People have been asking me how I keep my skin glowing and looking young. It's easy to stereotype that Asians naturally have young-looking features. That's all relative. But what about skin quality? How do you obtain that glow? That's not merely genetics. Let me describe the 10 Step KBeauty routine people use daily to have gorgeous skin.
What people don't realise is that quality beauty routines are a part of daily life for Koreans. Just as brushing your teeth twice or thrice daily is for most cultures, Koreans (men and women alike) are taught at an early age on how to maximise skincare. I still remember the first time my mom taught me the most effective ways to apply facial products when I was in elementary school.
That's not odd or vain at all. It's a part of life to pass on wisdom to the younger generation just like brushing your teeth for a healthy mouth. Your skin also requires care and nourishment for proper health. Undoubtedly, this also helps with the anti-aging process. Are you ready to dive into these 10 wonderful steps to keep your skin looking young and gorgeous? Let's go!
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1. Makeup Remover
Your skin is oil-based, also known as "lypophilic". Imagine mixing oil and water in a glass. The two will never full mix together, right? They don't bind to each other because they are unlike. Since your skin is oil-based it makes sense that makeup is as well in order to have a lasting wear effect.
So, does it make sense to use a water-based makeup remover like wet wipes? No, it doesn't unless you're using a ton of friction to scratch off the makeup which ultimately, damages your skin. It may take off a bit of your makeup but I guarantee that you will leave makeup residue clogging your pores and damaged skin cells.
Since "like removes like", you want an oil-based makeup remover. The makeup remover should be a viscous oil that when gently massaged onto your face, you'll witness even the toughest waterproof makeup melt away. My favourite cleansing oils are from Caudalie and Tatcha. I have no affiliation with them, but they've proved to gently remove my toughest waterproof makeup without irritating my sensitive skin.
For a while, I was using expensive foam cleansers. I purchased them because they were part of the cosmetic line that I frequently use for lotions or serums. These foam cleansers left my skin feeling squeaky clean. At first, it seemed as though this was a great effect because I thought all of the makeup, oil and environmental toxins on my face were all gone. This should be ideal, right?
No. You want the dirt and makeup of the day to be removed, but you don't want your natural oils to be stripped too. Then, you'll end up purchasing and using more products to hydrate your skin after each wash. Remember from my previous post (7 Do's and Don'ts for Troubled Skin) that dry skin causes ageing, and keeping your skin hydrated will retrain your skin not to overproduce oils.
There's not one face wash that's the best out there. You have to find which works for you. But the end result you're looking for after each wash is no residual dirt or makeup while still maintaining moisture on your skin. My go-to for the last two months has been Nivea's Gentle Cream Wash. I have a bias against over-the-counter cosmetic brands out of fear that they may be poor quality and irritate my sensitive skin. But I happened to run out of my usual foam face wash and just coincidentally came across this cream wash and fell in love.
At first, it seemed so creamy that I wasn't sure if it was washing off at all. I realised that it wasn't soap residue left behind, but it was my natural oils and moisture that was left behind. I also didn't experience breakouts or irritation that I often have with various brands due to my sensitive skin. And I found myself using smaller quantities of moisturisers afterwards because my skin maintained hydration. If you're also concerned by using exfoliants, see my previous post here.
3. Toner (pH)
This wasn't something I invested in until my adult acne came in full force. I was desperate to try anything and everything to remedy it. So I started looking into what my skin was lacking. Did you know that after each time you wash your face, you're unbalancing your skin's pH level?
Ideally, we want our skin's pH to be a bit acidic (around 4.7-5.7). The pH of water is neutral at 7. And your face wash can be a different pH as well. When the pH of your skin (or really any where in your body) is thrown off of its normal, it takes away the natural protection it has including against bad bacteria.
Toner is made to rebalance the pH on your skin. Instead of applying all kinds of harsh acne medication to balance the bacteria on my skin, what I was missing was toner. It seems so minute because it comes as a clear thin liquid, but it actually packs a punch when it comes to boosting your skin's health. It also helps to clear away any residue left over after the face wash. But if you're using a double wash, you shouldn't be worrying about this at all.
This is another step people often overlook. Essence is often a clear liquid, which makes it seem like it won't benefit your skin much. I get it. I was there with you at one point. But imagine when you got out of the shower this morning and you felt your skin tighten up after towel drying. So, you add toner. But toner is mainly just there to balance the pH on your skin and add some nutrients. Your skin is still thirsting for hydration.
Then comes the essence. You put one pump of this thick, clear liquid on and your dry, tight skin suddenly loosens up as it takes a deep gulp of moisture. That's the effect of essence. It moisturises, adds nutrients, and preps your skin to be ready for the next steps. The essence I use contains over 10 different plant extracts that nourishes my skin and my skin says, "Thank you."
Can you imagine applying a thick moisturiser to a raisin? A raisin is dehydrated and wrinkly to begin with. You'd have to soak it in the moisturiser for some time to get it back to being plump. Therefore at initial application, not much of the moisturiser is actually penetrating the first layer. Essence basically preps your skin for other added moisturisers and nutrients to easily be absorbed by your skin when it's time.
In a nutshell, it's one step up from an essence and one step shy of lotion. It physically looks like something in between the two - a bit watery but also creamy. It's purpose is to moisturise, nourish, and rejuvenate. Knowing this, is it truly necessary to have this step in your daily routine?
I say YES. Based on your skin type, if you feel that you don't need a heavy moisturiser then, you can use this to replace the moisturiser step. If you need as much moisture as you can get due to dry skin, then you should welcome this step. In either case, you're obtaining the aid that your skin needs such as hyaluronic acid, collagen, etc. Remember, all of these steps are building up to both nourish and prep your skin to receive hydration.
