Sulwhasoo in all it's glory.
I didn't plan on posting today but when I stumbled across Buhay sa Korea's post ranking the "best"/top selling cosmetics in Korea (Part 1, Part 2), I had to post this. The ranking was published in February 2010 so it's quite recent too! I couldn't access the actual study but I believe this list ranks top sellers. As we all know "top-selling" doesn't always mean "top-quality" but if these cosmetics can survive and thrive in skincare/makeup obsessed Korea, it's gotta mean something right ;)? Anyway, I know a lot of people are interested in Asian skincare/makeup so I thought this would be useful. HUGE thank you to Buhay sa Korea for posting these! My personal comments are in blue.
For those unfamiliar with Korean skincare, it's a 4-6 step process (depending on who you ask). I prefer to refer to it as a 5 step process (summarized from K-popped).
1. Double cleansing —> 2. Massage & mask —> 3. Tone —> 4. Essence/Serum —> 5. Moisturize
1. Double Cleansing
Cleanse #1: Cleansing Oil, a washable oil that is emulsified with water to quickly remove all makeup, grease and dirt. Oil usually contains many beneficial ingredients as well.
I have not "bought into" this step yet but my mother does this and I'm going to admit she has better skin than I do at 50+. The reason I don't do this is because (for my mom at least), she spends a good 20 minutes massaging/emulsifying the oil into her skin. Then she tissues it off (oil is hard to remove with water, duh). For now I'm just too impatient to do this.
Cleanse #2: Water + face cleanser to remove the last traces of oil.
2. Massage & Mask
Facial massage is the secret to glowing skin. Apply a massage pack or cream and massage your face. You could even use a gentle scrub. It is exercise for your skin. A facial massage improves blood circulation and is a great stress reliever! Facial massages also stimulates the flow of oxygen and nutrients to improve the elasticity of your skin. The skin temperature rises, opening pores and pushes out the dirt embedded deep within the skin. Your skin will look visibly fresher, younger and glows after a massage. Incorporate a facial massage into your beauty regime at least 2 – 3 times a week for visible results. A word of caution for those with acne or oily skin, massaging will agitate the oil glands and increase oil secretion. So refrain from massaging. On the days you do not indulge in a facial massage, apply a mask on your face. There are many types of masks out there in stores, but the two that are most important are clarifying mask (deep cleanses the skin) and moisture mask. Facial masks should be applied 1 – 2 times a week, after cleansing and preferably at night.
I am a huge believer of this step! I don't do the massaging part so much but I am a 100% believer in sheet masks/packs. I usually fall asleep with these on, so they suit my lazy personality too ahah but they have made a huge difference for my skin. I prefer sheet masks to packs because I don't have to wash anything off (more laziness). I was (and still am for the most part) a very oily person but every since I started giving my skin that extra boost of hydration with masks, my oiliness has gone way, way down. Which brings me to remind all my fellow oily chicas out there that oiliness is usually caused by dehydration - you skin overcompensates/produces more oil - when it's too dry. Ironic, huh ;)? So, invest in some moisturizing sheet masks, it's certainly not going to hurt (unless you pick something you're allergic to ehehe) ;)
Some might think that toners are useless. But toners actually remove dead skin cells and residue from cleansers. Choose a toner that is suitable for your skin type.
Have yet to buy into this trend because all the toners I've tried have been fairly ineffectual imho. But this is one thing I keep buying :\ In the past I've tried witchhazel (hated the smell), Skinfood Peach Sake Toner (just wanted to drink it, didn't see any huge improvements), and I just ordered the Skinfood Red Ginseng Toner. We'll see.... They never seem to hurt but I dunno, maybe I'm expecting miracles. The reason I can't stop trying toners though is because they feel good on my face ^_^
4. Essence and/or serum
Essence or serums are very light, liquid concentrated treatments to correct skin problems. Essence is easier absorbed and penetrates deep into your skin, better than regular moisturizers. For best results, wait 5 minutes after applying serums before applying your moisturizer to allow maximum absorption. Because of their concentrated affects, serums are generally more expensive.
