Winter is Coming: Plotting My K-Beauty Skincare Routine for Colder Weather

It's hot right now.  Humid.  Muggy.  Sticky.  Sweaty.  My current routine has 2.5 steps, because I can't stand moving around a lot while I cleanse, and forget product multi layering.  I haven't posted a summer routine this year, because there's been very little routine to post.  I've been using a cleanser, a BHA exfoliant, and sometimes when I'm extra motivated, a chilled sheet mask.

Essences, serums, hydrating toners, rich sheet masks, creams, oils?  Urgh, I'm feeling slimy just thinking about them, yet that's exactly what I'm doing - thinking ahead.  Even though it's still 80+ degrees with ultra-high humidity that leaves me waking in a puddle of my own sweat, I've been plotting and planning my autumn season skincare routine.

Korean beauty products, acid exfoliants, Curology
The only sign of the coming colder weather is shorter days and rapidly fading light.
Planning ahead allows me to leisurely research and contemplate what products I might like to try, figure out where they would go in my testing schedule, comparison shop, and mull over the contents of my cart.  I'm big on mindfulness when it comes to beauty, and this is the equivalent of shopping while you're full, instead of waiting until you're hungry and just want all the things.

In this post:

  • The seasonal skincare approach
  • New products I'm adding into my routine
    • Cleansers, actives, hydrators, creams, sleeping packs
  • What I'm looking to add to my routine
    • Sheet masks, mists, and sunscreens

I have no idea how many of these are going to work out, but it feels good to have some new product testing on the horizon, instead of endless repeats of the same minimalist routine.  Bring on the cold weather, I am beyond ready!

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The seasonal skincare approach

Hard to believe, but I don't think this is just a marketing scheme.  In K-Beauty & Portion Control: Why Sometimes Good Value Can Be a Bad Idea, I talked about the concept of 'seasonal skincare', where one changes their routine to match how their skin needs change with the seasons.  Granted, that's only applicable if you live somewhere with distinct seasons, but I moved from a "10 months of summer" desert location to the American midwest (correction: Dr. Mr. the Pear advises me that Midwest is supposed to be capitalized) and the seasons are .... distinct.

That makes a seasonal skincare approach a must, because while my dehydrated, combination-oily skin might be very thirsty in the winter and enjoy some atypical delicacies like sleeping packs and facial oils, the humidity and heat of summer has my pores producing more hydration and oil than I can tolerate already.

Photo of Cosrx low pH cleanser, Mizon AHA BHA toner, Cosrx BHA, and Sulwhasoo cushion
This has been my summer routine on many occasions.  Image from my Instagram
Thankfully, it's easier to go from summer to fall than from winter to spring; you can always add richness to existing products but one can apply heavy products so thinly, eh?  Sort of like layering clothes to cope with temperature-- you can always put on more socks and sweaters, but you can only get so naked ... ?

For the colder months, I like to focus on many, many hydrating layers, with light-to-medium creams that can be boosted with a few drops of facial oils.  I also step up my actives once the sun weakens + my skin can tolerate more layers to balance out the stripping effect of the actives.  I dropped everything that was photosensitizing from my routine for the summer, but I'm planning to work those back in and step up my layering game to compensate.

 For my skin, that means things like:
  • Gentle cleansers
  • Actives (such as vitamin C serums, BHA and AHA exfoliants, retinol) 
  • Hydrating toners
  • Essences & serums
  • Richer sheet masks
  • Emulsions
  • Creams
  • Facial oils
  • Sleeping packs
For the heavier items, like emulsions, creams, facial oils, and sleeping packs, I'm going to be looking for 'light' versions.  I can always add more layers, but if something is too heavy, I won't end up using it.

I've got a few of these already ready to be tested, so here's a peek at some of the things I've got in my testing queue!

