On Actives and Extracts: My Anti-Aging PM Skincare Routine Explained

Getting older is a natural, inevitable, and wonderful thing. Getting older shows that we’re surviving all the crap that life throws our way. I have very few problems with getting older and only a couple of problems with the concept of my own mortality. I just don’t want my mortality to show up on my face right now because I’m enjoying the way my face looks right now, and since right now is pretty much all the time because that’s how time feels because I haven’t recently consumed any psychedelics that might alter my perceptions of that, I’ve built a very involved anti-aging skincare routine to keep my skin looking the way it looks right now for as close to all the time as is possible. (And to help it look more youthful wherever I can, giving me an extra head start on the years of aging to come.) Sometimes people request that I explain my routine in more detail than I generally do on my Instagram routine posts. This post is for those people.

But first, a quick reminder! I am not a doctor or scientist and I am not presenting my particular anti-aging skincare system as infallible or universal. Nothing in skincare is infallible or universal except the principle of YMMV. What I talk about below is based on my reading as a layperson, conversations with people who know more than I do, my experiences of the effects of specific ingredients and products on my skin, and my observations of other people’s skincare results.

There are things more proven to work and things less proven to work, but even that distinction is less important than the distinction between Things That Work For You and Things That Don’t Work For You. Keep your skin’s own preferences in mind. Experiment when you want to. Take some notes! Pick and choose what principles you adopt and come up with your own. The most important thing to keep in mind is how your skin responds to what you put on it–not how I feel about that!

cleanse: How Clean Skin Supports an Anti-Aging Skincare Routine

Morning or night, the first step in my skincare routine is a good cleanse. This basic skincare step is absolutely crucial. Different sources will give different reasons why, with one of the most interesting reasons I’ve heard being that the pollution and contaminants skin picks up during the day will cause skin-aging free radical damage if allowed to stay on skin. That may be true, but for me, it’s simpler than that. My face won’t get the full benefits of anything in my anti-aging regimen if it isn’t clean. I don’t want my actives and extracts to have to fight through layers of makeup, sunscreen, sebum, and gunk just to reach my skin. Nor do I want to miss a day’s worth of anti-aging benefits just because I didn’t feel like spending 5 minutes washing my face.

(It does happen, not gonna lie, but I try to keep it as infrequent as I can.)

Anti-aging cleansing skincare routineIn the morning, when all I have to contend with are sleeping pack residue and maybe a little oiliness, I’m cool with just using a foaming cleanser. Sometimes a few swipes with a cleansing wipe or cleansing water when I’m feeling lazy, but I keep that to a minimum because my skin never feels quite as clean afterwards as when I properly cleanse.

At night, when I need to remove the day’s dirt, oil, sunscreen, and makeup, I almost always do my version of the double cleanse, in which the first cleansing step breaks up makeup and sunscreen and the second step washes away first cleansing residue and gets skin totally clean. Like most AB enthusiasts, I used to use emulsifying cleansing oils or balms as first cleansers. I’m afraid to use those now because of my eyelash extensions, since oils break down the glue that seals my glorious falsies to my sad sad natural lashes, so I’ve switched to cleansing waters. They aren’t quite as fast or thorough as cleansing oils at dissolving stubborn sunscreen or makeup, but they’re safe for my lashes, and my non-stripping, low-pH foaming or powder second cleansers finish the job just fine.

With my skin fresh and clean, I can move on to the next stage in my evening skincare routine: treatment!

Treat: Attacking Skin Aging with Proven Actives

Putting products in order is one of the most common dilemmas encountered by newcomers to the multilayered skincare lifestyle. I’ve faced that issue, too. As my beauty stash and the skincare routines it enables have grown, I’ve had to put a lot of thought into the order in which I use my products. What I’ve settled on is an approach that prioritizes my actives–the most serious products in my routine.

By “actives,” what I mean are products formulated to deliver ingredients that have been shown through reputable research to be capable of producing substantial improvements to skin structure and function. Effectively formulated actives generally produce the most noticeable changes to skin. They deserve to get first crack at skin, since they have the potential to do the most for it.

So I prioritize my actives within my routine, and when it comes to choosing which actives I use, I look at my highest-priority anti-aging skincare goals.

There are several distinct attributes of youthful skin that diminish as it ages. Among those attributes, two of the most conspicuous are the production of collagen, which gives skin the structural support it needs to stay smooth and firm, and even pigmentation without dark spots caused by UV damage. These are my primary anti-aging concerns. They also happen to be the most difficult to address because they’re affected by mechanisms deep within the skin. All of this makes them prime candidates for serious, targeted actives. These are the concerns that I hit first and hit hard.

