Since 2010, Korean BB cream has been a hit in the cosmetic and beauty industry across the globe. Like its predecessors, it has positioned itself as the ideal all-in-one solution. Unfortunately, many consumers have become wary of any product that promises the ability to take care of multiple beauty problems simultaneously. This raises the question of whether or not Korean cream should really be considered an all-in-one solution.
The best place to start is with what this cream says it can do. Most creams state they are a combination moisturizer, primer, sun screen, foundation, and anti-aging cream. To find out if Korean cream can really replace all of these products, it is critical to take a closer look at the ingredients. The easiest product to see BB creams replicate is sun screen. There is no doubt that this creams offer a certain level of SPF protection. In fact, most of them are at least an SPF 30. This ensures they offer effective sun protection. In fact, this is equal to or greater than the amount of sun protection recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. Many creams take it a step further by adding zinc oxide or titanium oxide. This not only provides a physical sunblock but also makes them water resistant.
These creams are tinted, which means they can act as a foundation replacement. The key is choosing a BB cream that is the correct color for the skin it will be applied to. When selecting the cream color, the same process should be followed that is used when selecting a foundation color.
Many Korean creams also include a number of ingredients which have been proven to be effective moisturizers. These ingredients are typically hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Not only are they excellent moisturizers, but they are often considered to be the key ingredients in popular stand-alone moisturizers.
The final ability BB creams promise is anti-aging properties. Great BB creams includes a number of ingredients which have proven anti-aging properties. For example, licorice and arbutin are great at helping someone even out their skin tone. Mica is another beneficial ingredient because it helps create a luminous, youthful finish. Plus, the additional of silicone-based ingredients like dimethicone can smooth out skin. This not only acts a primer but can help eliminate the appearance of small wrinkles.
Like any beauty product, the key to success is in the ingredients. It is important to remember that all Korean BB cream is the same. Always take a close look at the ingredients to discover which one is right for a particular type of skin.
Our skin has a natural protective barrier of fats that creates a nice smooth waterproof layer to keep the moisture in and foreign substances out. The skin's ability to stay hydrated is an important factor in its ability to maintain softness, suppleness and elasticity. Unfortunately, the drying effect of the cold weather or the air con, the damaging effect of the harsh sun and pollution from the environment can cause our skin to look fatigue, dull and blotchy. And combined this with the aging of the skin, the lack of sleep and our hectic stress lifestyle, our skin can become wrinkled, flaky and look older than it should. In addition, the use of makeup on our face also could clog the pores of the skin, preventing carbon dioxide inside our body from coming out and fresh oxygen from entering the skin. This causes the skin to lose its glow and attractiveness. Facial masks are an ultimate nutrient delivery system in anti aging skin care. They are much thicker than a moisturizer or topical treatment, and because of its extended application time and the inner warmth generated, pores easily open and the penetration of nutrients into the skin occurs more efficiently.
Basically all face masks have some kind of a cleaning function; they remove excess oil, environmental debris and pollutants much more gently than astringents, toners or scrubs. Various anti aging skin care ingredients are used in the face masks, depending on the skin type and to some extent on the availability of materials. Clays form an important constituent of many face masks as they are excellent absorbing agents. Gums and polymers are added to lend sticking properties to the clays. They help to remove dirt, sebum, and dead skin so that the skin looks clean, soft and youthful.
Some facials are also meant to exfoliate, clarify and unclog pores. They work by causing an abrasive action against the skin that removes the top layer of dead cells from the skin and accumulated dirt, leaving behind fresh healthy-looking skin. Regular exfoliation can reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkle and improve the clarity, tone and radiance of the complexion. Some facial masks contain antioxidants to protect against free radicals. Facial masks for dry skin hold water in the skin, making it softer and more flexible. Facial masks for oily skin often contain natural fruit extracts and hydrating marine extracts. These oil-free facial masks peel away dead surface skin cells and refine the pores.
Applying a facial mask once a week helps revitalize the skin and keeps it smooth and youthful. Normally, the face mask is applied on the cleansed skin for about ten to twenty minutes, thereafter, wash the face with lukewarm water and afterwards apply a thin layer of cold-cream or a moisturizer.
Hyperpigmentation in dermatology means the darkening of an area or areas of the skin. This is due to increased melanin levels. Hyperpigmentation can be caused by different things. In this article we’ll look at the difference between dark, brown, age spots and Melasma. Dark, brown and age spots are due to increased melanin levels in areas of the skin. This skin problem usually arises due to an over exposure to the sun over a long period of time. If you for example like sun tanning and did it recklessly in your 20s without using sun block, you are probably going to have to deal with this problem in your late 30s and early 40s.
Age, dark and brown spots are the same and they usually appear where you’ve exposed your skin to the sun: face, neck, shoulders, hands and arms. These hyperpigmentation problems are harmless (remember that too much sun can also lead to skin cancer). However, these imperfections do have an impact on your appearance and therefore on your self esteem. This is why many try finding treatments to get rid of them.
Some treatments for age, dark and brown spots are skin microdermabrasion, dermabrasion and skin bleaching creams. It’s always recommended to talk to your dermatologist before you undergo any of these treatments because they can have some unwanted side effects. If you want to use a cream, use something that contains Rumex extract (natural melanin inhibitor), rather than hydroquinone (chemical skin whitener). The chemical variant can cause quite a few side effects that can make the problem worse. Natural skin creams that control melanin production on the other hand are safe and effective.
Melasma is also a type of hyperpigmentation problem. It’s also caused by an increased melanin production, but it’s not due to an over exposure to the sun: its cause is hormonal changes. This is why melasma appears during pregnancy. Melasma is harmless, but can just like age spots, affect one’s self esteem. Treatments for melasma are the same as for age spots. You need something to prevent and control melanin production. Since this is a problem that arises during pregnancy, harsh treatments are not recommended. A natural skin cream that contains Rumex extract is therefore the best way to treat melasma without causing any problems to your baby.
