Let’s talk about K-Beauty. Is it legit?

You know me: I’m not your typical girly girl. I’m rough around the edges, swear more than most Marines, and don’t ever care about getting my hands dirty. However, I LOVE SKINCARE STUFF AND MAKEUP. I think it is a hold over to my dance and pageant days (Miss Snowflake 1991 had big bangs and rouged cheeks) because I have always been cosmetics and hair stuff since before I can really even remember.

Last year, I had a conversation with one of my friends who has the most flawless skin and is a few years older than me. While I totally get that skin is definitely something your mama gives you, I also know that skincare is about hydration (drink that water, girl) and protecting your skin from the elements around you (I see you, Air Quality Index). But her secret? Korean Beauty products.

K-Beauty has finally reached the mainstream here in the States, and there are products literally at every price point. Since my introduction with K-Beauty, I have tried a bunch of different products, at different prices, from different brands. I do a lot of my own research, but lately I don’t have that kind of time. I’m in school and work—both full time—and just accepted a job in Atlanta and will be moving down in June. One day when I was supposed to be paying attention in my food and drug law class, I stumbled across a blog named Baller on a Budget and the overall concept struck a chord with me, not to mention her research was pretty on point. The blog is developed by a woman named Aileen Luib out in LA, and she has done some serious research on various things from beauty and health to travel, fashion, and lifestyle. She’s young, but from what I can see, her knowledge of K-Beauty is legit.

The original article I found is here, and is one of the best step-by-step explanations of what the products are, how to use them, as well as in which order you should use them. She even has a quiz for you to take if you just have no clue what your skin type really is, and it’s actually pretty accurate. If you aren’t really sure what you need, couldn’t hurt to take the quiz.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and my recommendations. I have fairly balanced skin, so definitely keep that in mind as you go through the list. Happy shopping!

