Discover how one of our readers switched to a really simple routine of Korean beauty products for contact dermatitis.
If you’re a sheet mask addict, there’s a chance you’ve come across Elaine, AKA Maskepedia. Her thorough reviews are well organized and well documented, giving you a great guide to navigating the infinite options out there on the market. Elaine, however, hasn’t always been the masking expert she is today. Here, she shares her skin care journey with us in her own words!
I’m from Singapore but I permanently live in the US now. I was a subscriber of Birchbox and I discovered K-beauty when they collaborated with Charlotte Cho and Soko Glam to curate products for 2016 January’s box. I fell in love with Goodal’s Waterest First Essence and the Tony Moly Delight Tony Tint. So, I decided to dive down the K-beauty rabbit hole and never turned back since.
My skin has always been dehydrated, acne-prone, and sensitive. I’m always searching for products to calm down my redness and provide some hydration at the same time. My routine included a makeup remover, cleanser, toner, serum (sometimes), sheet masks (twice a week), moisturizer, facial oil, and the occasional sunscreen.
As a subscriber of a few monthly sampling boxes, I get to try out all kinds of products. A few that I remembered using before K-beauty are: the Garnier Micellar Water, Honest Beauty Cleanser, The Body Shop Tea Tree Cleanser, the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, and the Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation Perfecting Moisturizer.
Then, I had a sudden bout of contact dermatitis in November 2016 from using the products that I’ve always been using. My skin barrier was completely destroyed and replaced with red, itchy, flakey rashes. I got rid of everything I’ve been using, aside from sheet masks since they’re a constant in my life. The irritation got so bad that I had to visit a doctor and was told to cleanse my face with water and apply a hydrocortisone cream for a week.
After doing that, the irritation did subside but it felt really drying and fine lines started to develop on my 28-year-old skin. I was also missing that glow. But I refused to believe that water and hydrocortisone cream was going to be my routine for the rest of my life. I remembered liking the products that Charlotte Cho curated for Birchbox and started doing research on Korean Beauty products via blogs and the Asian beauty subreddit.
Here’s my skin in November 2016:
I was still masking twice a week (it’s the only non-sensitizing relief I get from the dryness). At that time, everyone on the internet was raving about double-cleansing and CosRx products for sensitive skin types. So I started out really simple and purchased the Banila Co Clean It Zero, the CosRx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser, and the CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. It felt amazing to be able to cleanse properly again! Not only did my skin not freak out from the products, it also did not feel “stretchy” afterwards.
I stuck to this simple routine for a month and noticed that my fine lines were mostly gone. But I was still missing that glow. I was also missing an eye cream and a sunscreen in my routine. With my skin type, it was very risky to incorporate things with higher concentrations like serums and acids since my skin barrier was still weak. There were times when I did fall into the trap of buying whatever everyone was raving about and eventually my skin suffered from the incompatibility. Rashes started reappearing and I freaked out and went back to my water and hydrocortisone routine. This repeated a few times before I learned to be patient and go slow while my skin barrier strengthens.
Another challenge was not being able to wear makeup and cover up my rash whenever I went out. Eventually I understood that the health of my skin was more important than how I looked.
Here’s my skin today:
I started seeing results a couple months ago, and now my skin barrier is back and healthy. I’m still getting redness whenever I use a harsher product, but the rash has completely disappeared.
My morning routine currently includes: the Thank You Farmer Back to Iceland Cleansing Water, the CosRx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser, the Is N Tree Green Tea Fresh Toner, the Skin1004 Madagascar Centella Asiatica 100 Ampoule, a sheet mask, the Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream, and the Clabiane Ultra Daily Sunscreen SPF50+/PA+++.
My evening routine consists of: the Banila Co Clean It Zero, the Is N Tree Pine Needles Enzyme Powder Wash, the By Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water, the Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop or the Klairs Midnight Blue Youth Activating Drop, the CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, the Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream, and the Huxley Secret of Sahara Cream.
Some advice I have for people who want to improve their skin is to start slow and be patient. Educate yourself and understand your skin. Embrace it and give it what it needs. Also, when in doubt, treat your skin as sensitive type. Soothing and calming products are gentle and beneficial to the skin. And don’t forget to eat healthy, exercise often and drink lots of water.