This post contains gifted items and affiliate links – however I have not received payment to talk about any of the products mentioned. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Clear skin. The dream. The absolute dream when you’re plagued with skin that is anything but. Whether it’s acne, redness, allergies, or my own personal nemesis: eczema, it can seem like a far off reality when you’re in the midst of a really bad flare up. Which was basically me for half of last year. But I managed to clear up my facial eczema, and I want to share how I did that with you.
From about mid-March to pretty much the end of August, I was suffering from the absolute worst bout of stress-induced, eczema-related dryness on my face. I’ve never had a run so bad in my adult life. Seriously. None of my ‘fail-safe fixes’ fixed it, and even my attempts to minimise it’s appearance didn’t help. It was really hard to cover up, or even hide, considering there were four separate patches on my face. It honestly looked like I had sunburn across my cheeks and nose when it was mild. When it was bad, it peeled, flaked, and was so sore. Not cute. Not fun. Very visible.
If you have a skin condition, you know full well how it affects your self-esteem, especially when it’s one you can’t really hide. My skin has been a point of pride since I left my teens, I spend a lot of time researching skincare products, new trend ingredients, and learning about the science side of things. Nothing was working, other than to increase my frustration and send my self-confidence plummeting. Especially when I had to turn down modelling work – or if (and when) people commented on it. You guys probably noticed a distinct lack of posts anywhere, right? Well, that’s the reason why.
I was so embarrassed.
My manager at work commented on it. I could tell that people were aware of it all the time, and once, some random lady on the subway was talking to her friend about it when they were RIGHT NEXT TO ME. I think that was probably the lowest, the most hurt I’ve been about my skin ever.
So, what did I do to get rid?
The steps I took to clear up my facial eczema:
Repairing the damage.
Bring the routine back to basics
First, I stripped my entire skincare routine back to the essentials. We’re talking cleanser, toner, moisturiser only – the basics of beginner K-beauty. It’s what I recommend to all of my friends when they are faced with skin troubles, as it’s a lot easier to work out what’s causing problems if you take everything back to the barest of bare bones. Reactants, irritants, or straight-up don’t-work-for-me products are more identifiable if you take everything away and then build back up, especially if you have added more than one new product recently, or something had a delayed reaction.
Doing this allowed me to work out if it was a reaction to a product, or if it was facial eczema so I could deal with it accordingly. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t a simple as a reaction (though reactions aren’t really simple), and I had to start the journey to clearing my facial eczema.
At this point, I also took any physical and chemical exfoliation aids out of my routine too, like facial brushes, sonic cleansers, and acids.
Swap to products with minimal ingredients
I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be able to swap in products when I need to, or go out and buy new stuff as and when. If that isn’t available to you, then I thoroughly recommend saving the money you would spend on products and/or shipping and going to a see a dermatologist. It’s far more cost effective than potentially playing product roulette or missing a more serious issue.
However, if you are like me and your dermatologist suggested options are ‘a higher strength co-steroid ointment’ or ‘brand name moisturisers I have tried (and failed) to get on with since birth’, you may want to get your hands on some products with minimal ingredients in their formula list to help with repairing the damage. You can’t clear your skin up if the skin barrier is compromised.
For minimal ingredient skincare, the two stores that I knew were going to have something at a decent, affordable price points that I could build a routine from immediately, were innisfree and Etude House. Both brands have skincare lines specifically formulated for sensitive skin that are hypoallergenic, and, as they are both Roadshop brands, if they didn’t work for me then I wasn’t hugely out of pocket. If they did, fab.
So my new routine was Innisfree Minimum Cleansing Milk, and Etude House SoonJung pH 5.5 Relief Toner. I quickly worked out that my skin was way too sensitive for just a water based cleanser, so I put my banila co. Clean it Zero back into the routine as my first cleanse, and sometimes my only cleanse. My skin was that sore.
Moisturise with skin repairing ingredients
My third step was to research the best ingredients to repair damaged skin. Anything to avoid the prolonged use of Hydrocortisone as summer was gearing up.
Eczema buddies, we all know that hydrocortisone is not to be used on the face, right? Reason: it thins the skin. Thin skin going out into the summer sun? No. Thank. You.
Look for Ceramides, Madecassosides, Centella Asiatia, and Panthenol. They are your (my) friends, as they closely mimic the structures that make up your skin’s barrier. I wrote about my 3 favourite kbeauty creams to repair your skin’s barrier which is more comprehensive, but the cliff notes is: I slathered them on my skin and willed them to work. And work they did.
