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An Apology To My Face: Important Lessons Learned on a Skincare Journey


An Apology To My Face: Important Lessons Learned on a Skincare Journey
Leo Louie
Leo Louie

Oct 03, 2019

Skincare professional Leo Louie may look like he has it all together, but even the best of us go through plenty of trial and error in our skincare journey. Here, he takes us into his skincare past and exposes some of this epidermal skeletons. Because you know what? We’ve allll been there.


I don’t know how many of you out there are extreme planners, but I definitely am to a fault. The internet has told me that I can blame the Libra in me or something. I have a lot of spreadsheets and charts regarding everything in my life, but in particular for my video games and skincare. I’ve planned out what products I want to try, where I’m going to purchase them, what season I want to use them for, and other details that seem excessive even to myself as I’m typing this out. But hey, whatever makes us happy right?


That’s the whole point of this skincare thing. As I was taking a look at the “blueprint” for this year (yes, I said “year” — @JudeChao can verify that I overplan), it’s really striking me how much my routine has evolved and changed over the years. Mainly the absolutely horrible things that I used to do to my face and what I do now instead. Let’s take a little stroll down this very dried-out, overly oily, and congested memory lane together.


skincare journey
istock/Lin Shao-hua


Apricot scrubs are demons


When I started to get excessively oily during my early teenage years (they feel so long ago lol), I did what we all did during the early 2000s: I went to Target, grabbed a $5 tube of apricot scrub, and used it morning and night instead of my face wash. On weekends, I might have even gone for a third bonus round just to make sure I was “getting everything off.” Skincare gods have mercy.


And I wasn’t gently buffing either y’all — I was fully mashing my palms into my face, pushing VERY hard like I was trying to flatten out pie dough and grinding the bits into my skin. For months. I’m convinced that this practice is what transformed my acne from a case of light to moderate breakouts to moderate to severe cystic clusters of breakouts.


skincare journey


Nowadays, I use much, much gentler forms of exfoliation, and I’ve found my skin likes a combination of chemical exfoliants and physical exfoliants. If I had access to the COSRX Two in One Poreless Power Liquid back in the day and a good peeling gel like the one from Secret Key (I’ve used three or four tubes of that stuff), I think I would have saved myself a lot of hyperpigmentation and sad nights in the mirror staring at my face. I definitely went through a few months of congested pores by dialing my exfoliation way down to find the right balance for me (I’ve found that as of now, it’s two days using an acid and two days using something that’s enzymatic or buffing), but it has been worth the journey, trust me.


You can’t wipe away oil


Toners with super high alcohol content were also a staple in this Dark Era of Skincare that I was living in, and I used them. Generously. After tearing into my face with the aforementioned scrub that I will no longer speak of, I’d dump a bunch of bright blue toner that smelled like nail polish remover and, you guess it, rub vigorously at my face. It definitely stung, and I absolutely told myself “that means it’s working.” Sweet baby Jesus help me.


skincare journey
istock/Lin Shao-hua


Be gentle! I understand the urge to go overboard because you want to address the things that are bothering you, but skin, or any part of our body for that matter, doesn’t work that way. As the weather changes and/or your lifestyle shifts, take the time to pull back and see what balance is right for you. It’s been very rewarding to give myself the time to figure out what it is that I personally need, not just going by what YouTube or Reddit tells me. They’re resources, not definitive guides.


Burn and salt the earth


In the next stop in my skincare journey, I realized how terrible these overly abrasive scrubs could be and started to learn about chemical exfoliation. I thought I had it all figured out, and I was going to be “smart” about my exfoliation now because I was going to use acids instead. I was convinced I had “moved on” and was somehow more “informed.” Then I immediately jumped into using vitamin C, acid toner, and retinol products in some combination every single night of the week and literally gave myself a series of mild chemical burns slowly over the course of a few months. I won’t frighten anyone with pictures (not that I was taking many), but holy crap, my skin was not healthy, and I looked like I was permanently sunburned.


skincare journey
istock/Lin Shao-hua


Had I done what had been recommended to me by so many resources online, I would have taken things gradually over the course of at least one or two months and slowly ramped up my exfoliation. Of all the things that I have done, overusing acids was probably the most dangerous (the sun takes no days off where I live), and my newfound ego that led to me barreling headfirst, literally, into high percentage glycolic acid solutions could have caused me some serious, lasting repercussions. Don’t do that. Please.



The COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid is a great, affordable way to get into chemical exfoliation and something that I’ve had a lot of friends use with great success. I think a good indicator of how often you need to exfoliate can be how often you need to wash your hair. Those of us with oily skin tend to also have more oil production from our scalp, so every other day or so (three to four times a week) is my happy medium for exfoliation, like I mentioned above. But your perfect frequency might only be two to three times a week or even just once a week.


Skincare is more than just about skin


Please do not follow in my footsteps. I understand the excitement over a new product featured on your favorite blog or some fascinating trend on Reddit that you want to immediately use in your routine. I also have come to understand that the frantic drive to push and push for results stems from something a lot deeper than just skincare. We’re all just trying to feel good about ourselves and do what we think is going to help us achieve the results we want from our routines.


men wearing makeup skincare journey
What skincare mistakes? The author's glowing complexion today.


I’d say the most important takeaway from this article and the thing I’ve benefited from the most over my skincare  journey thus far is realizing that it’s not about how many steps you can incorporate or chasing some warped version of perfection. It’s about investing time in yourself to do something that is purely for your own benefit, no one else’s. My pores will always be large, and I cannot burn them off with an acid toner, and I’m always going to have hyperpigmentation hanging around if I get an ingrown hair or break out. It’s just how it is, and it’s not ugly or bad or something to be ashamed of. It’s just a part of life.


Taking care of my skin is forced me-time every day, and that by far has been the biggest contribution it’s made to my life. As we embark on a new year, I’d encourage all of you to try and view your ever-evolving routine as an investment in your skin health and personal well-being, not about getting a flawless complexion. Skincare isn’t a race, and it should not be stressful. Just relax, breath deep, and pat away. :)


What was your skincare journey like? What lessons have you learned, and how do you approach your routine now? Share your (horror?) stories in the comments below.




Leo Louie
Leo Louie

Born in Korea and raised in Washington, Leo is another 20-something member of the K-Beauty Squad that is as committed to his love of skincare as he is to wine and cheese covered snack foods. After working as an educator and trainer in the beauty industry, he joined the team at Beautytap to continue sharing his knowledge and passion for skincare and all things chok-chok. During his free time, he’s been spotted in the wild bingeing Netflix shows, blasting K-pop while playing video games, or (much more rarely) leaving his hovel to venture forth in search of cocktails and Korean BBQ.



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