New products I'm adding into my routine


Acwell Refined Clear Foam photo
My thirst for interesting low pH cleansers is unslakeable.
Acwell Refined Clear Foam - low pH foaming cleanser, as my current cleanser may be too stripping once my face isn't being basted by the summer humidity + its own goo.  Acwell's non-foaming cleanser is fairly well-known and I've recently tried a western version, the Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser, and since I wasn't a fan, I decided to test out this foaming one instead.  Plus, I'm perpetually thirsty for low-pH foaming cleansers, so get on me. Where to get it: Amazon | eBay |

Edit: This cleanser is misleading; despite having a giant "5.5" on the label like the pH 5.5 toner does, it's actually quite high in pH and I double checked with two types of strips just to be sure.  See this Instagram post for more details.  Hmph!

Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet cleansing balm
Pray for my pores, I'm trying another oil cleanser.
Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet - I'm almost out of my only 'true' oil cleanser, the LJH Dr's Care/Cellabel oil cleanser, and it's discontinued.  This one is much beloved by two of the Snailcast podcasters, Fiddy of Fifty Shades of Snail and Chel of Holy Snails, so I figured I'd give it a try.  I prefer my HG non-clogging first cleanser, the Cremorlab T.E.N. Cremor Refreshing Cleansing Gel Oil for makeup remover, but if I want to massage grit out of my pores, I need a 'real' oil or balm cleanser. Where to get it: Amazon | eBay


Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA photo
I'm almost done isolation testing this product, actually!
Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA - after going full nerd with my Cosrx BHA Power Liquid Exfoliant Review & My Descent Into BHA Research Madness post, I was ready to branch out and try some other BHAs.  Snailbae Tracy of Fanserviced-b loves this BHA and had extra store credit lying around, so I got an early birthday present ... of skincare.  She knows me so well.  While I might have concerns with the company, PC's actives are a gold standard for many skincare fans, so I was game.  I'm already using this product and in fact I'm just one day away from the end of its 2 week isolation testing; so far, so good.  Where to get it: Paula's Choice Website (you can get $10 off your first order with this referral code if you need one.) | Amazon | eBay

Paula's Choice  Clear Acne Body Spray With 2% Salicylic Acid photo
I've also been using this for a few weeks.
Paula's Choice  Clear Acne Body Spray With 2% Salicylic Acid - I noticed that accidentally applying Cosrx BHA to my hairline helped with my scalp issues, and then while researching BHA for the above post, discovered salicylic acid is a standard treatment.  Yolo, let's give it a try!  I've reached out to my teledermatologist to see her thoughts on using it as a scalp treatment and what the effect on my hair might be.  Where to get it: Paula's Choice Website  Amazon | eBay

Paula's Choice Resist C15 Super Booster photo
The dropper is inside; this will be stored in my fridge until I am ready to use it.
Paula's Choice Resist C15 Super Booster - I've been wanting to get back into using a Vitamin C serum since digging into the science behind it for my Milky Dress Vita C+ Powder Review & It's Time to Get Nerdy About Vitamin C post, and Tracy made an executive decision that my early birthday care package was going to include this one.  I think this may have been a combination of "friends look out for friends' collagen production" plus "please test this so I don't have to, my dance card is full."  I'm interested to see how this compares to my standby, the OST C20 Vitamin C serum.  Where to get it: Paula's Choice Website  Amazon | eBay

Curology prescription with Azelaic acid and Niacinamide photo
Fading hyperpigmentation without photosensitizing, aw yeah!
Curology prescription with Azelaic acid and Niacinamide - This isn't really a 'new' product as this was my original prescription.  Recently, I had an Rx that included retinol (tretinoin) but I asked for it to be changed so I could avoid photosensitizing ingredients during the summer.  You can read more about Azelaic acid and my review of teledermatology firm Curology here:  A Review of Curology (PocketDerm) & Why I'm an Azelaic Acid Fangirl


Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Cleansing Toner photo
This is next on my testing schedule.
Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Cleansing Toner - I know this says it's a 'cleansing' toner, but it contains moisturizing ingredients.  I guess I'll find out soon enough!  Hydrating toners are one of those products that I don't need or use much, unless I'm increasing my product layers to adjust to colder/drier circumstances.  I'm a fan of licorice in skincare (one of the few herbal ingredients that does have some interesting science backing) because I need all the brightening I can get, and I'm already hype for low pH products.  This is the first thing queued up in my testing schedule once I finish the 2 week isolation testing period for the Paula's Choice BHA exfoliant. Where to get it: eBay | TesterKorea


Xai Cosmetics Korea Bo-in High-Moisturizing Jeong-Yoon Balancing Cream photo
This glass jar has a beautiful frosted/etched flower that doesn't show up in this photo.
Xai Cosmetics Korea Bo-in High-Moisturizing Jeong-Yoon Balancing Cream - This was the bonus cream that came with the matching emulsion that I got at the end of spring, which was terrible timing as even the emulsion proved too heavy for the swiftly-warming season.  I have several backups of the sort-of-discontinued HG Beauty of Joseon cream, so I'm going to be cautiously testing potential replacements.  I already have this on hand, so it's the first cream I'm going to check out. Where to get it: No idea, this was purchased in a brick & mortar store via a buying service.

Sleeping packs

Tonymoly Magic Food Banana Sleeping Pack photo
Mmm, this smells so good.
Tonymoly Magic Food Banana Sleeping Pack - Back in the winter/spring, I actually tried a sample of this famously banana-cream-pie-scented, packaged-in-a-squishy-banana sleeping pack and I liked it, as sleeping packs go.  Which isn't far, because it's a sleeping pack and we don't get along, but my skin didn't explode in rage after the sample test and it smells delicious. Where to get it: Amazon | eBayKoreaDepart | RoseRoseShop | Vuty Design | BeautyNetKorea | 11st EN site

What I'm looking to add to my routine

Sheet masks

I definitely want to explore Taiwanese and Japanese masks more, after the recent concerns raised about ethically manufactured Korean sheet masks.  For many reasons (including avoidable waste and sustainable wages) I'm seeking out machine-processed masks right now, and both Taiwan and Japan have automated manufacturing processes so I can mask without guilt.

LoveMore Pearl Barley & Milk and My Scheming Raw Job's Tears black mask photo
These are the last of each of these, saved just for photos.  The temptation to use them is intense. *sob*
I've been living off a steady mask diet of LoveMore and My Scheming masks lately, and I'd like to pick up some richer-textured masks.  My favourite silk mask is still the LoveMore Pearl Barley & Milk, which has the fantastic silk mask fit + a thin, but milky essence that has a bit more richness than the ultra-thin essence in most of their masks.  You can find them on: Amazon | eBay | Beautibi | BonjourHK.

I've also really liked the My Scheming black masks, which have a thicker material that holds more essence and dries out much more slowly, resulting in more intense/richer hydration than silk masks, while still having a great, clingy fit. I've tried several variants, and my favourite is still My Scheming Raw Job's Tears black mask, which is available on: Amazon | eBay | Sasa

I definitely want to find other ultra hydrating/milky/creamy-type Taiwanese masks, and I'd like to check out Japanese masks more.  I've tried a few, but their fit wasn't great.  That just means I need to try more varieties, right?

Facial mists

This is long since empty, but it's such a pretty package and a decent mist bottle that I'm going to repurpose it.
I quite liked the travel-sized Sulwhasoo Hydro-Aid Moisturizing Lifting Mist, which was heavier/richer than the summery mists I was used to.  I actually emptied this before the weather got hot, and stuck to ultra-light, cooling mists during the summer.  Now that the weather is going to cool off (so help me, it will) I'm on the looking for another richer mist as an easy hydration boost without being to heavy on my skin.  I also love being able to get travel-sized luxury products because they're so much more affordable!  Where to get it: Amazon | eBay | Nordstrom | KoreaDepart | VutyDesign | RoseRoseShop


