Vanity Fare: What’s on the Top Shelf of Keelyn Young

In our continuing Vanity Fare series, where we take a peek into the beauty routines of our favorite beauty insiders. Here, we talk to Keelyn Young, who won our Vanity Fare contest, about her favorite K-beauty products and the best shopping in Korea.



How did you get into K-beauty and what was your first K-beauty product?


It all started the summer of 2013. I was drawn to Korean dramas, the culture, and the history. That lead me to their philosophy on skincare and beauty. Using natural products to keep skin healthy was something foreign to me because I was never interested in maintaining my skin. Then I found Etude House. They were the first company I purchased from. I ordered it from a small online store that would ship to the U.S. I bought the Wonder Pore Pack, the AC Clinic White-Trouble Bubble Cleanser, and the Moistfull Collagen Essence. It was definitely a test run. I didn’t know anything then. Even though my stuff was all over the place, I started noticing a difference, and thus my journey into Asian products began.


My first favorite product was the Etude House AC Clinic Intense Red Spot Balm. It helped calm down the glowing red spots on my face during a breakout.


Tell us about your vanity and where you beautify yourself.


I love working at my glamorous vanity. I have always wanted one just like it, and it is a special place just for me and my ritual. I split my time there and in the front of my bathroom sink. I am blessed to have a lot of counter space.  I usually have jazz playing while I prep for a facial mask.


keelyn young
Photo by Keelyn Young.


Describe your current skincare and/or makeup routine.


At night my routine is:


First Cleanse: Nature Republic Jeju Sparkling Mud Cleansing Cream. This helps rid my skin of the day’s debris and impurities. It even works great removing light makeup.


Second Cleanse: Nature Republic Natural Fermentation Argan Foam Cleanser. Once worked into a foam, it does the trick in getting everything off without leaving my skin dry. The fermented argan supplies my skin with natural oils, and it’s not a harsh cleanser that will strip away moisture.


Toner: The Face Shop Clean Face Mild Toner. The green tea extract helps keep acne breakouts at bay.


Treatment: I use an American product, Differin, to treat any pimples currently apparent, and it helps reduce my chances of a breakout as well.


Essence: The Face Shop Clean Face Mild Lotion. This mild lotion is considered an essence, and I love it. It goes on smooth and reinforces the toner’s effect. I like using product pairs and sets every chance I get.


Serum: It’s Skin Power 10 Formula Propolis. This little bottle of magic gives my skin instant nutrients to fight aging, hydrate, minimize the look of pores, and brighten my skin.


keelyn young


Cream: Nature Republic’s Super Aqua Max. One the first things I purchased on my trip last year and I am almost out again. I love the extra boost of hydration it gives. With combo skin, I can’t stand feeling dry during the colder months. This always does the trick.


Do you have any unique or unusual beauty tips?


One unusual thing I have become fond of doing is using an Epsom salt and baking soda paste to help with drying out a cyst on my trouble areas. I do it for a full week during a breakout. It works every time.


Korean base makeup products are notoriously limited in shades (even for me, and I’m of Korean ethnicity!). Have you found any products that work for you?


It’s funny you ask. A few years ago, I would have said yes, I totally avoid them, but now I am currently writing a blog article about this new phenomenon. I actually have a BB cream from The Face Shop that matches my skin tone. I use it all the time, and I just heard about Innisfree’s new cushions in darker shades. I plan to review it. Honestly with Korean companies strategizing to see the dollar signs behind women of color, I believe more will start investing the time to produce colors that fit the market.


keelyn young
Keelyn Young.


How do you travel and maintain your skincare routine? 


Love samples! I use samples the most on short trips. They come in handy when you can’t necessarily travel with your products. I keep a few in my carry-on when I have overseas flights. You can also learn about a new product you may want to purchase later.


Invest in travel size! Some of my favorite brands have travel size options I swear by. If you can’t live without it, then don’t. If the brand doesn’t carry them, then pick up some travel size containers to place your faves in.


Mists and wipes are your best friends! I always carry mists and wipes when I travel. They’re great pick-me-ups when I’ve been up for 10-plus hours or just need a little refreshing. I am currently using Tony Moly Pocket Bunny Moist Mist.


Why are you going to Korea for a month and what are you going to do there?


I am considering moving to Korea in two years so I wanted to experience an extended stay. I’ve been visiting since 2013 so I felt it may be time to consider moving there for a while since I love it so much. I’m learning more about some of the other cities, like Busan. I plan to study the business culture because I love what I do [as a business development manager] and brand building for a company is a part of me. The business environment there is very grounded, and I like that.


For fun, I plan to dive deeper into the beauty market and culture more. Every time I go I learn something new about it and other Asian beauty secrets that motivates me to try them. Last time I went I learned about milk peel treatments.


What are some of your favorite places to shop, eat, and drink in Korea?


keelyn young


The best place for shopping is of course Hongdae. Stylenada (very trendy and very reasonably priced), Hyang Park (they put me in a whole outfit just for fun) and any corner boutique off the beaten path. I got an entire outfit for 25 bucks once. I always come home with a new set of clothes for the season.


If you are interested in bargains, go to Myeongdong. It’s fast-paced and never boring. For more high-end shopping (which I do way too much), go to the COEX in Gangnam.


Best for eating? There are so many places. I’ve got two go-to spots that I visit at least once while I am there every time I go. The first is Jaksal Chicken, owned by the infamous idol Kim Hyun Joong. While it is a fried chicken chain, he and two friends opened my favorite haunt in Il-Sangdong. The chicken there is amazing. I am friends with one of the owners on KakaoTalk.


My second favorite spot is in Gangnam. Yeolbong Jjimdak is another celebrity-owned restaurant but more upscale than Jaksal. I love jjimdak (braised chicken), and they make the best in my opinion. While I’ve never met or seen the owner (rumored to be K-idol Seven), one employee Jeannie is there every time I stop by.


As for places to drink, I now prefer Gangnam and its most high-end lounges. My new favorite is an underground spot in Gangnam that recently open this year when I went. It’s called White Bar, and it is luxe. A gin bar, it’s built like a gold vault with an impressive assortment of cocktails. It’s super upscale, just how I like it. The owner Kevin is super sweet and gave us a few free cocktails for stopping by. I plan to be a regular next year during my stay.


Follow Keelyn on her adventures in Korea on her blog When West Met East and on Instagram.


Is there anyone whose vanity you want a peek into? Let us know in the comments!



Beauty Banter: Do You Want Glass Skin? Is It Even Achievable?

glass skin

Let’s get talking! In this continuing series, we talk all things beauty, and we wanna hear from you! What do YOU think? What’s good, what’s bad, what’s ugly (or beautiful)? Now’s your chance to be heard! Let’s talk!



Ah, another thing I’m failing at: glass skin.


It’s the latest K-beauty “trend” that Bustle says “is about to be everywhere.” It’s a great headline, no doubt. But is that what K-beauty is about?


We here at W2Beauty have a lot of conversations like these. Often over wine. Or soju. Or both. (Because let’s be real: That’s when the real talk happens. Ah, @cocopark, if only you lived on the West Coast!)


Forget the multi-step skincare routines, the impossibly small and V-line faces, the skin tones that basically cover 1% of the population (which, BTW, doesn’t include this writer, despite the fact that she’s Korean by ethnicity).


I sometimes feel, as an Asian American, that we trade in our impossibly unachievable standards of blonde-blue-eyed Barbie beauty for one that is equally unachievable: porcelain skin, doe-eyed, baby-face. I mean, really, do we need to do that to ourselves?