My anti-aging actives of choice are Vitamin C, several forms of which have been shown to stimulate collagen production and decrease excess pigmentation, and tretinoin, a potent, extensively studied, prescription-only retinoid that comes backed by plenty of research demonstrating its abilities to do the same. These days, I get both my vitamin C and my tret from my Curology prescription.

Curology anti-aging prescription
Curology also provides my quarterly dose of obnoxious crinkly paper strips that get everywhere no matter how many times I sweep or vacuum.

The prioritizing doesn’t stop there, though. When I have a separate vitamin C serum on hand and/or am using chemical exfoliants like AHAs, BHAs, or weaker enzyme exfoliants, I use them before my Curology due to their lower pH requirements and order them from lowest pH to highest. It generally goes vitamin C -> AHA/BHA or other exfoliant -> Curology. No matter what other actives I use, though, I always put my Curology on during my actives step, and I always give it at least 20 minutes to absorb before moving on to the refining stage of my routine.

refine: Hydrators, Extracts, and Secondary Aging concerns

One could put together an effective basic anti-aging skincare routine with just the cleansing and actives steps I’ve discussed, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen. If I had to limit myself, I could probably convince myself to stop there with only a few tears. But I don’t have to limit myself right now, so I have a great time exploring ways to address not just the primary signs of skin aging, but also the more subtle, secondary signs, like reduced skin hydration and general dullness and uneven skin tone.

Loss of skin hydration is a big one. Generally, older skin doesn’t hold as much water naturally as youthful skin can, thanks to a reduction in hyaluronic acid and other natural moisturizing factors within skin, paired with a reduction in the production of lipids that help prevent water loss. The less hydrated skin is, the more aged it will appear. Well hydrated skin has a surface plumpness that can puff fine lines back up to smoothness. It also has more of a glow thanks to the way light interacts with the water in the skin. Dehydrated skin that doesn’t produce enough lipids also tends to be more sensitive and easily irritated, which can cause patches of redness that detract from the even tone of youthful skin.

From what I’ve observed, neither of these concerns really needs a heavy-duty active to address. Instead, both are perfect candidates for the stereotypical array of toners, essences, serums, and ampoules that characterize K-beauty skincare!

Korean skincare routine
So many. So many other steps.

The refining stage of my anti-aging routine layers multiple lightweight products to pack hydration into my skin, giving me the plumpest, smoothest, most even-toned and glowy surface I can get. Here, I just stick to the thin-to-thick rule, going from any watery first essences to toners to thicker hydrators and serums. The thin-to-thick method lets product dry down as fast as possible for more efficient application.

This stage is also where I get to play with interesting ingredients. It might sound frivolous, but it’s absolutely necessary for me. Let’s face it, most actives are presented in a bland, boring, and clinical way, and if skincare isn’t fun for me, I’m probably going to end up neglecting it, and then I won’t get any benefit from anything at all and I might as well just go back to cleansing my face with body wash on a scrubby shower glove and pretending a pea-sized dab of SPF 15 face lotion is enough skincare or UV protection. Which I don’t want to do, obviously.

Herbal extracts in skincare
I’d be just as sad to give up my fun extracts as my powerful actives, actually. Maybe even sadder.

I’ve talked before about my open-minded attitude towards less-proven skincare ingredients. If there’s a large body of evidence backing some ingredient’s effects on skin, I’ll buy that it works for most people. If there isn’t currently a large body of evidence backing some other ingredient’s results, on the other hand, I don’t necessarily write it off as worthless for me. The state of cosmetic research funding is such that there’s just no way every effective ingredient has been discovered or validated.

I wouldn’t depend on a bunch of tasty extracts to take the place of my proven actives, but as components in the secondary, refining stage of an anti-aging routine, I love them. If I’m going to be layering hydrating products onto my skin, I’d rather have each product also contain some ingredients of possible additional benefit than just be a boring soup of humectants. And the possible (and sometimes documented!) benefits of the extracts commonly found in K-beauty products are nearly limitless. Some are said to reduce inflammation, others to increase collagen production. Nearly all may provide antioxidants to help defend skin from wrinkle-accelerating free radical damage. I have my personal favorites, but you may find that your skin prefers a totally different set of more or less researched extracts.

Another great thing about layering multiple products is the chance to use other ingredients that are known to be effective but aren’t quite powerful enough to get their own dedicated products. If you’re fighting dark spots or uneven skin tone, for example, niacinamide or arbutin in your routine is likely to help. (By the way, morus alba, also known as mulberry, extract is a natural source of arbutin. You see that one a lot.) Adenosine and some peptides show potential for smoothing fine lines. Ingredients in this solid-but-not-quite-actives class appear in all kinds of K-beauty products.

