Friday, September 18, 2015

The Asian Skincare Phenomenon

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard quite a commotion bubbling over the multi-step Asian skincare routine. In some articles it’s marketed as 10 steps and in some it’s even more. It’s upsetting the status quo of Western routines all over (I mean, have you seen Estee Lauder’s Micro Essence? Yeah- SKII did it first). "Asian Beauty" (as it were) has been used by women (and men) all over Asia for centuries. You won't look like this:

Mayu Watanabe, Yoon Eun-hye,and Aya Ueto
...since Asian beauty isn't magic or anything (seriously, it's just regular beauty). But some of the different ingredients and cosmetic compositions of these products will help your skin immensely. Either way, everyone in the West is losing their nanners. So, naturally, we need to chat about the "mysterious" multi-step Asian skincare routine.

First and foremost- skincare and attention to skin health is radically different in Asian countries than it is here in the West. In many countries, everyone has a regular dermatologist that they go to to care for their skin (and this includes professional blemish popping). And sun care is hugely important as well. Regular sunscreen use is typical and seeing hordes of parasols marching down the street is not abnormal.

Shenzhen, China
They also wear hats/visors as well as arm shields while driving. There is a reverence for the sun that doesn’t really exist here in the West and everyone is aware of the sun’s ability to burn and damage skin (plus, you know, looking luminous and pale is a part of the Asian beauty standard as well- and before you think it, no it has nothing to do with wanting to look like a Western white person. Fair skin has been a hallmark of Asian beauty for centuries. It has more to do with the fact that the upper class (who sat inside all day) naturally became much paler while the working class (who spent much of their time outside) developed a darker tan to their skin. But that's not even the only thing impacting their ideal of skin. You can read more about the complexities between Asian women (and men) and light skin here since... jeez, it really takes a blog post all its own to cover respectfully. Again, it has nothing to do with wanting to look like white people).

You should also know that due to the way the laws and regulations regarding cosmetics work in Japan and South Korea, it is estimated that they're a good 10 years ahead of the West, some even estimate the difference being closer to 12-14 years (source). "'Ninety percent of the skincare products I use are imported from South Korea. They're about 12 years ahead of the States in terms of technology,' says Mary Schook, the beauty guru and New York-based owner of M.S. Apothecary. In the skincare world, South Korea has become the new France" (source). So it's no wonder that thousands of women across the globe are turning their eye to the East to see what new and exciting things they have to offer (and ooh honey, do they use some interesting extracts... but that's also another post entirely).

Proper skincare and a lengthy, luxurious routine are not unheard of. Instead, it’s normal. And this multi-step routine is what we’re here to talk about today.

The pre-cleanse is a gentle way to get the gross of the day off your skin and prepare for the delicious skincare treats to come. This step can be done with makeup remover wipes, micellar water, cleansing balm, cleansing oil, or anything else that will get all of your makeup/sunscreen off (like mineral oil). This step isn’t quite as crucial in the morning since your skin should be clean and happy from the night before.
Product recommendations: Banila Co - Clean It Zero, purity; Botanic Farm - Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbert; DHC - Deep Cleansing Oil; Kose - Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil; The Face Shop - Jeju Volcanic Lava Pore Cleansing Wipes

The Double Cleanse is one of the hallmarks of the Asian skincare routine. So, obviously, we’re going to cleanse again. It's one of those "weird" things that Western beauty enthusiasts really pay attention to. If you’re strapped on cash (or short on things you don’t react to), this can be done with your prior cleansing balm/oil, though typically it’s done with a gentle foaming cleanser. If you have a foaming net to create luxurious, dense foam- even better.
Product recommendations: Gokujyun - Hyaluronic Acid Bubble Face Wash; Innisfree - Bija Anti-Trouble Cleansing Gel; Innisfree - Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam; Skinfood - Steam Milk Bubble Mask; Su:m37 - Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick; Tosowoong - Enzyme Powder

