Jul 14, 2014  •  In Asian, Beauty, Korean, Personal, Shopping, Travel

Korean Beauty Haul: Introduction

A few months ago, at the ripe ol’ age of 33, I purchased my very first eye cream.

And I LOVED it.

“Why have I never used eye cream before?!?” I exclaimed on Facebook. “I don’t have lines yet (knock on wood) but my eye area seems so much smoother and softer…and dark circles lighter.  :-D

(In case you’re curious, I had gotten the Shiseido Ibuki Eye Correcting Cream.)

My Korean friends were horrified that I had only just started using eye cream. They had been using it since their twenties — some, even from their teens — along with toners, essences, emulsions, serums, packs, masks, etc.

Say what?

From having shopped in Korean stores (and having watched Korean dramas), I knew that such products existed, but I always eschewed them for the simpler cleanser+lotion duo. I exfoliated when I felt I needed it, I never used masks, and I never got facials. And I know I should consider myself lucky (and I am thankful for the fairly good skin genetics has blessed me with), but with my mid-thirties just around the corner, I knew that I should start taking better care of my skin.

So with my newly acquired eye cream just starting to run out — and with my trip to Korea coming up! — I decided to do some digging into the expansive world of Korean skincare products.

One of Korea’s most popular beauty brands, Laneige, made its stateside skincare debut
via Target this year.

You see, Korean skincare is all about prevention and maintenance. This is in stark contrast to the western method of “Oh crap, I’m starting to see some lines! Better buy that $100 eye cream I saw at Nordstrom!”

Koreans — men and women alike — are taught from a young age to cherish and take good care of their skin. (Yes, my mother has been on my case about taking better care of my skin ever since I can remember, but like any typical daughter would do, I ignored her. :-P ) Even their makeup philosophy complements their skin obsession: the better your skin, the less makeup you need.

As such, it’s no wonder that Korean women regularly use 14-17 skincare products throughout the day. Or that Korean skincare technology is about a dozen years ahead of that of the U.S.!

There’s also the fact that skincare products in Korea are readily available (there seems to be a beauty store in every corner, even at subway stations), and at much more affordable prices!

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t go too crazy during my trip to Korea, and that I’ve only added a few items to my daily skincare routine. However, the items I did incorporate have — in less than 2 weeks! — made my skin clearer, smoother, and softer than I can ever remember.

Cross my heart! Even J says he’s jealous of my super-soft skin!

Because this post is already getting too long, I will save my actual Korean beauty haul for next time. In the meantime, here’s a preview of my favorite items from the trip!


To be continued…

Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 1
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 2
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 3

Jul 10, 2014  •  In Korean, Personal, Travel

Reflecting Back on Korea

I wanted to jot down some memories from my first-time-back-in-13-years trip to Korea before my aging brain locks everything away into the dark corners of obscurity. And since I love making lists, here are 10 things that are freshest on my mind from my trek back to the motherland!

1.  First and foremost (in what is probably a no-brainer for most of my readers), Korea far surpasses the U.S. in terms of everyday technology. My relatives’ apartment complexes, for example, had retina-scan security systems and motion-activated lights in hallways which automatically dim at night. There were security and emergency intercom systems in every bathroom. Underfloor heating systems. Filtered faucets and showerheads. Heated toilet seats. And much, much more.

When I commented on these to my uncle, he told me that these had been around for ages in Seoul, and that the newer buildings even have health-monitoring systems — that can notify local hospitals of emergency situations — built right into the buildings!

2.  That being said, I was a bit disappointed in Korea’s internet speed. I knew that S. Korea has the fastest average internet speed in the world, so I was prepared for blazing-fast web escapades. However, every WiFi connection I used was only slightly faster than what we have at home (but then again, NJ has the 3rd fastest internet speed in the U.S. so I may be a bit spoiled).

I had signed up for an international plan with my wireless carrier prior to my trip so that I would be able to use my smartphone in Korea…and their 3G and LTE speeds weren’t that much faster than what I get at home either. :-(  However, when I expressed my disappointment to a cousin, he told me that Korea has an LTE-A network that is that world’s fastest cellular network (10x faster than 3G), but that most consumers don’t use it due to its expensive costs. 

3.  Speaking of cell phones, I LOVED how I always got perfect service and reception in subway stations and while riding the subway trains. Everyone — including little ol’ grannies — seemed to be using their smartphones while riding the subway or bus. Many commuters streamed their favorite TV programs on their phones while riding the subway. And NYC only just started rolling out cellular service in larger subway stations!

4.  The food. Mmm…the food…


5.  More amazement at Seoul’s super-efficient public transportation system. Every subway and bus stop had electric signs that inform commuters how much time is left until the next car. The free subway and bus apps I downloaded for my phone far exceeded those of the transportation apps in the U.S.

