FINALLY, I’m discussing skincare. I’ve gotten requests from multiple people as to how I keep my formerly bumpy, rosacea-fueled, acne-ridden skin under control. The process often changes, so I will update as necessary.
For now, however, here is my daytime skincare routine:
I should start off by saying this: skincare is 100% subjective. What may work for me may not work for others, and what may work for others I may consider snake oil. I truly believe ingredient effectiveness varies from person to person (unless it’s snail… NEVER disregard the power of snail); these are just the products that have worked for me and my skin.
Originally, my skin type was oily. American skincare teaches you to completely strip every last oil on your face, as well as combine as many peroxides, acids, and alcohol to dry out any last bit of moisture (I’m glaring at you, ProActiv). This was my mentality as a child, because I truly did not know any better. Because of this, my skin went from oil slick to Sahara. Realizing the horrid status of my once oily complexion, I’ve had to counteract the negative effects with a mentality that focuses on hydration, hydration, and even more hydration. Thankfully, I discovered Korean skincare fairly young, meaning my skin has had time to convert from completely dry to dry/combination. I used to suffer from aggressive cystic acne, but thanks to routine maintenance and the beauty of constant Korean R&D, I have managed to keep it under control for years.
Currently, my concerns are reducing pore size, hydration, and anti-aging. Fortunately, I do not suffer from acne scars, but many of these products focus on brightening, which assists in combatting hyperpigmentation.
I like to focus my morning routine on hydration, pore size, and calming ingredients. I like to create a smooth canvas for my makeup, but won’t compromise product effectiveness for any makeup products. Change the makeup, not the skincare!
Let’s get started!
STEP 1: Cleanser
Currently, I am using PCA’s Facial Wash per the request of my esthetician (a.k.a. the only time I will ever really stray away from Korean skincare). It’s very gentle, yet gives a good clean. I find it strong enough to be able to skip any first cleansers, yet not abrasive enough to create any red splotches on my sensitive skin. Bonus: it’s completely fragrance-free! This usually doesn’t deter me from products, but I believe a facial cleanser should be as clean as possible:
STEP 2: EXFOLIATION
I used to not believe in exfoliation. Kinda gross, but hear me out – after spending my childhood destroying my face with any and all abrasive surfaces (pumice stone, anyone?), I was convinced that exfoliation was a no-go for healthy skin. Fortunately, I was blessed by the K-Beauty gods and learned there was such a thing as gentle exfoliation. Say what? If you’re still residing in the world of St. Ives Apricot Scrub it may seem unbelievable, but believe me, it’s real.
If you’re looking to exfoliate effectively, opt for a pad. There are tons on the market, but my personal favorites are the Wonder bath SALON De TTE Skin Tuning Recipe pads. They’re extremely gentle, but I notice a major difference in my skin when I use them. These pads are ideal for travel as well, as they’re individually wrapped for single use. While I only use these every other day, they’re optimal for everyday use as well if you notice your skin developing more buildup than average:
For a more intense exfoliation, I aim for NEOGEN Bio Peel Gauze Peeling pads in Lemon. They’re a bit more abrasive, so I try to save them for days where I have some breakouts, am nearing my period or just have some extra flakiness. The lemon component ensures pretty, glowy, bright skin, which is always a plus for me, especially on days where I had applied a heavier makeup the night before:
STEP 3: TONER
The question I most often get asked when discussing skincare is “do I really need toner?” This is a question I receive from those who have yet to dip their toes into the beautiful, well-hydrated pool that is Korean skincare. To many, toner is that wretched, alcohol-fueled bottle that leaves your skin tight and dry.
In terms of Korean skincare, toner is vital in setting a base for the rest of your layers. Think of it as a primer for your skincare – not only does it balance the pH of your skin (Jude Chao/Fiddy Snails has a fabulous article regarding pH here), it creates a necessary layer of hydration after cleansing and allows for your following steps to absorb better.
It’s safe to say that toner… sets the…. tone… for the rest of your skin.
*badum-chh sound effect*
*audience boos me off stage*
I don’t really have a favorite toner. I go back-and-forth between them, because I find myself preferring certain qualities/textures at different times. Currently, though, I’m really adoring PCA’s Nutrient Toner because of its super-glowy effect it gives me immediately after using. Although not a Korean toner, it is still packed with skin-friendly ingredients such as lactic acid (moisture!) and pumpkin ferments (brightening! glow!), as well as Vitamins A & C for additional healing + brightening effects:
I prefer to apply this with a spray bottle for the ease factor, but it is recommended to use a cotton pad to wipe across skin. Plus – this smells SO GOOD. Pumpkin Spice Latte good. Middle of November, bread aisle good. Unexplainably good.
If you’re looking for a softer, more hydrating toner, I really enjoy The Saem’s DEWY LOVE Hydrating Toner.
