I gotta say, I might be biased, but Americans are totally behind on the skincare and makeup front. Koreans are using awesome things like stem cells and ointments originally developed for burn victims. And there's Japanese mascaras that use wax and silicone to make your eyelashes so lush and thick and curled that you look like one of those dolls that have eyes that fall shut.
Super creepy, no?
But lately I've been getting really into it, especially since I read this article in Marie Claire about how Koreans are ahead of the curve as far as technological innovations in skincare. Basically, Koreans are winning when it comes to skin, and the main treatments the article mentions are lasers (SO EFFECTIVE), stem cells (sci-fi), BB creams (so easy) and high-potency collagen. I don't know much about the collagen treatments because it seems like the person that they interviewed for the article bought the rights to distribute in the US, so we don't get to know the names of the international competitors.
This post gets a little long, so read on to find out which products I've tried and which ones have actual results!
I began my quest in K-town, in a CD store that also sells stuff by The Face Shop, one of the biggest brands in Korea/Asia. They had a few kinds of stem cell lotion so I got one for me and one for my mom (I love Mother's Day promotions!). I think it's important to note that in the article, they're talking about actual human stem cells -- "actual media, or extract, of stem cells from adult bone marrow and excess body fat tissue" -- but the lotions I got are made from marine plant stem cells, not human ones. I've seen stem cell lotions in Asia, but before reading the article, I thought it had to be a translation problem or just a gimmick. I've only been using mine for a week or two, so it's too early to comment on effectiveness, but it does make my skin feel smooth!
The next Google search was on BB cream, and about 10 seconds later I realized that I am so so behind. As the article states, BB cream is a combination of skincare, SPF lotion, and makeup that theoretically lets you have just one step in the morning instead of however many you usually would (serum, sunscreen, makeup, concealer). It's a version of a formula that was originally developed in Europe for people post-laser treatment (or post burn, I read somewhere else too) to help skin recover faster. Theoretically, BB stands for "blemish balm" as it's supposed to help your skin in all kinds of ways: no blemishes, fewer wrinkles, more supple, etc. It's usually sold as being a lightweight way to have all the benefits of all those products I mentioned above.
Personally though, I find it pretty heavy. I don't feel like I need tint on all of my face, and the BB cream can settle and get a little grainy after a full day of wear, so I usually put on my light sunscreen lotion (Neutrogena Ultra Sheer SPF 55) and then some BB cream on top of it if I want more coverage than normal (normal being my usual sunscreen plus concealer on my eye bags). I love it for cooler weather, but now that it's getting hot, it's a little too gross to have that much on my face. Yesterday I forgot and went running and wore my white t-shirt, and when I wiped my sweat away, I got a whole shirt-sleeve full of flesh-colored grit and salt.
That said, I'm still shopping like mad on Sasa.com, the online shop of my favorite store in Hong Kong. There are so, SO many kinds of BB cream available in Asia that it's totally overwhelming, and I read that different companies have totally different formulas, so it's very trial and error to find one that suits you. Luckily, Sasa's put together this handy chart!
This is actually only the first half of the chart; there's BB creams 7-12 if you click over to it.
My favorite products through my search have been the Vitacreme B12 and my Kiss Me Heroine Make mascara: the absolute Holy Grail if you're looking for doll eyes. I'll save those for another post!