Five must-haves to get into Asian beauty products
I’ve sung the merits of a lot of Asian beauty products since I’ve moved to Asia and a whole new world (*sings*) opened up to me. Here’s my ultimate list for you if you’re just starting to dip your toes into the wonderland that’s A-Beauty! I’ve tried to make this list as inclusive as possible and chose products that should work for every skintype, skintone, age and gender, so have a peek into my five Asian beauty must-haves!
Most Asian countries I’ve been to have been hot and humid. But that’s a good thing! Because, you see, they develop beauty products that stay on through a monsoon. I discovered the heroine make Volume and Curl Mascara super waterproof and haven’t looked back since. First, it does really give your lashes some volume and holds a curl. Second, when they said ‘super waterproof’, they did mean that. I’ve worn this on city trips where I was a hot mess 30 minutes after venturing out of the door, on the beach, to the pool, while swimming in the ocean, on nights out and when I cried two hours through a movie (won’t tell you which one!) and this mascara has stayed on without smudging. (Reviewed here.)
The downside to that is, though, that you need a very good remover and some time to remove it. It has an interesting looking brush with bristles on two sides. My only point of critique is that the formula is slightly too wet (and it doesn’t thicken with time) and I have to hold my eyes open without blinking for a time until it has dried down on my lashes. But if you’re looking for some serious staying power, this is it.
Lip tints have been hot in Asia for some time and the trend doesn’t seem to be vanishing. There’re tints in all forms and formulas, but the classic version is the liquid one that is either glossy or satiny upon application and wears down to a stain. It’s no secret that my favourite lip tint brand is peripera. I enjoy both their original formula that goes on glossy (peri’s ink) and the maybe even more known ‘velvet’ formula that applies with a bouncy satin finish. I’ve written about them numerous times before and I still think they’re great, especially if you’re not the matte lips type usually (I’m not).
These stains don’t reduce your lips to shrivelled raisins, and give them a really nice, cushion-y look. The stain is truly awesome, too – whenever I swatch them, I run around with reddish stripes on my arm for the next two days. (Don’t be afraid, though, it doesn’t last as long on your lips.) Their new line, Airy Ink Velvet, falls a bit short for me, though – the formula seems a bit dull.
Nevertheless, I wish they would branch out and introduce more colours to the lines but the standard reds, pinks and oranges. I also wish they would dial down the rather heavy scent (gummi candy, for my nose) that thankfully doesn’t linger long. If you wear them full on (like I usually do) or dabble in the Asian ombre lip look, you won’t be disappointed.
We’ve heard so much about the K-Beauty 10-step-routine that even the name ‘essence’ will strike a bit of fear in beauty lovers’ hearts who aren’t totally into skincare. But fear not, dear reader, because essences are awesome and super easy to incorporate into your skincare regime aaaaaand will also be good for your skin (whatever your skintype). Yes, indeed. If you follow an extensive skincare regimen, the easiest rule of thumb would be to layer products according to their texture, from the most liquid and runny (toner) to the most thick and gloopy (moisturizer). An essence is usually applied after toner, and is patted into the skin (forget your cotton balls with this one).
Essences are usually used for a boost of hydration, brightening or firming. The most ubiquitous, though, are the ones that give your skin a moisturising boost, before you apply your serum. Another type would be the ones in the vein of the super-expensive SK-II essence with some kind of fermented extracts (often yeast) that are supposed to be anti-aging. Then there’ll be essences with Niacinamide that are great for brightening (NOT whitening) that can help with discolorations and uneven skintone. There’s something for everybody, really.
My favourites are Hada Labo’s gokujyun hyaluronic acid lotion that is great for hydration, and cosrx Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence – brightening, not whitening in spite of the name – that’s great for evening out your skintone with Niacinamide. (Reviewed here and here.)
Sunscreen is the most important step in your skincare routine, and it continuously baffles me how Western companies get it wrong all the time. Thick, gloopy, sticky formulas with a white cast? Hell no. Asian formulas (doubtless due to the weather again) are usually thin, nearly traceless and a pleasure to wear, even under makeup. That comes at a cost, though – the pleasant formula is often due to a high alcohol content (which I try to avoid), but it’s totally possible to find formulas that are as good without alcohol.
My favourite right now is A’Pieu Pure Block Natural Sun Cream 45SPF/PA+++ that’s a pleasure to wear. It’s a thin cream, lightly fragranced, that’s easily spread and sinks in quickly and plays well with every foundation I’ve tested it with, no matter if mineralized powder, cushion foundation or regular liquid foundation. Plus, it’s cheap, and easily available online. Win. (Also nice: Missha all-around safe block essence sun SPF45/P+++ – reviewed here.)
Fun, easy, cheap, and good for your skin – what other product can claim that?! No matter if you’re a skincare aficionado, a cleanser-and-moisturizer-girl, young or old – sheet masks are for absolutely everyone. There’re easy to buy, easy to apply, and give your skin the absolute basic thing in skincare – hydration. If you’re trying out a bunch of different ones (and that’s part of the fun!) have a look at the ingredients and make sure neither alcohol nor fragrance is high on the list. My recs for a sheet mask newbie include My Beauty Diary masks (cheap and easy to order on ebay), or Papa Recipe, whose rich essence and luxurious materials I adore.
Wanna go shopping?
I fully understand if you’re a bit wary of ordering cosmetic products on the internet from who-knows-where. But, good news, in many cases, you don’t have to! K-Beauty is slowly moving into Western established beauty retailers – you can get Laneige from Target, cosrx from Urban Outfitters, TonyMoly from Douglas, or Too Cool For School from Sephora for example. On top of that, there’re some trusted online retailers out there that I (and other A-Beauty lovers) have used without any problems, namely Roseroseshop, Jolse, Stylekorean. So there you are. Easy peasy, and a whole new world (*breaks into song again*) is out there waiting to be explored!
If you ever find yourself in the area, we have compiled a few helpful guides for you! There’re our shopping guides for Singapore, Hongkong and Seoul and the tales of my beauty shopping here in Shanghai (say hi when you’re in the city!). There’s also a post on the latest and greatest lip products in Indonesia.