The last benefit I want to mention about the refining stage of my routine is the way those layers of hydration and calming extracts can minimize the less desirable side effects of my actives. Tretinoin in particular is known to cause dryness and irritation. That sucks, because while I want my skin to look youthful in the long term, I also want it to look (and feel!) healthy and happy right now. I’m not about “it gets worse before it gets better.” I’m about “make it better now or I’m going to give up.” Pre-empting unpleasant effects with lots of pampering lets me enjoy the best effects of tret without suffering the worst. My Curology provider agrees.

Most nights, I follow up my layers of hydration with one final megadose of hydration and extracts via a sheet mask. I do most sheet masks after the toner-essence-serum-ampoule steps of my routine because, as I explained in the most recent episode of the Snailcast, I suspect that the occlusion and all the penetration enhancers in a typical sheet mask essence help to push what’s applied underneath into skin more effectively. Sheet masks seem to do that for me, at least. On the mornings after I do a sheet mask, my skin almost always looks significantly better than on mornings after I’ve skipped masking.

Korean moisturizers
I have lots more creams and lots more cats in boxes than this.

The final step of all this hydrating and refining is to seal all those juices in. Aging skin often has problems retaining hydration, as I mentioned earlier. If it has problems retaining hydration, it may have problems retaining beneficial ingredients mixed into that hydration, too. After my sheet mask, therefore, I always use a cream or sleeping pack to create an occlusive layer that will stop good things from evaporating out of my skin.

I’m not terribly fussy about any secondary benefits of the moisturizers I use. I do prefer them to have more fun extracts just in case any of them do something for me, but the main point of a moisturizer is to moisturize. Don’t expect a moisturizer to act like an active. My nighttime cream or sleeping pack choices are driven more by how heavy a final layer my skin needs on any given night than they are by any supposed extra effects the moisturizer might have.

(Not that I haven’t been surprised by really great extra effects from certain creams and sleeping packs! Just that the extra effects aren’t the primary concern.)

That’s it: the thought process behind my sometimes wild nighttime skincare routines. It sounds like a lot and sometimes it really is, but it’s what works for me and makes me happy, so I keep going with it. The longer I keep going with it, the more it works and the happier I become. Consistency is key. And because consistency is key, make sure the anti-aging skincare routine you put together for yourself is something you’ll enjoy enough to stick to. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your skin with too many products if you prefer a more minimal routine. Don’t force strong actives on your skin if you aren’t prepared to sunscreen up and throw on whatever extra moisture you find your skin needs. Your routine needs to work for you, no matter how different it looks from mine or anyone else’s.

Bonus reading: How to Build Your Own Skincare Routine

Anti-aging skincare routine
Your own routine never ever has to look like this if you don’t want it to. I promise.

What are your anti-aging skincare priorities, and how do you address them?


55 thoughts on “On Actives and Extracts: My Anti-Aging PM Skincare Routine Explained

  1. I always find it so fascinating to read about other people’s skincare routines and why they do what they do! How many layers do you think you use in a typical night?

    I’ve always wondered about the effect of putting the sheet mask in different places in a routine – I usually use it on clean skin before everything else because I’m worried that it’ll take off some actives with it, and I’m hoping the penetration enhancers/general hydration will leave my skin barrier disrupted enough for actives to penetrate better.


    1. Oooh I like that way of thinking too! I’m going to experiment some more with the sheet mask before the other stuff.

      Hm the number of layers varies a lot. Sometimes 4 or 5 (including actives), sometimes much more, just depending on how my skin feels. I don’t even want to think about how many layers a long routine for me would be! HAHAHA oh God.


  2. I have a question regarding layering skincare and it a bit confusing for me. I really hope you can answer this. As you mention it this best to layer skincare product from thinnest to thickest. My question is do you determine how thick or thin a product is base on the viscosity or do you base it on how the product feel on your skin. For example let say you have two products. One product is very liquidy but when you apply it to the skin, it feel heavy and just sit there. While another product that you have are lless runny (I don’t know maybe something like a cream or mousse or whip texture) but when you apply it, it just sink into the skin. Would l still apply the product that is more thin in consistence first than apply the product that are thicker in consistence second even thought it skin into my skin faster?


    1. Wow–that’s a great question! In this scenario, I would apply the product that sinks in fastest first. For example, I would do Cosrx’s snail cream before certain serums I have (like Banila Co Miss Flower Mr Honey essence oil) for that reason.


