Korean Skincare Routine - skincare as self-care

Skincare as Self-Care

In Self-Care by Punita RiceLeave a Comment

Since becoming a mom, my definition of self-care has changed. Before kids, self-care could involve entire days (or weekends) devoted to my interests or overall well-being — which might have taken the form of reading books, traveling, shopping, going out, gaming, or any number of fun (if occasionally mindless) activities. But after kids, while free time does still exist (as a work at home mom, it can feel scarce), I find I have to carve out smaller increments of time for self-care. For me, an easy and genuinely enjoyable way of pampering myself, is through my skincare routine. And I’m not alone in this — it seems like a lot of other moms (and people who aren’t moms, too!) are turning to skincare as self-care for moms — especially long, involved skin-care rituals, like “Korean skincare routine” style rituals. Read on for why I think about the Korean approach to skincare as self-care.


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My own skincare routine isn’t as involved as a 10-step Korean skincare routine, but my night time skincare routine does sometimes include 6 steps (which is plenty for me!). And it still feels very much like a form of self-care! Before we go on, let’s first discuss…

What is a “Korean Skincare” Routine?

The Korean approach to skincare has been around forever, but Korean skincare (and K-beauty, and the “10-step skincare routine”) gained massive popularity in recent years in the Western world (arguably, thanks in large part to Charlotte Cho). So what is the Korean approach to skincare? According to Korean skincare and beauty sites Soko Glam, Peach and Lily, and the ever-knowledgeable K-Beauty subreddit, the Korean philosophy or approach to skincare is built around taking care of skin, so that skin is healthy and glowing.

The point of Korean skincare is to take care of your skin by meeting its needs and nourishing it. This often requires multiple steps, and each step serves a specific purpose and contributes to the end goal of getting your healthy, glowing, radiant skin. This is why people often talk about the “10-step routine” (though, again, my own routine is only 9 steps). Plenty of people who follow the Korean approach to skincare don’t actually do 10 steps, but a lot of people do (here’s a great article from Soko Glam explaining the role of each step in the “10-step” routine). However, the point of adopting the Korean approach to skincare is not to make sure you get all 9 or 10 or 100 steps in (and it is also not to buy as many products as you can). Again, the point is to nourish and take care of your skin.

My friend Sojeong, who is Korean American*, has been trying for years and years to get me on board with adopting a thorough skincare routine inspired by the Korean philosophy to skincare. According to Soj, Korean skincare (as compared to Western skincare) places such a heavy emphasis on making your skin healthy and beautiful that ideally, you wouldn’t need makeup to hide your skin.

*By the way, don’t assume every Korean American friend you have is a skincare expert. (which… duh).

What follows is a post all about the Korean approach to skincare as self-care. But first, in this post you’ll find (1) a breakdown of the purpose of each step in the 10-step Korean Skincare Routine, (2) my reasoning for why a Korean skincare routine is the perfect form of self-care, and (3) my personal “Korean Skincare” inspired routine, with an explanation of how to do the step, and recommendations for some of my favorite products and popular products. Read on!


The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

So what are the classic 10 steps of a so-called classic 10-step Korean Skincare routine? If you’re curious about the purpose of each step, read on, my friend. Below, I’m breaking down each step’s purpose.

  1. Oil cleanser* – Oil cleansers remove all traces of dirt and makeup…
  2. Foam or water cleanser*- …and the second cleanser gets rid of all traces of the oil cleanser. The end goal is skin that has been thoroughly cleaned, but remains balanced, and doesn’t feel overly dried or stripped.
  3. Exfoliate – Exfoliating helps get rid of lingering dead skin cells, and any lingering grime or gunk that builds up in your pores. Most recommend exfoliating only 2-3 times per week — if your skin can handle even that much. (I typically only exfoliate once a week — Fridays! — and alternate between manual exfoliating one week, and chemical exfoliating another week.)
  4. Sheet Masks – Sheet masks serve a million different purposes — anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, soothing, calming, hydrating, firming, plumping, etc. For some, sheet masks are a daily thing. Personally, I do a sheet mask about once per week (#SheetMaskSaturdays!)
  5. Toner – In the world of Korean skincare, “toners” aren’t usually the same as American toners, which are typically harsher products that serve a different purpose (although more high end / luxury skincare and beauty companies in the West are starting to develop more gentle toners that serve a similar purpose to their Korean counterparts). Toners are products that “set your skin” and basically prep it for the products that will follow.
  6. Essence – Essences are meant to make your skin brighter and smoother. They’re typically highly concentrated (like serums — see Step 7), but, are usually lightweight.
  7. Serums and ampoules – Serums and ampoules are super concentrated products that contain specific ingredients that could help with all kinds of skin issues (these are also sometimes called “actives,” referring to the active ingredient in the specific product). There are a million different serums for a million different purposes.
  8. Eye cream – Most eye creams exist to hydrate and prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging.
  9. Moisturizers – Like eye cream, this is probably somewhat self-explanatory — a moisturizer is meant to moisturize or hydrate your skin.
  10. SPF (morning only) – Again, self-explanatory; SPF is meant to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. In Korean skincare, sun protection is a critical part of skincare.

