2015 in Review, Part II: My Favourite K-Beauty Tips, Concepts, & Trends of 2015

In Part I: My Favourite K-Beauty Products of 2015, I listed what I consider to be the best products I've used in 2015, but the products are only part of the story.  As a counterpart to the simple shout out to the tangible products that caught my eye in 2015, this post is about the trends, habits, concepts, and thoughts I have on K-Beauty in 2015.

It's a different beast than it was in the early days of this blog; K-Beauty is now available in Sephora, Target, Amazon Prime, even outlets like TJ Maxx and Marshall's, making it readily available in mainstream shopping venues.  K-Beauty has also evolved and shaped itself to meet the needs of international customers, and the international Asian beauty product fan community has produced some fascinating discussions in the last year.  So this post will be the intangible best of 2015, to balance the light-hearted and unashamed consumerism of the 'best of' product list.

In this post: My Favourite Tips, Concepts, & Trends of 2015

  • K-Beauty goes mainstream: does it have to be Korean to be K-Beauty?
  • The most influential concepts of 2015
  • Healthy habits: things I adopted and let go of in 2015, for the better
  • Top tips from 2015: things that made my life easier
  • Trends I loved in 2015 and will continue to love in 2016

If you don't care for long swaths of rumination, I'd recommend bailing out now for 2015 in Review, Part I: My Favourite K-Beauty Products of 2015, and here's a Chinchilla sipping tea for some cuteness as you escape.  If you're down for some heavy discussion of some serious topics mixed in with the fun bits, let's do this!

A video posted by BuBu The Chinchilla (@cute_bubu) on

This tea-sipping Chinchilla speaks to me on a philosophical level, at least the part of me that loves tea and small furry cute things.  Let's roll!

K-Beauty goes mainstream: does it have to be Korean to be K-Beauty?

As I mentioned above, the products are only part of the story.  Take my 2015 list for example, which is pretty typical of an international K-Beauty fan- most, but not all, of the products are Korean.  In fact, although 95% of the products listed are of Korean origin (as most of my products are) a few of the products I use are of Japanese, Taiwanese, or even western origin.  So this begs the question: does that mean they should be excluded from my "best of 2015" list?  Honestly, no- because I believe K-Beauty (as opposed to Korean  Beauty) at least in an international context, is as much a philosophy and approach as it is the specific products that you use.  Although I personally feel Korean products tend to suit the various steps in the multi-step K-Beauty routine approach best, part of the approach is to use whatever products suit your needs, regardless of their origin.

In fact, Korean beauty shows themselves, such as Get It Beauty, often feature western products as the top contenders in their blind tests, and they often feature the top makeup artists in Korea (such as Park Tae Yang and Son Dae Sik of Son & Park, and Jung Saem Mool) who also use whatever product suits their purposes, regardless of origin.  The way they're used is still very much Korean, with emphasis on nurturing and protecting the skin, and makeup that showcases clear, beautiful skin while applying point makeup in a style that matches Korean trends.

Screencap of a Get It Beauty Blind Test episode with a Mac eyeshadow as the top pick
Sometimes I've seen it mentioned on social media and community discussion forums that it's "possible to have a K-Beauty [or AB, aka Asian beauty on a larger scale including Korea] routine without any products of Asian origin", and it's absolutely possible, especially now that western companies are producing products influenced by AB product types, such as essences and serums designed to be layered.  I'd not go that far, but it begs the question- is it still Korean beauty?  I'd say no, but I do think that it's still K-Beauty, because K-Beauty has flourished in the international market and developed into something beyond its Korean origins.

I think this is something to keep in perspective for long-time and new AB fans alike, and I think sometimes it gets lost or glossed over, as it's an uncomfortable and awkward topic, especially for those of us who are not Asian.  As a Canadian from a family of northern European redheads, I'm going to stay in my lane and leave the discussions of the deeper issues in the intersection of Asian beauty ideals vs Asian beauty products to Asian-American bloggers like Fiddy from Fifty Shades of Snail and Kerry from Skin & Tonics.   However, K-Beauty (in the international sense rather than the Korean Beauty in Korea sense) has become so popular because of its widespread appeal; no matter your background, skin tone, or gender, K-Beauty is for everyone.

This is one of the reasons I try to use the term "K-Beauty" instead of "Korean Beauty", because the fact is, the products that are popular through word-of-mouth abroad may not be popular or even available domestically in Korea, as there are perks for brands and shops who market directly overseas instead of domestically.  Does that make the products any less good?  Of course not.  They have word-of-mouth reputations for a good reason.  What trends in Korea is not always what trends internationally- a great example is the failure of horse oil to gain traction in the west, despite being wildly popular in Korea.  On the other hand, acid exfoliants and low-pH cleansers trended hard in international K-Beauty this year, despite neither having much importance in Korea itself.

