Asian Skincare Update: What I Use, One Year In

Asian Skincare Update: What I Use, One Year In

Just over one full year ago, I started a journey that would change both my life and my wallet forever. Not my new job and cross-county move; no, I’m talking about my decision to wade into the deep and deeply-confusing waters (and oils and essences and emulsions and ampoules and gels) of Asian Skincare.

My first post about my journey has been read by a shocking number of people, so I would definitely like to remind everyone that I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m still incredibly new at this and also still terrified – but that post outlines the basics of Asian Skincare as I understand them. There are about one hundred trillion steps; they have to occur in a particular order; and it can take a not-insignificant amount of time.

no girl wait you gotta do your skincare routine

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Before I get into the specifics of what weird shit I’m consistently putting on my face these days, I’d like to share a few gems of knowledge that I’ve learned about K-beauty over the past 14 months.

  1. I am as moist as I thought I would be. Just… so fuckin’ moist all the time.
  2. Whenever you think you have put the weirdest thing on your face (see: ethically-harvested snail goo), there will be something weirder. Where did that placenta come from? Isn’t bee venom toxic? What is Donkey Milk, exactly? Who knows, but I’ll probably slap it on my face eventually!
  3. Try new things one at a time. It was so tempting for me to just open all those shiny Korean packages simultaneously, but this is a mistake that you will regret.
  4. Japanese sunscreen!!!!!
  5. Snail Goo will Change You. No joke. Someone will definitely judge you for putting snail shit on your face, but you will laugh at them when you look flawless in ten years and they are jealous. Because snails.
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put me directly on your face!

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Whenever I’m confused about where in the routine order a new product should go, I refer to this guide, or to the geniuses over on r/AsianBeauty. That amazing subreddit also posts a seasonal “Holy Grail” list of everyone’s favorite products of the moment, and is a great place to find new things to try. I check ingredients over at CosDNA to make sure I’m not sensitive to anything before I order a new product. I usually order all of my products through RoseRoseShop and Amazon. I have watched this Lisa Eldridge Facial Massage video approximately one thousand times.

Alright, onwards to

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Like I said in my original post, the whole point of this adventure was that I wanted to wean myself off Proactiv (particularly, the main ingredient in both the cleanser and cream, Benzoyl Peroxide). Most people in K-beauty suggest using combination of acids called BHAs and AHAs to prevent breakouts. I was technically already using an AHA – the Proavtiv Toner is made of Glycolic Acid, which is an AHA (so are Lactic and Mandelic acids). Most people use Salicylic Acid as their BHA, though I’ve never found it to have any effect on my skin at all (MY ACNE IS TOO POWERFUL FOR SUCH MORTAL NONSENSE).

Unfortunately, a few months into my attempt to wean myself of facial bleach, I moved from humid, temperate Toronto to the bone-dry arid tundra of Edmonton, Alberta (RIP my entire body). It’s so dry I was in Edmonton for two straight months before I stopped waking up to daily nosebleeds. The drastic change in climate wreaked some serious havok on my skin. Despite still using Proactiv once a day, I was subject to almost-constant breakouts (even those horrible under-the-skin cysty things that feel like punishment for something you didn’t even know you did) all over my cheeks and chin. Finally beaten down and sick of looking like a disease-ridden teenager circa the Black Plague-era, I relented and went back to Proactiv twice a day. Please don’t judge me.

Despite my weak will, Asian Skincare has actually still managed to mitigate my major issue, which was the intense dryness that resulted from using Benzoyl Peroxide twice daily. I used to get the grossest, scaliest skin all over my face, and it was so noticeable as the day went on. By using all these AB products, I’ve finally managed to keep my skin as moisturized as possible (while still staying pimple-free thanks to the BP). Eventually, perhaps when I’m making less public appearances for work, I’d like to try transitioning off the Proactiv again by trying BHAs, AHAs, and retinols – but, you know. Later.

For now, these are the AB skincare and makeup products I’m using and loving!