*Steps 1 & 2 together are known as “double cleansing”

I hope that’s a helpful basic overview of reasoning behind each step of the “10 Step Korean Skincare Routine” — but if you want even more information, or just another explanation for these steps, here’s a great article from Soko Glam explaining the role of each step in the “10-step” routine, and here’s one with a sample routine from Peach & Lily. Keep on reading for my explanation of why this intensive form of skincare is, to me, the perfect form of self-care.


Why a Korean Skincare Routine is the Perfect Form of Self-Care

My friend Sojeong (mentioned in the intro to this post) has been trying to bring me into the magical world that is Korean skincare literally since college. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago (after becoming a mom) that I finally found myself genuinely interested and finally asking  her teach me her ways (she was happy to oblige. Thanks Soj!). Becoming a work at home mom made me crave something that could be a way for me to show myself some care (for a long time, going to the gym served that purpose). Now, the idea of a luxurious, complex, and healthy skincare routine sounded incredibly appealing, and like a great way to pamper myself and engage in positive self-care.

And skincare really is a great form of self-care. In an article for Skincare.com, Jessica Khorsandi writes about this:

“If you’re taking time out of your day—morning and night—to care for your skin, you’re also engaging in soothing and comforting acts that can also be considered self-care, whether that is gently massaging cream around your eyes or putting your head back and kicking up your feet while a sheet mask engulfs your facial contours… The goal may be to improve the way your skin looks, but there’s no denying that the process of caring for your skin can be relaxing and meditative if you allow it to be… Engaging in a daily skin care routine can make you feel good about yourself (and your skin), and that may lead to happiness in other areas of your life…

Self-care can mean different things to each individual, but the overarching goal is to feel good, happy, and calm. For many, engaging in a skin care routine—regardless of whether it involves 10 steps or 3 steps—can help reduce daily stress, as it’s a chance to take a break. You don’t even have to be a skin care buff to embrace self-care through your daily routine, so long as you are taking time for yourself to disconnect from stressors and focus on yourself.” 

Jessica Khorsandi for Skincare.com (read more here)

Lauren Rearick, for Huffington Post Wellness also describes the mental health benefits of a skincare routine:

“Any act of skin care can be considered self-care… The very act of looking out for your skin, no matter the purpose, is comforting and soothing by nature… Self-care is an all-encompassing way of living that can include large and small acts.”

Lauren Rearick for Huffington Post Wellness (read more here)

Obviously, this kind of disconnecting and self-care is great for anyone — but it’s especially ideal for mamas who feel in need of some self-pampering and self-care. (By the way, here’s a post from The Lucky Pear with some other self-care ideas for stay at home moms besides skincare.) As moms, many of us already handle a lot in a given day that has nothing to do with us or our own needs (relevant: some of us also fight mom guilt), and it can be great to take a few meditative moments — or 20 — every night to devote to something exclusively for our own well-being, or self-care. (Here’s a great post about why moms must prioritize self-care). And what Mama doesn’t need to devote some time to self-care?

I’m definitely not the first person to think of my skincare routine as an intentional form of self-care that’s perfect for moms. Here’s a post from Janny from the blog janny: organically, about how skincare is her perfect form of self-care. In her post, Janny, who gives herself a basic facial (cleanse, face, head and neck massage, mask, and night time oil) says:

“As mothers, we tend to put others wants and needs ahead of our own. Sometimes we find ourselves run-ragged, un-showered and surviving off caffeine… It’s so important to make sure we take care of ourselves by working out, eating the right foods and nourishing our skin and soul – even if it means the house stays a little messy or you have to ask for some help. Most nights my husband is home before Sawyer is in bed and while he gives her a bath or reads bedtime stories, I lock myself in the bathroom for 20-30 minutes to decompress, shower and take care of my skin.”

