Winter Dry Skin Cure? Korean skin care?

Extremely dry skin in winter has been my horrible reality since I moved to Denver over two decades ago.  High and dry, no matter the increased creams, water, praying and cursing, always about January – sometimes earlier – my face turns into a cracked, flaky mess. It gets so bad, I can’t put on the lightest foundation or it just flakes.  I don’t even want to talk about my hands.  Hourly reapplication of hand lotion is a must.

Korean skin care

After reading this article about Korean skin care, I’ve been on a mission before the worst of winter hits.  Okay, Anita calls it obsessions, but whatevs!  Yes, I’m obsessed with Korean skin products, not even kidding.  First, it tends to be less expensive than the very pricy European/American products we are awash in.  Second, the layering they do seems annoying at first and something I’m averse to, but the results are reported to be spectacular, and the pictures I saw bear it out. For me?  Well, we’ll see.  While writing this post, I ran across a NYTimes article about Korean skin care, and it looks like I’m on the trailing edge of this new trend by about a month or year or – how far behind on stuff is The Times?

Couple of things to know.

  • First – Korean skin care requires a LOT of products.  Yeah, a lot of them are pretty inexpensive. Some are mid-range’ish.  But the costs adds up.  What I’m doing is incorporating them as I deplete other products, and I am keeping some of my products that I love.  A nice thing about Korean skin care is a wide range of prices will net you a good product. Some are better, but you can get a lot of inexpensive items that will be perfection.
  • Second – Big deal with Korean skin care is cleansing.  Cleanse twice or three times.  I’m using Innisfree for my eyes. It smells great (olivey), it’s so gentle, but it really gets almost every speck of eye makeup off.  I follow that up with Tatcha Camelia cleansing oil.  Cleansing oil was a revelation. I had tried some other brand of cleansing oil once years ago and thought it was a mess.   Not sure if my face changed or it wasn’t a great product, but Tatcha is aaaaamazing.  It takes off anything, including some unused skin.  It’s gentle as can be, but it feels like everything that shouldn’t be on my face comes off, and I’m not left with tight skin at all, which is a huge plus in my bitter battle with winter dry skin.   Some sites recommend a foam cleanser too, and I’ve ordered Missha Super Aqua Foam Cleanser, which is also super gentle.  I wasn’t going to do a foam cleanser, worried about drying stuff out, but after my lovely experience with the Missha Time Revolution (below), I’m sold on the brand.

Okay, basics are covered.  Now your skin is clean. Time for the rest of the ritual.

  • Refresh.  I’ve always eyed the Sk-II Facial Treatment Essence, and I even got a small bottle and just never used it enough or been committed enough to shell out the bucks ($115 for 2.5 oz) for  a normal size bottle or the large one, not really got what it does.  But!  Missha Time Revolution The First Essence was compared to the SK-II, with the Missha coming out  soooo much better.  At $43, I figured it was a bargain and sprang for a bottle. OMG, it is so yummy.  After cleansing, you pour some in your hands and splash it all over your face and neck.  It just smooths things out, calms them down. It is this product that made me feel okay about trying a retinoid again.  My skin is just too sensitive and ruddy to take much retinol, and I freaked out using it and stopped.  Now I’m back on the retinol (Skinceuticals) and not worrying about getting excess red in my face from it.  If everything else works well enough, I may discontinue the retinol.
  • Cream, cream, serum, cream, more cream, serum, ampule, cream.  Just start slathering on a ton of my creams (using up what I have, some I’ll keep using).  I use some Rodan and Fields products I love – Redefine Night Renewing Serum and the Soothe day cream for sensitive skin.  I use Nia24 as well.  I’ve got some new Korean creams coming, but I don’t have comments about all of them yet since I don’t have them. One I did get is the Sum37 Water Full Timeless Moisturizing Cream.  Wow, talk about serious lasting hydration for the nighttime!
  • Special stuff – exfoliate and masks.  Exfoliation is a BIG deal for dry skin since the sloughy skin needs to come off, and it can’t be too harsh while it’s doing it.  I ran across this Cure Natural Aqua Gel.  It’s allegedly the best-selling product in Japan, which means it’s probably Japanese and not Korean, but let’s not quibble, everyone should have some of this in their face toolkit.  Nothing harsh in this, it’s some plant extracts. You smooth it on your face, wait three minutes, you’ll probably get some weird bubbling, and then just massage it in, then rinse your face off.   Use it like 2x a week.  I’m giving you the directions because unless you read Japanese, you won’t find them on the packaging.  $31 and a bazillion rave reviews, and I’m adding mine to a crowded love-fest.  This stuff is soooo cool.  Between it and the oil cleanser, I feel like my face is really sloughed of dead skin, but not harshly.  There are more exfoliation and masks, but I’m using up a bunch I have from Amore Pacific.  I won’t be trying more than just a few of the face paper masks for now.