SKINCARE

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Oil Cleanse – DHC Deep Cleansing Oil (Canada/US)

If there was one thing I could truly call a “Holy Grail” product in my routine, it would be this. Every other makeup remover I’ve ever tried has either left a weird residue, burned my eyes, been ineffectual, or pulled at my skin with cotton pads. You only use this at night, and just one pump of this stuff is enough to take off your sunscreen, makeup, the whole shebang, because the olive oil bonds right to all the gunk on your face. It’s also great to for facial massage (see above video, preferably several times before bed if you’re having trouble sleeping).

On a day where I’ve worn a particularly stubborn red matte lip or something, you can bust out the MISSHA The Style Green Tea Lip & Eye Makeup Remover first. The lid is shaped like a heart!!

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Second Cleanse – Hada Labo Gokujyn Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam (Canada/US)

Here’s where I’m still using my garbage Proactiv cleanser, but if I was a better person I would go back to using this awesome Japanese foaming cleanser. You need to use a second cleanser to take all that oil off your face, and you want a cleanser that has a pH close to your natural skin level (4.2-5.6). This one is 5.5.

I normally wouldn’t recommend using hyaluronic acid in a dry environment (it’s a humectant, so it attracts water from the air into your skin – but if there is no water in the air, it will draw the water from your skin out in the air, what the fuck), but this stuff has *deep breath* hydroxypropyltrimonium hyaluronate all up in it. That’s film-forming, which stops your skin from releasing water while creating more space on your face to store water. Dang!!!!! That is some science shit!!!!

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Exfoliators

  1. SkinFood Black Sugar Wash-Off Mask
  2. Cure Natural Aqua Gel (Canada/US)

Get all that dead skin off your face okay!! It’s important! I use the Black Sugar mask 2-3 times a week. A lot of people dig the Strawberry version, but I haven’t tried it yet. I use the Cure product probably twice a month in place of the Black Sugar scrub. Basically, you take a pump of this and rub it onto a portion of your face and you’ll start to see little white balls appear and SURPRISE, THAT SHIT IS LITERAL BALLS OF YOUR OWN CHEMICALLY-EXFOLIATED DEAD-ASS SKIN HOLY SHIT

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Actives 

Okay, this is where the AHA/BHA party would happen if I could get my act together. Right now I’m using Proactiv Toner as an AHA, but I would love to eventually start trying my COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A SolCOSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, and COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid (more info on these in my first post). Many people use a Vitamin C product in here as well for the L-Ascorbic Acid, but you have to like, keep it in the fridge and it stings and stuff???? I’m scared of it and have avoided it honestly, it seems like A Lot.

Also, I’m going to tell you this now, since no one ever told me, but AHAs are photosensitive, which means the sun will fuck your shit right up y’all!!! If you use an AHA, you have to use a sunscreen, no kidding, unless you dig looking like Kerrysue Convoy by the time you’re 35.

 

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Toner 

Unlike alcohol-based hecka-drying US toners, AB toners basically just prep your face for all the goodness you’re about to slap onto them. I haven’t started adding these to my routine yet, but when I do I’m going to try Etude House Wonder Pore Freshener (people like it even though it apparently is very alcohol-y?) and SkinFood Peach Sake Toner (apparently it’s good for acne-prone skin).

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Essences and Ampoules

Finallyyyyy it’s time for the fun stuff!! You apply these from lightest to heaviest in texture. They’re usually really watery – I just drop a blob onto my palm, rub it between my hands, and then smooth it onto my face. This feels weird for me, as someone who was told never to touch your face with your hands for fear of more pimples, but it’s actually good in this instance! You can even tap it into your skin for extra absorption. Right now I’m using:

  • CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence – SNAILS, MY BEST FRIENDS. Don’t you worry: the snails are fed and treated well; their goo is ethically harvested without harm to the snails; and all the goo is purified before going into a bottle. What does it do, exactly? Uh, scientifically… they’re not, like, super sure? It retains water and softens skin, is antimicrobial, and full of anti-oxidants, collagen, elastin, and more. It might heal wounds or reverse sun damage. Whatever it does, it’s wicked rad and I highly recommend it. This stuff in particular is 96% (!!!!) snail goo and hydrates the living heck out of my face. Holy Grail for sure.
  • Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule – Mmm, propolis. Bees harvest it from tree buds to varnish honeycombs, and now you too can benefit from bee glue all over your dang face. This ampoule is 80% propolis and makes your skin nice and shiny. Plus, there’s honey extract in it, which is nice for people with sensitive skin.
  • Nature Republic Real Nature Rose Ampoule – I would be lying if I didn’t admit that most of the reason I love this stuff is because it just smells so dang good. It’s quite thick and good at getting rid of dry, rough patches, but honestly it’s like putting rose petals directly on your face, and that’s enough to make me re-buy.

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Masks

A few times a week, in the evenings when you have some down time and there’s no one else home to make fun of the fact that you look like a) Jason Voorhees or b) like your own faceskin is melting off, you can slap on some good good face masks at this point in your routine! For regular-ass, paper sheet masks, I really like the Japanese LuLuLun masks (Canada/US), which are designed to be used daily (check here for an explanation of the different colors). My favorite masks are the Hydrogel kind, which are made of a heavy gel and a little fancier than the sheet type – I usually use the Nature Republic ones, but I’m going to try the new line from Etude House. I try to use under-eye patches a few times a week too – the Petitfee Black Pearl & Gold Hydrogel Eye Patches are A++++.

People lose their shit over these Freeset Donkey Milk Healing masks but honestly?? Donkey Milk?????? I gotta draw the fuckin’ line somewhere, folks.

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Emulsions and Creams

Alright, it’s moisturizin’ time (just now????????? wait what the hell is the rest of this stuff then oh god someone please send help). Emulsions are lighter, creams are heavier, and you use them in that order. I use my Proactiv Benzoyl Peroxide cream here too. OKAY HERE WE GO:

  • Innisfree Olive Real Lotion -I figured since my skin seemed to like the olive oil in the DHC cleanser I would give ‘er a little more here. This bottle is fucking impossible to wrangle, it’s like a damn ketchup bottle, but the olive and camellia oil added a little extra moisture to my skin to keep it from getting dry in the winter. I’ll probably leave it off in summer.
  • Mizon Black Snail All-in-One Cream – Another Holy Grail! Not only is it 90% snails (snails!!), but this cream is also packed with niacinamide (Vitamin B3) which is so good for your skin. This shit instantly cured my dry and scaly patches. Also, when you touch it, it’s so gooey it pulls up in strings like hot cheese. Can’t live without it.

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Eye Cream – Etude House Moistfull Collagen Eye Cream

The internet’s favorite Moistfull product has become my favorite Moistfull product (say moist again, eh??). It’s 30%  hydrolyzed marine collagen straight from fish scales (mmm, perfect for my eye skin), plus some baobab mucus and, I don’t know man, make-up artists used to yell at me for my scaly eyeballs and eyebrows and now they don’t. I rub it under my eye right up to the water line, and then from the crease into my eyebrows. Holy Grail.

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FINISH HIM 

Your final move(s) will depend on whether it’s morning or evening. You gotta wear sunscreen every day I know I’m sorry!! I don’t make the rules!! That’s just the way it is!! Especially if you’re using an AHA or anything else that’s photosensitive (that includes anything with citrus in, which includes a lot of the above products). At night, you use an occlusive, which seals in all the good good shit you just put on your face. If you have any pimples, lance those suckers (or pop them, I know you’re gonna do it anyways, I do too), then slap on a miraculous CosRX Acne Pimple Master Patch and watch it suck all the gross stuff out of the wound so your face is flat again by morning. Otherwise, I dig:

