When I first started noticing Asian beauty products a couple of years ago, with their cartoony packages and weird snail ingredients, I was quite sceptical about them. But as I was reading more and more positive feedback, they slowly grew on me and I started trying out different things. Korean and Japanese beauty market is humongous, some products work, some are just a gimmick, and it’s easy to get lost. So I’ve decided to share and review four of my favorite, tried and true items that I always enjoy using.
This squishy thing was my very first exotic beauty purchase and I’ve been using it religiously to cleanse my face for about 2 years now. The sponge is made of the konjac plant root rich in minerals & antioxidants and it’s supposed to benefit your skin while effectively removing dirt and smoothing skin texture. Besides, it is naturally alkaline so it balances the pH level of your skin.
They recommend to wash your face with the sponge 2-3 times a week but I use it every other day plus any time I have a full face of makeup. I have never had issues with this guy irritating my skin and I know it’s gentle enough for the most sensitive and dry skin.
To use it, simply put it under warm running water for 10-15 seconds until it gets big and soft and massage your face in circular motions. I usually add my gel cleanser but it’s not necessary. Oh, and by the way, if I have makeup on, I do not go in with the sponge right away. I recommend first taking off your makeup the way you prefer it – wipes, makeup remover, etc. – and then deep cleaning with the konjac sponge.
Why I like the konjac sponge:
First of all, it cleanses my face way better than my bare hands. After using it, I always get that feeling of super clean yet not overdried or uncomfortably tight skin. I may still leave the sponge alone on makeup-free days but if I have layers of foundation, concealer and powder, I always reach for my little friend.
Second of all, I truly feel that it smoothes my skin and gets rid of unwanted texture. When I started using it, I had a lot of tiny bumps on my cheeks and now thanks to the sponge (in conjunction with glycolic acid products), the situation is much better.
Since I clean my face more thoroughly, I also notice less breakouts on a regular basis. And when I do break out, I use the konjac sponge every evening and focus on the trouble areas a bit longer. I used to use facial scrubs (even sugar) a lot before and I’ve learned from a dermatologist that granules in them can spread the infection and worsen the inflammation. The konjac sponge, however, is safe and will delicately pull out impurities from the skin.
Important: make sure to rinse your sponge well after each use and dry it. I like to hang it on the heated towel rail so that the flat side I use for my face does not touch the metal. If I’m travelling, I pack it in my cosmetic case only after it’s completely dry and stiff to prevent contamination.
Similar to the konjac sponge, this product is good for everyone regardless of your age or skin type. These are sold by different brands and the one I’ve been using recently is 99% Soothing Aloe Gel by Holika Holika. They come with different percentages of aloe juice as well but I tend to get the highest concentrate, because why not? 🙂
The aloe gel works amazingly for your face, body and hair but for me it’s a go-to spring & summer body lotion. The reason I love it so much in the warmer months is that it’s lightweight, it moisturizes my skin really well but leaves zero! stickiness (no one likes being extra sticky when it’s hot) and absorbs in seconds. You can slap it on and put on your tightest jeans immediately, they will glide on like a dream! 😀
Besides, aloe juice helps to calm your skin after sun, especially if you get sunburnt. The gel provides a pleasant cooling effect and if applied regularly and generously, it should prevent skin peeling.
The same soothing and calming properties make the aloe gel an ideal after shave balm. If your skin gets easily irritated after using a razor, I definitely recommend trying this gel out.
Finally, due to aloe vera being naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, it is great for treating any sores or breakouts. If I get spots on my back or shoulders, I use the gel several times a day and I notice how much faster they go away.
Hydro Gel Eye & Spot Patch by Secret Key
Gold Racoony Hydro Gel Eye & Spot Patches have been the newest addition to my K-beauty collection. Not long ago I went to a Korean beauty shop near me to buy another konjac sponge (you need to change them every 3 months or so) and mentioned to the consultant that I had these terrifying smile lines around my eyes – that’s what too much laugh can do to you 🙂 She offered me these particular patches, although there were more expensive options there, and assured me they would solve the problem as long as I used them consistently.
