What I learnt when I swapped skincare routines with my mum for Seoul Fashion Week
Like a Virgin
As anyone with siblings can attest, genetics are a funny thing. What one inherits is entirely dependent upon luck, chance, and la destinée, which, in hindsight, is a flawed system sure to result in misplaced blame in later years. See how I fault my short stature and crooked teeth to my father, while my sister holds my mother accountable for her thinning tresses. Still, it's not all bad — I'll admit I'm hoping to inherit my father's pitch-black mane at 60, his razor-sharp hearing, and most importantly, my mother's poreless, flawless complexion which requires (seemingly) zero maintenance.
You see, my mum's skincare routine has remained a mystery to me for years now. Unlike her makeup vanity which is piled high with many a luxury lippie, her bathroom shelves are conspicuously bare spare for a deodorant stick. Questions about her routine are often met with a blasé shrug or a non-committal line about 'keeping it simple'. Sheet masks and skincare goodies gifted to her are left to gather dust in her room. Mentions of 'hyaluronic acid' are met with a blank stare not seen since the likes of Joey Tribbiani in that episode of Friends on encyclopedias.
It's a puzzle I had a long given up on trying to solve. Then, opportunity came knocking in the form of a work trip to Seoul Fashion Week. In what I considered to be a stroke of genius, I suggested that we trade skincare routines for four days. To my surprise, she agreed and handed over her stash readily on departure day. Good luck and bon voyage, indeed — below, a recount of my harrowing, Freaky Friday of an experience. Buckle up, because it's a bumpy ride (literally).
Day one: A rude awakening
I hastened to unpack the second I arrived at my hotel mostly so I could avoid ironing over the next four days. And while I was pleased to note that most of my clothes weren't looking all too creased or crumpled, my delight was short-lived upon unzipping my mother's toiletries bag.
In it, I discovered a Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser, Eau Thermale Avène Hydrance Rich Hydrating Cream, and Crystal Tomato's Beyond Sun Protection Sunscreen. No serums, makeup removers, or masks in sight — heck, or even basic grooming goods, such as toothpaste and soap. A quick phone call to my mother confirmed my suspicions: she used whatever was provided at the hotel whenever she travelled to "save on luggage space". Oh, the horror. With great trepidation, I set about removing my makeup with the sole cleanser provided. Surprisingly, it did the job — and left my skin feeling luxuriously soft after. The same can't be said about the three-in-one shampoo, conditioner, and soap provided by the hotel, though. I emerged with straw-like locks despite the fact that I'd just underwent a deep-conditioning treatment the day before, while my skin felt dry and rough to touch. At one point, I seriously contemplated applying moisturiser to the ends of my hair, but thankfully, succumbed to sleep before going through with it.
Day two: When the going gets tough...
As per my mother's suggestion, I skipped out on cleansing in the morning and went in straight with sunscreen and makeup. Odd as it was, I did feel that my skin didn't oil-up as much midday as it would in Singapore — though that could be attributed to Seoul's cooler temperatures. And while I liked her sunscreen just fine, the thicker, creamier texture of her moisturiser took some getting used to. Plopping face-down into my pillow seconds after application was definitely a non-option.
Day three: ...the tough caves and calls it a day
The discovery of a monster zit by my hairline weakened my resolve. I ducked into an Olive Young (the Watsons of Seoul, as you would have it) to snap up cult-favourites such as the JSoop Silk Keratin Shampoo, Hairpack Treatment, and Bio-Piel Body Wash to keep me going. I was further tempted to swap out the moisturiser for my go-to pick — the Laneige Water Bank Hydro Gel — but held back in hopes that Eau Thermale Avène's richer, more decadent formulation would pay off in the cooler, drier climate. Fingers crossed.
Day four: Things are (finally) looking up
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my skin did look a tad bit brighter and dewier than usual. The zit — in all its red, pulsating glory — remained, but was easily concealed with heavy-duty foundation. All in all, my moneymaker felt soft, smooth, and cleansed despite the limited line-up, and I was almost (repeat: almost) sorry to see them return to my mother's shelves.
The final verdict
Four days is too short a time to say if my mum's pared-down routine actually transformed my skin for the better, but it's safe to say that my complexion didn't suffer all too much from the swap. In fact, any distress I experienced had more to do with the disruption of my routine than the actual results of the experiment. Some might argue that skincare is no form of self-care; a sentiment I personally find difficult to believe considering how off-balance I felt with this simple switcheroo. No matter your stance, I say it's a good time as any to slap on a face mask — because all that blue light exposure from reading this piece can't be good for your visage. I'm happy to report that I'm rocking one of my own liking as we speak.
Like a Virgin is a bi-weekly column by Beauty Writer Emily Heng, wherein she documents her first trials in the latest, most buzzy beauty treatments as the youngest member of the Buro. Singapore team.