flower and Mr Honey Propolis Serum
- LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule (HG)
Think of sheet masks as a super intense boost of essence/ serum for your skin. Some of my favourite ones so far:
- Whamisa Hydrogel Sheet Masks (all are great)
- Too Cool for School Egg Cream Mask
- For Beloved Girl Cloud-Silk Mask in CA (great for sensitive skin and acne-prone skin)
- L’Herboflore Translucent Lychee Mask
- Lululun Aroma Oil Mask (Rose)
- SK-II Facial Treatment Essence Mask
Moisturisers have always been a tricky affair for me. I’ve broken out from 80% of the moisturisers I’ve tried. After many misses, I’ve finally found some that don’t break me out, keep my skin supple, hydrated, and glowing most of the day, and are a perfect ‘last step’ for my skincare routine.
- DrGL Restore Gel Mask (I usually use this on top of a light moisturiser) (HG)
- Skylake Oriental Herb Hosu Aqua Gel + Cream (Gel first, then cream = magical combination)
- LifeFlo Rosehip Seed Oil (I usually use this and then the DrGL Gel mask over) (HG)
- Pyunkung Yul Balancing Gel (Am trying this out — so far, looks on the path to HG status!)
Think of sleeping masks as a ‘super’ moisturiser that’s more intense and deliver extra hydration. Use 2-3 times a week at night.
- COSRX Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask (HG)
- COSRX Honey Overnight Mask
- Laneige Water Sleeping Pack
- Naruko Night Gelly in Rose and Botanic HA
- May Coop Tightening Mask
I’ve been a sunscreen evangelist for the last decade of my life now. That’s because I can’t explain enough the importance of wearing sunscreen — to prevent ageing, sun damage, and for your body’s health. Check out how to use my favourite sunscreens here.
- Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV (HG)
- DrGL Sun Protection Mist (HG)
- Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence
- COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch — absolutely perfect for making any kind of pimple disappear overnight (HG x100000)
- Cure Aqua Gel — this is a gomage peel that I use 2 times a week, especially when my skin is irritated (HG)
I’ll be back soon with a post on how to customise and create a skincare routine for your skin/ skin type! Until then, glow hard or go home!