What is the product that I’m sorta most in love with?  It’s one that Target is carrying – Amazon has it too – LaNeige BB Cushion in Natural Beige.  This product was a little worrisome at first, they don’t have a wide range of colors.  I found only beiges on Amazon, but I have heard that Target carries a Dark, not sure how dark that is. $44, and you get one refill. You take the sponge and  press it into your face. At first you’re thinking – really?  It’s soooooo light and moist.  Slowly but surely, as you press it onto your skin, those little weird places are covered, and your face looks dewy and luminous. Not oily, just fresh.

Listen, I don’t know that anyone has referred to my skin as luminous for the last decade, but after I put on the LaNeige, it is absolutely luminous and stays that way for quite a while and can get refreshed with some water refresher spray.

Better news, LaNeige BB Cushion has SPF50 built in, as well as softening, anti-shine and brightening skin products.  So it’s a treatment as well. Okay, some/most of you may have already been on board this BB Cushion thing, but I missed it until now.  It is GREAT coverage that is also light and doesn’t cake.  Genius.

It’s hard to pick which one of my new Korean skin care products are my most favorite, I love them all so, so much. I’ve got lots more coming – the ones that are coming from Hong Kong. Yeah, I went overboard… theoretically.  Normal Korean skin care routines are like 5-7 products in the morning and about 10 in the evening (this increases in winter).  I’m only up to like 4-5 each, with more in the wings.  I look almost, well, restrained!

I’m excited to see how it works out, and I’ve started to enjoy taking that 10-15 minutes in the morning and evening to take care of my face, neck and chest (wiping all excess on my hands, hoping for some miracle there as well).  It’s pretty zen all in all.

Confused about what to put on when? Order does matter somewhat, but rule is lightest stuff goes on first. So the more watery it is, the earlier you put it on.  Your last thing should be your thickest creams.

What I wish most is I could see all of your faces as you think about having 12-17 products a day applied to your skin.  Probably what mine would have looked like if I had not hit desperation point before this year’s winter hit.  It started there, but taking this much time on my face has been lovely.   It’s the old theory of fixing what’s under the hood instead of relying on paint on top to cover it up.  Peeling paint ain’t pretty, y’all.  I’ve never had terrible skin, but age and dryness are ready to start taking its toll, especially in winter. Time to fix what’s under the hood.

Progress reports to com on whether or not my Korean skin care game starts to reflect in my face.  With just a few days in, I can’t tell you that it is visibly different – too soon – but man it feels so moisturous and smooooooth.  This is all I want, really, TBH.

Aside – has anyone tried that Baby Foot thing? An exfoliant for your feet, you stick them in the little bags for two hours, pull them out, and all your dead skin gets, um, removed somehow, it allegedly starts falling off your feet over the next week.  I’m afraid to get it and that I’ll be too grossed out.

So will you try Korean skin care or have you tried it? Or no chance you’ll go through that many hoops even if you wind up with the skin of a teenager without the murder charge and crime scene tape around your house?

  • Petunia says:

    Hello Again Patty, I forgot to mention that if you are interested in viewing utube videos of a more mature lady, Sally Hughes has done some really good videos on Utube. She has a medical condition that causes her to have severely dehydrated skin but you’d never know by looking at her. Due to her condition, she focuses in on skincare like serums, etc. I don’t think she has presented on Korean skincare but you may enjoy watching them. I especially liked her videos on layering and also on serums. She even has one on her perfume collection. Thanks again!

