Just like everyone’s skin is unique, the way everyone cares for their skin is also unique. After all, there’s no right or wrong way to do K-beauty; it’s what works for you. In this series, we take a deep dive into the individualized skincare regimens of some K-beauty insiders. Here, W2Beauty’s editor in chief Anna M. Park reveals all.
I always thought that as I got older, my hormonal acne would dissipate. That was the consolation prize of aging: At least if I had to deal with wrinkles, I wouldn’t have to deal with pimples.
Yup. Didn’t happen. I’m in my 40s, dealing with soul-sucking wrinkles and regular breakouts you could set your watch to. Oh, did I mention the sagging and enlarged pores? The skin gods are definitely not smiling down on me.
Of course, the upside to these myriad skin “issues” (the way schizophrenia is a mental “issue,” right?) is that I’m the perfect guinea pig for all sorts of skincare. Salicylic acid to clean out pores? Bring it on. Vitamin C and antioxidants to battle hyperpigmentation? Count me in. Growth factors to regenerate and firm up skin cells? I’m all over it. If it might work, it’s in my regimen. Which of course means that my skincare routine is a rather elaborate one.
Not that yours has to be as elaborate. In my 20s, it was a foam cleanser, a serum, an eye cream, and a moisturizer. (Yup, I didn’t even use sunscreen back then. For shame, I know.) I began adding to my regimen as life (and genetics) began adding to my skin woes.
So here I am. In my 40s. And with a skincare routine that, yes, is well into the double digits. But my skincare routine works. It really works. I may not be able to significantly undo the damage I did in my younger years (unabashed tanning, no sunscreen, lots of white carbs), but truly, my regimen has prevented a lot of new hyperpigmentation, my hormonal acne is a lot less angry (for lack of a better word), my neck is holding up, and my skin texture is smooth and has a certain glow. I truly believe my religious devotion to my skincare routine is the reason, and not just because of the actual products and its ingredients. My skincare regimen is a meditative me-time, a time to de-stress, be in the moment, and focus on me. And now that scientists have confirmed that stress (and the resulting cortisol spikes) are the source of all sorts of health evils, from heart disease to obesity to breakouts, I treasure my skincare routine all the more.
So herewith, my I-can’t-even-count-anymore skincare routine for my combination skin (read: cheeks as dry as the Sahara and a T-zone that clearly thinks it’s a temperamental teenager).
Skin type: Combination
Skin issues: Hyperpigmentation, hormonal acne, oily T-zone
Skincare steps: 10+
1. Eye makeup remover
Yes, it’s a triple cleanse for me. Because seriously, an oil cleanser just does not cut it with my waterproof eyeliner.
2. Oil cleanser
I play around when it comes to my oil cleansing step to remove makeup. Sometimes I’ll use a micellar water if I didn’t wear much makeup that day. And I’ll admit, I used to prefer micellar water (especially in wipe form) to oil cleansers; I think I just wasn’t crazy about that heavy, suffocating oily feel on my face. But recently, I find myself reaching more and more for my oil cleanser, especially on heavy-duty makeup days.
My current go-to is SanDaWha Natural Mild Cleansing Oil. This camellia oil-based cleanser (it makes up 61.55% of the ingredients) feels so light, unlike other oil cleansers, and I like that it almost “grips” all that makeup and gunk on my face, rather than slip-sliding all over the place. And as soon as I add a little water, it turns milky with a bit more slip, allowing me to really give myself a good, thorough massage. This combined with a mild water-based cleanser, and my face has never felt so soft or so hydrated after cleansing.
3. Water-based cleanser
During colder weather, I stick to a mild water-based cleanser made more for dry skin. (Of course, when summertime rolls around, I need to switch to an oil-control cleanser — thanks T-zone, for doubling my beauty arsenal.) For mornings, I love COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser with a konjac sponge for my T-zone. It never leaves my skin feeling tight or stripped.
I also never use a towel to dry my face. I’ll lightly pat it with a paper towel so that it’s no longer dripping, then mist my face with a facial mist and pat it until it’s moist.
