The Painful Path to K-Beauty Wisdom: 7 Mistakes Beginners Make

This weekend's post is going to be fairly short and sweet, because I am determined to finally unpack and put away the entirety of my product stash, and it's going to a monumental task requiring lots of coffee or possibly adult beverages to survive the endeavour, but it needs to be done.  And purging- of the skincare, not skin, variety - does anyone really need a mountain of uninteresting samples of unknown vintage?

There are unused samples lurking in every box.  Also: how much of this do you think I can fit in that as-yet unassembled drawer unit?  Because I am about to find out, and I think like many things in this post, I'm going to find out the hard way.
Clearly since most of my samples are unused and cluttering up my stash, the answer for me is no.  Naturally this has me pondering some of the mistakes I've made, and seen others make, over the years.

In this post:
  • Buying all the things
  • Ignoring skincare triggers
  • Testing all the things - at once
  • Buying 'cult' products that don't suit your skin type
  • Avoiding or Hoarding Samples
  • Writing off all K-Makeup
  • Treating makeup as sun protection

Some of these I'm guilty of, others are things I've seen crop up time and time again as things that people have done and regretted, or are doing currently and don't realize that it's something they need to reconsider.

Buying all the things

This has to be the first mistake I see almost all beginners make; caught up in the powerful lust for all things cute, new, elegant, or most importantly, trendy, they buy a tremendous amount of products all at once, instead of plotting out what products they are missing or are ready to replace.  This is part of what makes K-Beauty so attractive and easy to love - there is something for everyone.

Do you want cheap, effective products?  One of my staples is the $5 Mizon Snail Recovery Gel.  Do you want product packaging that will look gorgeous on your vanity?  I emptied a $20 bottle of Sooryehan Hyo Biyeon Concentrated Brightening Essence just because it looked like this:

Sooryehan Hyo Brightening Essence Review
Image from: The Bottle That Stole My Heart: Sooryehan Hyo Biyeon Concentrated Brightening Essence Review
Do you want products that have compelling ingredients? Ingredients backed by science?  Experimental ingredients?  No-nonsense packaging?  Packaging so beautiful you want to keep it forever?  Budget options?  Luxury options?  Do you want things that are popular due to word of mouth, not because their brands have plush marketing budgets?

How about technology innovations like BB creams, which swept up the internationally beauty community with their blend of sunscreen, skincare, and makeup (more on that later), or the Cushion trend, which been trending hard for the last year on the strength of ultra-thin, ultra-pigmented makeup that applies with a puff that gives a finish so amazing I've hijacked it to apply other products?

K-Beauty has immense and varied appeal, so it's easy to be swept up in the hype and buy products without mindfulness.  One of the things I appreciate the most about the K-Beauty blogging community is the awareness, promotion, and thoughtfulness on the topic of deliberate purchasing.  There is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and treating yourself to things that you can afford and can use, but there's a balance.  This was one of the big themes in the international K-Beauty blogging community in the last year, touched off by UK blogger adoredee in her post  How to Beauty Haul Responsibly.  

If you'd like to read more on this point, including some of the other blogger points of discussion, check out: Thoughts on Hauling Responsibly, & Skincare as a Hobby

Ignoring skincare triggers

Another post of adoredee's that I recommend people read is Figuring Out Your Skincare Triggers, which is another classic mistake that many make, and it leads to massive amounts of wasted money, the mistaken belief that K-Beauty "just doesn't work" for you, or most horrifyingly, acne scars and visible damage.

This is me, I made this mistake.  In My Skin Type & History, I explain how I stupidly avoided sunscreen my whole life until my face was so aged and damaged that I was forced to start exploring sunscreen alternatives.  Why did I avoid what is arguably the first rule of skincare?  Because my skin just would. not. tolerate. sunscreen.  I'd apply it and within hours, sometimes within 20 min, my skin would start breaking out in tiny inflamed whiteheads, it would burn and itch and feel so angry and irritated that I wanted to claw my own face off.  Every sunscreen, ever.  I wasted so much money trying one "highly recommended" sunscreen after another, and eventually, I just gave up.  What's the point of wearing sunscreen to prevent skin damage if it makes my skin explode in painful, horrible acne?  I was damned if I do, and damned if I don't because the desert sun was marching across my face like a 5 year old crushing ants under his feet.