  • Tony Moly Intense Care Dual Effect Sleeping Pack -I love this as a final step before bed. It’s really thick and makes me feel like I’m gluing all that previous nonsense into my pores, but not so heavy that it makes me break out. Plus, it has adenosine for anti-aging and arbutin for brightening. Lots of people like the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, but I haven’t tried it.
  • Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask – This one, however, I have tried, and WHOA PLEASE BUY THIS IMMEDIATELY. My lips are chronically dry (ew, I know) and nothing has ever really worked for them (the closest I ever came to anything helping was Bite’s Agave Lip Mask). This overnight mask has legitimately changed my life – I wake up with perfectly moisturized lips every single day. It goes on thick but never leaves a mark on your pillow and is completely absorbed by morning. If I’m in bed ready to go to sleep and I’ve forgotten this, I will get my ass up out of my warm bed to put this on that’s how much I love it. Holy Grail.
  • Shiseido SENKA Aging Care UV Suncreen (Canada/US) – If you gotta wear sunscreen every day, you better make it Japanese sunscreen, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the white gloop we get here that always makes me break out. It’s nice and thin and leaves you with a little bit of a glow instead of drying matte, like other Japanese sunscreens. It’s got SPF50+ (UVB protection against sunburns), and is rated PA++++ (UVA protection against aging and cancer). Korean sunscreens can only be rated up to PA+++, so that’s why a lot of people prefer to stick with Japanese brands. You can also find this product listed some places as Shiseido SENKA Mineral Water UV Essence.

So that’s the whole thing. It looks overwhelming like that, but really my routines look something like this:

AM: Cleanser, Toner, Essence, Gel, Black Snail All-in-One, Eye Cream, Sunscreen
PM: Double Cleanse, Toner, Essence, Ampoules, Gel, Creams, Eye Cream, Sleeping Pack

Totally manageable, and makes for a nice time in front of the TV where I get to feel like I’m engaging in ~*self care*~, which is pretty important as of late.

MAKE-UP

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  • CLIO Waterproof Pen Liner in Kill Black – Cult status, better even than Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner IMHO.
  • The Face Shop Designing Eyebrow Pencil in Brown – Y’all wanna know how I get my brows to do that thing? This is how.
  • Isehan Kiss Me Heroine Make Volume & Curl Mascara (Canada/US) – Never curl your lashes again (not that I ever would anyways, those things are medieval torture devices). Good volume, great curl, and fucking bonds to your lashes so hard it takes a herculean effort to remove, which is what I like.

OKAY THAT WAS A LOT BUT THAT’S THE WHOLE THING. This ended up being way longer than I thought it would be again, but hey. Everybody needs a hobby – I don’t give a shit about shoes, but I’ll get fucked up over some snail creams. As always, this is just what I think I’ve learned on the internet this past year – if I’m fucking up hard or if you want to share your own, better knowledge with me, please hit me up on the ol’ Tweet machine @SamMaggs. NOW GO FORTH AND BE MOIST.

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Week 11 Skincare Update: I Picked the Wrong Week to Quit BP

Soooo some bad news: taking Benzoyl Peroxide down to once every two days made me break out all over my chin and jawline. Which isn’t amazing. I’m also under a lot of life stress right now between personal stuff and job stuff, and the last thing I need is to be hating the way I look on top of it all. So (for now) fuck quitting BP! I’ve already eliminated it from my cleanser and scaled the cream back to one a day, so I’m using 1/4 of what I did when I started – a huge improvement.

I still want to swap out my Proactiv Toner and Cream for the CosRX products, but honestly right now I just really need to try some more fun stuff on my skin because everything else in my life is a trash fire. So here’s what I’m going to try every couple of weeks, in order!

Then I’ll have hopefully some new stuff added to my routine! At which point I’ll swap out the Proactiv Toner for my COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid and then once again start trying to remove the BP from my routine.

The thing is, I really feel like if I wean myself off the BP and replace it with stuff like COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and Skin Food Peach Sake Toner I will be able to stay clear. But I just really cannot deal with that right now.

Week 1 Skincare: So Far, So Scared

Week 1 Skincare: So Far, So Scared

It’s been just over a week since I dove headfirst into all of this wild Asian Skinscare (that’s a typo, but it’s staying) nonsense, and I have to say: so far, nothing catastrophic has happened. There’s some good news and some bad news, so let’s get to it.

I wanted to start using all my shiny new products at once, but the folks over at r/AsianBeauty basically told me that idea was REALLY, REALLY HORRIBLE. Trying one product at a time ensures you know exactly what your skin is reacting to if you do have a bad reaction to something (which makes sense, but I’m so impatient!). They suggested I start with the sunscreen, but I had to be on set this week and my MUA would not be into it; so instead, I started with cleanser.