This is where I’ll invest a little time and money to really get at my serious skin issues. For day, I’ll apply a well-formulated vitamin C serum on my cheeks, and a BHA serum, like CosRx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, on my T-zone. I then go check my email for 20 minutes to let those acids do their thing.
5. Sheet mask
On days I’m doing a 1-day-1-pack detox, when my skin really needs it or I have a special occasion coming up, I’ll apply a sheet mask here. Depending on what’s going on with my skin, I’ll use a hydrating mask or one with tea tree extract or maybe a firming mask. (Moksha has some of the best I’ve tried in recent memory.) If I don’t use a sheet mask, I may use a day mask and under-eye mask after my serums and before my moisturizer. (See what I mean? Aging skin = a million more products.)
6. Hydrating toner
My current toner obsession is SanDaWha Liposome Skin Softener. I had a mild allergic reaction recently, and until I could figure out what it was, I stripped my skincare routine down to the more nature-based and soothing products in my arsenal, and this was one of them. It’s just an exceptional toner loaded with antioxidants — camellia flower extract is the first ingredient and the rest of the ingredients consist of mainly of 32 botanical extracts and oils. It balances my skin’s pH, immediately injects some hydration, and — no small thing — it comes in an elegant glass pump bottle. With a milky look and a watery texture, this toner never fails to make my skin (and soul) go aaaaahhh when I apply it.
7. Pre-serum booster
Sulwhasoo first introduced me to the concept of a pre-serum, which further preps your skin for subsequent treatments. Is it really necessary? I guess it depends. But I do feel that my skin is a bit softer and more plumped in the long run when I use one, though I don’t always.
It’s deceiving to put all this in one step because really, this category probably involves five to seven products at any given time. But hey, that’s because I’ve got a myriad of skin issues from dryness (I love Graymelin Hyaluronic Acid 100% serum) to acne (tea tree and Centella asiatica essences) to sagging (peptide serum) to hyperpigmentation (you name it, I’ve tried it). Suffice it to say, in the long term, I’ve seen results, so I’m not giving up my half dozen serums anytime soon.
9. Spot treatment/special care
I’ll I used to use a benzoyl peroxide lotion for active acne. Now at night, I alternate between Retin-A and a glycolic acid treatment.
10. Face moisturizer
Of course, I need one for my dry cheeks and one for oily T-zone. (Again, thanks schizo skin.) Eclado A.C Pimpeel Cream, which has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory propolis extract and tea tree leaf oil, is great for when I’ve had a breakout, and I recently discovered Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream for my oily areas. I’ve found Mizon to be too lightweight in general for my aging skin, but this gel cream is perfect for my T-zone (which thinks it’s an adolescent, so of course). For my cheeks, I alternate between SanDaWha Ultra Rich Hydrating Camellia Floral Water Cream (oh, that heavenly scent!), Eclado Cell Memory Cream for when my skin needs some firming up, and Swanicoco Centella Asiatica Salve for when I’m feeling irritated or red, all of which prevent that midday tightness I used to get around my eyes and temples in the wintertime.
11. Eye cream
I’m in my 40s. Need I say more?
12. Sunscreen/sleeping pack
At night, I slather on a sleeping pack just for some extra moisture-sealing protection. And sunscreen all day, every day. Preferably with a mineral/physical UV filter to ensure I’m blocking out those UVAs. And lots of it. Like a quarter size dollop just for my face. (OK, it’s more like a half dollar size. Hey, if you’ve spent all your teen years baking in the sun, you’d be overdoing it on the SPF at my age, too.)
And just to show you how crazy I am about sun protection, I also live in a hat in the summer and take antioxidant sun supplements when I know I’m going to be outdoors. Yes, I’m that ajumma. But if I have anything to do with it, I’ll be that ajumma with pretty decent skin at age 60 — assuming my hormonal acne has stopped by then.
How do you do K-beauty? I’d love to hear about your routine, and who knows? We just might feature it!