Buckle in folks (or grab some tea and a snack)… this is a long post.
Everybody’s skin has different needs. Discovering those needs is part of what makes skin care fun, although sometimes we can read the signs wrong and wind up like I was a year ago trying desperately to combat dehydrated acne-prone skin with high pH cleansers, acids and moisturisers (good one ya goober!). Now that I’m post-Roaccutane and my skin isn’t dominated by cystic acne anymore I have to consider it in a different light. I no longer think of myself as acne prone but my skin type has both similar and different needs to my pre-Roacc skin type. I’m going to break those down and how it correlates to my routine below. **You’re gonna notice that my routine breakdown is pretty influenced by Korean skin care concepts**
Brief Interlude About Korean Skin Care Routines
You may have heard that Korean skin care requires anywhere from 15-30steps. In truth? Owning/using as many products as possible is not what it’s about. At it’s heart, this type of regime is all about catering to the individual needs of your skin and ensuring that you maintain a balance (i.e. if you take something away you MUST replace it). Sometimes, a one-and-done product won’t be able to do that effectively, in fact, you might be neglecting one or more of those skin needs. Are there people with these massive step routines? Yes. Will that be right for everyone? Nope, just as smaller routines won’t work for everyone.
In the West we’re at least somewhat aware of the basic 3 step routine: 1 – Cleanse, 2 – Tone, 3 – Moisturise. Other than that, we then add products in for various goals – an acid or benzoyl peroxide for acne, a facial mist to feel like a diva etc. For some people this works. For me it does not… so lets get into it.
I have combination (drier cheeks, t-zone is a tad oily), dehydrated skin which can very easily become sensitive/compromised if I neglect those first two components. I have hyper-pigmentation (left over from acne) and a tendency to develop small whiteheads (clogged pores). I also wear make-up so this should be factored in.
From this my skin needs include:
– products which will not unbalance either the dry or oily parts of my face.
– component to combat dehydration and protect against moisture-loss.
– component which can improve my hyper-pigmentation.
– ‘……’ which can prevent clogged pores.
– anti-inflammatory/healing product in the event of sensitivity.
– Make-up removal.
– Sun protection.
Cleanse – Why? Remove any left over product from the evening/oil/dead skin cell build up etc. This will go towards ensuring that I can cater to my other skin needs, by removing the evenings build up from your face you are contributing to your skins overall health.
Skin Needs: Remember that combination skin type I have? I need to make sure that my cleanser isn’t going to irritate my dryness while still doing it’s job on the oily areas. I like to make sure that the pH of my cleanser isn’t too high either otherwise this can compromise your acid mantle (meaning you will have already thrown things into chaos from step one). pH of 5.5-6.5 is best but my skin will still be ok going on a second date with a pH of 7 delivered in a well formulated product.
Products I like for this: Sulwhasoo Snowise Ex Foam Cleanser, COSRX Good Morning Low Ph Cleansing Gel & YADAH Anti-T Bubble Cleanser.
Targeting – Why? Not going to lie. I made the name of this step up. Largely because between here and the end of my routine I select products based on the targeted needs of my skin. It’s the customisable part of my routine however you should always layer products by consistency – thinnest to thickest.
Skin Needs: I know my skin, it can get overwhelmed pretty quick and the balance between my combo zones chucks a tantrum. For this reason I choose one product, preferably in a light consistency, per issues. If I don’t need a step, I don’t do it. 1. Hyper-pigmentation, Vitamin C or Niacinamide. 2. Dehydration, hydrating serum/mist/essence (You’ll notice I’m only going after two elements here, remember you don’t have to use everything on your face at once).
Products I like for this: Drunk Elephant Vit-C Firma Day Serum (Hp), Holy Snails Shark Sauce (Hp), COSRX Galactomyces Ferment 92 (Hp) & COSRX Snail Essence 96 (De-h).
