The K-beauty regime: Is it for you?

The K-beauty regime is such a big deal in East Asia. It’s also popular to a lesser extent in China (you can buy the products but people don’t necessarily use them all, and there’s fewer brands to choose from in China, but there are still a LOT of brands; it’s just a testament to how much of a big deal K-beauty is in Korea that they have the biggest selection of beauty products that I’ve ever seen in my life). One thing to note, though, is that China has its own beauty brands (usually with European-sounding names) and they don’t like to think of themselves as aficionados of K-beauty. In China, the exact same things are pretty much classed as Chinese beauty. ūüėČ

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There’s been a lot of online articles from western magazines and whatnot which are all like, “Korean women spend two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening on their beauty regime!!!” Honestly? While they sure spend time on it, with VISIBLE results, they also generally work very long hours (much longer than people do in the west) and so I’d say twenty minutes to half an hour, morning and evening, is probably more realistic, certainly on the days when I’ve done a full K-beauty regime. Sheet masks, of course, take 15-20 mins all by themselves, but you don’t do those daily; two to four times a week is more reasonable.

Why do they do it? Well, unlike in the west, K-beauty tends to focus on skincare. Get a good canvas, THEN correct flaws with makeup. It’s a much more natural look, and I really like the whole idea, I mean, depending how long you’ve been reading my blog, even before I came to Asia you may remember that most of my beauty articles were skincare related. Makeup? Eh. When I hit twenty-five, I started to feel like taking care of my skin was WAY more important. #realtalk #confessionsofabeautyblogger some days, I don’t even wear any makeup. Most days, I wear the bare minimum. But I never forget my skincare.

So, the FULL K-beauty routine goes like this (usually… there are some variations depending who you ask and what brands they use), starting from a completely cleansed face (you would use cleanser and whatnot first, if your face was dirty):

Essence goes on first. This is usually the most watery or thinnest consistency of product. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you’re using K-beauty properly, usually it goes from thinnest to thickest consistency of product. ūüėČ And at the end of the day, it’s no biggie if you get one or two steps back to front. I use this Soybean Firming Essence [light] from Innisfree; it’s about the same price in China as in the US, and I plan to review it at some point.

Serum goes on after essence. I use the Innisfree Soybean Energy Serum which TRAGICALLY you don’t seem to be able to get in America. It’s like my favorite thing so that’s very sad. I do also like the Innisfree Jeju Pomegranate Serum which you ALSO can’t get in the US. Sometimes around now I’ll use a moisture spray, too.

Then, you put on something called “skin” if you want, but I’ve never found one I especially loved and the consistency seems to vary between different ones, too, which makes me feel like I’m just washing off my serum and essence. Some K-beauty people call “skin” “toner” but where the west calls toner something you remove makeup with/clean your face with, K-beauty “toner” seems to mean something that improves the tone of your skin. I’m not sure if they mean color or firmness, but I’ve tried a few and none of them did either for me. I skip this step.

Next comes moisturizer or lotion. Some brands call it one, some call it the other. I would usually use one with an SPF, but if it’s a day when I’m not going outside, I’ll use one with other properties instead. My favorite non-SPF is the Innisfree Green Tea balancing cream. My favorite SPF is the Clio Kill Cover SPF 50 but you can’t get that in the US. My second favorite (better for oily skin as it has a matte finish, so with my normal skin, I use it on top of another moisturizer like the Innisfree one, above) is the Etude House Sunprise SPF32 (the US one is SPF50 and reviews claim it’s better for dry skin so maybe that’s a slightly different product to the one I have).

Now you put on your base (or primer, or veil… some people use veil and base, I personally feel they’re interchangable). I have some nice ones of these, and the K-beauty ones all seem to be good for color-correcting, especially if you have dark circles under your eyes. My favorites are the Etude House baby choux because I wear it on its own for color correction and it’s fabulous (I will review this, too, soon) and the Cle De Peau Correcting Creme Veil which I also wear on its own sometimes, without any other makeup on top. It is a French brand but, like many western cosmetics companies, they have a completely different line of (arguably better) products for the Chinese and Korean market, because they have to compete against homegrown Asian products that are really good. And HOLY MACARONI I had no IDEA how much that Cle De Peau one cost as I got it as a thank-you gift, as part of a big set of Cle De Peau cosmetics from a first-grader’s mom after I taught her daughter English. It’s sooooo good though. If all expensive cosmetics are that good, I can totally see why Kim Kardashian looks so good, even if we ignore the surgery and personal trainer sessions.