  3. It’s good to see someone who has a routine longer than mine! But I agree that consistency is key and worth the payoff. Informed skincare makes such a difference.


  4. Hey Fiddy, awesome post (as usual). If you wouldn’t mind, I have a question for you along the lines of toner/essences/seums/ampoules steps and sheet masking. I do the same thing you describe above (inspired by yo’self, of course), but I don’t know what to do with my gooey snail layer. I like finishing up my hydrating steps with a shmear of snail goo (currently the COSRX AIO) and then an occlusive. And I can’t decide. Sometimes I sheet mask before the snail goo, sometimes after. If I do it before, I never know if my mask is able to drive through the snail cream to help all those hydrator layers absorb. But if I do the snail AFTER the mask, it seems like it can take forever for the snail to absorb so I can finish up with my occlusive and go the heck to bed already!

    So, tl;dr

    Hydrators -> Sheet Mask -> Snail Goo -> Occlusive


    Hydrators -> Snail Goo -> Sheet Mask -> Occlusive?

    Please help if you can!


  5. Hi. I wonder if You could help me. My name is Anna, I follow your insta and blog, and You are source of knowledge for me. My skin went crazy last couple of months, I have breakouts like never before, uneven skintone and uneven surface. I bought COSRX aha/bha toner and returning a-sol. And the problem is that I don’t know how to use it. I wrote to COSRX but they didnt’t wrote me back. On toner there’s discription that when I use essence after it wont absorb. They recomend finish the absorbtion first.. But I need to use a toner first because I bought it to use before a-sol.. And now Im confused. I don’t know much about aha and bha this is my first stuff ever. So my question is how to use them?? can I use toner first with cotton pad and then a-sol with my hands? Or I shouldn’t use them toghieter? Or I should get something more from them to use toghieter?? Will my Hera Aquabolic Water absorb after I use this toner and a-sol?? Im so confused 😦 please help me, because I don’t want to do more harm to my skin. I also have this OST C 20 serum but I think I used it wrong because it like broke me out more :-/ and didnt’t notice any tingly effect that everyone talking about… Maybe I should use this aha bha toner first then OST and then a-sol?? Im so confused 😦


    1. I’m not fiddy, but I can try to answer some of your questions. The AHA/BHA toner has a really low pH and is recommended by r/asianbeauty to use this BEFORE your actives that are pH dependent (like AHA and BHA actives). The toner will lower the pH of your skin before the actives and give your actives a punch because your actives won’t have to lower the pH of your skin and then do their work. I’ve found using this before my actives in the winter makes my skin really dry, but YMMV. According to r/asianbeauty, the Returning A-Sol does not contain enough salicylic acid to really do much — if I remember correctly it only has 1% SA and it’s derived from a natural form of BHA from willow bark. This also has a ton of alcohol in it and it might dry your skin out. I’ve read of some people using it in place of the toner step, so that’s what I do. The alcohol doesn’t seem to bother my skin. I can’t say I’ve had any real breakthroughs with it, but I think it might have helped improve my skin texture.

      I’ve never had trouble with my essences absorbing after using any of the products.

      OST 20 has been mentioned by some people that it makes them break out, but again, YMMV. The reason fiddy uses OST before her actives is because it has the lowest pH of the bunch. Just because it works for her doesn’t mean it will work for you, so apply your products in whatever works for you 🙂


    2. Hi Anna, I would use the toner before the A-Sol and I don’t see why other products wouldn’t absorb after–it should be fine. But please start with just one new product at a time and use it for a couple of weeks before starting the next, so that if it breaks you out, you know which one did it! Also, if OST is breaking you out, I’d definitely stop using that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi,..very quick question…do i have to do the double cleansing method if I’m using the clarasonic brush that takes off my makeup completely.
    Irene from Texas


    1. If you feel that your Clarisonic does the job and daily use is not overexfoliating your skin, then don’t feel the need to add an extra step! It’s all up to you 🙂


  7. I have a question regarding retinol products. I recently started a retinol over the counter product by Dr. Dennis Gross and i just noticed increased sunspots. I am diligent with sunscreen and use the right amount. Have you noticed increased or darker sunspots since starting curology? Is it just that the spots get darker because they are coming to the surface? i also have asian skin and want to know what your experience has been.


  8. Did you notice an initial increase in sunspots when starting curology with the tret? I started an over the counter product by Dr. Dennis Gross that has retinol and noticed darker spots even though I am diligent with sunscreen. Is it just that the spots have to come to the surface?


