Monday, September 14, 2015

Fun with Korean Beauty Products

There's no denying it, Korean beauty products are so hot right now. There was even an interesting article recently about the role the Korean government plays in promoting this trend. I actually have some reservations about how the American market is approaching the K-beauty trend. My thoughts on the topic are not particularly well-developed, and I might write something more polished later on.

For now, I will mention that, as a western consumer, it's hard to know what products to try and how best to obtain them. It can be easy to get sucked in by online buzz surrounding a specific product or brand, buzz that was initially generated by just a small handful of people and their anecdotal experiences. In the 18 months that I've been following r/AsianBeauty, there have been several short-lived crazes that might or might not have perfectly matched up with the quality of the products at issue: Benton, the Su;m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, Mizon Returning Starfish Cream, Cremorlab, and CosRX. This is not to say that any of these products were bad, it's just that it's easy to forget that there's no universal miracle product.

Also, while I generally have much better luck with Korean and other Asian beauty products priced in the drugstore range than I do with American items at almost any price range, Asian products are not inherently superior. A lot of the biggest brands, even ones that market themselves as focusing on natural products, are heavy-handed with the use of added fragrance, which I generally prefer to avoid in my skincare products. Admittedly, the most popular brands right now don't have that issue. Also, I've had fairly bad luck with Asian makeup and generally prefer western brands, despite my Asian coloring. Among other things, I dislike BB Creams as a general category.

That being said, I'm a huge proponent of the East Asian approach to skincare, which is what Korean products are designed for. I have a few Korean products in my regular routine, and am working on incorporating a few more since my trip.  

For today, I just have a list of quick reviews of K-beauty products that I tried recently, mostly items that I purchased during my trip to Seoul or, in one case, received as a gift at the airport.  Behind the cut, you'll find a list of things I like and a list of things that didn't work for me. One important note: in all cases, I'm linking to US-based retailers where possible, but there is often a cheaper way to get it online from a Korean seller, whether on Ebay or the seller's website.

Products I Liked:

Peripera Rouge Pang - I bought mine for 8000 won or $6.74 USD on sale. My shade is RD09, which might not be available at Urban Outfitters. These are nice lipsticks that go on smoothly with excellent color payoff. They seem to have better than average lasting power for a lipstick, though mine tends to pill a bit if I rub with a tissue. A nice tint is left behind when it initially comes off. I'm very happy with these.

Peripera Butter Pang - I got mine for 6000 won or $5 USD on sale. I have both the Baby Pink and the Pink shades, which are roughly the same color on me. The Baby Pink changes color based on your lip's PH, I believe, and it's almost clear in the tube. The swatches at Forever 21 look highly inaccurate as the color is nowhere near as opaque. These are a reasonably moisturizing tinted lip balm with decent lasting power. Although, as with the Rouge Pang above, the product eventually rubs off and it pills a bit if rubbed with a tissue, it leaves a nice tint when it initially comes off.

Etude House Drawing Eyebrow - I got mine in Taiwan for roughly the same price as Amazon, and I'm using the linked shade #2, gray-brown. I'm a complete newbie with brow makeup, having only tried one NYX product that was too difficult to work with because it went on too dark. This product is nice for beginners, and I've been using it to even out my somewhat-patchy brows.

Cremorlab Herb Tea Blemish Minus Calming Mask - aka the Cremorlab "pink mask." Mine were 2000 won or $1.69 USD for two on a buy one, get one free deal. My general approach to sheet masks is that I don't expect them to do much more than serve as an additional moisturizing or soothing step. Because each is single use, it's difficult to assess the benefits, and I'd also balk at spending much more than $3/mask. This one is one of the many masks that I've tried and that I like.

Innisfree It's Real Squeeze Mask in Pomegranate - I got a box of 60 for $30 USD at a duty-free shop in Incheon Aiport. While in the US, I typically buy my Innisfree sheet masks in mixed sets on Amazon because I've found that pretty much everything in the entire product line is good for me. Note that some of this these masks (Shea Butter and Manuka Honey) are saturated with a lotion rather than the liquid essence that most sheet masks contain.

Too Cool for School Pumpkin Sleeping Pack - This was 12000 won or $10.15 USD. This is a nice sleeping pack, which I use as a last step after face oil and moisturizer, although some users find that it can replace other nighttime moisturizers. I find that it absorbs into the skin more easily than both the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and the Missha Super Aqua Renew Snail Sleeping Mask. It has a gel texture, like the Laneige mask. The color is a sort of orange-pink, but it doesn't actually smell like pumpkin. Instead, it has a kind of generic (for K-beauty) fragrance. 

Products I Didn't Like:

Innisfree Soybean Energy Essence [Light] - This was in the free gift set pictured above. It is Innisfree's take on a "first essence" or a fermented essence. (This genre of products was designed to imitate SK-II.) My favorite Missha product was recently reformulated, though the reformulated version does not seem to have appeared at their US online store yet. Because of that impending reformulation, I was vaguely in the market for a new version. Sadly, this one breaks me out, and I couldn't continue using it. 

O.S.T. C20 Vitamin C Serum - I bought and tried this before my trip while attempting to find a more affordable dupe for the Paula's Choice Resist C15 Super Booster serum. Sadly, this one also broke me out and didn't absorb into my skin as well as the PC serum. It smells like oranges, which is much nicer than the somewhat metallic chemical sent of the PC serum. 

Missha Pure Source Sheet Masks - I've tried both the Pearl and Raspberry and I strongly disliked both. These are probably the only sheet masks that I've ever disliked. The scent bothers me and has a distinct tang of alcohol. (I don't mind alcohol in skincare products, but I think its less pleasant to use products that smell of it.) At least one of these masks also tingled a bit upon application.

The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Light Oil - I'm pretty sure this is one of the most-recommended cleansing oils and I even have a friend who loves this, but for some reason, it just doesn't work at taking all of my makeup off. There's always some eyeliner (Bobbi Brown gel liner) left on my face when I finish using this cleansing oil, and I did the same thing with it that I did with my previous Boscia Makeup-Breakup Cool Cleansing Oil

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