Review: The Little Book of Skin Care by Charlotte Cho

If you're into Korean or Asian skin care or if you are just dabbling in that world, The Little Book of Skin Care by Charlotte Cho will be your new favorite read. It's got everything that you ever wondered about Korean skin care routine with a little culture lesson about Korea as well as some personal experiences by Charlotte Cho moving from California to South Korea. I found it to be really interesting, educational, at times funny and easy read.

About a year or two ago I have started reading about Asian skin care and I was fascinated. Before your late twenties you may not think about your skin care as much, especially if you are European or American. But after you pass 25, you realize that your skin needs more attention and with the help of rising skin care blogs and youtubers, you really can't get away from all that. 

As a makeup artist I have noticed that people usually don't take care of their skin as well as they should. There are certain exceptions. In general we think that makeup will make us look "prettier", but you can't really create masterpiece on bad canvas. No one takes care of their skin as good as Koreans. They are the leaders in skin care innovation and they go to great lengths to make sure they keep their skin as preserved as possible. After all, you only get one skin, so you better take care of it.

You have probably heard that SPF is sacred in Korea. There are also a lot of 7 or 11 step skin care routines that Koreans keep up with every morning and evening, but that is definitely not what you may want or even need. This book will just give you a good base to understand ingredients, when to use certain products as well as educate your about Korean culture in general. It could also be a nice beauty travel guide, if you ever plan on going to South Korea.


The book has white and pink design, which seems girly, but it's actually quite quirky in a way. I love simplistic hand drawn images in it. Chapters aren't too long and it's easy to get into the flow of reading it. There also certain tips or tricks that are visually separated in pink squares which makes it really easy to go back and find that one thing that you remember was really interesting to read. Mine also has a hard cover, so it's well protected and will stay preserved well.

About Author

Charlotte Cho is certified esthetician behind leading beauty and lifestlyle website called Soko Glam. If you live in the USA this is your go to online store for shopping Korean skin care. As a teenager she lived in California and later moved to South Korea for a job. That's when she got thrown into this new beauty ideal and Korean skin care practices. She researched it and with the help of her husband took that Korean knowledge to New York. 


If you know nothing about skin or skin care products, but would like to learn, this is a good book to start with. I feel like she talks about skin and products in certain detail that you may not all be familiar with, but she explains it in understanding manner. 

I have enjoyed several ideas that this book introduced me to. Like for example that brand loyalty is overrated. I will never forget when a certain "brand expert" talked to be about how you should use all the product of a skin care routine from one brand. That's total bullshit. It's just a marketing strategy to sell you more of their products. There is no reason that you shouldn't mix an match different products from different brands as long as you know what you are using and what are ingredients. You know something like vitamin C and niacinamide that are supposedly not to be mixed together. But that can be argued as well.

Apparently Koreans use from 6 to 10 skin care products daily. Every step in their skin care has a purpose and goes a bit like this - prep, renew, treat, hydrate and protect. Double cleanse is very important and I use it as well. It means that you use two product to cleanse your face. This is more part of the evening routine. You use something thicker to take the bulk of your makeup or skin care off (like sunscreen) and then go in with another gentler cleanser to remove any leftovers. For that first step you usually use something oil based like cleansing oil or balm and the second one is usually more of a water based product like gel or foam.

There is also a misconception around the term brightening. It's not about bleaching or whitening the face, it's about making your skin tone appear brighter and more even toned. Most brightening or "whitening" products use arbutin which is extract from bearberry or mulberry leaves. 

There is also mentioning of healthy acid mantel and how to maintain it. Our skin is usually more acid which means alkaline product can disrupt its natural skin barrier. If your skin is too acid it can be irritated, prone to breakouts and very oils. Too alkaline skin will look dull, feel extremely dry and become flaky.  There has been a lot of debate and testing skin care product with ph indicators and I won't go into it, but you can definitely try to test it, if that's something that you're interested in.

Alcohol has to be mentioned among ingredients. Alcohol denat which is in a lot of drugstore products here is to be avoided. It can irritate skin ad damage skin's barrier as well as produce more free radicals which will further damage the skin. However, there are also some good fatty alcohols that you should look for in the ingredients list like cetyl alcohol  and stearyl alcohol.