Lock It in! – Why? Originally I used to think a moisturiser was the obvious choice for hydration and for a lot of people this is the case. For me however I try to get as much hydration into my targeted steps because typically moisturisers/creams don’t work out for me and heavier creams can clog my pores/feel too heavy for me. So I primarily use this step to lock in all the products I’ve previously layered.
Skin Needs: As previously mentioned heavier moisturisers can clog my pores, break me out, sit on my skin by not absorbing fully or cause oiliness. I look for a lighter moisturisor which is still appropriate as an occlusive but it must absorb quickly, not sick heavily on the skin, not break me out/cause clogged pores and has to be compatible sitting under sunscreen and makeup.
Products I like for this: Moisturisers and I have a love hate relationship however some products which work in this category are; Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream and COSRX Oil-Free Ultra Moisturising Lotion. The list here is short as my skin is super picky with this skin care type.
Protect (LE SUNSCREEN) – Why? Do you like having an even skin tone? fully functioning skin care products? a defense between you and sun spots, discolouration and sun burn? Does the idea of not aging so damn quickly also sound good? Sunscreen is your man, your best pal, your shield etc. If you are utilising sun sensitive actives it’s a must and I firmly believe that sunscreen can be the difference between a good routine and a great routine (that is if you go outside, if you don’t then don’t worry about it).
Skin Needs: My last post included an entire rant about sunscreen but to reiterate, I need a: cosmetically elegant formula (doesn’t leave a white cast, sits easily on the skin, scent can’t be absolutley offensive) with a minimum SPF35 with broad spectrum protection. So it has to be easy to use, feel nice, sit well under makeup and still provide the protection that I need.
Products I like for this; Dr. G Brightening Up Sun SPF 42 PA+++, YADAH Oh My Sunblock SPF 35 PA++ & COSRX Aloe Soothing Suncream SPF 50 PA+++.
Well done, you made it through the AM routine!! Replenish your tea… we got the PM to go.
There is a certain element of repetition with a few added bits in the PM routine.
Cleanse – why? You have a whole days works of dead skin cells, dirt from the day, sunscreen and possibly even makeup. Remove the sludge to make your beautiful skin available to the rest of your routine.
Skin Needs: I follow the double cleanse method. Reason being I wear makeup most days for work and this method works best for me to ‘gently’ remove everything. Most western cleansers will probably be too harsh to cleanse twice so I utilise a cleansing oil or balm/sherbert (which emulsifies) to gently get my makeup moving. A good cleansing oil/balm will ensure that all makeup is removed once you rinse the balm away, won’t strip the skin nor leave too much of an oily/product residue behind. The second cleanse? That’s to get rid of anything the balm may have missed as well as removing any residue from the first cleanse (there shouldn’t be a heap, but my pores clog easily so best to get rid of it just in case). Both cleansers have to be able to do their job effectively without stripping the skin/compromising the lipid barrier (if your lipid barrier isn’t happy you’re gonna have a bad time).
Products I like for this: First cleanse? I really enjoy the Banila Co. Clean It Zero cleansing sherbert (it’s a balm but they call it a sherbert). It smells nice, is easy to use, successfully removes my makeup and leaves minimal residue. I use the original formula but there are others depending on your skin needs. Another is the TATCHA Camellia Cleansing Oil overall I loathe Tatcha for their overpriced, ineffective products but this cleansing oil is really nice (kind of an ‘I love you but your family is a nightmare’ deal). (To be honest, I need to explore potential first cleanser options a bit more. Because my skin doesn’t like thicker products anywhere near it the moment the Banila. Co didn’t break me out and was completely functional I was happy enough to leave it there). Second Cleanse? Good news! Usually the gentle cleanser you use in the mornings can be utilised here. Most of the hard work has been done (in a nice way) by your first cleanse right? Still, try out other products (in case your first cleanser and your second disagree with one another) but your AM cleanser usually will work. I like the Sulwahsoo Snowise EX Foam, YADAH Anti-T Bubble Cleanser & the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. P.s If I haven’t worn makeup that day I typically won’t use the double cleanse method. The balm is really good for shifting makeup without aggravating your skin by rubbing etc but I see no reason to use it if there is no heavy lifting to do.
