Anton Hur

Writer, translator

Korean Skin Care Secrets

*Disclaimer: I am not responsible for what happens to your skin.

Have good genes. If you don’t, rest assured there’s only so much you can do anyway, so don’t waste too much time and money on skin care.

You can’t really “make skin look younger.” You can only hold on to young skin for as long as possible. In short: sunscreen.

Always wear sunscreen during the day. (If you only want one rule, this is it. Just cleanse properly before bed.)

Never expose your skin to direct sunlight, even with sunscreen on. Never means never.

The toner-essence-emulsion routine is a cosmetics industry scam. Those three products are the same thing with different textures.

You don’t need fifty products, just five: facial cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, tea-tree oil, and retinol. You only use the first three every day.

This is the only routine you need: 1) Cleanse. 2) Moisturize. 3) Sunscreen (morning, every day) or retinol (evening, once in a while).

Cleanse with warm water but rinse with cold water at the end to close your pores. It doesn’t have to be freezing, just colder than your cleanse.

Many people with bad skin don’t cleanse properly. Unless you have an actual disease, no. Your skin is not special. Cleanse your face properly.

If you get a blemish, apply tea-tree oil after moisturizer. And don’t touch it, even (especially) if it tickles.

Whitening is a scam. Darker skin is better skin: your flaws are masked and you wrinkle dramatically less. And freckles are so lovable!

There are a lot of scams in skin care. Their claims are not regulated like pharmaceuticals are. Rule of thumb: retinol is the only thing that really works.

Retinol is the only thing that reduces wrinkles and aging, except Retin-A, which should be taken only when retinol stops working when you’re older (if at all).

The point is not to eliminate or be ashamed of aging but to not look older than you actually are. You know who you are.

Don’t use expensive products (or retinol) when young. Start with the cheaper stuff and work your way up as you age. If you use Sulhwasoo at 30, nothing will work on your skin at 50.


You will never look 23 forever, unless you have the genes. But with proper care, you can look youthful and vibrant at any age. That’s the goal.

But the real secret to Korean skin care is our culture of relentless casual judgment of each other’s appearances. If you don’t have that, you’ll never have what we have.

About Me

I am a writer and translator working in Seoul. I was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and raised in British Hong Kong, Ethiopia, and Thailand, but mostly in Korea, where I’ve lived for thirty years. I was awarded the title of Person of Distinguished Service to the Nation after serving in the Korean Army. Repped by Jon Wood at RCW.

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