  9. Oh, I also have a question, ive been searching all over for a low ph cleanser (which ill use after the oil one) that suits my dry skin. I only find theese gel or foaming ones.. Im new on the hole korean skincare routine, so I hope maybe you could suggest one? Love youre blog, I always check here before buying new products!;)


    1. I’m not Fiddy, but a lot of people like the Su:m37 rose cleanser stick; it’s low pH and isn’t a gel. Also Cerave Hydrating cleanser might work for your dry skin and it’s low pH.
      Some people find that both of these cleansers can aggravate acne, so if you’re dealing with acne you may want a low-pH foaming cleanser instead (Cerave foaming, CosRx Good morning, etc.) and maybe incorporate some face-friendly oils into your moisturizing routine instead. If you’re interested in face oils, go on over to Youtube and look up a vlogger called Gothamista; she has a GREAT video on different face oils for different skin types.


    2. Hi, I have several low pH cleanser reviews on the blog because I only use acidic cleansers! Most are foaming though. What are you looking for if not a gel or foaming cleanser?

      If you’re looking for something very very simple and gentle, the Hada Labo Gokujyun cleanser (in the self foaming pump bottle) or Yadah Anti Trouble Bubble Cleanser are super mild. My personal favorites are Tosowoong’s Enzyme Powder Wash, Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (which can be used as a foaming cleanser), and of course Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam.


  10. Hi Fiddy! Can you recommend a serum with both Adenosine and Niacinamide?
    And also, can people who still want to get pregnant use tretinoin? I’ve seen some controversial information about that topic!
    Thank you


    1. Hmmmmmm this is a good question. I searched the ingredients in my Evernote. The serums I’ve tried and liked that contain both ingredients are It’s Skin Prestige Serum Ginseng D’Escargot, which has a creamy/emollient consistency; Mamonde First Energy Serum, which is a more lightweight hydrating serum; Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Essence Oil (one of my holy grails!!!); and Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Soombi Essence Serum, which smells like heaven! My favorites of the list are the Banila Co and the Blossom Jeju, but the niacinamide/adenosine combination isn’t too rare in K-beauty.

      I’m afraid I’m not qualified or comfortable giving advice related to pregnancy, but it would be a good question for your OBGYN I think 🙂


  11. Hi,
    I sent this post before, but I can’t see it, so I’m writing it again. Just wondering
    which actives you recommend treating dark pigmentation.
    Gail J


    1. Vitamin C, AHAs, and retinoids can all help with excess pigmentation as long as you are consistently using sunscreen in generous amounts–unfortunately the sun is stronger than any skincare!


  12. Hi, Fiddy! I love your blog! Have you ever tried Soo Ae sheet masks? I found them at Wal-Mart in the states and really like them- even better than my innisfree and etude house! The ingredients lists are really nice, too.


    1. yes, I like a bunch of the Soo Ae hanbang masks! Snail EGF is my personal favorite. The Charcoal Flower one is really nice too! Lord Fiddy likes the Green Tea.


  13. Hey, can I ask what you’re current Curology script is? You mentioned Vit C and Tretinoin, but what’s your third ingredient/concentrations? Thank you! I’m just curious about available combos and how they work together.


    1. Hi! It’s 0.07% tretinoin, 5% MAP (vitamin C) and 4% niacinamide. I do think I will be upping my dosage with my next bottle in a couple of months though, so I may have a chance to change up the rest of the stuff as well. It’s a nice combo but as I rely on my Shark Sauce or Snow Shark for my niacinamide, I want to explore other ingredients in its place.


  14. Which one do you like better-the Dr G or Thank you Farmer cleansing water? And where do you get the Dr G? I’ve searched all the usual suspects and can’t find it. Also, I’m going to NYC soon!!! Freaking out a little about my Kbeauty run in Korea town!


    1. The Dr. G wipes more cleanly; the TYF is a bit more moisturizing but does leave a bit of residue. I like Dr. G more in the morning when I’m feeling too lazy to actually cleanse but prefer the TYF in the evening because I’m going to use regular cleanser after and don’t want to feel stripped afterwards. And I think you can find the Dr. G at Club Clio and JKNLEE in New York.


  15. This post was exactly what I was looking for! It’s like you’ve read my mind and granted my prayers in text-format! Thank you so much for the incredible work!


  16. Hi Fiddy! Great post as always! Quick question: in your experience, do the different forms of Vitamin C yield different effects on hyperpigmentation? I noticed that your Curology scrip is MAP; how do you like it compared to L-AA? I’m trying to slot a vit C into my routine for my horrible post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and I’m really confused! Thanks for your help 😉 I love your blog!


