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My adventures in the world of Korean Beauty aka a grown woman finally learns how to wash her face

People are generally used to my talking about all sorts of awesome geeky things or going off on tangents (or rants) about genre movies/tv and how women fit into that, but I’m going to stray off topic…sort of.

About four months ago, I started taking a more serious look at the world of Korean beauty products.

As for what prompted the more serious inquiry, well, vanity. At 47 years old, I finally had someone call me an “older lady” and it threw me. I’ve had one of those faces where people have told me I don’t look my age all my life, but this checker at Ralphs used that phrase in a totally not mean way and I ended up going home and looking at my face and actually seeing my age for the first time.

What I also saw upon closer inspection were dark spots, larger pores, and acne scars from my years of poking my zits because I’m one of those people who’s obsessed with popping pimples (yeah, I watch Dr. Pimple Popper vids in fascination). What I saw was years of neglecting simple things that led up to the age (and mileage) showing on my face.

Now, I’m never going to be one for plastic surgery or botox/collagen/etc because no one’s cutting into or shooting things into my face. But lotions or creams or cleansers that actually worked? I could try those.

Up to that point, I’d pretty much considered kbeauty another trend (kind of like the sudden boom in Kombucha or probiotics –– you know, things that have been around a long time but suddenly got popular because certain people got into it?). Sort of like when Nancy Kwan used to do commercials for Ancient Pearl cream when I was a kid and I was like “You put pearls on your face?!” (little did I know…)

Now that I had an awareness of it, I saw more people I knew talking about sheet masks and snail mucin and bee propolis and how amazing their skin looked and all of that caused me to get more interested.

But what really sold me? Not gonna lie. It was how cute everything looked and how cheap they were. I mean, a face mask that looks like a panda, says I’ll have glowing skin, and only costs two bucks? I had to try it. What did I have to lose?

My mind, apparently. In a good way.

So, I reached out to Daily Dot reporter and kbeauty nut Colette Bennett because I’ve known her long enough to know she’d give me the straight dope. Colette has a site called Chok Chok! that’s a great resource for Asian beauty newbies like me and she was kind enough to point me to some posts and info so I could do some research.

The more I researched and the more I learned, I discovered an entirely new level to this whole Korean beauty routine thing –– it was like chemistry and science and experimenting all rolled into one. There are products for all sorts of different things and they all have specific purposes based on certain needs or conditions.

Plus, everything was amazingly cost effective.

For example, I just checked over at Estee Lauder and found a product called Micro Essence Skin Activating Lotion for $58 – $96 in 2.5 & 5 oz sizes. Upon further inspection, this lotion is less of a lotion and more of an essence, which you can generally find for $15 – $30 in the Asian beauty world and find them in larger sizes. It’s pretty much the same across the board from any of the searches I’ve done.

Another thing I discovered with sites like Soko Glam and Membox is the ingredients are all listed on the website, so I can see exactly what I’m thinking about putting on my face. That Estee Lauder stuff? No info. None. They’re basically asking me to trust them.

My best discovery, however, was how nice, helpful, and fun the kbeauty community is as a whole.

Okay, okay, okay. I hear you asking “Yeah, but did the shit work? Get to the point, Chatty Cathy.”

In short, it sure seems to be working. I emailed Collette on March 7th, she pointed me to this post and on March 12th, I started using two cleansers and something called a Konjac sponge to wash my face once a day. I started small because even once a day was a stretch for me. Once I got into that habit, I moved up to twice a day. That’s the only change I made in my “wash my face, slather on moisturizer) routine that I didn’t do nearly enough. I used the suggested DHC oil cleanser (I know that sounds counter-intuitive) and the CeraVe cleanser for sensitive skin with my little konjac sponge plus my usual Lush Celestial moisturizer –– and I was diligent.

I did that for a month and in that month, I noticed that, aside from my hormonal acne that shows up right around my period, I wasn’t having breakouts. I had been worried that too much cleansing would dry out my skin, but my skin started feeling more smooth and hydrated and less oily, so I considered it a success.

Of course, cleaning and a moisturizer were only 2 steps in the famous “10 Step Korean Beauty Routine” which, in reality, isn’t nearly as complicated as it seems and a lot more fun than you might imagine.

On April 24th, I sent this report:

“Okay, so I took a few unflinching pics in full light.
Believe it or not, my skin is better overall. Less breakouts. I have a really annoying oil deposit and was just trying to get some of the gunk out. I get those about once a month.
Biggest issues are some dark spots/scars and I get little whiteheads on my chin under my lip constantly. They’re better now than they were.
Like I said, this is seriously up close and in unforgiving light. I figure if you see the worst, that’s better ;)
Heh. I’m legit ashamed of this but you make me feel stronger.”

This was the picture that accompanied it.

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You can tell just how thrilled I was to take that picture and, I’ll be honest, it’s taking a lot of willpower to share it now. No one wants to show themselves warts and all and I’m much more prone to sharing pictures only when I know I look my best. But, hey, I started this journey, and I’m committed, so there ya go.

Here’s a progression between then and now.


Looking at this, I can see the changes so far.In the last 3 months, I’ve added three new steps (toner, essence, and eye cream) and use a sheet mask 1 – 2 times a week. Sheet masks are my favorite of anything because it’s as much about pampering as it is about treatment. Plus they’re fun to take pics of ;-)

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The dark circles under my eyes are fading, the really big dark spots from old cystic breakouts are fading, and the lines are going away. I’m also discovering new products and testing things out, so every day is a little more of a tweak and test procedure. Find what works, learn what doesn’t, try different combinations. Like I said, chemistry/science/experimenting.

As of two days ago, I’m using new acne pimple patches from COSrx, which I think are a godsend. They not only help pull the gunk out of your pimples, but they’re non-medicated and they keep me from poking at my zits. Plus, they match my skin tone and they’re all of 5 bucks for 24 different sized patches.

I need those patches because I’ve moved into a new phase of this whole routine by adding a BHA toner  and my face is in the middle of “purging” (basically, it’s forcing the gunk out of my face, so I have a few pimples. Wheee!), but the theory here is that once the gunk is out, it’ll be better for my face overall.

Here’s the most recent pic:


I think my face looks better than it did when I started and I know I’m feeling more confident, so that’s always a plus.

As for the cost component of all this, I’d say I’ve spent roughly $120 over the last 4 months for everything from my cleansers to my buck a piece sheet masks. I think of it as my $30 a month luxury spend and a contribution to my wellbeing (that’s the addict in me justifying the cost). But I also have yet to buy something I wasn’t happy with and don’t use on a regular basis and I haven’t had to restock anything.

Next step? And AHA gel.

I’m excited to see where it goes next.


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