Beginner Friendly: Simple K-Beauty Starter Kit #1 - Oily & Acne-Prone Skin Type

Earlier this week I mentioned that I was going to be doing a series of K-Beauty Starter Kits, which sounds all fancy and deliberate, when in fact it's a matter of me telling you all about actual starter routines that I have given (or recommended) to real, live people.  Although I still can't recommend a product for you, nor can I give you specific advice as I would need a license for either, I can, and I am, going to share with you the care packages I have made for family and friends to introduce them to K-Beauty.

I want to get them hooked on my skincare obsession, but beginners want a routine that looks like the leftmost routine in the background of this image, not the rightmost:

Korean skincare for oily acne skin on Amazon
Left: simple. Right: eeeeek!  Both are examples of the daily routines I post on Instagram.
As I mentioned in the last post, this idea was inspired by the discussions The Snailcast has been mulling over on how difficult it is to simplify something that is endlessly customizable.  Tracy of Fanserviced-b posted a fantastic Easy Starter K-Beauty Skincare Routine for $100 on Amazon, and I hope to build on that by giving examples of starter routines I have given actual people.

Let me recap last week's post explaining how came to a place where I'm comfortable with talking specifics, since that's a thin line:
I still can't make recommendations for you.  (No, seriously, I can't.  No blogger can.)  But, if you'd like to see what I would personally select and put into a "routine in a box" for my personal friends and family members who are interested in this skincare obsession of mine but can't be bothered with all the research and customization and ordering things from Korea.  I can hear my mother now: "This is too fussy, I'd rather just mix up simple things in my kitchen." NO, mom!  Not unless you actually have a background in science when you're DIYing skincare like Chel of Holysnailsplease just ... let me send you some stuff.  In a box.  You don't even have to do any work, just use them in the order I put on the letter, ok? 
Then I realized ... if I can pick things to put in a box for my mother and others, and in fact have already done so, why can't I share them with my readers?  After all, I am not recommending that people buy these products to treat a skin condition, I'm just sharing what would go in my care package for that person, based on their general skin type, needs, and most importantly, are simple.  All of the kits will have 5 items or less!
Lemme tell you right now, the 5 item limit is tough when a routine can easily have 15-20 steps in it.  I am determined to stick to it, though, because although are limitless places that you can take your customization, it's good to start simple first.

In this series:


All starter kits will feature 5 items or less, what they're for, and how to use them.  All lovingly selected with thought and care, because when I make kits for my friends and family, it's a box o' love.  Obviously not everything works for everyone, patch testing is necessary, etc etc.  These are just my personal picks.
  • Starter Kit # 1: My college-age friend with oily, acne-prone skin (you are here!)
  • Starter Kit # 2: My college-age friend with dry, stressed skin (link here)
  • Starter Kit # 3: My mother's sensitive, dehydrated, aging skin kit (link here)
  • Starter Kit # 4: My mother-in-law's normal, hyperpigmented, aging kit (link here)
  • Bonus Kit if I haven't thrown myself off a cliff from creating all these visual (yes, visual) kits:  My personal kit if my house burned down and I had to start over with nothing but Amazon gift cards, which won't be simple, less than 5 items, or anything else straightforward.  No promises. DoneK-Beauty on Amazon: Rebuilding a 15+ Step Routine if My Stash Caught on Fire
Once these posts are live, I will link them here.  Done!  As I mentioned in the original post, these items will be from Amazon for accessibility reasons as a counterpoint to the more internationally-focused From Beginner to Expert Mode: Where I Buy K-Beauty & Asian Cosmetics post.

Let's get going with the first one, for my college-age friend with oily, acne-prone skin!

