Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My Skincare and Me

A little over a year ago, I started using the Korean 10-step skincare routine, and y'all, I can't even lie. It is intimidating for the uninitiated. You look at all the steps and the products available, and you probably hyperventilate a little bit. Where in the hell do you even begin? Now that I'm used to it, I have it pared down to about seven minutes on a regular day (when I'm not doing one or two of the steps, but I'll get to that in a bit), but at the beginning, I wasn't sure I was going to stick with it. I was overwhelmed and wanted to go back to simpler times, where I just used Clean and Clear, night cream, and SPF. But I wanted to make a change. For half a decade, I let a lot of things, slide, and one of those was staying healthy. Even brushing my teeth was left by the wayside. A lot of this was caused by depression, and the fact that I was slowly deteriorating into a deeper depression was because self-care was just not even on my radar any longer.

This routine is about self-care, really: taking the time to pamper your body after a grueling workday. The US system seems to be all about on-the-go, which is fine, but it's more like an afterthought, at least for me*. At first, the whole idea of self-care just seemed frivolous, at best, and selfish, at worst, but eventually I realized it's an important part of survival. I can't do what I actually want to do if I'm constantly burning the candle at both ends, incapable of giving any further once I'm all burnt out. Yes, having a skincare regimen is a small thing when you put it in a global perspective, but it puts me in a mindset of, yes, I deserve to be treated well, even if it's just me doing it.

Once I'd gotten the hang of going through the steps - I had to refer to different websites pretty regularly - I actually started caring a bit more about me. I picked out vitamins for the first time in years and started going for jogs, eating a bit healthier, getting more sleep. I mean, the last few months, I haven't been too consistent on many things, but the skincare? Oh, that's for keeps.
Via Palmer's
The first two steps are all about the cleansing: first an oil-based cleanser, followed by a foam- or water-based one, designed to remove your makeup, any dirt and excess oil, and whatever other particles may have ended up on your skin. Right now, I'm using Palmer's Skin Therapy Cleansing Oil: Face because it was at my local Walgreen's and I hadn't been able to order any of what I usually use - Face Shop Rice Water Light Cleansing Oil - but I actually kind of love it as a replacement. The scent is really soft and floral, and it rinses off a lot more easily than I thought it would.
Via Amazon
For the foam-based cleanser, I use Neogen's Real Fresh Foam Green Tea (click the link above), which seriously, I rave about all the time. It's so gentle and smells amazing, and although I've tried a lot of different cleansers over the past year, this is my go-to. My face feels so fresh afterward that I almost want to just call it a day and go about my business. But I don't. Because this is only step two. While double cleansing is definitely the base of the entire Korean skincare system, it is 100% about prepping your skin for what comes next.
Via Sokoglam
The third step is exfoliation, and this is not a step you need to do every day of the week. It's actually recommended that you do not exfoliate more than two or three times per week, depending on your skin's condition because it can actually damage it. Like I said before, I've been very lucky in that I don't have breakouts too often, even as a teen, so I usually only exfoliate once or twice during the week, and those are on what I call my "spa days." I use Skinfood's Black Sugar Mask Wash Off, which is probably one of my favorite things in my skincare cabinet. It smells like you can eat it - please do not do this - and I love how soft my skin feels after I rinse it off. I will tell you this: it will look like you have a really bad fake suntan while you wait the fifteen minutes before you remove it, so be prepared for some weird looks and possibly mockery, depending on your living situation.
Via Beautyholics
The fourth step is toner, which is not your grandmother's toner. I use Skinfood Peach Sake toner, designed to refine pores in addition to providing the moisture that your cleansing just removed from your face. I don't necessarily have gaping pores, but I definitely noticed a minimizing of blackheads once I started using this stuff. Granted, I only really need this during the summer because of sweat and excess oil due to the heat, so for the winter months, I'll be using something different (I just haven't figured it out yet). It'll probably be another Skinfood product because I adore that brand.
Via The Kelsthetic Realm
For the fifth step, I apply Skinfood Peach Sake emulsion, and before you ask, "what the fuck is emulsion," let me tell you: it's a thin, liquid-like lotion that adds extra nutrients and moisture to your skin. From what I've read, emulsions are better for people with oilier skin because it won't clog your pores like a thicker lotion would, so if you're looking for something to replace your moisturizing lotion and also get a hint as to what the Korean skincare routine is about, I highly recommend trying an emulsion. Skinfood (obvs, because I'm apparently an unofficial spokesperson for them now) has several amazing lines**, as do Etude House, The Face Shop, Innisfree, Tonymoly, and countless other Korean companies, so you'll have plenty of options. Emulsions are also called essences, and these are the core of Korean skincare. They are what the cleansing and toner get your skin ready for, and they're what the following steps build upon.
Via Favful
The sixth step is another one of those that isn't necessary unless you have a skin issue, such as discoloration, large pores, or acne. I use Skin&Lab Red Serum to help even out my skin tone and add even more moisture, but I only apply it at night because it's fairly thick and probably because I just like to be contrary. I only recently started to use this, so I may change my tune and go back to being sixth-step-free, but only time will tell how that goes. Also, the sixth step may be cost prohibitive for a lot of people; the ampoules and serums tend to be on the expensive side of things (the Red Serum cost me about $35). At the same time, they do last a while, since you only have to use three to four drops at a time, so I'll leave that decision up to you.
Via Pretty Gossip
And now for my favorite step, seven, which is another one that I only complete when I exfoliate: sheet masks! I know you've seen them, and yes, you do look absolutely ridiculous with it on your face, but who actually cares? You'll be in your home, watching Netflix or whatever it is you want to do, and you'll look and feel amazing afterward. Anyway, I most recently used Tonymoly's I'm Real Red Wine mask sheet, and I am totally going to buy more. I have the tomato one that I'll be putting on in the next couple of days, too, and after browsing through Ulta's website, I see they have so. many. more. that. I. have. to. try. I also have to get the sheet mask featured above, because who doesn't want to look like a panda as they're moisturizing the shit out of their face?
Via Pinterest
After you've patted off the excess product from your sheet mask (or just let it sit and absorb on your face), it's on to step eight. Eye cream is something I've always been a little iffy about because I wear contacts, and the creams tend to get into my eyes and make my contacts foggy even after I've taken them out and cleaned them. But I found Mizon's Collagen Power Firming eye cream that is actually a gel that doesn't cause me any issues at all. I really want to try one of the snail mucin eye creams because several of my friends have literally been yelling at me about how much I'd love them, so that may be my next purchase once my little tube runs out.
Via W2Beauty
Step nine is definitely one that should not be skipped ever. I actually have a day routine and a night routine here, and a lot of websites have step nine as the sleep mask number, in case you've seen something different elsewhere on this great invention called the internet. But essentially? This step is the final moisturizing step. For the day, I use Skinfood Yuja Water C Cream, and for the night, I use Nature Republic Aqua: Super Aqua Mask (for which I can thank my sister for introducing me to this wonderful cream). I put on more at night for obvious reasons ... well, maybe not obvious. I'm going to be sleeping and I want this to absorb into my skin overnight, so if I have plenty on, it's basically a moisture pack mask. Did I mention the Korean system is pretty focused on moisturizing? Because it is.
Via Missha
Finally, step ten is SPF. Obviously, you're not going to be putting on SPF when you go to sleep - unless you have a night job and sunlight creeps through your windows while you're catching z's, so in that case, please feel free to do so - but in my morning routine, I always slather on sunscreen after I've completed everything else. Now, this is kind of a weird thing with Korea, because the culture has an obsession with very fair skin. I mean, so does our culture, but that's another topic for another time and probably another blog***. Besides that, though, having SPF on your skin prevents skin cancer, discoloration, wrinkles, and other damage that our sun's rays can cause. Basically, wear sunscreen, y'all. Your older self will thank you for it. I use Missha Soft Finish Sun Milk, because it's not greasy at all (plus, it was on sale for ridiculously cheap; I really lucked out there), but I recommend pretty much any Korean sunscreen. They are made specifically to be able to be worn under makeup and I've found that they are a lot less irritating on my skin than sunscreens made in the US. And there your skincare regimen concludes. Well, until the next time.

