Your Asian Beauty Product Starter Kit

by Seres Lu

Sometime during the past few years we became preoccupied with understanding why Asian women seemed to have such flawless skin. Surely genetics can’t explain it all? Perhaps it’s all the Asian beauty products with skincare benefits, like the BB cream. Or the exotic serums that promise to address all our skincare concerns — past, present, and future.

The latest obsession is the 10-step Korean Skincare Routine (a marketer’s dream, by the way). But even as the hype subsides, you realized that 1) your oily skin has still not forgiven you for that essence-ampoule-mask-moisturizer-night cream stint you did, 2) your face looks just about the same as when you had a three-step routine, and 3) nobody’s got time for all that.

The truth is that the 10-step routine, along with other explanations, are all just expressions of something that Asian women do really well, and that’s being extremely aware of their skin and how they care for it. The revelation isn’t that they have something we Americans don’t, but that they do something we don’t.

So here, a distilled list of Asian beauty habits (only five!) definitely worth incorporating into your skincare regimen, and how to do them right so as to actually make a difference.

1. Double Cleansing

Good skin begins with proper cleansing. Remember, taking off your makeup is not the same thing as cleaning your face — it’s a two-step process! Oil cleansers are the best for removing makeup (especially if you have oily skin, because it won’t strip your face of natural oils, therefore causing even more oil production). Follow with a cleanser of choice to actually clean and purify the pores.

Tip: Massage the oil into your skin (dry face with dry hands), focusing on the areas where you are wearing the most makeup. Then add a little bit of water to get the oil to emulsify (turn milky) before rinsing off completely.


From Left: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, $27, Amazon; Shu Uemura Balancing Cleansing Oil, $71, Amazon; Boscia Make-up Break-up Cool Cleansing Oil, $36, Amazon


Facial mists are an on-the-go beauty must-have. Use a mist to prep your face for skincare and makeup application, but put on moisturizer before the mist dissipates to lock in hydration. You can also use it to freshen up during the day by spritzing it on top of your makeup to maintain that much sought-after dewy look. On a minimal makeup/no-foundation day, swipe a cotton pad over your skin after misting for a quick clean and glowing look.

Tip: Spray a little mist onto your makeup brush or sponge before makeup application. It prevents your tools from soaking up too much product and gives a velvety application.


From Left: Innisfree Green Tea Mineral Mist, $12, Amazon; Etude House Aloe Moistfull Soothing Mist, $16, Amazon; Caudalie Beauty Elixir, $16, Amazon

Sheet Masks

Your facial in a packet. I give it another year before these hit the North American market en masse. To get the most out of the mask, always exfoliate before using one so your skin can better absorb the mask serum. Once the mask has sufficiently dried, cover your face with a warm towel to add moisture back to the cotton sheet before swiping it over your neck and décolleté.

Tip: Put the mask on right after you shower when your pores are open and can better absorb the serum. You can also steam your face over a heated bowl of water or green tea if you are all about that beauty ritual.


From Left: Nature Republic Given By Nature Masks (7 PK), $13, Amazon; My Beauty Diary Masks, $14, Amazon; Sephora Collection Face Masks, $6, Sephora

Sleeping Masks

For the lazy beauties out there. Don’t fixate on the word “sleeping” — you can put this on at any time. Rainy Sundays or work-from-home Mondays are also ideal times for a masking session. Since these are often rich in texture, they also make great moisturizers for the winter time, especially if you have normal to dry skin. Again, the key is to prep your skin beforehand for better absorption: If you have time for a mask, you have time to exfoliate!

Tip: Does your pillow get more product than you do? Apply the mask 15-20 minutes before going to bed, the perfect amount of time for you to tap or massage the mask into your skin (this aids blood circulation in the face and is another favorite beauty secret).


From Left: Laneige Water Sleeping Pack, $24, Amazon; Skinfood Sleeping Masks, $29, Amazon; Korres Greek Yoghurt Sleeping Facial, $45 ,Sephora


Of paramount importance! Asian women are religious about sunscreen: They’ll wear it on overcast days, indoors near windows, and when traveling (especially flying, because you are closer to the sun). Skip on everything else, but not this, and feel thankful in 20 years when your skin is free of wrinkles and discoloration spots.

Tip: Have a stand-alone sunscreen. It’s stronger SPF and you’ll remember it as a separate step in your morning routine, even if you don’t wear moisturizer or foundation/BB cream.


From Left: Biore UV Face Milk, $13, Amazon; Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protector, $29, Amazon; Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen Tint, $44, Amazon

If you start to get antsy with only five steps, you can certainly amp it up to ten by adding tons of different essences — but as a fellow lazy girl? I say keep it simple.

Images: @shiseido/Instagram; Subbotina Anna/Fotolia; Kasia/Flickr