Vanity Fare: What’s on the Top Shelf of Skin & Tonics’ Kerry Thompson
In the inaugural kick-off to our Vanity Fare series, where we take a peek into the beauty routines of our favorite beauty insiders, we talk to Kerry Thompson, the OG K-beauty blogger behind Skin & Tonics, about her current skincare routine, why she left blogging, and her plans for the future.
Who is Kerry Thompson? She’s the OG English language Korean beauty blogger behind the retired blog Skin & Tonics. She inspired so many of us to take the plunge into self-care with her in-depth science-backed reviews and no-nonsense approach to products. She really set the tone for so many original K-beauty bloggers.
Also, she’s my dear friend and all-around awesome human being! Since Kerry has stepped away from the blogging world, there’s been a void that we’ve all tried to fill, and a lot of people have been downright curious what she’s been up to. I recently caught up with Kerry and asked her to fill us in on where she’s at, what she’s up to, and what her skincare routine looks like now.
When did you start Skin & Tonics?
Kerry: I started my blog around 2012 (or maybe 2011?). At the time, it was intended for what I assumed would be a really tiny audience — tiny, as in maybe five or so of my close friends would be interested in it and perhaps a handful of random stragglers. Initially, I started with primarily makeup reviews and swatches even though I had a lifelong interest in skincare. My thought was that people would find my skincare adventures boring, and my personal experience with reading other skincare reviews at the time was that they weren’t very helpful.
What made you shift your focus to skincare?
Kerry: Interestingly, one of the same reasons that initially prevented me from doing skincare write-ups was the catalyst for my deciding to shift my focus. I just wasn’t finding the kind of information I wanted about the skincare products I was interested in. Reading reviews from folks who only tried a product once or twice, and would limit their descriptions to things like texture, fragrance, and whether or not their skin felt hydrated afterward wasn’t helpful. I needed information on ingredients, specific skin concerns, and long-term results. So I decided I would write the kind of reviews I wanted to see, and do the research myself.
As it turns out, those reviews are what other people wanted to see as well, because that’s when my audience really blew up! In the span of just a few months, my following went from maybe 1000 views a month to 100,000, then 200,000 and it just kept growing from there.
Why did you decide to retire from blogging?
Kerry: Blogging had always been a hobby for me, but it took up all of my free time. The research I did for my reviews took a lot of effort, and the entire process — the writing, the photography, the research, and the audience interaction (my favorite part!) — usually took around 20 to 30 hours a week, in addition to my regular, non-beauty, non-blogging, full-time job.
But in 2015, I left my job and joined up with a partner to start our own company doing usability research and digital product design. That’s the area I’ve spent my career in for going on 20 years, and when I met my partner, starting an agency was a no-brainer. The agency was extremely successful right out of the gate, which was amazing! But it also meant I had no free time left. Running a business is considerably more time consuming than any full-time job I’ve ever had. So I had to make a choice to retire Skin & Tonics. It just wasn’t feasible to continue.
What is your skincare routine like now?
Kerry: When I was blogging, my products changed frequently because I wanted to keep exploring and sharing new and interesting products. But now that I’ve retired, my routine doesn’t change nearly as much. You might even say it’s a little boring!
My skin type is dry, and I’m 39 years old this year. So my focus is on getting as much water into my skin as possible, leveraging actives such as AHAs and retinoids to combat aging, and making sure everything is sealed in with a hella-occlusive moisturizer. Oh, and an insane amount of sunscreen. I maintain that sunscreen is the closest we can get to freezing our faces in time.
For makeup removal I use a cleansing balm like Hanyul Ja Cho Oil Cleansing Balm. It easily melts every trace of makeup from my face without making skin feel stripped afterward. I’m honestly not picky about cleansing balms in general; I like most of them. But the Hanyul Balm feels just a little more luxurious and the little red jar makes me really happy when I see it on my sink.
I still like my low pH cleansers for washing my face after I remove my makeup. I’ve just been using Purity Made Simple by Philosophy for that. I buy a gigantic bottle of it maybe twice a year, and then I don’t have to think about it again for a while. The pH is right, it does a great job cleansing, and it doubles as an excellent brush and beauty sponge cleaner.
I follow up my cleanse with an acid toner. Biologique Recherche Lotion P50V is my fave. It smells terrible, and it’s expensive, but it’s a great chemical exfoliator and nothing else leaves my pores as refined as Lotion P50 does.
After I acid tone, I spray my face with mineral water — usually Vichy or Evian. I used to scoff at mineral water sprays, until I discovered what a difference they make in maintaining hydration in my skin and preventing sensitivity. I like to spray my face in between each of my skincare layers.
Next is my hydrating toner. Lately I’ve been using and loving Swanicoco Extra Hydrating Waterfall Skintoner. The glycerin in this product really helps hold on to the water on my face, and makes a big difference in how plump my skin appears after my routine. It also has a lot of antioxidants, always a plus for me since they help bolster my anti-aging efforts.
Spray more mineral water. Then a little Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion, which is just an insanely hydrating hyaluronic acid serum. Something else to hold onto all that water and keep it locked into my skin.
Next is face oil! I used to lean toward lighter, linoleic acid dominant oils like maracuja, but as my skin matures, I’m finding I see a dramatic difference in the look and bounce of my skin if I use something more emollient and oleic acid based. I love the Innisfree Canola Honey Oil because it contains camellia oil, one of my all-time faves, and it looks and smells like honey. It’s extremely moisturizing, even for my super dry skin.
More mineral water. Then comes moisturizer. I love Dr.Jart’s Ceramidin Cream as my nighttime moisturizer. It’s moisturizing enough to prevent my face from getting parched from all the dry, air-conditioned air I’m surrounded by.
Then I wait about an hour and then put on my Curology prescription, which has a mix of azelaic acid, niacinamide, and tretinoin (a prescription retinoid). Some folks prefer to apply this earlier in their routine, but I find that I experience less irritation with the same great results if I apply it last. I just make sure that my other skincare products have had plenty of time to set and absorb first.
And finally, one last step: more mineral water spray.
Do you think you’ll ever start blogging again?
Kerry: I daydream about it a lot, but I don’t think I would blog again. There’s a lot about it I miss, especially the interaction with my audience, but I think the Skin & Tonics blogging chapter is complete.
If I were to get back into the beauty sphere, I think I’d be more likely to go the YouTube route. It would be something new and different for me, and because of the nature of video, I could be a little looser with the format and feel OK about it. My dream would be to do a YouTube beauty show with you (The Beauty Wolf) and Tiffany (#LupusChat and Soul to Seoul)! But we all live so far apart, I don’t know how we’d pull that off!
I am pretty active on Twitter, and I do a lot of fun beauty poll series there. If you want to come hang out with me, that’s where to find me! I’m @skinandtonicsKT.
Did you follow Kerry Thompson on her Skin & Tonics blog? If so, what was the best thing you learned from her?
And if you have a nomination for our next Vanity Fare subject, let us know in the comments!