Yes, this is an intense system, I know, and it's definitely not for everyone. Well, the seemingly endless amount of products are designed to attack every skin issue possible, so technically it is for everyone, but I can understand if somebody was like, "Nope, too much to do." There are mornings where I kick myself for sticking with it because it means I have to get up earlier than I want, but most of the time, like when you force yourself to go work out, I end up smiling as I look at how great my skin looks. And honestly, I know it looks incredibly shallow to spend as much time and money on something as temporal as skin elasticity and what-have-you, but it's an important step for me to want to care about myself again. I've got a confidence in myself that I haven't had in years, and even though I'm not 100% at this point, I'm getting there. So every morning and every night before bed, I'm going to whip out my skin products and wash all the shit off, reminding myself that I am worth it.

* I've been genetically lucky with my skin. Both of my parents do not look like they're in their 60s, and I've been mistaken for a woman in my early to mid-twenties, even now at almost 34 years old. If I had started actually using regular skincare much earlier, I might actually look younger, which isn't necessarily a thing I want because youth and beauty, like Carrie Fisher said, are not accomplishments, merely "temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA." God, I miss her.
** I think I'm going to try their Royal Honey toner and emulsion for the winter, but feel free to browse the site for others that might be more attuned to you. Or hell, use Amazon.
*** I am a white person, and my skin color has given me great advantage, so any discussion on how skin color affects other people should not be discussed by me.
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