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Besides drama questions, in RL, I've been asked tons of questions about skincare. What skincare brand is good? How to get smooth skin? Why does my skin dry? Organic, natural skincare must be better for my skin, right? and the questions continues. I'm not an expert or a cosmetologist, but one thing I find about finding out the skincare for you is like finding the 'right' drama to watch. There are TONS of preliminary questions that you have to ask yourself before even picking a product, which is why I often just stare at the skincare aisle and spend lots of time there, with most of the time coming out without even buying anything. The only difference is that there're 2 more categories to take into consideration with skincare, compare to drama.

Side note: I'm doing this long rambling post because I'm waiting for some drama to watch and instead being actually working productively, my brain refuse to work and this topic has been bugging me for quite some time.

When we go to any chemists or department stores, aisles and or floors of skincare will greet us. Some are categorized by brand, which I very much preferred, or by types of skincare products. The varieties are endless and it'll definitely overwhelm people, especially if you're not familiar with any types of skincare and brands. Marketing, advertisements and words of mouth (that's why we have tons of beauty bloggers now) will even confuse you further plus talking to the shop assistants won't help you much either because they'll ask you what specific skin problem you have and work from there and believe me, nowadays every brands will have SEPARATE products for any different skin related issues, and meanwhile you only want a product that can just make your skin look better (queue: the super vague requirement). That's a big difference there, and you can't fault them because they're trying to hardest to get you to spend money on their products. So, which products or brands actually deliver their promises? Let's get this straight once and for all, there's no way you can see results of any skincare products that you use in a very short time, at the minimum you'll see some changes on your skin or complexion after 6 months, never within 1 month and if you feel this is the case, that's the psychological aspect talking because you've spent x amount of money for the product or you truly believe in whatever they're advertising. Plus, to complicate even further, 95% chance is that you're using different brands for different purposes (this is also the result of marketing, in my opinion, because I'm a sucker for ads). When you do this, how do you know which one is working? No way to tell. So, that brings back to tons of question bubbles...

The most important question: What's your budget?
In dramaland, the first question will be what do you like, but in skincareland, $$$ is always on the top list because we're buying a product. How much you're willing to spend and you'll work from there. Along with the brand or what kind of skincare regime that you'd like to have, you always have to plan how long are you going to be in that regime and will it change, and when it does change (it WILL change because your skin in your 20s will be different from when you're in your 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s), how much you're willing to upgrade or downgrade. So, let's do the math in example, and I'll be using Singapore pricing standard. 1 skincare set of moisturizer, toner/softener and face wash on average will cost you about 80$ at Innisfree level (this is not those anti aging ones because it'll definitely double or triple the amount) and normally they'll last 3 to 5 months, so in a year you'll probably spend roughly 200-240$. Then compare to if you use Clarins (again, not the anti aging range, just the basic ones), you'll have a starting budget of roughly 300$ per 1 set and about 1K$ a year, and I still think I underestimate the pricing when it comes to the Western brands. This doesn't include the eye cream, lip balm, emulsion, essence, serum and the face masks. Over the course of years, this $$$ will add up hence you need to be able to balance out which level you're comfortable with and this has nothing to do whether the products works on you or not, which brings to the next question.

Is expensive brands better than the cheaper ones?
This is a tough question. There's no right answer because it could be Yes or No. My opinion, it's a NO because pricing comes from branding and market positioning. Long established brands like Shiseido, Dior, Chanel, Clarins, Kose, will always have higher pricing level because they've been around for so long and they have the brand power (what will you think if you see Dior prices their serum at 30$? You'll probably think they're scheming you LOL). Are their products better? The answer is more depends on whether your skin can take it or not. I'll be honest that my skin likes expensive products, and I'd partly blame this due to the fact that I started my real skincare regime from Clinique level. I can tell that my skin will rebel if I put it on cheaper skincare eg. Hadalabo or Innisfree on a sizable period of time because it'll show me all kinds of breakout symptoms, and it'll quickly subside when I put on my Dior serum 2-3 times in between. However, I can tell you the difference between cheaper and more expensive skincare, especially in face wash. Cheaper face wash eg. Biore will leave your skin dry minutes after you wash and dry your face. Another difference will be the smell, cheaper skincare tends to smell stronger, except those smell free ones. Lastly, you tend to use more in quantity per usage with cheaper skincare compared to the more expensive ones to get the same amount of coverage or moist effect. So again, it comes back to the budgeting, how much you're willing to spend and can spend, and there's no right or wrong. If your skin is not sensitive and can take cheaper skincare product range without any side effect, then why spend the money getting the more expensive ones other than for indulgence?