When I started using BB cream out of desperation for sun protection (which was a terrible idea as I'll explain later) I was mystified as to why some BB creams broke me out, and some didn't?  They all contained sunscreen, so what was the difference?

What I didn't know, is that chemical sunscreens are a skin trigger for me.  I found this out by paying attention to ingredients lists, and cross-referencing them with products that did, and did not, break me out.   I discovered that BB creams that contained only physical UV filters did not break me out, and the ones that contained chemical UV filters did.  Mystery solved.  I switched to physical-only sunscreens and haven't looked back since- and I haven't had to.  I can now wear sunscreen every day.

This morning's AM routine + introduction of new #haircare product. L-R: ☀ @Sulwhasoo_us Snowise Ex low pH foam - reviewed ☀ #Mizon AHA BHA pH adjusting toner - discontinued ☀ @holysnailsblog Snowbang Essence and Sharksauce - hanbangin' ☀ @ljhcosmetics Tea Tree 90 Essence - x2 a day ☀ #BeautyofJoseon cream - reviewed and also bae ☀ #Goodal SPF+ PA+++ sunscreen ☀ @su_m37 Blossom cream - not sure about this yet ☀ #Goodal lotus mist - for any-time-of-day moisture ☀ #Aromatica tea tree hair tonic spray - recommended by @fanserviced - scalp is drying out now that the heat is on, testing this after a recent purchase from @peachandlily #kbeauty #koreanbeauty #skincarejunkie #skincareroutine #kbeautyblogger #koreancosmetics #lowpHlife #winteriscoming #myscalpneedssnesus #rasianbeauty #snailsquad
A photo posted by Snow White and the Asian Pear (@snowwhiteandtheasianpear) on

So how do you know if something is triggering your skin?  How do you tell if it's the product, and not the fact that you haven't been sleeping well, your job is stressing you out, or it's that time of the month?  The answer is: by testing things properly, which is the next mistake that people make.

Testing all the things - at once

Honestly, this is probably the most common mistake that beginners make.  I get the appeal, really, I do.  I get the appeal of slathering all my new goodies on my face as soon as I get the out of the box, and I feel this temptation so deeply I developed an externally-controlled testing process that generates a schedule for me to introduce new products, just so I won't be tempted to try all the things immediately.

As Kerry from Skin & Tonics points out, skin renews itself every 28 days, so I tend to test things for at least a month before I review them, but more importantly, I isolation test new things for two weeks.

This is the #1 piece of advice I have for beginners.  If you do nothing else, do this.

By introducing only one new product at a time, 2 weeks apart, you will be able to judge which product your skin is reacting to.  My skin tends to break out from products within days, so when that happens, I immediately stop using the product, return to a base routine that I know works for me until my skin is recovered, and then test it again if I'm not sure that it was the product.  Acne can be caused by hormones, a compromised skin barrier, disrupted acid mantle, overexfoliation, harsh cleansing, diet, poor sleep, stress, exposure to bacteria through dirty fingers, pillows, and phones, etc.  It can also be caused by products, but if you aren't isolation testing, you will have no idea which product caused the breakout.

It breaks my heart when I see people say "Asian beauty products didn't work for me" and then I read that they threw 5 sheet masks, 4 essences and serums, 3 creams, 2 cleansers, and a partridge in a pear tree at their face all at the same time.  Now they're writing off Asian skincare completely as a fad, or just hype, or something that will never work for them, when it may only be one of their giant list of products that is triggering a reaction.

That's not to say that every product will need 2 full weeks of isolation testing; I only test new cleansers for a week since I'm not looking for a long-term effect- if it doesn't cause breakouts, cleanses well, and doesn't leave my skin feeling tight, dry, or stripped, I'm good.  Products like point makeup (eyes, lips, cheeks) may not need isolation testing at all, although I would recommend isolation testing any base makeup (foundation, BB or CC creams, cushions, etc) as they are a common culprit.

People also don't always stop to consider whether a product is right for them, and whether it might be breaking them out because it's simply not suited to their skin type.

