Asian V.S. Western Skincare

It’s pretty obvious that I love Asian beauty products. I mean, look at this blog!

I’ve been in deep with my Asian beauty going on six years now and I can’t get enough! But, being that I don’t live in Asia or am of Asian decent, many of my friends and family are curious to know why I choose Asian products over Western ones.

It’s a valid question and one I’ve been thinking about a lot. Now, I do use Western products, but I don’t seem to have an obsession for them like I do Asian. I would say about 80-90% of my skincare routines are made up of Asian products, with Western products making up the remaining 20-10%.

But what about Asian skincare do I seem to love so much? Is it the price, the ingredients, the packaging? And what makes it so different from Western skincare?

The Approach

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The biggest difference that comes to my mind when I think Asian vs. Western skincare is the fact that Western skincare has a much bigger emphasis on chemical exfoliation.

When I think about Asian skincare, the only brand that comes to mind immediately that has a wide selection of exfoliation products is Cosrx. I know there must be more, but it just shows that chemical exfoliation isn’t at the forefront of the Asian skincare market.

However, I would challenge you to find a product at Sephora that doesn’t have chemical exfoliation! I’m kidding! But it sure felt that way shopping at Sephora a few months ago when I was avoiding all chemical exfoliation.

Western skincare generally has a focus on products that work fast to solve all your skincare woes. One of the best and easiest ways to ensure this is through the use of chemical exfoliation. I’m think specifically of trendy products like Drunk Elephant Baby Facial* and Sunday Riley Good Genes.* These are powerful products that deliver fast and visible results.

Whereas Asian beauty tends to have a more gentle approach. Want to reduce fine lines? Use the ancient Korean herbal Hanbang blend found in products like Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum.* Fighting acne? Use soothing Centella driven Etude House Soon Jung Cica Balm.*

Biggest difference here is the philosophy. Western products take a fast approach whereas Asian products take a slower, gentler approach.

Results v.s. Ingredients

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The second difference that comes to mind is how the product is portrayed to the consumer.

Western products seem to really lead with the results the product will deliver, while Asian products will often lead with the ingredients included in the product.

Here’s an example:

Sunday Riley Good Genes* bottle states: “Deeply exfoliates for clarity, radiance, and younger-looking skin. Visibly brightens the appearance of dark spots. Instantly plumps the look of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Purito Centella Level Buffet Serum* states: “EWG Green Level Ingredients, Centella Asiatica Extract 49%, Palmitoyl Peptide Complex, Asiaticoside, Asiatic Acid and Madecassic Acid.”

I’m not sure what the reasoning for it is, but consumers of Asian beauty products seem to be more enticed by ingredients, and perhaps more knowledgeable about which ingredients can give what benefit. I’m not sure if that’s because Asian beauty products educate their customer more on ingredients, or people who are already curious about ingredients are attracted to Asian beauty. Either way, it’s pretty clear that Asian products ride on the ingredients included.

Western products are marketed more by the results they can deliver and entice customers with the skin goals they will achieve if they use the product.

How Many Products Are In Your Routine…?

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Another big difference is how you build your routine in Western or Asian skincare.

Look, it ain’t 1998 anymore; we aren’t all doing the Clinique 3-step cleanse, toner and moisturize routine! But that is something very ingrained in Western skincare and many of us do still follow that type of philosophy.

Which makes sense, because Western products seem to address many skincare concerns all in one product.

Let’s revisit Sunday Riley Good Genes*:

“Deeply exfoliates for clarity, radiance, and younger-looking skin. Visibly brightens the appearance of dark spots. Instantly plumps the look of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Promises to exfoliate, make skin look younger, brighten dark spots, plump skin and address fine lines! That’s five separate skincare concerns it promises to address!

When you are getting so much bang for your skincare goals in one product, why in the world would you need more products?

Western skincare seems to encourage a 3-4 step routine with very powerful products that will address all your needs.

Let’s talk Asian beauty routines. Specifically that magic unicorn, the 10-step Korean skincare routine.

Asian beauty has no problem encouraging you to use many, many products in your routines. Because it’s pretty well accepted that consumers are going to be building routines out of many products, brands formulate their products accordingly. You will see that Asian products don’t claim too much from one product.

Let’s look at that Purito serum* again:

“This is a nutritional serum that protects the skin from the outer environment by soothing the skin and enhancing the reinforcement of the skin barrier. Formulated with only that hand-picked Green Level, highest-quality ingredients, and it is suitable for sensitive skin.”

That long sentence basically was a round about way of saying “this serum will soothe your skin.” That’s it!

Why are Asian brands marketing their products this way? Because they know consumers are buying many products to build their routines, so to encourage them to buy more they offer different products in the same line that will address the other needs of consumers. More money made for them.

It Cost How Much…?

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You knew this topic was coming. The price.

There can be a really big difference in the price of Western and Asian skincare. That is actually one of the biggest reasons I personally choose the majority of my routines to come from Asian beauty products. Asian beauty is often much less expensive than Western skincare.

And we have to compare like with like when discussing this issue. You can easily pay $230 for the History of Whoo Bichup Jayoon Cream* or $15 for CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.* I’m not saying all Western skincare is expensive and all Asian skincare is cheap. Clearly there is a wide range of all kinds of prices in each.

What I want to make sure is that we compare similar quality products against each other when we do that.

Take for example Drunk Elephant B-Hydra. This is a hydrating serum that is meant to give your skin a drink of water throughout the day. This uses hyaluronic acid along with provitamin B, ceramide and a fruit blend complex to deliver nutrition. Sounds wonderful and will set you back about $52!

Let’s compare Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum.* This is also a hydrating serum that includes hyaluronic acid along with broccoli, celery, and carrot root to deliver nutrition to the skin. This serum retails at a cool $22.

So why the big price difference?

I have two ideas as to why.

First is that the Asian market is light years ahead of the Western market when it comes to skincare research and technology. We all know that the most innovative research is coming out of Asia, and the West is catching up, but it’s been a slow process.

Because the Asian market is more advanced in research and development, many of these innovating technologies are old news, and that often means the price is not passed on to the consumer when buying products.

I would also point out that Western skincare often has elaborate marketing plans that cost a lot of money, and that is often reflected in the price of the products. Asian products certainly do spend a lot on marketing, but, especially with the Asian Beauty boom of about 2010-2012, many brands relied more on word of mouth and influencer marketing to get their products to an international audience.

The Final Word

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Is one better than the other? Nope, not even in this Asian beauty junkie’s eyes.

I love and rely on Western products for my powerful chemical exfoliation. I just can’t find a chemical exfoliation product that helps keep my skin clear like Western products do. I also rely almost exclusively on Western products for facial oils, as I feel they are ahead of Asian beauty on that front.

But the general philosophy of Asian skincare suits my sensitive skin best, and I’ve had great luck building routines my skin (and wallet) loves out of mostly Asian products.

*Indicates use of affiliate links that pay a small commission to help run this blog

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