  • Anne says:

    Tatcha is amazing – the cleansing oil is something I adore. It will remove any makeup (really, anything) and the end feels so soft. Bonus points for being palm oil free. Quite like one of their other cleanses too. I use some Korean/Japanese face masks, especially for travel. Too much cleansing rips my dry skin up though and too many moisturisers bring out the oily side of my dry. So balance is necessary. Mostly I use the Frankincense line of Neal’s Yard, because largely sustainable and does lovely things to my skin with minimal effort. Plus I like the smell of Frankincense. There are lots of other Korean bits and pieces I use.

  • Unpaletteable says:

    Ugh, Korean skin care is a massively enjoyable rabbit hole to fall down. I love how much more common it is to see actives, plant extracts and ferments right up at the top of the ingredients list, and often accompanied by a smaller price tag (compared to Euro/US skincare). Win win.
    One thing that has helped my skin in winter (the most?) is face oil….not as in cleansing oil but as in rosehip/argan/whatnot that you leave on your face. Actually adding a step to the Korean routine here!

  • tammy says:

    I had the MOST amazing skin for about two weeks while using the Tatcha enzyme powder; my skin was smooth and plump and freaking gorgeous. My husband even noticed and made comments every freaking day! Then one day, it started severely drying my skin out. The gentle one wasn’t any better. Even once a week.

    My skin is like that with lots of things, though. I can use something for a few weeks, then it either starts breaking me out or I don’t get the same results. Most moisturizers break me out, and all sunscreen does. Well, the sunscreen doesn’t break me out with zits, it’s more of an allergic reaction…itchy, burny, etc. And I think I am the only person on Earth who didn’t get good results from Paula’s Choice!They are very nice, however!

    Stuff with rose in it seems to be what works best for me. That Fresh face mask is especially soothing for me, I don’t even rinse it off. Dr Hauschka (sp?) rose cream is also pretty good for me, but I can’t use it daily. I have been tempted to try the Annick Goutal rose stuff, but at that price, I’m scared to bite!

    Have y’all seen all the Korean Beauty boxes available? It’s not all skincare, but they sure seem like fun.

    • Patty says:

      Oh, no! I have similar problems so tend to not use anything that often, except cleansers and a few serums/lotions. Changing them up seems to keep my somewhat sensitive ruddy skin from being really pissed of. 🙂 I love using masks! If you like rose, there is a discontinued rose stick cleanser that’s Korean, but it’s pretty available on ebay and Amazon. I’m going to try it.

  • Petunia says:

    Hi Patty, I’ve been using The Cure too. There is a blogger on Utube named Maddie who does tutorials about how to use Korean skin care. I did a little bit of research and there is a lot of love for this particular product. I have a hard time with Retinol too. I am particularly interested in finding a good serum so thanks for the recommendations.

    • Patty says:

      Isn’t that stuff unreal? I’m only using it like 2x a week, but I want to use it every day! I’ve seen a few of the youtubes, but need to see some more, I think. I wish someone were doing it that was older. It’s good to see them, but ever notice it is mostly 20-somethings that do these skin care youtube videos? I want to see the difference and routine for more mature skin.

      • Petunia says:

        The blogger that I mentioned has the skin of a newborn although she’s probably in her early 20s. It’s funny that you mentioned that they are all very young. I had the same thought. Although I find the Korean products fascinating, the products I’ve checked into have ingredients like dimethicone (sp?) which I try to avoid. If you’re interested in natural skincare, please check out the website for 100% Pure. They have excellent products and they do not contain gluten and other chemicals found in most lines. I have extremely sensitive skin and so far they have been really effective. I particularly like their coffee bean eye cream. It helps with puffiness. I hope that you and yours have a lovely Thanksgiving!