I removed the Proactiv Cleanser from my routine (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide, pH 4.7-5.2), and replaced it with the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil (main ingredient Olea Europaea Fruit Oil with some Tocopherol, which both have a rating of 2 on the comedogenic scale), and the Hada Labo Gokujyun Foaming Cleanser (pH 5.5, almost completely non-comedogenic save Butylene Glycol, which is in basically all Asian Skincare). Also, because I’m bad at instructions and because my face had been exfoliated every day on Proactiv, I decided to bust out my SkinFood Black Sugar Wash-Off Mask for every-other-day scrubbing.

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I was admittedly a little concerned about losing the Benzoyl Peroxide in the cleanser, because that’s what gets right into the skin – but I’m still using the Proactiv Toner (5% Glycolic Acid) and the Proactiv Repairing Lotion (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide), so I’m not going entirely cold turkey. Knock wood – I haven’t had a single breakout yet! And the horrible under-skin bump I got on the 12-hour plane ride home has calmed down nicely, which is great.

The DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is amazing for removing my make-up. I use it on a dry face with damp hands and just smoosh it everywhere, especially around my eyes to get off my mascara and under-eye concealer. Then I take a second to rub it into my face to improve circulation, or something, I guess. I rinse and then use a tiny bit of the Hada Labo (you hardly need any!), and it removes all of the oil and garbage like a dream. I think the comedogenic ingredients in the DHC haven’t been bothersome because you wash it all off your face almost immediately – along with all the bad stuff it bonds to.

My favorite thing, though, has to be the SkinFood Black Sugar scrub. It smells so good, surprisingly like lemons, and it’s super effective; I’ve been taking a nickel-sized chunk, rubbing my hands together, and then rubbing it all over my face before rinsing it off. I’ve noticed the biggest difference in my skin the mornings after I’ve used this: I have a chronic blackhead/pore problem on my gigantic nose, and they’re basically invisible when I wake up. I’m kind of amazed.

So all of that is great! Less Benzoyl Peroxide, three new products, a week and a half, and no messy breakouts so far. Asian Skincare, maybe you’re alright.

But I said there was some bad news, and there is: right before I left for Tokyo, I was out of both moisturizer and eye cream, and (in my skincare ignorance at the time) walked into Sephora and asked for basically whatever the gal helping me recommended. She set me up with Caudalie Resveratrol Eye Lifting Balm and Ren Clean Skincare Global Protection Day Cream. This, as it turns out, was A Mistake.

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The Ren moisturizer has made areas of my skin all red and bumpy – probably because it is filled with comedogenics like Myristyl Myristate (a 5 on the scale!), and level-2 Cetearyl Alcohol, Sesamum indicum Seed Oil, and Tocopherol. Nope this shit off my face immediately. As for the Caudalie eye cream (Sorbitan laurate and Tocopherol) – I now have an under-eye milia (a hard, white bump) for the first time in my life, which I’m going to have to get removed by a dermatologist. Fuck me!!

So as much as I want to try the sunscreen next, there’s no doubt in my mind that after my two-week cleanser trial period is over, I’m going to be switching out my moisturizer and eye cream. What a disaster.

But Asian Skincare, really great so far. Just, fuck this other shit. They’re going to have to put a sharp thing near my eye! Fucking hell.

So I’m Doing This Asian Skincare Thing

So I’m Doing This Asian Skincare Thing

Okay, so this is going to be pretty radically different from my usual writing in that it’s not going to involve any dragons or Winchesters or even any pop culture at all (I know I KNOW). Instead, some of you had mentioned that you were interested in reading about my completely amateur journey from using Proactiv to a fairly intense Asian skincare regime, and I am on a twelve-hour-flight and need to kill some time, so here goes nothin’.

I started using Proactiv when I was about 15; I was dancing every day for hours and sweating that much while wearing stage makeup was killing my face. It was preposterously effective; I have no idea if starting birth control about three years later even did anything for my skin because I’ve basically had no issues with skincare since starting the good stuff.