Goodal Mild Protect Natural Filter Sun Cream SPF50+ PA+++ photo
This tube is getting dangerously empty.
I've got a sunscreen that I can tolerate, which is the Goodal Mild Protect Natural Filter Sun Cream SPF50+ PA+++, but it's heavily fragranced and it's a moisturizing 'cream' type, which means it's not great under makeup unless you have dry skin, or the weather is dry.  I've been using it for the last year, and it's time to find something new to try.  I need physical-filter sunscreens (i.e. just titanium dioxide and zinc oxide filters, as the others trigger skin reactions) and it's hard to find options that are high rating and also pleasant to use.  Where to get it: Amazon | eBay | Club Clio | KoreaDepart | TesterKorea | RoseRoseShop

That's my plans for now, at least until my skin flips out while I'm testing something or something arrives and sweeps me away in a whirlwind romance.  I've also got some cleansers coming in a buying service order, so we shall see what comes of the line-up once they arrive.

Do you have a physical-filter sunscreen that's neither greasy nor drying, and sits well under makeup?  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,

**Disclaimer: All products featured in this post were purchased by me, or were a personal gift from my exfoliant fairy Tracy.  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. I love your thought process behind how to adapt your skincare and what you want to try. I am interested in you elaborating on what your concerns are regarding Paula's Choice if you would be able to share.

    1. Some dodgy treatment of science as a marketing tactic, both against competitors and promoting their own product. Also things like 'proving' that their products can be layered without changing the pH by making a video where they layered their products with ... wait for it ... water. It's the kind of thing that makes the STEM people I know purple with rage. Also issues like taking studies out of context; a study about the effects of ethanol on liver damage does not exactly prove that any alcohol in your topical skincare is tantamount to skin death, eh? ;)

  2. I recommend blue lizard face shnscreen but you can't buy samples and it contains zinc 8% and octinoxate. Out of all the chemical subscreens octinoxate is the least likely to cause a skin reaction so I thought if throw it out there. Also I'm not sure how many chenical sunsvreens you've tried out but maybe it was the formulation rather than the active ingredient ( that's just my experience) . Anyways I recommend it because i actually use it and I was pleasantly surprised by how it's notgreasy or sticky and really does blend in and I'm not even Caucasian ( im yellow lol) . I personally don't want to touch asian physical subscreens because they don't say the percebtage and when I email them they refuse to disclose that info. Blue lizard does have a sensitive/baby line but that's 10 percent zinc and 5 percent titanium so it's definitely gonna be thicker and I've never tried it so I can't recommend it. Anyways the facial sunscreen is formulated very well. I usually use chemical sunscreens because I want the full spectrum coverage but to give my skin a break I use physical sunscreens. And fyi it was rated well on beautypedia on paulas choice lol

    You know there's Paulas choice tinted sunscreen which is expensive that Ratzilla recommends and its pa +++ and its zinc that's 14% if I remember correctly .

    1. Unfortunately, my skin has reacted to all chemical filters I have tried. :( I am planning on testing some combo sunscreens on my body to see if they provoke the same reaction, but my facial reaction is so miserable I'm hesitant to risk it. :(

      Physical sunscreens definitely have their downsides, though!

      Take care,

  3. The Innisfree sunscreens have always treated me well! I used to and am finishing my last tube of their Eco Safety Perfect Sunblock 50SPF which I believe has a mix of chemical and physical filters. However Innisfree has completely revamped all their sunscreens and I've got my eye on the Perfect UV Protection Cream Triple Care SPF50+ PA+++ which is completely physical!!! And has niacinamide!! Sensational honestly

    1. Ooo, thank you for the recommendation! I'll add that to my window shopping list :D

    2. The first Kbeauty purchase of mine includes one of the reformulated sunscreen of Innisfree, the Daily UV protection no sebum SPF 35 which is 100% mineral filter. Sadly I can't like it even though I really want to: it has a quite strong scent and it leaves a super visible white cast. The same for Missha Sebum Zero SPF 50.
      I am eco-conscious, and even though I don't have sensitive skin, I want to stick to the safest sunscreen ingredient - Zinc oxide. Nanoparticles might get into the bloodstream, and coated zinc is harmful to the aquatic life (and almost everything will eventually flow to the sea), the only way is uncoated non-nano zinc oxide. And to reach sufficient protection of SPF 30 and PA several pluses, 15% zinc is needed, meaning white cast is unavoidable. From what I found so far, the only way to deal with this is tinted version. I also concern about organic ingredients, so it left me with only one option of aromatica sunscreen I believe... Cat, what do you think? Have you found any non-nano uncoated high zinc-oxide sunscreens from kbeauty? :)