Buying 'cult' products that don't suit your skin type

Word-of-mouth is a powerful and useful tool when you are looking to build your own customized skincare routine.  I look at my products as a 'wardrobe' of options; I may have items in my closet ranging from bathing suits to winter coats, but that doesn't mean I'm going to wear every piece of clothing I own at once.  However, having a range of skincare options is actually a good thing, in my opinion, because it populates your wardrobe with options that you can mix and match depending on the 'weather' that day.

Winter Korean Skincare Routine
Image from Multi-Step Korean Skincare Routine: Winter/Spring 2015
Where I see people go wrong is filling their 'wardrobe' with options that aren't suited to their skin type.  I have dehydrated combination-oily skin, so rich, occlusive products like heavy creams, balms, and oils are a nightmare for my skin.  My routine is something like 90% hydrating products, and then one or two token 'heavy' options that I can apply sparingly if my skin suddenly demands it, or just simply mix in a small amount into my existing products to power up the richness of what I already have.

The best recommendation that I have for people looking at an empty skincare closet is to find a blogger that matches your skin type, and then check out their routine.  What do they use?   What do they like and not like?  Why did it work/not work for them?  I have had readers with opposite skin types tell me that they follow my blog to find out about products that most likely won't work for them.  It's all part of the best practice of researching products before you buy them.

If you're looking for your blogger "skin twin", I've got a list of bloggers by skin type with links to their routines here: Beginner's Korean Skincare Routine: Dehydrated Combination-Oily Skin Type

So say that you find something that your skin twin likes, but does it mean that it will work for you?  In short, no, there are no guarantees and bloggers are not medical professionals nor should you treat them as such.  Unless they're also medical professionals in addition to being bloggers, haha!

There are no guarantees, but you can, and should "try things on" before you buy them, and that's the next mistake people make: samples.

Avoiding or Hoarding Samples

Samples are great, don't get me wrong.  I've used them to get the same amount of product as a full size for 88% less than the cost of a full size (you can check out the math here) and K-Beauty is notorious for having a huge number of products available in sample sizes.

Moreover, you can purchase them in packs of 5, 10, 20 or more; this is perfect for a 2-4 week testing phase if you are looking to determine if buying a full size is a good investment.  This is especially relevant for some of the more luxe brands, such as Su:m37, Sulwhasoo, or History of Whoo.  Many brands also offer travel sizes, which are affordable while still giving you enough product to use over a period of weeks or months.

Avoiding: some people avoid samples, because they'd rather buy the full size, and that's fine if it works for them.  I notice that the people who do that and are successful with it are also people who are very aware of their ingredient triggers, what works for them and what doesn't, and know their skin and its needs intimately.  If you are a beginner and still figuring these out though, samples are your friend.

But don't be too friendly with them, which is the other side of this mistake.

Hoarding: deep at the bottom of every K-Beauty fan's stash is a shameful litter of unused, unloved, and unidentified samples.  It's so easy to just throw a few sets into your hauls, because they're so cheap and they weigh almost nothing, and it looks good so yooolooooo and in they go.  Or we breathlessly admire the generous heap of free samples we received from a seller and seeking out samples, never really stopping to consider whether or not we're actually interested in trying any of those products.  Every now and then you'll luck out and your samples will rock your skin and blow your mind and you'll fall in love, but sometimes people get caught up in a "collecting and hoarding" pattern where they have a ton of samples that they've never used, and they never will.  Samples also do not usually have expiry dates printed on them, so they're a bit of a gamble.

The key is moderation, and mindfulness.  Before you buy that $2 set of 10 Su:m37 cream samples because it has "Rose Garden" in the name (guilty!), consider whether or not you have room in your testing schedule, whether you have room in your routine, and yes, whether you could afford the full size if it ends up being your HG.  $2 is still $2 too much if you never end up using them, eh?  On the other hand, I've had great success with some products that I tested in sample size before buying a larger size, such as the Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam.

Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam
Image from: Low pH & High Luxury: Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam Review
The full size of this cleanser is expensive, so I wanted to test it out; I was able to get 80ml for less than $20 from Amazon Prime, and just recently rebought it in the 30ml travel size off ebay for less than $10, because I've finally worked my way through all my samples and wanted it in a pretty tube.  If it had only been available in the full size (which is almost $40!) I would have noped right out of there.  You just never know about some things until you try them, which is why samples are excellent- in moderation.

