Korean Skin Care FAQ’s

question mark snail
I Googled ‘question mark snail’ and this is what came up, which I think is funny. It’s a t-shirt design you can get here.

First things first: I’m not an expert. I’m barely an enthusiast. I’m a grad student who’s done a lot of research in her time, so when I want to know more about something, I generally know how to find good sources and how to mostly sort the over-hyped crap from the reasonable claims. Experts on skin care would be facialists, professional makeup artists, dermatologists, and other people who have made a career out of the study and practice of knowing what’s good and bad for people’s skin. If  you want expert advice, ask them. If you want the true story of one person who’s used some of these products and how those products have worked on that one person, you’re in the right place. Personally, I like a nice mix of personal anecdote and professional research-based opinion.

Here are some of the questions I asked myself while I was researching this, and what I found out through Google, various other (more professional than this one) skin care blogs, and what friends have told me.

Does this add hours to your morning routine? Weirdly, no. That was my biggest fear going in, because Lord do I love to hit the snooze button. But no, once I figured out what I needed to do and how to do it, it only takes an extra ten minutes, tops. How good I feel and how great my skin looks is more than enough payoff for skipping one snooze cycle. In the evenings, it is SO nice to spend a few minutes pampering myself and taking the day off. Sometimes I’ll brew a cup of tea and sip it in between layers of face stuff, so I can go to bed fully relaxed. Who doesn’t deserve that?

Why are so many of these products focused on whitening skin? To understand this, it’s important to understand Korean culture – something my fiance excels at, because he lived in South Korea for two years and his job involves lots of knowledge of southeast Asia. According to him, looking good is very, very important in South Korea, as the culture there is highly competitive. If you don’t look a certain way, it can be hard to get jobs, dates, etc. People can be publicly critical of another person’s looks, and lots of South Koreans get plastic surgery at a young age.

But an actual Korean is a better reference, so here’s a blog post where a Korean person answers an American’s question about Koreans and their avoidance of the sun. Basically, pale skin is seen as desirable, and this is something you can find in many, many cultures, from India (Fair and Lovely cream, anyone?) to Latin America. There’s probably some undertones of Western imperialism in that mindset, as well as reminiscences of older class structures, where poor people were tan because they had to work out in the sun, while rich people had the privilege of staying indoors and not getting dark. In a culture that values youth and beauty, having flawless, bright-white skin is just another way of showing the world that you’re one of those desirable people with desirable traits. My Western sensibilities want to go, “What a load of crap! People should be more accepting!” But I’m a Westerner, and my opinion is based on my life and my culture, which doesn’t really apply to people in Korea and how their culture influences their definition of beauty. I hope that clears it up a little, but I encourage my Fledglings to be informed world citizens who are willing to learn about other cultures and who approach our differences with open minds and hearts.

Speaking of culture: Is this appropriation? I had to wonder that the other day, as I was reading about Coachella and how we’re somehow STILL not done with white people wearing Native American tribal costumes as fashion accessories (as a Native, please stop this, you look idiotic and it’s really disrespectful). From what I can tell, as a minority and as someone who tries to be as kind to others as possible, I think it’s up to the culture in question to tell the world whether something amounts to appreciation or appropriation. Part of the reason I link Peach and Lily and SoKoGlam so much on here is that they’re businesses run by Asian-American women, and I think that if we’re going to appreciate (and not appropriate) another culture and how they can benefit our lives, going to that culture, not to a Western knockoff, is a good place to start. Different people may have different opinions on this, but that’s mine. I’ve done a LOT of reading up on Korean skincare, and I have yet to come across anyone from Korea crying foul on Americans using their skin products. If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Would the snail mucin and bee venom make these products un-vegan? I’m not vegan, but from what I know about the lifestyle, yes. In that same vein, it’s important to look for product lines that don’t use animals for testing. Thankfully, there are several lines of plant-based and cruelty-free Korean skin care products. As always, do your research. It feels great to know your purchases are in line with your values.

Will snail mucin aggravate a shellfish allergy? I didn’t even know this was a question worth asking, since I don’t have a shellfish allergy, but my bestie does! She’s also Jewish, so keeping it Kosher is important in her beauty purchases. Turns out that, yes, if you’re allergic to shellfish you might also be allergic to snails. My advice? Run it by your doctor or dermatologist, or err on the side of safety and don’t use the snail stuff if you have a really bad allergy. Why risk something awful happening where there are plenty of non-snail moisturizers out there? Don’t play fast and loose with your health, Fledglings.

How do I know if I’m allergic to a skin product? I’m definitely not a doctor, so when something weird happens with my body, I go find a doctor and ask them. I would say, if you’re using a product and you get itchy or blotchy or start swelling, use some common sense: stop using the thing (stop the whole routine if you don’t know which product is causing the reaction), and get your medical doctor on the phone, pronto.

How long did it take you to see results? I think my skin felt nice after the first round of it, but I’ve been doing the full routine for a couple of months now, and I’m really starting to see results. Based on everything I’ve read, consistency is the best predictor of success. Stick with it, morning and night, and you’ll get results as time goes by.

And there we have it! That’s my small take on Korean skin care and why I love it so much. I highly recommend doing some research, and as I try new products I’ll definitely be giving reviews on here, so keep checking back. Next week, in preparation for my Hawaiian honeymoon next month, I’m going to talk about swimsuits! I’ll go over what I’m seeing as I shop, what I’m loving and what I’m finding frustrating, and some special tips and links for us busty ladies. Not all suits are created equal when you’ve got big boobs, guys. See you next weekend!

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