Isn’t the beauty of K-beauty that its foundation is about self-care, about me-time, developing a sense of well-being, caring for ourselves? About being the best that we can be, given what we were given? It doesn’t matter what the color or shade or tone of your skin is, whether it’s blemish-free or not (because let’s be real: That’s straight-up a roll of the genetic dice, in most cases). The beauty of K-beauty is in the power and grace and mercy we allow ourselves, without having to succumb to some impossible standard, Western or otherwise.


So enough proselytizing. We wanna know what you think. Are we totally wrong? Is that the goal? Whether you call it “glass skin,” “ceramic skin,” “honey,” “mochi,” or “rice cake skin,” is that what K-beauty is all about? We asked the Squad, but we soooo wanna know from you, so comment below and join the conversation!


glass skin


Contributing editor Sheryll:

I’m all about making my skin look the best it can to my standards. I’ve never really aspired to have glass skin or anything else, really. I just want to not get hormonal acne, LOL! 🤣


Associate editor Ruth: ​

I hadn’t really heard of the term “glass skin​” before, but just visualizing it gives me pause. I get “dewy” or “glowing” skin, but glassy? Reminds me of a creepy porcelain doll that may have a beautiful finish but is kept on a shelf to collect dust for years. *shudder* 😵


So while I’ll may never achieve “glass skin,” I do know when my skin is feeling and looking happy and healthy (which is more than enough for me)! There was a short period when my skin was really behaving and that was when I tried the 7-skin method​, along with​ emulsion, a facial oil, and a layer of my moisturizer on top​. And when I applied makeup, I mixed in a few drops of facial oil with my foundation to really maintain that healthy finish. M​y skin ​seriously stayed glowing ​all day and night​!


Contributing editor Coco:

Do I want glass skin? Sure! Can I achieve it? Nope. If I had unlimited money and time, I might try, but as of right now my goals are more realistic, and that aim at this point is to just make sure I don’t look like my mother 😂


Editor at large Jude:

It sounds like a marketing term more than anything else. The concept of it isn’t that much different than the dewy skin that’s already pretty standard, just theoretically taken to an extreme. It’s translucent skin with a sheen to it, that’s all.


The concept of skin trends is already pretty troubling to me. For most people, it’s already challenging enough trying to organize a skincare routine that works well enough for their skin to keep it clear and comfortable; existing beauty standards are already pretty high for complexions without throwing the extra wrench of disposable trends into the mix.


I know that we deal in skincare and beauty, but for me, helping people do things like minimize pore size, reduce dark spots, etc., those are things that are important because they can help people feel better about themselves. These skin trends feel like a way of making it harder for people to feel better about themselves — it’s kind of moving the goalposts. Like, what, I cleared my acne and cleaned out my pores, and now that’s still not good enough?


(I feel the same way about body type and facial feature trends. That’s a part of your body and takes a lot of work to change — it’s not like clothes or nails or makeup where you can just take something off and put another thing on!)


With that being said, I am happy with my routine’s ability to produce dewy and translucent skin. That look comes from a smooth surface and very, very well hydrated skin. Gentle exfoliation helps with the smooth surface, while multiple layers of lightweight hydrating products and regular use of sheet masks takes care of the hydration piece. But I’d rather not put a label on the result and turn it into another specific goal that people feel they need to achieve before they can be happy with their skin.


Let’s start the banter! What do you think? Is K-beauty all about achieving some unattainable standard like glass skin or whatever the next big trend is supposed to be? We’re eager to know what you think!




These 3 Korean Sunscreens Changed the Way I See Sunscreen (& I’m Never Going Back)

korean sunscreens

After a summer of testing sunscreens, I’ve learned a few things: Sunscreen doesn’t have to be a sticky mess, sunscreen can actually help control my crazy oily T-zone, and I’m never going back to Western sunscreens again. Here, the three Korean sunscreens my combination skin loves right now (and two that were disappointing).



Just because September’s here, the fashion mags are touting faux fur and layers galore, and kids are back to school doesn’t mean you can put the sunscreen away. Because if there’s one thing every person with great skin (or striving for great skin) is adamant about, it’s sun protection. Every. Single. Day. Jude Chao applies hers in “generous quantities.” Coco Park is known to carry two to three spray sunscreens with her at all times. Michelle Wong of Lab Muffin reapplies sunscreen by “smooshing” it on her face and then redoing powder and blush on top.


And yet, oh the woes of finding the right sunscreen! What’s avobenzone and is it stable? Should I go physical, mineral, organic, inorganic, chemical (and what’s the difference)? What’s a nanoparticle and does this have it?


Beyond the technical, we ask a lot of our sunscreens: Give us full UVA and UVB protection, moisturize our skin but don’t leave it shiny or greasy, don’t leave a white cast, and oh, and make sure to serve it up with a hefty side of antioxidants. In the States, finding a sunscreen that will actually do all this feels akin to searching for El Dorado or the Loch Ness Monster or, for that matter, those perfect pair of jeans. As for myself, add to that my crazy oily T-zone — and no, I don’t mean “oh, my skin looks dewy at 3 pm every day” oily; I mean oil-slick, Exxon Valdez-worthy, blind everyone in sight, bad teenage level oily — and you can see why sunscreen is not exactly my favorite step in my skincare regimen.


Until this past summer.


korean sunscreens


As a beauty editor, I’ve tried my share of sunscreens over the years, mostly from Western and big name brands like Clarins, La Roche-Posay, and Shiseido. Surprisingly, though, I’d never tried a Korean sunscreen. But this past summer, I got the chance to try a half dozen sunscreens from Korean brands, as well as the insider-coveted Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence. What I discovered is that not only are these sunscreens generally much more affordable than the high-end brands I’d been using, their textures, finishes, and antioxidant-laden formulas often surpassed those of their Western counterparts. Now, that’s not to say that all Korean sunscreens are better (there are two in particular that were disappointing — keep reading to find out which two). But the ones that were good were so good, they’re the reasons why I’ll probably never go back to Western sunscreens again.


Innisfree Daily UV Protection Cream No Sebum SPF 35/PA+++


To prove just how much YMMV (your mileage may vary) in beauty, consider my colleague Jude Chao’s assessment of one of my big sunscreen finds of the summer:


“The Innisfree Daily UV Protection Cream (No Sebum) gives me gray cast for days. Innisfree isn’t kidding about ‘no sebum,’ either. This sunscreen sucks all the moisture, glow, happiness, and life out of my skin, even when used over a heavy moisturizer.”


(I love that quote. It makes me laugh every time.)


korean sunscreens


To some extent, I totally agree with Jude — this mineral sunscreen sucks all the oil out of your skin, so if you have dry or even normal skin, beware. However, for a greaseball like me, the Innisfree No Sebum sunscreen has forever changed my T-zone in the summertime. No more blotting every half hour. My makeup doesn’t disappear by midday. In fact, I don’t even have to check my makeup until lunchtime because I’m pretty confident that everything’s still in place.


However, I didn’t feel so enamored with the Innisfree No Sebum ($11.50) at first. Through trial and error, I figured out the best way to apply this sunscreen. Because while its porous powders are awesome at keeping my oily T-zone merely dewy and not dripping, it’s temperamental and you need to know how to apply it correctly. So here’s how I do it:


1. First, only use this sunscreen where you’re truly oily. Like Jude said, it really will suck all the oil out of your face, so if you have combination skin, use a different sunscreen for your cheeks. (See below for my favorite sunscreen for my cheeks.)


2. Apply small amounts at a time. I usually squeeze out a quarter-size (or these days, “fat cherry”) amount for my entire face, but with Innisfree No Sebum, I dole out small pea-sized amounts at a time. I apply one dollop on my chin, another on my nose and between my brows. If you feel like that’s not enough sunscreen for those areas, reapply in thin layers.