Is organic and natural skincare better?
The answer is not necessarily. It 100% depends on your skin sensitivity. It can be made from all organic ingredients, but if it makes you having breakouts or any horrible skin problems then it's not for you. I had a very bad breakout case from using organic skincare before, so definitely not a good experience. I'd think the texture (rich cream consistency or gel consistency) and how fast it can be absorb by your skin are more important than whether it's organic or natural, and the most important part, how does the product makes you feel? If it makes you feel happy and after all things considered it doesn't cause you any side effect, then it's for you. I saw tons of natural DIY skincare like those oatmeal honey scrubs etc, and I think it's a good way of raising awareness that natural DIY skincare can be done. However, there're few factors that you need to consider. Can you sustain of the DIY lifestyle for a long time? Do you have the time to mix all those every time before use, especially those ones using egg whites? How often you want to use them? And, just because you eat them and it's on your pantry, it doesn't mean your face can take it.

But all those chemical stuffs are scary!
I have mixed views on this. Natural is good for you, however, I never think 100% is good for you. Lots of people may say otherwise, but I always believe in balancing. Too much in everything is always bad. However, I don't think that we have to close ourselves from anything deemed as not natural. Just like natural vs western medicine, Western medicine has faster effect because of the chemical used compared to the slow progress of natural medicine. Even when you make your own skincare, sometimes you cannot not having preservatives because it just doesn't last long, and again it brings back to the fact that are you willing to spend time making all the products for every use. Practicality.

What about the effects? I want guaranteed result!
Then you have to willing to do R&D on yourself because other people's skin are not your skin! Frankly, so many people are expecting miracles performed the moment they apply serum or anything on their face, which is what marketing people happily play around with. Make up and photoshop do that job, but not skincare. Skincare is maintenance, you need to be patient for the result to come. Most of the time, you need to finish 2 bottles at least to see the impact and you can't even be sure whether it's because of that 1 product you use or the others. Even those expensive brands like SKII take time to show the result, and some people are not even compatible with them.

But R&D will cost a bomb
That's why always ask for TONS of samples. At the minimum the shop assistant has to give you 2 sachets or bottles of each products that you want to try. If they're not giving you any, then it's not worth your time at all. As customers, we have the power to choose and buy and at that kind of price range (we're not talking about chemist's skincare range), we have the right to try before we make decision. Some shop assistants will tell you that you won't have reaction as this is a natural product or it's high quality therefore they don't give samples... BULLSHIT. Allergic reaction on face is rarely instant reaction, most of the time it'll appear after 1-3 times usage and sometimes after 2 weeks of usage. So, the moment they use such selling technique, it's time to say goodbye and chances are you'll get the same samples at the different branch because the shop assistant there is not a bitch. It's also important to establish relationship with the shop assistants if you like the product/brand and frequent the same shop because you can always ask them to slip in even more samples of products that you use as they're good for travels (yes you spend some money there and that's why they're so nice with you, it's a mutual relationship) and they'll remember you when they have special promotions. Korean brands are also very generous in free gifts, samples and loyalty programs because they need to market their product lines, so you can take advantage of this as well.

I don't use anything now, and my skin is dry now, what should I do?
So start doing something about it! There's no late start in skincare. You can always starts with basic stuff no matter how old you are. My suggestion will always start with whatever the chemist sell. Brands like Neutrogena, O'lay, L'Oreal, Biore, or Hadalabo are good starting points. The pricing range won't hurt your budget (unless you keep on buying those anti aging stuffs) so it allows you to mix and match. Once you get comfortable with the routines and feel like indulging yourself, then you can go for the more expensive stuffs, but do the research first and always take whatever on the net not on the face value because lots of bloggers now are being sponsored so the objectivity of the reviews are in question.