What Is An Emulsion?
Lotions, liniments, massage oils, creams and compresses are all external preparations such as moisturisers but are also used to treat conditions such as skin problems and rashes, to relieve bruising, aches and pains.
But what is an emulsion and what does it actually mean.
All of these products tend to be water and oil preparations and as a result of the oil content will absorb into the skin.
Making a lotion, cream liniment etc is based on blending the oil and water in the right proportions to make an emulsion. Leave it long enough and it will eventually separate. By adding an emulsifier, this becomes a stable product and will remain bound. The emulsifiers you then select are dependent on which type of emulsion it is.
So What Is The Difference?
An emulsion can be made in two ways: either as a oil in water emulsion or a water in oil. Sound the same don’t they and they do create a similar result.
If it is a oil in water emulsion, then the oil is the disperse phase and the water is the continuous phase.
If it is a water in oil emulsion, then the water is the disperse phase and the oil is the continuous phase.
Either type of cream/lotion can separate into it’s components over time even with the emulsifier present and can sometimes be caused by extreme temperatures, the wrong proportion of the disperse component and the addition of other components such as alcohol.
Most people these days are selective of what they put on their skin, so be aware of what type of emulsion it is. Try to find a product that has natural emulsifiers in it and uses natural oils are the base. Your skin will thank you for it.
Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner
This mist-type toner is slowly becoming a new classic. It’s hydrating, refreshing, and it’s great for calming irritated skin
This cool hydrating mist is made up of 91.9% Barberry root extract, which is a powerful antioxidant known for its anti-inflammatory, energizing and nourishing properties. Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner quickly absorbs to hydrate and refresh your skin. It also soothes the skin and prepares it for the next stages of your skincare routine.
Barberry Root Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate
How To Use
After cleansing, hold the bottle 7-8 inches away and spray. Follow with the rest of your skincare routine. Also can be used as a mist to freshen up throughout the day.
Pyunkang Yul products are free of artificial fragrances, dyes, or irritants. I love the fact that it’s a multi purpose product because it can be used not just as a toner but also as a mist. Works over makeup when you need a little freshening up. It can help if your skin tends to be shiny and oily. Also works great for those like myself who tend to have enlarged pores or are prone to breakouts due to excess sebum.
Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Color Clay Mask
This is a water gel clay mask that revitalizes tired skin with JeJu volcanic clusters and pomegranate seed oil.
Volcanic clusters are a natural ingredient that forms when lava from a volcano eruption solidifies on JeJu Island.
The volcanic clusters purifies the pores thus providing superb sebum control which helps keep the skin vibrant. This is a great mask to use for people with oily skin. It is a water gel clay texture which is lightweight and rich in moisture.
JeJu Volcanic , hyaluronic acid, pomegranate seed oil, Parthenon, madecassoside, sea salt, mud, and vitamin C derivatives
How To Use
Since this is a moisture enriched mask, it tends to dry quickly. It is recommended to use after cleansing by applying a thin layer all over your face or just on problem areas. Leave on for 5-10 minutes then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. Use 1-2 times a week.
Inisfree is a natural brand that shares the benefits of nature. The color clay line comes in 7 different colors that address different skin concerns. This allows you to multi-mask by selecting the mask color suitable for your various skin concerns. I felt like it was easy to use. Worked well and didn’t leave my skin feeling to dry or tight as some clay masks usually tend to do.
Hey guys! We’re happy to announce that we will be having a Lucky Draw for our BomiBox subscribers. Random winners will be receiving this unique TU Mask Pack from MibyK in the next BomiBox which ships next week. If you’re one of the lucky ones let us know! If you’re not, don’t worry we will be having more of these draws ❤️
The TU Mask is a 2-zone Mask with different sections for your T-Zone and U-Zone. The T-Zone contains Jeju O2 Water & a herbal relief complex to soothe skin & purify pores. The vitalizing U-Zone contains vita water & beta glucan to smooth & deeply hydrate your skin. Check out @mibyk_official on Instagram or mibyk.co.kr for more info.
One thing Korean skincare is known for is the “10 step skincare routine”. There are hundreds of articles that detail exactly what those 10 steps are, with some taking it to a further 12 and 15 steps with yet others paring it down to much less.
This becomes very confusing to those who are new to Korean Beauty. Many would be forgiven for thinking that they need to follow all 10 steps twice a day, every day, when that’s not the case at all. It’s even more confusing when you see people on Instagram using so many different and ever changing products in their routines on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
With any skin routine, not just the Korean Routine, it is basically 3 steps with additional steps in between. For some it may only require 3-4 steps, for others as high as 15-20. It all depends on what your skin needs.
The 3 basic steps in a Korean Skincare routine or any skincare routine are: Clean, Treat, Protect.
If we take those 3 steps and map it to Korean beauty functional products, it’s a lot simpler to understand. The basic steps of a skin regime can be divided as follows:
Step 1: Clean
1. First cleanser: This is to remove makeup, sunscreen and dissolve dirt with an oil based cleanser. These can come in the form of an oil, a sherbet balm or a cream.
2. Second cleanser: To cleanse the oil and any left over impurities. It’s typically a liquid, gel, cream or foam based cleanser, one that you mix with water.
3. Toner – Toners are called “Skin” in Korea and is seen as one of the most important steps to get your skin hydrated and prepped for the rest of your skincare. Most toners balance the pH level of your skin to protect your skin barrier from bacteria, and prepare it for your treatment products. Some products need an optimal pH level of your skin to work effectively, hence using a toner is more than just an extra cleansing step. Many Korean toners are hydrating, rather than astringent as with many Western toners that contain alcohol which can be drying on the skin.
Step 2: Treat
4. Essence – This step is to treat your skin with hydrating, healing, repairing, protective or nourishing ingredients found in essences and serums.
