Myeongdong: Skincare Mecca

I’m totally obsessed with skincare. The right regimen and the right products can truly work wonders. It can change the texture of your skin, improve your complexion and even make it glow. We only get one face, so it’s crucial we take the best possible care of it. And not just the face, all of our body really. That’s my thought on it, at least. So I’m always looking for new products and ways to keep my skin hydrated, fresh and as healthy as possible.

Over the last few years, Korean skincare has been all the rage. I’ve heard, seen and read so much about it. Their face masks are legendary. But there’s so much more to their skincare than that. The standard Korean routine involves several steps more than I was used to. I was a follower of the cleanse, tone, moisturize and sun protection regimen, with occasional exfoliation. But now, there are about four or five more steps in my daily process. And it’s totally worth it. My skin looks better than ever. And I would have never discovered the magic of Korean skincare had I not gone to Myeongdong.

Myeongdong is one of the most famous shopping districts in Seoul. Excited to see what the shopping scene had to offer during my first trip to Korea, I dedicated an entire day to checking it out. What I found when I arrived was skincare mecca. Myeongdong has hundreds of shops that sell all sorts of goods. Shoes, bags, clothes, souvenirs, jewelry… you name it. But there’s also a high concentration of skincare stores that sell more products than I could have ever imagined. From essences to serums to eye masks and everything in between, you can find plenty of everything here.

All the major Korean beauty brands have stores (some have several) in Myeongdong so you can get your hands on pretty much anything you’re looking for. All brands offer products for different skin types and goals, and most stores have sales reps that speak English so you know exactly what you’re getting. The labels are usually in English, too, so that helps. I like to shop at a few different places for different products. Myeongdong makes that easy and is the perfect place to get everything I need in one trip.

The Korean skincare regimen can involve as many as 13 steps, depending on the time of day and skin type.

  • STEP 1: The first step is cleansing, but it’s really two steps (in the evening only). Clean the face with an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup first (I love Banila Co.’s Clean It Zero), followed by a foam cleanser (I’m currently using Skinfood’s Egg White Pore Perfecting Meringue Foam).
  • STEP 2: The second step is toning. I’ve gone back and forth with toners. Honestly, I’ve never really seen that they make a huge difference in the overall appearance of my skin. However, I have noticed that it does allow my skin to absorb the products in my skincare routine better when I use it. I just started using the Moistfull Collagen Toner from Etude House, and, so far, I like it!
  • STEPS 3-7: The following steps can be more or less depending on what you choose to use. Here’s when you use emulsion, essence, facial oil, serum, and ampoule. You can use one, some or all of these. They are all somewhat similar. An essence is like a lightweight serum, for a lighter feel. An emulsion is like a pre-moisturizer. Facial oils are fast-absorbing, extremely moisturizing, and can be used with oily skin. Ampoules are super-concentrated serums; they have a thicker consistency than serums but promise big results. Personally, I only use an essence (Innisfree Jeju Orchid Enriched Essence) followed by an emulsion immediately after. I’m still experimenting with the facial oils.
  • STEP 8: The next step is eye cream. I have tried a few Korean skincare brands for eye cream, but I always go back to Kiehl’s Rose Arctica Eye Balm.
  • STEP 9: Moisturize. This step is super important.  I’ve tried a few different ones, and I really like the Innisfree Jeju Orchid Enriched Cream.
  • STEP 10: The next thing you want to do is protect your skin from the sun (AM only)! I have not experimented with Korean sunscreens yet, so I have no suggestions on this one. But there are plenty to choose from.
  • STEPS 11-13: These are the irregulars. By that, I mean these steps aren’t necessarily daily. They are exfoliation, face masks, and sleep masks. I like to exfoliate every other day. The days I do it, it’s my third step in the evening or second (I eliminate the oil cleanser) in the morning. I like the Black Sugar Face Scrub from Skinfood and the Coconut Sugar Scrub from Too Cool For School. As far as face masks go, I only use them a couple of times a week after I apply the emulsion. I love the face masks from Nature Republic, It’s Skin and The Face Shop. Sleep masks are used in place of night creams. I’ve tried a few and have liked all the ones I’ve tried. Right now, I’m using the Jeju Orchid Sleep Mask from Innisfree. I also use eye masks on a weekly basis. I like the 24K gold ones; I can’t remember the brand.

I can’t say I stick to the entire routine every single day. I try, but I’m human. Some days I’m just too tired or don’t have the time. But I follow it most days and have seen a noticeable difference in my skin’s appearance. It’s smoother, clearer and brighter. I have combination skin and I’m not typically prone to breakouts. The products I mentioned above work well for me and my skin type. But you may have to try a few things to find what works well for you.

Myeongdong is a great place to explore all the Korean beauty brands and products, but if that’s not your thing, it’s still a cool neighborhood to visit. It’s the place to go to shop for pretty much anything. Plus, there are some pretty good eateries in the area, and at night, vendors selling tasty snacks and random wares fill the streets. Stores stay open pretty late, and it’s always a little crowded (at least every time I’ve been). The energy in this part of town is pretty electric. It’s definitely worth checking out. 💫

My Five Travel Must-haves

My packing list tends to vary by location and season. If there’s a beach or pool, I pack my bikini. If there are mountains and snow, I bring my gloves and a big coat. But there are a few things I never leave home without. My passport, medicines (headache and cold stuff) and sneakers go without saying, so I’m skipping those. But these five things I absolutely need!

1. Journal

I never travel anywhere without it. Ever. I typically don’t have time while I’m traveling to make full entries. But I use it to jot down notes, the names of places, lessons learned, itineraries, etc. I also tape ticket stubs, receipts and sometimes even napkins on the pages (yes, I’m sentimental like that). It helps me remember my adventures better. And it’s always fun to go back and read it after time has passed.

2. Headphones (and iPhone)

I never leave home without them; it doesn’t matter how far I’m going. Listening to music helps drown out noise during flights, but also I like to create soundtracks for my trips. I know. It’s a little weird. But songs and smells trigger my memory more than anything else, and I really love hearing a song and having it transport me to the places I’ve been and remind me of my adventures.

3. Camera(s)

Duh! The camera I take depends on where I am going, how I’m getting there, and how long my trip is going to be. Sometimes I take my GoPro. Others I take my Nikon. Or sometimes even my Pentax. I always have my phone, though (unless I lose it mid-trip–yes, it’s happened), and the camera on it is pretty decent. having a way to capture my travels is crucial.

4. Skincare (Gotta have it!)

First, sunscreen. I very rarely burn. But I never want to. So I always pack my sunscreen–especially the stuff for my face. I use Kiehl’s Super Fluid Daily UV Defense. It’s lightweight and has SPF 50. And my face stays burn free. Second, moisturizers. I find my skin gets really dry when I travel, especially when I go on long trips. So I always make sure I pack moisturizer for my face and body and eye cream (Keihl’s Rosa Artica face and eye cream and coconut oil for my body). I also pack a few moisture-mask sheets. This stuff keeps down skin irritation for me, and there’s nothing worse than going on vacations and feeling itchy, irritated or uncomfortable.

5. Rosebud Salve

Lastly, I can’t live without my Rosebud. It’s not just a must-have for travel; for me, it’s an everyday essential. It helps with dry skin, soothes burns, and even treats diaper rash. I mostly just use it as a lip balm, but I never leave home without it.