Just as a quick reminder: this blog uses both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and if you choose to click the fomer before you shop, your purchase may contribute a tiny amount to the maintenance of this blog.  See full details at the end of this post! #receipts

Starter Kit # 1: Oily & Acne-Prone

5 items, created for a college-age friend who is on a budget, and has oily, acne-prone skin.
  1. Oil Cleanser
  2. Cheap low pH cleanser
  3. Acne treatment
  4. Cheap light moisturizer
  5. Sunscreen
Bonus optional item: Hydrocolloid bandages for active breakouts

Here's my picks, and the order they'd go in for AM and PM Routines:

Korean skincare routine for oily acne skin
I am jealous of people who can wear chemical sunscreens and use regular oil cleansers, it makes things so much easier?  Images from Amazon product pages linked below, and official brand websites.
1. Oil Cleanser: Banila Co Clean it Zero Purity version ($19, $21 on Prime)
Sunscreen is hard to clean off, leading to clogged pores ... leading to more breakouts.  That's why K-Beauty's double cleansing was a revolution; it's not about cleansing harder, like you normally see in acne-centric skincare, it's about cleansing smarter.  Oil dissolves oil, so don't be scared- oil cleansers, if you rinse them off properly and follow with a foaming cleanser, will not make you more oily.  Clean It Zero is iconic, but contained acne triggers that the Purity version does not.  There is a sample kit with all 4 types for $18 on Prime as well, if you want to give the other 'flavours' a try instead of a full size.
2. Cheap low pH cleanser: Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ($10, $11 on Prime)
Get that p.Acnes bacteria under controlwithout stripping your face, plus the benefit of blemish-calming tea tree.  See Snailcaster Fiddy's in-depth review of it on Fifty Shades of Snail.  Clinical studies have shown (#receipts in the link above) that high pH cleansing contributes to the proliferation of acne bacteria on the skin, so a low pH cleanser would be the very first item going into their box.
3. Acne treatment: Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid ($16.50, $18.50 on Prime)
Yes, this is a chemical exfoliant, but it's also extremely gentle compared to things that have a "scorched earth" approach like the famous red box Stridex.  BHA is oil-soluble, and I used this product for very, very long time to combat excess oil (sebum) from clogging up my pores and bringing congestion to the acne houseparty on my face.  BHA is also anti-inflammatory, so it's got several perks.  There are several other products that I use for controlling acne, but this is the one I'd put in my friend's kit.  You can read about the other things I use here.
4. Cheap light moisturizer: Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream (Pack of 2 $12, $13 on Prime)
Over the years, I've gone through 15+ tubes of this product-- it was my first ever K-Beauty skincare foray, and it remained a staple for me until I discovered the Beauty of Joseon cream in early 2015 and I've been cheating on my snail products with Hanbang for quite a while with no signs of stopping.  You can read more here: Mizon Multi Function Formula Snail Recovery Gel Cream Review
5. SunscreenBiore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ ($9, $11 on Prime)
Yes, this is Japanese, not Korean, but this is the most popular sunscreen among K-Beauty bloggers including Fiddy of Fifty Shades of Snail, and it fits perfectly into a multi-step K-Beauty routine.  This this is a gold standard sunscreen if you don't have issues with chemical sunscreens.  I will say that chemical sunscreen triggers horrible skin reactions for me, so I use physical UV-filter sunscreens only.  You can see what I use/have reviewed via the sunscreen tag

Bonus item-  Hydrocolloid acne stickers: Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch ($5.00 for a set of 24)
Image from Cosrx.kr
Hydrocolloid bandages (HBCs) were game-changers for my active breakouts.  I wish I had these when I was a teen.
They're commonly used for wound care in medical treatment, but their function makes them amazing for acne care; when a blemish is open (you can google how to lance it safely, this is at your own risk!) and is able to drain, instead of picking at it, you can just pop one of these little acne-sized stickers on it and it will literally suck the goo out of the blemish.  Seriously.  Google it if you aren't squeamish, it's amazing.
 It gently, hygienically, and safely drains and locks away the contents of the blemish.  That means the inflammation that is causing soreness and a raised bump is being thwarted and drained away, and the infection is being drawn out while the waterproof external surface keeps the blemish clean and protected from outside contaminants.  There are 'acne stickers' which just form a seal and don't drain it, but can be work during the day-- the Cosrx stickers are not day-wear-friendly but they'll go to town on your blemishes overnight.
That's it!  Next up will be the Simple K-Beauty Starter Kit #2 - Dry & Stressed Skin Type, and I hope this post was was helpful for those of you out there curious what I'd tuck into a care package to get a total K-Beauty beginner hooked on the good stuff.