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The problem is, no matter what Adam Levine might try to tell you (seriously, why are we listening to that guy anyways in regards to literally anything?), Proactiv was not made to be used by humans beyond puberty. The active ingredient that keeps your skin clear is Benzoyl Peroxide – like, basically you’re bleaching your face on the reg, which is why everyone who uses it ruins their towels. Peroxide basically rips all the moisture directly out of your face, a surefire way to guarantee you’ll have wrinkles by 25; and, despite the fact that I use a moisturizer (Lush Enzymion) and eye cream (Caudalie Reservatrol Lift) twice a day, every day, every make-up artist I’ve ever had chastises me for how scaly and dry my disgusting face is. (But so pimple-free!! Eep.)

SO, in an attempt to stop peroxiding my face, I’m going to try the wild multi-step Asian skincare regime everyone is so bananas over. What I have realized since deciding this is that all this shit is actually SUPER FUCKIN’ COMPLICATED, and involves customizing your routine based on specific ingredients, issues, brands, and more. It’s fucking whack and I am way the hell out of my depth. If only someone could analogize this shit to TNG episodes or something so I could actually understand it all.

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In the research I’ve done over the past few days, here’s what I have vaguely managed to glean about Korean skincare:

  1. It’s all about the double-cleanse, meaning in the evenings you use an oil-based cleaner first to bond to all the gross crap on your face (like sunscreen – a daily must – and makeup), followed by a gentler milk or foaming cleanser to get the oil and any remaining garbage off.
  2. Knowing the pH balance of your face and the products you’re using on your face is like super hella important. Apparently most cleansers (especially American ones) have a high pH (9+), which is what strips all the moisture from your face. What you want to look for is a cleanser with a pH around like 4-6. (Proactiv is about a 5).
  3. You have to customize your routine based on products that contain ingredients that will work towards whatever your personal skincare goals are. Which… actually makes a lot of sense, when you say it like that. My main issues are acne and preventative anti-aging, so I want to look for products with ingredients that fight breakouts and wrinkles.
  4. There are a lot of different, confusingly-named products and you have to use them all in a specific order – layering thinnest to thickest for best absorption.
  5. You can do an abbreviated routine in the morning, and save the whole massive shebang for before bed.

I think, anyways; please keep in mind I am literally the opposite of an expert and this is what my internet research has led me to believe. If you have a correction for me please, please let me know.

Now, you are supposed to introduce only one new product to your face every couple weeks so that you can determine for a fact what works for you and what doesn’t. This is a problem for me, because I can’t just like use 2/3 of my Proactiv steps; the cream is ineffective without the toner, etc. But I can’t JUST use an oil-based cleanser on my face and nothing else for the next two weeks – so you see my dilemma. I think I’m just gonna go all-in, and try removing things one by one if they make me go all funky in the face. I guess. I’m so scared, you guys. [ETA: The kind folks over at r/AsianBeauty convinced me that this is a TERRIBLE HORRIBLE IDEA FOR BAD BABIES so I am going to be an Adult and go one product at a time while keeping the rest of my routine the same, so I can determine what does or does not break me out. I am going to start with cleanser, then suncreen, then moisturizer, then toner, in two-week increments.]

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For acne, I have learned that you have to include something in your routine called BHAs and AHAs, which are acidic chemical exfoliators. For some reason, the thought of putting acid on my face makes me feel way more comfortable than peroxide. These are your “actives” (yours may be different depending on your skin issue; but they’re certainly MY actives) and you use them after your cleanser but before you start moisturizing and shit (that goes on for fucking ever btw, my face is going to be so shiny??). AHAs and BHAs will only work at a certain pH (too high and they do nothing; too low and they give you chemical burns, cute). You have to wait about a half an hour for them to fully absorb into your skin before moving on to your next step, because whatever you put on your face after them is going to have its own pH. This is like chemistry class! I was only good at chemistry until you had to start envisioning molecules in three dimensions, and my brain just doesn’t work like that.

