- Sporadic pimples that don’t always occur in breakout clusters or groups
- Tight skin after cleansing face (before putting on a moisturizer)
- Forehead feels tight or even flaky but still has blackheads
- Glossy and oily skin before 12 noon or even by morning
- Possible dry patches on the cheeks or around mouth
- Several dry spots post-pop as a result of over-treating pimples
- Red and tender skin, especially the cheeks, after cleansing the face
- Possibly avoids moisturizers in attempt to reduce oil production
- Uses soap or facial cleansers several times a day
- Exfoliates the face more than once a week
- Uses a variety of products per category (using more than one cleanser, several types of scrubs and masks, etc.)
- Often switches from product to product
You’re very pro-active about getting rid of your acne, but no matter what you do, once a pimple goes away, another pops up in a different spot! Your skin care routine might feel like an endless game of Whack-A-Mole, but this could possibly be because you’re using way too many aggressive products and ingredients on your skin that may be hurting more than helping it.
The key with acne is to treat it gently and use the correct products in the proper doses. Luckily for you, I’ve created a nourishing and balancing regimen that will clear up your skin.
*I am not a dermatologist nor do I have extensive medical training. I cannot prescribe you any medications or drugs to address your problems. I am, however, a licensed esthetician that can recommend products according to your skin type. If you are seeking medical advice or a professional medical evaluation, please speak with your doctor or dermatologist.
Step 1: Remove makeup
It’s very important to cleanse not once, but twice. The first cleanse removes all your makeup, and the second cleanse removes the rest of the leftover dirt and debris.
Contrary to popular belief, using an oil-based makeup remover gives better results, and here’s why: oil has more lubrication, so you’re not irritating or pulling at your skin when trying to remove long-lasting makeup. This is crucial for areas like the eyelids, where the skin is thinner and more fragile. Oil also helps remove sebum build-up inside the pores, so you’re actually getting a thorough cleanse.
The best oil cleanser for you: The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Light Oil. This oil is non-comedogenic, so it won’t promote pore congestion or acne. What I love about this oil is that the rice water extract actually helps a lot with hyper-pigmentation and acne scars, something that people with deeper skin tones tend to get more often.
How to use: Apply a dime-sized amount and remove all face makeup, using circular massaging motions. Be gentle when removing eye makeup. Afterward, use cotton rounds to wipe off the excess oil, paying careful attention to the eyes. To remove eye makeup, swipe the cotton rounds in a downward stroke, following the direction of the lashes. Never pull sideways – this can irritate the thin eyelid skin and cause accelerated wrinkling.
Step 2: Cleanse
The best cleanser for you: Cosrx Low Ph Good Morning Gel Cleanser. Most cleansers have a high pH level (more alkaline), creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Your skin is slightly acidic, so this cleanser is a great way to control breakouts without drying your skin out. This is the perfect cleanser to rebalance your skin.
How to use: A little bit goes a long way. Lather up a pea-sized amount and massage into the skin.
Step 3: Treatment Mask
We’re going to skip the abrasive scrubs for now and focus on using liquid exfoliants that will effectively penetrate the pores and eliminate the oil and bacterial buildup. For now, we will skip this step and move onto a treatment mask. Clay-based masks can also be very drying if used often, so try to use this no more than twice a week.
The best mask for you: Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask. After several minutes, this mask explodes into a foam and your face turns into the Michelin Man. The product uses carbonation to thoroughly cleanse out the pores. My T-zone’s congestion is completely obliterated after using this! And the best part: although it’s clay-based, it’s actually quite non-drying, which is in your favor.
How to use: Apply onto the skin and wait 10 minutes. After bubbles have finished rising, gently massage skin and then rinse off.
Step 4: Tone
After cleansing, your skin is stripped of its protective barrier. More than likely, your skin won’t be at its normal 5.5 pH level. 5.5 is slightly acidic because the skin actually has what is called an “acid mantle,” or a protective barrier comprised of fatty acids. If your skin tends to be dry and sensitive, this is a sign of weaker acid mantle, meaning your skin is too alkaline. A toner helps bring your skin’s pH levels back to normal and creates a balanced environment for the next step in your skincare regimen.
The best toner for you: Skin Food Fresh Apple Sparkling Toner. This is a wonderful and refreshing toner that helps with oil control while rebalancing your combination skin.
How to use: Using a cotton round, swipe all over face and wait until dry before proceeding onto next step.
Step 5: Leave-in Liquid Exfoliant
If you decide to eliminate possible dietary allergy triggers like dairy, you will start seeing diminished red angry acne, which will make this step easier.
The best liquid exfoliant for you: Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. I am obsessed with Corsx’s liquid exfoliants and their BHA liquid has been the most effective at eliminating my congested pores.
How to use: Apply just like a toner: using a cotton round, soak round in product and swipe all over the face. Let dry. Similar to an exfoliating scrub, avoid daily use and try for every few days to once a week.
Step 6: Ampoule
Ampoules are another leave-in treatment that addresses specific skin concerns. Because it is far more concentrated than both essences and serums, I recommend using an ampoule during your nighttime routine in place of an essence or serum.
The best ampoule for you: Mizon’s Snail Repair Ampoule is one of the star players in my routine. I’m not joking when I say that when I wake up in the morning, my acne scars have significantly faded! This ampoule has anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, and healing properties thanks to the 80% snail secretion filtrate, which is just another fancy word for filtered snail slime. Don’t worry, there’s no funky smell or texture – it’s just a clear, viscous solution.
