Okay I’ll admit it – I’ve tried every skincare brand on the planet. Well maybe not every single one but, since I’m incredibly old, I’ve had years to dabble in this and that. I’m a beauty junkie. The truth is out and I feel so much better for saying it.
Here’s the skincare ranges I can at least remember using along the way: Dior, Chanel, Shiseido, SKII, Alpha H, Avalon Organics, Innoxa, Evolu, Simple, Neutrogena, Body Shop, Hada Labo, a Thai range, Merle Norman, Mary Kay, Nutrimetics, Orlane, Guinot, Babor, Payot, ASAP, Dermalogica, Trilogy, Comvita, Ahava, Aveeno,Avene, B.Kamins, Biore, Borghese, Caudalie, Clarins, Estee Lauder, Darphin, Dr. Brandt, Dr. Hauschka, Juvena, Elizabeth Arden, Erno Lazlo, Jurlique, Korres, L’Occitane, L’Oreal, Lancome, La Mer, Lorac, Mario Badescu, Ole Henriksen, Perricone MD, Dr. LeWinn’s, ReVive, RoC, Sothys, StriVectin, Vichy, The Honey Collection, Sisley.
Phwoar! And this is just what I CAN remember. Actually, it was fun trying to haul all of this from the memory banks. It took me awhile. And who hasn’t tried Mary Kay or Nutrimetics? I simply can’t remember what I used as a teenager though. I think it might have been Nivea. I do know that from around the age of 12 years I started using cleansers and moisturisers.
There are still some brands I use – Simple, Body Shop, The Honey Collection and Evolu being the main ones. I used Merle Norman skincare for the whole of my 20s. I discovered this brand on my first trip to Hawaii and used to get stuff sent over to Oz. Then I went through a phase of using all the Drs – from Dr. Hauschka to Dr. LeWinn’s.
What are the brands I’d use again if I had the opportunity? Definitely Babor. This is a luxury German skincare range. Clarins – I always have a tube of their Beauty Flash Balm in my bathroom. If someone gave me Dr.LeWinn’s stuff, I’d certainly use it. I always liked the day cream. For centuries, I’ve used the Body Shop’s Tea Tree Skin Clearing Cleanser. And I’d most definitely use Korres, which is a fantastic Greek skincare range.
But I’m stuck in rural NZ, so a lot of these brands are unavailable. I can purchase some of the brands I like from online beauty sites like Strawberrynet, Adore Beauty, Crush Cosmetics or Cherry Culture. But since discovering Korean skincare, I’m actually sticking to the one skincare range.
Back in June 2011, I stumbled across a Korean supermarket in Christchurch and inside was a small boutique skincare shop. The sign outside said the shop carried Laneige, Iope and Sulwhasoo. I’d heard that Sulwhasoo is a legendary brand in Korea but I’d also read somewhere that it’s all a bit complicated. That you need to use seven different products and lots of serums.
I popped in and met this wonderful older Korean lady whose skin you have to see to believe. She must be in her 60s but there are no wrinkles on her face. Nada. Zippo. I was browsing the Laneige and Iope ranges but she steered me towards Sulwhasoo. Fortunately, they had a special on at the time and I bought the Hydroaid Cream (NZ$130.00) and received a free basic skincare trial pack in a gorgeous peach-coloured bag.
The trial kit took about 2 months to make my way through. It contained the basic skincare range: Balancing Water; Balancing Emulsion; First Care Serum; Overnight Vitalizing Treatment; Eye Serum; and Ginseng concentrated cream. The First Care Serum is one of those legendary products like Clarins’ Beauty Flash Balm. The Korean lady also tossed in a sample of the cleansing oil and mask.
The thing about Asian skincare is this – it’s not just cleanse, tone and moisturise. It’s cleanse, double-cleanse, tone, moisturise and then add all sorts of things from serums to concentrated creams. What takes Westerners maybe three steps takes the Korean ladies seven or more steps. Seems a bit of overkill to me but you can’t argue when you see their skin. Asian ladies also favour double-cleansing to ensure all makeup is gone.
I liked the trial kit so much I then went back and bought the full-size First Care serum; Balancing Water; and Balancing Emulsion. The lovely Korean lady threw in another trial size kit for me, which I take on short-trips away. I bought the Moisture Liquid Cleansing foam later but have stopped short at buying the eye-cream. It costs around NZ$240.00 so I’m sticking with my usual Sisleya eye cream.