5. Ampoules, Boosters, Facial Oils – These typically come in dropper bottles or similar, and are used to treat a specific condition. It is usually targeted for whatever your skin needs e.g. hydration, lightening of pigmentation, ranti-edness, repair, dryness, wrinkles, acne, brightening etc
Step 3: Protect
6. Eye Cream – Protect the delicate eye area with a nourishing eye cream
7. Moisturizer – Protect, hydrate and prevent moisture loss with a moisturizer. Most moisturizer are both a humectant and occlusive, An additional step before your moisturizer is an emulsion or lotion which are both thinner and are used as a lighter moisturizer e.g. in the Summer when moisturizers are too heavy on your skin.
8. Sunscreen – During the day time use sunscreen to protect against sun damage. Use a sunscreen that has a high sun protection factor (SPF) during the day time even if indoors. Most sunscreens protect against UVB rays (the ones that tan the skin), and the more harmful UVA rays which are the ones that cause skin aging and can even penetrate glass. Newer sunscreens also protect against HEV (High Energy Visible Light) which can cause or aggravate pigmentation and aging of the skin. If you suffer from pigmentation, look for a micronized sunblock with ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, mexoryl SX or avobenzone.
Some additional exfoliating or treatment steps are specific to skin concerns as they arise and are used in the Treat step above as applicable. Eg. Retinoids might be used for anti aging, pigmentation or acne; AHA or BHA for cell renewal and pore cleansing; kojic acid for hyper pigmentation; vitamin C for additional brightening; anti-oxidant products for anti-ageing, pigmentation or acne treatment as prescribed.
The additional steps depend entirely on your skin’s needs. Some of us only get PMS related or hormonal acne and only need to use acne actives at that time of the month, so it wouldn’t make sense to use acne targeted products every day. This is why it’s important to not simply follow someone else’s regime as their skin’s needs at that time might be different from yours at any given time.
Certain products are only used weekly or biweekly, again, depending on your skin’s needs. An example is exfoliation. You can exfoliate skin using a physical, chemical or enzymatic method once a week or more if your skin can handle it.
Physical exfoliation is when you use a manual exfoliator or a scrub that has specific exfoliating granules in the product which works by the movement of your hands to remove the layer of dead skin on your face. Physical exfoliation can also be achieved by using a cleansing device such as a Clarisonic or any other sonic cleanser.
Chemical or enzymatic exfoliators are products that contain specific ingredients such e.g. Glycol Acid, Salicyclic Acid, Lactic Acid etc which loosens trapped sebum and dirt and sloughs off the top layer of skin.
Masks are a staple in any Korean skincare routine. They come in many forms like sheet masks, clay packs, modeling masks, sleeping pack masks etc. It can be used as often as your skin needs it to target specific skin concerns, with some Korean actresses even claiming to use one every single day! It’s always important to make sure that the mask you use will not clog your pores and is suitable for your skin type.
Many South Koreans visit estheticians or skincare spas at least monthly, with some going as often as weekly. Monthly treatments can include more in depth skincare treatments such as chemical peels, skin rejuvenation, laser treatments, or simply a luxury facial to pamper the skin. It’s not necessary, but dependent on your own needs and budget.
That’s basically what the “10 step Korean beauty routine is”, which isn’t actually 10 steps as you can see. Your Korean or other skincare routine can include as many or few steps as your skin needs. The best way to get to know your skin and what routine works for you, is to test products by introducing one every 2-3 weeks and selecting treatment steps based on your skin’s needs.
It’s also okay to mix and match different brands as it has not been proven that using only one brand yields any better results than using a few brands. What matters are the ingredients inside the products.
As long as you’re cleaning, treating and protecting your skin, it doesn’t matter how many extra steps are in your routine to treat your specific concerns.
Most of us have become familiar with AHAs (alphahydroxy acids) and BHAs (betahydroxy acids), but PHAs are fairly new to many. PHA, which stands for polyhydroxy acids, is the more gentle group of hydroxy acids which in clinical trials showed exceptional skin benefits with less irritation than other AHAs.
AHAs are known and proven for their ability influence skin cell turnover rate and regulate skin formation with the most tangible result being peeling. PHA quite simply is an AHA, but slightly larger in size with more hydroxy groups. Poly = multiple, hence the name polyhydroxy acids.
Some examples of PHAs are sugar acids such as lactobionic acid which comes from oxidized lactose (milk sugar) and gluconolacctone which comes from oxidized glucose (natural sugar in the human body).
Both PHAs and AHAs have similar anti-aging benefits, with the difference primarily being the irritation caused to skin. With AHAs containing only one hydroxyl group, they are known to cause burning, stinging and tingling. It is thought that the larger molecular size of PHAs penetrates at a slower rate than AHAs and hence causes less irritation.
PHAs is the ideal hydroxy acid for those with sensitive skin that can’t tolerate AHAs or those who are looking for gentler alternatives to AHAs.
The benefits of PHAs like with AHAs, include enhancing cell turnover, improving skin tone, reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, hydration and general skin smoothness. Another great benefit of PHAs is that they chelate excess iron in the skin, thus reducing oxidative damage.
Chelation is the process where metal is trapped so it can be rendered inactive and not be able to cause free radical damage induced by iron. For example in iron overdoses chelation therapy is used so the body can trap and remove the excess iron in the body. Iron is one of the inducers of pigmentation in photo aged skin.
Overall, if you are thinking of starting AHAs, or switching to something more gentle, then a PHA product is the way to go.
Bomibag is our newest addition to the Bomibox family. It’s a monthly Asian Beauty goodie bag subscription, for those who want to dip their toes into Asian Beauty.
You’ll receive a monthly Bomibag which includes 7-10 Asian Beauty items. Products will include 1-2 full sized items, plus a variety of deluxe sized samples, foil samples or beauty tools from Korea, Japan or Taiwan.
The first bag will be shipped at the end of June
Get it now at the launch price of $18.99
Normal price: $19.99Free US Shipping
*Stock is limited. Image is a sample Bomibag with a representation of what to expect. Actual items will vary from month to month.