The most influential concepts of 2015: Hauling Responsibly, Self-Care, Skincaretainment, & the Skincare Wardrobe

Earlier this year, UK-based and PoC blogger adoredee launched a tidal wave of discussion with her post on How to Beauty Haul Responsibly, prompting some truly exciting discussions about personal responsibility, the role of skincare as a hobby, why people are personally drawn to K-Beauty (and AB in general), and above all, mindfulness.

The culture of 'hauling' can be really uncontrolled and dangerous.  When you look at controlled, responsible buying habits, buying a huge volume of unknown items is not one of them.  However, this is precisely the kind of shopping that is, by the very nature of international ordering, practiced by most K-Beauty fans.  It's not because we're mindless lemmings who have inexhaustible amounts of disposal income, it's because it doesn't make sense to buy a single $10 product and spend $15 on having it shipped to you.  On the other hand, spending $100 on 10 products, and then the $15 on shipping all 10 to your door, well, that's a much better return on your investment into shipping.  Why not purchase those same 10 items from US shops?  Because they've all been marked up to $30-40 each, so you could spend $25 to have one product from Korea, $35 to have it shipped from a US shop, or you could wait until you're ready to place a large order and spend $115 on 10 products including shipping, working out to just $15 each, shipped.  Behold the birth of the culture K-Beauty hauling.

Thankfully, 2015 saw a boom in reasonable small order shopping options, with K-Beauty coming to Amazon Prime, eBay superstores, and KR sites who include the cost of shipping into the list prices, such as Jolse, so international buyers can see what they're getting themselves into at a glance.    You can still maximize your savings by waiting until you're ready to make a big order and ordering off one of the Korean export sites, or even using a buying service like Avecko.

Screencap from Avecko Haul - Products I purchased directly from Korea (Part II)
Sure, there can be a lot of savings in doing a single large haul instead of smaller ones, but can easily veer into reckless spending and regrets.

Adoredee's post triggered a lot of self-reflection in a landscape that is usually centered around buying new things, sharing new things, trying new things, and desiring new things.  It's not even about not-buying things, it's about being mindful and deliberate about your purchases and working within your means.

Her post certainly had me thinking about the role of skincare in my own life, in which it (and by extension, this blog) is a hobby that brings me fulfillment far beyond just psychological reward and impact of purchasing tangible items.

My hobby has inspired me to learn Hangul and attempt my own translations, develop my spreadsheet skills, research the science of skincare, learn about the inner workings of chemistry, contribute to a book on K-Beauty co-written by the top (English speaking) K-Beauty blogger Skin & Tonics, collaborate with some of my most-loved K-Beauty bloggers on a podcast, and connect with countless fellow K-Beauty fans who have made my life incredibly busy and full of inspiration, week after week.

Since I'm not interested in in press samples (it takes too much extra effort to deal with the ethical conundrum baggage they come with) that means that I buy all the products I test and review myself.  (You can read more about the decisions I made here.)  That's a lot of financial burden to maintain a frequent posting schedule, so I need to be careful and deliberate in my purchasing decisions to balance the needs of my hobby (this blog) against what I feel comfortable spending.  Even if I can technically (or even easily) afford it, is it something I feel comfortable and contented about spending?

It's not healthy to live beyond your means, but there's also no shame in self-care.  Seriously.  If you haven't read How My Elaborate Korean Skincare Routine Helps Me Fight Depression by Fifty Shades of Snail, you should.  Even if you are not affected by depression, the overall reflections on self-care and investing in nurturing yourself apply to everyone.

Also, there's no reason why skincare should not be both effective and entertaining to use.  2015 also saw the introduction of the concept of "Skincaretainment", a Korean term for skincare which is provides entertainment to use, brought to the international K-Beauty community by Tracy of Fanserviced in her post: Skincaretainment: Connection & the culture of Korean Beauty.

The last concept that I felt really shaped 2015 is the concept of a Skincare Wardrobe, which was an analogy I came up with on the fly a few months ago to answer someone's question about "are all the steps really necessary?"  It's a common and valid question, and it demonstrates a widespread misunderstanding about the multi-step K-Beauty routine: you don't have to use everything at once.  As I've said before (in this post and many others) the philosophy is all about customization, not excess, and just as you would not wear literally every piece of clothing in your closet at once, you don't need to use every product in your skincare wardrobe every day either.  You can read more here: The Painful Path to K-Beauty Wisdom: 7 Mistakes Beginners Make and What's In My Skincare Wardrobe: Cleanser Edition.

