When it comes to skincare, Korea is it. The country, more specifically the capital city of Seoul, has rightfully earned its title as a global leader and holy grail of all things skin. Over the past year, women and men stateside have swapped their daily routine of just Neutrogena face wash and two pumps of moisturizer for a 10-to-12-step Korean-inspired skincare routine that involves a combination of products and intricate steps in hopes of achieving glowing, dewy, ageless Pharrell-like skin.
After trying numerous iterations of this routine and countless potions ranging in price from $2 to $200 for the better half of the past year, I’ve perfected a Korean-inspired routine that will definitely help preserve and protect our melanin and #blackgirlmagic.
This routine, which I’ve named The #blackgirlmagic skincare routine, incorporates steps from the Korean approach that have improved my glow but skips those that have not provided noticeable results such as essence (a hybrid between a toner and serum) or sleep packs (think fancy night creams). As a black woman who has read nearly every article online related to skincare and tried a crazy concoction of juices and berries on my skin, I want to save you the painful — and sometimes scary — lessons that come along with skincare experimentation so you can skip right to the good part — healthy glowing skin.
Step 1: The cleanse
The secret to getting your face squeaky clean is the double cleanse. Yup, you read that right! You’ve got to cleanse your skin twice — just using Cetaphil isn’t going to cut it if you want to look Queen Bey #flawless. Although somewhat counter=intuitive, double cleansing ensures you remove all the highlighter, bronzer and NYX Lip Stain you put on throughout the day before you move on to the next steps. Even if you don’t give yourself a full beat down on the daily you’ll still want to double cleanse — hello, city grime!
Before using your usual water-based cleanser, you first want to cleanse your face with something oil based, preferably an organic all-natural oil. I use TJ’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil.
As I Milly Rock my way to the bathroom, I smear coconut oil all over until my entire face is covered with a thin layer of oil. Once I look like a greasy hot mess and my mascara is running down my face, I use a cotton pad to remove the oil from my face. I continue wiping with fresh cotton pads until all of the oil is gone, aka the pad is completely white. It doesn’t matter if you were wearing M.A.C. Studio Fix or just moisturizer, you will be amazed at how gross those pads are. *inserts cringe face emoji*
Once all the oil is removed, you can gently lather up your favorite traditional cleanser and wash your face with lukewarm water. Right now this Enzyme Gel Cleanser is in heavy rotation in my routine.
Step 2: The exfoliator
Often overlooked, exfoliating is what’s going to get your skin to be softer than a baby’s behind. If you’ve ofund a great all-natural exfoliator, you should recognize and be able to pronounce the main ingredient (such as salt or sugar). A good exfoliator will help remove dead skin cells and polish your face to reveal healthy glowing skin. This sea-salt-based one is an all-time favorite of mine. Exfoliating also helps to diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and acne scars.
This step can be done 1-3 times per week depending on how sensitive your skin is.
Step 3: The toner
You might think toners are just the beauty industry’s ploy to get you to spend even more money than you already do in Sephora. But they’re not — toners are essential in keeping your skin hydrated. Since our skin, the body’s largest organ, is made up primarily of water, it is essential that we keep it hydrated.
In addition to getting rid of residue left behind by your cleansers, a toner helps balance your skin and keep your pH level, your body’s way of keeping your skin healthy, in check. It’s also going to ‘prep’ your skin for the next few steps.
Again, a Mother-Nature-produced product that’s alcohol-free is what I suggest, such as Thayers Lavender Witch Hazel.
After cleansing or exfoliating, depending on if that is part of my routine, I squeeze toner onto a fresh cotton pad until it’s fully damp. I then rub the cotton pad over my entire face making sure to include my neck and hairline – repeating this 2-3 times or until the cotton pad is completely clean.
Step 4: The Eye Cream
Yup, another step. I know, but stick with me.
Most people think they can skip eye cream or assume because they don’t have any lines or bags (yet) that an eye cream isn’t for them. However, word to the wise, you need to incorporate this step into your routine, STAT. If puffy eyes, dark circles or fine lines are a current concern or one you are trying to avoid like the plague, using an eye cream can help.
This area is the thinnest skin on the body and can be extremely sensitive. Because of this, I really try to stick with an eye cream that uses lots of ingredients I can pronounce. I’ve been using this one for the past six months because it got the okay from a holistic aesthetician I visited last year. Needless to say, I trust her and trust it.
After toning my face, I wait about 30 seconds before applying my eye cream. Using a light tapping motion, I delicately apply the cream to my undereye area and on my lids with my ring finger — our weakest finger.
For most of us, this is more of a preventative step, but your 50-year-old self will thank you, trust me.
Step 5: The sheet mask
Ah, those masks you’ve seen celebrities and bloggers wearing on Snapchat and Instagram. These masks are much more than just a good photo opp — they pack a heavy punch. The paper-thin masks are individually packaged with different ingredients that do wonders for you skin, such as Vitamin E, avocado, Hyaluronic Acid, coconut oil, etc. You can literally put one of these bad boys on while you watch the latest episode of Love and Hip-Hop and in 30 minutes you’ll look like you just had a facial.
I typically work sheet masks into my weekly routine at least two times, but have def upped the ante to 3-4 times a week this winter.
Step 6: The serum
When you think serum, think super-concentrated bottled fountain of youth, aka Halle Berry’s secret weapon. These little bottles pack a powerful punch and can do everything from brightening the skin to fading dark spots. I suggest finding one that contains a combination of ingredients that address your current skincare concerns/needs such as Argan oil, Vitamin C, Retinol or Hyaluronic Acid.
These babies are often very powerful, and a little bit truly goes a long way. I dab one or two pumps onto my fingertips and lightly massage the serum onto my face and neck. And because I obviously want to be 18 forever, I use this seriously firming serum both AM and PM.
Step 7: The moisturizer
After you’ve cleansed, exfoliated, toned and treated your skin, you want to round out the entire routine with a great moisturizer that contains an SPF. This last step is going to lock in all the goodness you’ve just applied to your skin and give you a glowing I- filter-like complexion.
And voila! You’re now ready for the perfect #nofilter selfie.
This routine can and should be used both AM and PM. However, I typically don’t double cleanse in the morning and instead of using an SPF moisturizer at night I use one that is a bit heavier and SPF-free. Although exfoliating and sheet masking can be done in the AM, I usually save those steps for the evening when I have a bit more time.
Even for the biggest commitment-phobe, committing to this routine only takes a little patience and the right Drake playlist. There’s no better feeling than coming home after a long day, throwing on some sweats and pampering your skin with some much-needed TLC. You’re only going to get one face, so why not take proper care of it?
Of course, there are times when no amount of Future and Drake’s WATTBA or Bad Gyal Rhi Rhi will get you into the bathroom to take off your makeup, and for those nights, keep a stash of makeup wipes handy. But I promise you, if you commit to this routine (or most of it anyway) your melanin is sure to pop and your #blackgirlmagic will shine even brighter!
Siraad is a beauty junkie who hoards skincare products likes nobody’s business; when she isn’t sheet masking (while listening to Drizzy), you can find her updating her blog, The Glow Expert, in an Uptown coffee shop in New York City. Connect with her: @theglowexpert, @sdirshe