Most of you skin care lovers have also heard of exfoliators. There are two types - mechanical and chemical exfoliators. Mechanical can be irritating on the skin and are those products that have those scrub particles in it. Chemical exfoliators are usually acids or enzymes and they dissolve lipids which are in our skin as building blocks that act like glue and hold dead skin cells together. Acids can be separated into two groups alpha hydroxy acids - AHA and beta hydroxy acids - BHA. AHAs are glycolic and lactic acid and are usually safer for sensitive skin, because they aren't as strong, although it all depends on formulation of the actual product. BHA is salicylic acid which goes deeper into the pore and is anti-inflammatory as well as antibacterial. It's more used in the products that are for blemish prone skin. Obviously, you should always use sun protection, if you use acids on your skin, because dead skin cells act as a natural protection against UV rays and when you get rid off those dead skin cells, your skin is more prone to sun damage.

There is also a nice guide on sunscreen in the book and you can learn all about chemical and physical sunscreen as well as chemical and physical filters that are used in sunscreen creams. Physical filters are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Those give you that flashback, because they reflect sunlight while chemical filters absorb it. There is a lot of chemical filters. Here are just some of them - aminobenzoic acid, octioxate, oxybenzone, octisalate, cinoxate.

If you are still not sure why sunscreen is becoming so important in this day of age, let's explain that your skin is made of collagen and elastin. Two proteins that give your skin structure and elasticity. Those are slowly decreasing in your skin with age, but UV rays also damage both of these proteins. So in order to have plump, elastic and smooth skin, it's vital to protect it from one of environmental biggest aggressors - the sun. 

In the book you will also learn what SPF (sun protection factor) and its numbers actually mean. You will also learn that there is another way of labeling SPF which is used in Asia, but developed in Japan, where they rate SPF on a scale from PA to PA+++

If you ever looked as Asian skin care products, you might have noticed that there is a lot of labels that you don't really know what they mean. Like essence, ampoule, serum, booster and emulsion. Charlotte breaks it down easy for you to understand. You should learn about the effect and consistency of each to make it easy for you to spot what each product is. Because certain brands have their own labels which doesn't always mean that what they label as an amouple is an ampoule. It may actually be more of an essence for you. 

Another two skin care inventions that you might have heard of as well are sleeping packs and sheet masks. Sleeping pack describes sleeping mask which is usually a bit thicker and you use in your night time routine in place of a cream. It usually seals in all your thinner skin care products that you have put on your skin before sleeping pack and protects them from leaving your skin so the ingredients absorb better and stay on the skin through the night.

You have probably heard of sheet masks, since that is one of those Asian inventions that has flooded European and American market as well. They are usually made wither out of microfiber - cotton type material or hydrogel - gel material. These offer multiple effects from brightening to hydrating, healing and many more. I love sheet masks as well. Especially Asian, they just can't compare ingredients wise to the European ones. 

There is also a bit about snail mucin in the book which is another one of those Asian ingredients that has become really popular world wide. Snail mucin stimulates formation of collagen and elastin, which we have talked about earlier, repairs damaged skin and restores hydration. It is packed with nutrients such as hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein enzymes, antimicrobial and copper peptides as well as proteoglycans. 

Korean 10 step skin care routine looks a bit like this:
  1. makeup remover and oil cleanser
  2. water-based cleanser
  3. the exfoliator
  4. the toner
  5. the essence
  6. ampoules, boosters and serums
  7. the sheet mask
  8. the eye cream
  9. the moisturizer
  10. sunscreen

Apart from the education skin care chapters there is also Charlotte's story of being introduced to Korean coworkers, their beauty routine and beauty stores on every corner. You will also learn about Korean makeup and fashion, what they eat to make skin healthy looking, how Korean spa is family time and an actual guide on where to shop in South Korea. There is also a short history of most well known Korean skin care and beauty brands which may interest you now that you know a bit about their routine and you finally want to try some of their products.

As I've said before, if you are interested in Korean skin care, this is definitely the book to read. I even advise buying it, because you can always go back to that chemical filters table and take a look at it, when you're in a store buying sunscreen to educate on what ingredients are in it. There is a lot of interesting tip and tricks in the book, but it's not just about education. You actually learn about Korean culture in general and how it all connects to their skin care regime. 

I got this book as a gift, but you can buy it on Book Depository for around 20€.

I'm thinking of writing a separate post about my Asian skin care products that I am loving. I think this might be an interesting post to some of you that like their products. 

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