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My Trip to Korea Taught Me the Truth About Skin Care

was raised with Korean skin care before it became mainstream and cool and a shiny shelf at Sephora. My Umma, my mom, wore sheet masks religiously before they were sold in the checkout aisle in Urban Outfitters. She also used ginseng and snail cream while everyone else was using pink-grapefruit soap; slugged, moisturized. Her goodnight kiss always left a glossy sheen on my cheek. I clung to my Korean-ness through boxes filled with sheet masks, red-pepper powder, and strawberry-shaped sponges. Living in Maryland for almost all my life, all I wanted to prove was I was Korean enough. Skin care was a way to connect with my culture that was sometimes at odds with my American environment.

I can’t speak Korean. I never wanted to be whitewashed. Having a routine with products rooted in my culture gave me a sense of superiority of being an expert in something Korean, even if it was just skin care. “Not only am I using Korean skin care,” I thought, “but I’m using good Korean skin care, like the crème de la crème of sunscreen, Beauty of Joseon.” Come to find out, I was so wrong.

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