What K-Beauty Taught Me – The Good & Bad
K-Beauty took off like wildfire a few years ago. As someone who grew up in Queens, K-Beauty was always around me since the early 2000s. There was a Missha, Face Shop, and a Shiseido all on the way to high school. I did not dabble in it then, because I didn’t understand what a softener/essence was or why I would need it, there was often a language barrier and finally I felt too much moisture=bad for acne prone/oily skin. I’m pretty sure my age and the demographic I belonged to didn’t exactly scream ‘POTENTIAL CUSTOMER’ to the salespeople.
By the time I started reading Skin & Tonic’s blog, I had understood and embraced the importance of double/oil/balm cleansing, acids, and a healthy moisture barrier. What I didn’t know was how well the Korean companies did it – by creating affordable, effective products at an easily attainable price range. ANYONE could have a multi-step routine! AND it didn’t have to be so strong! Your acids could be gentle! Your skin loves moisture! Dew is good! There was comparable products in every price range, cute/innovative packaging, and interesting new ingredients. I spent hours pouring over each brand, product, star ingredients like purslane, ginseng, propolis, galactomyces, niacinamide, and all the fermented goodnesses. I started to understand the benefits of layering but I also discovered how easy it is to get completely carried away by overconsumption and product overload. This is the part that I think a lot of new, beginner K-Beauty fans gloss over.
- Too many products, OVERKILL: There are so many brands, products, and recommendations that you can feel like you want to try it ALL. I know I did! And K-Beauty brand marketer’s are geniuses – they know they have to keep you hooked – there is so much competition between brands, they often update their products to make it ‘better’ and affordable to keep you interested. You do your research, search through r/AsianBeauty for recommendations, you read other’s reviews and then you FINALLY get your products. It is very hard to resist doing the entire routine right then and there, isn’t it? After all, you know what to expect, you did your due diligence, you read everything there was to read. And then a few weeks later – you have no idea what it could be that’s causing your skin’s reaction because you’ve just applied 10 brand new products to your face. START SLOW. You need to build it up slowly. 3 key steps is truly enough and those 3, in my opinion, are a (1) good cleansing routine, (2) an active, and (3) sunscreen/moisturizer. That’s like, 5 products that sit on your face per day after cleansing, if you are alternating your actives & layering hydration. Why use 10 products when there’s awesome benefits with less? There’s no steadfast rule that you have to use 10-12 products to achieve that K-Beauty glass skin – it’s a marketing ploy. Not to mention it’ll be much easier to narrow down a potential irritant. And less waste!
- There is such a thing as TOO MUCH hyaluronic acid: Using too much hyaluronic acid can lead to inflammation, not sealing it with an occlusive can cause your skin to be drier, AND there’s different types of hyaluronic acid too. There are high molecular HA and low molecular weight HA – the latter being tied to inflammation. Almost every essence, serum or hydrator step product was touting hyaluronic acid – I was happily applying away. I noticed while my skin was sufficiently hydrated but I had pesky, pimple-like bumps on my inner cheeks. They never came to a head, but they were just.. there. No amount of masking, exfoliating, or moisturizing was helping. It was visible with makeup. Once I read about the differences in low vs high HA molecules, I decided to cut it out of my routine to see if I miss it. TBH, I don’t. One product with HA is enough in a routine, whether it’s 10 steps or 3. The Cut has a good article on this.
- Gentle acids can be good: I was using Biologique Recherche’s P50 for years before I decided to try CosRX’s BHA Blackhead Power Liquid & AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid. K-Beauty brands like Benton & CosRX do a gentle acid well & they are not stripping/drying. Surprisingly, I had better results with CosRX Blackhead Power Liquid than I did with Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid.
Overall, I think K-Beauty’s popularity has done a great job of encouraging people to take the time for self-care in the form of a thorough routine. It’s very relaxing coming home and taking off all your makeup or morning skincare, rinsing the day away, clearing and nourishing your skin. You’re focusing on you and what you were born with, every day and night. It’s also put the focus on unique formulas and ingredients creating a demand for product types that more companies are beginning to fill (essences, BB/CC creams). K-Beauty has also shown that you can have effective products at affordable prices. You don’t need to have THE strongest acid toner, or retinol, or scrub, moisturizer or cleanser to eradicate your skin problems.
Favorite K-Beauty Products
Aloe BHA Skin Toner
High Content Snail Bee Essence
Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream
Low pH Good Morning Cleanser
BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid
Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
Black Sugar Strawberry Wash Off Mask
First Care Activating Serum
Overnight Vitalizing Mask
Holy Snails – This is not K-Beauty but it is K-Beauty inspired, woman owned, and hand made. I loved these!
First Snow Essence (formerly Snowbang)
Shark Sauce – my favorite version is Great White Shark, which includes 10% MAP
Favorite K-Beauty Oil/Balm Cleansers
Banila Co Clean It Zero
Heimish All Clean Balm
The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Oil Light