Do as much as you can to help your skin heal from the inside; identify triggers
I know my skin reacts to dietary changes as well as my environment. I made a concerted effort to drink enough water for my body daily (around 2.1 litres), and got on top of the household chores – life is fun when you’re allergic to dust mites, like clothes, and have a dog. I got a vacuum, invested in latext gloves and technology wipes for my phone.
I also identified one of the bigger triggers that kept the areas aggravated for so long: my skin is too sensitive for sonic cleansing. Or, the sonic cleanser that I have. I was pretty enamored with the fact that it provided a great clean feeling, but every time that I tried to use it to help with exfoliation of dead skin, the eczema would be angrier, more painful, and way more noticeable the next day. So I binned it.
The final trigger for me is stress. My dermatologist asked if there was any way I could reduce stress in my life, and when I told her my day job was a Kindergarten teacher in Gangnam… the immediate ‘oh’ was very nuanced. I will never be a bare-minimum teacher – and the school I’m at is definitely on the ‘more stressful’ side of the scale. So I tried to look at other areas of my life that were stressing me out and seeing if I could ease back in some places. I made sure that I was doing more regular exercise, taking collagen supplements and limiting sugar. I was trying all the things your doctors tell you to do and I’m still not entirely sure it was working – but it is important to remember that good skin is not just topical application of serums and creams, but internal balance too.
pin for later
Building my skincare routine:
The First Routine:
These are the product that I used to clear my facial eczema, in the order I used them, and how. Repairing any damage was the only goal at this point.
Cleanse: Banila Co. Clean It Zero, Resveratrol (revitalizing, green tub) – a small amount in the palm of my hand applied directly to the face and massaged in with fingers for three-ish minutes. Rinsed off with lukewarm water. Innisfree The Minimum Cleansing Lotion – a small amount on the fingertips, lightly massaged onto the skin for about a minute, rinsed off with warm water. On some days I didn’t even use the second cleanse because my skin felt too fragile.
Toner: Etude House Soon Jung pH 5.5 Relief Toner – a small amount pressed between the palms of both hands, patted in to the skin with tapping motions from the fingertips. Applied between 3 and 7 times (the 3-7 skins method).
Essence: cosRX Advanced Snail Mucin 96 Power Essence – This really helped to relieve my skin and provide an extra layer of moisture. Sometimes I’d literally just slather it all over my face. Gross, I know. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Moisturiser: A rotation of these three creams, or layered application. Etude House Soon Jung 2x Barrier Relief Cream – applied liberally to the affected areas, and normally to the rest of the face. Used both morning and evening.
CosRX Honey Ceramide Cream – applied liberally to the affected areas, and normally to the rest of the face. Sometimes applied thickly only on affected areas as a mask. Used both morning and evening.
A’pieu Madecassoside Cream – applied in the evening liberally to affected areas, and normally to the rest of the face.
THE GAME CHANGING PRODUCT.
I’ve said that there is no such thing as a magic, fix all cream. I honestly, truly believe this. But.
The day after I used Goodal’s Green Tangerine Vita C Cream Intense my skin was So. Much. Better. Cue probably the most shock and underlying excitement I had in this saga. Finally, there was hope that I could clear up this run of facial eczema.
I’d never tried Goodal as a brand before – they’re the skincare arm of the Clio arsenal – and the only reason I picked the set I had was because I was trying to make a rocket delivery (next day delivery) spending minimum on coupang.
Vitamin C applied topically is said to help with wound healing as it promotes collagen and cell regeneration – but it’s effectiveness on actually healing wounds topically doesn’t have a lot of research (there’s this paper I found on topical application of Vitamin C on 2nd degree burns that concludes favourably, but the sample size is small). I had it, so I thought ‘what the heck’ and put it on the affected areas. Liberally.
I woke up and: serious improvements. It was the first time in a loooooooooooooooong time I had seen improvements. So, hats off to Goodal.
My Current skincare routine
This routine is a work in progress, as I’m still looking to introduce products to work on combating non-eczema related redness, some unevenness in texture and really get that glass skin look. I’ll keep you updated, but here’s what I have for now, and how I use it. It hasn’t triggered reactions or relapses, so it’s worked to clear my facial eczema.