STEP 4: ESSENCE
My favorite! While every aspect of my routine has its own importance, essence is truly essential. Personally, I utilize essence as the most hydrating portion of my routine. Because of this, I look for ingredients such as snail to implement in this step. In a perfect world, we could all get snail facials and enjoy the ultra-hydrating, anti-aging properties of 100% snail secretion. Maybe that’s just my perfect world, but the benefits of snail mucus, secretion, whatever creepy word you want to call it, are universal.
The snail-savvy can probably guess that my holy grail, ultimate essence is COSRX’s Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. This goopy concoction has changed the game for so many that my review seems almost irrelevant (seriously, just look at before+afters of just one use and you’ll know what I mean). With that said, I have to vouch for this product like no other – I have noticed such a different in the quality of my skin since using this. Formulated with 96% snail secretion, it’s not surprising that this has greatly diminished the dry patches that once seemed impossible to get rid of. This essence, like any snail product I’ve tried, also gives me the most lovely, most juvaderm-y plump to my skin that I just can’t get enough of. EVERYTHING:
STEP 5: SERUM
This will be fairly short, because I think everyone knows the purpose of serum – high concentration of ingredients, blah blah blah. Everyone gets shocked when I say that serum isn’t as terribly important to me as an essence would be. Again, everything is personal preference! Serums and essences can be interchanged depending on thickness of the product (the general layering rule of thumb is thinnest → thickest), so layer at your discretion.
My all-time favorite serum is Skinfood’s Peach Sake Pore Serum. When I say “all-time”, I mean all-TIME. Of any pore-reduction product I’ve used, be it makeup or skincare, this one has reigned supreme. Oh man, I love it! It works so beautifully that I rarely need to touch up/blot throughout the day because oil won’t poke through. My best friend uses it as a oil control + pore-filling primer. It’s so nice, so inexpensive… yes:
STEP 6: EYE CREAM
Please… for the love of god… USE EYE CREAM. I know the majority of 22-year-olds around me aren’t, but I still remain shocked to my core when I hear somebody say they don’t use one. Eye creams are literally available everywhere, at any budget, for any concern.
Don’t play yourself. Use eye cream.
Many prefer to do eye cream last. That’s totally fine, but my super-paranoid ass tends to do it before my moisturizer so it can absorb as much as possible. Plus, I can utilize my moisturizer as a 2nd layer of moisture under my eyes.
I don’t have a holy grail one just yet, but The Face Shop’s Pomegranate and Collagen Volume Lifting Cream is a close one. It has a really soft, cream-like thickness while maintaining the consistency of a gel. It’s hard to explain, but what matters is that it works. It fills in my lines and, with consistent use, I notice my eyes looking plumper, brighter, and more youthful:
Side Note: I also really enjoy another eye cream that I purchased on a whim in Koreatown by a brand I’d never heard of called Esteroce – whitening, anti-aging goodness in a massive tube; can’t go wrong, right?
Wrong. Absolutely wrong. Having never heard of this brand, I decided to look it up to absolutely no avail. Once I did the good ol’ quotes trick on Google, EVERYTHING WAS IN RUSSIAN.
Eye cream applies you!
Besides that, I still can find the eye cream for purchase literally anywhere. I’m extremely confused as to why only Russian shops are selling the eye cream, considering everything on the package was in Korean, but I’ll keep everyone posted + update my research.
STEP 7: MOISTURIZER
Yay! Moisturizer! Everyone’s favorite!
I love all kinds of moisturizers – typically, I buy one I’ve yet to try, go through the whole thing, then buy another one and re-start the cycle. I treat moisturizer as a sealant for all of my other layers – because those are already so hydrating, I don’t have to rely on moisturizer to be the ultimate hydrator in my routine.
I don’t prefer one over the other in regards to gel vs cream, but in the hotter, more humid months, I do tend to shy away from creamier products. I really adore Belif’s The True Cream – Aqua Bomb for hotter weather because it does an incredible job at retaining moisture without tiny little sweat beads joining the party:
STEP 8: SUNSCREEN
Whether you like it or not, SPF is the most important aspect of any skincare regimen. I prefer Korean/Japanese brands for sunscreen for a multitude of reasons on which I will elaborate upon later, but for now, just trust me.
My all-time fav has to be Biore Japan’s Aqua Rich Watery Essence. With a 50+ SPF & PA++++ rating, it’s really not a shocker as to why this is everyone under the sun’s (hehe) absolute favorite sunscreen. Aside from the incredible protection, it’s literally watery; it glides onto the face with super-ease without the need for the tedious blending you typically need for American sunscreens. No strenuous blending = no white cast. Looking like a ghost in flash photography? Don’t know her! Oh, and because it blends into the skin so well, there’s no need to worry about suprise attacks on your eyeballs if/when you start sweating.
So, there she is – my current daytime skincare routine – exposed, in the flesh, out for the world to see. If you have any questions regarding what I use or other product recommendations, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below + contact me for anything.
Also, PLEASE let me know your favorite skincare products! I’m always on the hunt for more.
Until next time!