I Replaced My 10-Step Korean Skincare For $37 (And Saved $121,136)

Joni Edelman 42-year-old face with no fancy skincare

Joni Edelman 42-year-old face with no fancy skincare

A bipolar, body-positive bread enthusiast with a fucked-up pretty much healed ankle and a history of disordered eating chronicles health, weight-loss, and gardening. No diets allowed.

Korean women have gorgeous skin. I mean, I guess a lot of women have gorgeous skin, but Korean women are famous for it — and for the routine they use to achieve it. The popularity of the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine has made American women envious and cosmetic companies (even more) rich. I know because I spent about $185 last year buying 11 different products to cleanse, exfoliate, polish, tone, serum, and snail trail my way into beautiful skin. 

I look the same. 

I once heard Cindy Crawford say that she achieved her flawless skin by scrubbing it aggressively with a washrag, twice a day. I think this was about 25 years ago; I still remember it. I might remember it because it seemed like an unnecessarily intense skincare routine. I might remember it because by the time little girls know they have skin, they know it’s important that it be beautiful.

I ask myself a lot what “beautiful” means. I think it must mean “flawless.” 

I think we can interpret the term “flawless” in a number of ways. I also think there are some things that are just always seen as flawed — wrinkles, hair where hair shouldn’t be (on a female chin for example), pimples, red splotches, brown splotches, really any splotches, age spots, broken or visible vessels (the things with the blood in them). To “fix” these flaws, there are thousands of products available at your local Ulta or Sephora — stores literally created to help people (mostly women) be flawless. 

By the numbers:

Last year I spent more than $1200 on things for my face and body. Probably a LOT more, but I stopped adding at $1200 because that’s when it started getting embarrassing. In part, because I could have spent $1200 on a lot of things, in part because I don’t look any “better.” 

10 Step Korean Skincare? A counter of expensive makeup. Including Peter Thomas Roth's Dragon's Blood.

What is pictured here is probably $400 of 10 Step Korean Skincare bullcrap.

(I know you’re wondering where the $121,136 comes in, that was not hyperbole, I’m getting there.)

I spent $75 on just this Peter Thomas Roth product alone. It has Dragon’s Blood Complex. I don’t know what Dragon’s Blood Complex is or how it’s made, but I know it had a five-star rating. I also know that several users reported that after using the $75 Dragon’s Blood Complex, their broken facial capillaries disappeared. Broken facial capillaries are the one thing I really really loathe, so much so that I spent $75 on some whack product to try to get rid of them. 

I’ve spent so much money at Sephora, I’ve got Beauty Insider status until I die. 

But I’ll never find out how many premium-size samples I could collect because I’ll not be giving Sephora my money anymore. 

Money matters.

I still need to wash my face, and I still need some lotion. Here is what I replaced my $400, 10 Step Korean Skincare Routine with:

1. Cleanse. $7.90 every four months.

(I don’t wear makeup so I don’t have to remove it, if I did, I’d use coconut oil.)

Best soap ever. Pre de Provence honey almond.  It's French.

Honey Almond Pre de Provence. $7.90 is a lot for soap, I realize, but this soap lasts me two months if I use it on my body AND face. It’s got little almond pieces in it, so it’s exfoliating too (even the reformed vain don’t like scales).

2. Tone. $1.44 and this will last you at least three months if you use it every day.

Witch Hazel on the cheap

Want to get fancy?

Unnecessarily Fancy Quinn's Rosewater Witch Hazel

This baby will set you back like $14. It’s witch hazel + rose oil. It will last you at least three months unless you bathe in it.

3. Moisturize. $12.88

Cetaphil Moisturizer. Lotion on the cheap.

This one bottle will last you about a hundred years (seriously like 12 months though).

4. If you want to get really fancy you can exfoliate once a week for 6 months for $5.44 :

St. Ives Apricot Scrub Super Cheap Exfoliant (+ Blemish Control!)

5. Is the winter freezing and dry where you live? Super Ultra Moisturizer for $4.92: 

St. Ives Timeless Skin Super Intense Collagen Moisturizer

$52.70 + tax for a year of really good skin care. Want to pare it down? Wash and moisturize for $37. Want to pare it down even further? Use Dove soap. $17 

Money matters. 

When I was a kid, I used to say to my dad “money can’t buy happiness!” My dad used to say to me, “No, but it sure is nice to be miserable on a beach.”  Sage wisdom, dad. 

Anyway, I don’t mean “money matters” in like a “I want to be rich” way. I mean “money matters” in a “money is freedom and freedom is power” way. I also mean it in a “I need a hundred thousand dollars” way. 

If you’ve followed the column, you know that in a bit under a year, my family will be relocating. The move is causing me a lot of panic, and while I think we agree panic is bad, we also agree that sometimes panic makes you reevaluate things in a good way. 

In this case, money. Moving means buying a house. And to buy a house, you need money — specifically 20% of however much house you are going to buy. We’ll most likely be moving north near Santa Cruz (and Silicon Valley, which is where my techy husband works). 

Houses in the Bay Area are a million dollars. 

I know people use the term “a million dollars” hyperbolically to mean “a lot.” But in this case, it actually means a million dollars. Which means we need actually $200K. Which is a lot. Of money. 

So much money. 

We have kids. We’d like to live in a nice school district where our kids can thrive, especially since one of them needs a little more than average. We’d like to be able to send our older kids to college. We’d like to eventually be able to retire — like before we’re 100. 

It was the need for $200,000 that made me really look at how I spend money. But once I got there, it was the absurdity of what I spend money on that made me dig deeper. I dug right into my makeup drawer, because that seemed like a pretty easy place to start, with the $75 Dragon’s Blood bullshit laying on top of the 10 Step Korean Skincare Routine, that was laying on top of some lotion infused with almonds and baby tears. 

I realized that I still have the capillaries that the Dragon’s Blood was supposed to fix. I still have wrinkles. I still have red spots and brown spots and marks and blemishes. I realized that I don’t really care about those things until someone makes me care about them. 

I’m not revolutionizing anything here; we are all getting older. We are all getting wrinkles and spots and whatever else, and we are only trying to get rid of them because someone told us we should. Really. You didn’t know that your wrinkles were bad until someone told you they were. You didn’t know that age spots weren’t just a normal part of getting old until someone told you that you should get rid of them. 

You didn’t know that any part of you was broken until someone made you think it.

What if we just all decided that we’d let ourselves get old without trying to snail-trail-Dragon’s-Blood-Complex-10 Step-Korean-Skincare our way out of it? 

We’d save a lot of money. Even $121,136 



And now, I’m about to break down some freak-ass math for you. That’s your reward for staying around this long.

We don’t talk about money and that’s a shame because there is a financial secret that we don’t discuss. It’s called compounding interest. You don’t need to know how it works or even why it works; you just need to know that compounding interest is how money grows exponentially. You also need to know that the stock market performs at about a 10% rate of return over the long haul. If you don’t know that, I just told you, you can trust me.

Confused? Stay with me.  

When I added up the $1200+ I spent on Dragon’s Blood and snails last year, I threw up in my mouth and then decided I wouldn't do that again. Instead, I took $1200 and put it in an index fund (this one is your very best bet). Next year, I’ll do the same, and so on. In 25 years, by the miracle of compounding interest, that $1200 will be $121,136. 

I’ll be 67 then, and I’ll look old regardless of what serum complex snail shit I put on my face, so I’ll take my wrinkled body and retire to a beach somewhere.

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Drink your water, boos.


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