3. Smooth it on — don’t pat! I usually pat my sunscreen on (see here why), but with this sunscreen, you have to smooth, never pat. Pat and you’ll get a patchy mess, with tiny white bits filling up your pores until you have tiny white dots all over your face. Not a good look.


creamy sheet masks korean sunscreens


4. Let the sunscreen dry for a good five to 10 minutes before moving on to makeup.


5. Don’t wear primer, at least not over the Innisfree No Sebum. The sunscreen’s got a good amount of silicone already (dimethicone and cyclopentasiloxane), which is also usually in face primers for oily skin, so you don’t really need another one. In any event, if you do try to apply a primer over this sunscreen, you’ll end up with another patchy, pill-y mess, as the primer seems to disturb the smooth layer of oil-absorbing powder particles you just applied.


6. Finally, pat on your foundation, concealer, or cushion on top. I generally use a cushion compact for my base makeup, and it goes on beautifully on top of the Innisfree No Sebum. I’ve never tried a makeup brush on top of this sunscreen, but I would imagine that any brushing or swiping motion would again disturb that smooth layer of sun protection.


Let me reiterate: You should not be using this sunscreen unless you have oily skin. And I mean, really oily skin. No Western brand sebum-absorbing product has ever worked for me in the past — no primer, no moisturizer, no foundation, no powder — until this sunscreen. It literally keeps my T-zone shine-minimized for a good five hours or more. (I can’t say shine-free — nothing is that good — but then again, a bit of dewiness looks more natural, so I prefer the finish.)


Swanicoco Bio Cool Mint Sun Gel SPF 50+/PA+++


I had heard so much about the Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence, that Japanese sunscreen with the hardcore AB blogger following that you can only get on Amazon, so when a new Japanese cosmetic store opened up next to my house, I immediately snapped it up. And while yes, this sunscreen feels like you have absolutely nothing on your face and definitely leaves no white cast whatsoever (how could it? The thing reeks of alcohol, the second ingredient after water), it also leaves no glow anywhere in sight. In fact, after trying the Bioré, I decided I like a little shine in my sunscreen because that completely matte finish only serves to emphasize my dark spots and blotchiness.


korean sunscreens


Enter Swanicoco’s Bio Cool Mint Sun Gel SPF 50+/PA+++ ($29). Yes, this also has alcohol in the ingredient list (third), but it doesn’t smell like it (true to its name, it has a slight mint scent). It’s opaque white in color but with more of a creamy gel or thick essence texture that’s actually quite watery. It feels cool to the touch and practically dissolves into the skin upon contact. The finish is a bit shiny but nothing that can’t be covered with a cushion or foundation.


The most impressive part is after six to seven hours, I only needed to blot my face twice and my T-zone doesn’t look like it’s dripping in cooking oil like it normally does. The cushion has broken up a bit on my chin, but that’s par for the course, and it’s actually not as bad as it usually is. The rest of my skin looks like I just applied my makeup, even without my makeup fixing spray. And despite the alcohol, my skin did not feel dry at all. (To be fair, my skin didn’t feel dry with the Bioré UV, either.)


And while the Swanicoco Bio Cool Mint Sun Gel is more expensive than the Bioré UV (which goes for about $10), I prefer the former for its antioxidant-rich ingredient list, including its base of aloe leaf juice (rather than water), the science-backed brightening ingredient niacinamide (high up on the list), and tocopherol acetate (a form of vitamin E). After all, dermatologists always recommend pairing sunscreen with antioxidants for the fullest protection from damaging UV rays, and if I’m going to slather on a sunscreen, I might as well maximize my skin benefits.


Eclado Oil Free Sun Cream SPF 40/PA++


I have to say, I come back to this sunscreen again and again. It doesn’t have any specific oil-absorbing properties, so I generally use this only on my cheeks, but it’s so light and easy, it’s almost a joy to apply. (I say “almost” because unlike essences and face mists, I just can’t consider sunscreen ever something I just love applying.)


korean sunscreens


That being said, this sunscreen feels more like a water cream than a sunscreen, in both texture and moisturization. It comes out of the tube looking like a legit opaque cream, but as soon as you apply it, it melts into a watery texture, cooling skin on contact. It absorbs pretty quickly and never even comes close to leaving a white cast. The finish is never overly sticky and while it’s not matte by any means, it does leave my skin feeling moisturized all day. (For photos of its texture and finish, check out ThatxxRin’s review here.)


Even more, I love that this sunscreen is boosted with sodium hyaluronate (the salt form of hyaluronic acid), antioxidants like Portulaca oleracea and licorice root extracts, and skin cell turnover-boosting allantoin (albeit in the latter half of the ingredient list).


And 2 that didn’t work for me


Unfortunately, I really wanted to like these two sunscreens. Their names,  descriptions, and prices sounded so promising. A green tea and tea tree-infused sunscreen that is also oil- and sweat-proof? A no sebum sunscreen with aloe and the highest UV protection that’s also watery? And all for under $17? Sign me up!


Until I signed up and, to quote my colleague Jude, they sucked all the “glow, happiness, and life out of my skin.”


Missha All Around Safe Block Sebum Zero Sun SPF 50+/PA+++


This sunscreen ($11) may have had good oil control, but I couldn’t tell because any excess sebum was obscured by the serious white cast and clumps of tiny white dots everywhere as the sunscreen pooled in my pores, making them look even bigger than they already are. The application of this sunscreen is also a challenge. There’s a lack of “slip” — in fact, the texture has an odd feeling of “grip” that’s not necessarily stickiness or tackiness. I really felt that lack of slip when I went to apply my primer on top of the sunscreen — I couldn’t swipe it on and had to resort to patting it on, that’s how little slip there was. I just couldn’t bring myself to try this sunscreen a second time.


Skinfood Aloe Watery Sun No Sebum SPF 50+/PA+++


OK, admittedly, this sunscreen wasn’t as bad as the Missha Sebum Zero, but given how it looked on paper, I was really disappointed. This hybrid mineral-chemical sunscreen ($16.50) is loaded with all sorts of antioxidants, including 10% aloe vera, my favorite Centella asiatica extract, and Portulaca oleracea extract. It also goes on quite smoothly, melting right in with a light finish and no white cast whatsoever, all without the use of alcohol. That’s great for your average sunscreen, but this one has “No Sebum” in the name, so my expectations were a bit different. And I can tell you, there was plenty of sebum to be seen when I tested this sunscreen. Oil control? Not really. I’d say this sunscreen is probably more suited for someone bordering on normal to oily skin.


Have you tried the Skinfood Aloe Water Sun No Sebum or any of the other sunscreens I mentioned? What’d you think? And what sunscreens are your go-to’s right now, and which ones were utter fails? I love discovering new Korean sunscreens, so let me know!


These 6 Things Help Me Manage the Beast That Is Adult Hormonal Acne

adult hormonal acne

I said, under control, not at bay. That being said, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel as my usually massive cystic monsters have petered out to a shell of what they once were. It’s not a simple fix, but here’s the multi-pronged approach I take to calm my adult hormonal acne.



Ah, aging. In your 20s and even sometimes in your 30s, aging is that theoretical creature that you know is lurking out there, waiting to pounce, but never really think about until it’s too late. Take off my makeup? I’m too tired. Sit out in the sun? But it feels so good. Late night ramen fix? The K-drama made me do it.


All good until one day, you look in the mirror, and you see it. That finest of fine lines. Was that there yesterday? You frown — and then immediately stop frowning because the creases on your forehead freak you out.


At a certain point, though, you accept aging as an inevitable part of life. You almost embrace those laugh lines, symbols of all the good times you’ve had. Yup, I’ve gotten to that point. I no longer agonize over every line, the slow downward droop, the enlarged pores. I’ve made a truce with that aging monster stomping across my face.