Writing off all K-Makeup

Frankly, K-Makeup has a bad reputation for being sheer, unpigmented, and ... bland.  We're used to using intensely pigmented products and then relying on the skill of the person applying it to dial it back into a subtle look, but for those of us who are unskilled or uncomfortable with makeup, it can be really intimidating.

Recently I have been exploring Korean makeup in addition to my usual fare of skincare, because I am woefully unskilled with makeup application and my makeup collection is very sparse ... or at least it would be, if I got around to throwing out all the old, expired products.  (Hopefully I'll be doing some of that when I finish this post.)   I'm a very minimal makeup user- my "full face" of makeup consists of using a Cushion base, spot concealer over blemishes, defining my brows a bit, and a subtle lip stain.  If I'm reaaaaally going all out, I might attempt eyeliner and a tubing mascara.  Shadows?  Contour?  Highlighter?  Blush?  Way out of my my comfort zone- and skill level.

I've gotten away with it, because the drive of the Korean skincare philosophy is to focus on skincare so you don't need makeup, rather than relying on makeup to conceal your skin.  This emphasis produces beauty trends that favour ultra-natural looks, where makeup is skillfully applied and enhances features without being particularly noticeable.  My favourite Korean makeup artist, Jung Saem Mool, is a great resource to check out for examples of this style, such as this video.

Jung Saem Mool is also great resource for anyone looking to adopt the Korean natural look and just enhance their natural features without trying to emulate something that doesn't suit more than a few eye shapes, for example.  ('Graphic' liner, my ultra-hooded eyes are side-eyeing you right now.)

Korean Natural Makeup
Image from "Day & Night Makeup" on
It's definitely a look where the skin is just as much a part of the look as the point makeup.  Korean makeup, as a result, has strongly leaned towards a light-handed approach: sheer base makeup, sheer shadows, sheer lips, sheer blush.  Western brands such as MAC are popular in Asia, if expensive, and I suspect the combination of subtle overall makeup trends + availability of highly-pigmented products for those favouring a stronger look has resulted in the dearth of strong K-Makeup options.  Recently, I was chatting with Joan from the blog Kinseng about K-Makeup and she pointed out that although many people (including her) may have historically 'ignored' it for being not as good, really it may be more a matter of taste.  After all, sheer is not necessarily bad, if you are aiming for the kind of ultra subtle look I linked above.

I've been reflecting on her observation, and I agree with her- experienced makeup users who favour intense looks- or are skilled enough to use intense products and still produce a subtle, natural look- may not be satisfied with the more sheer K-Makeup products, but they're also more forgiving for beginners.

And not all of them are less pigmented; my favourite lip product this year is the Clio Virgin Kiss Tension Lip in #7 Some, which works as a subtle stain, a gradient lip, or a full-out bold vampy lip.  You can check out lip swatches of it on a range of skin tones here: One Shade to Flatter Them All: Clio Tension Lip #7 'Some' Review & Swatches on Fair, Medium, and Deep skin tones

Not only is the colour itself an intense pink/red/purple wine, it's very pigmented, has a smooth formula, leaves a beautiful stain on the lips, and looks great on lots of people.  (Photo proof in that post!)  Also, as Indian-American K-Beauty blogger Me Lub Beauty (@melubeauty on Instagram) points out, although there is a serious lack of base makeup options for deeper skin tones, that doesn't necessarily mean that all K-Makeup will have the same issue as base makeup.  Considering how incredible this lipstick looked on her NC35 skin, it's a good point.
Image from One Shade to Flatter Them All: Clio Tension Lip #7 'Some' Review & Swatches on Fair, Medium, and Deep skin tones
K-Makeup lip tints and stains in particular are excellent, with intense, non-drying stains with great staying power and natural fading, and there are even peel-off lip masks that leave behind a long-lasting stain.  Many people swear by the 'auto brow' type brow pencils for their cool, ashy tones, dry formulations, and angular lead shapes.  And let's not forget the base makeup; BB creams, CC creams, and Cushions have taken over the world, leaving western brands to scramble onto the hype train.