  • Janice says:

    I agree on the Tatcha Camelia cleansing oil. My face tends to be oily in places and it was so counterintuitive to use an oil cleanser, but it doesn’t leave any oily feeling at all. I also use their exfoliating powder afterward. I had tried a bunch of those “microdermabrasion” cream things and most of them left my face red and irritated, but this one is pretty gentle. Still experimenting with different serums and creams, thanks for the suggestions!

    • teri says:

      Janice, I had the same hesitation as you did regarding cleansing a face that had always been oily with an oil cleanser, but have been completely disarmed by the success I’ve had with the Tatcha cleanser and exfoliating powder. I’ve been using both for about two months and am thrilled with the results.

      I have what I’d call good skin for a 60-year old, thanks to glycolic acid, retinol, and religious use of sunscreen since I was in my mid-30s. But post-menopause, my skin is much more apt to dry out and losing moisture equates to adding wrinkles as moisture depletion ‘de-plumps’ my skin. As long as I clean my face rigorously and exfoliate regularly, good ole fashioned Vasoline works best as a night moisturizer. That someimes means I have to lay a hand towel over my pillow, but the stuff is amazing and you can’t beat the price.

    • Patty says:

      Janice and Teri, so glad you use that. I LOVE that Tatcha. It’s like the third biggest thing that is great that has happened to me in my life. 🙂 I may be exaggerating just a wee bit, but not much.

      i’ve got a week about on this program, and my face is transforming before my eyes. It looks better, it feels amazing, always moisturous and soft. If this keeps up through the winter, it will be a Korean miracle.

      Janice, I’m putting that Tatcha exfoliating powder on my wishlist for later. I’ve spent waaaay too much money in this rabbit hole already.

  • Eloquaint says:

    I live on the American tundra and have dry skin year round. During the winter it can get so bad that I get what I call “face dandruff.” I don’t think the Korean routine would work for me because my skin is sensitive and goes nuts if I try to put more than two or three products on it at a time, and everything has to be unscented.

    Prevage nighttime moisturizer by Elizabeth Arden is my magic bullet. Argan oil if It gets below zero. I should say when it gets below zero.

    • Alison says:

      Eloquaint, I live in the DC area and have a serious dry/sensitive skin problem in the winter too. For my sensitive skin, I went to a local African grocery store and bought a pound of shea butter. Yeah, it’s 100% shea butter from Ghana and is dirt cheap, no nice packaging or scents or additives, just the real stuff. I then soften it up in the microwave and mix in enough grapeseed oil (or oil of your choice) to make it workable, then pour it into a jar. Done. You will have enough to last a winter or two. I put it on right when I get out of the shower, and if it doesn’t all sink in I just blot it off in a few minutes. Hands, face, lips, legs – it takes care of everything.

      Not as aesthetically pleasing as some other products, but it’s cheap and it works!

      • Eloquaint says:

        Thanks-that sounds good; I’ll have to try it. I’ve tried straight shea butter in the past and not liked it because it seemed greasy and unwieldy to me. Maybe mixing it with another slipping agent would help.

    • Patty says:

      If you incorporate anything at all, I’d just start with the oil cleanser. That has been, srsly, the biggest one thing that I don’t know how I didn’t use it up to this point. It is the difference in my face so far. The rest? Helpful, probably great long term, but the oil cleanser is immediate. There are a lot of them out there with no fragrance.

  • mikasminion says:

    I am so glad the Korean skincare thing has become a thing here. Makes it so much easier to get new goodies. I love many of the Missha things and usually stock up when they have their big sales. I find that even the scented stuff doesn’t bother me and the Super Aqua Cell Renew stuff works really well for me even though it’s super light. The Time Revolution Night is great stuff too. I also really love the Benton Snail Bee products and Banila Clean It Zero balm cleanser. Of course, I have a zillion sheet masks and other fun stuffs to experiment with but those are the things that stay in permanent rotation.
    I do have a pretty steady relationship with some Japanese stuff too; the Cure Aqua Jel, Hada Labo UV Gel which is SPF 50 PA +++ and the best primer ever, and yes, Babyfoot. My husband really hates the Babyfoot thing and I have to admit, it’s pretty gross about day three of peeling but it works really well. If you do it, be sure to remove nail polish, soak your feet in hot water for an hour first, have them completely clean and non-lotioned, and I always leave them on for at least 1.5 hours, have a trash bag handy and remove the socks in the shower or tub (you do not want to skate across the bathroom on the gel), and do yourself a favor and buy the Large if your feet are US 8 or larger. I’ve never tried the U.S. version because the Lavender scent is so repulsive I just trashed them, but the Japanese ones work well. If you use them, remember to be patient. I always think about day four that I must have screwed up and then about day five the tops of my feet start to peel like I’ve had a sunburn and it all goes crazy from there. I think Etude House, the faceshop, and Holika all have a similar product and the Korean ones are sometimes cheaper but I haven’t tried them.
    Also, in the winter I top my multi layer skincare routine with Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Mask. I also use it as handcreme and eye cream and I never wash it off like a mask. I have quite a few PC products that I use within my Korean/Japanese/American/French crazy layering routine.
    Wow. Guess I should zip it but I obviously get pretty excited about keeping my skin happy, and treating it with multiple layers of actives and moisturizers works really well for me. Good luck! Hope you have great results too.

    • Patty says:

      Yes, an expert! I was hoping someone would be. I’m loving the missha stuff as well. Do they have their sales on their website? I’ve read good things about that Banila cleanser, as well as a discontinued sum:37 miracle rose cleansing stick that I found on eBay that some people swear by.

      So yes on the babyfoot? Okay, I’ve got it coming, and I love the detailed instructions, thank you!!!

      Oh, please don’t shut up. This is a terrible rabbit hole, but when a lot of these great products are like 9-14, I don’t mind stocking up. I haven’t ever used the Paula’s Choice stuff, not sure why.

      Do you think you can go too far with multiple actives, serums and moisturizers with a lot of stuff in them? I’m pretty excited by all the fermented products since I beleive completely in the power of fermented everything and glad it’s in skin care. I just don’t want to get too much doing too much and irritate my face. Though a nice mask seems to make everything all perfect again even when I might have went overboard!

      • mikasminion says:

        I used to have problems with actives causing irritation but layering them and doing my best to use them properly Ph-wise seems to have helped tremendously. Skin and Tonics blog hasn’t updated in ages but has some really detailed information on several of my favorites.
        BTW, Missha US is having one of their sales right now. 40% off so stuff will sell out fast.

        • Patty says:

          Yeah, I don’t find that I’ve got a problem with it so far, so I think you’re right on the actives. it’s all about the process and where you put them! I found Skin and Tonics. I love sokoglam blog and Wanderlust Project for great reviews of way too many products that I now want, even though I’ve got enough for now!

      • mikasminion says:

        Oh, and the PC stuff is mostly pretty great. I’m not one of the rabid fan girls but when my husband is stealing something from me regularly, it tends to be good. Their customer service has been great to me too. Had a product leak slightly once and called them to let them know as it was new packaging. Explained that 85% was still there and I didn’t actually need to return or anything and they still insisted on sending me a replacement bottle and told me to keep the original.
        The Lip and Body Balm, although it is tub packaging, is a year round staple and never goes to waste. The stuff actually moisturizes my lips for hours and doesn’t feel heavy or taste weird. Also, the BHA 9 as a spot treatment is almost a miracle even though it’s quite expensive. They will be having a 15% off site wide sale for Black Fri. I understand.

        • coriandersea says:

          Late to the comment party on this one, but YAY for the info! I need to get Baby Foot ASAP. I’m on the cold east coast (snowing right now, grrr) and I’m going to Florida for Xmas. I really wanted my feet to be in good condition for strutting around the pool at my parent’s house, so I think I really need to give this a try.

  • Nemo says:

    I hope this works for you! I have dry skin and Korean mom who is obsessed with skincare…so this article made me smile a bit 🙂 She is always buying me new lotions and stuff, but the only ones I remember to wear on a regular basis are the daytime face lotions and the creams at night (esp. in cold weather). Recently she’s given me several tubes of eye serums…maybe it is a hint?