But then why do I still have to deal with hormonal acne?!?


Seriously, is that fair? Wrinkles and acne? The rest of my face has gone dry, as most aging skin does, but my T-zone still thinks it’s a teenager.


It seems I’m not alone. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 50% of women age 20 to 29 suffer from adult acne, as do 25% of women from 40 to 49. (Great.) For me, it’s a battle I’ve waged for the better part of a decade now, and while most of that time was spent in utter and total defeat, this last year has seen some interesting changes in my breakout pattern, thanks to some interesting changes I’ve been making in my skincare and lifestyle routine.


Now, I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but I am saying that the changes I made make sense, given what we know about hormonal acne.


adult hormonal acne


How hormonal acne works


Doctors still don’t know the exact cause of acne, but they do know the contributing factors (and no, one of them is not dirt). You need the P.acnes bacteria, you need excess oil and dead skin cell cells clogging pores, and you need an inflammatory response. For hormonal acne, you also have bad genes a surge of testosterone, which women will often get right before their period, which contributes to excess oil and clogging.



Now, I’ve grown up with Western beauty telling me I need to wash my face till it’s stripped clean, soak my T-zone in an alcohol-laden toner, and slather my breakouts with super drying benzoyl peroxide. All terrible advice, by the way. Not only are you breaking down your skin barrier — the barrier that, when healthy, does a pretty darn good job of warding off the bad bacteria — but you’re causing an overproduction of oil because you’re dehydrating your skin. Also, benzoyl peroxide generally doesn’t work on hormonal acne, so there’s that.


What I’ve learned in the past year or so is that not only does the K-beauty philosophy of hydrating and babying your skin give you better looking skin, it actually gives you skin that is healthier and better able to fight hormonal acne. Your skin also looks better in general even if you do have a breakout — no peeling or redness from a scorched earth routine. That means it’s easier to cover up when you need to. (Proof: I actually mentioned my monthly battle with hormonal acne to a relative I see frequently, and she expressed genuine surprise — thank you, cushion compacts!)


So what works?


There are a number of factors that contribute to hormonal acne, each different for each person. (Diet and lifestyle are also big factors, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.) For me, I find that when I really focus on hydrating my skin — and thereby strengthening the skin barrier — with a multi-step skincare routine, calming inflammation with anti-inflammatory ingredients, and minimizing excess oil and bacteria with BHA, the battle is more than half won.


1. Boost the skin barrier

The stratum corneum, what we call the skin barrier, makes up the outermost part of your epidermis. It’s there to keep the good stuff in (water) and the bad stuff out (bacteria, pollution, toxins). A healthy skin barrier is your best protection against external aggressors. A compromised skin barrier — whether due to overexfoliation, a high-pH cleanser, or environmental factors — is leaky and weak, allowing water to evaporate and bacteria to invade.


preventative skincare adult hormonal acne


The best and simplest way to strengthen the skin barrier is by keeping it hydrated. I never fail to incorporate a serum with hyaluronic acid in my routine. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, so it draws water into the skin, plumping it up and smoothing its appearance. Ever since I started using a dedicated hyaluronic acid serum, that midday tightness around my eyes and cheeks has completely disappeared, even in the dead of winter. My skin also looks a bit more plumped up and bouncy, resulting in smaller looking pores.


Korean brands love hyaluronic acid and its salt version, sodium hyaluronate, so there is no shortage of serums out there at a wide range of price points. I’m using Graymelin Hyaluronic Acid 100% right now, and not only is it just as good as the popular Western versions I’ve used, like Hylamide, Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex, and Paula’s Choice Resist Hyaluronic Acid Booster, it’s more affordable. (When compared to Paula’s Choice, you get 2.5 times more product for two-thirds the price.) The Graymelin serum has only one ingredient: sodium hyaluronate — no silicone to make it feel slick, no preservatives. I’m a sucker for anything in a dropper bottle, but this serum is more than just looks. It’s a clear, thick, viscous gel that nonetheless sinks in super quickly and just leaves my skin feeling soft, plumped, and not at all sticky.


But it’s not just about a hydrating serum. You also have to use moisturizer — yes, even if you have acne, even if you have oily skin, and perhaps even more so if you suffer from one or both. Remember, drying out your skin causes your skin to produce more oil. Just make sure to use the right kind of moisturizer.


I’ve been really impressed with Eclado A.C Pimpeel Cream — it’s super lightweight, it sinks in fast, it’s not sticky, and it’s formulated with two of my favorite acne-fighting ingredients: the antibacterial powerhouse propolis and tea tree. The cream has a light gel-cream texture that smells of tea tree, which I like (maybe because I associate that with killing pimples, I don’t know) and sinks in fast. I also like Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream, which many find not be hydrating enough for my cheeks, but for my teenage T-zone, it’s the perfect amount of ahhh. Lately, I’ve added Swanicoco Bitamin E Extra Matte Emulsion, which has a base of acai extract instead of water (hello, antioxidants!), and it’s really agreed with my oily T-zone.


2. Unclog pores

Like I said, my T-zone thinks it’s still 1988, so I need to regularly ply it with BHA, or salicylic acid, to keep it in check. BHA is oil-soluble, which means it can penetrate the sebum in your pores to clear it out. Regularly purging my pores of all that excess oil helps prevent clogs, which can lead to a breakout. It also increases the skin cell turnover rate, so you’re constantly shedding the dead skin cells that can build up and clog pores. BHA also has antibacterial properties, so it’s pretty much my do-it-all bae.


Interestingly, most Korean companies use betaine salicylate, a gentler form of BHA, due to government regulations. I used to be concerned that betaine salicylate wouldn’t be strong enough for my skin issues (again, that scorched earth mentality of my youth), but I’ve been using COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid for some months now, and I have to say, it not only works just as well as a true salicylic acid treatment, I’ve noticed that the blackheads on my nose are smaller and fewer — a side benefit I never found with another salicylic acid treatment. I also never suffer from dryness or peeling with the Power Liquid — a good sign for my skin barrier.


Goodal Black Charcoal Mask Sparkling Clear Wash Off 20ml 5p set adult hormonal acne


One ingredient I recently added and am now a forever fan of (uh, because it basically stopped a brewing cystic pimple right in its tracks) is charcoal, and more specifically the charcoal found in Goodal’s Black Charcoal Masks . Oh, I can go on and on about these masks (and I do, er, here in this review). Suffice it to say, I now have a super weapon for those days when I feel a breakout coming on.


3. Fight bacteria

To fight the P.acnes bacteria, I try to incorporate as many antibacterial ingredients into my skincare as possible. That means you’ll find lots of propolis and tea tree leaf extract on the ingredient lists of my products. (I’m eager to try Swanicoco A. C Control Tea Tree Essence, which is 90% tea tree leaf water.)


adult hormonal acne


And whenever I have a breakout, that’s when I go into my 1-day-1-pack mode, where I sheet mask every morning for a week in an effort to quell and calm the angry cyst. For me, Moksha Dear Tea Tree Mask Sheet and Dear Honey Mask Sheet are my go-to’s. All of Moksha Dear masks contain 91.5% natural ingredients (many of which are rated low hazard by EWG) and are formulated without parabens, synthetic dyes, and silicone. (Because who needs to risk any more irritations when your skin is screaming at you?) The Tea Tree sheet mask also boasts Centella asiatica extract to calm inflammation (more on that below), as well as witch hazel extract to sop up excess sebum. It’s literally dripping with a lightweight essence — by the time the 20 minutes is up, my face is still thoroughly wet. But after 30 seconds of patting the essence in, my hormonal acne looks and feels calmer, and after two or three days of sheet masking, the blemish pretty much dies, almost never coming to a head. The sheet mask essence is also light enough that it plays well with my other serums (though after three days of sheet masking, my skin feels so saturated, I practically don’t need the rest of my routine on day 3). It’s replaced my previously go-to LJH Tea Tree Mask, which is great because the Moksha mask is half the price.