Okay, so based on that information, and a ton of online product reviews, here are the products I’ve gotten either in full or sample sizes to test out on my face in the next few months and hope that I’m not just one giant ball of zits by the time convention season/book tour season starts in March, or like… the next time I have to be on a 40-foot IMAX screen (do you know how big that makes a pimple?????) LET’S-A GO:

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Oil-Based Cleanser: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
This is actually a Japanese product, but it’s a huge seller there and people love it so??? In future, I may try The Face Shop’s Rice Water Cleansing Oil if I’m not pleased with this. If you’ve never used an oil-based cleanser (my first was Lush Ultrabland) it’s WILD how much gunk comes off your face with it.

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Foaming Cleanser: Hada Labo Gokujyun Foaming Cleanser
Another top-selling Japanese product that beauty bloggers swear by. The key here is that it has a low pH of 5.5. I also grabbed Skinfood Wildberry Cleansing Foam, but it has a much higher pH of 7.5 (it just smelled so nice, you guys). People say the Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick will change your life so hard but it’s sold out like everywhere on this green earth so fuck it.

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Actives Party!!! This is the fun and slightly terrifying stuff I don’t really understand yet, but here we go regardless. You start using these once every few days and try to build up a tolerance before using it daily. At first they’re supposed to make your skin flip the heck out as it spits out all the garbage inside it, and then it evens out (so they’re products with diminishing visible returns, but keep you constantly a-okay – kind of like Proactiv!)

  1. COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A Sol – this is a toner you use to bring your skin down to the proper pH for the actives to work properly. I think when I use the Hada Labo Cleanser I won’t need this, but I’m scared of ballsing up the actives so I’m going to use it anyways. Wait 15 minutes.
  2. COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid – the Internet agrees that this is The Stuff. The Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid apparently leaves you greasy like a oil slick so no thanks. Wait just til it absorbs, and then
  3. COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid – for all that other gross crap in your skin. Wait 20 minutes so they can neutralize and so you don’t mess them up with your next product.

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Exfoliator: This is a 2-3 time a week thing; you don’t want to go nuts with it. Unless doing it more frequently works for you, I guess, apparently. God. I hate this.

  1. SkinFood Black Sugar Wash-Off Mask – people lose their minds over this, idk. Scrub that shit on your face and then wash it off.
  2. Cure Natural Aqua Gel – another Japanese product women swear by. This is a chemical exfoliator – you use it one or two times a month in place of the regular scrub. Basically what happens is you put a thin layer on your skin and then you see it turn into all these little balls all over your face and they are BALLS OF YOUR OWN FUCKING DEAD-ASS SKIN HOLY SHIT

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Toner: Etude House Moistfull Freshener
I can’t believe I’m using a product line called “Moistfull” on my face but these are the depths to which I have fallen in my desperation. Toner in K-beauty is way different than American heavy-alcohol, rip-every-drop-of-moisture-from-your-faceholes toner; this stuff just preps your face to absorb all the moisturizers you’re about to stack on top of it (whatever that means). The Moistfull line has a lot of collagen so it’s good for anti-aging; it was also readily-available in Japan, so I got a lot from them. In future I may try Su:m37’s Waterfull Refresher or SkinFood Peach Sake Toner (good for acne apparently!)

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Essence: Etude House Moistfull Essence
Basically the entirety of the Internet wants you to know that Essence is the reason Korean women look as good as they do all the damn time, but despite that I still can’t figure out what the fuck it actually IS. It’s like… a light, liquid-y moisturizer?? Fuck if I know. I’m using this collagen one, but got samples of the slightly more expensive Missha First Treatment Essence, which is supposed to be comparable to the holy grail of essences, the $100+ one made by SK-II; but I would literally only ever shell out that much money for a made-up beauty product if Jensen Ackles himself descended from the sky to apply it lovingly to my face before returning to the clouds whispering “Destiel is canon.”