  4. I am looking into purely physical sunscreen options as well, particularly cosmetically elegant ones, and I read a positive expert review of the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Pure Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 40 (whew, these names). It's however, more expensive than your current one (by 10$) but, thought I'd leave the suggestion just in case it could be of help to you.

    In regards to the PC sunscreen that someone else mentioned, I have read that unfortunately it is not appropriate for us pale ladies ): as it has a yellowy-orange tint...maybe reviewers were exaggerating, but I would be wary. Other than that, I have read that it's a wonderful sunscreen.

    I really love your blog, not only your useful posts but your writing style, it is always a treat to read your entries.

    Very kind regards,

    1. Awww, thank you for the kind words, and for the product recommendation and warning! Considering my ongoing issue with things going orange on me, that PC sunscreen sounds like a hard pass.

      Take care,

  5. Hi Cat,

    I have a fairly "healthy" skin which rarely breakouts, and I'm living in the same weather with you (which is freaking hot and humid). I'm about to work full time in a very toxic workplace (lab + hospital + nail salon). Just 2 days "trying time" and I have 3 pimples around my brows already. Do you have any recommended routine for my situation? Thanksssssss so much!!!

  6. Definitely agree with you about the black masks from My Scheming, picked up a bunch in Taiwan this summer and they are great.

    For Taiwanese masks, you might contemplate the Dr. Morita line if you haven't already. I bought several boxes of their stuff on the same trip, and while I don't find the essence to be "thick/creamy," I do find it very moisturizing and the masks don't dry out fast. The morning after, my skin feels really plump/bouncy/QQ!

    I also got some Naruko masks (mostly since Fifty Shades of Snail likes that brand a lot) but haven't tried any but their snail variety. It's pretty nice and great for plump/QQ-ness as well. Doesn't do much to reduce visible uneven skin tone, but fantastic texture. Maybe a sign that I need to double-fist? :p

    1. Thanks for the tip about Dr. Morita! I definitely want to try more Taiwanese masks. Have you been looking for whitening type masks specifically? In my experience they tend to have anti-inflammatory ingredients which help to temporarily reduce redness.

  7. Yess, I'm also planning (well, already bought a lot of products from my list lol) my fall/winter skincare. I honestly really like planning it out, researching products and all that comes with it.
    I love "old looking"[?] creams so really looking forward to you review of the Xia cometic's cream ^^

    1. I love the Hanbang aesthetic, and I love traditional/antique/historical looking things too! :D

  8. Ooh, I'll keep an eye out for whitening masks. At that point I was just in "OMG CHEAP MASKS EVERYWHERE BUY ALL THE THINGS" mode so I just... bought all the things. Luckily I have friends still in Taiwan who have already volunteered to send me care packages of masks as long as I can send them pictures of what I want!

    1. This friend is a good friend. Keep this friend, and love them always.

    2. They want Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in exchange. I call this fair. Especially since Taiwan lets you ship things overseas by ground (sea) and the US doesn't, so I have to pay way more just to get things to them.

    3. It does seem like a fair trade! You are a true friend, going to all that expense to ply them with peanut buttery chocolate. :3

  9. Has the beauty of joseon cream been discontinued?

    1. It seems that it was more popular overseas than in Korea, so it's been discontinued, but there's at least one last run that is being restocked right now, so I updated my Joseon cream review with the details on where to get it. :)

  10. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, it comes in an untinted version and a tinted one (which I have not tried),it's a very thin, milky fluid. It doesn't have a strong cast, but it doesn't layer amazingly, either. The coverage is very good, though.