First cleanse (oil): Banila Co. Clean It Zero Revitalizing – enough to cleanse the face. I like to put the balm directly onto my face and use the heat of my face/fingers to melt the product in. I also like to do a quick facial massage at this point to help lymph drainage and really make sure everything is cleansed off my face. Usually, I end up massaging for about 3 minutes, to really make sure everything is emulsified before rinsing with lukewarm water.
Second cleanse (water): CosRx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser I’ve ditched all high-foaming and therefore higher pH products, and am now strictly sticking to the non-sudsy cleansers. I use the CosRX Low pH Good Morning Cleanser, or none at all, depending on how my skin feels and how much makeup I have worn that day. If I’m using cleanser, I’ll only use a tiny amount lightly massaged in to help remove the excess oil cleanser and a little on my skin as my skin is super sensitive.
Double cleansing is such a great way to get all the gunk out of your skin without being too harsh. I’ve spoken more about the process in my Korean Beauty for Beginners post, but I genuinely do think that it’s one of the things that really makes your skin glow, and helps sort out and clear irritation problems, like facial eczema.
Extra Cleanser: Innisfree Green Tea Cleansing Water This has been a more recent addition, and is not a ‘main cleanser’ in my routine. I will use this to erase makeup mistakes (I’m still learning) with a q-tip, to remove stubborn mascara, or in the morning to remove sleeping masks or packs. I find that it’s very gentle, and soaking a cotton round or reusable puff is enough to removing makeup and extra product without having to tug or drag at all.
Etude House Soon Jung pH 5.5 Relief Toner – a little in the palm of the hand, applied with the fingertips (and palms) and tapped into the skin. Layered 3 – 7 times using the 7 skin method.
This toner is kind of a holy grail product for me, and I’m actually quite surprised it reached that status. I liked it when I was gifted samples waaaay back in 2017 (when the line was released) as part of a larger purchase, and I really enjoyed using it when I purchased the smaller size bottle, but wanted to try something different to test the toner waters. However, when my skin problems started in March, I knew that I would be able to trust this toner not to irritate or exacerbate the problem, and now I’m going to keep a bottle in my skincare stash. Both for emergencies, and if I need a back up toner. It’s been a staple restoring my skin and helping clear my facial eczema.
Application method is also important! Tapping the product into the skin helps stimulate the skin by increasing blood flow to the face, so product absorbs better. It’s one of those ‘skincare secrets’ that really helps. Don’t go as far as to slap, but a firm tap-tap-tap is a good way to disperse. I also layer my toner in the ‘multiple skins’ method now, as this helps to hydrate the skin. I’ll do a post on how this has helped my own skin soon, and until I get that out you can read Joyce’s post where she talked about it here. The basics are pretty much just repeatedly putting toner on your face in the method: apply, tap tap, apply, tap tap, apply etc… for up to seven times. It’s a trick touted by Korean Beauty mavens as really helping to get that glass skin look.
cosRX Advanced Snail Mucin 96 Power Essence: I’ll apply this liberally after toner, tapped into the skin so that it absorbs well. This product is one that is raved about a lot in the Kbeauty community, and for me I totally get it. My skin feels hydrated after use, and although absorption isn’t instant, it is quick and doesn’t feel sticky once its sunk into the skin. I found then when applied directly to the areas with eczema, it helped to repair the skin and clear up the areas on my face without stinging or burning. It was a great relief on days where my facial eczema was weeping (gross) and is one of the products I used religiously to help clear my eczema.
I rotated or layered these creams depending on how my skin felt before application.
cosRX Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream: Out of my three favourite creams to repair skin (and clear up my eczema), this was the one that came out on top. It’s a cream that feels light enough on the skin to use as a daytime moisturiser, but still packs a great punch in the realm of hydration for even the driest of skin.
Natural Derma Project Cica Bio-Placenta Cream (gifted): I received a really wonderful box of products from Natural Derma Project that included three facial creams. The one that I reached for instantly upon opening up the box was the Cica Bio-Placenta Cream. Cica is great for skin healing, so I was interested to see how it would help to clear up my facial eczema, and mixed with bio-placenta (a synthesised compound to work like the human placenta, but not derived from human nor animals), I felt like this would help rebuild the skin in the most heavily affected area. It’s a very watery cream, and it feels absolutely weightless on the skin. It sinks in beautifully, and feels very luxurious. I found that it worked well alongside the cosRX honey ceramide cream as a daytime moisturiser.
Goodal Green Tangerine Vita C Cream Intense: I’ve spoken already about how this cream was pretty much a turning point in this whole thing. It really did hydrate and soothe my skin. It does feel thicker than the other moisturisers, so I would use this as a night time moisturiser, and add anything else on top.
