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October 4, 2017

Oops! The Skincare Sins and Mayhem We’ve Committed Against Our Skin

Forgive us, skin, for we have sinned. We’ve stripped, scrubbed, and seared our complexion with apricot bits and toothpaste — and by we, I mean some of the top K-beauty gurus and influencers around! In this inaugural kickoff to our Oops! series, where we talk about the skincare sins of our past, the most respected names in K-beauty share the mistakes they’ve made in their beauty past.


Flipping through an old yearbook is almost guaranteed to leave you cringing: The ill-advised haircuts! The ill-fitting clothing! The mall-bangs! Maybe you had a wardrobe of velour tracksuits like J.Lo or high-heeled Timberland knock-offs. Don’t pretend like you were above it. We’ve all stumbled and bumbled through our pasts. Of course, we’ve come through the awkwardness and arrived into adulthood as powerful, badass, enlightened beings, but oohhhh, the journey it took to get here!


To get things started I’ll confess my own skincare sins. I erroneously thought acne = oil and oil = bad. Despite the fact that I clearly had dry skin, I thought that only excess oil (I didn’t even begin to know what sebum was) could be the cause of breakouts, so if I broke out, by god I was going to get that evil oil. I accomplished this by applying a thick glob of benzoyl peroxide on each zit, resulting in chemically burning the bejesus out of my face. So not only would I have an angry cyst-zit, it’d be bright red, burned to hell, and crusty. Beautiful!


I reached out to some of my fellow bloggers and beauty experts to ask them about the embarrassing beauty journeys they’ve been through. Before you were the experts you are today, what awful thorny path did you follow to get here?


skincare sins


Tracy, Fanserviced-b


Tracy from the influential K-beauty blog Fanserviced-b and the K-beauty podcast The Snailcast told me:


“I spent years scrubbing my face with what was basically an Italy Towel. Looking back, I feel like I deserve what my skin served up.”


Oh my god! I heard that and instinctively grabbed my face. Owwwwwww.


An Italy towel is a great manual exfoliation tool for your arms and legs, but folks, it has no place on a face! Manual exfoliation can cause problems even when done correctly for some skin types. Even if you can tolerate it, it’s best done very gently via a gommage, and not with a scratchy cloth.


But I get it: Before we knew any better we chased the high of freshly exfoliated skin. We ignored the obvious redness and irritation and instead focused on the (very temporary) smoothness we got. It was baby soft right before the flakiness and zits cropped up in defiance, thanks to the damage we had done. Poor Tracy’s face, you’re in a much better place now.


Kerry, Skin & Tonics


My girl Kerry from the OG K-beauty blog Skin & Tonics and co-author of the book Korean Beauty Secrets said something that hit uncomfortably close to home.


“When I first discovered AHAs, I went peel crazy with these high percentage acid peels. I gave myself chemical burns — not once, not twice, but several times — before I finally learned my lesson that AHAs need to happen in moderation. And after every burn, I would end up with these horrible cystic breakouts, and it took me forever to realize that the acne and the chemical burns were linked. I knew nothing about my moisture barrier back then. My poor skin!”


This is how I triggered my own cystic acne back in my teens and early 20s, but with the benzoyl peroxide! It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of “omg acne — let’s burn it off — omg acne.” As Kerry said, everything needs to happen in moderation, especially when it comes to acids or acne treatments of any sort. It’s very easy to end up exacerbating the problem you were trying to solve in the first place.


skincare sins


Chel, Holy Snails


Chel Cortes of Shark Sauce, The Snailcast, and Holy Snails fame had this to say:


“I really, REALLY liked St. Ives-ing my face with a towel and then grabbing an extractor and attacking my nose to get out every last sebaceous filament. The sides of my nose were red and sunken for a while.”


Oh boy. Are there any of us that escaped the St. Ives curse? I think we all fell victim to that devil in an “all-natural” disguise. And a St. Ives and a towel combo? That, my friend, is dedication to all the worst things.


I think we’ve all been guilty of the overzealous extracting as well. It’s pretty much the law that you go on an extractor binge with the purchase of your first 10x magnification mirror. We’re sorry, nose pores, we’ve grown and we promise to never attack you like that again!


Cat, Snow White and the Asian Pear


Cat of Snow White and the Asian Pear and also a Snailcast alum triggered some painful memories for me with this one:


“I used to use these cleanser sheets by Neutrogena (I think) that would foam up when you used them. One side was rough, the other side was rougher. They burned, and I took that as confirmation that it was working. Yeah, fight that acne! It probably had a pH of 11 and was full of alcohol.”


I remember those bastards! They came in a plastic tub and looked a lot like baby wipes, which probably would have been a better bet than these sheets. The burning as confirmation of effectiveness is another thing we all fell victim to at one time or another. I’m so glad we now know that if it burns, let it burn in the garbage ‘cause it’s not the right product for you.


