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Makeup vs. Skincare – which is more important to you?

The balance between skincare and makeup is interesting to think about. Do you spend more time, money and effort on your skincare products, or what’s in your makeup bag? Which do you think is more important? It varies from individual to individual, and, as I found out after moving to Korea, country to country too. I want to share with you my own skincare journey, and how it’s helped my self-confidence, and thus my approach to makeup.

My Teenage Beauty Routine

First, let’s backtrack a little. Hands up, I was one of those teens who threw astringent toners on my acne, rarely used a moisturizer, then proceeded to coat my face with a thick foundation (during my fake tan obsession days, said foundation was about five shades too dark for me), line my eyes with black kohl, and rarely go on a night out without false lashes. I remember a boy at high school, a friend in fact, pointing out the number of pimples I had, reducing me to tears. I would NEVER have left the house without make up on; the place could have been burning down and I’d have panicked about leaving bare-faced. Although the acne disappeared, with the weight piling on during my time at university, I seemed to reach for the makeup (and, again, a ridiculous amount of cheap fake tan) even more so, subconsciously trying to boost my confidence. Whilst I lightened the eyeliner over the years, I still wore reasonably heavy coverage makeup until the age of 22 – the age I moved to Korea.

Korean Beauty Crash Course

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- back home, and in the West generally, there’s a big focus on makeup. For the vast majority, skincare seems to come second, only becoming truly important when wrinkles begin to appear. Whilst I have noticed some developments and changes in this, in Korea, skincare has always been at the absolute forefront of the cosmetics industry. “Skin first, makeup second” is a common saying, and this idea totally changed my approach to my face. I’ve basically done a 180-degree spin, from very little skincare and a ton of foundation, to a full blown, carefully thought out skincare routine, and (usually) much more natural make up. And, honestly? I’ve never looked back.

With a lot of dedication to a Korean skincare routine over the past three years (and largely compliant skin- remember everyone’s skin is so different), my skin tone has evened out, my pores are clearer, and my face is one hundred times brighter than I ever imagined it could be. I’m aware that I’m fortunate to have left my serious acne behind in my teens and now only deal with minor monthly breakouts and redness. But I firmly believe that, whilst it can’t magically solve every skin problem, a Korean-style skincare routine (by this I mean layering, hydrating, and using specific products to address certain issues), can help achieve a wide variety of skin care targets that many of us are aiming for. Because I personally shifted my efforts towards my skin care, I can now wear less make up and be confident in my complexion. Skincare has become my go-to.

Skincare Comes First

The focus on skincare is reflected in everyday life here in Seoul. Pretty much every neighborhood has small spas/dermatologists/esthetician clinics. Jjimjilbangs (Korean bath houses to wash, scrub, and bathe at) are regular family activities for many. I distinctly remember a Korean kindergartner I used to teach telling me that I should be wearing SPF (she was pleased when I assured her I was). Consumers are extremely demanding, always wanting the newest ingredients and most innovative skin solutions. Living here really woke me up to caring for my skin, not just for vanity reasons, but also as a means of mental self-care, and (particularly with my then new-found dedication to sunscreen) for health reasons too. Seoul lifestyle altered the balance for me between skincare and makeup, with skincare playing a much more vital role in my life than ever before.

The Make P:rem SPF 50+ Sun Gel is a lightweight, gel sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast!

This sunscreen works excellently in two ways- it protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays, but it also lightly hydrates and preps my face for makeup. This is unlike many of the Western sunscreens I’ve tried in the past that left my skin irritated, with a white cast and greasy sheen. The Make P:rem sunblock is a high quality product, formed to work as part of a quick and reliable daily skincare routine- something the market here demands.

But Still, Makeup

My lighter approach to make up has also occurred because of the way Korean products are formulated and presented. They’re supposed to accentuate your skin and give a luminous, healthy glow. Hence the invention of the BB cushion in Korea. BB cushions allow extremely thin layers of product to be patted into skin with an air puff, giving a flawless, air brushed finish. I use cushions almost daily for a wonderfully natural, radiant look. On days when I’m dealing with more redness or breakouts, I use a thicker concealer on the pimples, but still stick with thin BB layers on the rest of my face. Where a dramatic eye or bold lip may be of prime importance in the West, it’s all about the chok chok skin in Korea, even for celebrities.
This is again apparent if you ever get a makeover in Seoul. The first time I did, I couldn’t believe the time spent prepping my skin before any makeup was even applied. Creams, mists, base products…the prep time is a crucial part of any Korean makeup routine. Glowing skin is the main aim, with everything else falling into place after this is achieved.