Janny for janny: organically (read more here)

Janny’s form of self-care (showering, decompressing, doing her skincare routine) also points to how we can choose to be intentional about our time, and our attention, and what we think of as self-care. It’s easy to imagine someone taking that same 20-30 minutes to bathe/groom themself and think of it as a chore. But Janny is mindful about this time, and thinks of it as her time to decompress. It makes me think of a phrase that always helps me improve my own attitude about things: It’s not “I have to,” it’s “I get to.” (By the way, on the topic of self-care for moms, here’s a lovely post, from Abundant Mama, about why self-care doesn’t have to mean “moms night out.”)

My own skincare routine is different from Janny’s, but I also think of my nightly skincare routine as a ritual that I get to do for myself, as a form of self-love and self-care. If you’d like to learn more about my own personal “Korean Skincare” inspired, 9-step nighttime skincare routine, keep reading.


My Korean Skincare Inspired Nighttime Routine

The steps (and products) in my skincare routine are specific to my skin’s needs, so anything you find here might not necessarily be ideal or necessary for your skin — it took a lot of trial and error over the past two years to figure out what products I like. This is just my approach. You’ll want to do your own research. That said, I know when I’m researching something, I like to see others’ examples of how to do it to guide me, so I’m offering my routine(s) here in case it serves as a helpful resource for others.

My “Mini” Korean Skincare Inspired 6 Step Routine

Most nights of the week, I don’t exfoliate or sheet mask, and many nights, I also skip the essence… which means I often follow a six step routine on most nights. That routine looks like this:

  1. Oil cleanse (Banila Co Clean It Zero)
  2. Foam/water cleanse (here’s a good option from Neogen)
  3. Tone
  4. Serum(s) (here’s a link to Ole Henriksen Truth Serum)
  5. Moisturizer(s)
  6. Eye cream.*

*In most traditional multi-step (or “10-step”) routines, eye cream comes before moisturizer, but I tend to apply my eye cream last. This is because I also use moisturizer under my eye area (a lot of people don’t — they skip that area, since they already will have applied eye cream there), so since I’ll be layering eye cream and moisturizer, I put the eye cream on last, since it’s heavier than my moisturizer(s). Skincare should usually be layered lightest to heaviest.


A Longer 9-Step Korean Skincare Inspired Routine

My maximum number of possible steps is nine (a “10-step” routine includes SPF, and you don’t apply SPF at night). Occasionally, I don’t even exfoliate and sheet mask on the same night (I sometimes exfoliate on Fridays and sheet mask on Saturdays rather than doing them both on Saturday), so on those nights, I max out at 8 steps. If I were actually doing my maximum number of steps, my nighttime skincare routine would look like this:

My Korean skincare routine inspired routine

From this image, my 9 steps:

  1. Oil cleanse (here’s a link to Banila Co Clean It Zero)
  2. Foam/water cleanse (here’s a good option from Neogen)
  3. Exfoliate (only once a week! I love this stuff)
  4. Sheet Mask (only once a week!)
  5. Tone
  6. Essence
  7. Serum(s) (here’s a link to Ole Henriksen Truth Serum)
  8. Moisturizer(s), and finally,
  9. Eye cream.

Morning Skincare Routine

Mornings are even easier, because in the morning I follow a very simple 3-4 step routine:

Most mornings, I just use a single cleanser (I use the CosRX Good Morning cleanser in the morning, and the same toner during the day as I use at night. Then, I use a lightweight lotion (anything lightweight, like Oil of Olay), and if I know I’m going to be outside at all, I use a good SPF* on top: I use the Biore Sarasa UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence sunscreen with SPF 50+ (by the way, there’s evidence that there’s no need for SPF50 or really anything above 30, but I find the texture of this particular sunscreen to be perfect, and find it works well with makeup). If I’m wearing makeup that day, I apply my makeup after my moisturizer and SPF have had some time to sort of settle onto my skin.

