Finally someone who loves Korean Skin care as much as me. I love me some CosRX, and they're cruelty freeUh oh...you guys discovered my other know-it-all obsession (besides personality typology)....skin care ingredients.
Can we say, "tertiary relief hobbies"?
I went into an Innisfree store when in Seoul. I found their prices comparable to Etude (which I use more for makeup than skincare). Just like with skin care from other countries, there can be gimmicky ingredients, but the same basic good ones you will see over & over in similar products from Korea. That's kind of why I said that you can almost pick any moisturizer or product and it will be pretty good, and much better than anything in the same price range from the US. Most Korean brands tend to use emollients (read: ingredients which hold moisture to the skin, which serves as a protective barrier and will make you skin smoother/softer) which are not pore-clogging and often are soothing, so it is nice if you are acne prone but also sensitive (and wanting anti-aging...what a combo ).
Example - I see Innisfree has an "orchid lotion" which promises to even out skin tone (aka often called "brightening" or "whitening" in Korea) among other things, and it seems to credit this to some special orchid from JeJu, but really, the key ingredient for that claim is Arbutin, which is considered to even out skin tone better than, say, Vitamin C, which is often used in products sold in the US. The orchid extract is probably similar to "camellia sinensis leaf extract" (aka green tea), which is a great anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant & also used a lot in the US.
What I like about Korean skincare is how they use a lot of proven ingredients in one product and often avoid irritating ones. They are formulated to actually do what they say (barring expectations for miracles). So once you identify your skin needs, then look for products which claim to "treat" that and start noting what is commonly used; then you can find stand-out products that maybe have something a bit extra or whatever. You probably will notice a ton of products are essentially the same and it may come down to personal preference.
My other advice is to avoid products with high alcohol concentration (it will be high up on the list of ingredients). It is often used to aid absorption and as a solvent, but there are better, less irritating options and many Korean products use those options (ie Propanediol or Butylene Glycol, which seem like waaaaay better alternatives, from what I know). If it's towards the bottom of the list, then it's probably ok.
I am not an expert on ingredients, but I always read labels and will look up a lot of ingredients, so over time I have built a sense of what is "good" and what works for me specifically too.
I think it depends on what your goal is... I haven't seen that site before & generally order from Cosmetic Love or Cupidrop (US shipping - cheaper/faster), but they have some similar products to what I have tried. Looks like a good option to order from. Memebox looks good too, and seems to have cheap/fast US shipping (?).
So an example of how to determine a better product... that site has an "aha & bha daily clean toner" by Miza that serves the same purpose as the BHA & AHA serums I get from CosRX (although they are separate products & this is one), but the CosRX is a little simpler and has a natural form of BHA (BHA = salicylic acid = white willow bark) which my skin seems to tolerate better. Even more importantly - the CosRX ones don't have alcohol (but some CosRX products DO). So those are little differences to look for when choosing a product.
Most ampoules*/emulsions/serums/etc are something between a toner and a moisturizer, and they may simply contain concentrated ingredients for a specific purpose and will absorb faster than moisturizers. These can be good for morning routines as the moisturizers are often pretty heavy and better for night. But again, it depends on your skin and what effect you desire. *Some ampoules seem really sticky and may be better for night.
If you are looking for anti-aging and/or have sensitive or dry skin, then snail mucin creams, collagen* creams, and honey + propolis creams are good options. Many of these will also include the hyped hyaluronic acid. Anything that has a lot of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories (often plant extracts) and vitamins is a good bet. The B vitamins, vitamin C & E are good to see in a list (look up the other names they go by too). I like to see licorice extract, niacinamide, allatonin, and green tea cuz they are very soothing (and niacinamide helps with discoloration).
* Skin won't really absorb the collagen, so it's not promoting collagen increase in skin. Instead, the collagen gives the cream a jelly texture that feels light and creates a protective, moisturizing barrier, IMO. This can have a plumping effect in its appearance. I find it wears well under makeup too, much better than silicone primers.
For a face wash, there are many PH balancing face washes, since apparently most water is not balanced, which is why it can leave your face dry/tight. So any gentle PH balancing face wash is a good option, IMO. Since face washes don't sit on your skin long (you obviously wash them off), then focus on the fancier ingredients for toners/emulsions/moisturizers, etc, as those actually absorb into your skin.
The reason I am talking ingredients is because, as I noted above, there will be many good products once you know what ingredients to look for. I hope that isn't overwhelming...
- Makeup remover (Night): DHC cleansing oil - this one happens to be olive oil & was originally a Japanese brand. Similar Korean products out there. I like cleansing oils for makeup removal, as long as they rinse clean.
- Facewash (Morning & Night): CosRX Low PH good morning gel cleanser
- Toners/Serums (Morning & Night): CosRX BHA blackhead power liquid & CosRX AHA Whitehead Power Liquid, sometimes Etude AC After Balm Cleanup (for active breakouts & hyper-pigmentation post breakout)
- Light Moisturizer (Morning) - Etude super collagen moisturizing cream
- Heavier/Layering Moisturizers (Night) - CosRX snail emucin and/or SCINIC honey ampoule
- Eyes: a vitamin c serum in morning, at night a vitamin c serum followed by a heavier eye cream (or just use a heavy moisturizer, which is all most eye creams are)
Maybe once a week I do a sleep pack (like a lightweight mask you wear overnight but without paper; it's like a moisturizer that leaves a film you have to wash off in morning) and/or a face mask (the actual paper mask you leave on your face for 20 min or so).