Subscribers this month received a free travel size of the Symphony Beauty Moisturise Makeup Cleansing Wipes in Cucumber & Aloe Vera. These soft cleansing wipes gently sweep away makeup, oil and impurities, leaving skin perfectly clean and moisturized in a single, easy step.
Featuring a soothing blend of natural cucumber and aloe vera extracts, these wipes instantly restore the skin with long-lasting moisture. Each wipe is also infused with the ultra-brightening complex arbutin, which naturally illuminates the skin to impart a radiant, youthful glow.
This 10 sheet pack is the perfect size to keep in your car, purse, makeup bag or travel kit.
For more info visit http://symphonybeauty.com/
For many of us who are used to Western color ranges in foundations, where we kind of know whether we’re warm or cool toned and can tell an NC from a NW foundation from just a glance, when it comes to Korean shades it can become a color blind and costly nightmare trying to find the right one. Moreso if you’re buying online and can’t physically test it against your skin. So how do you begin to find a Korean compact cushion foundation that will suit your skin tone when all you have to go on is a picture on the internet?
The truth is: with great difficulty. Unless you can actually test it in a store, it’s not always a perfect color match to what you see online. Most Korean branded BB creams, powders and foundations are limited in their color range catering mostly to very light almost porcelain tones that are common in South Korea. For some women this may be perfect but with Korean Beauty doing the wave across the world, it’s almost impossible for every brand to cater to every skin tone. The lure of Korean compact cushion foundations lies in how most are packed with not just color, but also essence, SPF and PA factor and other general awesomeness. So what do you do when the color tone is not right for you but you love the reviews of it or are dying to try one of the brands you see advertised or in your favorite drama?
You could spend money on the brands with a wider range of shades, or browse Reddit to find others with similar skin tones and what they’ve used but what if the brand you really want to try simply doesn’t have your exact shade or there isn’t anyone who has your shade that’s converted to Korean makeup?
A trick I’ve found to work is to buy the shade closest to your skin tone even if it’s a couple of shades below yours. Next, slowly add drops of your regular cream foundation that is in your tone. Dab it into the cushion and test until you find it’s the correct tone for your skin. The more you add, the more the color of the compact foundation will begin to match your skin tone. You’ll get the perfect color and not lose the goodness from the cushion compact nutrients and application.
Alternatively, for a faux BB glow, mix a few drops of your regular foundation with a few drops of your Korean serum and sunscreen and use a compact cushion applicator to dab onto your skin to get that same finish as a cushion compact foundation.
It’s not a perfect science, but if you really want to try a new Korean foundation, this trick can work very well.
What are your tips when it comes to Korean foundation?
For newbies to Korean Beauty, a First Treatment Essence is the product you would use right after your toner. Missha’s FTE is one of those ubiquitous, holy grail products that are raved about for a reason it’s just that good. It’s known as a miracle water which hydrate, restores, rejuvenates and generally just makes you glow.
The FTE contains a whopping 80% Fermented Yeast Concentrate (a naturally fortified Vitamin B Group ingredient) which increases the rate of metabolism and maintains healthy skin. It has similar components to NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor) to help improve the foundation of skin through moisturizing, firming, and balancing. The Niacinamide rich essence is not just for brightening. This Vitamin B3 component improves skin elasticity, enhances the skin barrier function, and revives skin tone and texture. Niacinamide also has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and occlusive benefits.
A study was done in Japan on 30 women who used a Niacinamide cream on one side of their face and a no-nutrient carrier on the other side. 64% had wrinkle reduction in the side where Niacinamide was used.
Because of the tightening of cellular bonds and anti-inflammatory effects, it’s also proven as an awesome ingredient to prevent acne and rosacea.
Missha’s FTE also includes DN-Aid, made from Cassia-Alata Extract which adds vitality to the skin, protects against UV rays which cause aging and promotes restoration of damaged DNA.
To use, after your toner, simply pour some of the FTE into your palm then pat gently into your skin working in an upward motion towards your temples.
We loved Missha’s Time Revolution FTE so much, we included a trial set which includes the FTE and Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule in the February Bomibox for you to try if you haven’t already. The Ampoule energizes, repairs, and restores elasticity. It also provides wrinkle repairing and whitening benefits.
Have you tried it? What did you think?
Types of Skincare Ingredients
When you first start caring about ingredients in your Korean Skincare products, or beauty products in general, the names can be overwhelming with words bleeding into each other. There are some products with a “clean” ingredients list, i.e. only a few ingredients that are easily understood. Then there are those that look like a mini chemistry thesis. So how are those ingredients categorized? In this post we will try to demystify the different types of skincare ingredients, and make it simpler to understand.
All skincare ingredients can be divided into 3 types:
- Aesthetic Modifiers
- Claims Ingredients
Functional ingredients are the ones whose main function affects the appearance and feel of the skin or hair. This can be one or more ingredient in any product. As an example, Vaseline contains just one functional ingredient: petrolatum (petroleum jelly) while a moisturizer will contain many different functional ingredients like polymers, humectants, occlusives, emollients etc. Common functional ingredients include cleansers, conditioners (like polymers, humectants, emollients), colorants (as in hair dye).
For an ingredient to be considered “functional” it would have to meet the minimum efficacy concentration percentage to be considered functional and not a claim. As an example, Salicylic Acid is a functional ingredient in many acne fighting products, but if it was in a concentration less than 0.5% it would not be considered effective and would thus be considered a “Claim Ingredient” (see below for more on what a claims ingredient is).
Functional ingredients usually appear in the beginning of the list of ingredients and are usually in concentrations greater than 1% in the product. E.g. Water is usually high up on a list of ingredients, so it’s safe to assume that out of 100% of all the ingredients in a product, water makes up more than 1% of the product and will therefore appear higher on the label. This doesn’t mean that all ingredients that are at the top of the list are effective, as mentioned it would have to be in a specific concentration to be considered effective. It just means that the product contains that specific ingredient, but if the concentration is too low, then it’s not a functional ingredient, but rather a claim ingredient.