After primer, you add either BB cream, cushion, or what-have-you (whatever you use for foundation). I was using the Innisfree cushion but I’ve just ran out, so last week I bought the Clio Kill Professional one. I like cushion makeup (it’s like pressed powder but wet… I can’t explain it), because it’s quick to apply, but when I have time, I prefer BB cream applied with a beauty blender (or a 20-cent Chinese knock-off… $10 for a sponge?? Nope) as it’s more nourishing and I think it looks more natural on my face. I haven’t used western foundation since I got to China because it’s complete garbage compared to the stuff here, and SO bad for my skin. All the redness I’ve had, and which I’ve seen pretty much every western beauty vlogger seems to have before they apply their makeup, has vanished since I stopped using western foundation; I think there’s something badly wrong with it. Unless you have deeply tanned skin, Asian foundations are way better.

After that, you do the rest of your make-up; blush, eyeshadow, lipstick, brows.

Lastly, dust with some finishing powder and you’re good to go. And if you feel dry during the course of the day? Don’t be afraid to mist your face with moisturizing spray in public. Seriously, people do this SO OFTEN at coffee shops in Korea. I just got the LaNeige Water Bank Mist last week and I really love it. It’s so much fun, and quick and easy to use, although I’m lazy and only use it about once a day.

HOWEVER, there’s a huge difference between what I know I *should* do and what I actually do. I feel dowdy just thinking about the fact that some people are doing all of this every day. They will look like Zsa Zsa Gabor when they’re 80, and I’ll look like Sir Ian McKellen. I know I should do all this, but it’s so much effort and when I was working full-time I didn’t have time. Anyway, I tend to go along with how my skin feels, and a lot of the time, I don’t feel like I need to use all of that stuff.

So instead, usually I go:

Essence,

Serum,

Moisturizer/moisturizing suncream. I put all those on my face AND neck, because I feel like my neck needs more love than my body lotion can give it. If I get too much product on my hands, I also rub it into the backs of my hands and I’ve noticed the difference in my hand skin since I started doing that, but I still can’t bring myself to regularly use hand cream, it just isn’t me.

If I feel red or washed out I add one of the choux base veils I mentioned.

Then, unless I’m going out somewhere nice or Youtubing, I usually just sort my brows out, throw on some lipstick (my current favorites are Bobbi Brown or Elizabeth Arden… because I know where I left those) and get on with finding where I left my shoes and whether I have any hair elastics.

Then I am ready to face the day.

I’m a soccer mom waiting to happen.

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Manuka Doctor Replenishing Facial Oil First Impressions + Review

This is a first impressions and review of the Manuka Doctor Replenishing Facial Oil.
Basically, it’s an oil blend that you rub on your face and it’s supposed to improve the condition of your skin.

Manuka Doctor Replenishing Facial Oil
Manuka Doctor Replenishing Facial Oil

I bought it because my skin suddenly took a turn for the worse about 2 weeks ago and no matter what I do, it just looks dull and unhealthy. I thought I’d try the Manuka Doctor Replenishing Facial Oil to see if it could help my skin perk up a bit. Here’s what it looks like in the packaging:

Manuka Doctor Replenishing Facial Oil

Manuka Doctor are famous for their bee venom products, their logo is a bee with a first aid symbol on its body. Because it’s Dr. Bee, which is freakin’ adorable. Anyway, the Replenishing Facial Oil has no bee venom in, but it does contain oil from the Manuka tree (which of course is where Manuka honey comes from, and Manuka honey is apparently really good for you).

Ingredients:
Hazel seed oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, grape seed oil, wheatgerm oil, rosehip oil, perfume, manuka oil, evening primrose oil, cranberry seed oil, sunflower seed oil, argan oil, borage seed oil, plum seed oil, peach kernel oil, blackcurrant seed oil, raspberry seed oil, tocopheryl acetate, beta-carotene, carrot root extract, carrot seed oil, ascorbyl palmitate, citronellol, coumarin, hydroxyisohexyl-3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, butylphenyl methylpropional, limonene, linalool, alpha-isomethyl ionone.

As you can see, it’s packed full of goodness.

The scent was sort of flowery but not in-your-face-floral; I quite liked it. The bottle had a nice dropper to make application easy, and it was nice to see how much I was using.

I have normal skin that’s very slightly sensitive, sometimes oily and sometimes dry depending on a range of factors.

