As we have established, I have a weakness for skin care products and routines. I spend a little time as possible doing my makeup, that is if I do anything at all. Therefore, I need the healthiest skin I can possibly have, so I have always been into skin care. I have used Murad, Principal Secret, Clarins, Clinique, Meaningful Beauty, Mario Badescu, you name it, I probably bought it.
My latest fascination started when I took my daughter to see her favorite band, Korean K-pop sensation, BTS. The concert was amazing and frankly we looked great thanks to Stitch Fix which you can read about here if you are interested K-Pop Fashion Stitch Fix. I came away from the concert with a new appreciation for the band, their music and Korean culture. If you want to check out BTS’s music, here is a link to my Spotify playlist with my favorite songs. BTS Favorites Playlist
Imagine my delight when I found out that Koreans are obsessed with skin care just like me. Oh my goodness, so many, many products, brands, YouTube videos, sheet masks, ampoules, serums, books, theories, routines, did I mention the products, there are literally thousands? Heaven for a skin care addict like me. I went completely down the rabbit hole.
Piper and I decided to do a mother daughter skin care project. It was not hard to convince her since she is obsessed with all things Korean, and I was buying. Since I got no jams when it comes to crafts, I consider this my digital scrapbook, and this will the journal of our venture into the world of Korean Skin Care. The latest of our life projects here at Chez Mayhem. You are welcome to follow along if you find it helpful, informative, fascinating, inspiring, horrifying, amusing or any combination thereof.
What’s Different: Korean vs. American Approach to Skin Care
When I started hearing about Korean skin care the only thing I knew was there were a lot of steps, the packaging was cute but kind of juvenile and they use weird and exotic ingredients. Turns out all of this is true, but there is so much more to learn. After a lot of research, the following what I discovered to be some of the primary differences between the American and Korean approach to skin care.
A Patient Approach
The Koreans are in this for the long haul. While they may want, they do not emphasis fast results. In America, faster is better and immediate is best. None of the products I researched, with the exception of some masks, even mentioned fast results. They all emphasis nourishing and protecting the skin. Clearly, they are playing the long game.
In our culture, we have a very can-do attitude. If it’s not working right we can fix it through hard work and ingenuity. If we have a pimple we will blast it into oblivion. If our skin is dry we will smother it in cream until it can’t drink up anymore.
The Koreans seem to approach it with more patience. They gently cleanse, balance the ph levels and replace the oils with light layers of products. They draw pimples out with sheer patches rather than squeezing and then drying them out. When skin is dry, they use hydrating toners and watery essence which allows the skin to slow sip up the hydration and hold onto it. In short, they are more like the caring parent of their skin, rather than the overly enthusiastic coach.
It’s Ingrained in the Culture
Good skin care habits starts young in Korea and they are not the sole province of women. Much like we teach our kids to brush their teeth (and floss, don’t forget to floss) twice a day, Koreans teach their kids to wash their faces, and, empathize the need to apply sunscreen everyday.
In America, skin care is by and large a female endeavor. Oh sure you have the random male advocate for good skin care, but the average American man thinks it is perfectly acceptable to use the bar soap in the shower on his face. Yes, the same soap that just lathered up his chest, feet and hind quarters. Guys are generally not that concerned about their skin until it is broken out or damaged from abuse, then they might take action, maybe.
More Korean men view skin care as just part of daily life. I doubt they all participate in 10 step routines or have the flawless makeup of a K-pop idols, but they are clearly more active participants in beauty culture, which may explain why Korea has so many brands and stores. You have to admit for a country of 51 million people they produce a huge share of the world’s skin care products.
Biology vs. Chemistry
In America we love skin care products with ingredients cooked up in a lab that are effective and efficient. Better living through chemistry. A striking feature of Korean products is the reliance on things found in nature like birch sap, licorice root, honey, green tea, apple juice and yes, snail muscin (aka slime).
The descriptions of these products talk about things like supporting, nourishing and brightening the skin. There is rarely any hyperbole or sales language in the descriptions, or maybe there is but since it’s in Korean I don’t see it. One brand, COSRX replaces water in most of its products with natural liquids like willow bark water, and alcohol is used very sparingly. Water and some form of alcohol are used in almost every product in American.
Of course there are some chemicals in Korean products, especially in the sunscreens, but they are far more reliant on natural ingredients, than their American counterparts.
In my next post I will go over the most well-known feature of Korean skin care, the multi-step approach. If you are interested in learning more, you can check it out here on Dazey Mayhem. I would love to hear your experiences with Korean Skin Care and recommendations.