When reading an ingredient label, as soon as you see an ingredient that couldn’t possibly be higher than 1% in the product, it’s safe to assume that the rest of the ingredients are either aesthetic modifiers or claims ingredients. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to know which ingredient could never be more than 1% in a product unless you’re a cosmetic scientist; But an easy one is Tetrasoda EDTA which is a kelating agent and would never constitute more than 1% of any product. Once you hit this ingredient, you can basically ignore everything below it, unless you’re sensitive to fragrance (which can appear last on the label), then by all means carry on down the list.
Some products also contain functional ingredients that are active drugs like zinc oxide which can be found in sunscreen or a specific drug that battles acne or pigmentation. Functional ingredients as a whole are sometimes referred to as “active” ingredients by some, but this is not entirely correct as not all functional ingredients are “actives”. Actives, like the zinc oxide in sunscreen, can be considered any ingredient that affects the structure or function of the body (skin too) and would classify as a drug that requires FDA approval to determine that it’s safe and effective.
Some functional ingredients can also double up as an aesthetic modifiers.
Aesthetic Modifiers are ingredients that makes delivery of the functional ingredient easier or changes the viscosity (thickness/stickiness/texture) of a product. There are many different types of aesthetic modifiers. It can be a solvent to make delivery of an ingredient easier, like water; a pH adjuster such as Sodium Hydroxide or Chloride, a kelating (binding) agent, a Solubilizer to clear up a cloudy solution, a thicker, fragrance, filler, or color etc. Aesthetic Modifiers follow the functional ingredients on an ingredient label, except for color, fragrance and preservatives which will typically appear at the end.
This type of ingredient also includes Preservatives (which are a good thing!) to prevent the growth of microbes. Parabens is probably the most popular preservative class of molecules with the most popular ones in skincare being Methylparaben, Propylparaben or Butylparaben. These paragons are the most widely used because they’ve proven to be the most effective against bacteria. The reason more than one preservative is used is because each one in isolation is not effective against all microbes. The “no preservatives” label you’ll see on some products is unfortunately a “Claim” as there usually are preservatives in the product even if it’s not labelled directly as such, or the product has been stored and transported in a climate controlled box and is a one time use product with a very very short shelf life. You might see products that claim to be ‘Paraben free” but this doesn’t mean that no other class of preservative was used. It could contain Phenoxy ethanol or other natural preservatives, but are not always as effective as parabens. Parabens can be an irritant however, especially if used in larger concentrations on sensitive skin.
Parabens are a whole other post, but suffice to say that current scientific research has determined parabens to be safe. Parabens in the correct concentrations are a VERY good thing for your skin, especially if you want to prevent possible life threatening skin infections caused by bacteria that would have normally been destroyed by preservatives or a preservation process.
Claims ingredients are what you’d call the “hype marketing”, “fairy dust” or “gimmick” ingredients. Some may very well work, but unfortunately the majority of claims ingredients are sometimes in such small concentrations that it has no effect on your skin, but manufacturers will include it to make the product more appealing. Some of us do love fairy dust so it’s not always a terrible thing, but it’s important to focus more on the functional and aesthetic modifier ingredients and less on the claims labelling.
The pH of your skin is how acidic or alkaline (basic) your skin is. When your skin’s pH is imbalanced, it shows up as wrinkles, acne, dry skin or oily skin. When your pH is balanced, your skin more dewy and plump. It makes sense then that you have to balance your skin’s pH.
Balanced pH of your skin should be around 5.5 which is slightly acidic. The thin outer layer of your skin is called the acid mantle which is a protective layer that keeps the good stuff (like moisture) in and the bad stuff (like bacteria) out. Overusing products or tools that disrupt the skin’s pH and thus the acid mantle, leaves your pores wide open to the bad stuff getting in and causing more damage in the deeper layers. Products that destroy the acid mantle are typical anything that works as an exfoliator. There’s nothing wrong with exfoliating, but it should be done sparingly and using gentler methods. It’s a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. If the bottle says to use it once a week, then don’t use it on a daily basis.
Balanced skin is slightly on the acidic side, as being too alkaline can also lead to other issues.
Skin is too Alkaline?
Very oily, acne prone or very dry skin are often signs of skin’s pH being too alkaline. The alkalinity can cause your skin to be extremely brittle and dry resulting in fine lines and wrinkles or acne flareups as your skin produces more oil to makeup for the dryness. Alkaline skin that is not pH balanced accelerates the break down of collagen and increased inflammation leading to faster aging.
Skin is too Acidic?
Even though the skin pH needs to be on the acidic side, if it’s too acidic it can also lead to issues like being too sensitive. Sensitive skin is easily irritated, red and inflamed. Skin becomes too acidic when it is over processed by the overuse of harsh cleaners, harsh scrubbing or exfoliants. Skin becomes stripped down and results in red, irritated and inflamed skin.
So how do you balance your skin’s pH?
Fortunately the skin’s resilience means your skin barrier will return to its naturally slightly acidic pH fairly quickly provided you do the right things.
The skin’s pH can only be balanced by using the correct products, and not over processing the skin with stripping agents. Below are the 3 key tips to balancing your skin’s pH:
- Use a pH balancing toner. Fortunately most toners have pH balancing as its primary function, so just about any toner will do, unless your skin is easily irritated (acidic), then it’s best to use a toner that’s alcohol free.
- Gentle face washes and face washing methods should also be used. It’s better to use a low pH cleanser, but for those with acne who might still need foam cleansers, following up with a toner is essential.
- Avoid overly scented products with harsh ingredients.
- Cut down on exfoliating your skin. If you need to repair your skin’s barrier, try not to exfoliate for a fee weeks You can then do it once a week using a gentle enzyme peel or gentle manual exfoliation. Avoid overly chemically scented products and harsh scrubs.