So, don't hate on K-Makeup before you try it, but be aware of what you are looking for and make sure what you are buying is the type of product you're expecting.  Many products are sheer on purpose, and if that's not what you want, you're in for disappointment.  And on that note, one thing you should not expect your K-Makeup to do for you?  Double as sun protection.

Treating makeup as sun protection

I know your BB cream or Cushion says SPF 50, PA++.  I know, and mine does too.  Do not, for a moment, believe that applying that makeup in the amount you actually use, gives you that level of protection.

Likewise, that mineral makeup?  Or that finishing powder with SPF?   It's not as effective as we think, as explained in this post from cosmetic chemist Stephen Alain: "How much powder foundation you need for the labelled SPF", in which he references an image which illustrates just how much is actually needed vs what people actually use:

Figure 29-5 from Cosmetic Dermatology:
Principles and Practice, 2nd Edition by Leslie Baumann,
as referenced on
As he explains, the amount of product that most people use is nowhere near the density of what is needed to achieve that level of protection:
All products with an SPF or UVAPF are tested at the exact same amount, 2 milligrams per each square centimetre of skin (2mg/cm2). If you’re just dusting on your foundation or powder with SPF, to matte the skin or provide minimal coverage, you’re not getting the SPF/UVAPF on the label. 
Now, apply that logic to the amount of Cushion foundation most people apply.

The entire appeal of Cushions is that you are using very, very little product which has been applied in a blended, even layer through the ingenuity of the puff.  Since the formula is so very thin and very pigmented, you need such a tiny amount that it give the illusion of bare, ultra-natural skin, rather than an obviously made-up look.

Even BB and CC creams; are you applying half a teaspoon of BB cream to your face each time?  Because I'm certainly not- I tried it one time just for science's sake and I found that half a teaspoon is at least four times as much product as I'd actually use.

So please, please do not rely on the included SPF/PA in makeup to protect your skin, even if it's a DIY blend of sunscreen + makeup, because the amount you'll actually use will fall far short of the required volume to achieve the level of protection on the label.  The safest approach is to use a stand-alone sunscreen for sun protection, and leave makeup as makeup.

Lastly, if you have made any of these mistakes, or others, don't feel badly because you are not alone- we've all made them and developed more knowledge as as  result. (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

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 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.


  1. *paws at screen* That skincare wardrobe...

    Why you so wise Snow? I completely agree that getting involved in K-beauty is an exercise in restraint... so basically agreeing with your points 1, 3, 4, and a little bit of 5. There are so many beautiful things with different strengths and selling points (this one is formulated by THE top dermatologist, but this one is based on a 1,000,000 year old tradition, but wait THIS one is the one that angel-faced Kpop star uses!) it's SO hard to avoid buying all of the things. But yeah that just leaves you with a sad wallet and shelves of expiring skincare, and potential repercussions for your face if you don't test them properly or bought the wrong cult faves.

    About K-makeup - I am ride or die cushion foundations and bb creams. There's nothing in the world that beats them for my taste in base makeup.

    And this isn't a comment for you, but in case anyone who likes pigmented makeup is interested in K-makeup, some brands that are more 'western' in style are Clio, Espoir, and 3 Concept Eyes.

    That Clio lipstick. If I hadn't banned myself from buying new Fall/Winter lipsticks just a little while ago, it would be in my cart.

    Thanks for an interesting read, as always.

    1. Hi five! Also, I LOL'd at "this one is formulated by THE top dermatologist, but this one is based on a 1,000,000 year old tradition, but wait THIS one is the one that angel-faced Kpop star uses!" because it's so, so true.

      And good point about the more western-equivalent brands- I regularly lust after those lip tar/liquid lipsticks from 3CE but haven't tried one yet. Plus, with that Clio lipstick rocking my world, on the rare occasions I wear makeup I'm always so eager to wear it.

      Maybe in the spring, with one of their spring colours ... #enablingmodeactivated

    2. I so agree with you for makeup! While AB in general was a gradual transition for me after first traveling in and then moving to Korea (so yay, I actually didn't make any of the mistakes mentioned here!), makeup was more of a revelation! I never liked strong eyemakeup and western roadshop brands didn't have foundation light enough back when I tried - Cushions all the way please! I love sheer, light products!