In the package, you get 60 hydrogel patches for the under eye area + 30 round patches for other spots on your face all soaked in a magic solution of colloidal gold, hyaluronic acid, adenosine (anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging ingredient) as well as various plant extracts (lavender, rosemary, chamomile, peppermint, rose). The product comes with a protective lid and a spoon/spatula to help get these extremely thin patches out of the jar.
I like to rotate the jar a little before scooping out the patches so that they are evenly covered in the essence. Then I gently press them on the under eye areas making sure they are flat against the skin and as close to the lashline as possible. However, don’t push them too high as the liquid can get into your eyes.
With the round patch, I like to apply it alternately to the area between the brows and the spot above my right brow. For some reason, I get lines on this particular side of the forehead. You can use the spot patches for anywhere else on your face, for example, around the mouth.
I usually leave the masks on for a couple of hours until they get completely dry, although the instructions mention 20-30 min which, in my opinion, is not enough for the essence to get absorbed.
I must say, I haven’t been extremely diligent with using the patches every day as planned. But even with 2-3 times a week applications, I’m impressed with how supple and moisturized the under eye area feels. The product hasn’t actually done much in combating dark circles as promised by the manufacturer but in terms of nourishing and thus making lines appear less visible, it’s really good. And the way they feel on the skin – so cooling and relaxing! Even my husband got hooked so now I arrange spa sessions for us both 🙂
BB Creams: AC Control & Luminous Goddess Aura by TONYMOLY
I’m pretty sure there’s no need to go into much detail about all these miracle bb and cc creams as they are probably the most well-known items of Korean & Japanese beauty culture. Tons of brands make them so here it’s all about trying out different ones and finding what fits your needs. I happen to have two of them, both by Tonymoly: Luminous Goddess Aura BB Cream and Tony Lab AC Control BB Cream. They both have high SPF in them (37 and 30) and very impressive coverage, the difference is that the former has dewy-luminous finish (hence the name) and the latter will give you a matte complexion.
I have combination/oily skin so obviously, my preference should be to mattify my face. But I purchased the Luminous Goddess first and at that time I’d read a lot of positive reviews about the product and didn’t care much that it would make my t-zone shine bright like a diamond 🙂 It’s not bad at all the first hour or two after the application but then it gets too glowy for my taste. If you have dry or normal skin, on the other hand, you should love it. It blends seamlessly into the skin and covers imperfections amazingly. When I needed good coverage, I found myself reaching for the bb cream instead of a foundation.
There are only two downsides that apply to the majority of Asian bb creams:
Since it’s considered the most attractive for Korean/Japanese women to have pale, porcelain skin, bb creams usually come in very light shades. Even though they are supposed to mimic your own skin tone, they will most likely fail if you have a deeper complexion. As far as I know, there are some particular brands that do make darker versions like Missha, for example. But the ones I have become simply impossible to use in the summer when I get a tan.
The second one is not so much a downside but more of an inconvenience for lazy girls out there. To adapt to the skin color and texture so well, a bb cream needs to go deeper into your pores to become undetectable. That means you won’t be able to properly remove it with regular makeup wipes or a makeup remover on a cotton pad. You need oil to break up the product.
There are cleansing oils made specifically for removing bb and cc creams but I just use jojoba and grape seed oils which I use for removing any makeup, by the way. I put a little in my hands and start rubbing and massaging it on the dry face. I do it for about a minute and then take a big cotton pad or a cloth soaked in hot water and remove the remains of makeup and oil. After that I follow with my gel cleanser. Removing your bb cream thoroughly is very important because otherwise it may clog your pores and cause breakouts.
Here I’ve also attached before and after pictures using the AC Control BB Cream for you to see how well the product evens out the skin tone and covers discoloration on my cheeks, around the nose and even partially conceals my blue as the ocean under eye circles 🙂
This completes the list of my current favorite Korean & Japanese beauty products. Hope you’ve enjoyed and maybe even found something for you to try. If you have your own holy grail Asian products you can recommend, let me know in the comments 🙂