This K-Beauty Brand Transformed My Skin-Care Routine

I’m a cheater. Not the pay-your-kid's-way-into-college kind of scam artist, but the type of commitment-phobe that's always searching for the next best thing — even if that search doesn't always go as planned. I once stepped out on my hairstylist, only to end up with a head full of heat damage. I vowed to go pescatarian in the name of better health, until someone offered me a cheeseburger slider (red meat, I just can't quit you!). And I swore up and down that I would use Aquafresh Extreme Clean toothpaste for the rest of my life, but when a boyfriend introduced me to Colgate Optic White, I easily switched sides. (At least I'm a turncoat with a gorgeous, white smile.) The rest of my beauty routine tends to follow a similar rule: I'm madly devoted to something until the next hot thing comes along to tempt me.

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No one skin-care brand has ever convinced me to commit to using more than one product from its lineup (though you could argue that my job as a beauty editor enables my infidelity). But if you were to walk into my bathroom right now, you’d see four pale-blue AHC bottles lined up on my vanity — and they've been there since June.

AHC is a well-known Korean beauty brand that arrived in the U.S. this summer. The products were born out of aesthetic spas in Seoul, where AHC is the fastest-growing skin-care brand. The brand already has plenty of name recognition overseas, but the new Aqualuronic line was tailored specifically to the American consumer. The five-piece collection, which is now available at Amazon and Target, is packed with hyaluronic acid for much-needed hydration, and each product has a lightweight consistency that works well with sensitive skin types. 

I discovered AHC when I was invited to Seoul to learn more about the brand. During the trip, I was able to visit one of the AHC's many spas, where I tried the products for the first time. After my facial, my skin looked radiant — which is saying a lot, considering I was waking up at the crack of dawn thanks to jet lag. But I wasn't sure if I'd get the same results without professional help, and I wasn't truly sold on the brand until we visited Hyundai Mall. There, I spotted a woman filling a large suitcase with toners, moisturizers, and sheet masks from AHC. At that moment, I thought: This brand must really be good.

While I was in Seoul, the brand's lead esthetician gave me a full rundown of how to layer the products. Per her instructions, I always go from the lightest to the heaviest, starting with the cleanser, which lathers into a silky foam. Then, I sweep the toner across my face with a cotton round to pick up any last dregs of dirt or makeup residue, before soaking another cotton round in the toner and pressing it into my skin like an essence. I layer on the serum and then finish with the emulsion, which is a lightweight lotion, before smoothing on my Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 (for the morning) or AHC's gel-cream face moisturizer (in the evenings). If I'm wearing makeup, I add a layer of the brand's best-selling Essential Eye Cream For Face under my eyes and in the laugh lines around my mouth where makeup tends to settle (although I only spend about three seconds doing this instead of the three-minute routine the esthetician recommended).

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You’d think all the layers of product would leave my face greasy, but instead, there's just a dewy glow that makes my skin look and feel the healthiest it's ever been. In the three months I’ve been using the products consistently, the giant cystic pimple that usually appears before my period never made its monthly entrance, and friends and industry pros have complimented my skin. Even on a recent week-long vacation away from my full-size products, I found myself thirsting for my tried-and-true AHC routine.

Surprisingly, I don't even miss the daily vitamin C serum and weekly peels that I used to do. In fact, all that feels unnecessary now, considering my skin is just as glowy without the extra actives and exfoliation. According to Jacklyn Lim, the Chief Marketing Officer at CarverKorea (AHC's parent company), that right there is the key to mastering K-beauty. "Eastern and North Asian philosophy is not about treating things after they go wrong," she says. "It’s more about taking care of yourself so they don’t go wrong.”

Consider my wandering eye reformed. Just don't ask me to pass on the steak frites.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission. Travel and accommodations were provided to the author by AHC for the purpose of writing this story.

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