Usually done with a physical exfoliant (though I vastly prefer a chemical one), this is the step where you slough off all that extra skin. If you choose to use a physical exfoliant, remember to be very gentle (and typically only use a scrub product 3 times a week). And don’t overdo it. In the brackets next to the product, I included whether it is chemical or physical exfoliant. For this step, you can also use things like a Clarisonic (or an analogous product thereof) or a soft konjac sponge. If you're desperately confused about exfoliation -AHA, BHA, physical, chemical- be sure to read my in depth breakdown post on chemical exfoliants here.
Product recommendations: AmorePacific - Treatment Enzyme Peel [chemical]; CosRX - BHA Blackhead Power Liquid [chemical]; Cure- Natural Aqua Gel [physical]; Mizon - AHA 8% Peeling Serum [chemical]; Skinfood - Black Sugar Wash Off Mask [physical]

This step is here to prep and prime the skin for the next step. Unlike Western toners, Asian toners (sometimes called lotions, softeners, or refreshers) are chock full of moisturizers and have a fraction of the amount of alcohol that your typical Western toner has. Think of this as the first of many coming layers of moisture.
Product recommendations: CosRX - Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol; HadaLabo - Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion; Shiseido - White Lucent Brightening Balancing Softener W; Skinfood - Black Sugar Perfect First Serum

The essence is a very liquid (almost water like) nourishing concentrate that (allegedly) increases cell turnover. It’s considered one of, if not the, most important steps in your routine. It increases moisture, brightness, and helps with hyperpigmentation.
Product recommendations: Benton - Snail Bee High Content Essence; CosRX - Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence; LJH - Tea Tree 90 Essence; SK II - Facial Treatment Essence; Skinfood - Royal Honey Propolis Essence

In the Western world ampoules are serums. The ampoule is a super, ultra concentrated liquid that treats various skin concerns like hyperpigmentation or uneven skintone. Ampoules are the ultimate ninja warrior in your routine- the secret weapon fighting everything that keeps your skin from being the perfect real-life photoshop it could be.
Product recommendations: Innisfree - Green Tea Seed Serum; Missha - Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule;  Scinic - Honey AIO Ampoule; Shara Shara - Honey Bomb; Sulwhasoo - Snowise EX Whitening Serum; Tosowoong - Propolis Sparkle Ampoule

A 2 - 3 times a week treat (or hell, even daily... they're so niiiiice), sheet masks are soaked in various different treatment liquids. They plump, brighten, and hydrate. I also find them to be a soothing treat fresh out of the fridge on a 100 degree day (it has been so hot in SoCal… I cannot even begin to tell you). Often you'll see your skin just glow after use due to how dewy and hydrated it is. It's the super secret hot date secret weapon so you look your most absolute stunning (#HoojooLifetips- that's right, I'm bringing it back).
Product recommendations: Banila Co - Miss Flower & Mr Honey Hydrogel; Benton - Snail Bee High Content Sheet Mask; Freeset - Donkey Milk Aqua; Missha - Pure Source Sheet Mask (Raspberry); MBD [my beauty diary] - Imperial Bird’s Nest; The Face Shop - Red Ginseng; Tosowoong - Pure Propolis Mask

Eye creams in both Western and Asian skincare routines are very similar: they serve to treat the fragile eye area. Many consider this step optional and use their regular lotion instead of splurging on another specialized cream. When it comes to the plethora of available eye creams, it appears that the only real difference here would be product application: in Asian skincare, you must gently tap (with your ring finger) the product into your skin. Whether that has an appreciable affect on eye skin, I'm not sure. I've yet to encounter any research comparing the two and definitively saying one is better than the other.
Product recommendations: CosRX - Honey Ceramide Eye Cream; Laneige - Water Bank Gel Eye Cream; Mizon - Snail Repair Eye Cream; Purebess - Galactomyces 80 Eye Cream; Skinfood - Salmon Brightening Eye Cream

I think you know what this is. It's krema blanco, the white stuff, milky-milky mandoo- it’s lotion! I really don’t think this step requires much explanation. It’s just like regular moisturizer in Western routines.
Product recommendations: Benton - Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream; Mizon - Black Snail All in One Cream; SN-T - Plant Stem Cell Cream; The Face Shop - Chia Seed Moisture-Holding Cream