I suffer from mild rosacea, which is courtesy of my Welsh heritage, and I must say that my skin has really settled since using Sulwhasoo. The Korean lady was adamant that after (double) cleansing, you use the First Care serum, then the Balancing Water, then the Emulsion. So this is the 3-step process I follow. I’m afraid I haven’t extended myself to five or more steps.
So let me give you an idea of the products plus the cleansing foam.
Moisture Liquid Cleansing Foam 200ml – this is the foam version of their herbal soap. It has some unpronounceable ingredients – Jaeumdan and Jaeumbowidan – and also contains mulberry tree and Japanese apricot extracts along with mysterious Korean medicinal ingredients (up to 30 herbs apparently). I only need two tiny pumps to cleanse the whole face, including eye-makeup (although I use Neutrogena’s Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover). The cleanser comes out as a liquid, you add water and it lathers up into a creamy foam. The smell is hard to describe – it’s fresh and I think it’s a ginseng scent. The cleanser isn’t drying and my skin feels very soft after using it. Totally love this cleanser and will always buy it. You can buy it from Strawberrynet for NZ$65.00 – sounds a lot but this cleanser has lasted me for over four months and I have a fair bit of it left to go.
I then do the double-cleanse thing and I use The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Skin Clearing Cleanser with my Clarisonic Mia. I only use the Clarisonic at night but since using it (for about six months now), I’ve noticed my skin is less dull looking.
First Care Serum 60ml – it seems weird to start off with a serum but this product is designed to prepare the skin to better absorb the products that follow. It has the colour of golden syrup (or maple) and has a runny consistency to it. I use one pump in the morning and two at night. The Korean lady told me to warm the serum up in the palms of my hands, then press it onto the face. It has the same Sulwhasoo smell to it – sort of herbal with a whiff of ginseng. I slap it on all over the face and neck and am fairly well addicted to it. Ingredients are: Jaeumdan, Jeumboweedan, Astragalus Membranaceus and Jujube (no idea!). I was told that a bottle of First Care Serum is bought every 25 seconds and is known in Korea as Yoonjoe Essence.
Balancing Water 125ml – this is essentially a toner and has a gel-like consistency to it that I find very refreshing. It delivers deep hydration and, like the serum, absorbs quickly. Similar unpronounceable ingredients: Jaeumdan, Jaeumboweedan and Portulaca Pleracea. If it’s a hot day, I like to slap this on my face because it’s very cooling. On its own, I’m not sure what it really does but the magic occurs when it is used in conjunction with the Balancing Emulsion.
Balancing Emulsion 125ml – I LOVE this product. I have combination skin and usually, by the end of the day, I’m looking a little shiny in the T-zone area. Since using Sulwhasoo, I reckon my skin is less like an oil slick. The Emulsion is a creamy white moisturiser that isn’t greasy or heavy. I don’t need to apply much of this product because the Serum and the Balancing Water have already laid an excellent hydrating foundation (and yes, oily skin needs hydration too).
After completing these three steps, I find my skin feels very clean without that tight feeling some skincare ranges give you. I feel well-hydrated and really enjoy the herbal, ginseng smell of the products. The Ginseng concentrated cream is designed to be used after the Emulsion and I finished up the little trial-size pots. It has a weird smell to it and contains angelica, cnidium officinale and morus alba. I’d certainly buy this if I had a spare NZ$265.00. The sample Rejuvenating Eye Cream was fantastic but I really like Sisleya Eye and Lip Contour Cream, which I’ve used on and off for years and is about the half the price of the Sulwhasoo eye cream.
I’ve been using Sulwhasoo for around five months now. I didn’t take the range with me to Rome because (and it’s a drawback with the brand), the bottles are glass and on the heavy side. The design of the bottles is based on the Hanbok, a traditional Korean women’s dress, and are golden peachy apricot in colour. What I didn’t know until recently is that Sulwhasoo has a 60-year heritage.
Sulwhasoo is certainly no frugal brand but then again, after five months only the First Care Serum is starting to get towards the end of the bottle but still has a lot of life left. The Emulsion seems to last for ages as does the Balancing Water.
I reckon that Asian skincare will start to dominate the Western market and there are some really interesting Asian brands out there. The History of Whoo is one that I’m dying to try out – just take a look at their intricately-shaped bottles. I can buy their products from Cosme.De. Maybe when my Sulwhasoo runs out, I might try The History of Whoo now that I’m into Asian skincare!
READ ABOUT my updated skincare regime here.