Sheryll, Wanderlust Project


Our own Beautytap gal and The Wanderlust Project blogger Sheryll also sparked a nostalgia trip for me with her skin sin:


“In high school and well into college, I used to put toothpaste on my pimples.”


Is it possible to get through your teens without trying this at least once? Who amongst us hasn’t smelled like a minty-fresh disaster? Don’t lie — you know you did this.


Just in case you didn’t, and you want to try this for giggles — DON’T. There are several reasons why it’s just not a good idea, but the gist of it is that toothpaste is extremely drying to the skin and full of potentially irritating ingredients. And that’s the last thing your skin ever needs. Besides, we have COSRX Acne Patches now — we are living in the future, folks. A glowing, hydrated, educated, slay all day future.


And the best part? Those velour tracksuits are at least another 10 years away from coming back into style, and by then you’ll be old enough to sit back with your perfect skin and laugh at the teenagers co-opting them for their second whirl around. You might even spot a dollop of toothpaste on their taut young faces in between giggles.


What skincare sins have you committed in your past? I’m sure we’ve all done it, so feel free to share!



Coco Park is an author, beauty journalist, blogger, podcast host, and all around oddball living in Montreal Quebec with her family. Originally from the southern USA, she worked for several years in the makeup industry as a professional makeup artist and holds a certificate in esthetics. She is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Want to know more? Check her out on the Beauty Beyond Basics podcast, on her blog, on Instagram @thebeautywolf, and in her book "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup."




It's funny how many of my skincare errors were almost ... based in anger. "My skin is misbehaving; I will punish it!" And I can still get into that zone. The idea of taking tender care of my face continues to be revolutionary.


I'm totally guilty of St Ives (the green tea blackhead scrub) which made me look like Rudolph the Second. And maybe (ahem) of not wearing sunscreen in a tropical country with sunlight all year round. My pigmentation are entirely my own making.


My worst skincare sin - not wearing sunscreen regularly til this year ? (which is really bad since i stay in a tropical country with sun all year round) thankfully the damage wasn't that bad :/
Desert Oasis box


This brought back memories! Clearasil, thick pancake foundation to cover spots which I picked at! So not glam.
Desert oasis box


Oohhhhh my god; I'm so guilty of toothpaste, St. Ives, and "if my face is squeaky that means it's clean right??" Man, that Neutrogena grapefruit face wash was so harsh on my skin... I'm surprised that I still have a face LOL
Another thing! I don't know if this is common in other households, but I grew up in a super traditional Taiwanese one. My mom used to put TIGER BALM on my pimples. YES. TIGER BALM. Like, burning-your-eyes menthol Tiger Balm. I thought it would solve everything... and wondered why my pimples would swell up into HUGE white heads! :( Read more


OMG Tiger Balm???? My face is burning just thinking about it hahaha!


OMG! I got a bit on my cheek once by accident and started to cry immidiately! Poor you!

OMG! I recently discovered that the Tiger Balm I use on my temples for migraine gives me blackheads. But I don't really know what to do. Tiger Balm is the only thing that can stop my migraine sometimes and I don't like taking pills to stop the pain cause they gave me gasthritis... what to do?


Ahhh! I think some good pore clearing products are in order! (I mean, you can't live with migraines! Better blackheads than debilitating headaches!) Have you tried any Moksha scrubs? You can massage your temples with them, too ...

No, I haven't. Thanks for the advise, I'll try that :D


I used to use proactiv which i'm pretty sure my skin took years to recover from :( Was also a victim of the St Ives curse!


I never did use proactiv but I knew several who ended up with crusty flake angry face from it! T_T


I was one of those! I tried one product (I can't remember which one) that made me look like I had a flaky skin beard. I had to go to school like that and the other kids made fun of me for it ;-;


Oh my gosh, proactiv was the worst! Even the supposedly "soothing" cream burned my face like crazy :'(


I once have the St Ives curse lol ;)


We're all such St Ives sinners xD

Jude Chao

I remember those cleansing cloths Cat mentions! The ones I had were Olay, and from what I can remember, were pretty terrible. Or maybe it was the forceful way I used them :(


I remember having raw skin after using those, raw like hamburger meat!

Jude Chao

Raw and red OMGGGGG


My sin was called Clearasil! ?? stinges+burns+red= I will get you, oil! = big pimples and blackheads = rough extractions! Now my skin is much more happy, though I still have to look at those crater scars every day.. but my skin is getting better! ?


Ahhhh I remember that Clearasil burn! I also burned myself with Oxy


Luckily I did not have acces to all the US products back in the day... e-commerce did not exist back then... I feel old just saying it!!! ????