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Update: You can now purchase my favorites at YesStyle and use reward code YSMIRA5 to save and it stacks with sale codes.
It seems like just yesterday that I stumbled across K-Beauty on a random blog and started my downward spiral….err, I mean, started my skincare journey. It was almost 6 years ago, I had just had a baby, and there was a stranger staring back at me in the mirror. I had spent the last 20 years outside in the California sun without a drop of sunscreen, had come home after nights out and collapsed in bed with my makeup countless times, and then pregnancy would become the final nail in the coffin for my skin. I had taken my skin for granted, heaping abuse on it without ever stopping to think that one day my bad habits would overtake my youth.
So there I was late one night, an exhausted new mother wanting to do something to make myself feel better. I wasn’t even looking for skincare actually, I was trying to find lipstick swatches. I don’t know that I could even say that skincare meant much to me at that point – back then it would have evoked memories of my father handing me tea tree oil pads for teenage acne or my stepmother’s Dermalogica and Philosophy products in the bathroom growing up. So I stumbled across Kerry’s blog, Skin and Tonics, completely by accident. And halfway through her AM routine, I was already crazy about K-Beauty.
I spent hours pouring over posts about Japanese sunscreens that somehow didn’t leave a cast, lotions that were actually toners, and all kinds of mysterious ingredients like snail mucin, bee venom, and donkey milk. Korean skincare challenged every idea I held about skincare at the time. It was about ritual and self care, not trying to force oily, acne prone skin to behave. And you layered hydrating, soothing products to create a custom routine for your skin instead of slathering on a single product. Old school K Beauty bloggers inspired my fascination for ingredients, testing products in the hunt for new discoveries, and also really showed me the power of research.
Now, the real dive into skincare science came later and that particular obsession continued to grow when I returned to school. But K Beauty is where my passion for skincare came from and the cause of my shift in perspective toward it being not just a self-care ritual but part of taking care of my body. Almost 6 years later, I’ve tried hundreds of products. But that first routine copied from Kerry’s AM and PM routines had so many great products that I still recommend today. I thought it would be fun to share some old and new favorites !
Benton Snail Bee Essence – a soothing, hydrating gel essence featuring snail filtrate, aloe, glycerin, EGF, soothing plant extracts, and moisturizing ingredients like panthenol and allantoin. Style Korean or Amazon
Benton Snail Bee Steam Cream – an actual cream unlike your typical snail gel but is still lightweight with a soft matte finish that works at night as well as under sunscreen. Snail filtrate, bee venom, EGF, humectants, emollients like squalane, and niacinamide. Style Korean or Amazon
Cosrx Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser – while I avoid foaming cleansers now for my dry skin, this was the first cleanser I found that was both low in PH and not stripping. A wonderful cleanser for combo and oily skin that cleanses thoroughly without disrupting the skin barrier. Style Korean or Amazon
Cosrx Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Mask – a nice PM moisturizer that can be layered as well for dryer skin. Moisturizing but not too heavy, this features 68% rice extract plus niacinamide for brightening as well as skin barrier friendly sunflower seed oil and other humectant and emollient ingredients. Style Korean or Amazon
Tosowoong Green Tea Eco Brightening Essence – this is all that’s left from a line that included a mist and lotion too plus came in different versions like propolis. This is a mix between a true essence and a light gel texture with green tea ferment, other fermented ingredients, centella asiatica, niacinamide, EGF, and humectants. Very hydrating and soothing. Style Korean or Amazon
A’pieu Glycolic Acid Cream – funny enough, while this is my favorite A’pieu moisturizer I’ve turned more people onto their Madecassoside Cica Gel this last year (a soothing, nourishing gel) and their Madecassoside Cream was also very popular in K Beauty circles and is nice too. But the Glycolic Acid Cream always draws me back in with its cheap price tag and the initial odd, thick texture that melts into the skin seamlessly and leaves your skin feeling soft and hydrated. It has 30% birch juice, 3% glycolic acid (just a humectant here), niacinamide, salicylic acid (also just anti inflammatory here), and some nice extracts and ferments. Style Korean or Amazon
Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Water Essence – I could devote an entire blog post to what’s been one of my favorite brands the last few years. I love seeing people use my favorite Green Tea Fresh Toner for red light therapy, the Bifida ampoule I first suggested as a dupe to a luxury brand, and the wonderfully gentle and hydrating AHA Essence. You maybe haven’t heard me rave about the C-Niacin Ampoule or https://amzn.to/2V3XWdeAloe Vera Gel Fresh as much but those are wonderful and hydrating too. I want to mention the Hyaluronic Acid Water Essence though because I think it’s worth picking over their HA toners which I found to be serviceable but not exciting. The Essence combines 8 forms of HA with some other wonderful humectants plus niacinamide, panthenol, and even some oils. Shoutout to Soo Beauty on YouTube, her Isntree brand review really sold me. Style Korean or Amazon
Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream – This final one was hard to pick because I could bore you all to death and mention dozens more products and I should probably save them for future posts. I love their Essence Toner and of course the Rovectin Activating Treatment Lotion is fantastic and always a favorite. But the Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream has such a beautiful, luxurious texture for a medium weight cream and is so soothing and nourishing while not being heavy. The main ingredient, the milk vetch root, is anti inflammatory and antioxidant and you’ve got shea butter and macadamia nut oil too. Style Korean or Amazon