Finding a suncream that isn’t fragranced, doesn’t give white cast, suitable for sensitive skin, and gives adequate protection seemed like it was going to be a pipe dream, but I found one fairly quickly.
Earth’s Recipe Waterful Sun Gel – applied after moisturiser in the mornings (I don’t wear make up for work) as my last step skincare. This sun cream is so light weight that I honestly can’t feel it on my skin once it’s applied. It doesn’t leave a whitecast, and it doesn’t pill during the day. It’s SF P50+ PA++++ UVA/UVB, so I know that I’m protected during the short 10 minute walk to the station in the mornings… I don’t really leave work that often during the day. It hasn’t aggravated my eczema in anyway at all, either.
Skin Food Coconut Sugar Wash Off Mask My holy grain physical exfoliator. I love these masks, and was genuinely devastated when Skinfood went into administration, as it meant that I couldn’t find this mask anywhere. Thankfully, they seem to be in some sort of recovery so I’ve been able to pick up a couple just in case. I use this to exfoliate dead skin from my face once a week, twice maximum but only if I’ve been wearing heavy makeup. I use this according to the directions on the tub: apply to the face and let it sit for 15 – 20 minutes. The sugar in the mask breaks down to exfoliate the skin gently with your body temperature, so there is no need to rub the mask into the skin at all. Then rinse with warm water once all the sugar has dissolved. I’ve found this really works well with my sensitive skin, and has helped to gently clear up my facial eczema.
cosRX Low pH bHA overnight cream I’m still wary of acids as exfoliating agents, so I’m easing myself in with this very gentle bHA overnight cream that is also low pH. It works to gently exfoliate away dead skin cells as you sleep, so that you can wake up with refreshed skin. I like using creams like this as a little goes a long way, and it helps to shift any build up of dry skin without being harsh. I use the innisfree cleansing water to wipe away any debris quickly in the morning.
Dr Jart+ Goodnight Firming Sleeping Mask For added overnight hydration, I will use this Dr Jart+ sleeping mask three or four times a week. I find that it really leaves my skin feeling very plum and very hydrated in the morning, even though it is sticky and somewhat heavy feeling when applied. It sinks in fairly slowly, so I wouldn’t go applying a thick layer and then heading straight to bed, as your pillow might not welcome it even if your skin does. Dr Jart+ is a really good brand to check out if you’re having skin troubles as they have a lot of lines formulated for specific skin concerns.
And that’s how I did it. I did use hydrocortisone ointment on really bad days, but I didn’t want to be reliant on a skin-thinning steroid cream. I will reiterate that I did go to a dermatologist before I totally overhauled my skincare – and I highly recommendgoing to see one before you start altering anything to do with your skin. Skincare is incredibly personal <3
If you would like to purchase any of the kbeauty products mentioned here – especially if you are also suffering from facial eczema and want to clear it up – then check out these places I thoroughly recommend.
[aff link]Yesstyle – I’ve shopped with them for a really long time, (I’m a gold member, so that’s a fair amount of cash over the years), they were my first introduction to Korean products even before I went to University, and I’ve found them to be very reputable in providing legitimate and authentic products for kbeauty at market-accurate prices.
[aff link]Wishtrend – another company I’ve shopped with for a while, especially when I was in the UK. They have a great selection of products that are curated for different skin types, and it’s all hand picked by those in the driving seat. They’re a great company, their prices reflect true market prices (no sneaky inflation there), and they make sure all the brands they distribute are aligned with their ethos. They’re also fab advocates of cruelty free beauty. They’re especially good for sourcing Klairs, cosRX, and their eponymous brand By Wishtrend.
Olive Young – recently launched a global store! (Boots, take note. This is how you expand into a new market), so you can shop your Olive Young favourites from overseas. Olive Young is one of Korea’s leading ‘drugstore’ style beauty stores, so it carries a multitude of brands. You can get your hands on some of Korea’s favourite skincare picks fuss free, rack up reward points, and take part in their events which happen monthly.
Whew. Ok. I swear I’m done! If you got this far, thank you! Make sure you’re following me on instagram, youtube, and twitter! If you want recommendations for products you can always slide into the DMs and I can help you find some products. Don’t forget to leave me a comment, too! What’s your holy grail skincare product?
This post contains gifted items and affiliate links – however I have not received payment to talk about any of the products mentioned. Thoughts and opinions are my own.