      And really, I think there's a lot of hidden gems in the K-Makeup world. Just because cutesy brands like Etude and Tonymoly have been getting most of the spotlight doesn't mean there isn't more 'adult' makeup choices to go around. Love Espoir (foundations are great as well) and would like to add VDL to the list of great makeup brands! :D

  2. Lovely post. You always make important information sound interesting rather than like a manual or a lecture. I'll be saving a link to this instead of screeching link a banshee next time someone comments on my sunscreen use or asks why I haven't opened a new product yet.

    Listen man, just because it was on sale doesn't mean it goes on my face before my face is ready. It's on the Calendar!

    1. Aww, thank you for the lovely compliment! I always think of these kinds of posts as a discussion between fellow skincare nerds rather than me trying to 'pass on' wisdom - we're all in this together!

      "Listen man, just because it was on sale doesn't mean it goes on my face before my face is ready. It's on the Calendar!" LOL! Amen! It also gives me time to plan and re-arrange my testing schedule, and get excited about what I get to test next!

  3. I can relate so much to this whole post! When I first started out I had a million and one products and it was just so overwhelming. Now I have a solid routine I generally hesitate to bring another to the party just because I'm not sure if I can deal with any breakouts caused by the Pretty New Thing.

    And I confess. I don't use sunscreen because I the ones I've tried always dried my skin and I haven't yet found one without alcohol/ethanol or any fatty alcohols. Fatty alcohols I'm pretty certain break me out with no mercy and induces the most painful cysts I've ever had the misfortune of experiencing. The Alcohol/Ethanol content just dries my skin out too much for daily use so right now I'm at a loss. Instead, I sport a large hat and generally act like a vampire.

    K-makeup though was my saviour when I was first dabbling in make up. I had no skills and no one taught me anything about make up so the ultra sheer/natural finish often applied to K-makeup was just so forgiving. Now that I'm more experience and moving on to brighter/bolder looks I find that Clio and 3CE are my favourite brands for bright and bold K-makeup.

    1. Ugh, those sunscreen woes are intense. Hugs! (づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ I hope you find something - you must be on a rollercoaster of hope and then disappointment every time you look at an ingredients list.

      "I had no skills and no one taught me anything about make up so the ultra sheer/natural finish often applied to K-makeup was just so forgiving." Yesssss! And it still has those bolder options and brands for when we've worked up our nerve to go a little more full-out after baby stepping our way with natural sheer shadows and gentle blush. ;)

  4. I didn't want so many products...the just kinda...popped out of the daisies!

    1. Hahaha! It's like that meme of the little girl who is like "I don't know where this all came from either!"

  5. Great post as usual :-) I love how you shed the spotlight on people relying on their makeup to provide adequate sun protection! I hear it all the time at work! I have so many patients tell me " foundation has sunscreen in it" and it makes me cringe :/ I use it as a moment to education patients that you need at least 1/2 a teaspoon in order to get the correct protection! I

    1. I'm with you on that - I was absolutely mislead by marketing and thought it was enough sun protection, and I know most people are the same way. It's quite disturbing in its own way, but I get that it wouldn't make sense for makeup to have a recommended portion (the way sunscreen does) amount so there's nothing stopping companies from claiming someone's light dusting of powder gives them SPF 50+ and PA+++ :(

  6. This post is everything I went through when I fist got into K-Beauty about a year ago. I bought All The Things and while I was fortunate enough that only two or three products didn't work for me, I shudder to think of what may have happened if I had less resilient skin. Now, I have a pretty solid routine, but my desire to experiment is still strong, and I have to write up a testing schedule for new products that I want to try and review. Also, them samples. I don't even know what to do with them anymore, they're just sitting all by their lonesome at the bottom of my drawer. TnT

    On the plus side, you are actually my skin twin! We are similar skin tones, and I also have dehydrated combination-oily skin. *stalks blog*

    Sheer light products are my friend, because I live in a really humid part of Florida (isn't all of Florida humid, though?) and I have yet to master a full face of makeup without it positively melting off of my face within the hour, primer be damned. K-makeup was a lifesaver for me in that respect. Good post, I enjoyed reading!

    1. Fist bump! Thank goodness for skincare that less us wear less, because it sounds like your climate doesn't allow much else, eh?

