a blog about natural skincare + korean beauty obsessions

honey & ginseng

honey & ginseng

a blog about natural skincare + korean beauty obsessions

Recent Posts

My Skin Journey: Acne, Antibiotics, and Natural/ Korean Skincare

My Skin Journey: Acne, Antibiotics, and Natural/ Korean Skincare

The Beginning Struggles I think I was in 7th grade when I started getting acne. It was devastating. All my friends barely had any skin issues, and I think acne played a huge factor in how I interacted with people. I would always have my […]

The Best Korean Whitening Creams for Bright, Even Skin

The Best Korean Whitening Creams for Bright, Even Skin

What is Whitening? Koreans, and Asians in general, are obsessed about whitening products. Contrary to popular belief, whitening products aren’t designed to actually “whiten” your skin. They’re not- I repeat- they’re not the bleach products that you use on your load of whites. Instead, the […]

I Swear by the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine: What Is It?

I Swear by the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine: What Is It?

What makes Korean skincare so special

A phenomenon that’s been sweeping the country lately is the 10-step Korean skincare routine. Something that I’ve noticed is that Asians as a whole really take pride in taking care of their skin. Growing up, my mother always shared Asian philosophies and skincare secrets with me.

Asians have continually wowed the world with their innovative techniques and advanced skincare technology. For centuries they used natural remedies like green tea or fermented yeast to achieve their clear and perfect skin.

I remember when I was in Korea, I barely saw anyone with acne- it was astounding. Everyone, even the men, had glowing, well-moisturized, and smooth skin.

Not only is the 10-step Korean skincare routine supposed to be enjoyable, it also places emphasis on what your skin needs. Each subsequent step prepares your skin to absorb the nutrients from each product.

How Korean skincare compares to American skincare

My experiences with American and western skincare have not been enjoyable, to say the least. Although more and more brands are becoming mindful of the ingredients that they place in their products, I remember looking at ingredient lists as a teenager and questioning what I was putting on my face.

Each product claimed to be the next holy grail- get clear skin, fight anti-aging and hyperpigmentation, cleanse your skin while exfoliating for a brighter complexion- all in one!

In fact, many ingredients that are FDA approved in America are actually banned in other places like Korea or Europe. For a long time, cosmetic companies stood behind their high prices and powerful branding without anyone really questioning what they put into it.

The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

I’ve come to appreciate each step of this revolutionary process, where each product focuses on treating your skincare issues one by one. Korean skincare products feature a beautiful blend of ingredients and formulas.

Luckily, I’ve found that a lot of Korean products are very minimal and safe for sensitive skin (yay!).

Now, let’s dive in!

Step 1: Makeup Remover & Oil Cleanser

If you wear waterproof mascara and liquid eyeliner on a daily basis, be sure to use an oil-based cleanser specifically formulated for eye makeup.  If not, you’ll be tugging unnecessarily at your sensitive eye area and lashes. The skin around your eyes is among the thinnest out of your whole body, so you want to treat it with care!

I like to dampen a cotton pad with my favorite eye makeup remover and set it on my eyes for a bit to breakdown the makeup. Then swipe away gently.

Then use an oil-based cleanser to wash the rest of your face.

(Oil cleansing method)
You might be thinking, “Won’t splashing oil onto my face make my oily skin break out even more?!” I know, it’s a scary thought. But rest assured, after I began oil cleansing, my face is now more moisture-regulated and thus, it doesn’t overcompensate with more sebum.

These oil-based cleansers attract dirt, impurities, and excess oil (because oil dissolves oil and oil doesn’t mix with water!) to leave your skin comfortably clean. Remember to never skip this step and never go to bed with your makeup on.

Step 2: Water- Based Cleanser

A gentle water-based cleanser then whisks away any remaining residues and dirt left over from oil-cleansing. Be careful not to use a cleanser that is too harsh and disrupts your skin’s pH level.

Step 3: Exfoliator

Exfoliating is necessary for clearing away dead skin cells, especially if you have acne- prone skin. It allows your skin to renew itself more quickly instead of remaining on the surface and clogging your pores.

A popular method of exfoliation lately has been using spinbrushes like Clarisonic or Vanity Planet, both physical exfoliators. If you have acne- prone skin (which, at this point, you should assume you have sensitive and hyper-reactive skin), physical exfoliators may be too abrasive. They might cause your skin to feel irritated and inflamed.

Physical exfoliation can lead to an unstable and damaged skin barrier, which then contributes to your skin not functioning to its full potential.