Additionally, Seoul uses a system of rechargeable cards and other “smart” devices, called T-Money, for paying public transportation fares. (T-Money can be used in lieu of credit cards in many businesses, especially convenience stores, as well.) I am so used to NY’s MetroCards — which have magnetic strips that need to be swiped — that I found T-Money’s touch-and-go system utterly fascinating. And when I needed to check the balance on my T-Money card, I discovered that my NFC-enabled smartphone could easily do the job by simply touching the card to the back of my phone! How cool is that?!???

6.  Because the average height of Koreans is (or at least was) shorter than that of Americans, I hardly had any trouble reaching for things. Subway/bus handles. Items on store shelves. Everything was within reach for this 5’1″ (155cm) shortie, even when wearing flats!

7.  Did I mention the food?


I felt like all I did was eat during my trip. (And everyone I met with insisted on taking me to their favorite 빙수 — or shaved ice dessert — place for dessert…so I had the sweet treat every day!) I fully expected to return to the U.S. at least 10lbs heavier. But when I stepped on the scale after returning home, I was surprised to learn that I had lost a couple of pounds. I guess all that walking and sweating paid off!

8.  Speaking of sweat…the humidity. My gawd the humidity! Although the temperatures were similar to that of NY (low to mid 80s), the humidity was practically suffocating. And my cousins told me that it gets worse in July and August!

9.  I’m not sure if I can ever get used to Korean bathrooms. No, I do not have a problem with squat toilets — which are still pretty common in public areas — since I grew up with one whilst living in Korea. My problem lies with the fact that Koreans do not use shower curtains in their bathrooms. In fact, Korean bathrooms have drains on the floors, so there are no mats on the floor and it’s not uncommon for people to leave the entire bathroom soaking wet after showering.

I’m sure that Koreans would find America’s bathrooms strange as well. But even with bathroom slippers, I just could not get used to the idea of walking around on wet bathroom floors!

10.  Generally cheaper prices on everything. I’m normally not a big shopper, but I went a little crazy on my trip to Korea. I plan to do a future post on my Korean beauty haul — because beauty products are so much cheaper, at usually better qualities, than here in the U.S. — but suffice it to say that between all the books I purchased for C&A and beauty products I obtained for myself and family, I almost doubled my luggage weight when returning home. (In fact, I came dangerously close to having to pay extra. The luggage weight limit was 23kg….and my suitcase was 22.8kg!)

Jul 7, 2014  •  In Art/Design, Entertainment, Movies

When Disney Meets ‘Orange Is the New Black’

While some may find the juxtaposition of cartoon character faces on human bodies creepy, I think this Disney and Orange Is the New Black mashup deserves a mention.

I’m loving Rapunzel’s loopy stare as Nicky, and Belle being cast as Daya just somehow makes sense. And seeing Eric as Pornstache makes you consider the innocuous prince in an entirely different light, doesn’t it?  ;-)

But Ariel as Red…aside from the obvious color of their hair, I fail to see the reasoning behind the match. And anyone who imagines Snow White as a member if OITNB other than Morello must be high on something!

Elsa as Piper:

Ariel as Red:

Belle as Daya:

Continue reading »

Jul 6, 2014  •  In Korean, Personal, Travel

Back to Life, Back to Reality [Jetlag Edition]

The current time here, back home on the east coast of the U.S., is 2:47am and I am WIDE AWAKE. :-?

It figures — just as my body was finally becoming accustomed to the day-night reversal in Korea, my vacation came to an abrupt end. When I was still planning this trip, J (who has taken 3 trips to Hong Kong in the past couple of years) warned me that I would need at least a week in Korea and another week to fully recover because “We’re old now! Our bodies can’t handle the time difference like we could in our twenties!” And it seems that he is correct.

If I could say one thing about this visit to Korea, it would be that nothing was astonishing. I had half-expected Seoul to be a metropolis of the future with technology mirroring that of the fictional cities of Minority Report and I, Robot. And while in some ways, Korea is spectacularly advanced compared to the U.S., most of the time I felt like I was still back home in the states, perpetually in a Korean restaurant or in certain parts of northern NJ or Queens where many Koreans reside.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I fit in quite well. I had read that Koreans can spot Korean-Americans from a mile away because we tend to stick out like sore thumbs in terms of our appearance and mannerisms. However, this didn’t seem to be the case with me. (Perhaps because I’m so short?) Everyone assumed I was a Korean born and raised in Korea, and was always surprised to discover that I was on a visit from America and that my Korean wasn’t perfect.

And on a more superficial note, I was overjoyed that everyone called me 아가씨 (ahgahssi, which loosely translates to “miss” and is a form of address for young ladies and unmarried women). Not once did I get referred to as an 아줌마/아주머니 (ahjumma/ahjumuhni which is used for older, married women).  :-D  In fact, most people told me that I hadn’t changed at all, and even my aunts whom I haven’t seen in 13 years said that I looked exactly the same since they saw me last. (And you know how brutally honest older Korean women can be!)

That’s enough ramblings from this jetlagged blogger. I really should try to get some sleep — don’t you hate it when your body is exhausted but your mind is awake?

A picture my sister sent me of the girls while I was away.
I missed them so, so much!