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September 17, 2018

Skincare 9-1-1: What You Need When Your Skin Goes Crazy — ‘Cause It Will

We keep a first aid kit filled with bandages, ointments, and medicine just in case, so why not for your face? If we’re lucky, we’ll never need it, but in case you do, here’s what one K-beauty aficionado keeps in her skincare 911 kit.


Can I get a show of hands? How many of you have a routine in place that’s doing the thing but have occasionally decided to shift gears only to find yourself over-exfoliated, hyper-flaky, or downright injured? I’m talking royal screw-ups here. Anyone?


Well, my apologies for the Britney reference, but “Oops! I did it again.”


Like every person in search of perfect pores, I over-scrutinized my nose recently and decided that I should break out my fancy microdermabrasion machine and see if it could get rid of a few stubborn blackheads. The gadget’s been gathering dust since I discovered the land of chemical exfoliants, but I hauled it out and managed to draw blood (yes!) on one cheek before I even got to the dang blackheads. As panic set in, I knew I had to grab everything soothing and reparative in my K-beauty “fix it fast” arsenal and get to work.


“Nurse Tracy” generally fixes her hubby’s boo-boos, but for the last week I’ve been my own patient. My skincare first aid kit has been years in the making, and while I don’t reach for some of these on a daily basis, I’ve learned that having them for those inevitable skincare 911 moments is invaluable.


skincare 911


Back to babying


Damaged skin can have you screaming just at the sight of water, so my kit includes two options. If the tap spontaneously turns itself off when I reach for it, I grab my SanDaWha Liposome Skin Softener and pat that lightly in with my hands instead of cleansing (thank you, Coco Park!). While I normally use it as a toner, the Centella asiatica extract calms my redness while refreshing my skin.


As the week progressed and my fear of aquaphobia subsided, I was able to resume cleansing with my favorite low pH foaming cleanser, Kadi from Holy Snails. Sometimes even bubbles are too much after I’ve overused my acids, but Kadi has a soft texture almost like shaving cream and smells a bit like lavender and rose, so it calms my brain and my itchies.


Bring on the fixers


Whenever I’ve done something stupid to my face, CORSX comes a-callin’. I don’t generally reach for the Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence because it feels a little heavy on my normal skin, but this time I mixed it with the Purito Centella Green Level Buffet Serum, and I swear I heard my skin sigh. If you’ve never mixed your serums or essences, I highly recommend it because you can thin out a texture quickly and put your skin in a happier mood.


skincare 911
K-Beauty to the rescue. The author’s personal skincare 911 kit.


Next comes the Hanyul Pure Artemisia Calming Fluid, originally purchased to soothe an irritated tret face. My skin adores mugwort in all forms, but this “baby mugwort” fluid is exceptionally calming and non-sticky. It feels a bit like a milky essence and smells pleasantly green.


Parking my brightening serums was withdrawal-inducing, but when I broke out my favorite rosehip oil from our lovely local herbal shop, Health Habitat, I started to notice real results. Rosehip oil contains a slew of vitamins and is high in linoleic acid, which your skin needs in order to fight off transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Since it’s characterized as a “dry oil,” it absorbs quickly without leaving any residue, which was perfect once I got over my fear of applying makeup on my damaged skin.


When nighttime rolled around, I rounded up the usual sheet mask suspects and took a moisture break before dinner. I recommend Tosowoong’s Pure Snail Mask as well as  Aritaum’s Mugwort sheet mask (the one with the orange dot on the packaging).

skincare 911

Last but certainly not least, I brought out the one cream that I equally love and hate simultaneously. Illi’s Ceramide Ato Cream has a distinct waxy feel upon application that initially made me cringe. Thoughts of Offred from Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, slathering butter on her hands and face immediately came to mind, and I didn’t think I could get past it. I normally use it for maintenance after using a steroid cream for eczema on my hands, and, thankfully, the cream does sink in after a few minutes, and the heaviness dissipates.


Build your kit before you need it


If you’ve lived on your own for any length of time, you probably have multiple first aid kits, one for household ouchies and another in your car. You never know when you’ll need it, so you keep those essentials around just in case. I think of my K-beauty first aid kit as an investment I hope I’ll never need. While most of these products do daily duty, a few sit patiently in the cupboard for their moment in the sun. And believe me, when that moment comes, you don’t want to be waiting on a box from Korea.


Do you have a skincare 911 kit ready for face emergencies? What’s in your skincare 911 kit, and have you had to use it? Let’s talk about it!



Tracy Ann Teel is a full-time freelance writer and the owner of Finesse Writing and Editing LLC. She’s a tutorial writer for San Francisco Globe’s beauty platform,, covering everything from skin and hair care to makeup and nail art. She writes for skincare companies, dermatologists, and cosmetic surgeons, and proudly taught at her MFA alma mater, the University of California Irvine, as a member of their adjunct faculty in English. She’s been a textbook reviewer for Prentice Hall, been recognized three consecutive years in the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and has written professionally for 30+ years. Her poetry chapbook Such Dust was published by Finishing Line Press, and her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Pearl, Kaleidoscope, and Lake Arrowhead Life.




