In the beauty sphere, no subject has garnered more attention over the past year than Korean beauty products and regimes. Multiple e-commerce sites specializing in Korean brands have popped up, while mainstream retailers like Sephora and Birchbox have expanded their assortment of Korean products, and Western beauty companies have incorporated Korean innovations like the cushion compact into their offerings. With all the buzz, it was only a matter of time before two popular K-beauty bloggers landed a book deal.
Kerry Thompson, who runs Skin & Tonics, one of the first K-beauty blogs to develop a strong following in the U.S., got an email a few months ago from a publisher who wanted to know if she would write a book about K-beauty. At first she thought it was a joke; but it was a legitimate offer. Thompson, a skin care junkie, then suggested that they also bring in Coco Park — the founder of K-beauty blog The Beauty Wolf and a former makeup artist — as a co-author, and a partnership was born. Park is currently a self-described "freelance writer and mom," while Thompson has a separate full-time career that has nothing to do with blogging or beauty products. Both are in their 30s.
The book, "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare and Makeup," will be released Nov. 3. I caught up with Park and Thompson on Skype to talk about the book and then obviously to get all their best recommendations for the Korean beauty products you should run out and buy ASAP.
So what will be in the book?
Kerry Thompson: It’s going to be a mix of some tutorials and a lot of beautiful product photo porn, and descriptions of products and how to use them, including how to assess and address your skin care needs, ingredient definitions, detailed skin care routines, and guides to achieving Korean makeup looks.
Coco Park: K-beauty sometimes feels like it [can be] really inaccessible to everyone and we wanted to bring in a lot of different races and skin tones and really show that, hey, this is for everyone. Don’t be intimidated by the name 'Korean beauty.'
How and when did you both first discover Korean beauty?
CP: I first noticed it when I went to visit my now-husband’s parents for the first time. My husband’s Korean-American and in his parents’ bathroom -- I know this is really creepy! -- there were all these cool bottles and things I’d never seen before. I was a makeup artist for years, so my eye was drawn to it immediately. Then during that trip I found the Face Shop store and I was hooked. It was over. I wanted to learn more and I googled and it actually brought me to Kerry’s blog. I started my blog in 2013. I started writing articles for XOJane and the Daily Mail found me somehow and Fast Company wrote a thing about me. It’s like I caught a wave and went up with it. I have a weird aesthetic on my blog so it sticks in people’s minds. I’ve always been an artist. I used to be in graphic design. When I started the blog I was like, Screw it, I’m going to do my weird work.
KT: That’s what makes your blog super badass! There was a French person called Hope in a Blog that was the only [K-beauty blog] I could really find at the time. Part of my blogging started because there weren’t the resources out there for what I wanted in K-beauty. I wanted stuff that gave me ingredient lists and talked about product types because at the time they were unfamiliar to me. I had a blog, so it seemed like a good platform. BB cream was my gateway product to other Korean products. I’m an obsessor. I will find something that I’m vaguely interested in, and they I will obsessively research it. At the time it wasn’t easy to get Korean beauty products here, and it seemed very elusive, and there was definitely an element of mystery and inaccessibility to it that made me want it more.
How do you feel about all the mainstream media coverage that K-beauty is getting now?
KT: Availability-wise, I’m excited. I like that it’s here. In terms of media coverage, I like that it’s getting visibility but my fear is that it will pass through as a trend rather than a paradigm shift. The philosophy of it has changed so much about how I do my own skin care. I think it’s probably helped a lot of people. But I’d hate to see it fade away as a blip in pop culture history.
CP: American products are so multi-tasking. It’s ingrained that simple is better, but that’s not true! I tell people it’s like the gym. You’re not going to get results unless you put in the work, and it’s the same for your skin. I wish I had known it 20 years ago because I’m paying for my sins now. I think a lot of the [K-beauty] bloggers do an amazing job covering skin care products in a way that just didn’t used to be covered.
So now please tell me all your favorite products so I can go buy them.
KT: The Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick. That’s a classic for a reason. The new Sulwhasoo [Perfecting Cushion Brightening]. In general, Su:m37 is a go-to brand for me. In terms of lower price point, I really love Skinfood products in general, like their strawberry scrub.
CP: Glow Recipe is carrying this brand called Whamisa and I am in love with it. I love their Organic Flowers Water Cream. I use that and my husband uses that and we have two totally different skin types. I also love the Whamisa sea kelp sheet mask. I call that the human kimbap. One of my holy grail makeup products is the Tonymoly Backstage Gel eyeliner. I hope they never change it. [I also love] the Rose Cleansing Stick, but my runner-up for that is the Su:m37 Skin Saver Melting Cleansing Balm. It comes with a magnetic scoop. It’s Banila Co.’s [cleansing balm] really rich aunt. It’s a luxury purchase.
KT: Speaking of Banila Co., they have a product line I love, Ms. Flower and Mr. Honey. There’s a cream and it’s great for skin that is dry and dehydrated. It’s a humectant but somehow not sticky. Goodal The Moisture Barrier Cream is an amazing mango seed butter based moisturizer with a consistency that starts out stiff in the jar, then melts into your face and creates a smooth, occlusive layer of moisture. It's really great for sealing in skin care products with a thinner consistency, but it also sets on the skin in a way that makes a nice canvas for makeup. And the Hanyul White Chrysanthemum Powder Serum. This is probably my favorite brightening serum.
CP: Illi body is a favorite. It’s so good. VDL Lumilayer Primer, and the Innisfree Waterglow Cushion. My husband is a model; he just signed a contract. He had really acne-prone oily skin and I put him on this CosRX regimen and now his skin is clear. You might see him in the book. I bullied him into skin care. He did not care about it, but now he asks me questions!
You can pre-order the book now.