*You can apply SPF similarly to how you’d use a moisturizer. A lot of people recommend waiting a bit between your moisturizer and SPF so you’re not just wiping away your moisturizer, or blending everything together in a big mess. If you plan to wear makeup on top, you might also want to wait longer for everything to settle onto your skin a bit.

Next is a breakdown of my recommendations for each item in my routine.


Double Cleansing (every night)

How to Double Cleanse: First – use the cleansing oil (using clean hands, squirt some cleansing oil on your fingertips, then lather it on your face — no water — to start loosening up makeup. Add a drop of water as you’re finishing up, then rinse/splash face clean). Next – use the cleansing foam (squeeze a pea sized amount on wet fingers, lather, and gently wash face, then splash clean with water, then kind of just pat it with your fingers. no need to use a towel yet).

In the past, I used the Face Shop Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil and Cleansing Foam. You don’t have to use a set like that though.

Oil Cleansers – You can also obviously purchase an oil cleanser and foam cleanser separately. My favorite is the Natural Rice Water cleanser (which some people hate) from The Face Shop. I also use the Banila Co “Clean It Zero” cleanser. Two other good options for oil cleansers: Neogen’s Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick (which is an award winning oil cleanser), and the Su:m37 Rose Cleansing Stick, but it keeps selling out everywhere.

Foam or Round 2 Cleansers – Two good options for foam cleaners: Neogen’s Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser, or my favorite, CosRX Good Morning cleanser (I feel so CLEAN when I use this, and it smells so good — if you like the scent of tea tree oil). Another option (that I haven’t yet tried) is Neogen’s Real Flower Cleansing Water in Rose.

I also sometimes use Ocusoft Lid Scrub pads to remove my eye makeup (and to combat any milia induced by eye cream — see more on that under the Eye Cream section) before I continue with my routine.


Exfoliate (Friday OR Saturday nights)

How to exfoliate: GENTLY! Do not scrub at your skin like you’re trying to remove it from your face. I usually exfoliate once per week, alternating between a manual exfoliant (think traditional “scrubs”) and a chemical exfoliant (although my current favorite chemical exfoliant is actually a chemical-manual hybrid).

Some more recommendations – Neogen’s Bio-Peel Green Tea Gauze Peeling ($27), Skinfood Wash Off Black Sugar Mask ($10), and Ole Henriksen Moment of Truth Polishing Sugar Mask ($42). Second row: Fresh Sugar Face Polish ($62), Neogen’s Lemon Bio-Peel Gauze ($27), and C.O. Bigelow Sugar Crystal Face Polish ($32).

I also love the Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze. I currently use (and love) the “Wine” version, which contains Resveratrol, but I’m looking forward to trying the Lemon and the Green Tea versions next. For a traditional scrub (manual exfoliant), a cult-favorite is Skinfood’s Sugar Scrub.

I also like using Body Merry Glycolic Acid exfoliating wash (it seems like a lot of people use this as a daily cleanser, but I find it suits my skin better to only use it once every few days at the most).  


Sheet masks (Saturday nights)

How to sheet mask: Start with a clean face. Open the package, carefully remove the sheet mask, and apply. Usually, there’s a lot of good stuff left inside the package (the actual essence that the mask is soaked in) — don’t waste it! You can usually use what’s left in the package on your neck, arms, hands, etc. I also like to do a light lymphatic drainage massage while wearing a sheet mask, typically once it starts to dry a little bit. (I’m not sure if it’s still saved as a highlighted story or not, but at the time of writing this, Alicia Yoon had a highlighted video on her Instagram demonstrating how she does a lymphatic drainage massage while masking. Here’s a link to her Instagram.)

A note about exfoliating and using sheet masks: I often exfoliate and sheet mask on the same night (usually Saturday night), but sometimes, I split it up and exfoliate on Fridays, and sheet mask on Saturdays. I do this when I feel like I just don’t want to run my skin through too many steps on a single night. It’s important to note that not all products work well together, depending on what kind of exfoliating you’re doing and what kind of sheet mask you’re using. I also occasionally use a sheet mask at any other random time in the week when I want to pamper my skin, or have the time to do it.

A lot of people who use and love sheet masks use them far more frequently than I do. In fact, Korean Australian blogger Jen Kim (aka “meejmuse”) has a great video review of a ton of sheet masks (here) — in which she shares that it’s not uncommon to use a sheet mask once or twice a week at least, and that there’s even a saying in Korea about using “one mask a day.” But for me, once a week is practical right now, since (a) it’s a time commitment, and (b) IT’S A TIME COMMITMENT! But really, I also like looking forward to #SheetMaskSaturday.

