Koreans are so into looking their best at all times, they're a culture obsessed with beauty and thus, have an unsurpassed multitude of beauty products and far too many different stores to purchase them at. My newly found favorite of these is called Etude House, which from the outside (and inside) looks like a 13 year-old girl's Barbie dream house, but houses so many awesome things for buyers of all ages (hopefully over 13, I don't see why a kid would need most of the things in there, but I digress). Korea is not only a country obsessed with beauty, they're also obsessed with "cute-uh!" Everything is cute, from a beaded hair clip to a pair of fuzzy socks with smiling frogs on them to a coffee cup with an exaggerated happy face plastered on the front of it, if it's made in Korea then you bet it's going to be cute. My kids call everything cute. My cell phone case is cute, my Pororo highlighter is cute, my coffee mug with pictures of my friends on it is cute, another teacher's rainbow umbrella is cute... the list goes on. So it makes sense that these beauty stores would also be just that: cute. Even if the products they sell are made for people over the age of 15, the look of the store caters to a girl of that age's tastes. Everything is pink, there are bright white chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the labeling and packaging on everything is outrageously bright and shiny and, well, cute-uh. Etude House's mission is "to beautify young women through lovely products and friendly counseling." There are Etude House stores in Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan.
Inside a Korean Etude House (image from google)
Inside a Singaporean Etude House (image from google) - looks about the same here, just more people and a lot less space.
Apart from the madness that is Etude House's stylist choices, they sell some absolutely amazing products there. One of these products I never thought I'd be buying once, much less multiple times a week, and that's Korean paper face masks! I have yet to find my favorite "for fun" face mask, but I did stumble over a gold mine when I was given a trial size sample of their AC Clinic Intense mask with a purchase there recently. Whenever you buy anything at a handful of beauty stores, they give you little extra testers and trial size things for free. If you spend at least $5 at most Etudes you get a free packet of lotion or two. Last time they threw an aloe gel packet, some pore shrinking clay based cleanser, and a black charcoal chin pack in with mine. Of course I have no idea what these things are or how to use them (the directions are all in Korean or really funny Konglish), but they're fun to find in my bag when I get home! So here's a recap of some of my favorite Korean paper face masks I've gotten from Etude House in the past month. I'm still kind of experimenting (there are so many choices), but these are my favorites as of right now.
The masks I bought on my last trip (with my fun free stuff, too). All of this for less than $5 USD!
"I Need You, Green Tea! Mask Sheet" says it soothes and comforts stresed and fatigued skin. I've found that nearly all of these masks claim to do that, so I'm not quite sure what the difference is... except that they use green tea in a lot of things here, like lattes and desserts and apparently face masks.
"It's Real Mask Sheet Carrot!" is supposed to be used for skin brightening care.. I've only used this once and I didn't really notice a huge difference, but it felt good and of course I looked like a model while using it!
"AC Clinic Intense Mask Sheet" or as I like to call it, the gold mine! When I use this before bed I wake up with skin that doesn't feel too oily or too dry. I have yet to determine if this mask is the cause of my breakouts being less world shattering, or if they're getting better because I'm using different face wash, or maybe I'm just outgrowing them knock on wood! but after another few weeks I'll probably figure it out. Anyway, this mask is awesome because it doesn't sting and your skin actually feels nice instead of medicated.
"Black Charcoal Chin Pack" is one of the freebies that came with my mask purchases. It says the black charcoal additives are supposed to remove oil from pores, as well as tighten pores and improve chin complexion. Hmm. Have yet to try this, but it looks so cute-uh!
"I'm the Wonder Woman for Your Pores" is freebie #2, and literally everything on the back of this is in Korean, except for the name (thank goodness). It says it's a 7 in 1 total pore solution, doing a billion things from balancing the skin's pH to minimizing the appearance of pores. Have yet to try this one out either, but if it's truly the superhero it claims to be it can't be too bad.
"Aloe Soothing Gel" has the least fun name so it gets to go last. Another freebie, the girl at Etude told me that it's just a gel to put all over skin, face or body, to soothe it. Would be much more useful if the sun ever came out in Korea to give me a sunburn, but I'll try it out at some point regardless. My pale vampire-like skin could probably use some softening anyway.
The very best part of all of these paper face masks is how beautiful you look when you're using them! You take it out of the package and it basically looks like a soaking wet floppy .02 cent Scream-gone-wrong Halloween mask made in a Chinese factory underwater. It has holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth, and is face-shaped (unless your face is shaped like a square). So you take this mask out, unfold it, and very carefully place it on your face without missing any key holes... you know, so you can breathe and see and stuff. You leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then take it off but don't wash your face! After you take it off you're supposed to rub in whatever's left on your skin and call it good. Interesting. For your viewing pleasure, here is how I look in a Korean paper face mask:
...and here is how a cute Korean girl from google looks
thanks for one-upping me once again, Korean girls.
I've decided that with my new found love of Korean beauty products (which truth be told is more of a love of the stores that sell them and the weird items they sell here), I'm going to start blogging maybe bi-weekly about different beauty products they use here, and the stores I found them in. Not sure what the next update will be, but I'm thinking perfumes and the bottles they come in. I've also seen sprays to scent your hair and your lips. It's a strange, strange country we live in... oh, Corea.