Korea’s 10-step skincare regimens are still the buzz of the beauty world, but what if you could reap the benefits without indulging in all of the products?
While each step boasts its own skin benefits, the multi-product process can be intimidating or tedious for those of us who just want to go to bed. Enter: Double cleansing, a standard practice for Korean beauty rituals, consisting of two cleaning solutions, one oil-based and one water-based.
“The foundation to having good skin is to have clean skin. You need to restore a pH level that creates a moisture barrier so it’s not susceptible to dryness or bacteria growth,” explains Michael Seong of Memebox, a Korean beauty e-store that focuses product exploration and education for western clientele.
The oil cleanser, when mixed with a bit of water, turnes into a milky lather that breaks down your makeup quickly and effectively so even your waterproof mascara runs for the hills. Made up of special botanical blends, they work to remove the bad oils, while leaving the good, essential oils your skin needs behind. A second water-based, gentle facial cleanser then cleans up the rest of the act.
If the double cleanse process is still too much work for you — or if you’re already in a committed relationship with your favorite face wash, Seong says adding a toner to your routine can be a game changer.
“Toners tend to be used differently in eastern and western skincare,” he says. “In the U.S., it’s often used to remove makeup; but in Asia, we use toners to balance your skin’s pH level. Skin is acidic by nature, it has a pH of about 5.5 and you want to maintain that. That moisture barrier keeps good bacteria on your skin, and fights off bad bacteria that can result in warts and pimples.”
Unfortunately, says Seong, lots of alkaline soaps might make you feel “squeaky clean,” but they actually strip your protective barrier.
“I grew up thinking that was the epitome of a clean feeling [having grown up in the west], but that’s detrimental to your skin,” he explains. ”It’s leaving it bare. The barrier has been tampered, and that can lean to breakage or fine lines.”
So where to turn? Seong says there are two types of toners you should seek out depending on your skin type — alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) or beta hydroxy acids (BHA.)
“AHA helps exfoliate and get rid of dead skin. You use it later in your routine when you’re adding on a cream or lotion, it helps it absorb into the skin,” he says. “BHA is for oiler skin. It detoxes the pores like salicylic acid but it’s not as damaging.”
What’s next for Korean skincare?
Snail slime — please don’t stop reading just yet. “Snails have the ability to regenerate their skin at a rapid rate,” says Seong. “Skincare companies are focusing on [their slime] as an ingredient that promotes regeneration and prevents sagging skins.” Inching its way into everything from serums to face masks, snail secretion (or "mucin") seems to be the "it" ingredient of the moment.
But what about all those poor snails? “I want to make a note that no animals were ever harmed! I think people have this picture of snails in a blender, but there are snail farms and they just slime around and people collect what’s left behind,” Seong says with a laugh. “I think they probably have a very nice life.”