Is Asian skin compatible using Western brand skincare?
Good question and another tough one to answer because it's again depends on your skin. The basic rule of thumb is that in general Asian skincare is made for Asian skin, and is less rich compared to the Western counterparts. However, it doesn't mean that you cannot use Western brands if you're Asian (duh?). Applicable to all brands, if using rich texture (those sticky and icky cream) gives you extra blackheads or whiteheads or even oil beads under your eyes, then it's not for you. You should opt for the water based or gel consistency. Personally I abhor those rich creams because it makes my skin become more oily and after washing, drier as ever, and I have soft spot for anything in gel form because it's cooling, fast absorb and not icky.

So many Korean face sheet masks out there, what's that all about?
It's CONVENIENCE. Let's face it, it's priced at affordable level (as cheap as 2$ and maybe even cheaper in Korea itself or Duty Free), and after you wash your face, you just need to slap it on your face, leave it for 10-20 minutes, throw the sheet, and tap on the rest of the liquid to your face and you'll have a glowing shiny face (because the liquid reflects your bathroom lights so your face looks glowing on your mirror, I'm not making anything better, yeah? LOL). Instruction is always say to use once a week or every 2 weeks. But if you can afford it and you're really damn lazy, you can use it as often as every 2 days, no harm done, unless it's those sticky rich one, then you may want to be careful. I usually take these sheet mask for travel (especially those short business trip travel), it makes me feel happy and less stress at the hotel, they take less space on the luggage because you just slip them on anywhere and I don't need to bring bottles of moisturizer, toner, serum, just sun screen and face wash will do.

What's the difference between Japanese and Korean sheet masks?
Besides who they use to endorse those masks? Ehem, I mean we're looking the appeal at HSJ vs So Joong Ki or Hyung Bin endorsing the face masks LOL. I'd think Japanese start to adopt Korean way of packaging for sheet mask which is individual packaging. However, in general Japanese sheet mask comes in box or big sachet eg. it has 10 sheets in that 1 packet or even 100 sheets in that 1 packet. The advantage? Depending on the type, most of the time, it'll look cheaper per piece, and you just need to buy one, instead of pocketing 10 piece or 20 piece of sachets. The things that I'm not really fond of? Due to the packaging, each sheet will be 'drier' compared to when you have the sheet in individual packaging.

I saw those paper sheet masks sold in Daiso or 100Yen shops, what's those for?
It's for your DIY sheet masks. Logically, you can use your essence as your face mask. Basically you drench the paper sheet mask with your own essence then slap it on your face and be done with it.

Should I spend money on facials?
First thing first, facial is expensive, and it requires more money because it's not a permanent fixer upper. To make it worse, it's like going to your favorite hairdresser, you find the beautician that can deliver what you want and like and you have to stick with her/him. You'll get affected, most likely, if you change the beautician, something can go wrong and you may end up with unnecessary breakouts and emotional distress. I do go for facial sessions especially after I hit 30 because I'd rather have professional popping up my blackheads rather than DIY since it's damn painful and my sensitive skin can't sustain DIY face masks in Singapore's humidity. When you already have facial sessions, you'll find out about 1001 expensive enhancement treatments that frankly I still can't see why we need all those, but I won't deny that they do make you feel good in the long run, otherwise, people won't be spending the money. I always say this to my beautician during my facial session, 'don't tell me that my face will instantly become radiant or glowing or my wrinkle lines disappearing into thin air because I can't see the difference before and after and the only thing I can feel is that I feel clean after facial.' So does it mean that it's just a scheme? Not entirely, you'll see the difference after x number of sessions, but only after a moderate period of time, give and take, 1 year if you go only once a month for maintenance purposes.

Does it mean that if I go for facials then I can slack off with my daily skincare routine?
NO, there's no pain no gain in getting your skin looks healthy and nice. You still need to do the daily regular DIY skincare routine, you still need to take care of your body, rest well and eat healthily. I'm no better in this regime because everything takes time and sometimes you just feel lazy.

So, these are just my opinions and thoughts, a very long rambling, yes, but I find that sometimes we're to bogged down with what people or the ads say that we forgot what we actually need. Just like drama, use the skincare that makes you feel good and happy and enjoy the product, don't let the products or brands or practices or other people dictate you.
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