It takes up to 6 weeks for your skin’s barrier to be renewed and restored, so stick to a routine and you will see results.
Moisturizing your skin is probably one of the most important steps in any Korean Skincare routine, well any skincare routine. There should usually be a different moisturizer for day and night time. This may seem odd to neophytes to skincare, but the benefits of two different moisturizers can be the difference between good skin and great skin.
The reason we need two moisturizers is because we have different needs during the day vs the night time. Moisturizing itself is not just for hydration, but also for its protective, preventative and treatment benefits, and different ingredients work differently at different times.
In the mornings you’d use a moisturizer for hydration and protection against the sun’s UVB/UVA rays, environmental elements and antioxidants. At night you would use a moisturizer that has nourishing ingredients, as well as preventative and treatment benefits, e.g. something with AHAs, BHAs, peptides, peeling agents, exfoliating agents, anti-aging, retinol, or other specific treatments your skin needs.
Simply put, mornings are for hydration and protection and evenings are for hydration and treatment.
But how do you know which ingredients in your moisturizers are good for you during the day vs at night?
Two common words in skincare is “occlusive” and “humectant”. You’ll hear these words often, and if you’re new to skincare, you might even able to associate them with certain ingredients. There are highly scientific explanations for both terms, but in this post, I wanted to simplify it and make it understandable for anyone to know the difference, and know what to look for in moisturizers.
As an aside, in my own quest to heal my troubled skin, I read a lot of books that used scientific naming conventions, but were too long winded. Although they were understandable, it was just not written in a format that made it reader friendly. I love learning new words, but dammit give me some brevity.
What Are Occlusives?
I always mind-associate this word with “exclusive”, like an exclusive club that has security blocking off the entrance. Which in a round about way relates to what an occlusive is. In medicine, “occlusive” means the closing or blockage of a vessel or organ. In skincare, occlusives are the ingredients that prevent the loss of water from the skin.They literally create a barrier so moisture can’t escape from the skin.
Those of us with dry skin will know the pain of having a desert for a skin mantle. No sooner is our skin moisturized when that little thing called evaporation happens (fast) and our skin is bone dry again. For those with dry skin, occlusives can be a heaven send.
We also sometimes hear people complaining about a product because it feels like it just “sits on the skin” with no real absorption. This is a tell tale sign of an occlusive being present in the formula. It’s sitting on top of the skin doing what its meant to do, that is, block water from escaping.
It makes sense then, that many healing and super moisturizing products like Vaseline and Cocoa Butter contain occlusive ingredients. Vaseline is probably the most well known, made up of petroleum jelly also known as petrolatum. Other occlusive ingredients include mineral oil, dimethicone, shea butter, beeswax or lanolin. They can be excellent for those with dry skin, but a nightmare for those with acne. The problem with occlusives, is that in blocking your pores, it can also clog your pores, leading to acne.
It should be noted that if occlusive ingredients are present in cleansers, they are fine to be used as it’s not left on the skin, provided its followed up with a second cleanse that dissolves the oily film left from the occlusive.
However in a moisturizer, or any other product that is left on the skin, occlusives can potentially lead to breakouts from the pore clogging and blackhead forming (comedogenic) effects.
What Are Humectants?
Humectants attract water from the air and deep within the skin to the upper layer of skin. It’s a better option for those who suffer from acne as it’s less comedogenic. Added benefits of humectants include wrinkle reduction due to the plumping effect.
Common humectant ingredients include urea, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, actin acid, and propylene glycol.
There is however a slight downside – because humectants draw moisture from deep inside the skin , it can lead to water loss if the skin barrier is compromised which can result in even dryer skin. For this reason humectants are often combined with an occlusive to prevent this water loss.
The best night time recovery moisturizers have a balance between occlusives and humectants.
But as stated the pore clogging can be an issue for certain skin types, especially if you’re acne prone. In these cases you need something that helps you retain moisture, but does not break you out. This is where the good stuff like hyaluronic acid, snail secretion filtrate, green tea, tea tree oil and jojoba oil based moisturizers come in. If you’re not sure on the ingredients, then choose a lotion over the thicker and oilier cream type moisturizers. Light weight lotion type moisturizers that are mostly water are good for all skin types.
There are also other moisturizing ingredient types like emollients and rejuvenators, but those have more an effect on the texture of the skin rather than the moisture levels.
A tip on moisturizing: Use a mist or water spray just before your moisturizer so that your skin is slightly damp. This will allow your moisturizer to lock in the moisture from the mist.
So you’re loving Korean Beauty and Skincare, but you also suffer from acne, what to do? As with anything we obsess over, there’s no one that knows more about acne than those who suffer from it or have suffered it. You might feel like there’s little anyone can tell you about it, but perhaps you’re still not sure how your acne treatments will tie into your Korean Skincare routine.
Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics to clear your mind for your journey to better skin. Once you understand the basics (or are reminded of it), it becomes easier to select products, whether Western or Korean Skincare, that will not send your skin into pitted hell, but coax it towards clearer, healthier epidermal heaven.
As a primer – what is acne?
Acne vulgarism at its simplest, is a skin disease or as I like to call it, a dis-ease.
How is it formed?
Acne starts when pores or hair follicles become clogged with oil or dead skin cells and become infected by bacteria called P.acnes. The pus builds up and causes whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and oily skin. A blackhead, also called a comedone, looks like a black dot because once the sebum plug inside your pore breaks, it becomes oxidized (darkens).
Sebum is the oily secretion of the sebaceous glands of the skin. It’s not a bad thing, in moderation. Enough sebum, and it protects your skin, too much and it clogs your pores resulting in acne at best. At worst, it can develop into cystic acne which is when it’s no longer just a little clogged pimple, but has now morphed into the puss filled little munchkin that you can lose sleep over.
What causes acne?