This is, I think, a unique step in the "Asian" skincare routine (though I'm sure other non-Asians brands will quickly buy into this since it means more $$$). Some skin care sets sell essence (usually lotion-y) and serums (usually liquid) as two separate steps. The point to both is essentially the same though - deliver high concentrations of something to correct specific skin problems. Though I have dabbled with this step (free samples ^_~) for a few years I've never purchased anything till now. I just purchased a small bottle of the uber-famous SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, which is reputably a "miracle water" (it's ranked #2 under Best Essence). We'll see about that and better damn well be - this SK-II essence is one of the most expensive on the market. Sulwhasoo places first, also a very expensive, luxury brand - truly the most reputable in Korea.
Choose a moisturizer suitable for your skin and use it diligently.
A lot of people neglect this step, especially oily folks like me but it's important. Thank heavens it's a fairly "cheap" step too. I just use Aveeno :) Though personally, I wouldn't mind finding something more moisturizing for winter but since my Philosophy Hope In A Jar was a hopeless fiasco, my search still continues. I do use Dress Green's essential oil serum for a kick of moisture 3-4x a week but I would rather be able to moisturize in one step. Plus I have to wipe off oil residue in the morning, which is a hassle for a anti-morning person like me.
Now onto the rankings!
Basic Care Total
4. SK II (Japanese brand)
Color total <-- I'm not really sure what this means....whitening perhaps? But Natalie says it may mean Best Makeup/Cosmetics (not Skincare) overall.
2. Christian Dior
4. The Face Shop
Skin and Lotion total
5. Isa Knox
Best Face Cream
3. History of Hu
3. Kiehl’s (American brand) <-- really?! I'm going to go looking for this.... I need a better moisturizer anyways
- History of Hu and Kiehl’s tied
2. SK II <-- that "miracle water" better be good!
3. Estee Lauder
1. The Face Shop <-- what a surprise.... I know what's going to be in my next sasa haul.
2. The Face Shop <-- what?! Clearly, I've underrated TFS.
3. SK II
3. Christian Dior
4. History of Hu
2. Bobby Brown
3. Christian Dior
4. Christian Dior
1. Christian Dior
Twincake <-- twincakes are apparently a foundation/pressed powder in one, thanks sherri!
4. The Face Shop
3. Bobby Brown
4. Estee Lauder
5. SK II
5. The Face Shop
1. Bobby Brown
5. The Face Shop
1. The Face Shop
2. Skin Food
Body Care <-- aahah no Asian brands here xD
2. Johnson’s Baby
3. Green Finger
4. Doctor AtoMild
I don't have experience with any of the luxury brands listed here - Sulwhasoo, SK II, Ohui, Hera, Lancome etc. I will say the first four I mentioned are by far the most popular brands in Korea (among those who can afford it) from what I've seen. Most older women exclusively use those brands if they can manage it cuz you know in Korea - flawless skin reigns supreme and most are willing to dish out for it. The brands you see dominating the Internet like Skinfood, Missha, Etude House, The Face Shop, VOV are really on the lower end since they target teens and women in their 20's (aka poorer, can be bought with pretty packaging, and already have good skin most of the time ^^). Ahhh, one day I wouldn't mind making the leap and trying some Sulwhasoo - the premiere brand that many k-celebrities swear by ^_^
Here's a little trivia about Sulwhasoo though: Sulwhasoo is owned by Amore Pacific, a company that also owns Laneige, IOPE, Innisfree, Hera, Etude, and needless to say, the Amore Pacific cosmetics line as well. Puts an interesting spin on the rankings above eh ;)? In Suncreams alone, Amore Pacific occupies spots #1-4 out of 5.
In any case, I'm so startled how much The Face Shop is on here - color total, cleansing, mask pack, twin cake, mascara, eyeliner, nail! I bought almost nothing in Korea from TFS cuz I was so swept away by Skinfood (which is only on here for Nails of all things). Now I'm dying of regret! If I may say, TFS has the least exciting packaging :\ maybe that's why.... Anyway, this is good for US-residents because TFS is one of the few Korean brands that have shops right here in America (not around me though :P). You can also get a few The Face Shop items on Sasa for people (like me) without a store near them. Missha made a good showing too - color total, cleansing, mask pack, lip gloss, lipstick, twin cake, mascara, nail.
So yep - I hope some of you guys found this helpful :)!