Specific masks I’m currently enjoying: I love the Bling Bling Energizing Rose Hydrogel mask (which are made of hydrogel rather than “sheets”) — these are a definite repurchase for me. I also really like the Natural Gift Green Tea Pore Care sheet mask (again, a repurchase). I order these two favorites from Soko Glam. (If you place an order with them, here’s my referral link. This blog doesn’t get a referral fee from that link, but, you’ll get a discount, and I’ll personally get a credit to use toward a future order.) I also like Patchology’s Hydrating sheet mask (not from Soko Glam).

For more inexpensive options, I also like TonyMoly sheet masks (sometimes they’re available in bulk if you find a good seller on Amazon) and some of the Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze sheet masks (again, these are usually available in bulk on Amazon). From Innisfree, my favorites are Tea Tree, Green Tea, and Rose masks. Some more mask options below. (Also, here’s a great video where Korean Australian blogger Jen Kim, aka meejmuse, reviews a variety of low to high-end sheet masks).


Toner

How to tone: Get a few drops on fingertips, then gently pat it on face, starting near nose and gently patting outward.

Some favorites: COSRX Galactomyces Alcohol-Free Toner ($17), La Mer The Tonic ($90), then Neogen’s Real Flower Cleansing Water ($22). Second row: Fresh Women’s Rose Marigold Tonic Water ($40), COSRX Centella Water Alcohol-Free Toner ($17), and Aesop Parsley Seed antioxidant toner ($53).

I use and currently like The Therapy Essential Tonic Treatment (from The Face Shop), but there are many that are way more popular. Skinfood makes one I haven’t tried yet, (and it has a pretty bottle!), Fresh has a Rose and Marigold one, and Peter Thomas Roth makes one that’s a mist. Here are some more options…


Essence

How to use essences: After toning skin, gently glide and pat Essence onto skin (in a fashion similar to how you’d apply toner).

A lot of really popular essences include fermented ingredients, which are meant to be great for hydrating and brightening skin. One of the most famous essences ever is the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence (available here in 2.5oz for $99), and a highly recommended dupe for SK-II’s essence is, reportedly, MISSHA Time Revolution First Essence. Also super popular is the CosRx’s Snail Mucin Essence (all three products are good for dry skin and are anti-aging). Another popular option is CosRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence, which contains galactomyces ferment filtrate (which is meant to hydrate, smooth, and brighten skin). Unfortunately, my experience has been that fermented ingredients make my skin very unhappy.

I’ve tried CosRX’s Snail Mucin Essence, and the MISSHA Time Revolution, but NEITHER of them suited my skin at all, and I’ve had bad reactions to both. This is a good example of how everyone’s skin reacts differently to things — You have to find what suits you!

Even though the aforementioned essences are not great for me, I’m still linking those essences in the widget below, since they’re wildly popular and so many others love them.

Meanwhile, I’m still on the hunt for the PERFECT essence for my skin. I like Hyaluronic Acid products (see serums below). Next on my list to try is Hanskin Hyaluron Essence (if you buy from Soko Glam, use my referral code for 20% off your first order).

By the way, according to Sojeong, these are actually the most important step in a Korean skincare routine:

“Essences are why Koreans have good skin.”

– Sojeong

A note: A lot of K-beauty sites talk about “whitening” or “brightening” products (especially with essences, but also with serums) — this (usually) is not referring to whitening like Indian/South Asian products mean it (where they literally mean trying to make your skin lighter, or preventing yourself from getting darker), but instead, refers to making your skin seem brighter and glowy.


Serum(s)

How to use serums and ampoules: Since each serum is geared toward a specific skin issue or goal, and serums aren’t typically applied all over, but instead, can be (gently) applied to target areas as needed. Typically, a small amount of a product, used in a very gentle tapping/patting motion is the right way to apply it — but again, since there are so many different kinds of serums, each can have different application techniques.