On my skin, it spread easily and absorbed after about 10 minutes, leaving my face feeling nice even though I couldn’t see any magical improvements to my skin. Maybe something’s happening at a microscopic level, because after a couple of hours I had to concede that my forehead was looking less washed-out and so were my cheeks. I’m going to try it for a few weeks to see what the longer term benefits are, but overall I’m fairly happy that this oil will replace the macadamia face oil I was previously using (which ran out this week), and if it does a better job than the macadamia oil, I’ll let you all know.

Costs: ¬£16.92 from Amazon UK. That’s how much I paid for it and that’s where I got it from. It’s not available on American Amazon.com but you can get it at Skinstore.com.

Have you tried any Manuka Doctor products? I want to try the night cream with bee venom but I don’t know if I’m brave enough!

Skincare: 6 Ways Cosplayers Can Get Picture Perfect Skin

Good skincare is critically important, and this is the WORST time of year for skin maintenance due to a bunch of stuff, so I wanted to talk about how to get your skin looking fabulous, especially since I’ve been ill October through December and need to get back into my full skincare routine. If your skin is already fabulous, you may want to skip this post.

I recently saw a cosplay pic that I cannot show you because it’s to do with a secret project that my husband cannot know about yet. Now there’s more chance of hell freezing over than of him actually reading my blog, but just on the off-chance that he accidentally lands here on an internet search, I’m not going to tell you what the costume was. Let’s just imagine it was a Jessica Rabbit costume cosplay.
All you need to know was that, through the side of the amazingly detailed and accurate dress, there was one very miserable looking, red, pimply, washed out leg poking through what should have been a revealing and sexy split.

It got me thinking that perhaps, when people are doing a cosplay, when someone’s taken the time, expense and effort to make a costume of a well-known character FROM SCRATCH, perhaps buying a ¬£5 pot of skin lotion, drinking a glass of water and fixing their¬†skin wouldn’t go amiss.

*OK, I’m sold, how can I sort my skin out so it looks awesome with my costume and hair?*

1. Get some moisturizer. There’s loads of expensive ones out there, but anything’s better than nothing. There’s myths about parabens, BPA and silocones if you want to buy into scaremongering (literally, it costs a fortune to avoid these;¬†don’t waste your time or cash), if not, go for something cheap that smells nice. You are going to moisturize every time you have a shower.

2. Does this costume show your bare legs? Do some leg toning exercises! Cassey Ho has some fabulous leg toning workouts at Blogilates that don’t require any equipment. I have been using her workouts now for over 2 years and they’re a fast way to get into shape for anything where you need to look your best. Exercise tends to make all of you look good for a variety of reasons.

3. Eat well. More fruit, more vegetables (think half the plate), more protein (to make new skin cells), less crap. Look for foods rich in vitamin K such as kale and broccoli, which will get rid of redness under the skin, as well as foods with vitamin E which stimulates glowing, healthy skin (and eat your vitamin E foods such as avocado about 4 hours apart from the vitamin K foods, otherwise they compete for absorption which is why multivitamins containing both E and K are a waste of time).

4. Exfoliate. This removes the dead skin cells so the newer, nicer ones can shine out, and according to Elle MacPherson it’s the best way to stay looking young well into your 50’s.

5. If all else fails, use fake tan (or gradual tanner, AVOID THESE IF IT’S A WHITE COSTUME), foundation for your face, and dance tights. You might want those last two anyway, especially if you’re cosplaying a caucasian character from before the 1990s or anyone from any musical, as they almost all wear Capezio dance tights in the shade ‘light suntan’ or ‘suntan’ (I’ve worked in the ents industry in various jobs, the Capezio tights are industry standard).

6. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water: These two make everyone roll their eyes but it’s true! You may need to do these both long-term if you need to fix chronic dehydration and sleep loss, so an extra pint today will help you in the long run, but it’s not a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle habit. If you have chronic insomnia, do what you can and focus on everything else.

Barring acne or infections (which require treatment from a doctor or dermatologist), if you want movie-star beautiful skin all year round, rather than for a one-off event, do those 6 things all the time. If you want your skin to look shit, do the opposite for many many years then complain a lot about how some people are just blessed with good skin.

If you want to make this a year-round goal, to really get your skin looking fabulous, make some time to sunbathe for a few hours a week during summer (less for your face, as too much sunbathing causes premature ageing), as a bit of sun will stimulate your vitamin D synthesis, melanin production (in the skin) and it rebalances your serotonin/melatonin production, which will all make you look fabulous (actually, the serotonin/melatonin won’t, but bringing this into balance properly will¬†help get you to sleep which WILL make you look your best). That way, you’ll be ready for cosplay, fancy dress, and dressing up, all year round. Just do it safely; we all know the rules of sunbathing right?

