Beauty and Seoul

I am in the middle of Myeongdong, Seoul and I'm having a beauty crisis. Almost every other store sells makeup and skincare.

Beauty is big business here and it's not taken lightly. The 10-step Korean skincare is getting all the raves. I was curious about this multi-step skincare so off I went to conduct some market research.

My modus operandi was to go into the so-called road shop stores (freestanding brand stores) and, lacking Korean language skills, point at my face. Nine out of ten times I was lead by an enthusiastic salesperson to an anti-aging section. Initially, I was appalled and disheartened. Did I look THAT bad? I am in my late 40s (staring at the big 5-0) and , apparently, there were many ways to improve me.

There were products to brighten my dull skin, firm my sagging jaw line, de-puff my udner eye bags, and minimize my wrinkles. From different stores*, I bought items to complete every step of this skincare regime. This included products with a great smell that were gentle and had the anti-aging formula. I quizzed the salesperson (both males and females) about which product to use at each step and learned that each step is important to prepare the skin for the next product so that the skin receives maximum benefit. The salesperson also implored me to be gentle. No rubbing or tugging to distress my already stressed out mug! Let the products do the work, they told me, and let the skin absorb it by waiting about a minute or more before proceeding to the next step. I must say this regime beat my soap and lotion routine.

1. Pre-cleansing - Use an oil-based cleanser to melt the makeup.

2. Cleansing - Use a water-based cleanser to remove the rest. This double cleansing is to ensure all tarces of makeup, sebum, pollutants, and dirt are gone.

3. Exfoliate - Once a week exfoliate with a GENTLE scrub to remove dead skin.

4. Toner/Refresher - Not the traditional moisture-zapping alcohol I frew up with. The new generation toners refresh the skin for the moisturizing part of the regiment.

5. Essence - Watery consistency but powerful since it affects skin on cellular level. Definitely give this product a chance to be absorbed.

6. Serum/Ampoule - More highly concentrated, use if you need a boost.

7. Sheet Mask - Use once or twice a week. Very hydrating and addicting. Some have fun printed versions. After taking off the sheet mask, pat the excess. It can replace the essence and serum stage or can be used after.

8. Emulsion/Moisturizer - Apply the moinstirizer to seal in the hydrating products.

9. Eye Cream - Gently pat the product. Never rub or tug. Can be applied on the smile lines or, in my case, the groove between my brows.

10. Sleep Pack/ Sunscreen - You may think you're done but not quite. Sleep pack is the gravy of all these steps. It helps to further seal in moinsture. Can be used everyday or every other day. Apply about half an hour before bedtime so that the skin has a chance to absorb it. It won't rub off on the pillowcase. In the morning, reach for the sunscreen instead.

The 10-step is a bit of a misnomer because you can do an abbreviated version or add more products depending on your time, patience, and particular skincare needs. Products are to be applied from lightest to heaviest in consistency after cleansing and you need to be consistent. Doing this once in a while won't cut it, I learned. You won't see or feel the benefit and you will have wasted your money. Korean products are not essential. You can use whatever products you are comfortable with though the Korean road shop brands were Private Events AWA Feb 2016.pdf 3 3/3/2016 11:14:00 AM of good price and quality. Many products copy higher-end brands and, in some cases, surpass them. There's a big emphasis on natural, organic formulas, and there are some pretty unique products available. Snail mucin is one. Yep, that’s snail slime! It is filtered and the mucus hydrates and firms the skin. Pig collagen also delivers the same benefit. And bee venom helps "troublesome" skin. The good news is that some of the brands have stores in Hong Kong so you don’t have to fly off to Korea to stock up on your favorites.

After trying out the 10-step skincare religiously for a week (both day and night), I can see a difference. The deep groove between my brows is shallower. The first day, it took me 20 minutes to finish without doing the exfoliating, mask and sleeping pack steps. It took me about an hour to finish all 10 steps. So will I continue? Probably. My skin is moisturized and feels better. My favorite step was the sheet mask, and I loved the fragrant, luxurious creams and the varied choices. I even liked the snail sheet mask. It had a cooling effect – just as snail mucin should feel.

* The store/products I sampled included Innisfree, Nature Republic, Missha, Tony Moly, It's Skin, Skinfood, Banila Co, Laneige, Sulwashoo, Holika Holika, The Saem, Too Cool for School, Clio Club, Apieu, Moonshot, and Aritaum.

By Shelda Chickels