Building a Routine with Drugstore Products!

With the recent overload of skincare posts, I received a ton of email/comments/DMs enquiring about drugstore products to build a(n) Asian/Korean skincare routine. 

When I say 'drugstore', I'm gonna go for drugstore-price products since it's not particularly easy finding these products in our local Watsons/Guardian. 

I use a wide range of products and am lucky enough to be given the chance to trial out Laneige products and intro u all but I understand it's not very affordable for everyone lah. 

The beauty of developing ur own Asian-Beauty routine means u get to choose and target areas of concerns, and pick what to use or not to use. If u have multiple areas that require diff attention, it's perfectly okay to use 4 different products to work on these issues with the proper layering and application techniques. 

I'll try and note where the products can be found as well; be it online or in stores. Pls note this is not customized to any skin types but more of a generic recommendation of sorts! 

*** I'm not a professional and I don't have any background in this except for a wild passion for skincare and personal research into all these stuff. All products should still be patch-tested first and be given at least 2-3 weeks of trial period to note efficacy and see if it causes any problem for your skin!

1. Cleanser


Double-cleansing is a pretty important step in the AB (Asian Beauty) routine and there are really a TON of good drugstore makeup remover. If Bioderma isn't for u (I hate this, it stinks my eye EVERYTIME) then try out Garnier Micellar Water, My Beauty Diary Micellar Water etc. 

This I won't go into cause as long as u own a proper 1st cleanser and use it nightly, it's alr a correct step to take. 

If you're using anything oil-based as a first cleanser, it is really highly highly important to remove them properly. Oil residue tend to be slightly more stubborn and cling onto our skin more so if u don't wash them off properly, u might just end up clogging ur pores more. So spend time massaging ur face with ur cleanser and get into every nook and cranny HAHAHAH

I like to spend at least a min using my fingers to massage my face while cleansing! 


A low pH cleanser is necessary to maintain the pH of natural skin. If our skin's pH gets too alkaline, it becomes an awesome breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Isn't that just lovely. Hahaha

If ur cleanser comes with BHA and u r wondering why it isn't doing anything for ur skin, that's cause u wash ur cleanser off after 1-2 mins, it isn't enough time for the BHA to work on ur skin. A cleanser's purpose is to cleanse. If ur cleanser alr does a good job, then don't fix what's not broken. 

I personally dk the pH of my current cleanser - Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser but I've emptied out 4 bottles of it and I love how it feels after so I stick by it.

However, if u r looking for a decent drugstore low pH cleanser, the Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Foaming Cleanser is a great one on the market. A low pH cleanser maintains the acidity in natural normal skin so this is the first step to achieving balanced skin.

2. Actives

This step is for products that contain active ingredients to target specific problem/issue. Blemishes, pigmentation, anti-aging etc. require specific actives to aid in treating them at its root. 

Blackheads/Sebaceous Filaments/Clogged pores/Breakouts: BHA

Fine lines/wrinkles/sun damage/hyperpigmentaion: AHA/LAA

I'm not recommending the LRP Effaclar range cause that has other actives/ingredients in it. I thot I'd just try & focus on one active at a time for now k.

A good, decent BHA on the market is the well-known Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid/Gel. I personally don't trust her 'scientific' reviews anymore cause aside from being too critical, some of her 'claims' are not even done properly. Still, her products are definitely decent and worth a try. 

Ok, I know this isn't easily available in Asia but u probably can find this online now. If u r oily/combi, the liquid or gel will suit ur skin type. Just pat it into dry/cleansed face and wait 20 mins before u apply other stuff!

A gentle AHA I would recommend from the drugstore is this. There's two versions - daily and intensive. 

Lightening of pigmentation; including freckles, can be aided with a product like this but PLS NOTE, this is an AHA so it causes photosensitivity. If u DONT wear sunblock, it will cause a lot more damage and a lot more pigmentation issues. I can't emphasize this enough! 