How to use: Drop a pea or dime-sized amount onto palm and pat into face until dry. Be sure to avoid physical contact with the dropper to avoid contamination.
Step 7: Spot Treatment
Korean products focus on nourishing the skin rather than stripping it, which is why there aren’t too many Korean products on the market. Proper exfoliation in previous steps are key to preventing pimples, but sometimes they can be inevitable.
The best spot treatment for you: I prefer Mizon’s Blemish After Cream over many other acne spot treatments on the market because it’s free of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, an ingredient that can increase hyperpigmentation and inhibit the skin’s ability to protect itself from the sun. Salicylic acid is often found in toners, so an additional spot treatment may cause the skin to dry out and become sensitive.
Mizon’s Blemish After Cream contains honey propolis extract, which has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that will simultaneously bring down redness and inflammation while killing bacteria at the same time. It also helps accelerate the skin’s healing process. Best of all, it doesn’t dry your skin out!
How to use: Wait until serum, essence or ampoule is fully dry. Distribute a pea-sized amount of product across all troubled areas and gently pat into the skin until absorbed.
Step 8: Pimple Stickers
The best pimple stickers for you: Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers. If you have any active pimples with a white head that are ready to pop or already have a few that are freshly popped, use a pimple sticker to cover it up. These covers are great for not only prevention re-infection but help to suck out all the pus and bacteria. This is a great way to stop yourself from picking at your pimples!
How to use: Pat affected area down with a clean tissue and make sure it isn’t too slick, or else the sticker will not stay put. Apply the appropriate size sticker and leave on overnight. Remove in the morning.
Step 9: Moisturize
We’re almost finished! This is the moisturizing step. For daytime, a lotion (or “emulsion,” as some of them are marketed as) is ideal since they are usually lighter in consistency.
The best facial lotion for you: Innisfree’s Green Tea Balancing Lotion is a watery and lightweight moisturizer that my troublesome skin actually reacts well to. My skin is hydrated from the get-go, but my skin doesn’t create excess sebum as the day passes (yay, no dinnertime oily T-zone!). I also absolutely love the subtle earthy smell!
Optional Step: Nighttime Mask
Sometimes your skin is in turmoil and you just know you need to do a little something extra to help it. When we sleep, our body works hard to regenerate and heal itself in every department, and your skin is no exception to that. Incorporating an extra step during your slumber can help boost your skin’s ability to repair itself.
The best sleeping mask for you: Laneige’s Water Sleeping Mask is something I have been using for years. Each time I use this mask I can see a huge difference in my skin when I wake up. My skin tone is much more even and the texture is extremely soft. This mask also claims to have calming properties that aid in sleep. I’m not sure how solid this claim is, but I’ll never forget the first time I put this on and immediately passed out in bed. I think it may have been the light floral smell… or perhaps just the long day I had at work.
How to use: When your skin is suffering or if you’re prepping for a huge event, use this the day before. After your moisturizer is fully absorbed, massage in a pea-sized amount of this mask right over your moisturizer until your skin soaks it up. Since it functions as an extra layer that seals in everything underneath, you don’t want to lay it on too thick and suffocate your skin. Leave it on overnight and then rinse off in the morning, followed by a moisturizer.
Step 10: Sunscreen
Sun exposure is the #1 cause of physical aging in the skin and is something that is also avoidable. Aside from wearing hats or staying out of the sun completely, sunscreen not only helps you age slower but also helps slow down the process of hyperpigmentation. Did you ever notice that after a day in the sun, your dark spots look even darker? The sun acts like glue to pigment and makes it harder for the spots to fade.
The best sunscreen for you: Corsx’s Aloe Soothing Sun Cream is a soothing sunscreen that is aloe-based, which will help to not only reduce aggravated skin but also hydrate it. It also has a huge amount of SPF and PA. SPF only protects from UVB rays, whereas PA protects from UVA rays. And you see those +’s? That’s actually a PA ranking: the more +’s the better. Just like SPF’s number: the higher, the better.
How to use: Apply all over face, neck, and all other areas exposed to the sun. Reapply every 2 hours – no ingredient remains active all day!
Optional Step: BB Cream
If you’re an avid makeup lover and can’t seem to put the foundation down, a BB cream is a great alternative to taking care of your skin while getting the coverage you need. BB creams serve as a foundation with hydrating and brightening effects and can also double as a sunscreen. While BB and CC creams have made their debut in America, Korean-brand BB creams have still remained superior to their American counterparts.
Fun fact: Many BB creams have a limited selection of colors, but that’s because they actually change color to match your skin. They may appear gray at first, but give it some time and some window light and the product will oxidize.
The best BB cream for you: MISSHA’s M Perfect Cover BB Cream is my all-time favorite BB cream. Not only is this formula hydrating (which is rare in a foundation), but the coverage is buildable due to its opaque color. You can apply it using your fingers for a natural look, or you can use a foundation brush for medium to full coverage. The second reason why I like this BB cream is that this line has colors in the deeper tonal range, something that most Korean BB creams don’t bother with – east Asians have very fair skin, so Asian manufacturers don’t see a need to formulate darker color options.
How to use: Pump a small amount onto the back of your hand, and using either your finger or foundation brush, apply it to the face as you would with a foundation. I personally like using my finger and blending it over dark spots for a more natural look. Give it time to oxidize, and then set with powder.
I hope you found this guide informative! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via email at contact @ theballeronabudget.com. I’ll be checking up on you to see how your skin is soon! In the meanwhile, please check out my other beauty posts.
Looking for more product options? Visit my complete 10-Step Korean Skincare Guide.