      I find the projection of my testing review really helps me evaluate things I'm lemming after because I have to figure out where it would fit in my testing schedule and decide if it makes sense. If something gets me really, really excited though, I still have the flexibility to move things around and make room for it. :)

  7. That second to last one. No no no no. Koreans do not favor a "natural" look, they but they almost universally favor a "soft" look for girls (which has not always been the case, look at photos of 90s Korean pop stars)--so pinky pink lips and sheer sparkly shadows. However lately brighter lips have been in vogue. As for heavy foundations, there have always been Koreans who used them. I'm not sure where this idea that Koreans favor a natural look comes from. Many Korean girls won't even leave the house without makeup on.

    1. I apologize if it's not clear to due to my wording, but I did not mean that the 'natural look' refers to wearing less makeup, it's that the makeup that is worn is more subtle than western makeup ideals, not the volume of makeup being worn. :) It is possible to wear full base foundation, contour powder, highlight, brow liner, 2 kinds of eye liner, several shadows, mascara, and blush, and still have a 'natural look' style makeup.

      Although it may not be 'natural' in that it's not a minimal amount of makeup, it's a reference to how it's applied vs how it's applied in western makeup. This can be seen in the tutorial channels of makeup artists such as Jung Saem Mool, who I mentioned above, but also on countless beauty shows such as Get It Beauty- a recent example would be Park Tae Yun's appearance at the NYC Sokoglam event, where he discussed and demonstrated this as a typical K-Beauty look.

      It's similar to how the 'Instagram' makeup look is the western trend right now- very heavy, made-up brows, strong eyes, bold lips, full contour. Although this is the current trend, that doesn't mean that every western woman wears her makeup this way. :) If someone was to ask what's the current fashion in western makeup, however, this would absolutely be the trend to discuss.

      I hope that clears up the confusion! :)

  8. OMG.. Thanks God i found this blog!! You're so wise and you're my twin skin blogger!! Except, we live in different location and climate. I live in indonesia, its humidity is high. Can you recommend good akin care for me. Im so desperate looking for the right skin care. Hiks. Sorry for bad english. Oh i'm 28yo btw. Skin color.. Humm.. Like southeast asian woman.

    1. Hi Astrid,

      Hi five for being a skin twin! Although I cannot recommend specific products for you for the reasons I outlined in this post: I do have a lot of resources on here that cover what I use and when I use it, and you can find it under the Routines tag and also under the tab at the top titled "Routine & Spreadsheet" :)

      I hope that helps! :)

  9. Hi- Great Post- One question, when you isolate new products it means you only use 1 item in your routine? Or use the new item as part of the usual normal routine?

    1. It means only one new thing at a time. :) That way, if I break out or my skin reacts, I know it's the only new guest at the party and it's the troublemaker. ^_^

  10. I'm an NW5. Given that I found one good match in Sephora (with two separate visits), I was stunned when I went to a local AB meetup and was handed a BB cream that was light enough for me. (Innisfree #13) It was too yellow, and now I've found Missha's #13 and it works great for me.

    So while AB makeup may not work well for darker skin, if you're light like I am, don't rule it out.

    1. That's how I got started in AB, actually! I first heard about BB creams on an unrelated forum (this was probably 2011 or earlier,when BB creams were not yet available in western brands and the hype was still building) because people were complaining that they felt great on the skin but that the shades were all too fair for anyone to actually use. That immediately caught my interest (and I'm just an NC10 or so) and started me on this ~magical journey~ and now I have several base options in #13 and I'm quite happy.

  11. Hi, I just found your blog, and already read so many posts! I love reading posts from people who know so much about a topic. I'm new to the whole Korean-Skincare-World, so I read a lot of articles, and blog posts and watched Videos, but I must say you are one of the best, because you're explaining everything so well, while a lot of people just remain on the surface.
    I also like your blog, because you're similar to my skin type. I never knew there was a 'dehydrated' skin type until I got more into skincare :D But I'm still so unsure about which products I should try, and I must say, the packaging of some products make me really weak!! I also never really experienced breakouts to products or other symptoms, so I have no clue if I'm allergic to some ingredients, or which are the best for me. Or should I just buy samples, and try them?? ugh, everything is so complicated!! But I really want to improve my skin, because I hate wearing make up, somehow it's almost never my shade, even though I'm not that fair, and I don't like the feeling on my skin. anyways, I'm talking too much, I hope you have a wonderful day and greetings from germany! :)