    1. It’s hard to say since the Curology has MAP blended with tret, which is pretty powerful on its own against hyperpigmentation, but what I will say is that when I choose a dedicated vitamin C serum, I always go for L-AA as it currently is the most accessible vitamin C derivative that is supported by evidence of ticking all my boxes (penetrates skin, UV damage protection, collagen stimulation, hyperpigmentation fading).

      If you look for L-AA, definitely make sure to choose a correctly formulated serum. One that is (bewilderingly) popular is the Klairs one, which has way too low a concentration and way too high a pH to be effective for anything except a bit of antioxidants!


      1. Thanks Fiddy! Hmm, that makes sense- I’ll start with LAA first and see how my skin likes it. I just found a local seller of C21.5 that hopefully has fresh batches so I think I’ll give my pennies a whirl for that one!


  17. I just don’t want to look too much older than my age. I’m 28. I’ll take “early 30’s.” Skip the hydration or wear an ultra drying settle in the lines formula foundation? Bang! I’m 45.

    I hit my face with layers of moisture. I am also heavy with actives including chemical peels with my Curology script but I’ve been doing peels for a decade and using actives even longer so my tolerance has been built over a lot of time and you know YMMV I have lizard skin…

    I am still on the hunt for the perfect Vitamin C serum. There’s MAP in my Curology, I love Holy Snails El Dorado for my first taste of THDA… But I want an LAA that doesn’t oxidize in what feels like minutes. Collagen production is a goal you know? Gotta keep as much bounce as I can. Replace sleep with products. I’ll find the ones…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. God, I know how you feel about the vitamin C serum quest. I’m still on it myself too–I don’t think the MAP in Curology is at a high enough concentration to really replace a dedicated vitamin C serum. I don’t know why I keep getting C20 when I should be trying Timeless or something.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi! I’m currently using the Cosrx low ph good morning cleanser. Do I still have to use the Cosrx aha/bha toner before I use the C20 or should I use it after waiting the 20 mins or so? Also, is it more effective,( or less chances of break outs), to wipe off the C20 before going to the next step or should I just leave it on? A little confused, any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you! 🙂


    1. Hi! Personally, I don’t really feel a wait time after cleanser or the use of a pH adjusting toner are strictly necessary as long as your actives are effectively formulated (and C20 is). There is a lot of confusion around whether the pH of your skin affects pH-sensitive products. I’m leaning towards it not having much impact (I think the actual pH of the product is what matters).

      Generally, an L-AA vitamin C serum like C20 will work best on bare skin, so I would suggest trying it immediately after cleansing without any products applied before.

      I sometimes I like to wipe off the C20 residue, especially since it can be sticky if I accidentally put on too much. The Cosrx AHA BHA toner on a cotton pad would be good for that!


      1. I was a little unsure and a bit shy if I should leave a comment 😀 Thank you for your reply. That is a great tip, that C20 works best on bare skin 🙂
        I’ve been reading your blogs since I got into Korean skincare a few months ago, and I used the info as my guide when we went to Seoul for our anniversary. My skin has never looked better. Thank you so much for all the time and effort! Regards from Canada!


  19. Amazing post, Fiddy! I’m just starting to add more anti-aging products into my routine after winning the battle against acne, hooray haha! Your routine posts are always so comprehensive, I always learn a ton!


  20. Hi Fiddy, brand new poster and reader of your blog, so fascinating! I’m 54 btw and just getting into asian skin care.
    Do you use tretinoin (your combo of C and tretinoin) EVERY night? I’m currently using Deciem vitamin C and learned from your blog that should be the first to be applied, even before AHA’s. I also use tretinoin and it sounds like i would apply C, AHA and then tretinoin and wait for 20 min at least to then apply moisturizers, etc. I also want to get into sheet masks as i need absolutely AS MUCH HYDRATION as i can…so i’ll really need to delve into your blog for info on that, if you have a quick recommendation it would be appreciated :). Thanks so much.


    1. Hi! Yup, I do use tretinoin every night, and the order you have outlined is perfect provided your vitamin C is L-AA type (which I think the Deciem is.

      For sheet masks, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with some My Beauty Diary!


  21. Hi Fiddy, I’m new to K-beauty and honestly am feeling overwhelmed! I bought a bunch of stuff that you have mentioned in your blogs. 🙂
    I had a question, how long do you wait between the applications of the various steps? Do you wait until they are completely dry? (which I have not been doing.)

    A little about my skin, I’m in my mid-40’s, have VERY dry skin, lots of sun damage, and the occasional acne. Here are the items in my regimen so far. If you have a recommended sequence of what to apply, that would be appreciated too. If there other items that you think I should also incorporate, please let me know! Thanks so much!