Why do I say all this specifically targetted to cosplayers? Well, people seem to understand that a character is the product of their costume, hair and makeup, but the skin tone and transparency is also very important. If your skin’s showing red patches and veins through all over it, and you’re trying to look like, oh, I don’t know, let’s pretend (again) that we’re talking about Jessica Rabbit; let’s say you want to be the sexiest woman in Toon Town (or whatever, I can’t tell you the real costume I was looking at but you get the gist), you need to fix your diet to improve the skin from the inside and start moisturising to help the skin from the outside.
This is true of all cosplays, and it’s what most real leading actors do who have a long career (I know, I’ve worked with many), so why not make it a routine?

It really doesn’t matter what size you are, whether your eyes or ear shape match the character, whether you tracked down the *exact* shade of eyeshadow used in the original film/series/whatevs, what does matter is getting your skin to look like it deserves to wear the costume which you just spent days, months or years making. Everything else can be worked around or fixed with makeup.

If you look at the most successful cosplayers, the ones on the lists of best cosplay, they’re not size 0, they’re not 34GG of the breasts, they generally don’t innately look like the character, but the reason we find them visually pleasing is because they look vital, radiant and larger than life… which is generally something they share with the characters they portray.

It’s not complicated, you don’t need expensive or time consuming rituals to look good, just follow these steps and you too can score a perfect 10 for your cosplay.

Dry Skin? Have you tried macadamia oil?

Last night I was despairing at the state of my skin. ¬†I had a huge dry patch on my forehead where the car’s heater vents have been blowing straight into my face. ¬†It would probably be a lot worse if I didn’t wear sunglasses like ALL THE TIME.

So I thought I’d try putting macadamia oil on instead of moisturiser. ¬†I got mine from Aldi last year, but you could try this with any light oil such as grapeseed oil, olive oil or coconut oil.

I put a fair amount on my face and neck, but not so much that it didn’t sink in within a few minutes, because the worst thing you can do to dry skin is to swamp it with greasyness, that just leaves you with dry skin and¬†spots, which means ¬†the dry bits have to get drier while you avoid oils until the spots go away. ¬†It’s just a bad time.

I went to sleep and when I awoke, I was pleased that my skin had regained its moisturisation and suppleness, because we all know that oil has the potential to just make you look like you bathed in a chip pan, whatever skin type you have.

I washed it off with some warm water, because I have found that spots are caused by grease getting trapped in my¬†pores. ¬†I rarely have spots. ¬†I reapplied it today, more lightly, as a base for foundation – it was an idea I got when I heard someone say that younger people don’t need primer unless they have very dry skin, and I thought, what would be better than moisturiser and primer for dry skin?

The night before
The night before
The next morning, after washing my face.
The next morning, after washing my face.

Well I tried it and I’m completely sold. ¬†Instead of expensive primer full of silicones and whatnot, for everyday wear, I’m going to use my macadamia oil as primer. ¬†It’s amazing. ¬†*UPDATE: Photo below* I don’t have any photos because I lost my phone yesterday (and there has been major drama while I’ve been searching for it) and so I can’t take any pictures, but if you have dry skin and find that your foundation creases when you first apply it, try a light oil on your face, like coconut oil or macadamia (or almond) oil, apply only a small amount, your face shouldn’t be an ice rink otherwise the foundation won’t stick, and see whether it improves the smoothness of your foundation.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that it makes my face feel cool and refreshed, and the foundation feels much more breathable than usual, which is a nice bonus! I use the Benefit Oxygen Wow foundation in Ivory.

This is what my foundation looks like with using Macadamia Oil as a primer instead of moisturiser and primer.
This is what my foundation looks like with using Macadamia Oil as a primer instead of moisturiser and primer.

Oils not to use: Sunflower oil, any animal based fat calling itself an oil, mineral oil, baby oil, vegetable oil, castor oil, aromatherapy “scented” oils (they’re too strong for the facial area unless being used under the direction of an aromatherapist who will usually dilute them with a carrier oil such as the grapeseed oil I mentioned earlier).

Only use a very small bit of coconut oil because it’s thicker than some of the others that I said were good to use.

Update: I’ve now added before and after pics of using macadamia oil on bare skin and under foundation.