Healthy habits: things I adopted and let go of in 2015, for the better

Spreadsheet organization

This probably goes without saying for long-time readers of this blog, but I'm really into spreadsheets.  I'm a huge fan of using them for organizing my stash and testing schedule, which trickles down into helping me be mindful of my purchases, excited about the products I already have, and aware of what I might need/have room for.

Image from Beginner's Dilemma: Getting Organized & In Control of Your Stash
I have found that having things organized in a spreadsheet has made it so, so much easier to be successful at "hauling responsibly" and I am not alarmed or ashamed of my stash of products, despite having a lot of products to test and review.

I highly recommend that anyone who has been feeling like they've been a bit out of control in their accumulation of products to consider organizing it to reduce stress, whether you use a spreadsheet or another method.  You can read more here: Beginner's Dilemma: Getting Organized & In Control of Your Stash.

Reviewing sheet masks & posting routines on Instagram

A while back in the weekday post Sheet Mask Shortage, Frantic Hauls, & Introducing Sheet Mask Reviews, I mentioned I was going to start reviewing sheet masks on Instagram, because I wanted to do mini-reviews of them without overloading my blog with ultra short content.  I find this format works really well for me, and I've grown to love Instagram as a medium of microblogging.

I particularly love using it to post examples of my daily routine, not because I'm overly enamoured with gazing at my own navel, but because I feel like it's a great opportunity to show #receipts: anyone can see, at a glance, what my actual daily routines look like.  When taken in the context of the Skincare Wardrobe concept above, it really helps to give people perspective on these massive multi-step routines that can actually be quite simple in practice:

It's been a hectic day, so I haven't had the time to post this morning's routine. I didn't have time to do a full-on routine, so I slapped a sheet mask on in lieu of the bulk of my routine and then finished with a dollop of #BeautyofJoseon cream, aka bae ☁ #Medicean oily skin low pH foam ☁ ☼ #Mizon AHA BHA Daily clean pH adjusting toner, because my skin hates the local water and gets irritated if I skip this, low cleanser or no ☁ ☼ #Lovemore Milk and Pearl Barley sheet mask - reviewed ☁ ☼ @holysnailsblog #Snowbang essence ☁ ☼ #Joseoncream aka Joseon Woman cream aka Beauty of Joseon Dynasty cream. Also, bae. #1일1팩 #koreanbeauty #kbeauty #skincareroutine #kbeautyblogger #koreanskincare #sheetmask #lowpHlife #kbblogger #hanbang #holysnailsDIY #beautyofjoseondynasty #ABblogger #rasianbeauty #snailsquad
A photo posted by Snow White and the Asian Pear (@snowwhiteandtheasianpear) on

It's also a way for people to see the order that I use my products; I've written some really in-depth guides and also beginner guides on how to put one's products in order, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  I always list my products in the order they have been used in, so it's really easy to see what goes where!

Letting go of ingredient zealotry

If you are a long-time reader, you may have also noticed that I don't dive as deeply into ingredients analysis when I review products, although I certainly continue to do in-depth reviews.  Why the change?  I learned that ingredients did not play as large a role as I previously thought; at least not the ingredients listed on the packaging.  Everything changed when Tracy of Fanserviced her impeccably-researched South Korean vs US Cosmetic Ingredients List Order Differences post, which blew my mind right out the top of my skull and it hasn't settled since.  So while I continue to be transfixed by the research implications of powerhouse ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides, and others, I am no longer under any illusion that their relative placement in an ingredients list correlates to their actual concentration in the product.

Do I still supply ingredients lists, if at all possible?  Yes.  Do I still check for red flags and call out things that interest me?  Yes.  But I'm no longer pouring hours of research into an extract when it's unconfirmed if the product even contains enough to have any effect on the skin.  It's been quite liberating, and lets me focus on how the product performed, instead of what it's laundry list of ingredients might imply about its merits.

That being said, finding ingredients lists has become a whole lot easier, thanks to something in my next category.