This isn't the cheapest product but I love how gentle it is! It performs well too 😊

A wait time of 15-20 mins in between ur acids will help them perform more optimally. This won't normally appear on the directions but acids are pH dependent so anything with that will work better with a waiting time. 

If you're using diff actives on diff parts of the face, you can apply them and then wait it out together. E.g: BHA on tzone and AHA on cheeks

If you're LAYERING actives, it's better to wait.
1. CNP on entire face
Wait time: 15 mins
2. BHA on tzone
Wait time: 15 mins

3. Hydrators

If you're on a budget and want a decent skincare routine without being over the top, this is the part where u can probably get a lot of bang without spending too much. Sure, shark sauces, snail mucus, propolis all sound super enticing and awesome for the skin but if ur wallet don't allow this, then replacing it with decent products will still bring u good results. 

A ton of products fall under this category - first essence, hydrating toners, serums, essences, lotions all are under this. Not EVERYTHING is necessary here but everything extremely fun is here HAHAHAH

I'll still intro products under each category but u can always sub it out for smth else u own. 


A First Essence, to me, is like a special treat for the skin. Think SKII FTE with that incredulous price tag. The closest dupe that ever came close was the MISSHA FTE but they reformulated it before I even tried it. The new formula isn't too popular so I'm not keen on trying it. 

If ur skin is oily/combi, u won't be needing a First Essence AND hydrating toner cause it might be a little too much. I would personally recommend a hydrating toner to begin with first. 


A hydrating toner helps to replenish immediate moisture loss after u wash ur face. It's in liquid consistency and is very light so it's one of the first thing to enter ur skin (AFTER Actives).

A decent one to start with that has good ingredients is the Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid lotion.

As we age, our collagen breaks down & skin loses natural HA content = less ability to hold moisture. A product that contains HA can provide skin with extra dose of hydration to plump up the skin. QQ skin who don't want right. Balanced skin has a 1:1 water and oil ratio so a lot of us actually have skin that are dehydrated and require water to reduce oiliness. 

A hydrating toner helps to replenish lost moisture and it's normally something very watery and easy to absorb. Use a few drops and pat into ur face to allow the skin to absorb the first layer of hydration. This preps it for the other stuff later. 


I talked about the difference between this particular step and first essence in yesterday's post so I won't talk about it anymore k. 

Now here's where all the fun comes in truly. Serums, essences, ampoules all contain potent ingredients to further help ur skin - hydration, brightening etc. Fun because it's really a no-loyalty market - anything and everything is up for grabs. 

There's a lot of affordable Korean brands in Singapore/Malaysia - Innisfree, Faceshop, Etude House to name a few. They have serums for all kinda issues! Haha can just try try.

The Innisfree Green Tea Serum is packed with antioxidants and is a good kinda starting product if u r new to this whole Asian-beauty thing, or looking for a decent wallet-friendly product!

If u have access to CosRx products, the snail essence is a pretty raved product in the community. This is my next product in my cart ready to check out hahaha but I really gotta clear up my current routine first. 

If u need to layer serums on because ur skin NEEDS it, then by all means go ahead! Have fun, go wild. Hahahaha

Just try to include 3-weeks trial period when trying new products cause otherwise, u won't know what works, what doesn't, if it's a specific product that's causing u to break out etc. 

If u hydrate ur skin properly, u might find out that ur skin type is not what you've always thot it to be! Dry skin might be dehydrated and with proper care, it can even be normal!

4. Occlusives

To prevent all the wonderful stuff from evaporating upon using it on our face, sealing it with a moisturizer will help to retain moisture in our skin. With moisture, our skin becomes more plump and QQ lah. 

An occlusive can be a light emulsion (for oilier skin), a gel-creme (for combi-dry skin), a(n) cream or oil (for dry skin) and it goes on. If u have layered on products and feel that u don't need another layer of moisture, then just stop! Skip this step 😊 It's really perfectly fine. 

On days I feel extra dry despite layers of hydration, I still add 2 drops of RHO to my moisturizer. Sometimes, I skip the oil and use an extra layer of serum instead. 

Because the weather is FINALLY warming up, my skin is not as dry and I can skip an extra layer of serum and it doesn't really make a huge difference in how my skin feels.


This has quickly become one of my favourite and it's relatively inexpensive. It contains snail slime, green tea extracts, hyaluronic acid etc.

Even tho it's a gel-creme consistency, I think in general, normal, oily, combi, & dehydrated skin will like this but drier skin types might require something heavier. Mixing an oil in might help?? 

I like how easy it absorbs into my skin and lock in moisture. It doesn't make my skin oily too. Luvvit.

If ur skin is dry - aka lacking in oil/sebum, rosehip oil is filled with a lot of skin-friendly ingredients and can boost oil-level. It will give u a really beautiful glow too omg

If ur skin FEELS dry but is oily to the touch, then its actually dehydrated and NOT dry! 

iHerb carries this particular 100% RHO for a really good price and I'm personally a fan of it.

5. Treatment

In the AM, this comes as sunblock! Yes, pls wear sunblock EVEN IF ur makeup comes with SPF 30. U are not applying enough of the base to get the full SPF30 so ur coverage is probably SPF15 or less only 😱 

Make sure u apply generously and wait for it to settle before continuing with ur makeup. Gently pat ur sunblock in instead of rubbing it to make sure it doesn't lose efficacy. I like using my rubycell puff to do this cause it is anti-bacterial and helps me do it 2x faster + more evenly!

My all-time fave is the Hada Labo UV Air Spf50. I use the one for combi skin! I think I'm on my 3rd empty bottle alr hahaha I go thru this like crazy. This isn't the cheapest but I like the ingredients, the SPF factor and it is rather light lah. But if u r allergic to any chemical sunscreen, then make sure u check the ingredient list on cosdna first! 

In the PM (or even in the AM if u want), I like to throw in either a sheet mask or a sleeping mask. Again, it's what ur skin needs. Sheet mask and sleeping mask have the ability to pump hydration into the skin, compared to moisturizers which are emollients layered on top of the skin.

This is why my sheet mask's step is always before my moisturizer. I also use it ON TOP of all my serums/ampoules sbecause the sheet mask helps serums/ampoules to penetrate deeper and prevent evaporation.

I love mask-shopping in Sasa cause the range is so wide and the price is so affordable! Very good quality masks even if u r on a budget. 

My few favourites from My Beauty Diary range are the Black Pearl, Hyaluronic Acid, and Rose one.


If u r looking for a drugstore leave-on sleeping mask, I really like the Naruko Raw Job's Tears Night Gelly. It has plenty of good ingredients and I reviewed it here before @sweetpea:100117

It has many many awesome looking ingredients and that makes me happy. Omg okay tonight I'm gonna use this! Go watch all my mask journey on instastories k (@/beautypeadia) and lemme know what kinda masks u all use. I'm very open to sheet masks and leave on masks hahahaha everyone can share then everyone can pretty together k ✌🏼

When the wind picks up here, my skin gets so dry that I will use a sheet mask + sleeping mask after just to hold the water content in or it will just evaporate in 2 seconds. So it really depends on how much ur skin needs. 

For most skin types, masking 3-4x a week should bring about plenty of improvements! I do it daily cause I'm freaking kiasu and I love skincare and wedding in about 8 months lmao


The steps pretty much are the same! 

If u want smth simple and u think that's all ur skin needs, go from cleanser to hydrating toner, use a serum and seal with a moisturizer and u r set! 

Have oily problematic skin? Include an active to combat pesky problems. Same goes for fine lines, and pigmentation! 

Want more hydration to help lessen oil production? Use a sheet mask right after your serum step to allow all the essences and serums to penetrate better! 

It's about building your own range that suits ur skin. I recommend like a gazillion products each month but my skin type might not necessarily suit yours lah. So what works for me might not do as much for u.