So here’s the thing. I love it that K-beauty is getting so much attention. K-beauty seems like it’s still on the rise, with the potential to really break through and permanently expand the horizons of the beauty industry worldwide. The problem is that a stereotype has developed–both because of journalists looking for a catchy title and memorable hook, and because of K-beauty representatives angling for attention–that really limits K-beauty’s reach.
The stereotype is this: that K-beauty is all about the OMG 200-STEP ROUTINE! Because it absolutely doesn’t have to be. But I feel almost hypocritical saying that, because I’m aware that one of the first things my blog was known for was my own epic routine.
To redeem myself, I want to show you what my routine is like now–and talk a little about why the length of one’s routine is beside the point.
See the picture above? Add a big blue jar of Scinic Aqua All In One Ampoule and another big jar of Shara Shara Aqua Bomb All In One Ampoule (uh, and if you want, go ahead and add in a big brown jar each of Shara Shara Honey Bomb All In One and Scinic Honey All In One Ampoule, another big brown jar of Scinic Snail All In One, and I guess you can put in the big berry jar of Shara Shara Berry Mix All In One Ampoule, because I still like to collect), and you’ll still only have a partial picture of my full lineup. That isn’t a picture of my actual everyday routine, though, at least not anymore. It’s more like a skincare wardrobe.
When I first embarked on my AB journey, I had a lot of skin issues I wanted to address. I’d neglected and abused my skin for years and years. I had sun damage and smoking damage and a barrier that hadn’t been healthy since probably about 1994. And that’s why I accumulated such a lavish skincare wardrobe.
You see, the point of AB isn’t the length of the routine, it’s the depth and breadth of the individual options. No matter what skin problem you’re trying to tackle, you’ll probably find at least a dozen different toners, essences, serums, ampoules, emulsions, and creams that target it. That stands in stark contrast to mainstream Western skincare, especially drugstore-priced Western skincare, which tends to focus primarily on acne or aging and offers a comparatively limited selection of different product formats. (This is improving, and I don’t think I’m wrong in giving K-beauty some credit for influencing that.)
Media coverage of K-beauty tends to make it sound whimsical, extravagant, and impractical. So many products! So many steps! Such strange ingredients! Such cute packaging! Snails and starfish and horse oil, oh my!
What could be more practical than being able to pick and choose precisely the targeted products you need to solve your specific skin problems? Asian brands both mainstream and obscure offer a huge selection of options, from which you can create a customized toolbox for your own needs. That’s what so great.
So. Going back to my skin way back when, I had a lot of different problems I wanted to fix, therefore I acquired a lot of different products to fix them. The first phase of my AB life was one of necessary replenishment, recovery, and repair. The first phase of my AB life was also one of experimentation. As it should be! I was experimenting with different ingredients, product types, and different product combinations. I was discovering my skin’s sensitivities and limitations, learning what works for it and what doesn’t, figuring out when enough is enough or when more is called for. And I was also discovering the therapeutic benefits of self-care.
For those reasons, I developed (and stuck to) a very extensive skincare routine. I’m sure a lot of people looked at my routine and just couldn’t see the value in all those steps. I’m cool with that, because I saw the value in all those steps, and I still do. I don’t think my skin could have come as far as it has in such a short time if I hadn’t treated it to such an intensive regimen.
Things are different now. My skin’s needs aren’t the same as they were a year and a half ago. For one thing, I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten close to max brightness, so brightening isn’t a goal anymore. I’ve smoothed out most of the premature fine lines that I’d picked up from my bad habits, and my actives (Western and AB) have repaired much of the visible damage my face used to show. My main goal now is maintenance. And because that goal is simple, so is my typical routine, especially during the day.
My cleanser cleanses without disrupting my barrier. My booster preps my skin and delivers some gentle enzyme exfoliation to keep things soft and bright. I hydrate with an essence, serum, or ampoule that also targets any issues I’m having and injects a dose of protective antioxidants to defend against the ravages of the day. Moisturizer seals it all in with a few more antioxidants. After that, it’s just sunscreen and candy. It takes me no more than five minutes of active, “putting stuff on my face” time and another fifteen to twenty of drying time, and I’m ready to put on makeup and/or face the world. High-maintenance? Ha! Hardly! Haha!
What’s interesting (to me) is that my routine is so short now precisely because it was so long before. That brings me to my main point, which is: There’s no right way or wrong way to do K-beauty! Don’t feel overwhelmed by all those articles talking about the dozen-plus steps of the K-beauty. Conversely, if you do happen to have (or want) a long routine, don’t doubt yourself when you run across shade or hate from people who think a long skincare routine is ridiculous. The real value of K-beauty lies in the fact that K-beauty lets your skin get exactly what it needs, no more and no less, and no one gets to decide what your skin needs but you. Curate your ass off, experiment and play, and let your results speak for themselves.
I haven’t turned my back on the ultra-long routine completely. There are few things more relaxing to me than claiming the couch, finding something fun to watch, and reveling in an extended session of Pat In All The Things. It’s even more fun now because my skincare wardrobe is to my face what Cher’s actual wardrobe is to her body in Clueless, and what that means, if you have no soul and have never watched Clueless, is that my skincare wardrobe is an endless source of wonder and variety.
And now that I’ve rambled sufficiently far from my point, let’s look at some of the wonder and variety I have planned for the near future!
No but seriously, I hope you guys like what’s coming. Of course there’s fun stuff coming. Unusual ingredients or otherwise gimmicky products might not be as scientifically respectable as retinol and tocopherol, but let’s not be un-fun, okay? This is skincaretainment, not rocket surgery, In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t actually matter what our skin looks like, so why invest the time and effort unless it’s fun, unless it brings some joy into our day-to-day rituals?
I’ll soon be introducing you guys to a new sponsor, who came to me bearing gifts of things I haven’t heard of before. One of my new sponsor’s offerings is a face cream whose star ingredient is better known as a mind-altering substance. (Oh, and another cream that’s made from sea cucumber extract, and sea cucumbers are essentially the dildos of the sea. That’s pretty wacky.) I’ll also be testing and reviewing a jet-black serum that features some kind of extreme fermentation action.
Speaking of sponsors, I’m super stoked to have joined Memebox’s Brand Ambassador program. I’ve gotten more than my fair portion of skincaretainment from Memebox, and now I’ll be able to share even more skincaretaining skincare goodness with you all. Be on the lookout for some possible upcoming collaborations, too.
All that is in addition to the serious stuff. I’m about to drop reviews of some pretty incredible (and some pretty disappointing) “serious” skincare products on you, so if you’re looking to change something about your skin and want to avoid products that aren’t going to change a thing, I got you.
What’s the most valuable item in your skincare wardrobe? And which one is the most fun?