4. Gently remove dead skin cell buildup

And the key here is gently. In fact, while Western thinking says exfoliate twice a week, Koreans exfoliate as little as twice a month. That’s because Koreans are super focused on the integrity of the skin barrier. After all, overexfoliation can lead to more breakouts. (Remember? Weak skin barrier = the better to invade you with, says P.acnes.)


hormonal acne adult hormonal acne


Since I already use BHA on a daily basis, I limit my physical exfoliation to a cleansing brush on my T-zone at night (it can handle it), and a konjac sponge in the morning (again, only on the T-zone). I also incorporate an AHA (glycolic acid) mask once or twice a month as a part of my multi-masking routine. But as any skincare aficionado knows, you’re never done learning and improving, so I’m eager to try the new “It” AHA, polyhydroxy acid, considered the gentler, more hydrating alpha hydroxy acid. Even better, PHA gives you an antioxidant boost and actually enhances skin barrier function.


Korean beauty brands are big on PHA, and there is no shortage of products to try. Next on my list: Eclado PHA Soft Peel 15 (just swipe and go) and Swanicoco PHA 10% Coco Soft Peeling Cream (PHA was found to be compatible with retinoic acid in treating adult acne — yay!). If you prefer more immediate gratification, check out A’Pieu Naked Peeling Gel PHA Soft and Moist, a gommage-type exfoliator that’ll leave you with bits of ddae (or rolls of dead skin cells — gross yet satisfying).


5. Calm inflammation

Calming inflammation was something I added late into my anti-acne game (though ingredients like vitamin C, green tea, and tea tree also fight inflammation). But the more I read and learned, the more I realized that inflammation was the cause of all sorts of skin (and health) maladies, including acne and hyperpigmentation. And it just so happens that a hot new ingredient in the beauty market (though it’s been used for thousands of years in Asia) specifically fights inflammation: Centella asiatica extract.


adult hormonal acne


Commonly known as tiger grass because it was believed that tigers in South Asia would roll around in the plant when wounded, Centella asiatica (or gotu kola) calms inflammation and boosts wound healing by increasing the rate of collagen synthesis. COSRX’s Centella Blemish Ampule features Centella prominently, and Dr.Jart+ just got into the centella game with its Cicapair line. But my current favorite Centella product is hands-down the Swanicoco Centella Asiatica Salve.


Don’t be fooled by the name: The Centella Salve is neither thick, sticky, or greasy. It does look like Vaseline, so I was admittedly hesitant about trying it. But it’s actually got a wholly unique, gel-like soufflé texture (seriously, that’s the only way I can describe it), and when you apply it, it feels cool on the skin — yes, cool. It simply glides on, melts in, and disappears with little stickiness. It immediately calms any redness or irritation, and it works just as well on my dry cheeks as it does on my oily T-zone (a true rarity). I love this cream so much, I wish I can bathe in it, but as it is, I use it sparingly because I’m afraid to run out.


6. Finally, don’t stress

Yes, that is a real factor in fighting acne. I find that whenever I’m stressed out — whether due to a deadline, a business trip, a personal dilemma — I break out more and worse. Stress is real. And no, I’m not patient enough to sit through a daily mediation of even 15 minutes, so what’s stress-case like me to do?


self-care adult hormonal acne


Strangely enough, my 10-step skincare routine is my daily mediation. It really is. Sure, I may be rushing through it some mornings, but the ritual, the gentle patting, the smoothing on of different textures, the subtle scents — they all contribute to a moment when I’m focused on myself, when the next step in my routine is more important than the next email I have to send out. In my final serum step, I take time to do a two-minute facial massage that forces me to breathe, to slow down, to count to 10. For me, that’s my mediation.


Because stress is bad enough. I don’t need to stress about my adult hormonal acne.


What do you do to help quell your adult hormonal acne? What products or ingredients do you find really help you? As a constant sufferer of adult hormonal acne, I REALLY want to know, so please share your tips with me!


This Is the Moment I Discovered a Holy Grail: Goodal Black Charcoal Masks

goodal black charcoal masks

Yes, I was skeptical. I knew charcoal had some good purifying benefits. I mean, I like clay masks, so why not charcoal? But little did I know that these Goodal Black Charcoal Masks would not only change the way I saw this trendy ingredient but it would change my skin.



There are a few criteria I look for in a sheet mask: ingredients, fit, and of course, how my skin feels afterwards. I don’t expect a sheet mask to perform miracles, just like I don’t expect my skincare products to work wonders overnight. Skincare is a long-term commitment, not unlike exercising or diet. Eating kale or doing a pushup is only good if you continuously eat kale and do pushups, day after day, year after year.


Of course, that doesn’t mean a skincare product can’t give you an immediate, albeit temporary, glow or lift or radiance. And if it can do that while providing an endorphin-releasing, sensorially pleasurable experience? Sign me up.


A lot of skincare products I test give me good results. Few give me amazing results. But I tried a sheet mask recently that was not only amazing, it was such a pleasure to use, it’s joined my short list of ever-changing HG products.


goodal black charcoal masks
Yes, this is how I feel when I discover a new HG product. istock/AlexSava


Goodal Black Charcoal Mask Oxygen Radiance — Whitening


The claim:

A sheet mask infused with binchotan, a “specially processed” black charcoal considered the finest of its kind (hence, the inky black color). Charcoal is much sought-after these days as the latest thing for “detoxifying” the body. Traditionally, activated charcoal was taken orally in an effort to flush out accidentally ingested poisons from the body. Similarly, charcoal is believed to draw out impurities like dirt and excess sebum from the skin, acting as a magnet for gunk. The Goodal mask works by drawing out and trapping impurities into the porous surface of the mask. Additional skin-loving ingredients, including help tighten enlarge pores and smooth the skin surface by removing dead skin cells. Jeju oxygen water brightens and moisturizes the skin by oxygenating it with a patented technology.


The ingredients:

In addition to charcoal, other goodies include niacinamide (a personal favorite and the third ingredient), green tea water, tea tree leaf water (another fave), Hinoki cypress water, and aloe vera leaf juice, all within the first half of the ingredient list. The complete list of ingredients is:


Water, Methylpropanediol, Niacinamide, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Butylene Glycol, Oxygen (100ppm), Charcoal Powder (100ppm), Camellia Sinensis Leaf Water, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Water, Chamaecyparis Obtusa Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Panthenol, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Pyridoxine HCl, Maltodextrin, Sodium Starch Octenylsuccinate, Silica, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Trehalose, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Ethyhexlglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance


goodal black charcoal masks


The experience:

This is an inky, pitch-black mask that feels like a fairly weighty microfiber. Regardless, it is truly one of the easiest masks I’ve ever put on my face. It goes on with such little trouble, glomming onto my face almost instantly, any wrinkles and air bubbles smoothing out with barely any touching up. It’s such a pleasure to apply, unlike those thick cotton masks that sit wrinkled and folded on your face no matter how much you adjust. The mask looks as inky and velvety as it feels, and yet it’s pleasantly slick as I smooth more essence on top. There’s just something to be said for a pleasant sensorial and visual experience.


After 20 minutes, the mask starts to feel like it’s tightening up, almost the way a charcoal or clay cream mask does. But when I take off the mask, my skin is as wet as ever. In fact, there is so much essence left in the packaging (a really appealing, thick plastic that makes this mask feel so much more expensive than its $3 price tag) that I can practically drench my whole body with essence. (There’s so much viscous serum in this mask, the essence actually squirts out a bit when I first tear it open.)


