This Book Might as Well Be Called 'K-Beauty for Dummies'—and That's a Good Thing

This book succeeds at being a practical beginners guide to the often confusing world of Korean skincare.
Publish date:
November 3, 2015
books, Korean beauty, K-Beauty, Korean Skincare, Bloggers

I’ve always found Asian beauty products intriguing. Korean brands are pretty easy to find in Vancouver, and sometimes I drop by my local T & T Supermarket just to check out the beauty aisle. But I never buy anything, because I usually can’t tell what a product’s for, or how to use it. I can’t read Korean, and as a discerning beauty nerd, I want to know as much as possible about a product before I buy it. Plus, imports are expensive, so I only experiment when I really can’t resist the packaging.

I have the same problem with retail sites. And even when there’s English text, I still find the product names and categories confusing. Just what is a "Timeless Placenta Bound Emulsion" and how is it different from the "Timeless Placenta Bound Cream"? Is placenta a good choice for my oily skin? This the point where I just give up and buy a more familiar product.

That is, until I read Korean Beauty Secrets. This book has opened up a new frontier of consumerism for me. (More expensive jars of goo to put on my face! Wheee!)

Written by two beauty bloggers, Kerry Thompson (from Skin & Tonics) and Coco Park (founder of The Beauty Wolf and xoJane contributor), Korean Beauty Secrets is a comprehensive guide to Korean makeup and skincare. It’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to spend hours reading through blogs or the Asian Skincare Subreddit. If you’re already a Korean beauty fan, reading this book will be like reading a giant issue of Allure; it’s light but detailed, and stuffed with specific product recommendations.

Korean Beauty Secrets covers a lot of ground, including:

  • common ingredients
  • how to choose products that suit your skin type
  • the steps of a Korean skincare routine and how to craft your own, from a 5-step “simple” routine to a 10-step “advanced” routine
  • sample routines from 9 beauty bloggers
  • Korean makeup trends and products
  • how to buy Korean products

Thompson and Park take care to explain how products will work on a variety of skin tones and types (there’s plenty here for women of color). This book doesn’t get into bigger ideas about Korean beauty culture, though, and the authors don’t really comment on Korean beauty standards, though they do attempt to explain the common use of the word “whitening” (supposedly, it’s interchangeable with “brightening” and refers to an even skin tone without hyperpigmentation or dark marks).

They also don't acknowledge the excessive number of products you need to create an optimal Korean skincare routine. (I’m just saying, I totally understand why the Korean government is pushing to make beauty products one of the country’s biggest exports). This isn’t really a criticism, though—Korean Beauty Secrets is trying to be a practical guide, and it succeeds. But if someone wants to write a deeper book on the subject, I’d be all over it. (In the meantime, I’ll just re-read this New Yorker article).

When I finished Korean Beauty Secrets, I felt really informed, if a little wary of 10-step routines and endless product layering. (Seriously, how do you wear all these product layers and not feel sticky?) I don’t think I’m going to dive head-on into K-beauty just yet, but I’ve started to look for products that will suit my skin. In fact, I’ve already placed an order for Snail Bee Essence…

  • Are you using any Korean products that you love?
  • Does a 10-step skincare routine seem excessive to you, or am I just lazy?
  • Who’s going to buy this book and nerd out?