Korean vs. French Skincare: How to Incorporate the Best of Both Worlds into Your Routine
What do you get when you cross a Montreal expat with a K-beauty blogger? Someone who has the benefit of choosing the best from the leading skincare cultures in the world. Here, Coco Park — contributing editor and certified esthetician — shares how she incorporates the créme de la créme of Korean vs. French skincare into her own routine.
When I first entered the world of Korean beauty, it was a breath of fresh air. The innovation, the dazzling array of products; it was all so new and exciting. It clicked with me because despite it all being new territory, there was also something very familiar about it. Let me explain.
Skincare and makeup have been a lifelong passion of mine. Straight out of high school my first real job was behind the counter of a department store brand, and within a couple of years I had worked my way up to manager of a high-end brand. On the side, I was working as a freelance makeup artist.
Being young and full of wanderlust, I kept moving farther and farther north until I ended up in Montreal, training to be an esthetician. (For those of you not familiar with Montreal, it’s in Quebec, a French province in Canada. Montreal is like the fun bastard child of New York City and Paris — heavy on the Paris.) Because of the strong French influence, I was doing my training in French using the European curriculum, which is more intensive than your typical North American esthetics program. Our studies were way more “pre-med” than “beauty school.”
Beauty and skincare are serious business to the French, so it’s no wonder there are many parallels to be drawn between French skincare and Korean beauty, most notably in their love of a multi-step skincare routine. As an expert in both, I’ve picked the best of both worlds in my own skincare regimen. Here are some of my favorite products.
Micellar water looks like plain water, but it’s so much more than that. This water is packed with tiny oil molecules called micelles, which cleanse the skin gently without the need for soap and tap water, which can be stripping. Micellar water is huge in France; it’s been said that’s partially due to the fact that Paris has undesirable hard water.
K-beauty also has a deep love of micellar water, usually called “cleansing water.” I’ve tried many different brands of both cleansing and micellar water, I’ve got to say I prefer the cleansing waters more almost every time.
No matter what the state of your water supply is, if you have a drier skin like mine, micellar or cleansing water is a godsend. I use it in the mornings instead of a traditional cleanser, which I save for nighttime when I do a double cleanse.
You might be thinking, “Oh, come on, every country has cotton pads.” But really, the super soft cotton pads like the ones you find in French pharmacies are on the next level. They were unparalleled for me until I came across the ones made by some of my favorite Korean brands. They’re so fluffy and smooth yet manage to be strong enough to be able to sweep on toner or remove point makeup, all without any irritation. They’re magical! One of my favorites is from the Korean brand Etude House. (Etude, funny enough, is a French word meaning “study.”)
As I briefly mentioned before, Paris has crappy water. Hard water has high mineral content, and while you may want that in your food, you certainly don’t want it in your water. Since hard water can cause itching, irritation, and dryness, facial mists are a very popular skin preparation treatment for the French. The reasoning is that it can refresh, get rid of any residual chlorine (or calcium and magnesium from hard water), and dampen the skin so that it can receive your following skincare steps. The most popular mists are made of pure water like Avene Eau Thermal Spring Water mist.
What I love about Korean beauty is they’ve kicked it up a notch with added skin beneficial ingredients. There are even some brands that eschew the water altogether, such as Benton Honest TT Mist, which is formulated with 85% tea tree oil mist.
I can’t imagine a routine without a well-formulated serum (or essence, which is a term also used for serum in K-beauty). Before I started in esthetics, I very wrongly thought serum was an optional thing that one might need once they’re older. Nope, everyone needs a serum! More specifically, everyone deserves a serum.
The great thing is there are so many serums that address so many things. No matter what your skin needs, I guarantee you can find a serum that can improve what ails you. I personally love a good radiance serum — I’m currently in the middle of trying the new Eclado Respiration Serum, and it’s been a new favorite delight.
France has been long famous for its lotions and potions. Advertising something as “French Beauty Cream” was a popular ploy to sell cosmetics as far back as the 1800s in the United States. It was seen as the ultimate in skincare. I, too, thought that — until I discovered K-beauty creams. Ranging from budget to luxury, my favorite Korean beauty creams combine both natural, traditional ingredients and cutting-edge formulations. You are sure to find something that’s within your budget while also targeting your skin’s needs.
You can’t capture French girl chic without a bold lip, which coincidentally is the hallmark of many K-pop and K-drama stars. And you can’t pull off a bold lip without well moisturized, smooth lips.
Lip care was stressed to us in esthetics because it’s one of the first places to show signs of aging. Extra care is needed to maintain that delicate area, and a mainstay of that is a good lip treatment. It can be as simple as a great balm, such as the wildly popular Nuxe Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm Rêve de Miel. Miel means honey, which is one of my favorite skincare ingredients.
Also featuring honey but with the inclusion of royal jelly extract is Etude House Honey Cera Treatment Lip Oil. I am a huge fan of lip oil, which is less sticky than a gloss and penetrates faster than a thick balm. I especially love to wear it on dry winter days paired with a lip stain for a little color.
Rounding out any skincare regimen is sunscreen. This is a product that everyone needs — 100%, non-negotiable, no exceptions. While the darkest of skin tones have a bit of protection by that sweet, sweet melanin, it’s still a good idea to wear a sunscreen if you’re going to have prolonged exposure to the sun, and the paler among us need it consistently and constantly.
French sunscreens are head and shoulders above North American sun protection. They’re made in such a way that they seem more like a nice skin cream and less like a pungent, sticky sunscreen. For those who dislike the texture of creams altogether, there are also watery types available. The best among them offer ingredients that are exclusive to European formulations (also available in Canada), and they allow for seamless layering of your foundation or BB cream on top of them.
The only thing better than a good French sunscreen in my opinion is a good Korean sunscreen. While the French aren’t as stringent with the sunscreen and might skip application on a rainy day, Korean skincare wisdom knows that those pesky UVA rays are still out penetrating your skin even if it’s overcast. Liberal sun protection application is encouraged on both sides; however, Korean skincare also offers a wonderful range of physical sunscreens for touch-ups on the go, like A’Pieu Pure Block Water Bling Sun Balm.
Have you incorporated any French skincare (or any other culture’s skincare products or practices) into your routine? Share your experiences with me!
All graphics by Coco Park.