    • Patty says:

      OMG, yeah, I bet your mom is trying to subtly throw you some shade and help. 🙂 Moms are good at that. Okay, so what does she use? We need your mom’s skin care regimen! I figure the people that grew up saturated in it know it the best, and I feel like I’ve got a few things okay, but want to know everything!

  • hajusuuri says:

    Oy vey – 17 products will drive me crazy. I’ll stick to La Mer…I know it is pricey but it actually works for me. That said, I’ll probably check out a few of the items you mentioned. Thanks!

    • Patty says:

      I think someone could stop short of 17, unless you lie in a hopelessly dry, cold, high altitude climate. I really do recommend the cleansers – they aren’t that expensive and the oil is amazing. And the BB cushion to avoid a heavy foundation but still get really nice skin tone evening. That would be the things I’d pick as the take-aways if you don’t want to do the whole bit or don’t need to or already have products you love.

  • donnakitt says:

    Wowza, Patty, your post comes at the perfect time! The dry air of the East Coast pales in comparison to CO but I’m sufferin’ from dry, dry skin and look forward to trying some of the products from your great
    list. So glad you’re feeling “dewy”!

    • Patty says:

      Oh, I know you guys get it too. I’m just not rolling over this year and accepting it. I don’t care how much crap I have to put on my face, I will NOT flake. 🙂 It’s my mission. spring/summer/fall are great, but winter is just awful, even when it’s not cold. It’s like all the moisture that ever existed gets sucked from my skin. It reminds us that we are high desert with, you know, snow. 🙂 Good luck, I hope you find something that keeps your face plumped with moisture!

  • Jennie says:

    I have recently discovered Korean products here in a new chain of shops in Australia, and have bought a CC cream, cushion blush and a face mist. I’ve been really happy with the quality of these products and they were not really expensive. I really like the wet cushion products on my skin, easy to apply and they don’t feel heavy.

    The shops also sell a small range of fragrances from Etude House and I have bought one or two of them – nothing super sophisticated but still quite lovely.

    • Patty says:

      Oh!!! I want one of those nearby. I need to look around at the Korean shops in Denver and ask my mom’s friend, she came from Korea, if she knows of stores out here. .

      Those CC and BB creams are amazing. I’m trying to figure out how I missed them. They are like the perfect tint. My mission now is to make my skin so creamy that I don’t even need a tint except as protection from the elements. 🙂 Etude is a great skin care line, too.

  • Amy says:

    I just added a bunch of these to my Amazon wish list, because I’ve been having the same problems with dull, dry skin. That Cure Natural Aqua Gel sounds magical! Have you tried Dr. Jart Ceramidin moisturizers? There’s a liquid that you put on first, and then a cream that goes over it. It’s been keeping my flakes under control.

    • Patty says:

      Hey, Amy. My skin is perking right up. I want to give it more time to put the seal of approval completely, but my early results have me so darn happy. My face feels plump with moisture. I’m hoping I can work the same magic on my hands, but I’m resigned to needing ipl on them. 🙂 I haven’t tried that moisturizer. I have one Dr. Jart product coming, I know the brand is pretty respected and interesting. I’m hoping to just avoid the flakes entirely this year! Except snow flakes.

  • Sun Mi says:

    I’m half Korean and I am waaaaaaay too lazy to do all of that. I was tempted to go to the new faceshop store though and start trying out some Korean make-up removers though. Perhaps that will be my downfall into the rabbit hole of Korean skin care…

    • Patty says:

      That’s funny. You know, the one area I would say everyone should try is the cleansers. That’s not a lot of extra time, you can do just the oil and the foam and call it good, use normal moisturizers. It’s that oil cleanser that is amazing. It is a rabbit hole. I’m trying not to look at the cute lip stains that come in kitty cat containers. I was totally unaware that Sulwhasoo was an expensive Korean brand. That kinda ugly packaging in brown just made me think it was nothing at all, so I had been tossing those or tossing them in my overflowing sample bag. I went digging through that tonight and rescued all those pricy samples. Very nice!