Have you made any starter kits/care packages for your friends and family?  Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know!

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

All the best,
-Cat

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & 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.

51 comments

  1. Hi Cat! Thank you for the post! I actually wanted to ask you about alcohol in the sunscreen. I have been hearing scary things about alcohol causing massive apoptosis of skin cells and just wanted to hear your opinion about it. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sabari,

      Sadly the alcohol in skincare myths are pretty prevalent, but if you look at the actual studies, you will find that the concentrations and types used in the studies which are detrimental to skin are so far from what's actually used in cosmetics. :)

      This question was featured in one of The Snailcast Q&A episodes, where we ask Chel (who has a degree in science as well as being a small batch cosmetic formulator) to give us an educated behind-the-scenes on the alcohol muth. You can find the episode here: http://www.thesnailcast.com/episode-5-reader-qa-1/

      Delete
  2. Thanks for sharing this! I love using the Biore sunscreen, but hate how it pills under my BB cream :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no! Let me guess, fights between water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based products? :(

      Delete
    2. Wow, I never thought about that being the issue but it probably is! Thanks for the tip!

      Delete
  3. hey! have you tried the banila co in the pink version, do you think that's good for oily skin too? or would you still recommend the purity version? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I'm trying to be careful not to 'recommend' anything, but if my friend got her box and said "wait, I already bought the original Banila Co cleanser, can I still use it?" my answer would be: "Patch test it, if it works for you, great!" There are more acne triggers in the original formula (pink) than the Purity, which is why I didn't give her the original, but it's very popular too. I can't use either as my skin hates oil cleansers, but they're great for most people. :)

      Delete
  4. I think this is a great starter kit, especially since it is so easy to go down the rabbit hole and buy ALL THE THINGS when you're new.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, I am glad you like it! :) I'm hoping it will encourage people to test the waters and start thinking about those basic steps- maybe they want a liquid oil cleanser instead of a solid balm cleanser, so they're going to sub in XYZ product instead ... and so the customization rabbit hole begins. ;D

      Delete
  5. Thank you for this post! I just ordered every single thing except the BHA, which I already have--and used your affiliate links. I really appreciate your help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope they work for you! How are you liking the BHA? :D

      Delete
  6. Hi! I have been reading through your blog in the last couple of days and I really like it, lots of useful and entertaining posts. :) I've been using Asian skincare products for a while now and getting to love them more and more - hence ending up on blogs like yours. :)

    I do have a question for you though, regarding low ph cleansing. I understand the importance of ph and purchased indicator papers myself to test the ph of the products I use. However, the water where I live is slightly alkaline (around ph 8). So, I can use a low ph cleanser but in the end, I wash it off with lots of alkaline water, right? Which I guess is not really good for my skin. That worries me quite a bit. What do you think?
    I will probably purchase a ph adjusting toner as I don't own one yet (the Cosrx one I think - I saw you didn't like it but generally there are good reviews of it, so I'll give it a try), and hope that I will do good by my skin by using it after cleansing...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually had the same thing happen to me, except that my water was very irritating in my new location rather than high pH. I had to start using my Mizon toner after patting my skin dry, rather than leaving the water on my face after rinsing, because otherwise my skin became a total mess! As far as the water goes, I think of low pH and high pH like a salad and a hamburger; does eating the hamburger undo the work of the salad? Well, debateable, and depends on a lot of factors. Is it still better to eat a salad and then a burger than two burgers back to back? I'm pretty sure the answer is yes. :)

      Delete
  7. i love the concept of this. when people ask me about my skincare and decide they'd like to try, i find myself in the predicament of being asked for help. seeing how you put together these beginner routines based on skin type is really of interest and a good resource i can send others to look at. thank you for this relevant information. I can't wait for all the other routines to be posted!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, and I'm glad that you like it! I think the visual element helps a lot. The second one is now up, by the way! ;)