It’s hard to make universal recommendations for serums since the whole point is to target your specific skin concerns through the right active ingredients (“actives”), but, I’m happy to share my personal recommendations based on what has worked well for me, and my specific skin concerns. Below are specific skin concerns I’m trying to address, and for each, I’m sharing the product (or the active) I’m using to address said concern…

  • Hyperpigmentation – One of my skin concerns is improving the evenness of my skin tone and addressing hyperpigmentation, so I use serums that target those concerns — one of my favorite actives for addressing this skin concern is Vitamin C. I currently love the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum — it’s a Vitamin C serum geared towards brightening and evening out skin tone.
  • Hyperpigmentation – When I run out of my Ole Henriksen, I plan to purchase Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum — it’s a similar product (the same active ingredient), and it gets great reviews and is more affordable.
  • Anti-aging – I also know I like Lactic Acid as an active for addressing both the hyperpigmentation and as an anti-aging active; an all-time favorite product for me is Ole Henriksen “Enlighten Me” THC Serum (which has been discontinued). I’m still on the hunt for a replacement serum that suits my skin.
  • Dry skin (winter) – In the winter, my skin is more dry, so if I develop any dry patches, I use Mizon Hyaluronic Acid 100 (link is to Amazon, also available from Peach and Lily here) — it’s super moisturizing, has ceramides and anti-inflammatories, and has a cute dropper-package. (Also, here’s a Reddit post on how to use Mizon’s Hyaluronic Acid.)
  • Closed comedones – I’m also using CosRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid for closed comedones. Here’s a fantastic review (with a breakdown of how to use this stuff), from the amazing skincare review blog Fifty Shades of Snail.

As an aside, a lot of people rave about the MISSHA Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator ampoule, which has amazing reviews, and as far as fancy ampoules go, isn’t too expensive.


Eye cream

How to use eye cream: Very gently, using your ring finger, apply a thin amount of eye cream in a tapping motion under your eye, starting from the inner corner, and gently working your way out.

I use an anti-wrinkle eye cream by Shisheido. More anti-wrinkle eye creams at different price points (including this Oil of Olay one for under $15 — or this Dior one for $250) below.

A note about eye creams and milia:

Eye cream is one thing I’ve been pretty diligent about using for about ten years. BUT, eye creams can be very heavy and occlusive, and if you’re prone to milia around your eyes, eye creams can definitely trigger them. (Officially, it’s unclear whether they can cause milia, but anecdotally, if you talk to people passionate about skincare, many will tell you that sadly, yes, eye creams can cause milia). Since I’m not going to stop using eye cream, I’ve found something that helps: OcuSoft Lid Scrub pads (Ocusoft is actually stylized as OCuSOFT on the box???) (Here’s a great review of how Ocusoft Lid Scrub pads can help fight milia from blogger “Charlestongirl” of the Best Things in Beauty blog).


Moisturizer(s)

How to use moisturizer: Pat onto your skin, and use gliding motions to help absorb. Don’t rub. Seriously, listen. Don’t rub!

I’ve gone through a lot of different moisturizers. Here are some favorites:

  • My current night cream is Pond’s Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle cream. It’s extremely inexpensive, but I really like the texture, the smell, and it feels effective.
  • I also previously used the Lancôme Rénergie Night Cream for a couple of years, but it’s way more expensive than I feel like my night cream needs to be…
  • So then I swung the pendulum in the other direction and switched to Oil of Olay anti-aging skin-firming night cream for a few years. I also really liked this, but then I discovered…
  • Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial. The Korres sleeping facial (which is described as a facial-in-a-jar; it’s brightening and anti-aging, and is meant to help with dullness and uneven texture and skin tone, and help improve skin elasticity, and it smells amazing). It ended up becoming my holy grail for a while, until I found the Pond’s.
  • After my night cream, I also sometimes apply a small amount of fade cream (in specific areas only) to deal with uneven skin tone and/or hyperpigmentation. My go-to is AMBI Fade Cream. The Hydroquinone (2%) helps with my hyperpigmentation and old acne scarring. I only apply it to areas I’m treating, and not all over the face.
  • Also, this doesn’t fit anywhere else, but if I get a pimple, I use the CosRx stickers / patches at the very end of my routine.

Misc. Notes about Skincare

Below are some additional notes or considerations related to my skincare routine…

Starting Slow

A piece of advice I was given when I first embarked on my shiny new skincare journey two years ago was to take it slow. So I’d echo that same advice now: If you don’t currently have a multi-step routine, and decide to start one, it’s advisable to add/change things in your routine slowly so you can tell what’s working for your skin. A good rule of thumb is to only add one new product per month (or at least a few weeks) so you have time to see what you react to and how.