    1. Hi Maria,

      Knowing what products to try is the hardest thing for sure. If you have dehydrated skin that is non-reactive, in your shoes I would go for hydrating products first (you can find some suggestion on my Beginner's Guide to Dehydrated Skin Type, which is in the Recommended Reading tab at the top of my blog) which I suspect you may have read ;)

      By focusing on hydrating your skin, you can remove the dehydration from the equation and uncover your 'real' skin type- you could be dehydrated-oily, dehydrated-dry, or dehydrated-combo, but with the dehydration throwing it all off, you will have no idea which until things settle down.

      Samples are a great idea, as are travel sizes, and even sheet masks are a great hydration option and you can really explore what does or doesn't work for you quickly.

      Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own skin. :)

      All the best,

  12. Hi Snow~ could u please further explain wearing a stand alone sunscreen under a SPF inclusive base? As I've been told many times it hinders the SPFs ability.. kinda like lowers the protection factor or something?


    1. Hi Kristina,

      For further information, I'd recommend checking out kindofstephen's post about SPF. :) The key point is that an SPF inclusive base isn't going to contain enough concentration of the SPF filter in the portion size that would be actually used. There are definitely concerns about layering different kinds of chemical filter-type sunscreens because they can degrade one another, but I don't use chem type suncreens as I'm highly reactive to them. I'd pop over to Stephen's site and see what he says about it; he's a cosmetic chemist. :)

      Take care!

  13. Finally found a skin twin and a blog that I can finally read that makes me say "omg is this me?" TwT

    1. Wooo, skin twins are the best! :D Not everything works for everyone, but it's still a relief to find someone who is similar to you. :)

      Take care,

  14. I probably should have read this before I bought all the things. I fell down this rabbit hole of interesting products and cute packaging! It's like being hypnotized... !(◎_◎;)

    1. Alas, there are some hard lessons that can only be learned the hard way, eh? ;)

  15. Hi Cat,
    I have been into kbeauty since a couple of years ago, and then stopped due to pregnancy (not because I was avoiding some ingredients or anything, it's just that pregnancy turned me into Gudetama: sooo lazy), and now I'm trying to get back on track. I don't think I'm a total beginner but I am definitely acting like one! I buy all the things, test all the things at once, hoard samples and full sizes, and I have waaay more products than I'm even able to wear because let's face it, sometimes you just don't have any time! Not to mention the sad sad wallet syndrome. Sigh. I'm just so lucky my face hasn't gone berserk yet because I do always try to buy stuff that suit my skin.

    I do know I have a problem but re-reading this post kinda slaps me in the face and makes it really sink in.. So...just wanted to say thanks for the (long-distance) intervention lol. Cheers :)

  16. So do you use 1 product for 2 weeks? And the next day (on the 3rd week) you use another product? Do you need to wait in-between a few days to use the next product? And do you stop using the first product as soon as you start the second? I'm sorry, I'm kinda confused with that part.

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  18. Hello Cat! About 2 years ago I started getting into AB products and skincare philosophy. I was quickly spiraling into the rabbit hole, with all it's Oil cleansers, essences, serums, sheet masks, ampoules, mists/water/toners, sleeping packs, cure all lotions and anti-everything's creams. The list goes on and on and on (not to mention the make up!). But somehow, mysteriously, I just stopped. Never even got past the all research and review hunting to actually buy a single product. And now, just as suddenly, here I am. Although this time (I hope!) with a clearer mind. Your blog posts, are a godsend for a dizzy K-beauty newb like me! So very informative, backed with all the powers of science, clear and concise, clearly full of wisdom and experience. But also very enjoyable to read. Your entry's have taught me more about ph levels for the skin, skin triggers, skin types, AHA/BHA, and product line up in a few days, than I have EVER learnt in 2 years! Thank you Cat so very much for being my chesire cat guide in this fantastical world. Maybe someday I'll be able to stare right back into the abyss, with finally beautiful clear skin ;)

    -Lexi =^.^=