Airbnb K-Beauty experience: What happened when I made my own personalised Korean skincare routine
Like a Virgin
If there's anything the beauty industry has instilled within me, it's a healthy sense of scepticism. I dismiss miracle, instantaneous-cure skincare potions right off the bat; discredit stretch mark creams on the daily; and discern gimmicks from the real deal with ease. Call it intuition — or maybe an inflated sense of ego — but I'm rarely unequipped with an opinion on the latest happenings, whether it has to do with makeup trends, wellness fads, or the state of Noah Centineo's hair (seriously, what's up with that?)
At the top of the list when it comes to beauty offerings and treatments I'm dubious about: homemade skincare. As much as it might tout itself as the safe, natural, and healthy route for all conscious consumers out there, I remain unconvinced as to its efficacy. Is it truly possible to create a lightweight, gel-type moisturiser purely from ingredients and equipment from the kitchen? A formidable, free-radical fighting serum from green tea and wormwood extract?
A work trip to Seoul seemed like a good time as any to put this theory to the test —particularly since Airbnb had just launched a myriad of K-Beauty experiences ranging from private consultations with makeup professionals to bath bomb making sessions. Apprehensive and intrigued in equal measure, I signed up for a customised skincare workshop located in prime hipster stomping ground: Hongdae.
What was the workshop like?
I was e-mailed a handy course guide upon registering my interest, which detailed the address, duration, and class size of the experience. And while the multitude of rave reviews proved reassuring, they were also misleading in their assurances that Vic's Lab was located a mere "five minutes away from Hongik University." Word of advice: set aside at least 15 minutes to get to your experience, especially if you're directionally challenged. Seoul's streets are a maze, with your destination only distinguishable by a small signboard out front. I arrived with seconds to spare, disheveled with dignity nowhere in sight.
Thankfully, it was easy to get settled in. Vic's Lab is a small, cosy apartment space that fits about five comfortably. The intimate setting was calming to my frayed nerves, as was instructor, Victoria's, serene demeanour. Class commenced with an introduction to hazardous ingredients commonly found in typical skincare offerings. Think parabens, formaldehyde, and various other nasties that are responsible for allergic reactions and skin irritation. As quick as the crash course was, it served as a reminder as to the need for transparency and authenticity within the industry; setting a sobering tone for the rest of the workshop.
I was told we'd be making three products on the day: a lip balm, toner, and serum. Each step and ingredient was laid out carefully on individualised task sheets, which were issued out based on Victoria's observation of your skin type and concerns. I was expecting fancy Bunsen burners, teh tarik style blending, and whisking reminiscent of a contestant finalist on Masterchef. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, everything was methodical and meticulous, requiring careful, precise motions and maneuvering to get the just-right measurements. Still, none of it was too challenging — I emerged in the end relatively unscathed and with my very own personalised skincare loot.
It stands to reason that a lot of work goes into producing, developing, and creating a skincare. Making it functional, however, is an all-different ballgame together — one that is not as arduous a task as one might think. The cherry-flavoured balm I whipped up saved me from peeling, chapped lips for the rest of my trip; the toner eradicating any left-over impurities post-cleansing; and the serum granting a natural, dewy glow to skin for weeks to come.
Sure, it didn't transform my complexion drastically, but it did improve, correct, and maintain skin effortlessly, leaving me to wonder about the necessity of factory-made formulations. Are we really paying for top-notch, premium-grade ingredients and results, or is it yet another marketing ploy we've fallen prey to? A single class is not proof enough to change my mind, but it's sure got me thinking. And while I won't be ditching my store-bought buys just yet, I probably won't be hitting up Sephora the second I hit pan on my eyeshadow palette. Who knows? There might be an intriguing recipe on the Internet for it.