    Hada Labo Cleansing Oil

    Hada Labo Lotion Moist
    Hada Labo Milky Lotion
    Curology – nighttime only (Azelaic acic 4%, Clindamycin 1%, Niacinamide 4%)
    Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
    Su:m37 Water-Full Skin Refresher
    MIssha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence
    Shara Shara Honey Bomb


      1. Thanks for getting back to me! Do you have any recommendations for moisturizers? I am currently not using any creams (only the products listed above), and my skin feels very dehydrated still (and my pores looks huge as well!). Thanks again for sharing your knowledge in this area!


  22. I’m so glad to have come across your blog. I’ve been searching for the right anti-aging routine and your post was extremely helpful for me. To be honest, I haven’t really been doing much for my skin but it’s really about time I start doing that now because I look like I’m 35 even though I’m only in my early 20’s! 😢
    I was honestly clueless about skincare and didn’t know that you could actually put products on top of tretinoin! I’ve been using tretinoin for my acne and hyper pigmentation, and while it does its job for those particular problems, it makes my skin extremely dry which is why I’ve been aging fast! I guess my question is, is it really okay to put other products on top of the tretinoin cream? Will that make it any less effective? How long should I wait after putting tret on before I put on other products? Also how do you combat with the extreme dryness and peeling that comes with using the cream? It would be super awesome if you could answer these questions!
    I really help need and is in a desperate need to stop my skin from aging any further. It’s embarrassing to be referred to as ma’am or auntie when you’re only 22 😩 Thank you so much. And recommendations for super effective anti-aging products or procedures are highly welcomed!!

    Thanksss a lot ❤️


  23. I’m so glad to have come across your blog. I’ve been searching for the right anti-aging routine and your post was extremely helpful for me. To be honest, I haven’t really been doing much for my skin but it’s really about time I start doing that now because I look like I’m 35 even though I’m only in my early 20’s! 😢
    I was honestly clueless about skincare and didn’t know that you could actually put products on top of tretinoin! I’ve been using tretinoin for my acne and hyper pigmentation, and while it does its job for those particular problems, it makes my skin extremely dry which is why I’ve been aging fast! I guess my question is, is it really okay to put other products on top of the tretinoin cream? Will that make it any less effective? How long should I wait after putting tret on before I put on other products? Also how do you combat with the extreme dryness and peeling that comes with using the cream? It would be super awesome if you could answer these questions!
    I really help need and is in a desperate need to stop my skin from aging any further. It’s embarrassing to be referred to as ma’am or auntie when you’re only 22 😩 Thank you so much. And recommendations for super effective anti-aging products or procedures are highly welcomed!!

    Thanksss a lot ❤️


    1. Hi! You sure can put other products on top of the tretinoin–I cleared my entire routine with my Curology derm (here’s my post on the topic). And I actually have never had severe dryness or peeling etc. with my tret, due in large part to my post-tretinoin skincare. (Here’s another post on that!)

      I wait at least 20 minutes after applying tretinoin before I put on anything else, to give it time to fully absorb.

      And don’t be so hard on yourself! I’m sure your skin looks just fine 🙂


  24. You’ve convinced me I’ve been missing out on some amazing skincare opportunities. If I wanted to use the COSRX Snail 96, COSRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power and Hadalabo JAPAN Skin Institute Gokujun premium hyaluronic solution before my moisturizer in what order would I use them? hyaluronic solution first (bc it’s thinnish and will help everything I apply after it soak in better, right?) –> Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power (also thinner) –> Snail 96? Follow it up with moisturizers I already have? Is that right? And is that too many? They all serve different purposes so they’re not too redundant, right? shrugs Also, am I supposed to wait between each step like I do with my actives? Yikes, so much to learn!!


  25. I’ve been creeping on your blogs lately since discovering K beauty this month/year.
    I purchased your white shark sauce. I want to expand the products I use. My main problem area are blackheads on the nose and also spider veins from extractions for my 27 years from oily skin. I understand that short of laser the veins are here to stay. My question is… I want to expand to other actives. Prior to shark sauce, I’ve been using niacinimide serum and Olay regenerist micro sculpting which I believe has niacinimide and peptides. I have this issue that if I’m using a retinol product sample, I must also use a retinol moisturizer just so I’m sure that they work well together. Or if I’m using vitamin C to not mix it with any products containing any other actives. I also do not trust products that mix actives, unless they are sold by you as I know you studied that they work well and you explain why.As a result, I haven’t been able to get much layering in my routine. I’m too afraid to mix products unless I know for use it’s not going to harm my active.