The J.One Jelly Pack toes the line between skincare and makeup

The J. One Jelly Pack, which I’ve come to see as predominantly a fantastic makeup primer, also includes fabulous skincare ingredients, again showing the way skincare and makeup interplay in Korea. It’s a unique product, with a tacky gel texture. It delivers moisture to skin, but also smooths out pores and fine lines, and really grips base makeup. It’s a truly multi-functional product.

I do still love experimenting with makeup, it’s one of my passions and I take time enjoying it. I continue to use some Western brands, and I love me some bold eye makeup or colorful lipstick. But overall, I guess the true change is that because of my skincare, I feel much more confident in my natural look. If my skin is playing up, I try to fix the problem with skincare rather than ashamedly painting on as much foundation as I can. I’m happy to leave the house with no makeup, or, if I have some particularly nasty breakout, I leave the house wearing pimple patches (yes, really, I can barely even believe this myself). Again, that shows the extent to which my mindset has changed. I work on fixing the pimple, rather than just hiding it and hope for the best. That’s how my own personal relationship with skincare has developed in Korea. It’s helped my confidence, and in turn, my approach to makeup has dramatically shifted.

Has your dedication to a skincare routine changed your relationship with makeup? I’d love to hear how you balance the two!

Get your glow on,

Katherine Spowart is a Brit based in Seoul, South Korea. She lives, breathes, and sleeps K-Beauty, sharing her experiences on Instagram @skinfullofseoul and her blog Katherine’s true loves include prosecco, sheet masking, any food topped with cheese, and discovering new corners of the fast paced, ever changing, Korean capital.

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  • Raquel Gutierrez Apr 25, 2018 11:32 pm

    skin care to me have always been important, spf a most but the past 6 years i kinda stop caring for my skin as much and it sure have its concequences. my skin started to feel dry, descolorares and fine lines started to appear.It wasn’t until a year ago that o started caring more for my skin as i did during my teens years and discover korean products, lol i actually spend a entire night washing youtube videos from Rene (gothamista) before going into labor about the importance to care for your skin and different Korean products.

  • MiaAdora Jan 16, 2018 5:58 am

    I am using MiaAdora's product few month ago, Now my skin becomes much glowing and softer.I love my new skin.

  • Dawn Aug 7, 2017 9:37 pm

    oh you're so beautiful!!!! When I was teenager I never use skin care xD

  • gzcanvardpackaging Jun 12, 2017 5:38 am

    Firstly, you are beautiful. Secondly, you are right. skin care is more important than make up. We need to do some steps to protect our skin firstly before do the makeup. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ema Watson May 8, 2017 3:33 am

    Wow! What a great post, I am also 22 years old girl and looking for a blog like this. I really like it very much. Skincare plays very important role in women's life. I definitely going to include your tips in my schedule. Please keep sharing like this.

  • LoveforKbeauty May 4, 2017 3:22 am

    In Sweden we love the sun (since it is away for most of the year) and when spring and summer comes people love sunbathing (usually with very low or no protection at all). That was me as well when I was younger and didn't know better (now I am old and wise:-)). Today I would definitely say that skincare is most important, why add a lot of product to hide stuff if you really don't need to hide it at all.

    • Dawn May 18, 2017 1:57 am

      Good point. Skincare is not just cosmetics but also culture. Western cultures love the fit tan look. In Asia, they teach you to avoid as much sun as possible!

  • cecibeautytherapy Apr 27, 2017 4:49 pm

    I definitely learned about makeup first before skincare in the USA. Seabreeze astringent was the first "toner" I ever owned and didn't even use that routinely either. Sunscreen was only used in the summers but only for big beach or hiking days. It wasn't until Missha had their first brick and mortar stores in NYC maybe 8 years ago that I learned what a peeling gel was and only bought it because the concept of seeing my dead skin cells peel off was so darn cool. Come traveling internationally in Asia and seeing more of Asian skincare that bought my first emulsion and hydrating toner and it changed the texture of my dry patchy skin to smooth and bouncy. Now it's definitely skin first baby!

  • Regina Scott Apr 27, 2017 12:13 am

    I started the Korean skincare routine a few months ago because I'm in my mid forties and I didn't like what I was seeing! I'm now loving my skin! It's become so much softer, smoother, healthier looking. I've also cut back on foundation, many days only using eye makeup since my skin looks wonderful without it. I tell anyone who asks what I've changed about my skincare routine. I'm also instilling it into my kids so it will be a normal thing for them to take care of their skin first.

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