not a professional. just crazy.

Rio Stops By: Eating KBBQ With Soko Glam’s Charlotte Cho

Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

I stumbled across the K-beauty website Soko Glam a couple of years ago, when I was struggling with post-collegiate cystic acne. Desperate, I decided to impulse buy a few products — a sticker pimple treatment that sounded interesting, a gross, goopy snail-infused product that I’d read a bit about on reddit, and a vitamin-C serum, which I heard could help with dark marks. I used the products I bought religiously, though I didn’t have much hope that things would ever improve. Within a month, they did: My blemishes healed, and my once-pocked skin looked brighter and dewier than it ever had before. I began checking Soko Glam daily — if a product was for sale on the site, I knew I could trust it.

If you’re a Soko Glam obsessive like me, it’ll come as no surprise that the site’s founder, Charlotte Cho, is a skin-care savant. She’s a licensed esthetician, the author of the super-informative The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin, and the brains behind The Klog, a K-beauty skin-care site that answers questions like: “Are Cetaphil ingredients actually good for your skin?” Needless to say, when Cho agreed to meet me for an interview, I was psyched. We met at a KBBQ restaurant on a recent rainy afternoon, and talked about why K-beauty is so insanely effective, the power of vitamin-C, and her ridiculously perfect hair.

You have the most beautiful, bright skin I’ve ever seen. What’s your vitamin-C of choice?
I never used to break out, but when I turned 30 my skin changed completely and all of a sudden I started having bad acne. And the main thing that made a difference in my complexion, and the only thing that properly cleared up my dark spots was Neogen’s Brightening Powder. I also use the Cosrx Triple C for my vitamin-C, but it does oxidize [meaning it loses its potency and is thus is less effective] quickly, in about 3-4 months. Because customers wanted a vitamin-C that stayed stable longer, we worked together with Neogen to come up with a waterless powder version. I also like that the Neogen is only 17 percent vitamin-C. Anything at a higher percentage, like The Ordinary’s 100 percent vitamin-C powder, is just too much for my skin. [Note: the Neogen is currently out of stock, but you can add your name to the notify list. And if you spend $20 at Soko, you’ll get a free sample of it.]

And what essences are you using right now? I’m finding myself wanting to experiment with some new ones.
I love essences and I have a lot of favorites. Missha First Treatment was one of the very first essences I fell in love with because I couldn’t afford Sk-ii [the cult favorite, skin regenerating Japanese essence]. So the Missha one was a staple for many years. But recently I’ve switched to Neogen’s Microferment Essence. I just feel like it’s more hydrating on my skin. I’m getting older and getting as much hydration into my skin is now my priority. the Neogen essence is a bit thicker in consistency than the Missha First Treatment, but has very similar ingredients. I’ve also been loving the Acwell licorice essence that comes in a spray bottle!

Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence

Oh my god, I love that essence! I use it every time I go to the gym. I love how it makes my skin feel and I am also completely obsessed with how fine the spray comes out.
Yes, so convenient! So basically, I use the Neogen one more in the winter, and the Acwell one in the summer because it’s just more lightweight on my skin. Hydrating essences and toners are so important, because if you’re breakout prone you still need to be giving your skin the moisture it needs, but thick moisturizers can clog your pores! So don’t be scared of essences if you’re a little breakout-prone.

Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Essence Mist

Do you have a savior lip product?
Lip sleeping masks are trending right now! People seem to love the Laneige so much, and it does work incredibly well. I like the way the Laneige works, but I don’t like the ultra-fruity scent. So my favorite, more neutral, clean-smelling lip product is the Klavuu sleeping pack, which is vanilla and almond. It’s just a little bit more sophisticated of a scent and feel. When I forget to use it I’m so flakey.

Klavuu Nourishing Care Lip Sleeping Pack

I’ve never tried that! You should try the Bite Beauty Agave lip mask: It’s amazing. I’m sure you try a million sheet masks. Any one you like right now?
Do you know Skinrx? It’s one of my favorites. Their moisturizer is amazing, and they came out with a sheet mask recently, which I also love. I use it to calm and soothe my skin. It has Centella in it.

Skinrx Lab MadeCera Express Mask

My holy grail ingredient! It soothes and treats, which to me is what K-beauty is all about. 
Sadly, the reason why K-beauty products are so gentle is because Korea has horrible pollution. So most Korean people deal with irritated skin, eczema, redness. K-beauty brands take that into account when they’re creating products — that’s the baseline skin type in the country. We get so many testimonials from people saying that they’ve tried everything under the sun — from superexpensive to supercheap products — but K-beauty is the only thing that’s actually improved their skin.

Let’s talk about makeup. I would say you have a signature makeup look, a cateye.
Yes. I wear a cat eye everyday — I won’t leave the house without it. My favorite eyeliner is by Em Cosmetics. There is so much precision and control with it. It doesn’t pull, it doesn’t drag, and it gives the perfect flick because the tip has a lot of flexibility.

Em Cosmetics Black Brush Tip

Are you picky about your brows?
Yes, very! Em also has a brown precision pen, actually. It’s very thin and waxy. And — can I tell you something? It has the best spooly! I know that sounds weird but it’s really good. But you probably don’t use anything because your eyebrows are perfect.

Em Cosmetics Brunette Brow Pencil
Photo: kelseyfugere
Em Cosmetics Brunette Brow Pencil

They take a lot of grooming, otherwise I turn into Martin Scorsese. Can we talk about your hair? It’s the most perfect thing I’ve ever seen.
I love the British M organics hair oil. It’s super thin and light-weight, and makes my hair look super shiny and healthy. And I love the smell of it. One of the reasons my hair always looks put-together is because I curl it often. I have this holy grail hair curler from Hot Tools. It’s just so cheap — $40 on Amazon — and it’s the perfect barrel size for me to create that effortless beachy look. You want it to look like a little bit of effort but not too much. I hate the ringlet look.

British M Organics Annatto Hair Oil
Hot Tools Signature Series Gold Curling Iron Wand

I love that I-got-a-blowout-two-days-ago look.
Exactly. That’s the goal. And I would get blowouts all the time and then when I bought this hair curler, I realized I could do it the same, for free, at home.

Do you have a signature lip?
Yes it’s from Etude House. It’s the matte chic lipstick in the shade Wendy Brown– everyone always compliments me when I wear it. I blot it into my lips to give that kind of more natural, subtle lip flush. It’s the perfect color and I love how it leaves my lips looking and feeling.

Etude House Matte Chic Lip Lacquer

People seriously sleep on Etude House makeup. I love their eyeshadow primer.
I couldn’t agree more! K-beauty is obviously famous for its skin care, but I gotta say our makeup is pretty amazing too.

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Rio Stops By: Eating KBBQ With Soko Glam’s Charlotte Cho