    Thanks to your post, I may reach out to a dermatologist for a curology script. For some reason, I’ve been battling acne all on my own. By 27, most cystic/whithead are gone thx to birth control and age, and improved care/diet. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how to battle aging and still battle blackheads. I want to try the BHA powder by Corsrx under your shark sauce. I also want to add some el dorado purchase to put on top of it.


    1. Hi, I think you have me confused with Chel from Holy Snails, who makes Shark Sauce and El Dorado 🙂 It happens! She’s great and you can find her at holysnails.com or holysnailsshop.com.


  26. Hi I am brand new to your site (I just got a free bottle of the Missha Night Repair Borabit Ampoule with my Missha Essense order and was Googling how to use it) and have a few questions:
    1. I purchased Retirides 0.05% cream in Barcelona (it’s an OTC Tretinoin) and have no idea where to incorporate it in my routine. I know not to use on days when I use a Lactic Acid (I use Sunday Riley Good Genes) or a VItamin C- but what order would it go in if I am using the Missha Essence and the Missa Longer Name Ampoule?
    2. I recently purchased the Niacinamide from The Ordinary, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Do you have any suggestions as to where to incorporate that in my routine?

    Thank you so much!!


  27. Hey Fiddy,

    I am from India,age 31, recently ordered Korean products. This is my first ever comment to someone who taught me many things. Thank you for that

    I have being distracted for long on skin care. Only when once I had dehydrated skin, I was searching for hydrating creams, little did I know that what I am searching for is the base of the whole skincare industry somewhere in world- Korea.

    I have read all your posts and I have carefully selected few products too. I got to know the basic ingredients and what makes the skin hydration , actives etc .As my Skin is oily, acne-blackhead-whitehead,clogged pore prone, these are products I purchsed
    1. Cosrx cleanser
    2. Cosrx blackhead liquid
    3. Cosrx snail mucin essence
    4. Cosrx AHA
    5. Cosrx Rice mask
    6. Pyunkang yul serum
    7. Pyunkang yul ampoule
    8. Aritum lip sugar scrub

    One of them is cosrx snail mucin. Bouy!! I loved it. I have extremely Oily skin. Few of my questions:
    1. The skin around eyes is oily. It is only few seasons like winter when the skin is dry/ less oily. I searched a lot but couldn’t find answer to my question. If the skin is oily around eyes do I still need eye cream? And if yes then what is a good eye cream for oily skin around eyes. I loved snail mucin because It gives the exact finish to the face what I expect. Neither too oily nor drying. I would want the same for eyes too. That being said, I apply the essence to my eyes too. Can essences be applied to eyes??

    Secondly I have have purchased Pyunkang yul’s serum and ampoule. I found that the little ingredients would be ok to use on my skin. My skin is oily acne prone, with blackheads and whiteheads with acne esp. on my chin. It would be great if you can do a a review on pyunkang yul products. Little information is available.

    Lastly, Thank you for everything. I loved the worksheet and the time you put for organising everything and the research you do.


  28. Hi Fiddy,

    I’m sure you get this question a lot, but when do you think we should start a serious, aggressive anti-aging routine? And by aggressive, I don’t mean literally aggressive – I mean a routine that’s mainly centered around anti-aging (rather than acne, or brightening, or any of those concerns).

    I’m currently 26, and I’m still fighting the remnants of adult acne (thank you hormones) and some stubborn PIE. My current routine is focused on hydration and healing, especially since I’m on some prescription oral meds to help fix (hopefully the last of) my hormonal acne.

    I’ve pretty much been a sunscreen fanatic for several years now (I’m the kind of person that puts it on every piece of exposed skin – even the tops of my feet! – before stepping outside), and I made the switch from those tacky, “I’m going to the beach” European/American sunscreens to the slick SPF 50 PA++++ Korean alternatives about a year ago. I’m also pretty good at hydration, and I really like the humectant-toner-followed-by-occlusive-moisturizer method to really seal everything in since I tend to have very dehydrated skin.

    So when would you recommend I start incorporating things like Vitamin C and tret? Tret is quite scary for many people, I think, so do you have any other non-prescription actives to recommend first? Almost everything is labelled “antioxidant” these days, so that can be quite confusing! A wide variety of plant extracts and all sort of things promise that, but is there anything that can stand side-by-side on a decent body of research with something like Vitamin C? I’ve heard great things about specific ingredients like the multitasker niacinamide, groups of ingredients like peptides and ceramides, and even root extracts like coptis japonica.

    Thanks so much (and sorry for the long comment!),


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