(A side note about the packaging: I love that the pouch is big enough so I can stick my whole hand in to scoop out the essence. So often I have to scrunch and contort my hand to get it into a sheet mask packaging to get every last bit of essence out — not a deal breaker, but when you have so much choice in sheet masks, it’s these details that lean me towards one and not the other.)


My face soaking, it takes a while to pat in all that bouncy, almost jelly-like essence — a good problem to have. But once it’s absorbed, the rest of my routine goes on beautifully; it never gets sticky or tacky even though I’m layering like six more treatments on top.


My skin looks glowy, more even and calmed, any redness allayed. After my full routine, my skin feels slightly cooled and just so plush and comfortable without that heavy or overly thick, sticky feeling that some moisturizing masks leave behind.


The best part? My makeup goes on beautifully and the mask’s glow-inducing effects last all day, almost to the point where I feel it’s a shame to take off my makeup at the end of the day. I’m sold. I immediately go online and order two more 5-packs of the Charcoal mask, much to the chagrin of my ever-burgeoning sheet mask collection.


Goodal Black Charcoal Mask Sparkling Clear Wash Off


Now, after that experience, you might think that there’s little chance that a bubbling sheet mask could live up to its radiance-inducing counterpart. And while, yes, little could take the place of my new HG Oxygen Radiance mask, the Sparkling Clear version was rather impressive and is making me take a second look at the whole foaming, bubbling mask category.

goodal black charcoal masks Goodal Black Charcoal Mask Sparkling Clear Wash Off type 20ml 5p set

The claim:

A super easy to use foaming sheet mask infused with Binchotan black charcoal extract and Chojeong mineral water to clear out blackheads and refine pores with micro bubbles. Similar to the Oxygen Radiance Mask, this sheet mask acts as a magnet for dirt and excess sebum, trapping them in the porous surface of the sheet mask and moisturizing and refining pores with skin-beneficial ingredients. Going one step further than the Oxygen Radiance Mask, this mask is really focused on purging pores of impurities and purifying skin.


The ingredients:

In addition to black charcoal, a veritable orchard of grapefruit, lime, lemon, apple, and orange extracts help to fight free radicals, exfoliate skin, even skin tone, and provide antibacterial benefits, making this a great choice for acne-prone skin. The full ingredients are:


Water, Glycerin, Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Dipropylene Glycol, Disiloxane, Methyl Perfluorobutyl Ether, Methyl Perfluoroisobutyl Ether, Butylene Glycol, Water (100ppm), Charcoal Powder (100ppm), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Bambusa Vulgaris Extract, Sodium Chloride, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Ethyl Hexanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance


The experience:

Full disclosure: I’m not a fad-slash-skintertainment type. I don’t have time to waste. I want my skincare to be serious. I want it to work, and I want it to be efficient. I don’t do skincare for selfies or social media. I do it for results.


That being said, wow. This mask changed my mind about the possibilities of the foaming-bubbling-sparkling products out there.


goodal black charcoal masks


As soon as you open the package, you already see the tiny bubbles all raring to go, so much so they almost seem alive! Seriously, even as I’m handling the mask with my hands to get it on my face, you can see those bubbles already start to foam. And as soon as it’s on your face, it gets bubbling like mad. It gets to the point where it starts to partially cover my nostrils (which you can remedy easily — if not elegantly — as demonstrated here), and the edges of the mask tickle my face like crazy.


Side note: I love that this mask only covers the bottom half of your face, from the blackhead-prone nose area to the chin, which is where most hormonal acne breakouts occur. Given how intense the foaming action is, it’s a good thing this mask doesn’t go anywhere near your eyes — it’d probably blind you and sting like mad. Smart. My colleague Jude Chao agrees: “I think it’s much more convenient to package them individually, since there’s no need to use bubble masks all the time, and full size jars often go to waste. It has a really nice clarifying effect on my skin!”


After 10 minutes, I look like a bona fide Papa Smurf, and when I remove the mask and massage the foam in, I’m surprised to find that the foam feels like a dense, soft, silky cleanser, not like tiny bubbles or a wimpy foam at all.


Afterwards, my skin looks silky and surprisingly clear, not at all dry or tight. One thing that surprises me is that the small blackheads on my nose suddenly stand out more. I don’t know if I never noticed them yesterday, but they look more prominent all of a sudden. I think the mask brought them more to the surface, and I easily extract them with my pore extractor with almost no effort. Wow. This is a great mask for when your skin is congested.


Even better, my skin is less oily all day, my makeup lasts longer, and no drying or tightness at all. Oh, and did I mention that that sore little bump brewing deep within the surface (read: my next hormonal acne breakout) suddenly stops hurting? It totally shrinks and the redness is all but gone. Yeah, I need to give these bubbling masks a second look.


Have you tried the Goodal Black Charcoal Masks or any product with charcoal? How does it work for you? And are you all about skintertainment or just serious skincare? I wanna know!



Ask the K-Beauty Squad: How Do You Reapply Sunscreen?

reapply sunscreen

Got an issue? Have a quandary? Ask the K-beauty Squad! The beauty of K-beauty is everyone’s got a different way of approaching almost everything. There’s rarely a right or wrong answer (except, maybe, wearing sunscreen every day), so ask away! Here, the Squad shares how they reapply sunscreen (and yes, the answers are super varied!).



There are few skincare topics that inspire more confusion, more debate, more misinformation than sun protection: what to apply, how to apply, how to reapply. The information seems to be all over the place, depending on who you ask. Some say you don’t need to reapply mineral sunscreens. Others say you need to reapply even after 15 minutes.


One thing that is not in debate with the K-beauty squad is that we have to apply sunscreen every single day.


So we asked the K-beauty squad how they reapply (if at all) their sun protection. Here’s what we said.


QUESTION: How do you reapply sunscreen?



reapply sunscreen


Anna (combination skin, acne-prone & hyperpigmentation)

For me, I wear a face full of makeup anytime I’m not in the house (not skin blessed), so reapplying anything in lotion, cream, or stick form is out of the question. Cushion compacts have changed my life because not only can I reapply sunscreen, I can also touch up my makeup on the go: I’ve done it in the medina in Marrakech, on a gület in the Turkish Mediterranean, and strolling through ruins of Angkor Wat. My go-to for travel is Sulwhasoo’s Perfecting Cushion (any version) — it’s hydrating, dewy, and, perhaps most importantly, I can apply it without looking. (Because if you’ve ever been to Morocco, you know you have to be on donkey cart alert at all times.)


Coco (dry skin, sensitive & reactive)

I’m a spray addict. I’ve been known to carry two to three aerosol sunscreens with me at all times. One of my joys in life is doing makeup, so I’m almost always wearing it, which is cute but not ideal for reapplication of a sun lotion. Sprays save the day! Aim, spray my face like a beauty queen in Texas spraying her hair, and my makeup and skin are saved!


Sheryll (oily T-zone/normal, acne-prone)

I’m with Coco. I usually wear makeup so I swear by sunscreen sprays. I’m in the sun a lot and my apartment has big windows in both the living room and bedroom so even when I’m indoors working all day I still get a lot of sun exposure. I apply in the morning, reapply before the gym, wash my face after I work out, then apply sunscreen again. I’ve always wanted to try the cushion sunscreens!


