Friday, August 26, 2016

Is your skin dry or just dehydrated?

I've mentioned that I've been experimenting with some K-Beauty practices. One of these is double-cleansing. I've become a huge fan because, although I frequently skip putting on makeup, there are very few days where I'm not wearing sunscreen. Maybe when I'm trapped indoors, in February, with the flu. At all other times I have SPF30 or higher on my face. And these high SPFs take some removing, as is only right.

I mean, if the things are water-resistant and sweatproof, they're designed to stick around. But getting them all off at the end of the day is the secret to happy skin free of milia.

The other Korean thing I've been doing is layering my moisturizers, using a variety of K-Beauty (or K-Beauty-inspired) essences, toners, serums, and whatnot.

K-Beauty's baffling jargon

Even though I've purchased two books about K-Beauty and regularly haunt the Asian Beauty subreddit as well as various K-Beauty blogs, I'm still a newbie.

K-Beauty has a steep learning curve partly because the terminology is different. For example, when Korean companies say "toner," they don't mean a pore-puckering astringent designed to blast every bit of sebum off your face.

What are essences?

Essences are thin, watery products that you apply after cleansing and before any additional moisturizing. Some people use a cotton pad, others pour a few drops of the softening lotion into their palms and pat it in. That's the approach I use, because I'm damned if I'm going to spend $90 on a bottle of do-good water only to have most of it end up on a cotton pad in the wastebasket. 

What good do they do?

I could quote a ton of vague-sounding language derived from bottles, ads, books, and blogs, but I'll spare you. Some of these lotions contain active ingredients designed to treat wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation, but basically, these products are designed to hydrate the skin without occluding it. For years, I've been treating my skin as though it were incredibly dry. I've been lavishing all kinds of rich creams onto it. But it turns out it responds very well to these watery Korean potions.

Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion, 5 oz. $96

I started this particular skin care adventure with a sample size of this Estee Lauder product.

Then I branched out. Eudermine lotion is the oldest product produced by Shiseido. It has been around since 1897. I figured if it was the first, and it's still in production, it must be good stuff.

Time travel, Shiseido-style.

Just look at that bottle. This is beauty history, people!

Eudermine Revitalizing Essence, 6.7 oz. $79

Eudermine is a watery, slightly-silky-feeling lotion that smells faintly of peonies. Using it is pleasant, although that glass stoppered bottle is extremely non-travel-friendly.

And then, because it is highly touted by Asian beauty bloggers, I picked up a bottle of Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence.

Missha Time Revolution Intensive The First Treatment Essence, 5.3 oz $26.37

Missha is supposedly very good at coming up with dupes for other, much more expensive products—in this case, an SKII essence that retails for $39.60 an ounce. Which is twice as expensive as the Estee Lauder product I tried.

So OK. I've managed to try essences from three different countries, which sell for three different prices. Here's what I've learned:

1. First of all, like double-cleansing, this whole essence business started in Japan, and Korea needs to get over itself.

2. Essences make a very good moisturizer particularly if your skin isn't as dry as you think it is. Even if you have dry skin, you can use an essence as a hydrating first step, then seal in the moisture with a more occlusive cream. (I'm keeping this invaluable advice in mind for when the heat goes back on.)

3. The entrance of Estee Lauder into the field means that Western companies have caught on to the trend, are producing these products, and starting to market them to Americans. Naturally, Estee Lauder is charging Estee Lauder prices for these items, which means they are stupid expensive.

4. Other companies will soon get busy playing catch-up with Estee Lauder. Look for similar items to be marketed at the drugstore, if they haven't already gotten there. Recently I spotted an advertisement for a Neutrogena line which has been popular in Asia for a while and is finally being introduced here.

It's about time!


  1. I've been debating whether to order this one: CLINIQUE
    Even Better Essence Lotion for Very Dry to Dry Combination Skins

    My skin is super dehydrated from retin a, but most new products I try make me break out. Have you ever tried that one?

    1. Hi Jennifer--no, I haven't. But Clinique is a solid line that sells some excellent products. I'm a huge fan of their Moisture Surge gel/cream, for example.

      This product sounds tailor-made for you. Clinique is a part of the Estee Lauder company, and develops and pitches its products to a slightly younger demographic, and one that is more interested in measurable results dealing with clearing skin, either from acne or sun damage. It sounds like a good fit for your issues.

      The information on the Clinique website sounds promising--and they do a great job of explaining the purpose of an essence (better than I did!) but they don't list ingredients. Nordstrom, which does tend to include ingredients on their website, doesn't appear to carry this product.

      Retin-A tends to make skin more reactive, so if I were you, I'd check the ingredients to make sure there's nothing that could irritate your skin, and then perhaps start by patch testing it.

      I'd encourage you to try it out, though. It's likely to be fragrance-free, hydrating, and free of ingredients that could clog your pores.

    2. Thanks! I'll let you know when I get my hands on it, it's sold out on the Canadian site now. Sure wish they would list ingredients on their site...


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