      Delete
  8. I understand why you put the acne patches as "optional" for purposes of this series, but for anyone who has even the occasional breakout- seriously these things are AMAZING. Never used this brand, but hydrocolloid acne patches are a game-changer for getting rid of acne, especially if you tend to want to mess with a blemish. Covers it up, sucks out the infection without putting any pressure on the skin, helps with healing... BUY THEM. BUY THEM IN BULK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HCBs are life. How I wish I had known about them as a teen. We need to squad up and sing their praises from the mountaintops, like wolves howling at the moon. You in? ;)

      Every time I see the blob of goo forming under the bandage, I feel all smug and triumphant that the infection I'm seeing was desperately trying to form a horrible monster zit on my face only to be thwarted by the HCB. It's like BWAHAHAHA! NOT TODAY, SATAN! This HCB is going to exorcise the demons of acne bacteria out of this spot, in the name of Snesus, amen.

      Delete
    2. Howl at the moon, send pigeons, light beacons across Middle-Earth, totally in. They are SO great. Used two yesterday and this morning I woke up and saw the white blob, and then I peeled them off and didn't have that awful "There is a THING under my SKIN and it HURTS" feeling, and life was as good as it can be on a Monday. I'm going to Taiwan later this fall and will pretty much have a suitcase full of sheet masks and acne patches when I come home. (Going it will be full of quinoa and random Amazon orders for the friends I'm staying with, so it works out~)

      Delete
  9. I have oily and sensitive skin, is it ok to use PH cleanser as double-cleanse? Also, the waiting time between VitC/BHA/AHA take so long that i got so lazy and stop using them for a while, my skin will get so clog and become even more oily & sensitive. By the way, is it ok to use them together everyday? And i've stopped putting on foundation ever since i found my holy grail sunscreen, Holika Holika Dazzling Sunshine Sun Cream SPF45 PA+++. I would highly recommend it. I dun have ance tho..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not sure what you are asking, can you rephrase the question? :) Double cleansing is using an oil-type cleanser to remove makeup and sunscreen followed by a foaming (I use low pH) cleanser to remove the residue.

      Delete
  10. Hi Cat, just a question about the patches. Do you put them on the bare pimple, or can you slap on your exfoliants or whatever product before you put on the patch? I'm trying to incorporate it should a planet blossom on my T-zone, which has been happening a lot lately. The AHA and BHA definitely help, but I'm curious about these patches. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As the patches can be compromised by layering things over top of them, I put them on last, and just clean off the area I want to apply them to so they will stick.

      Delete
  11. Hey, I'm getting very confused with the Mizon Snail recovery gel cream. I thought it was supposed to be used with a moisturizer?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a gel moisturizer, but not heavy enough for most people on its own. That's why it's in my Oily skin box, because Oily skin is easily overwhelmed. :)

      Delete
  12. Hi Cat! Do you like more the COSRX patches than the 3M? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like them both, but the CosRX stickers are usually available in the same shops that I am buying other things from, so it's really easy for me to pick them up.

      Delete
  13. i wish you'd do one for dehdrated/oily/starting-to-age/early-30s-who-am-i-kidding-soon-to-be-mid-30s skin =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. this would be a great addition to this series!

      Delete
    2. Wait, that's *my* skin type, LOL!

      Delete
  14. Hi Cat

    I recently started following your blog based on a friend's recommendation. This is me taking a first step towards K-beauty. I am reading and researching before I buy any products. Your blog is very informative and well-organized.

    Would you happen to know of any posts that talk about K-beauty products for DRY, ITCHY AND HIGHLY ACNE PRONE skin? I would love to get some suggestions - if you know of any bloggers with similar skin type or have any references at all.

    Thanks
    Shalini

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do have some blogger recommendations in the main menu drop down, and I know that Skin & Tonics has dry, acne-prone skin.

      Delete
  15. This routine is pretty much spot on for my skin type. I've been looking at that COSRX acne treatment for a few weeks now and I think you may have sold me on it!

    http://greenteaandshortbread.blogspot.ca/?m=1


    ReplyDelete
  16. My best friend lives in Bali now but has always had acne, now the scarring is a real issue for him. Is there anything on the KBeauty market that could assist? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, as I am not a medical professional I cannot make recommendations on specific products treat specific skin conditions. The best thing to do if you are looking to combat a specific skin condition is to speak with a dermatologist or other medical professional.