Top Tips of 2015: Perfect fit sheet masks, the magic of the Hwahae app, & travel-sized luxury products

99 problems but sheet mask fit isn't one

As I mentioned in the "Favourite Sheet Masks" section of 2015 in Review, Part I: My Favourite K-Beauty Products of 2015, my top picks all have an incredible fit, which is a big part of why they're my top picks.  Gone are the days where I could tolerate a stiff, poor-fitting mask just because it had a good essence or a nice scent.  But how does one work their way through all those lackluster masks in their collection, purchased before they were ruined by the second-skin amazement of silk masks?  The answer: cut them like a hydrogel for a quick improvement to the fit, which is one of my tips from Making the Most out of K-Beauty: 5 Simple Hacks.

Cut your sheet masks for a better fit
Image from Making the Most out of K-Beauty: 5 Simple Hacks
Blam!  Instantly solves the aggravating struggles to fit things around one's nose and mouth at the same time.  I hit on this idea when contemplating how I loved the two-piece convenience of hydrogel masks when it came to fitting them to my face, but I prefer the hydration and effect of regular masks.  Now I can work my way through my stash of masks without suffering while I wear them.

Ingredients lists via Hwahae's app

As I mentioned above, I used to struggle to find ingredients lists, and translating them directly is really challenging, even if you know the Korean alphabet.  Once I got a phone that was compatible with the Hwahae app, the ingredients list world became my oyster, allowing me to see (and screenshot) a huge collection of ingredients lists without involving Google or Naver translate.

Look at this delicious Korean and English ingredients list!

Ingredients list on Hwahae app
Screenshot from my phone using the Hwahae app

If you don't know Korean (as I don't, yet) you can follow these lovely screenshot-by-screenshot guides:
You can even search in English for a lot of brands or products, or copy and paste the Hangul if you aren't comfortable with downloading a Korean keyboard and learning the alphabet.

Travel-sized luxury products

This tip is really short and sweet, and it's a solution for those of you who long for the luxury charms of prestige brands, but can't stomach the luxury price point- I know I sure can't!  So how can I bring so much Sulwhasoo and Su:m37 to my life?   Answer: travel sizes and deluxe samples.

Not only are they ultra affordable (usually $10 or less, which is enough to determine if you really, realllly love it) but their packaging is still gorgeous enough to scratch that luxury itch:

In fact I wrote an entire post dedicated to the lovel travel-size and deluxe sample size options out there for those looking to add a little luxury to their routine without immolating their wallet.  Mindfulness!  You can read more here: Hanbang for the Holidays Gift Guide I: Little Luxuries Under $15.

Trends I loved in 2015 and will continue to love in 2016

Doublefisting: coined by me in a conversation with Fiddy of Fifty Shades of Snails on social media early this year, "doublefisting" is originally an expression used back home in Canada to refer to having a beer (or drink) in each fist, so you can drink two in rapid succession without having to get up for another.  I applied it to sheet masking after I took off a mask and felt it gave me so little hydration that I promptly slapped on another right after.  Behold: the trend of double fisting masks was born.

1일1팩 aka "1 day, 1 [mask] pack": this is a direct-from-Korea trend of using one mask (sheet, wash-off, modelling, peeling, sleeping pack, etc) per day.  In the depths of winter it's more like 1일4팩, by the time I factor in sheet masks, mask packs, and overnight masks!

After another tough work day, I had today's mail to look forward to- I received my Sulwhasoo Clarifying mask travel size replacement, so I'm #hanbangin' hard to recover from the stress of my day. Uh, I just realized that I've used 4 (4!!) masks today: AM & PM sheet masks, peel-off mask, and overnight mask pack. #1일1팩 is a thing but #1일4팩 is not a thing, right?! @snailshark_? @fanserviced? @kinsengnsq? @maskaddict? I'm not the only one who has done 4 masks in a day, right?😱 From left-right, in order of application: ❊ @Cremorlab_kr gel oil to remove this morning's #sunscreen- reviewed ❊ @Sulwhasoo_us Snowise Ex #lowpHcleanser- check out my review for photos of the amazing foam this can make!😍 ❊ #Mizon AHA BHA pH adjusting toner - discontinued ❊ @Sulwhasoo.kr Clarifying mask- I love how this smells! I apply this with a #packbrush for an even, thin application ❊ @holysnails #Snowbang essence ❊ #Evercos Ginseng sheetmask ❊ #BeautyofJoseon cream aka #JoseonCream aka Bae (Baaaaae!) 😍 ❊ #HistoryofWhoo Jinyul cream sample instead of ampoule oil; this was a sample in the Clarifying mask package, I tried this last winter and thought, why not? ❊ @Sulwhasoo_us Overnight Vitalizing Mask sleeping pack ❊ @aritaum_official Ginger Sugar Overnight Lip Mask (reviewed) even though I reaaaallly shouldn't be using something so old, it's the best balm I have.😨 #1일1팩 #1일4팩 #koreanbeauty #kbeauty #koreanskincare #instabeauty #instaskincare #skincareroutine #sulwhasoo #thehistoryofwhoo #hanbang #holysnails #ABblogger #kbeautyblogger #lowpHlife #rasianbeauty #snailsquad
A photo posted by Snow White and the Asian Pear (@snowwhiteandtheasianpear) on

