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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Crash Course: Korean Skin Care

Seriously.  This was 1980.
(http://imabeautygeek.com/2011/10/17)
When I was a young lady approaching the pivotal pubertal rites of Shaving, Deodorant, and Make-Up, CNN was just being born (shush, you young ones). When my friend’s big sister got on the bus the first day of 8th grade, my mental make-up map was complete: the sophisticated mid-Michigan
14-year-old should wear heavy foundation, a coat of glittering blue shadow, clumpy mascara, and clown-circle blusher.

(Yeah.  I’m also cringing now.)

As an impressionable girl, I embraced her example and commenced to slathering my own face in color and clumps.  Until college, that is, when my beloved Dutch roommate liberated me from the patriarchal American tyranny of oppressive cosmetic consumption.  Thus, as the years have passed, I rarely used make-up and ignored facial fashion follies.  Now, however, 30-some years later, I have two significant challenges to my intentional ignorance: (a) my daughter has reached the triple pubertal gates and (b) we live in the Skin Technology Capital of the Universe.  South Korea is supposedly 10 years ahead of the US in skin care science, and now that my face is getting, um, more experienced, the time had come to introduce my face to facial experts.




RuDa, just sitting in a coffee shop.
Enter my gorgeous TA, RuDa, who agreed to facilitate the introductions.  RuDa recommended going to a Real Make-Up Store rather than dashing into a local convenience store. I reluctantly agreed, assuming we’d just get some basic information. She had other ideas, however.

Lotte Department Store is the home of high-end make-up and clothing in our city.  The white-gloved parking attendants carefully direct customer cars through the garage and manage not to sneer at our sad old van among the common luxury cars.  




To say that Lotte is a department store is a bit misleading for my North American readers.  It's more like a very high-end street market, crowded with stalls and goods, only this is shiny and stately.  And, frankly, rather o.v.e.r.w.h.e.l.m.i.n.g. Here I present my Lessons Learned.

Image result for lotte department store parking attendant
It wasn't this crowded the day we went to Lotte.  But it FELT this crowded.

(1)   The women who work in these shops show no discomfort with personal space invasion.  I, on the other hand, should have perhaps investigated the wine department prior to entering skin land.

2) Scientifically testing the sensitivity and pH of one’s skin (among other things) are apparently basic pre-requisites to proper product selection.  And, of course, there are apps for those tests: one holds very still while a saleswoman rests her phone on one’s face.  Then one gets to see a very close-up photo of one’s skin, or perhaps it is the back end of a baboon, and we all pretend not to be horrified.

(3)   Having strangers expertly apply products to one’s face while one is very nervous can make for much cringing. For example, a lady used a tiny little brush to apply lipstick; it tickled SO MUCH that I could not repress small snorting noises.  Another lady applied "cushion foundation,” which is a Korean technological wonder of a liquid foundation delivered with a compact powder puff thing.  Except … it felt like she was slapping me with a baby crib mattress, and once that image came to mind, I couldn't stop giggling.  Poor RuDa.

A Hera saleslady pats my face to death.
(4)   The sales women were quite kind to my baggy sun-damaged, middle-aged skin, at least to my face (let's just say that RuDa didn't translate everything).  They were also fairly patient with my utter ignorance of their products, how to apply them, and the proper "detached" face expected during a makeover.  

5)   Here's one I sure didn't see coming: Under no circumstances should soap be applied to one's face.  EVER.  There are products for cleaning one’s facial skin--and soap is NOT among them. You'd think I had been bathing bunnies in bleach. I shall repent of this skin sin.

6)   One could literally spend all of one’s income on skin care and make-up. Then again, the major ingredients include things like snake venom, placenta, plankton, and gold dust; as one store's slogan had it, "ingredients extracted from nature and enigmatic state" (true THAT). Happily, RuDa knew that the same products we were testing were sold by discount shops on another floor.  I decided I can live without a flashy brand names on my snail goo cleansing foam.

7)   Make-up shopping requires significant training.  I had imagined we'd have light-hearted breezy conversations like “oh, here’s a rack of 5 shades of lipstick – what’s the right color for me?” Ah, no. Store after store had HUNDREDs of shades of lip tint, lip stain, lipstick, lip liner, and who knows what else.  We used testers all over our hands to compare colors and textures.  Then RuDa suggested I select more of a “fall” color rather than something with "too much summer” and I nearly lost my ignorant mind.  I was the dumbest kid in class. 

8)   Having good skin is a LOT of work.  Here’s the rough order in which stuff apparently goes onto the Korean adult face (male and female) at least once EVERY SINGLE DAY:
(a)    Make-up remover (as needed)
(b)   Cleanser
(c)    Toner (or, at the very least, another round of cleanser)
(d)   Essence (skin repair stuff)
(e)    Acne lotion (as needed)
(f)     Moisturizer (softens skin and prevents future damage; the fashionable stuff includes bleaching/whitening agents)
(g)    Eye cream (RuDa is ashamed that she hasn’t started using this yet)
(h)   Sunscreen (at least 50 SPF; preferably with more whitening agents)

(9)   Now that the skin is ready, it’s FINALLY time for the make-up – and there is so much used to achieve the popular Korean "naturally dewy" look that I’m sure I’ll never master it:
(i)     Primer (bright purple or green to even skin tones and reduce redness)
(j)     Cushion foundation (slightly lighter than natural skin color)
(k)    Powder 
(l)     Blusher 
(m)  Eyebrows: powder or pencil plus trimmers, combs, and gel
(n)   Eyes: liner plus 2-3 shades of shadow plus 1-3 layers of mascara
(o)   Lips: primer plus stain/stick/gloss/pencil
(p)   Setting spray (like hairspray for the face)

Well, it's no wonder that my students hate 8:30am classes – they have to get up at 6:30am just to make their faces presentable.  Maybe I'll call up my Dutch friend again for a refresher about the tyranny of cosmetics.

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