As with anything, it can be caused by a number of factors like stress, heredity factors, hormone fluctuations (hello period flare ups), medications and of course adverse reactions to ingredients we use on our skin. This is why it’s so important to always do a patch test if your skin is sensitive to certain ingredients.
So how can you treat acne, and specifically, how can you treat it if you’re looking to follow a Korean Skincare routine?
There are literally thousands of acne remedies available, but most of them boil down to the following 5 steps:
- Unclog your pores
- Kill bacteria
- Reduce Oil
- Increase skin cell turnover
Unclog your pores
Now that you know how acne is formed, i.e. when a pore or hair follicle becomes clogged, it makes sense that unclogging the pores is the first thing you want to do.
By far, the best ingredient to combat clogged pores is Salicylic Acid. Using a Salicylic based cleanser twice a day helps to clean out the pores, reduce oxidization leading to blackheads and prevent pimple formation. Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that comes from trees. It’s a lipid soluble, which means it penetrates the oily sebum that’s plugging the pores.
Not everyone can tolerate BHAs, so if your skin is super sensitive to acids/actives, build up tolerance slowly and always patch test.
For more serious cases, you can even get a Salicylic Acid peel at a dermatologists office once a month.
Even if you suffer from dry skin, you can still benefit from a Salicylic cleanser, as long you follow up with hydrating and nourishing ingredients.
It’s fine to use a Salicylic Acid cleanser every day, but if following up with AHA or BHA toner or essence, there is such a thing as overdoing it and over exfoliating, or your skin might not react well to it. If you’ve never used actives before, introduce it slowly into your routine, like 1-2 a week to allow your skin to build up a tolerance to it.
It’s also important to use a pH balancing toner prior to using an AHA or BHA essence or treatment essence on your skin.
Pore mask or strip
Another highly recommended treatment for clogged pores are the tacky pore strips that a number of brands sell or clay masks that start off tacky then dry out. Pore strips work a lot like Elmer’s glue. It sticks to the sebum plug, dries up and when you pull it off (gently), it pulls the sebum plug along with it.
If you have sensitive skin, it’s important to peel the strip off carefully once it dries, rather than ripping it off or you might just rip your skin off along with it.
A warning to pregnant women: Do not use Salicylic Acid or any BHA for that matter. It’s been established as dangerous when taken orally, and safety in pregnancy when topically applied has not been established. Our pores absorb ingredients, so it’s better to be safe than sorry .
So we know that clogged pores get infected with bacteria. This bacteria accumulates resulting in whiteheads, blackheads and inflammation which is what you see as a pimple. The most recommended treatment to kill bacteria is benzoyl peroxide. It kills bacteria and is anti-inflammatory so it reduces the redness caused by the inflammation.
The less oily your skin, the less chance there is of your pores getting clogged. Products with 5% benzoyl peroxide also mop up excess oil.
You can swop your Salicylic Acid cleanser with one that contains benzoyl peroxide, rather than using both at once.Not everyone reacts well to benzoyl peroxide, so again, patch test always!
Increase cell turnover
We shed dead skin cells continuously throughout the day and night. Dead skin cells left to linger can also clog pores, lead to uneven tone and texture and is what makes you look older. However, you need your skin cells to turnover faster when you’re trying to get rid of the dead skin cells that makes you look older and make your acne scars heal faster. Just as long as you’re cleansing properly to not allow the dead skin cells to clog your pores.
The holy grail for skin cell turnover is tretinoin (a drug related to retinol aka Vitamin A) which is a topical ingredient that is usually only prescribed for acne. Non prescription versions can be found in products containing Retinol as an ingredient. It also has tremendous anti-aging benefits. The rate of skin cell turnover decreases as we age, so the tretinoin speeds it back up. The rate of skin cell turnover leads to younger, fresher looking skin.
Tretinoin is extremely drying and can cause peeling, redness and irritation if it’s not used properly or too strong a dosage is used. It should always be used in minute amounts (less than pea sized) and can be mixed with a moisturizer to prevent redness and irritation. Tolerance is built up slowly, so you’d start off with a lower concentration and slowly build up to a higher one. It should always be followed with highly moisturizing ingredients and very high SPF sun protection. The sun should be avoided as much as possible when using tretinoin or any retinoid based product.
Finally we get to the pills
When do you consider hormonal manipulation pills, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories? Typically your dermatologist or skin specialist will recommend oral medication or even cortisone injections into the pimples when topical treatment alone is not working.
Hormonal manipulation treatments are called isotretinoins with brand names like Accutane or Roaccutane. The side effects of these remedies can be a strong deterrent which is why it’s more of a last mile solution. Side effects should ALWAYS be considered.
This is anecdotal, but my normally happy brother was on Roaccutane and suddenly suffered from severe depression and became suicidal. When he was off it, it was like a cloud had lifted. Coincidence or not, it’s important to be cautious when taking any kinds of drugs that could have severe short or long term effects.
Nourish – The Korean Skincare routine for acne
The nourish part of treating acne comes in your Korean Skincare routine. Each step can be considered a nourishing step. Now that we know the basic of acne, how it forms, what causes it and the steps needed to treat it, we can look at a Korean Skincare routine that fits into acne treatment. This is a basic guideline of what it would look like.
- Oil Cleanse using your preferred cleanser
- Second cleanser using a Salicylic based cleanser, alternating days with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser or an exfoliating cleanser
- Exfoliate 2-3 a week using an exfoliating method in the form of either a gentle scrub, manual brush, or an enzymatic exfoliator
- Tone with a pH balancing toner
- Use an AHA or BHA essence as often as your skin will tolerate it. Start with 1-2 a week
- Apply a hydrating treatment essence
- Apply a hydrating serum or emulsion
- Nourishing and soothing mask
- Topical medication, retinol or tretinoin
- Sunscreen. This one can be difficult for those who are acne prone as many can be oily or contain pore clogging ingredients. A tip is to use a moisturizer or foundation that contains an SPF with broad spectrum protection (UVB and UVA protection) and avoid the sun as much as possible.