Targeting – Why? Skin needs. Look after them. Odds are you can’t tackle all your needs in the morning, so often the night time is when you can go to town layering things. PLEASE NOTE: LAYERING PRODUCTS TENDS TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE IF DONE BY pH AND CONSISTENCY (LOWEST pH to HIGHEST FOR ACTIVES, THINNEST TO THICKEST FOR EVERYTHING ELSE).
Skin Needs: I’m dehydrated in the mornings, I’m dehydrated at night, my skin is one thirsty creature, always, so hydration is definitely something I need to include in both AM and PM. Clogged pores are something I can work on easier at night as well, usually via acids (nothing too strong though). Hyper-pigmentation and sensitivity are two more needs in my nightly line of fire.
Products I like for this and a little bit more why: An effective vitamin C tyically has a lower pH than my other products but since I use my Vit-C in the morning I’m not going to use it and will instead start with my acids to take care of the pore glogging need. The COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid is a gentle beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) which will penetrate deeper into the pore and give oil a heave-ho-you-gotta-go! I wait 15-20mins for this to absorb fully and then spot-treat any uneven skin surfaces with an AHA (alpha-hydroxy-acid) like the COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid or the Mizon AHA 8% Peel Serum. The AHA will nibble away the unwanted gunk on the surface of the skin (This works for me but you could use it all over the face). Typically BHA’s have a lower pH than AHA’s and that’s why I use them in this order. That isn’t a hard and fast rule though, if it works in reverse for you then that’s cool too. Hyper-pigmentation is next, with the COSRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence or Holy Snails! Shark Sauce (does not contain sharks). Then onto Hydration with my COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence or possibly a face mask. I’m really enjoying the Tosowoong Deep Sea Moisturing sheet mask for added hydration or the Tosowoong Aloe sheet mask to hydrate and soothe. Other benefits include the mask itself sending everything deeper into the skin for a more effective overall routine (this is my honest opinion, although I personally do not use a sheet mask every night, just when I want a boost).
Please note: Actives may not be able to be used every single day. At the time of writing I have had to downgrade my usage to twice a week and not at the same time. AHA one day. BHA a different day. Skin is going through a strange patch… yippee.
Lock it in! – Why? Same reason as the AM occlusive. Lock all that goodness in so you don’t lose any of that lovely moisture throughout the night!
Skin Needs: A slightly heavier moisturiser can be used now although I still need something that isn’t going to sit on my face and make it freak out that its being suffocated. Anything that could also benefit my other steps is a plus.
Products I like for this: I currently have one product which I use above all others (skin doesn’t like heavier stuff… sue me). This one just WORKS for me. I’m going to sound like a COSRX-broken record but their Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask is A-FREAKING-MAZING. You wanna know why? Read my review of it. Go on… I’ll wait.
Additional/Final Touch: I use my HG lip balm before bed as well (Paula’s Choice Lip and Body Treatment Balm). It means I wake up with soft lips that have spent the entire night being conditioned and cared for. This makes me feel good so I’ll continue to do that.
Whew! You made it to the end! Good for you. I hope this was helpful. Bearing in mind that I may not have the same skin type as you and, as always, YMMV I hope this has at least exposed that skin care is a lot more than a strict three step or 30 steps deal. You have to listen to your skin and its needs. My skin care routine is shaped by my skin needs (which you’re now more than aware of if you’ve made it to the end) and I pick and choose what and when I use products based off its current state. Feeling all good for hydration? No face mask. Pigmentation is fading? Guess I’ll cut back on the Galactomyces Essence. Looking a bit dull? Use a brightening serum/mask. There are so many options available and not all products have to be expensive or a one-and-done (like most western skin care). Explore options from other countries (Korea in particular makes it easier to treat specific needs) and remember it is YOUR skin, no one elses. Listen to it, have fun, take note 🙂
Got any HG products or methods? Let me know! I’m always down to try something new.