Ruth (combination skin, sensitivity & redness)

I’m just going to come right out with it and admit that I actually never reapply sunscreen. (I’ll see myself out.) Honestly, I didn’t start wearing sunscreen religiously until maybe two to three years ago in my early 20s, when I finally saw the light and became a K-beauty convert. Up until then, I absolutely hated wearing sunscreen because in my mind, it was synonymous with oil, grease, and unpleasant tackiness. Now, I’ll blend about a quarter-sized amount of sunscreen all over my face and neck before foundation, and I check that off as my sunscreen quota for the day. (But clearly, there’s room for SPF improvement.) I’m currently alternating between Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk SPF50+ PA+++ and Kiehl’s UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+.


Jude (normal, hyperpigmentation)

I don’t really reapply often, either! It’s my understanding that with chemical sunscreens, they only really need to be reapplied after about two hours of actual sun exposure (so like, if you go out for 30 minutes then back inside, no need to reapply, but if you go out for 30 minutes, come back in, then go out for another 90, yeah, reapplication time). So I just refuse to stay outside longer than two hours. HAHAHA.


On the rare occasions that I’m out in the sun for longer than that, I just very gently pat the sunscreen over my makeup with my palms, then pat again to kind of blend everything down, and don’t let anyone get a close look at my face. (I think mineral sunscreens don’t need to be reapplied unless you’ve physically rubbed or washed it off! But I don’t have the best track record with mineral sunscreens.)


Alice (fickle skin type; usually oily, but currently sensitive & dry)

I’ve been wearing foundation with SPF since I was 15, and while I didn’t really reapply when I was young,  I’m now trying to do reapply my sun protection more often. I have a bad habit of frequently touching my nose, so I usually retouch my base makeup twice a day with a cushion compact with SPF. My favorite cushion is AmorePacfic Sun Protection Cushion. It’s so compact and easy to apply and reapply. I always take this on any trip during the summer. It just gives me a glowy look without any coverage.


Miranda (dry/combo, pores & redness)

Honestly, I’m so bad at reapplying! Because of this, I make sure that the touch-up products I take with me have a high SPF content, so I’m almost forced to reapply. My all-time favorite is The Face Shop’s CC Ultra Moist Cushion because not only is it pore-filling with the most beautiful coverage and a whopping 50+ PA+++, it’s the highest SPF makeup I have. My fave for no-makeup days is any primer with SPF used alone; it makes reapplication with regular sunscreen a breeze.


How do you reapply sunscreen? We’d love to know how you do it. Share your tips!


Got a burning question for the K-Beauty Squad? Email me at [email protected]!


Ask the Squad: What Are Your Go-To Skincare Ingredients?

go-to skincare ingredients

In our continuing series answering your most pressing questions (beauty or otherwise), W2Beauty community member jacmakeup asks the K-Beauty Squad what some our favorite go-to skincare ingredients are.



ASK THE K-BEAUTY SQUAD: What are your go-to skincare ingredients that your skin likes the best?


Asked by jacmakeup


Editor at large Jude:

After much experimentation, I have several!


Niacinamide: There are many brightening ingredients out there that have research to back up their claims; this is my skin’s favorite. It fades dark spots and also has some moderate redness calming abilities. It also improves skin elasticity and lipid production for more resilient and balanced skin. Five percent niacinamide combined with N-acetylglucosamine (shout out to Shark Sauce!) is best.


Snail (of course): A good snail product makes my skin super smooth and gives it a wonderful bounce. It also speeds up my skin’s healing time when I’m having problems. HG: COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence.


Propolis: Like snail, a good propolis product accelerates my skin’s healing from any mishaps. Propolis also gives my complexion a distinct glow. HG: LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule.


go-to skincare ingredients


Ginseng: I find really good ginseng products quite rare; maybe because of challenges in sourcing high quality ginseng extracts, but when they’re good, they’re good. Has the ability to make my skin so resilient that I don’t get pillow creases from sleeping; helps brighten my skin and reduces redness so much that I can wake up looking like I have a cushion on already. HG: Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum.


Contributing editor Sheryll:

Great question! I agree with Jude about niacinamide. I always get dark spots from my hormonal acne flareups, and any products or sheet masks I use with it help fade my scars pretty quickly.


But if I had to choose, I’d say mandelic acid (which isn’t a thing in K-beauty, except for Wishtrend’s new toner). It’s a gentle exfoliant that not only helps control my acne, it helps fade my PIH, and I don’t have to worry about the unnecessary discoloration from other acids like glycolic acid.


And not an ingredient per say, but my skin loves anything fermented. It’s the reason why pretty much anything I try from Su:m37 makes my skin so happy. Their secret essence gives me a game changing glow!


Director of brand engagement Alice: 


go-to skincare ingredients


Aloe to calm my skin and moisturize. When I had terrible acne in my teens, my mom brought real aloe home, and she would rub my face with pure aloe gel every day. My skin recovered from acne thanks to the aloe, and I still love it. It helps my sensitive skin a lot, especially after shaving or for sunburns and heat.


I also love snail mucin to firm my skin and make it glow. I was able to get rid of the light acne scars on my cheeks with four bottles of snail cream. It also helps prevent fine lines.


Editor in chief Anna:

Hyaluronic acid (and sodium hyaluronate, its salt version). Ever since I started incorporating a serum specifically devoted to hyaluronic acid, that midday tightness around my eyes and temple has totally disappeared, even in the dead of winter, and my face is plumper, the lines less noticeable. Even my pores seem smaller to me. The more HA I can get, the happier my skin is.


go-to skincare ingredients


Tea tree extract is another must-have for me. I have hormonal acne-prone skin, and tea tree extract really calms and abbreviates my breakouts, especially when I do a 1-day-1-pack detox with tea tree sheet masks.


Oh, and propolis, can’t forget propolis. Another wonder for my breakouts and general skin condition! It’s anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, so I consider it a multi-purpose ingredient for aging, acne-prone, and sensitive skin.


I’ve recently reincorporated the COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence into my routine, and I have to say, snail mucin does make my skin glowier, bouncier, and I feel like it helps heal my acne PIH faster.


Contributing editor Coco:


go-to skincare ingredients


Camellia oil: I know it’s “just an oil” but this is my oil. My skin is always so happily hydrated with camellia. I don’t think I could face a winter without it.


Squalane oil: This is a new one for me, but man, I wish I’d have tried it sooner. I’ve been familiar with squalane as an ingredient all the way back since esthetician school 15 years ago, but it’s only recently that I’ve tried the pure squalane oil. It has been my summer love so far. It sinks in almost immediately, and I just really love the feel and performance it’s given me so far.


Snail: Like the rest of my W2 girls, I’m also rollin’ with the snail squad. There’s really nothing quite like it to soothe and heal my sensitive, irritated lupus flare-ups my skin sometimes suffers through.


Hyaluronic acid: The plumpness! Once you reach a certain age, you lose that youthful bounce, and trust me, you miss it. Hyaluronic acid is the only topical ingredient that gives me that kind of plumpy bounce that takes me back about a decade.


Associate editor & social manager Ruth:

Currently my favorite ingredients to use are:


Hyaluronic acid: It’s raved about by many, and for good reason! Anything with HA (and sodium hyaluronate)​ is an instant boost of moisture for my skin. As for products, I’ve just about finished my tub of the COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Intensive Cream; it’s a touch sticky, so it’s great as the final layer to seal in moisture in a nighttime routine.


Same with Coco, camellia oil: Ever since I tried SanDaWha’s Extra Virgin Camellia Facial Oil, as well as their Ultra Rich Hydrating Camellia Floral Water Cream, my skin has been more bouncy, radiant, and glow-y! I can’t get enough of their camellia line.


go-to skincare ingredients


Rich and ultra-moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, avocado, honey: I have combination skin, with a normal-to-oily T-zone and often sensitive, dry cheeks that need extra moisture. My skin loves these ingredients, especially in the form of sheet masks that infuse moisture back into my skin. I’d recommend the W2Beauty editorial team-favorite brand, Moksha, for their seriously amazing sheet masks. (I accidentally fell asleep with their Dear Honey mask the other day, and I woke up with super plump and bouncy skin!)