My friends, this is the most important step in my daily routine that has changed my life. If it's not a step in your daily routine, listen up. First off, what's the difference between an ampule and a serum? An ampule is usually described as a an extremely concentrated version of a serum. So, what's a serum? A serum is a thinner liquid that is full of concentrated plant extracts, antioxidants and vitamins. Due to it's chemical makeup, it penetrates more easily and deeply into your skin.
Personally, I started using a serum (in an oil form) about a year ago when my adult acne was taking a second round six years after round 1. The aesthetician I was regularly seeing told me to look for serums with peptides, which will lead to healing by signaling your body to produce collagen for healing, balance, and anti-aging. For more information, there's an excellent detailed article on the Dermstore site here.
The serum step has transformed my troubled skin by healing, calming, nourishing, and hydrating it. Colleagues at work ask me what I've done differently to make my skin glow in the last year and I always spread the word about serums. I will never take this step for granted ever again.
7. Sheet Mask
Initially when sheet masks started to pick up in popularity, it was all about moisturising. Many of them still are, but now there's such a large variety for your every need. There are tea tree oil masks for acne, collagen masks for healing and anti-aging, honey masks for inflammation, and whitening masks for uneven skin tone just to name a few.
Sometimes, people see the face masks as a nuisance because they're taking up so much time. But honestly, they stick to your face pretty well so you can do things around the house, read a book, write a blog post (like me), or apply it on a plane ride (yes, I've done this too) for the recommended 15 minutes.
Nowadays, they even make the masks with cool art so that it looks like you're wearing a panda mask or a tiger mask, and so forth. It doesn't have to feel like a chore. It's a great excuse to make time for yourself and relax. So make it fun and enjoyable once or twice a week! In the summer, I personally use more aloe-containing masks especially after a beach day. In the winter, I usually use more whitening and moisturising masks to combat the sun damage from the previous summer season and the drying effects of the winter season.
8. Eye Cream
If anyone I know described me, I'd be called the "smiley girl". I get that from my dad. We smile and laugh about everything. But the huge downside of this is the development of crows feet. Ok, crows feet in my early 20s? No big deal since I have plenty of time to reverse this. So, I ignored using any anti-wrinkle eye cream for another 10 years. Big mistake! It was allowing the crows feet to become irreversibly deeper and developing more fine lines going from my eyes down towards my cheeks. It's not purely from exaggerated face expressions. It's also a result of sun damage, dehydration, and just changes in hormones as part of the ageing process.
My resounding gong in this post and my previous post are: Dryness causes wrinkles. So, we always need to hydrate! How do eye creams help? An eye cream is often thick and viscous in comparison to serums and lotions. It's to help your skin stay moisturised to prevent premature lines and wrinkles. Since the skin around your eyes are much more delicate in comparison to anywhere else on your face, it makes sense for this cream to be thicker than other steps in the routine. Remember to gently tap-tap-tap with your ring fingers upon application.
Moisturising is an essential step. But for many people that I've met, this step is taken for granted. I understand that some people have very sensitive skin that's easily irritated by certain moisturisers. But that's not a good enough excuse to use a bare bones drug store moisturiser because it's the cheapest option and it's non-irritating. You're truly doing your skin a disservice and you'll be regretting this decision when your K-Beauty friends look like they're in their 40's at the age of 60.
This is not a one size fits all situation. But also no two moisturisers are the same. Which means there's one out there for you that will match your skin's needs perfectly. It just takes trial and error to find it. I probably change my moisturiser every couple of years because as I get older and I move to different States or countries (varying tap water quality), its been necessary to revamp my skincare routine.
This step is very important because you want a moisturiser that will create a barrier on your skin so that it keeps the good stuff you just applied from evaporating off of your skin and it keeps the bad things out, like environmental toxins. For the last 9 steps, we've been cleansing, nourishing, healing, and moisturising your skin. Great! Are we done yet? Sorry. Almost theret!
Going back to step 8, where I mentioned sun damage partly contributed to fine lines, SPF lotion is very essential to maintain healthy skin. Sun damage leads to dehydration and early signs of ageing. No one wants this. SPF lotions are available everywhere and in all different forms to protect against harsh UVB rays from the sun. This step is easy because you just need to find a non-irritating one that's at least an SPF of 35, but ideally 50. Anything above that (as I mentioned in a previous post) won't be very advantageous and you'll be paying an unnecessary premium.
Now, what's PA+? PA protects you against UVA rays. Isn't SPF enough? No, it's not. The sun projects UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. UVB rays affect the outermost layer of your skin while UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin, causing wrinkles. COOLA explains it the best with diagrams on their site.
What's the difference between PA+, PA++, PA+++? The more plus signs the better coverage. PA+ will protect mildly against UVA rays (what you find in your makeup) while PA+++ will provide maximum protection.
Those are the 10-steps of the popular KBeauty Skincare Routine. Another thing Koreans do to keep their skin looking young is to apply anti-aging products early. Many people think "anti-aging" means it'll miraculously reverse the signs of ageing when you starting using it on your deeply set fine lines and wrinkles. This is a HUGE misunderstanding.
We have repetitive facial expressions that lead to wrinkles and creases as early as in your 20s. That is when you should be using the anti-aging products - not 40 years later when your deeply set wrinkles will barely be affected by the minor aids of these products. Sorry, but anti-ageing products are not time travel machines. You can't possible reverse all the damage you've ignored over several years.
But there's hope! Keep up with these 10 steps now and you'll have envious, beautiful skin in no time. You're going to love being asked by others, "What are you doing to make your skin glow?"
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