I first came to South Korea on a trip in 2012, and I ended up coming back every year until 2014— when I decided to pack up and officially move here with my husband. Since then, I can’t even say what my favourite part of living in Korea is… it could be the food, or the guarantee of safety or the fact that we have the fastest internet in the world available completely for free everywhere, even on the subway! At the same time, I don’t really know whether to say if staying in Korea really lives up to expectations or not since I’m not really sure what these expectations even are! If we’re comparing it to the K-dramas, obviously those are a bit exaggerated but generally speaking I can say that Koreans are very thoughtful people.
As a Malaysian, one of the many differences between us and Koreans— both men and women— is the level of importance that we place upon skincare. Koreans take skincare very seriously, it’s not considered a frivolous thing at all. My Korean friends are usually shocked to hear that Malaysians tend to have a very ‘lazy’ skincare routine. Skincare to them is considered a part of your hygiene, and hygiene is a top priority to Koreans. The men don’t keep any facial hair because it’s seen as ‘dirty’, and they are always sure to brush their teeth after every meal. To always look presentable is very important.
I guess I could say that I’ve been a bit influenced by that principle. My skincare routine definitely has. Although it changes according to the season, I adapt what I call a ‘Korean fusion’ routine— I call it that because it’s basically the well-known 7 Step Korean Skincare regime with some additions which I find complement the routine well. I start with washing my face with Kiehl’s Washable Cleansing Milk since it’s so gentle and suitable for my highly sensitive skin, then rinse with lukewarm water. Once or twice a week, I’ll exfoliate with Etude House Collagen Moistfull Peeling Wash. Skinfood Black Sugar Mask is also good for exfoliating and brightening. My skin always feels rejuvenated after using it. I follow that up with a facial freshener, an emulsion and an essence— all by Etude House’s Collagen Moistfull line. I always make sure to dab— not rub— the product on and to wait 5 minutes between each step.
To fix these Chanel eyebags, I’ll use the Etude House Moistfull Super Collagen Eye Concentrate but I’m also prone to the Etude House Darling Repairing Eye Cream or the SAEM Gold Snail Eye Gel Patch. Snail products are popular in Korea right now and for good reason— the thought of putting snail slime on your face is yucky, but ignore that thought and you’ll find that it works wonders on your skin. And of course, I’ll dab it on, not rub. I have a bad habit of rubbing my eyes before going to bed, which my dad used to warn me about. Because of that I now have premature under-eye wrinkles. Should have listened to Dad!
For sunscreen, I use the Sunplay SPF 130++ Super Block Clear Finish. This step is extremely crucial, since I absolutely do not want skin cancer. Plus, what’s the point of making sure to only dab on products if you’re going to let the UV rays give you wrinkly skin, anyway? I even make sure to only use foundation with SPF.
Once that’s all done, I’ll seal everything in with a good moisturiser— either Etude House Moistfull Super Collagen Cream or Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream. But if I want to get some extra moisture— and I always want extra moisture since having four seasons really dries out your skin— I’ll put on a sheet mask. They are so cheap in Korea, like KRW1000 (RM3.40) each at the lowest. And if you buy them during sales or in bulk, you can get it even cheaper! We also have a lot of packet masks in my home— my husband likes using them, and he’s actually the one who keeps buying them. Haha!
Speaking of dry skin, summer here is so different from tropical Malaysia. It gets just as hot here in Korea, but it’s dry so your skin definitely suffers! I always become quite dependant on facial mists to keep my skin from feeling tight. I have to continuously spray Etude House Moistfull Collagen Facial Mist and Evian Facial Spray— not at the same time, of course!
As you can see, my routine mostly revolves around Etude House. I’ve found that since moving here, I’ve been using more drugstore and mid-level products, when back in Malaysia I used to rely on high-end products since that was what I found worked for me. But if you want to try a high-end Korean brand, I’d highly recommend looking into HERA.
I know that having a ‘Korean routine’ sounds like a lot of work, but to Koreans— or at least to my friends— it’s offensive to them to hear that you’re too tired or too lazy to take care of your skin. “Why can’t you spare 15 minutes, out of a 24 hour day, to take care of your own skin?!” That’s how I always get schooled. But if you really think about it, it does make sense— what’s wrong with taking 15 minutes for taking care of yourself? Of course, if I have to be completely and utterly real, the full 7 Steps usually only takes place on my rajin days. The rest of the time, it’s just face wash and moisturiser. Sunscreen, too, if I’m going out. If you’re more hardworking than me, then you’ll have better skin than me!
When it comes to makeup, I’d say that my three crucial products are tinted lip balm, eyeliner and highlighter. I’m Southeast Asian, of course, but my eyes are more typically East Asian so I apply eyeliner to make them look bigger. Plus I’m pretty pale, so I like having tinted lip balm and highlighter to just brighten up my look. My favourites are Skinfood Fresh Fruit Lip & Cheek and The Face Shop Flash Pink Highlighter. The Skinfood one, along with Innisfree Longwear BB Cushion, are the products that I usually bring along with me on flights. When I’m feeling fancy I’ll also bring my Innisfree Anti-Darkening Fixer.
I don’t really wear makeup on the plane, though. For example if I’m on a long-haul flight such as from Korea to Malaysia, I know I’ll be sleeping so I don’t put any makeup on. When you’re asleep is the time for your skin cells to repair themselves, so you should just let your skin breathe. We don’t want makeup to disturb the reparative process, right?
For eye makeup, I like the Urban Decay Naked palettes, but sometimes I’ll use MAC Eyeshadows. I’m finding myself trying harder to purchase only cruelty free makeup lately, so Urban Decay is the way to go. I’ll top it all off with MAC Prep and Prime Fix+. Strangely, even though I love makeup I rarely bring any makeup— besides lip products— in my handbag for touchups. I don’t know if I’m just lazy or if I really don’t find the need to. Maybe the MAC Setting Spray is just that good!
Other than makeup, I have to mention that I adore Huge Boss NUIT perfume. I absolutely love Huge Boss perfumes, most of my perfumes are from that brand. My favourite is Femme, and of course NUIT. I also like some body mists— Victoria’s Secret Secret Charm is my favourite, but they’ve been consistently out of stock lately so I’ve had to supplement that with Aqua Kiss. My favourite drugstore body mist is probably Body Fantasies Romance & Dreams. It smells amazing and is so cheap, too, like KRW3000 (RM10.19).
The typical Korean beauty look that people picture is that Barbie, pinkish makeup look. We all know that what’s on trend in Korea could be the complete opposite of what’s popular in America and the rest of the world. Bold eyebrows are trendy in both America and Korea right now, but ‘brows on fleek’ means something completely different to a Korean than to an American. But lately Western makeup has been gaining more prominence. More and more Western products and beauty ideals have been coming into Korea, and Korean women are adapting.
An example of this would be contouring, which nobody used to do before but the technique is becoming more popular here. So the one Korean product that I think we should be looking out for is contouring sticks, which is actually so much more convenient than having to use a brush and a bronzer. That’s the thing I love about Korea, they create products which are actually user friendly. Contouring sticks, eyeshadow sticks, highlighting sticks— they’re the kind of products which are easy to use and apply with precision, without needing too many brushes— or even any brushes at all!
You can follow Eikha on her website, at electreikha.com.