Sep 12, 2012

Inside my Korean Makeup Bag

Korea is a tempting place for the product-obsessed. In every neighbourhood, you will find literally dozens of makeup and beauty shops, all of them cheap, all of them with cute packaging and just enough English on the box to get those buzzwords across: mineral, satin, brightening, YOUTHFUL. It's like a Vegas for the skin-conscious.

Most western women that I've met in Korea have experimented gleefully with this country's beauty goodies. And yet, in all my online snooping, the only beauty blogs and product reviews of Korean cosmetics seem to be done by Asian women, speaking specifically to their skin tones and facial structure. So, I've gone in blind.

It's taken me a few years of trial and error to sample the gamut and figure out which products are best for my erratic western skin. My advice, for western women on the Korean beauty trail:

Skin Food: for the eyes

My first year in Korea, there was a Skin Food around the corner from my apartment. I hung around there a lot, reading the packages, telling myself I was practicing Korean phonics but actually just daydreaming about smooth, poreless Korean skin. Is that weird?

I became a big fan of their eye products. The Black Bean Eye Pencils are soft and gentle, and last a long time if you set them with powder. Now, I have a rocky history with eyeliner. I spent many a teenage morning scraping my poor eyelid skin with those leaden-feeling liners from the Wet n Wild counter, thinking that's just how eyeliner is supposed to feel. They're pencils, after all.

Pained from the experience, or perhaps too lazy to buy an eyeliner pencil sharpener, I stopped using liner for a good five years. Skin Food got me back on the wagon. It's creamy and pain-free, even when you apply it on a jolting city bus. Just saying.

I've tried hundreds of mascaras and will loyally go back to Skin Food's Banana Long Lash Curl Mascara in black. It doesn't smudge or flake, even in the drippy-humid Korean summers. Also, with the wealth of megawatt-volumizing-lengthening mascaras on the market, I like a product that's more daytime-appropriate, less Kardashian. The lashes look good, but no one would think I'm wearing falsies.

The Face Shop: for BB Cream

The ol' BB stuff is apparently making waves in the UK and North America, with brands like Clinique and Dior getting in on the act. I'm sure their formulas are lovely, albeit pricey, but I'll stick to the original East Asian stuff.

I have the cruel cosmetic dilemma of wanting a BB with SPF something and oil-control properties for my neurotic face-pores, which like to panic with any fluctuation of temperature, mood, or comfort. Some creams have SPF a million, but are designed for heavy duty moisturizing. Talc-y, powdery creams keep you desert-matte, but give no sun protection. Many claim to do both, but don't quite hit the mark..

The only one I found that lives up to its promises on my face is The Face Shop's Oil Cut BB Dual Emulsion SPF 20. The cream is liquidy enough to blend easily and not look too mask-like. I haven't been burnt once with it. And, AND, there's a little pot of concealer and a mirror built into the lid. Aww, Face Shop, you shouldn't have.

Innisfree: for powders

The first Korean girlfriend I made, Eun-Yong, got me into Innisfree when she gave me a red wine body scrub for Christmas. She told me it was her favourite brand because of its natural ingredients and minimal chemical additives and dyes. Boom, an Innisfree fan was born. With me, it doesn't take much.

In the morning, once my BB cream is set, I pat on the No Sebum Mineral Powder (I swear I'm otherwise quite low-maintenance).

It's light and untinted, and just mattifies my face for the day. It doesn't feel heavy or starchy as some powders do. Though initially it looks a bit kabuki, with layered BB cream and powder, the makeup oxidizes and settles down after a few minutes.

I carry a Mineral Powder Pact in my purse for a little colour and de-shining throughout the day.

It's not too dusty-looking and the colour offsets my natural slightly-too-red complexion. It has an SPF of 25 too.

Innisfree, you know exactly how to get me.

Tony Moly: for non-ridiculous colour

I usually wear Canadian drugstore eyeshadow, but when I ran out a few weeks ago, I hunted high and low through a dozen Korean beauty stores, getting frustrated.

All the eyeshadows were high-wattage sparkly, good for a big night out or the under-16 demographic, but not for me and my relatively mild routine of going to work, dinner, sometimes the pub.
I'd never set food in Tony Moly before, skeptical of their perpetual 70% off sales and particularly aggressive shopgirls standing outside in Sailor Moon outfits. But I was desperate, so I popped in, and did a little inner-cheer at the sight of simple matte Crystal Mono Eyeshadow. Don't be thrown by the name, it's mature, lady eyeshadow.

They also have a very pretty lip stain called Tony Tint, which comes in two colours and is a nice contrast to the other Korean beauty shops' pixie-shiny lip glosses. It's a close and credible knockoff of Benefit's Benetint, the lip product that holds my everlasting loyalty.

1 comment:

  1. You have such a great selection of products here!
    I love your Korean makeup bag!