      Delete
  17. Hi! Are these guides OK for guys as well? :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hello! I've been reading sooo many of your posts and i'm really interested in korean skincare :)! I am 18 and at first i felt too early but tbh now i just want to heal and take care of my skin :(
    I have blackheads and whiteheads also and maybe clogged pores?im not too sure but since this is an acne skin routine i was wondering if it will also help me fight the blackheads and whiteheads??

    Thank you again for making this starter-kit i I hope i could try them asap!:D (and yey to snailcast! Love you guys!)

    ReplyDelete
  19. I can't wait to try this! I actually found your site through looking for Curology reviews, and found yours to be the most informative. I already put in my order, so I'm going to give it a go before I invest in these other products!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I just found out about your blog and I must say I'm amazed! Very helpful! I just have one question though. For my night routine, I'm currently using a moisturizing cream from my dermatologist and Epiduo. Say, I would include the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and the C20 vitamin C serum, which order should it be? I don't want to let go of Epiduo yet so I want to know if there's be a better way to still incorporate it on my regimen.

    Thank you very much!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hello! I'm making my first foray into Korean skin care and I'm wondering a few things:
    1: would something like this be a morning or evening routine?
    2: if it is morning, could one use a BB cream with SPF instead of the sunscreen, or is it generally recommended to layer a sunscreen under a BB?

    Thanks for having such an awesome blog! I'm also pretty pale so its nice to see your swatches, even though I think I may be pink compared to you. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see you mentioned the AM/PM below already, so I'll answer the BB cream/SPF question. The short answer is: no, still wear sunscreen. The longer answer is here: http://www.snowwhiteandtheasianpear.com/2015/11/the-painful-path-to-k-beauty-wisdom-7.html

      I hope that helps! :D
      -Cat

      Delete
  22. Oh silly me, I totally didn't see the AM/PM routine! But I'm still wondering about the sunscreen/BB cream thing. :D

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you! My teens are 16 and 17(a son and a daughter. Is it OK for them to use BHA Blackhead Power Liquid? Hope it is not too early. I am into teaching them about AB beauty routine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, as I am not a medical professional, I cannot advise on the course of action for a minor. I'd check with a dermatologist or your family physician or pediatrician. :)

      Delete
  24. How often do I use the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid? Every night?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hello! I have acne prone and oily skin and my pm routine kind of looks like yours:
    1. Double cleanse banila co reservatrol (for oily skin) and antibacterial soap
    2. Cosrx aha 7 whitehead power liquid
    3. Snail essence
    4. Nature republic aloe vera gel

    Am I on the right track? Question is, I don't have the bha blackhead power liquid so is it still okay for me to use the cosrx aha? I don't want to buy too many products :( The last product I bought was bha skin returning a-sol from cosrx and I am yet to incorporate it. Been using this routine for a week already and I think I'm purging.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Judy,

      Unfortunately as I am not a medical professional, I can't advise you on what steps to take. You mentioned antibacterial soap - have you read the post on high pH cleansers and how they interact with acne bacteria? If not, I'd recommend starting there (it's on the sidebar under popular posts, as well as in the drop-down menu under 'Lets Get Nerdy') so you can evaluate your cleanser.

      The AHA is in the right order, though!

      As for the snail essence and the aloe vera gel, that's really going to depend on your skin. Be aware that the aloe gel does contain alcohol, so the combination with skin that is more fragile due to AHA may be a bit much. However, I'm not a doctor. ^_^

      Delete
  26. First of all, your blog is a godsend. I've been looking into skincare for the first time in my life, and it's pretty confusing. I do have one question though:

    how important is sunscreen?

    Most of the time, I'm outdoors (not necessarily in the sun) and sweating bullets. I feel like it's safe to assume that a sunscreen which is acne-friendly, chemical free, and waterproof would be insanely expensive, if such a product actually exists in the first place.

    ReplyDelete