My preferred method of exfoliation is by chemical exfoliation, using ingredient’s like Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) or Glycolic Acid.


Step 4: Toner
After washing your face, toner re-balances your skin’s pH levels. The skin’s optimal pH level is from pH 5-6.

You can compare your skin to a sponge; it absorbs products and nutrients better if it’s moist than if it’s dry as a rock. Toner is also useful for this reason. It softens your skin to be able to fully absorb all the products following this step. It is the lightest product in this sequence and therefore you need to use it first in your routine.

Step 5: Essence

This is my favorite step! Using essences is also at the heart of Korean skincare and not used much in Western skincare.

An essence is a hybrid of a toner and a serum, with a slightly more gooey texture than a toner. Essences help to repair the skin at the cellular level, by injecting extra hydration and encouraging cell turnover.

Pour the essence into your palm and pat onto your face. Wait until the product is absorbed and is not tacky on your skin before moving onto the next step.

My skin glows after using essences.

Step 6: Serum

Serums, also referred to as boosters or ampoules, are the highly concentrated versions of essences. This is the step where you can target your specific skin concerns, such as hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, enlarged pores, acne, or dull skin.

Serums add an extra boost of vitamins and seal in the goodness of your essence.

Step 7: Sheet Masks

You’re almost done! Sit back and pop on your favorite TV show while you sheet mask. I love sheet masks because they’re handy and mess free. Since they’re safe to use weekly or even daily, you can switch it up based on your skin’s condition that day.

There’s so many different types of masks: brightening, soothing, moisturizing, firming…the list goes on. Before you throw away the sheet mask pack, you can also pat the remaining essence onto your face and neck.

Step 8: Eye Cream

Treat your eye area with the extra hydration and protection it needs. This is a very delicate area so only use your ring fingers to tap the product around your orbital bone.

Never tug your skin!

Step 9: Moisturizer

Hydration, hydration, hydration! This is the key to dewy and healthy skin. You can use a lotion, gel, or emulsion in this step, depending on your skin type. These will definitely seal in moisture as you sleep (especially if you sleep with air conditioning) and as your skin regenerates through the night.

Be sure to moisturize your decollete too (neck and chest). Use a more occlusive sleeping pack if your skin is extra dehydrated.

Step 10: Sun Protection

SPF is so, so important! You might as well throw away all of your anti-aging, anti-acne products if you don’t use sunscreen to protect your skin.

Applying sun protection is the easiest (and most often forgot) step to prevent fine lines and wrinkles. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every. single. day. Even if you’re working at your office desk or driving around, the sun rays can reflect off surfaces and reach your skin.

This is the last and most important step. 🙂






My Korean Skincare Routine for Acne Prone Skin

My Korean Skincare Routine for Acne Prone Skin

  As someone who’s had acne since the ripe age of 13, it’s hard to imagine a life without pesky, painful bumps, enlarged pores, and a skillet’s worth of grease on my face. Acne controlled my life, and I tried everything to get rid of […]

My Diary

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The Beginning Struggles

I think I was in 7th grade when I started getting acne. It was devastating. All my friends barely had any skin issues, and I think acne played a huge factor in how I interacted with people. I would always have my hands around my face to cover it up. I’d always look down when having conversations with people.

I’d have to dig up the archives to show you guys those embarrassing pictures. (That was when smartphones didn’t exist, so they’re probably hidden in my parents’ closet of mementos.)

I had huge red bumps all over my forehead and upper lip. I think it was a little later on when it started to travel to my cheeks.

I would stay up all night crying and wishing those ugly bumps would disappear. I never wore any makeup- I don’t think I ever thought of it as an option until high school.

A trip to the dermatologist

My mom finally took me to the dermatologist. Hallelujah! I thought all my skin issues would go away.

I got prescribed everything under the sun for my acne. Birth control pills, antibiotics, doxycycline, prednisone….and topicals like Retin- A, clindamycin, strong salicylic acid washes, etc.

To this day, that list of prescriptions just makes me *cringe*. 

The birth control pills helped I think. But they made me feel weird and hormonal. I went off those then kept trying new things the dermatologist would prescribe, to no avail.

Accutane was the last resort. This was about my junior year of high school. I was so excited to get on the medication; I must’ve Googled thousands of testimonials and stories of acne clearing up with Accutane.

I didn’t care that there were SO many health risks involved- like liver disease, depression and suicidal thoughts, hearing loss vision problems…You couldn’t ever get pregnant on the medication, because your baby would be born with severe, life-threatening birth defects. I had to have two forms of birth control in order to start the medication.

