A few months ago, I accidentally landed on the Asian Beauty sub on Reddit and since then, I went from someone who always fell asleep with her makeup on coz ain’t nobody got time for that to the one who follows a multiple step skincare regimen and don’t dare fall asleep without doing it no matter how sleepy she is. 😅
But it works! Before this, my major skin woe was that my skin felt drier than it used to be (#aging) and it looked a bit dull, but now my face has become so soft, radiant and rosy.
And it doesn’t just work for me, but also for my friends who have also followed me. Dred, for example, has been complaining for months about her pimples, and she has tried various products and even had derma facials and nothing worked. One day, I taught her about this method, gave her decants of products to try, and today she gushes about how all her pimples have gone away. It’s like magic. 😍
A friend asked me to blog about my skincare routine, so here goes. My skin type is combination – oily T zone, normal/dry cheeks.
Step 1: First Cleanser
The first cleanser is an emulsifying oil or balm cleanser whose purpose is to dissolve makeup, sebum, and sunscreen. Why do we need this and can’t just use water-based cleansers immediately? Because like dissolves like.
What I use: Banila Clean It Zero. It has a lovely texture and scent. It’s also very effective at removing makeup, including the stubborn super waterproof Heroine Make Long and Curl mascara. It’s my Holy Grail cleanser, and I actually look forward to cleansing my face because of this.
Popular products you might want to try: DHC deep cleansing oil, Kose Softymo Speedy Cleansing Oil, or Heimish All Clean Balm. I’ve tried the first but I’m not really a fan. The oily feel puts me off. The last is supposedly like Banila but fragrance-free, which is good for folks with sensitive skin.
Step 2: Second Cleanser
Double cleansing is an integral step of the Asian Beauty skincare routine. The first cleanser breaks up and lifts off the makeup, sunscreen, and sebum, then you go in with a second water-based, preferably low ph cleanser to wash them away and get your skin completely clean.
What I use: Right now I rotate between Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick (which disappointingly does not smell like roses) and the non-AB Bioderma Sensibio Gel Moussant, which is so gentle and practically like water. Both are low ph. Read why the PH of your cleanser matters.
I also previously tried Curel Sebum Care Foaming Wash which got rid of my pimple infestation years ago. If I ever get bunches of pimples again, this would be my go-to.
Popular products you might want to try: Hada Labo Gokujyn Hyaluronic Foam Cleanser or Cosrx Low PH Good Morning Cleanser.
Step 3: Actives
“Actives” are the common term for the group of power players in skincare with ingredients that have direct, active results on the skin. These include chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs, and antioxidants like Vitamin C and Vitamin A (retinol and tretinoin). You can read about what they do in more detail here.
What I use: OST C20 Vitamin C Serum, Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, and Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum. I use the vitamin C in the morning because it helps boost your sunscreen, while I’ve used the BHA and AHA at night – but these two are not a consistent part of my routine yet, I’m just slowly introducing them because they could cause purging or over-exfoliation and need to be handled with caution.
Popular products you might want to try: Melano CC Spot Treatment, Neulii Teatree BHA Blemish Control Serum, or CosRx AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid.
Step 4: First Treatment Essence
First Treatment Essence is any product that has instructions to be applied first after basic cleansing. They are typically watery in texture and contain a type of active fermented yeast which supports and increases the rate of metabolism and maintains healthy skin. They also usually contain Niacinamide which improves skin elasticity, enhances skin barrier function, and revives skin tone and texture.
What I use: Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence (Rose). To be honest, the reason why I’m using this is because it’s the cheapest FTE I could find, at around 13 sgd a bottle compared to Missha’s S$30+ if you buy it online or S$80 if you buy it in the store or SKII’s S$259, and it seems to work just as well as the samples I tried from Missha (I haven’t tried SKII).
Popular products you might want to try: Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence or SKII First Treatment Essence.
Step 5: Hydrating Toner
Hydrating toners are not like the ones in Western markets, which are often astringent and meant to dry up oily skin types. AB toners add a hydrating layer and are meant to prepare the skin for better absorption of the products that follow.
What I use: I rotate four different toners for their different properties – Cezanne Skin Conditioner (ceramides), Naruko Magnolia Brightening & Firming Toner (high content niacinamide), Mdmmd Upra Age Delay Toner (anti-aging) and not-pictured Hada Labo Gokujyun Hydrating Lotion (hyaluronic acid).
I actually don’t need to use them all, I just got curious and wanted to try them. 😅 If I could choose only one, I’d choose Hada Labo, which is not in the picture because I’ve decanted it into a pump bottle. I’ve been using that for years and it really plumps up my skin.
Popular products you might want to try: Kikamasamune sake high moist lotion, Dear By Enprani Moistfull Booskin or Klairs Supple Preparation Toner.
