While it may be tempting to get caught up in the excitement and buy All The Things in your first ever K-beauty haul, it’s important to remember not to go overboard, especially when it comes to establishing the essential products in your daily skincare routine.
What Should I Buy?
A newbie hauler should focus on four main products in their first ever haul:
1) Oil Cleanser-the double cleanse in an integral part of the Korean skin routine. You are going to need something to remove your makeup and that fancy sunscreen you are about to buy.
My Recommendations: Nooni Snowflake Cleanser, Banilla Co. Clean It Zero, The Face Shop Brightening Rice Cleanser, Memebox I’m Oil Cleanser for (Your Skin Type: Oily/Combo or Dry)
2) Foaming Cleanser-getting something low pH will do wonders for your skin. Honestly- if you don’t believe me, buy two and do a comparison test. It won’t dry your face out while still removing impurities and getting pores clean.
My Recomendations: CosRX Good Morning Low pH cleanser
A note on low pH cleansers: while more and more companies are (slowly) providing more options, the information out there on the actual pH of products when mixed with water is highly, well, mixed. Take CosRX’s Salycilic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser for example: the website mentions the pH being somewhere around an ideal 5.5, however under a certain blogger’s pH test, it charted at a super-high 9.5. It’s one of those things that everyone will react differently to, so if at first you don’t succeed, don’t sweat it. If it’s cleaning and not leaving your face tight and dry, you don’t have to chuck it immediately into the trash can. Just take note and keep moving forward.
3) Moisturizer-your first moisturizer is probably going to be depressingly Plain Jane, but don’t get discouraged. All those fancy serums, ampoules, and essences will come later once your skin is healthy and showing its true needs. If you need instant gratification, go for something with an “exotic” sounding ingredient that has a lot of popularity like snail or propolis (bee vomit).
My Recomendations: CosRX Snail 96 Power Essence, Goodal Phytorain Murumuru Hydraseed Serum (dry skin), Etude House Moistful Collagen Cream, Scinic Snail Matrix Cream (oily skin)
4) Sunscreen-this is probably one of the best investments money can buy. Sunscreen keeps you looking younger for longer if you can be bothered enough to properly wear it everyday.
If you wear makeup, Asian brands generally are more cosmetically elegant than American brands, but often contain alcohol (to make them aforementioned cosmetically elegant) which can dry/irritate some people’s skin so be careful when looking over ingredient lists.
Frankly, as the driest skin person to probably ever roam the earth, my skin can handle it my my sunscreens (so long as nothing else I’m using contains a lot of it). I think it gets more of a bad reputation than it deserves.
My Recomendations: Missha Sun Milk SPF 50|PA+++, Biore Aqua Rich Sun Essence SPF50|PA++++
Only FOUR Things? I Thought This Was A 10+ Step Routine!
These four things form the main structure of the Korean skin routine. After using these first products for 2-3 months (let skin cells turn over and renew a few times), you will be able to better tell what sort of special products your skin actually needs now that it’s healthier and more stablized. The 10+ step claim to fame is essentially additional actives, moisturizers, and targeted treatments that vary person to person.
Quick Note: It can be helpful to know your skin type before going in for the (credit card) kill, mainly for finding the right moisturizer. Someone with dry skin does not want a sebum controlling moisturizer and someone with acne-prone skin does not want a thick, emollient cream.
Often times, things are not as bad as they once seemed after following just the four basic steps for awhile. Acne, dehydration, and such tend to resolve themselves (or at least get better) as skin gets healthier. If you find your skin has issues requiring heavy duty products such as AHA’s, Vitamin C, and the like after the “trial period,” you will need to have this four step routine on lock to avoid damaging the skin.
Actives: Don’t Just Yet
For newbies (and veterans alike), actives can seem cool and like the only things that will solve their skin problems. Don’t listen to their siren song!
More often than not, actives do a lot more damaging things than helpful things if not used correctly and not given proper follow-up care. (Photo sensitivity and dryness anyone? ) So something as highly touted like Vitamin C may be the first thing you think you want to buy, but have you researched how finicky Vitamin C is yet? That can oxidize in sunlight, sometimes needs refrigeration, and requires strict, certain pH levels? (Like do you even own litmus strips yet?) What about its burn-y, sting-y ways?
Probably not too Kbeauty-virgin-friendly, just saying 😂
Can’t Get Over That “Just 4” Rule?
If you are a newbie, dying at the bit to make that first haul, and the thought of only four products makes you a little sad, take advantage of sheet masks and haul as hard as you’d like on those. Go wild. Get masks with diamond powder, snail mucin, unicorn piss, you know the drill. Whatever makes your heart beat faster.
but with sheet masks…
I would also say (from way, WAY too much hauling experience) that something like Cure Natural Aqua Gel or TonyMoly’s Tomatox Brightening Massage Pack (some sort of generic, not too crazy or specific, once-twice per week usage item) could be added on, although it would be in your best interest to probably wait.
Alright, so now that you have your shopping list, where should you buy it?
If you live in the US, Memebox, while generally more on the expensive side, will be the fastest option. Amazon also is a good place to score select products on the cheap and buy sheet masks in bulk (but watch out for fakes).
SokoGlam, run by Charlotte Cho, occasionally carries skin routine “starter kits” and mask boxes, as well as keeps a steady stock of cult classic products. Prices are solidly mid-range.
Glow Recipe is your one-stop shop for cool, natural ingredient curations. The famous YuriPibu Artichoke essence was first curated and sold by them. Your wallet may weep a little when it’s checkout time. Just a heads up.
Sephora and ULTA, while they do carry Korean products like sheet masks, are ridiculously overpriced, and the range is so painfully limited, I just don’t see the point. But maybe one day..,.
If you are willing to wait the 30+days and deal with heavier shipping fees (but lower product prices), I recommend buying from the vendors themselves, especially during sale times. A few months ago, Etude House had their old formulation of the I Need You sheet mask on sale for 1$ or less and a flat shipping rate to the US that was around 30$ if I remember correctly.
While I haven’t personally used them, Jolse and Rose Rose Shop are commonly mentioned in the Asian beauty portion of Reddit.
Bottom Line: Wherever you buy from, do a quick search and read a few reviews before handing over your hard earned cash (and card number-safety first!)
Don’t be afraid to price compare either. Certain sellers are better for different products. The market is super competitive and is constantly changing so always look around to avoid overpaying!
This is meant to be fun, as it should be and as it will 100% be, but you can’t forget to spot test, and introduce things gradually. This whole process can be total <insert choice word here>, especially to the impatient and enthusiastic, but your skin will literally thank you in the results you’ll see a few months down the road.
Then you can add all the fancy serums and such you want…just one at a time of course!
Do you remember your first haul? Are you about to embark on the K-beauty journey? Tell me about it in the comments below!
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