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Thanks to near-constant mask wearing this year, I've had to revisit my original recommendations more than once. I now have two more! Since the Purito Centella Buffet isn't available, I shifted gears and started using CHOBS Organic Centella Asiatica Serum 30ml (1.01oz). It's very lightweight and not sticky at all, so it's easy to layer other things over it. My new replacement for the illi Ato Cream is the COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream 80g. It's just as nourishing but not nearly as waxy as the illi/illiyoon cream. I've also added KEEP COOL's Soothe... Read more


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My emergency skincare kit now has a new addition -- Missha Time Revolution Artemisia Treatment Essence 150ml. I've used the original FTE for years and recently purchased this one because mugwort (artemisia) always calms irritation. Well ... I overdid it with Retin A (tretinoin), and my skin is furious with me. Missha's product is calming, soothing, and easy to layer. I like 2-3 layers under the Hanyul Pure Artemisia mentioned above. Before the windy fall weather kicks in, you need this in your stash.


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Having a skincare rescue kit has been truly life changing. Pimple? Got a solution! Over-exfoliated? Problem solved! Dry itchy skin? No problem! Planning ahead for skin emergencies is worth every penny ten times over.


I usually use Klairs Soothing Cream as my 911. It calms my skin ASAP without irritating it~ I just place a thick layer of it, like a mask and all problems are gone~


I'm probably going to build a kit now... bye


I have yet to build an earthquake kit, but my skincare 911 kit is primed and ready to go


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Did you ever build your skincare 9-1-1 kit, Kalyn? The SanDaWha Liposome Skin Softener and Hanyul Watery Calming Fluid are still part of mine, but I switched to the centella asiatica serum from CHOBS since the Purito isn't available. I use it as a spot treatment, and it absorbs really fast. It's part of the sample program, too. :)


I have both the cosrx snail essence and the purito buffet serum...and you bet I'm gonna try mixing them tonight! Thanks for the tip!

I've been babying my skin a lot lately since I've been traveling so much, so a lot of my products have been of the calming sort. I'm looking into adding an acid to my routine for the Fall, so I'll be sure to stay well stocked!


I wish I had learned about mixing things together sooner. I had so many sticky products that I discarded that I could have made work if I'd known that tip. I've also learned that spritzing my face with mist before applying some serums makes them sink in better. Thank goodness for the K-beauty community! I owe everyone a debt of gratitude for teaching me these little tricks. <3


I've got the SanDaWha Liposome Skin Softener, Purito Centella Green Level Buffet Serum, and COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence! I generally use them at least once per day, and my skin has definitely gotten calmer since I've added them to my routine. I'm not doing chemical peels or anything so I haven't really had any "emergencies", but it's good to have these products on hand just in case!


That's a great everyday combination! The SanDaWha Liposome Skin Softener has been my summer love. That smell! Heaven.


Yeah, I pretty much just incorporate centella in my everyday routine, just like niacinamide, as a preventative measure. Why not? My skin loves it.


I second the daily niacinamide. Now, if only I could hire someone to pat in all those layers while I am working at my desk. I would have a 90-step routine if I had time. Ba ha ha. :)


tracyannteel when you said \"draw blood on one cheek,\" I knew, unfortunately, exactly what you meant. I\'ve done that before, and I\'ve also popped some capillaries from too much extraction. 😩

For my emergency kit, I guess my hoarding ways pay off because I always have some form of centella, snail, aloe, and oil in my arsenal to draw from in case of 911s. When I suddenly developed a super itchy rash along my jawline (the kind you couldn\'t see but could SO feel), I stopped all my product testing and just used SanDaWha skin softener, calming serums,... Read more


Hip hip hooray for our "hoarding ways!" That is exactly how my 911 kit came to be. It now has its own budget: medicinal instead of skin care.


LOL I love that you have to allocate that stash to a medicinal budget. Then it becomes a necessity rather than an "indulgence." 😂 Good move!


I'm starting to build one after going for chemical peels and trying out the occasional sample-turned-dubious. Right now it's quite barren still, but my Innisfree Green Tea Seed pre-serum and skin + Kiehl's Calendula Aloe Soothing Masque + Beauty of Joseon cream combo seems to be working for my poor post-acid sensitive skin right now.

I swear yesterday when I got home from my monthly facial, the GEL cleanser I use for mornings BURNT MY SKIN (that's how sensitive it was). One night after breaking out all the heavy + creamy things I usually stay away from seems to have worked... Read more


I have to say, I\'m kind of terrified of chemical peels at facialists, just because I know how hyperpigmentation-prone my skin is. Have you seen a difference in your skin overall hearts96? It must be working for you!


Yup! I have noticed fewer breakouts and much less congestion at my T-zone, but also know that a lot more tender loving care is needed in the week following a peel hahaha :P

I know the pain of hyperpigmentation, so my sunblock never leaves me nowadays, even if I'm out for just an hour or two.


Yikes! I know that "burnt" feeling all too well. I'm looking to add something with calendula to my kit, too. Thanks for the reminder. I'm glad you have some "creamy things" to calm the fire.