You’ve probably heard of the 10-step Korean skin care routine, and whether you drank the Kool-Aid or recoiled in fear of the potential beauty commitment, if you live in the U.S., Charlotte Cho is probably the reason it came into your consciousness.
The California-native co-founded Soko Glam, an online marketplace where U.S. customers can purchase Korean beauty products, with her husband while she was living in Seoul, working in PR for Samsung.
“You know how there’s a Starbucks at every corner in the U.S.? In Korea, it’s a beauty shop on every corner,” says Cho, “ and I was really excited because everything was affordable, like sheet masks the cost of a subway card.”
Cho was inspired to bring the culture of the Korean beauty industry (also known as K-beauty) to the U.S.—a skincare-first approach with affordable price points. Starting with just a few curated products from the K-beauty market, Soko Glam is now a major force in the beauty industry at large, and has inspired Cho to create her own skincare line, Then I Met You.
“Everything we do for Then I Met You infuses the concept of jeong,” says Cho, referencing a Korean word that means a “deep emotional connection.”
“I wanted to inspire people to go deeper in the things that matter,” she adds. “One of the things I love about skincare is that when you do take care of your skin and someone gives that compliment, they’re not talking about a physical thing that you put over your body or a lip color that’s clearly a pigment. When someone compliments your skin, it’s about you. It’s inherently you.”
Then I Met You launched with a cleansing duo late last year and will introduce a toner, essence, sheet masks, and more down the line. Both cleansing products are TSA friendly.
We caught up with Cho before she set off for a trip to Korea and then Jakarta (her internationally best-selling book, The Little Book of Skincare, is being translated into Indonesian) to talk about beauty entrepreneurship, her favorite K-beauty products, and how to keep up a multi-step skincare routine when you’re on the go.
I never thought that I could be an entrepreneur. I didn’t really have any role models growing up in the U.S. So when you’re not seeing it with your own eyes, you don’t realize it could be a reality for you. How Soko Glam started in 2012 was just as a pure passion project. We never aimed for it to be a business; I never created a business plan. I just literally loved Korean skin care, and I wanted to share what I learned with the U.S. because I knew that people were not aware of all of these different techniques or product categories, and I wanted them to learn how to take care of their skin. So I created this shop curating just a few products, and it really immediately took off. Within two years, we were being covered in the New York Times and all the beauty blogs. We were really lucky to be the first movers in this space.
One thing I always tell people is that you should definitely take time to live internationally. Especially when you’re younger and you don’t have any ties or heavy responsibility. You just see a completely different perspective. Sometimes you can get stuck in your bubble if you stay in the same city all the time.
I usually only do around six steps in my skincare routine—a lot of people think, “Wow, I can’t keep up with doing a sheet mask every single day.” That’s not the intent. It’s more about what options you have and then how you incorporate it into your routine. Once you know what to do, you can complete your routine in around four minutes. Double cleansing takes one minute. It’s actually far easier than makeup. Makeup has to be precise. You have to make sure that it’s blended the right way. But skincare is basically clear.
I always start with the double cleanse. There are so many impurities in your skin, whether it’s pollution, makeup, sunscreen, or excess sebum. In order to prevent premature aging and breakouts, it’s best to cleanse twice, first with an oil-based cleanser and then a foam cleanser. Washing your face with just a foam cleanser leaves a lot of impurities on your face because you’re essentially trying to remove oil with water, and oil and water don’t mix. Most people see a huge improvement after they double cleanse—that’s how I first saw improvements and actually what got me into Korean beauty in the first place.
I never like to check my luggage, so if I’m using a product that’s over the limit, I’ll have to switch it up. I normally do around six steps, but I’ll do less sometimes if I’m traveling. On Soko Glam, we have some die-hard 10-step fans who love doing it every day, and I mean, when you layer your skin with all these ingredients, the more the better, but it’s not a requirement. It’s up to your lifestyle.
- 1Then I Met You Cleansing Duo, $68
- 2Missha First Treatment Essence Mist, $20
- 3Silk sleep mask, $12
- 4Dr. Althea Herb Therapy Velvet Mask (10 pack), $29
- 5Thoiareuke Acsen TOC Toner, $38
- 6Neogen Real Ferment Micro Serum, $38
- 7Thank You Farmer Sun Project Light Sun Essence, $27
- 8Isntree Clear Skin 8% AHA Essence, $15
- 9MIssha Super Aqua Ultra Water-Full Clear Cream, $26
- 10Away Bigger Carry-On in Asphalt, $245
CHO’S ONE-TRICK TRAVEL PONY
The Missha First Treatment Essence Mist—it has so many brightening ingredients. It’s such a nice, fine mist—you can put it over makeup, you can keep it in your bag all day. You have to be careful with mists though—you can’t take aerosol on the plane because it will literally explode!
I really don’t try to do too much—there are so many germs on airplanes. I try to do sheet masks once in a while, but usually at most I’ll do eye patches. Overall I just don’t want to get my hands dirty. And I always turn off the air vents—they’re too cold and dehydrating.
CHO’S FAVORITE SPA IN SEOUL
It really depends on what you’re in the mood for. If you want a sauna, there’s one called Dragon Hill and another called Spa Lei. The Korean saunas are family style, where you’re dressed in your pajamas and you stay there all day just lounging in the living room area, going to the huts and steam saunas. It’s more rambunctious with everyone hanging out than people might be used to.
I make it a point to meet two people I’ve never met before in a week. I schedule it out. I always say yes, and I have no idea what that relationship will be like, but I think it’s important to take time to meet new people. A lot of people consider themselves introverts, myself included, but I always try my best to get myself out there as much as possible and I never regret it. It’s easy to be lazy about it especially as you get older—you just want to stay in the comfort of your apartment. But you’ll learn so many things in one conversation that could help you or enlighten you or just delight you. With social media we feel like we’re not missing out on much because you can see everything on your feed, but that’s no substitution for real life experiences.