The process of taking Accutane was strict and pain-staking. Monthly bloodwork and checkups to make sure all my organs were working properly. We were also given booklets of information to study through this program called iPLEDGE; you had to ace monthly quizzes in order to get the next month’s dose.

But slowly…skin started to clear up! It also felt like my oil glands were producing barely any oil (yay!), buut my skin was parched as a desert. My lips were cracked and bleeding and I remember some days I would barely have saliva to swallow.

The doctor gave me prescription-strength moisturizer for my face and even the inside of my nose. It was crazy. I felt like a little guinea pig trying all these different medications.

Aftermath of Accutane

After the 6-month round, my skin was pretty much clear. I was so relieved and ecstatic. I read that after this 6- month round of Accutane, most people’s battle with acne ends there.

…Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. The acne came back after 3 months or so.

I started another course of the medication, although I had to wait a couple months because Accutane is so strong. Fast- forward a couple months after finishing the course…my acne still. came. back. I was so hopeless at this point!

I couldn’t believe that I had put my body through this incredible amount of stress, with zero results. To further reiterate how dangerous Accutane is, the product is now discontinued.

College & switching up my skincare routine

By this time, I was entering college and moving to LA. I don’t quite remember my skincare routine during those years, because I think I had simplified it down to just washing my face with water and spot treating whenever necessary.

I started to wear more makeup to cover my blemishes, so that made me a little bit better. I started to try different diets, because I was truly convinced that acne is a result of an internal problem. So I tried to combat it with eating omega 3- rich, high antioxidant, low sugar foods.

I tried the apple diet, gluten-free diet, low-carb, low sugar diet, etc. and saw pretty good results. But they were difficult to keep up with, especially with taking classes and weeks where I’d have to study for over 12 hours a day. I also worked out at least 4 times a week.

My skin was acne-prone and oily. Probably really dull, too, from all the crazy nights of partying and studying. I also remember days where the sides of my nose were extremely dry and scaly during the dry summers of LA.

I think by 2012, I started incorporating oil cleansing into my simple routine. I wanted to keep my skincare as natural and simple as possible.

I graduated college in 2013. By 2015, I left the jobs that I absolutely hated and became self- employed. That was when I had the opportunity to stop wearing any makeup. 🙂

A trip to Seoul in 2016 convinced me to try Korean beauty products. I felt that Korean skincare products were more suitable and nourishing for my sensitive skin. There were many brands that are natural and free of harsh chemicals, which is something I still stand by. I started to love taking care of my skin and using this regimen for my acne-prone skin.

Fast forward to today

Now I feel a lot more confident in my own skin, but I’m always researching the best products and methods to really get the clear skin I’ve been dreaming of.

My breakouts have subsided as I passed my puberty stage, although I do get hormonal breakouts around that time of the month. I have some deep pockmarks on my cheeks, where stubborn pimples have left their lasting mark. Hyperpigmentation and textured skin is an issue as well. I still have enlarged pores from having oily skin.

It’s so bizarre to think that even though I still have all these issues with my skin, it’s still nothing compared to what I experienced when I was a teenager. In fact, this is the best my skin has ever been, even though it’s far from perfect.

You might see my skin in person and think, “Wow does she even take care of it?” and to that I’d say, “Yup, it’s been hell of a skin journey.” I get jealous that people do absolutely nothing to take care of their skin, live unhealthy lifestyles and still have immaculate skin.

But we’re all different and have our own sets of issues. If you have problems with acne, then I’m your girl. I totally feel your pain.

I’ve probably racked up thousands of hours of research to clear my own skin; My mission is to educate and help others with their skin journey too.

I love natural beauty products and Korean skincare.

Let’s learn together. 🙂

Chinese medicinal herbs for acne
My mother would feed me Chinese medicinal herbs to help clear up my skin.

My Skin Type

I have combination/ oily, acne-prone skin. And it’s sensitive! (Seriously, what a combo).

My face is extremely oily. I remember in middle school I would wash my face in the morning before school and pray my skin wouldn’t get oily. Lo & behold, in less than two hours, you’d be able to fry an egg on my face.

I lived on Guam, where the weather is really hot and humid. You’d start sweating as soon as you stepped out the door, so I think that had a huge impact on my skin.

I’m now in LA and I’ve been living here for about 7 years now. It’s extremely dry here. Aside from being oily in my T-zone, the skin around my mouth feels dry all the time. Can anyone else feel my pain? Haha.