How do I get into skincare and not go broke?

In the world of Asian skincare, sometimes it seems like the person with the biggest collection wins.

Maybe it’s because it’s so much fun to engage in the community and chat about products, or the thrill of getting a new goodie (or, you know, an entire box of them). But dipping your toe into the world of Asian beauty gets people addicted fast, and that’s how you end up with a bathroom cabinet like mine (pictured above). My boyfriend is worried I’m going to take over the top shelf soon, and he has reason to be concerned.

That said, I’ve acquired this little library over the course of three years of collecting products, and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that I don’t need or really adore half of what I’ve bought (although I do love everything in my current cabinet). It is my humble belief that impulse buys in the world of Asian skincare will more often than not bite you in the ass.

Sorry, I got distracted by boys again.

What I’m about to tell you is something that you may not read on a lot of skincare blogs, something that no one with an Asian beauty addiction wants to hear.

You don’t need new skincare all the time.

There! I said it! Any true Korean beauty devotee would kill me. The beauty scene there is all about what’s new, hot, and hard to get. And I’m excited about new products, new lines, and new retailers selling them. My Instagram is full of beauty accounts, and I delight in them all. Ten steps? Why not add a few more? Layer on the product until you turn into a snail yourself!

As fellow beauty blogger Snow White and the Asian Pear so succinctly puts it in her post “The Painful Path to K-Beauty Wisdom: 7 Mistakes Beginners Make,” the first and worst mistake a person can make when they are getting into the world of Asian beauty products is to buy EVERYTHING. And I say that because I did it, and I regretted a lot of those decisions because money was wasted.

So how do you get into Asian beauty without blowing a huge wad of cash? Simple, simple, simple.

  1. Research.
  2. Don’t believe everything you read.
  3. Choose for your budget and trust there’s a good product for it.
  4. Weigh decisions for 48 hours.

I’ll explain.

But I don’t wanna research. I just want to buy stuff!

So what if you’re just starting out, and you don’t want to research? You just want your skin to look better NOW? I feel you, because I’ve been there too. And you can do as I did and buy stuff just because it looks so pretty (and it does, it REALLY does) or someone else says how good it is. I can’t tell you how many cute cosmetic items I bought before I realized that many of them didn’t really have much else going for them other than the packaging.

Falling in love with ingredients (via research) is, in my opinion, one of the keys to k-beauty culture and an experience that resonates out through the rest of your life. For instance, I find myself reading more labels at the grocery because now that I am careful about what goes on my face, I also think more about what I put into my body. Today I washed my hands at work, noted they felt dry, and thought “I’m probably using soap with a mega high pH.”

It’s cliche, but knowledge is power. So you can spend hundreds of dollars trying to hit on the right combo of products, or buy every new thing that a beauty blog raves about. But if you decide you want to do it right, and you can resist the siren song of shiny new bottles, learn what the star ingredients are and what they do (especially the highly unusual ones!). Do your homework, and in the end you’re more likely to end up with something you’ll use again and again.

Don’t believe everything you read?

Well, let’s put that another way: Take what you read with a grain of salt, because each person’s experience with Asian beauty is completely different (or as my beloved Asian Beauty subreddit says, YMMV — Your Mileage May Vary). For me it’s frequently a godsend, but when I bought the highly coveted Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, it broke me out so badly I had to throw it away.

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By the next day I had twice as many. It was bad.

Does this make that cleansing stick bad? No. But did a product that so many other bloggers raved about work magic for me? No. But I don’t think it’s a bad product. It is, however, a great example of how what’s right for you has nothing in common with what’s on trend atm.

A product for my budget?

I grew up thinking “good” skincare was expensive. So I saved my money and tried Chanel. It was nice but my face didn’t glow, so I never got it again. I also tried another professional line recommended by my esthetician called Jan Marini. It made me horribly dry and made my hormonal acne much worse. I recall my frustration as I spent hundreds on these product lines and nothing worked to help my skin stay clear and stop hurting from dryness.

One absolutely brilliant thing about Korean skincare (and perhaps Japanese too, I need to be better educated on that so shout out if you can lay some wisdom on me) is that you can find highly effective products for extremely low prices. Many of my tried and true items, such as Etude House Real Art cleansing oil, are under $15. Most fall in the $20-$30 range, but it’s great to know I can spend much less and still find quality products. With the high competition of the Korean skincare industry, you can expect a lot of good regardless of the brand’s price point.

Wait 48 hours? Why?

Because if you still want it after that, it probably wasn’t an impulse buy. If you’re still thinking about it, you’re truly interested. How’s that for handy?

One last thing: There’s an undercurrent to skincare addiction I’ve noticed that I think is worth addressing: The race to have the best, newest toys. Being a person who didn’t really fit in growing up, I think this strikes a huge chord with me and reminds me of that longing to be popular. However, there’s one thing I have learned: A passion for K-beauty does not have to be synonymous with competition. If it makes you happy, buy one product a month, or buy 30. Bottom line, make sure you’re into it because you really adore every moment of it, not because you gotta keep up with the trends. Don’t go broke. Choose with care and get to know your own skin so well that you learn what a precious thing it really is.

Blaze your own path through the K-beauty universe, and your face will be so luminous the moon will be envious!

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