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 it. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon K-Beauty that I realized I had to treat my skin with TLC, tender loving care. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid were my best friends, even though they were way too harsh and did nothing for me.
(My Asian aunt had clear skin, so of course I wanted to know her beauty secrets. She advised me to use a konjac sponge to scrape all the bumps off my face until they bled….what?!?)
I literally piled on all these active ingredients onto my face at once and wondered why my skin turned bright red and flaky. Irritated skin is just a breeding ground for more bacteria to sneak in.
Little did I know, another requirement for acne prone skin is hydration. I loved scrubbing my face until it was squeaky clean. But your skin sees this as a lack of moisture and produces more oil to hydrate the skin, hence- an oil-slick-of-a-face.
If you have acne- prone skin, it’s crucial to use a combination of products to treat your problem areas- gentle cleanser to sweep dirt and bacteria off your face, mild exfoliants from serums, and gentle non-comedogenic (pore-clogging) moisturizers.
I appreciate that there’s many Korean skincare products that can target any of these concerns. The more products I find, the more I can tailor to my skin type. I do my best to find products to calm my acne- prone, sensitive skin and also diminish my acne scars.
To fully understand your skin and how to fight acne with these Korean beauty products, let’s start off with the basics:
What is acne?
Acne (acne vulgaris) is a skin condition caused by clogged pores and bacteria buildup. It occurs when hair follicles on your skin get clogged with dead skin cells and oil.
Acne is basically the result of hyperproliferation- of sebum, of dead skin cells, and thus bacteria. When your skin doesn’t turn over and regenerate as quickly as dead skin cells form, your pores become clogged.
As we all know, this turns into pesky little blackheads, whiteheads, and in a more severe form- cysts and papules.
There’s many methods to cure acne. You’ll find it beneficial to use products that suit your skin type. Also make sure to avoid direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time and apply sunscreen everyday. Sun exposure oxidizes your sebum, which then causes it to become comedogenic (pore-clogging).
If you need help with finding out your skin type, click here to read my guide.
The Korean products I’ve used to treat acne
Never skip your oil cleansing! This product make oil cleansing so satisfying and fun, and it’s suitable for sensitive skin. It’s also free from parabens, synthetic fragrances, and artificial pigments.
The sorbet-like, cloudy texture dissolves into an oil as you rub it all over your face to remove your makeup. It gets rid of even your toughest mascara and liquid eyeliner.
Other ingredients include: shea butter, lime extract, orange peel oil, lavender extract, tea tree oil, rose extra, and bergamot fruit oil. People with reactive skin might need to test this out beforehand, because it does contain essential oils. I find that essential oil in moderation actually helps my skin.
This feels so nice on my skin, and I find myself excited to wash my face at the end of the day! When I run out without another batch on hand, I’ll substitute this with my own oil blend.
This facial cleanser is formulated at the perfect skin-loving pH of 5.5. An alkaline cleanser of higher pH will strip your skin of its natural oils and disrupt your natural skin barrier.
I like this cleanser because it leaves my skin feeling balanced and clean, yet not terrible dry or tight like other foam cleansers do. There’s also tea tree oil in this CoxRx cleanser, which my skin loves.
My skin loves fermented products. This product contains fermented soybean from Jeju, an island off the southern coast of South Korea.
I bought the light version at first because it’s more appropriate for oily skin and absorbs instantly. When I ran out of this bottle, there was about a 2 week period where I didn’t use any essence. There was a significant (and unwanted) difference in my skin’s moisture levels and texture.
I love this step in my 10-step routine because right upon application, my skin has a more even and smooth texture. It seems to make my skin glow from within.
What is raw apple cider vinegar? It is the byproduct of fermented apples. So it’s loaded with minerals like pectin and other beneficial acids and enzymes.
At the end of the day my skin feels rough, and I can literally scrape the dead skin cells off my face with my fingernails. It’s gross! I love using this because it makes my skin feel really refreshed, clean, and it offers a gentle exfoliation.
This will also help balance the pH of your skin so that it can absorbs your other nighttime products effectively. Remember to dilute your ACV solution! I use combination of 2 parts of filtered water and 1 part of ACV as my toner.
I’m a fan of CosRX products because of their minimal philosophy. I bought this product because I was running out of an all-natural homemade shea butter/ honey blend from this little place I found in Seattle, Sunny Skin Co. I realized it was too occlusive and didn’t sink into my skin to give it that hydrated, plump feel.
This CosRX moisturizer has a silky feel; it has a comfortable watery, gel- like consistency and absorbs quickly into my skin. Instead of using water as the main ingredient, birch sap is the star of this product. Birch sap works to calm sensitive or irritated skin and gives it the moisture that it needs.
The tea tree oil in this moisturizer also serves to kill acne- causing bacteria. You know when you’re picking your blackheads and there’s a hard chunk of sebum underneath the surface of your skin? (I know, I shouldn’t be picking my skin!) After using this product, I’ve noticed that they sit right at the surface and easily come off as I wash my face.
Also, this moisturizer instantly plumps up my skin. And even more impressive- it controls my oil production! Even after an 8 hour day, my skin has produced about 70% less oil, and I don’t have an uncomfortable film of waxy sebum on my face anymore! Even my friends have complemented my new oil-controlled face. 🙂
At night, I find that I need extra moisture, so next I layer on a sheet mask.
I’ll use a variety of sheet masks depending on my skin’s needs!
I really love the ingredient list in this mineral sunscreen. I’ve chosen not to use chemical sunscreens that irritate my skin and chose this instead. It contains 20% zinc oxide as its active ingredient, which is sufficient for protection from UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays.
Typically the texture of a mineral sunscreen is a lot less spreadable. I find it easier to tap it all over than to tug at my skin. The warmth of my fingers help to melt the product and allow it spread more easily.
As with applying foundation with your fingers, keep blending and the sunscreen’s whitecast will disappear.
This product isn’t as moisturizing as a regular moisturize, but it does make my skin feel smooth and not greasy. And at the same time, I’m fighting hyperpigmentation and premature aging- a win-win! I’ll never skip this step anymore.