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Ampoule: Etude House Moistfull Ampoule
I don’t even fucking know anymore; I guess ampoules are like super-concentrated liquids that intensely do whatever specific thing that particular ampoule is supposed to do (??? What). Anyways, sticking with the collagen, though I might later try the Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule, purely because it promises to active science on my face.

masks

Face Mask Party!! Here’s where you put on those weird Jason-looking motherfuckers, the sheet masks that are soaked in different ingredients. The Korean ones are meant to be used about twice a week and come in all different flavours (brightness, anti-aging, moisture, etc. – the Etude House variety pack is great for first-timers); but everyone in Japan is legit ALL ABOUT LuLuLun masks, which are designed to be used daily. I got a box of the pink ones (normal, hydrating) and a box of new ruby ones that came out for Christmas that I don’t know what the heck they do because it was all in Japanese and they’re too new for online reviews, but they had bees on the sign so I went for it. I got a Tony Moly Lip Patch, too, because I hate my perpetually-dehydrated lips, and some Etude House Collagen Eye Patches just for the under-eye area. You leave these on for like 20 minutes to an hour while whomever you live with makes fun of you.

 

emulsions

Emulsion: Okay, I guess this is like the K-beauty version of moisturizer, though apparently there are “emulsions” (lighter) and “creams” (heavier). There are also gels which are like for daytime??? Fuck me, I don’t know, I got three in a blind panic.

  1. Etude House Moistfull Emulsion – moist
  2. Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream – apparently (ethically harvested) snail shit is like healing face magic and you’re supposed to rub it all over yourself to look good forever?
  3. Kosé Sekkisei Emulsion – this is THE fancy-ass moisturizer in Japan.

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Eye Cream: Etude House Moistfull Eye Cream
The internet’s favorite Moistfull product. I’m gonna be so fuckin’ moist, you guys.

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Night Pack: Tony Moly Dual Effect Sleep Pack
I think this is called an “occlusive” maybe? It seals in all that garbage you just put on your face overnight. I also got samples of the Laneige Water Sleep Pack, which people say is a Korean skincare gateway product; but as you may have noticed, my gate is way the heck down already.

So… that’s it. That’s the whole shebang. At night, on days where I would exfoliate and face mask, that puts me at like 14 steps? With wait times for the actives and the mask? That being said, I doubt there would be a day where I would have to do ALL THE THINGS. Plus, in the mornings you can reduce your routine – I think Foaming Cleanser, Toner, Eye Cream, Essence, Emulsion (exactly the number of steps I do currently with Proactiv, which is 3 steps, plus eye cream and moisturizer). Some people add a “facial mist” but am I not already so fuckin’ moist?????? Same with the v. popular “facial massage,” like, I just don’t know, man. I don’t know.

sunscreen

The other important thing to note here is how huge sunscreen is as a daily under-make-up thing. When I first read that, I was hella grossed out because sunscreen is thick and white and gloopy and break-out causing no matter how “face friendly.” But fear not, friends; apparently Asian sunscreens are WAY different, and the best ones are Japanese. They’re all SPF 50+ (UVB protection for sunburn), and they have this second rating system called “PA” for UVA protection as well, (against aging and cancer). The newest and best rating is PA++++ (lmfao what even, damn). I nabbed Bioré UV Aqua Rich (people love this stuff and it has no white tint) and Shiseido SENKA Mineral Water (nearly impossible to find in stores in Japan, even, it’s so popular). The other point of interest here is that AHAs are photosensitive, so you’re basically fucked to hell if you don’t protect your face.

This is way longer than I thought it would be, but that is all the knowledge I have to give. If you have knowledge you would like to give me, please hit me up on Twitter @SamMaggs. Let it never be said that I don’t take clear skin seriously. I know it would be so much easier to just stay on Proactiv, but I’m really afraid I’m going to look like the cryptkeeper by 35 if I keep it up.

I’ll be posting about my progress as I go so, you know, try to contain your excitement about the future state of my potential facial outbreaks. THANKS FOR READING IF YOU’RE STILL HERE.

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PS That took two and a half hours of flight time, heck yeah. 9 more to go.

PPS Before you have a heart attack over my wallet, everything was SO CHEAP in Japan – that DHC Oil Cleanser was $6 as opposed to the $28 it retails for on Amazon. So don’t worry!