The specific products and brand names to use matters little, what matters are the ingredients inside those products and the concentration. If a product has salicylic acid but it’s low down on the list of ingredients and less than 2%, then it’s not going to be effective. A final tip on selecting Korean Skincare products is not to listen to marketing hype or believe the before and afters in marketing ads, rather, look to the Korean Beauty community for reviews, and do your own research on what’s inside the products. Most importantly, test different products to see which combination works for you.
Even with our own BomiBox selections, although we have quite a few testers with different skin types, for me as the person with the most sensitive skin, if it irritates my skin at all, or causes a breakout, then no matter how hyped it is, I will not recommend it to anyone else. As with anything YMMV.
The after effects of acne
The after effects of acne are usually scarring and/or hyper pigmentation. To battle pigmentation is a whole other post, but in essence, this is where exfoliation, peels, cell regeneration and brightening products come into play.
The treatment of acne is harsh by nature, which is why it’s so important to always follow up with nutrient rich and hydrating ingredients that will not clog your pores.
Ingredients to look out for
If you suffer from acne and are looking at the ingredients of products you’re using, look for ones that are non-comedogenic, that is, they do not clog pores, thus less likely to cause blackheads.
This doesn’t mean that just because the label says it’s non-comedogenic, that it is. It means that the product does not contain high amounts of an ingredient that is known to cause pore clogging.
By “high amount”, we mean it’s high in concentration and high on the list of ingredients, which means there’s a lot of it, which means it might cause major clogging. However, it’s not just the presence of an ingredient that makes it a comedogenic, but how much of it is present in the formula.
It’s important to note that cleansers are an exception as they don’t tend to remain on the skin. As an example you may find that some cleansers contain mineral oil, but as long was you’re not leaving it on your skin the whole day and following up with a foam cleanser, then the mineral oil is not likely to clog your pores.
As an example, you’ll see that Lauric Acid is an ingredient in many cleansers, an ingredient sensitive skins don’t react well with, but it’s a rinse off. I have sensitive skin, but I safely use Lauric containing cleansers without any issues.
Clogging ingredients to avoid pertain more to the stuff you tend to leave on your skin like essence, serums, sunscreen, moisturizer, creams etc.
The list of the most common comedogenic (clogs pores) ingredients to try to avoid is non-exhaustive and can be hit and miss, hence I won’t list them all here, but some guidelines include:
Beeswax, Polyglyceryl-3-diisostearate, Isopropyl myristate, most oils. These are your top clogging ingredients and show up in products as benign as concealers. You should also try to avoid products that are overly thick, oily, contain strong alcohol, or synthetic fragrance. These are irritants which cause inflammation.
For a full list of ingredients that are not acne friendly, this is a good resource http://media.wix.com/ugd/a43716_96ac70539cc44a11ad6417f00391b142.pdf
Finally, acne is not the end of the world. With dedicated focus and the right treatment and skincare, it can be conquered. Don’t lose hope and keep reading inspirational stories of others who have overcome it using Korean Skincare and other treatments.
Just about everyone knows that sun protection is the number one method to prevent premature aging of the skin and related skin conditions like sunburn, hyper pigmentation, melanoma, melasma, wrinkles etc. It’s been drummed into our heads that we should be using products with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor), and ingredients that protect against the sun’s UVB rays and UVA rays.
What exactly are UVB and UVA rays and what’s the difference?
Ultraviolet B rays (UVB) penetrate the top layer of skin and is what causes our skin to burn or tan. The SPF in products protects only against UVB rays. Ultraviolet A rays (UVA) penetrate much deeper into the skin layers (the dermis) and is what causes major damage to our skins; the least of which is premature aging and the worst, skin cancer. UVA also penetrates through glass which is why you need sunblock or sunscreen even if you’re indoors.
Why do we say sunblock or sunscreen as if there’s a difference? Well because there is a difference. Sunscreen absorbs the sun’s UV rays before it hits the skin, whereas a sunblock blocks the sun’s rays completely.
If you choose to wear a sunblock, look for one with Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide as both of them protect against UVA and UVB rays. In sunscreens, look for oxybenzone, avobenzone and mexoryl as they all protect against both UVB and UVA, but make sure to reapply your sunscreen it often as it wears off faster than sunblock.
Fortunately most Korean and Asian sunscreens in general protect against both UVB and UVA rays and will have both an SPF number for UVB protection and a PA level for UVA protection. PA levels are ranked with a “+” sign next to it. The more +s, the higher the level of protection against UVA rays. The highest level is PA+++ (3). Western sunscreens might not always have a PA rating, but it will have wording such as “broad spectrum” or state specifically that it guards against both UVB and UVA rays.
A word of caution on sunscreens:
I’m not a fan of sunblock and prefer the lighter sunscreens, but I have to do my beauty duty and mention this warning: Sunscreens can also form free radicals on the skin. Free radicals can be explained in scientific terms, but to simplify: Free Radicals are basically greedy thieves who want to steal energy from healthy skin cells and destroy them.
Free radicals leave behind a trail of destruction in the form of damaged skin. The more free radicals there are, the more damage to your skin. It’s not just sunblock that can form free radicals, they can also form as a result of pollution which is not easily preventable.
How to guard and combat free radicals?
You can use an anti-oxidant such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A or E to combat those nasty free radicals.
A final sun protection tip: If you don’t want the white cast that most sunscreens cause, then choose one that is lighter in consistency. Great ones as researched by Chichibanban which you can read on her blog here include:
the A’pieuPure Block Aqua Sun Gel, The Saem
Eco Earth Power Light Sun Cream, Etude House Sunprise Must Daily, BeyondHug Sun Moisture Milk, The Face Shop Natural Sun Eco Sebum Control Moisture Sun, It’s Skin UV Away Perfect Sunblock and the Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun.