I apologise for that dreadful play on words. It doesn’t even make a lick of sense?
There’s more to care – self or otherwise – beyond the skin. It just so happens that I’ve dedicated quite a bit of my time looking into skincare, given how terribly acne-prone I was when I was younger. And let’s be honest, I’m still a little acne-prone though at least that’s calmed down some as I traverse through my twenties.
Whoever said acne was A Teenage Thing is a lying liar who lies seven times a week. I developed spots / pimples / whiteheads in middle school, a whole chunky year before I was even thirteen. Acne didn’t miraculously stop being a problem the day I left nineteen, either, so sucks to be me I suppose.
Nevertheless, it’s only been in the last six months or so that my skin has shown visible improvement regarding dark spots, old acne scars, and general pimple occurences. My only conclusion (aside from my body chemistry finally calming down, the traitor turned prodigal son) is that I found the right combination of lotions and potions to keep my face happy and loved.
LiberaTarts and the Multi-Step Skincare Routine
During the winter of my final year at university, I made the executive decision to not work on my dissertation and instead I did research on Korea’s fabled 10-step skincare routine. I was plently late to the game, I confess, but that’s just a recurring theme in my life so I rolled with it. I searched for the appropriate products for my skin type – that is, oilier than a mom and pop fry-up – and tried to avoid places like The Body Shop or Lush because I wanted authentic Korean skincare products, damn it.
I still failed and fell back on The Body Shop because they are pretty reliable, but whatever. It’s chill.
I’m distinctly self-aware that I’m ethnically Asian and that living in the UK meant finding products targeted towards my specific body concerns would be difficult and / or expensive. That one time I got my hair professionally dyed in Kent, I had to painstakingly search for an Asian-owned hair salon because I wanted my black as black Asian hair to be taken care of.
Anyway – I’m here to talk about skincare, not hair care. I’ve given up on the latter, seeing as how I’ve chopped it all off to deal with the summer temperatures here in Sichuan province.
Step One: Double Cleanse
My current product of choice for cleansers are from the Korean company Innisfree. They’re the closest I can find here in Chengdu that sold products within my budget – I’m a working professional with no dependants, but a girl has gotta eat and I never have enough time to cook at home these daysl
I use the oil cleanser every time I go through my routine, then alternate between the two foam cleansers or use one over the other depending on my current skin concerns: if I’m breaking out more than usual, then I use the blue Bija Trouble Foam Cleanser, otherwise I stick with the old one type in the morning then other in the evening.
Step Two: Toner and Treatment
I follow James Welsh, a popular skincare vlogger / influencer, and he stands by the fact that using a toner is part of the moisturising stage and not part of the cleansing stage. If you’re seeing bits of dirt on your little puff pad after applying toner, then apparently you’ve done the cleansing stage wrong.
I’m sorry, Mr James Welsh. There’s only so much cleansing I would let my face endure before I call it quits on the whole ‘a toner moisturises, not cleanse’ mantra. Let me live my life, and apparently living my life means using a toner as a part-cleanse and part-moisturising step. Life becomes so much easier when you stop caring what other people think about you, but I digress…
My initial research into toners for acne-prone oily types led me to Benton’s Aloe BHA Skin Toner, but relocating countries meant sourcing this trusty toner became such a challenge that I opted for physically going to a store and buying from Innisfree’s range instead. The sales assitant, armed with a translating app and a kind smile, took one look at my face (at an appropriate socially-distanced… distance) and recommended the Intensive Hydrating Toner with Green Tea Seed.
Quite a mouthful, but it does the job well. No complaints, here.
As for further treatments such as essences and serums, I swore by Dear Klair’s Vitamin C Drops and this anti-pollution emulsion from The Body Shop’s Drops of Youth and Tea Tree ranges. But again, moving countries meant I couldn’t buy these products online anymore. My plan, before the pandemic happened, was to return home to the UK and happily stock up after my first work contract ended, but that plan clearly blew up in flames so let’s move on.
Now, I’ve graduated to Laneige products because I’m a professional working woman who totally knew what the brand was before spontaneously buying what felt like half the store in skincare and makeup products.
If I feel like using a packet mask, I tend to do them before I apply any emulsions or even skip that step altogether. I do tend to skip this stage though, as it’s a bit of a faff and if I take a break between my routine (even for just ten minutes), it would take the length of a TV show episode or a YouTube video to get me back on track.
Step Three: Protect
The next step, once I’ve layered up all possible treatment combinations depending on problem type, is to moisturise and apply sunscreen. I’m not the most dilligent with the sunscreen stage, but the wholly imagined James Welsh who lives in my head starts judging me whenever I catch a glimpse of the very, very rare blue skies here in Chengdu. And it’s basically summer now, so I might as well get into the habit, right?
I apply the moisturiser right after the emulsion step, but let me tell you ladies and gents and those in between: Laneige’s Radian-C Cream was not a planned purchase and yet… I have absolutely no regrets. It’s the best damn moisturising cream I’ve ever used in my life. It took some time to get used to the slightly overpowering citrus scent, but that’s easy enough to get desensitised to because, y’know, the sense of smell is one of the first to normalise.
It’s a lovely scent, anyway, so it’s not exactly a hardship for me to use this cream every day. And use it every day, I did!
After using this cream for a solid six weeks, I noticed that not only were my dark spots beginning to lighten if not disappear under the naked (if slightly myopic eye), but the development of pimples – both whiteheads and those under-skin blind pimples alike – have slowed down to a lovely, easy to forget I even had acne to deal with level.
Vitamin C is a personal hero of mine, not just for my face but also for the general immune system boost. I take these soluble tablets every day because as a teacher to young kids, I’m exposed to plenty of bacteria and viruses and I don’t fancy coming down with a cold every two weeks. It doesn’t stop it altogether since there’s only so much multivitamins could do when you’ve got a subpar diet (whoops!), but man does it help plenty.
My Skincare Routine: An Outline
- Oil cleanse
- Foam cleanse
- Clay mask – used sparingly
- Packet mask – used occasionally
To conclude: I spend way too much on Korean skincare products but really, they work wonders so it’s not like they’re not worth the purchase. They last a long while, too, so it’s quite cost-effective all around. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried these products and / or you want to try them out!