This final cream (or sleeping pack) locks in every ounce of moisture to keep skin as hydrated as possible (noticing a theme?). Personally I think something like vaseline is perfect all on its own. But there are loads of other night creams you can choose from. In the morning you’ll want to skip this step and instead move on to high SPF/PA sunscreens. Here I covered sunscreens and why you should be wearing them! All the time. Everyday. Even in the dark! (just kidding... kinda)
Night Cream/Sleeping Pack Product recommendations: Innisfree - Green Tea Sleeping Pack; Laneige - Sleeping Water Pack_EX; Mizon - Good Night White Sleeping Pack; Sulwhasoo - Overnight Vitalizing Mask; Too Cool for School - Pumpkin Sleeping Pack

Sunscreen Product recommendations: Biore - Sarasara UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen (SPF 50+ PA++++); Innisfree - Eco Safety Perfect Waterproof (SPF 50 PA+++); Mentholatum - Sunplay Skin Aqua UV Moisture Milk (SPF 50+ PA+++); Missha - All Around Safe Block Essence Sun (SPF 45 PA+++); Shiseido - Hada Senka Mineral UV gel (SPF 50+ PA+++)
(side note, I'm currently using the Biore as my personal sunscreen and I think I might sell my soul to Satan to ensure I always have a bottle... it's some gooooooooood shit)

Extra Skincare bits and bobs

Skincare Tools: Konjac Sponges; Salux wash cloths
Spot Treatments: CosRX - Acne Master Pimple Patch; CosRX - Cantella Blemish Cream; Mizon - Acence Blemish Out Pink Spot; Nature Republic - Bee Venom Treatment Spot; Skinfood - Trouble Clear Spot Patch

As you can see the Asian Skincare RoutineTM is one of many, many steps. Each layer is more important than the last- the continuous addition of moisture keeps skin moist (duh), dewy, youthful, and refreshed. Corners can be cut, as with any routine, but this is the real deal routine down to the last water droplet. You'll never look like the, "Flawless Asian," as many beauty magazines are quick to tout, but you could have the best skin of your life if you follow this multi-step routine (or you might not... skin is YMMV, you know).

Besides, what’s a little extra time out of your day to pamper yourself like the queen/king you are?

I'm kind of cheating ... that's Jetsun Pema, the 25 year old Dragon Queen of Bhutan.

To all my Asian (or Asian beauty obsessed) readers, how does this breakdown hold up? Did I get anything wrong? Is there anything you do differently than what I’ve listed here? And to all my Western readers- what do you think of this routine? Is it something you’d adopt/try? Do you think it’s just too much? Or are you inadvertently doing a routine just this lengthy already? Let’s chat about it in the doobly-doo.

~Extra end of post Bonus Round!!!~

Asian Beauty Bloggers you should TOTALLY check out
AsianBeauty If you're new to Asian Beauty and you have any questions whatsoever, that forum should be the first place you look. The users are hella friendly and the info is spot on like nobody's business. Check 'em out.
Fifty Shades of Snail She's my friend on insta and twitter. Well educated and just so much fun. GO LOOK AT FIDDY. LOOK AT HER. Such a lovely blogger.
Musical Houses She uses science to figure out the compositions of super expensive creams to save you money (ok, well, she did it at least this one time I saw and I was so impressed that I think she does it all the time).
Skin & Tonics (if you're not excitedly pooping your pants over the release of her book November 3rd, then you desperately need to reevaluate your priorities).
Snow White & the Asian Pear Snow offers a LOT of science as well (she has a digital pH meter- her commitment is real) and her posts offer so much explanation that you never leave confused.

Some Trustworthy websites to purchase Asian skincare products
Location (aka where your product will be shipping from)
South Korea
South Korea (it’s kinda like SK ebay)
South Korea
South Korea
South Korea, China, United States
United States (New Jersey)
United States (Oregon)
South Korea
China (Hong Kong)
United States (New York)
South Korea
United States, Canada, China (Hong Kong), United Kingdom, Japan, Australia

There are great sellers on ebay and amazon, but if I included everyone, this post would go on foreverrrr (actually- you remember AB that I linked up there? Yeah, they have a place where they list them all. AB is so helpful, I swear).

More Hoojoo fun located and all these links below (stuff changed, look, I'm everywheeeeeere)

Bloglovin’ :: Instagram :: Polyvore :: Tumblr :: Twitter

Have a beautiful, sexy weekend loves. I'll be avoiding my neurology exams Tuesday by writing more Hoojoo. And possibly drinking sparkling rosé while wearing a sheet mask Saturday. Stay safe if you get crunk with it. Kisses!


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