  • Step 1: Remove Makeup
    • Kirkland Signature Micellar Daily Facial Cleansing Towelettes: $15.99
      • These are so awesome and CHEAP. I use these before I cleanse my face or sometimes just this when I have been out on the town and am too tired to do more than take my makeup off and put some moisturizer on. It’s not a good habit.
    • No. 1 King’s Berry Cleansing Oil: $29.99
      • I bought this last April and still have half the bottle. It’s huge. You have to make sure to follow up with a cleanser on this one though, but it’s worth it.
  • Step 2: Cleanse
    • I rotate a lot of cleansers depending on what my skin is doing.
      • The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Foam: $8.22
        • I just bought this and have only used it a few times. So far so good, and you literally only need a pea-sized amount and it foams up like crazy. This is good if you have a lot of excess oil.
      • philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser: $36.00
        • I bought this last April and just ran out. A little bit goes a long way. This is a great, gentle, everyday cleanser when I’m not having many skin issues.
      • Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser: $18
        • This has been pretty good this winter for dry skin. It isn’t a foaming wash; it gets rid of makeup and helps to condition it.
  • Optional Step 3: Exfoliate
    • I have tried a bunch of exfoliates with my old Birchbox/ispy subscriptions, but haven’t been crazy about any of them. This article suggested the one below, so I got it.
      • Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Exfoliator: $20.00
        • I only have used once and so far so good. It wasn’t harsh feeling and did a good job at exfoliating my face. It’s a mask too, so you put it on and rub in, then let it sit.
  • Optional Step 4: Treatment Mask
    • There are so many masks to choose from, but I tried the bubbly one!
      • Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask: $9.45
        • This is the bubbly one! It’s a mask that you only need to do every week or so. It tickled my nose like crazy, so just be aware.
      • Aztec Secret – Indian Healing Clay: $14.95
        • I have so much of this stuff. I accidentally bought the 2-lb tub of this. You add water and mix it. It’s the stuff that has like 15k reviews and if like 4.5 starts on Amazon. If you want some, I’ll give you a bunch!
  • Step 5: Tone
    • I know toning is important, but ugh….it just feels unnecessary. However, it really does help to get your face back to a regular pH level and give you back a better protective barrier. Tone, ladies. TONE. I’ve used a few; here are my favorites.
      • [MIZON] Acence Anti Blemish Cleansing & Skin Care: $14.89
        • I just bought this, but I like it. I have bigger pores (thanks, Mama Fellows), and this helped to shrink them a bit while not having such a horrible alcohol odor as some. We’ll see how it continues to do!
      • Botanical Nutrition Power Toner: $29.00
        • This a royal jelly-infused toner (Royal jelly is a gelatinous substance produced by honey bees to feed the queen bees and their young) that helps balance the pH level of skin. It’s really great for dry skin. I liked this one a lot, but only in the winter and dryer months.
      • May Coop Raw Sauce (3 in 1): $14.00
        • This is a gentle toner, emulsion, and essence in one. It’s hydrating and smells good. It helps to combine this step and the next, if you are into that sort of thing.
  • Step 6: Essence, Serum, or Ampoule
    • These things are like leave-in skin treatments and are super charged with all sort of good-for-your-skin stuff that helps with wrinkles and fine lines. Again, the Raw Sauce from above can replace these, but I currently am using an Ampoule. I have also used some serums from Glossier, but only one I liked (below)
      • [MIZON] Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule: $12.45
        • I have only used this a few times, but I like it. It absorbs fully without some of the stickiness that some others have. Don’t be weirded out by the snail secretion extract. It’s good for your skin.
      • Glossier The Super Pack: $65
        • NOTE: this is not a K-Beauty product, but I included it here anyway. This is a 3-pack of different serums. The only one I actually liked was Super Bounce, Super Pure was okay, but Super Glow just felt like an essence. I think these are serums for girls in the teens and 20s because I didn’t notice anything drastic. If you don’t have any major skin issues, then this could be fine for you, though it’s pricey.
  • Optional Step: Spot Treatment
    • This is isn’t like an acne treatment like we think of. Korean products focus on nourishing the skin back to health and not taking away all of the oil and whatnot. I’m too old for the normal acne stuff and it just make my skin dried up and crack.
      • [MIZON] Acence Mark-X Blemish After Cream: $8.35
        • I just got this since I do have some scaring and sensitive skin. It’s free of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. I just got it and will update with more info (the product is a bit tacky feeling, so it is a nighttime only product for me).
  • Optional Step 7: Sheet Mask
    • HOLY BALLS I LOVE SHEET MASKS. It is like giving your skin a big drink of water. Some people do these daily, but I do them like every week or 2. If you have acne-prone skin, just do this when you are in need of a hydration boost, like every 2-3 weeks. I can always tell when I’m dehydrated because my scowl line between my brows gets super pronounced.
      • DERMAL Collagen Essence Full Face Facial Mask Sheet, 16 Combo Pack: $10.99
        • These masks are cheap and high-quality. I get the combo pack and just pick one out that matches my mood or feeling at the time. Gold? Yes please. Pearl? Yep. Diamond? WHAT….yes!
      • Peach & Lily Sheet Mask Bundle: Power Combo Pack: $20
        • These are amazing quality and once you use them, the ones I listed above seem like they were made for paupers (which I am). I got these as free samples when I order some stuff from Peach & Lily when I first got into K-Beauty products. It comes with 5 masks of various types. They also have a bunch more for other issues: acne, anti-aging, brightening, hydrating, etc.
  • Step 8: Eye Cream
    • Don’t skimp on this, ladies. Eye creams are so vital for looking fresh. I barely get any sleep, but I seriously think I don’t look so horribly exhausted because I use eye cream every damn day. The author here says she doesn’t think everyone needs it, but I think she’s a liar because she’s 24 years old and sleepless nights and stress hasn’t hit her face yet.
      • MIZON Korean Cosmetics Snail Repair Eye Cream: $13.99
        • I like this one because it goes on smooth and isn’t too thick. Some of these can get so thick that it makes it feel sticky, but this absorbs well when you tap it into your skin.
  • Step 9: Emulsion, Lotion, Gel or Cream
    • I use all three of these, but not always at the same time (though I tend to use the emulsion with both). These are all for different things: emulsion is great, lightweight moisture; gel is great when I’m a bit oily like during the summer, and the cream is good for night time, so I’ll use it with the emulsion.
      • [MIZON] Collagen Power Lifting Emulsion: $18.99
        • This is like a collagen punch in the face apparently. I just got it, but I love how light it goes on and doesn’t feel sticky to me. Good for everyday hydration when you don’t want the weight.
      • Peach Slices Citrus-Honey Aqua Glow: $11.99
        • This absorbs fast, and is a very light hydrator when my skin is on the oily side. It’s also hella affordable.
      • [MIZON] All In One Snail Repair Cream: $15.99
        • It’s really lightweight, but packs a punch. I’ve used this for about a year and really like it. I put it on my neck too since that is where we really show our age.
  • Option Step 10: Nighttime Mask
    • I do this every 3 nights or so in the winter and about once a week in the summer. These are the few I use.
      • LANEIGE Water Sleeping Mask: $20.72
        • This is an overnight gel mask that absorbs quickly and doesn’t feel heavy. I use this more in the summer than winter since I need less moisture during that time. You can order this from Sephora, but it’s $4.00 more.
      • Mizon Cosmetics Snail Wrinkle Care Sleeping Pack: $14.50
        • This is straight up gooey. It feels like probably what a snail trail would feel like on your skin and I was like WTF before I used it. Seriously though, after I used it and woke up the next day, my skin was super soft after I washed it off and my fine lines on my forehead and around my mouth were less noticeable. I’m not saying that it’s because of this stuff, but around the time I started using it, I had an undergrad ask me what my major was thinking I was a Senior;).

Well, you survived to the end. I hope this gives you a little insight. Do I have perfect skin? HELL NO. I break out–even at age 34, almost 35–and have the worst uneven skin tone. But, my skin has elasticity, my under eyes are not horribly wrinkled, and my forehead looks pretty smooth for someone that spent 6 years as a lifeguard and her entire childhood/early adulthood outside on the farm. Good luck, and my the collagen ever be in your favor.

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