Multi masking: the art of applying masks like you would skincare, with different masks applied in different areas of the face, such as a sebum-control mask over your nose, an eye patch on your undereyes, a deep moisture mask on the apples of your cheeks, and an anti-acne mask over trouble spots. You can see examples in this article on bustle.com: The #Multimasking Beauty Trend Might Be The Smartest Skincare Hack Yet

The rise of low-pH cleansers:  Back in 2014, when Kerry from Skin and Tonics rocked the international K-Beauty world with her groundbreaking post The Importance of Fatty Acids, pH & the Moisture Barrier: How I Eliminated my Acne & Decreased my Skin Sensitivity, she inspired many people, including me, to set out on their own forays into the research available on pH and the skin.

I readily admit I set out hoping to find a loophole in the research out there that would allow me to continue to use my favourite high-pH cleanser, but scientists have been studying this topic for a long time, and the research was overwhelming- so overwhelming that I reluctantly but firmly said goodbye to my old alkaline cleanser and set out to find lower-pH pastures.  You can find my results of that research, and links to the studies, here: Why the pH of Your Cleanser Matters.  You can also find a more in-depth explanation of pH, and my thoughts on how it's just the first of many factors I consider, here: Mating Habits of Molecules: the Secret Life of pH.

In 2014, the Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick was really the only low-pH K-Beauty cleanser game in town, but 2015 saw a veritable explosion of interesting low pH cleansers: Skincaretaining cleansers with the texture of marshmallow, like the Re:cipe Slowganic cleanser, or the powder-to-foam alchemy of the Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder Wash, cleansers that had amazing foam like the Sulwhasoo Snowise Ex Foaming cleanser, and even affordable low-pH cleansers which were formulated due to the demand from international K-Beauty fans.

Foaming net + Snowise = magic. Image from Low pH & High Luxury: Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam Review
2015 has been a magical time for the low-pH cleanser crowd, and I'm looking forward to what cool new options 2016 will bring.

Hanbang everything: my favourite trend, and the one that I hope continues in 2016.  Hanbang (한방) is traditional Korean herbal medicine and is heavily featured in some luxury brands like Sulwhasoo and History of Whoo, and if you've ever taken a look in my Hanbang tag, you'll know that I've been all about that Hanbang life this year.  It's catching on too; I constantly get questions on where people can find Hanbang products, so much so that I wrote a 3-part gift guide "Hanbang for the Holidays" series focused purely on Hanbang products:

If you've already checked out 2015 in Review, Part I: My Favourite K-Beauty Products of 2015, you may have noticed that Hanbang products were heavily featured in my favourites.  Not everyone is into the intensely herbal scents of Hanbang, but I just can't get enough.

And we're done!  As this was a double post, I'll likely be taking next weekend off from posting (not to mention that it's our 10 year anniversary, I suppose I should give him a break from being terrorized by my sheet masking) but I'll be back in the new year!

What are your top tips, habits, concepts, and trends of 2015? Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know!

Have something you'd like to share with me?  Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram at @snowwhiteandtheasianpear because I'd love to see it!

All the best,

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.


  1. Wow, a deeply comprehensive retrospective. I've only delved into Asian Beauty this Fall / Winter, so having this is a great resource. Thanks for putting all that effort in!

    1. Thank you, I am glad that you enjoyed it!

      Take care!

  2. I am in love with this post. Well, I'm in love with your blog, and this post is a higlight of what I've liked the most about it, so yay!
    And have been multimasking.. trendy without knowing ;) I'll absolutely try to find some travel size and samples of those brands I can't afford right now for those days I feel like treating myself.
    xo <3


    1. Awww, thanks! <3

      Travel sizes are seriously my jam right now. It lets me test and empty things so much faster, and I feel no guilt about it. Wooo!

  3. Thank you! I'm new to putting together my own K-Beauty routine, and your blog has been really helpful. I especially appreciate the notation that you can use Western beauty products - frx, as lovely as many of the Asian cleansers are, I've found that philosophy purity works best on my skin. So I'm building a mixed-origin routine around that instead of feeling I *need* to find a new HG cleanser.