Step 6: Essence/Serum/Ampoule
Essences, serums, and ampoules have ingredients with specific, measurable effects against specific skin troubles and thus the primary method by which you can customize your skincare routine. Essences are usually a watery liquid. Serums and ampoules are thicker and contain more concentrated active ingredients. All types generally deliver some light hydration but are meant to sink in to the skin underneath moisturizing products. [Source]
What I use: I alternate a few. My Holy Grail essence is the Cosrx Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. It’s made of 96% snail mucin, which helps to heal pimples. When I first used it, I thought it wasn’t doing anything. But one night I had painful zit growing on my nose, so I snail-bombed it. The next morning, it was gone! A lot of friends have bought it thanks to my recommendation, and they all love it.
I also use Aurelia Aurita Moisture Jelly Toner (which, despite the name, is not really a toner), which adds a good hydrating layer, Skinfood Peach Sake Serum to help control the sebum on my T zone, and Holy Snails Shark Sauce (which, despite the name, does not contain shark) to fade hyperpigmentation.
Popular products you might want to try: Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence, Scinic Honey All-In-One Ampoule, Scinic Aqua All-In-One Ampoule, LJH Tea Tree Essence, COSRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence, Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule, Innisfree Green Tea Serum, or Stratia Liquid Gold. (I know, that’s a lot.)
On some nights, I like to replace this step with or add on a sheet mask, which is typically doused with essence/serum/ ampoule anyway, but the sheet mask prevents the product from evaporating quickly, therefore giving the products more time to sit on my face and therefore be more potent.
I’ve tried a loooot of sheet masks (see above, exhibit A) and one of these days I might blog a detailed review, but so far my favourites have been: My Beauty Diary Black Pearl Mask, My Scheming Gold Hyaluronan Hydrating Black Mask, Naruko Narcissus Repairing Mask and Papa Recipe Bombee Honey Mask.
Step 7: Moisturizers
The Asian skincare routine offers several options for moisturization and hydration. Emulsions are thin, liquid lotions that generally provide light hydration. They may be all that an oily skin type needs, while dry skin types often find them useful to add an extra boost under a heavier cream. Creams are thicker and generally more moisturizing. Sleeping packs/masks are heavier still and serve as the occlusive last step in a normal or dry skin type’s nighttime routine. Facial oils can also be used as an occlusive last step, which is particularly helpful for very dry skin, and can also be blended with creams. [Source]
What I use: For creams, I alternate between Mdmmd Water Drop Cream and Vitalab Perfecting Revitalizing Elixir. Both are bestsellers in Taiwan, and I love them because even though they are creams, they are light in texture. My skin hates thick creams. The latter smells like roses, which I love, but which those who hate fragrances might not.
I’ve also tried the not-pictured Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream which I also really loved. In fact it was so good that when I asked my flatmate to try it, she loved it so much that I sold her mine since I still had other creams on rotation.
On nights when I feel like my skin is dryer than usual, I like to use sleeping masks/packs. I have the same Laneige Water Sleeping Mask which I’ve had for 2 years, probably because I wasn’t consistent in using them before. It’s pricey, though, so once that’s finished I’ll replace it with something cheaper. I tried out samples of Too Cool For School Pumpkin Sleeping Pack, Tonymoly Banana Sleeping Pack, and Etude House Toning White C Sleeping Pack, and they’re all really good, especially TCFS.
I’m also including eye cream in this category because it is a cream, though it’s specifically for the skin around the eyes, which is more sensitive. I’m using Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream which is recently so popular, it’s out of stock in SG and a lot of online shops. I love its orchid fragrance and the reason why it’s so popular is because it performs like a high end eye cream for a slightly-above-drugstore price.
Popular products you might want to try: Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream, Banila Co Miss Flower Mr Honey Cream, or Rosette Ceramide Gel.
Step 8: Sunscreen
The sun is our #1 aging enemy, so we need to use sunscreen. Take a look at this picture if you’re still not aware about sun damage. If you could only use one anti-aging product, sunscreen should be it.
What I use: I’ve tried a lot of sunscreens and my favourites for their non-sticky consistency are Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence and Shiseido Senka Mineral Perfect UV Gel. I keep one at home and one in my purse for retouching and that inevitable moment when I forget to put on some.
Popular products you might want to try: Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun or Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV.
Before you run out and buy all the things, please read these!!!
Where to Buy
I buy most of the Korean products (Banila Co, OST, Cosrx, Mizon, etc) from Roseroseshop on Qoo10, because they have cheaper shipping there, but the shop also has its own website for those not based in Singapore. Another popular website is Jolse. Both ship worldwide.
I got Mdmmd, Vitalab and Aurelia from Beauty Keeper, a one stop shop for all Taiwanese beauty products.
Hada Labo, Biore, and Naruko are available in Watsons Singapore.
Most of these products are under 20 sgd each, so even though there are a lot, they’re still a lot cheaper than western products or high end ones.