All terms related to Korea in this post here-forth will only refer to South Korea.
I am surprised I have not written a post about (South) Korean cosmetics by now. I searched “korean” in my blog and it turns out I have not blogged about K-Pop, either. I will definitely spend more time writing about my knowledge of Korean culture. Perhaps I should start by saying I’m eating the leftovers of last night’s Korean BBQ (pork belly, spicy pork, and bulgogi). Sometimes, we visit Korean markets in the valley (shout out to Greenland and Galleria. Square, your bulgogi is terrible and that is sad) and buy different meats and sides for a KBBQ night with our portable grill.
Currently, Korean skincare is the talk of my family. It began a month ago when my mom needed a new skin care regimen. Her Retinol products from Sally Beauty were losing their power, and she asked me, with all my internet wisdom, if I knew of any products she might like. I knew Korean culture emphasized beauty, so I researched and read how Korean women typically prep their faces. I don’t know if Korean men (or other genders unrepresented) prep their skin, but, boy, do these women take skin care seriously! One thing they do (that every other East Asian country seems to do) is stay AWAY from the sun before their skin can even begin tanning. It is hard to blame these cultures for hiding in the shade, for too much sun can damage the skin, sometimes to the point of skin cancer. (Please realize there is racism as a result of this idea; although, I’m not saying every shade-worshipper is racist.) For this reason, SPF30 and higher plays a HUGE role in Korean makeup.
To sum it up, the steps of the typical routine go like this for morning and night.
1. Cleansing Wipes (night)
2. Cleansing Oil (night)
3. Foam or Cream Cleanser
3.5. Exfoliator (1-3 times/month)
4. Toner/Refresher/Skin Booster (hydrating, not astringent; Korean, not Western)
5. Eye Cream
5.5. Sheet Mask (night only, 1-3 times/week)
9. Sunscreen (morning)
You may notice that lots of Western brands, especially luxury, have been inspired by Korean skin culture, whether it is an ingredient or type of product. I noticed LOTS of unaccredited Korean inspiration in my recent March 2015 issue of Elle. There was an article on the double cleansing method that did not mention Korea once (oil cleanser then cream cleanser, best for people who wear makeup on the daily), an ad for Shiseido (Japanese company), an ad for Neutrogena’s new water gel (which looks almost like a sleeping pack or something comparable to Missha’s Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream), and, last but not least, BB.
The BB phenomenon that started 2-3 years ago never ceases to amaze me. Not only did we take something called “Blemish Balm” and add “cream” to the end of it, we created CC cream (which is pretty much the same as BB), DD cream, and EE cream. But wait, didn’t you know that the Koreans popularized the BB, or did Western culture slip past that one, too? They are probably the catalyst to the popularity of Korean skin care.
To end this post, here are some little tidbits I learned from the internet about Korean cosmetics.
- AmorePacific is like the Helen of Troy of Korea in that they own SO MANY POPULAR BRANDS
- AmorePacific’s brand, Laniege, can be found at your local Target
- SkinFood has stores in some malls
- Sephora carries brands like Shiseido, Sulwhasoo, and Tony Moly
- Little Saigon has stores, like Gigi’s Cosmetics, which also carry Shiseido and other high-end East Asian brands
- San Gabriel also has stores, like Shun Fat Superstore, which carry O HUI(?), IOPE, and other high-end East Asian brands
- Nature Republic opened one of their very few North American stores in Los Angeles’s Santee Alley (which I visited and will tell later)
- Koreans enjoy incorporating luxury Western brands, like Estee Lauder and Chanel
- Korean cosmetics cater to East Asian skin, along with sensitive types. Additionally, some people say Black skin is similar to East Asian skin, regarding reactions to products. That being said, many Black women also enjoy using East Asian skin care
- Because of the (unfortunate) hype over pure, snow white skin, many products claim to have whitening effects
Edit: I’d like to make note that Korean-inspired and owned brand Forever 21 has copied ideas from TONYMOLY, and perhaps other brands. For example, TONYMOLY features a popular green apple peeling cream and lip balm, and F21 sells a green apple hand cream and lip balm. I would love to try the Forever 21 products and the TONYMOLY peeling cream.
Edit 2: For another TONYMOLY copied product from F21, here is a review. Also, I realize the F21 hand cream looks much more like Baviphat packaging. I did not know much about that brand until I found it on eBay.