Rice: While I haven’t used a ton of products highlighting rice bran extract, the ones I have tried always leaves my skin feeling brighter and softer. For example, Skinfood’s Rice Mask Wash Off is an excellent option for K-beauty beginners! I love it for its soft, plush texture and the way it smooths out my skin’s texture.


Social media intern Miranda:  


go-to skincare ingredients


Snail!!! Anything snail gives my skin the perfect amount of hydration and keeps redness at bay. It gives me a plumped effect too, which I love. Plus, it’s the perfect primer for makeup. Absolutely obsessed.


Graphic design intern Teresa:

Mine are AHA’s, specifically glycolic acid! I have really problematic skin that’s both acne-prone and sensitive yet dry, but I’ve found that GA is really good at turning over skin cells at night so that when I wake up, my skin is mostly clear and smooth. Everything I’ve tried that has that as an ingredient always seems to work really well for my skin and help with texture problems. It’s also gentle enough that I never peel or dry out from it, which I’m always afraid of with such finicky skin.


What are your go-to skincare ingredients, and how does it work for your skin? And if you have a question for the K-Beauty Squad, ask us in the comments below!



Watch: It’s Not Too Late to Slay Summer With These Stay-Cool Tips

Fall may be just around the corner, but we’re still in the dog days of summer, so it’s not too late to slay the season. Rachel of DearSeoul shows you seven stay-cool tips to survive the crazy humid summers of Seoul in this cute video. (Bonus: It involves a lot of eating!)



Want a glimpse of life in Seoul? Look no further than Rachel’s lifestyle YouTube channel DearSeoul, which covers everything from beauty to culture to travel to, of course, food! One of her most recent videos has us grateful not to be in Seoul in the sweltering month of August, but then again, wouldn’t those juices and dishes be extra amazing in that crazy humid heat?


You decide …



For more stay-cool tips on how to slay summer (other than carrying mini electrical fans with you everywhere), check out:


stay-cool tips


The best sunscreen according to Editor at Large Jude Chao


Sun protection 101 (yes, you need to know this stuff year-round)


Festival tips you can use all summer long


Summer skincare swaps you have to make (step away from the AHA …)


Eat your way to better skin with delectable summer fruits (who knew eating could be so good for your complexion?)


Staying sane while on the road (yup, it’s possible!)


What are your favorite stay-cool tips for summer? And have you ever tried kong-guksu?




Ask the K-Beauty Squad: I’m Overwhelmed; Where Do I Start?

ask the K-beauty squad

To kick off our continuing series answering your most pressing questions (beauty or otherwise), we ask the K-Beauty Squad for some advice to those who just may be starting out in Korean skincare and feeling a bit overwhelmed.




ask the K-beauty squad


ASK THE K-BEAUTY SQUAD: I’m new to K-beauty skincare and a bit overwhelmed by all the products! Where and how do I start?


Contributing editor Coco Park: 

Don’t whip yourself into a frenzy of wanting to know “ALL THE THINGS” all at once. You should think more like a fine art gallery curator and less like a Boy Scout — you don’t need to be prepared for (or have a product for) every little thing when starting out. Start with the basics and essentials and then build your way up to your perfect routine. The slower you go at this the better.


Editor at Large Jude Chao:

It also cuts down on the consequences of newbie over-enthusiasm. By which I mean the “I bought a 20-step routine and put it all on my face at once and my face exploded! K-beauty is terrible!” reaction.


Contributing editor Sheryll Donerson:

You’d be surprised at how many people start a K-beauty routine by just slathering a billion things on their skin at once and then being surprised when they have some sort of breakout.


I think it’s best to take inventory of what you already have in your stash and go from there. Everyone already has a cleanser and hopefully a moisturizer, so it’s all about filling in the gaps with what you think is necessary. Do you have acne-prone skin? A good BHA or AHA product (like the COSRX BHA and AHA liquids) would be a great thing to add. If you have dry skin, look to add a hydrating toner like the Klairs Supple Preparation Toner.


It’s not necessary to buy all the things and slather them on your face at once. Do your research and make informed decisions based on your skin type!


Editor in chief Anna M. Park:

I think once you have your double cleansing, moisturizer, and sunscreen down (the basics!), the other products you should think about adding is a hydrating toner and a good essence with antioxidants. A toner will kick-start your skin’s hydration process (a fundamental pillar in Korean skincare) and an essence with antioxidants will fight the free radicals that cause all sorts of premature aging. (And since free radicals are produced by everything from UV rays to pollution to stress, it’s a never-ending battle!)


Want to know more? Check out our must-read guides here:


How to get started with your essential K-beauty kit 


When to use what: Your intro to the 10-step skincare routine


Teen’s first skincare routine (but great tips for anyone just starting out and how to incorporate new products into your routine)


The basics of double cleansing


Understanding the basics of Korean skincare


Wanna ask the K-Beauty Squad a question? Submit it below and we just may feature your questions!


Weekend Watch: Mesmerizing Romand Makeup Videos

romand makeup videos

It’s a lazy, hot Saturday afternoon, and you’re sick of lying by the pool. Why not get some makeup tips from around the world while you’re lounging about? We’ve gathered some fun makeup videos featuring the ever-chic Romand brand for you to enjoy. But be warned: These Romand makeup videos can be addicting.



“The packaging is on point.” Pretty much the universal consensus among beauty vloggers about Romand, including Ashley Elizabeth, Berry Beautiful, and Nicky Murphy. And why not? The magnetic closure of the lipstick, the gold-trimmed marbleized packaging, the opalescence of the lip tint tubes — all reasons to love the experience of Romand as well as the actual product inside.


romand makeup videos


Another thing they agree on? Gorgeous, silky colors in the eye palette. (And how on earth do so many of them rock that glittery tangerine eyeshadow with aplomb?)


Clearly, I need to take notes. So sit back and click play on some of our favorite Romand makeup videos. You’re in for a mesmerizing time.


Meejmuse’s unboxing 


Let’s start off with one of our fave beauty vloggers, the crazy adorable Meejmuse. Seriously, can we just listen to her all day long?


Her first impression video of Romand should give you a good sense of the texture and pigmentation of the products (and she can’t resist applying the lip tints during the unboxing either).



Vivekatt’s #monolidgoals


This video is so good because it shows — other than the fact that Chinese Swedish beauty vlogger Vivekatt is a genius at completely transforming herself — that makeup tutorials go beyond language. I also like how she does super closeups on the eye as she’s applying makeup — a great tutorial for monolids and how to pull off daring shades like shimmery tangerine.



Jane’s Beauty Room’s sweet GRWM


Can’t get enough of that Australian accent? Jane’s Beauty Room is another vlogger from Down Under whose GRWM videos are as softly lit as her super fem makeup looks.



Lou Sanchez’s newbie-friendly look


Filipina beauty vlogger Lou Sanchez does an easy-to-follow day to night Korean-inspired look using Romand. I really like the way she shows how versatile the colors are — from how light or pigmented you can make the Romand lipsticks to how to use one of the shades in the eye palette as a contour for the nose and hairline.



Saerom Min: The original makeup magician


And of course, we can’t forget Romand’s founder herself, Saerom Min, the original magic maker for the way she completely elevates her look with what seems to be a few strokes of her magic wand makeup brush. Watch as she transforms herself.



And as a bonus, Saerom gives Korean American vlogger Joan Keem the Romand touch.



If you’ve tried Romand makeup, what’d you think? Which are your favorite Romand makeup videos and who are some of your favorite vloggers to watch?

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