Skincare and Pregnancy

While pregnant, I obviously wanted to be mindful about only using products that are considered pregnancy safe (and there are certainly ingredients that aren’t recommended for pregnant, or even nursing, moms). The skincare ingredients that are not considered safe for pregnancy are below.

Skincare ingredients not safe for pregnancy:
Retinol, Hydroquinone, Avodenzone, Oxybenzone, Parabens, Ammonia, Phtahalates, Dihydroxyacetone, and Tazoratene

(source)

Here’s a link to a more comprehensive discussion from Soko Glam on pregnancy-friendly skincare (and again, here’s my referral code for 20% off at Soko Glam if you’re a first time customer!).

The only ingredient in skincare I was using that I was a little concerned about was BHA (salicylic acid products), but when used topically and in small quantities, BHA is also not considered dangerous (read more about this here).


Eating Well for your Skin

Some other considerations for skincare include the things you put into your body. Being mindful about what you eat can obviously have a powerful effect on how you feel, and how you look. I know I’ve noticed when I eat certain things, I see a difference in my skin: If I eat a lot of greasy and fatty meat based foods, I tend to see breakouts (which makes sense); conversely, when I eat a lot of healthy, clean fats and lots of fruits & veggies, I feel like my skin (and everything else) feels better. Obviously, when I’m consuming a lot of fresh smoothies, drinking a lot of water, and avoiding sodas and junk food, I feel great, but my skin also looks great. I don’t eat the way I should all of the time, but I am very aware that my skin (and my overall sense of well-being) are very much impacted by what I consume, so I try — as often as possible — to think about that when making choices about what to eat and drink, and try to focus on getting a lot of fruits and vegetables and healthy fats (especially coconut and nuts) in my diet.

Outside of what I eat, I’m also mindful about getting vitamins and fats through multivitamins. I’ve been taking prenatals since before I was pregnant with my son (and then continued taking them while nursing, and then got pregnant again, and I’m still taking them now).

I also take Hair, Skin, & Nails vitamin (I use the brand Nature’s Bounty, but there’s a roundup of other options below, and there are more options for multivitamins in this post on my pregnancy essentials), and I also take either a Flaxseed Oil or Fish Oil supplement daily.

You want to look for multivitamins that contain Biotin, B12, or other components that are meant to benefit your hair, skin, and nails, if you’re into that kind of thing.


More skin-care related reading for people who love homework…

  • Here’s an in-depth look at the gorgeous South Korean actress Lee Sa-Bi’s Korean skincare beauty routine (from Byrdie, and a good read).
  • Here’s an article on the correct order for layering skincare…
  • …(although I really love checking in with the Korean Beauty subreddit and the Skincare Addiction subreddit)…
  • …and here are 6 things you didn’t know about acids.
  • Also, here’s an article where an editor from Self tries a Korean beauty routine and shares her experience.
  • Here’s a link to the story about how Charlotte Cho founded Soko Glam, and helped popularize the 10-step routine.
  • Also, while not Korean skincare related exactly, if you didn’t already know, the website Temptalia is the best resource for makeup reviews, dupes, color matches, and product reviews ever.
  • Also, if you like roundup posts like this, here’s a post with some of my favorite pregnancy essentials.

Do you have a skincare routine? What do you do for self-care?


(Notes: This post about Korean skincare and/or Korean skincare inspired self-care routines is not sponsored by any brand or company, but some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you click through or make a purchase, I could earn a small referral fee. Thank you for supporting this little space on the internet! You can the full disclosure here. Having trouble seeing product links? It may be your ad-blocker. Try pausing it on this page and reloading. If this post about Korean skincare inspired routines for self-care has been helpful for you, please consider sharing it with a friend!)

About the Author
Punita Rice

Punita Rice

Punita C. Rice, Ed.D is a mother, educator, writer, and founder of ISAASE. She is the author of Toddler Weaning: Deciding to Gradually Wean your Toddler & Making it Happen, and the forthcoming South Asian American Experiences in Schools: Brown Voices from the Classroom, and blogs about motherhood and being intentional about being a happy mom at Happy Mom Guide. Her education work centers around multicultural education and equity, and South Asian American experiences in school. You can read more about Punita and her work here.

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