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A Realistic Beginner's Guide to K-Beauty in 5 Easy Steps

One of my most popular posts to date has been my post on 10 Korean beauty brands easily accessible in the US. So I thought I would expand on that and chat a bit more about how approachable K-beauty is! I'm not going to say it's a series... mostly because I can't think of a good name for said series πŸ˜…

It's pretty common to come across sensationalized articles about how complex and ridiculous a 10 step Korean beauty routine. Just about every major beauty site has an article titled "I did a 10 step Korean routine for one month and here's what happened." I've got some beef with that.

First off it perpetuates the silly notion that every man, woman, and child living in South Korea is following a strictly regimented 10 step routine every day and night. Spoiler alert: the whole "10 step" business is largely a marketing ploy to sell shit. (Although second spoiler alert: I've totally bought into it πŸ™ˆ)

My second issue is the othering that often times surrounds K-beauty. Without getting into it too much, let's just say that as a POC and former anthropology major, I hate words like "ethnic" and "exotic" because they create an unnecessary divide where Western culture is considered the standard.

I don't enjoy Korean skincare because it's from Asia and therefore ~*mystical*~ and a whole host of other fetishized words. I enjoy Korean skincare because it approaches beauty from a different angle and is ultimately very effective for me. Jude aka Fifty Shades of Snail wrote an intro to Asian Skincare on the AB subreddit that sums up all the feels much better than I did.

So here are 5 steps philosophies that I've picked up from being a Korean skincare enthusiast for the past year! I don't believe in a one size fits all approach to beauty but I think most people could benefit from all of these steps.

This post is a collaboration with one of my favorite K-beauty e-shops: Ohlolly! If you follow me on Instagram then you know that we collaborated on a giveaway last week. The winner of the giveaway is at the end of the post! And if you were bummed you didn't win, fret not because they were also kind enough to share a discount code! From now until the 15th you can use the code "SHARM20" to receive 20% off your order on their site! Please check the end of the post to see the terms and conditions for the promo 😎




1. Double Cleansing
I don't like to think about my life in the pre-double cleansing days. Those were dark times. I used to use abrasive makeup wipes and drying cleansers and was left with a face drier than the Sahara 😣

Double cleansing is exactly what it sounds like: cleansing doubly. But instead of using the same cleanser twice, it usually employs an oil based cleanser for the first step and a traditional cleanser for the second step.

The oil based cleanser should wipe off all the sunscreen, makeup, and sweat that's been chilling on your face all day long. Because the oil cleanser is... oil based, it does a much better job than a water based cleanser at removing things like sweat and waterproof makeup. If you go back to your high school chemistry class you may remember the saying "like dissolves like."  The concept is the same here. Your oil cleanser will cleanse the oil based gunk on your face better than a water based cleanser.

If you're afraid that your skin will turn into a shiny mess from rubbing oil all over your face, fret not because properly formulated oil cleansers will turn milky when mixed with water and rinse easily off your face! The Heimish all clean balm is one of those cleansers πŸ˜‰

In case there's any residue that your oil cleanser wasn't able to cleanse off, that's where your traditional second cleanser comes in. And if you're bored with your usual second cleaners, fret not because there are more exciting options out there. I introduce to you: the stick cleanser! Unlike your boring old cleansers that come out of a bottle, stick cleansers are literal sticks that you get to wipe all over your face. I'm boring and have yet to try any, but would recommend the Su:m37 miracle cleaning stick and Neogen green tea cleansing stick to people who are interested (since I've read a bazillion positive reviews on them both.)



2. Gentle Chemical Exfoliation
I'm pretty sure I've waxed on about the beauty of chemical exfoliation 100 times but I can't help myself so here's time 101.

Chemical exfoliation works on a different level than physical exfoliation and the results show. I talked about it a bit over on Instagram this weekend, but chemical exfoliants work on a molecular level and if used correctly, are much gentler than physical exfoliants. They work by breaking down the bonds between your dead skin molecules as opposed to physical exfoliation which rubs off those same dead skin cells.

In the long term, chemical exfoliation can help fade dark spots and ghosts of acne past. Those are results you can't get from physical exfoliants.

The reason I titled this step gentle chemical exfoliation and not just chemical exfoliation is because I find most K-beauty chemical exfoliants as a whole to be gentler than ones you can buy at CVS or Sephora. Instead of blasting your face with 15% glycolic acid all at once, most K-beauty chemical exfoliants feature lower concentrations and focus on long-term results. Some of them also use exfoliants you don't frequently see in American products such as mandelic acid which is relatively gentle due to its large molecular size.

Lately, I've been testing the A'Pieu aqua peeling cotton swabs I was gifted from Ohlolly. It contains 5% lactic acid and is incredibly gentle. Also because it's packaged individually, they're easy to use on the go. I know I'll definitely be packing some when I go on vacation later this summer.

3. Sheet Masking
Sheet Masking is the literal face of K-beauty in the US.

Even if you know next to nothing about K-beauty, you probably know about sheet masks.

They can target a whole host of issues and can deliver a wide variety of active ingredients. There's a good reason they're beauty game changers.

If you have dry skin, a sheet mask is obviously a fantastic way to pack a bunch of moisture into your skin. But sheet masks aren't only for dry skin.

If you suffer from hyperpigmentation or acne scars, you can use a mask packed with brightening ingredients like arbutin and niacinamide to even your skin tone in the long run and give you a glow immediately post sheet mask.

If you suffer from acne or excess oil you can try a sheet mask with tea tree oil or witch hazel extract to help zap those zits and regulate your oiliness.

If you've got a skin issue to combat, chances are there's a sheet mask out there to help you out!

Some of my favorite sheet masks are the Leaders 7 wonders masks, the Polatam water gel masks, and the Papa Recipe bombee honey masks-- you can get the latter two for 20% off with the discount code πŸ˜‰

4. Properly Moisturizing
Like many teens, I assumed the best way to combat my acne was by drying the hell out of my face. I assumed oily skin =acne ridden skin. Unfortunately, that equation didn't hold true.

Doesn't matter what type of skin you have, moisturizing is πŸ”‘πŸ”‘πŸ”‘πŸ”‘

Moisturized skin is happy skin!

I'm trying to think of more to say here, but I can't because moisturizing is something I consider so intrinsic. It helps you look alive. It helps your skin from producing excess oils from being so dry. It helps soften the appearance of wrinkles. It's πŸ”‘

Of course everyone needs different amounts and types of moisturizer. Depending on your skin type and where you live, you may need the lightest of lotions or the heaviest of oils and moisturizers and sleeping packs.

Lately I've been testing out the Huxley anti-gravity cream (gifted by Ohlolly) which is so thick and so πŸ‘  damn πŸ‘  good πŸ‘  It's composed of 50% prickly pear extract which is not only yummy, but also very nourishing for your skin! If you've got oily skin and are looking for something lighter I would recommend something like the Cosrx oil-free ultra moisturizing lotion with birch sap.

Of course, if you like to be a little extra like me (or you also get dry midday), you can refresh yourself with a mist. The travel sized Pyunkang Yul mist is perfectly sized to throw in your bag and use throughout the day.




5. Sun Protection
I've thankfully been an avid wearer of sunscreen since my teens so this wasn't necessarily something I learned after getting into K-beauty.

Buuuut I did learn that Asian sunscreens are simply superior to their Western counterparts. If you hate the heavy sticky feeling that accompanies many sunscreens, try out a sunscreen by a Korean or Taiwanese or Japanese brand. Even the Korean sunscreens that I've tried and not liked are superior to most of the Western ones I've tried.

My top two favorites at the moment are the Mommy UV mild gel and the Heimish Artless Glow Base which happens to double as a makeup primer. You may remember it from the review I wrote a few months ago.

If you're only going to follow one of these steps, let it be this one. Not only does sunscreen protect you against skin cancer, it's also helpful for more superficial reasons! Sun damage is one of the biggest causes of aging. And if you suffer from acne scarring, sun damage can darken those spots!

In my humble opinion, if you spend the time and money to take care of your skin but skip sunscreen, it's a waste. You're not maximizing your investment unless you use sunscreen. Certain products like AHAs will make your skin hypersensitive to the sun meaning you could potentially be doing more damage than good by using them without sunscreen. Other products like Vitamin C serums are much more potent when used in combination with sunscreen.



And those are 5 of the steps/ philosophies that I learned from being a K-beauty addict! And now onto the winner of the giveaway *drumroll*
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The winner is @sarahs_skincare! Please email your shipping info to hello@ohlolly.com to receive your prize.

And like I said if you didn't win, fret not because you can still get 20% off the Ohlolly site until the 15th with the code "SHARM20" (non-referral so I don't get any commission if you chose to use it.) Only one code per order and all items are final sale with the coupon. They also offer free US shipping on all orders over $50! And they ship internationally as well 😎




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