Choc Choc Cosmetics in Chicago!
Today, I took a trip to the wondrous little K-Beauty shop on the North side of Chicago in Lakeview, just a block East of Boystown on Belmont and Broadway, called Choc Choc, which means “well moisturized skin” in Korean. Being the gung-ho maniac that I am, I arrived a few minutes early – waiting outside the shop to take a photo and finish my coffee; and at exactly one minute to opening time, I decided to walk up to the door and give it a try. Right behind me I heard running footsteps, and there was a lovely, out of breath woman with perfect skin (I couldn’t help noticing) apologizing to me – “I’m here, I’m here, I’m sorry!”, even though I was the weirdo who was there a couple of minutes before the store was even open!
We both laughed as she escorted me inside, both apologizing to each other, and she invited me to look around the store. And what a beautiful little store it is! Everything is so white, clean, pretty, and well-organized.
She asked if there was anything she could help me find, and i announced to her rather dramatically (i’d just swilled a massive espresso) that “I need absolutely everything!”, but was fairly ignorant about the K-Beauty skincare regimen. She graciously began to explain the Korean system to me in patient detail. There was even a little board up on the wall, listing the basic steps, which i photographed but conveniently lost. I told her that I was a beauty blogger, and would love to do a piece on her store, and she responded with “Oh! That’s so great!” and we proceeded to go through the shop as she explained with expert detail the benefits of every product I asked about, and the reasons for each step in the process in the routine.
Basically, there are 10 steps in the Korean beauty routine – but don’t let that daunt you, it sounds more complicated than it really is – and also because you aren’t going to do all of them every day! And you can condense one or two depending on the products you use. Also, the last step is sunscreen, so obviously you aren’t going to do that one at night. The steps are as follows:
- Oil cleanser
- Water cleanser (foam, rice powder, etc)
- Exfoliate (NOT every day!)
- Toner (try to repeat between 3-7 times, with hands, not cotton ball)
- Essence (some products combine toner and essence, like the one I got – read on!)
- Mask (Not every day, unless you’re a fiend!)
- Eye cream
- Face cream
- Sun screen (daytime only, duh)
See, it’s not so bad! It’s pretty much what i’ve been doing already, except i’ll be cleansing twice now, and using masks now and adding an exfoliator once i’m not using the glycolic acid every single night like a frootloop. I didn’t buy one because I reached my spending limit, but it’s on the list for my next trip, along with a new snail slime eye cream. Anyway, read on for my Choc Choc haul! I will link each product back to the store for you all, because you need this stuff, and Leah is lovely!
Starting with cleansers, there was one in particular by SRB – a rice powder cleanser that i’ve heard much about and desperately wanted to try, which was sold out because everyone had been stocking up on it for Christmas – so she gave me some samples to tide me over until they were restocked next week, then offered me some excellent alternatives for my skin-type. Because i’m limping towards maturity and tend to be on the sensitive side, she steered me towards an alcohol and fragrance-free pair of cleansers – one oil and the other a foam – by Klairs that look divine. Klairs is a popular brand that i’ve read up on quite a bit, so I was pleased that she’d chosen it for me.
So why two cleansers? In K-Beauty, you do a double-cleansing – first an oil-based cleanser to remove all traces of makeup, sunscreen, product, etc., and then a more intense, penetrating cleanser to get into the pores and get everything out of your skin; the point of all this is that in Korea, they believe that the skin’s cleanliness is the basis for everything that follows – it’s the canvas for everything else. The skin needs to be pure in order to absorb moisture and all the amazing products you’re about to put on it afterwards. What I end up getting is the Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil, and Klairs Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser. Both are fragrance free, and together total under $40!
Next step in the process is toning, then an emulsion. The toner is not like toners one usually thinks of here in the States, which are astringent and almost like a second cleanser. Toners in K-Beauty are meant to hydrate and add a moisture-barrier to the skin; if you’ve looked into K-Beauty at all, you may have heard of the 7-skin toner regimen, where you apply 7 consecutive layers of toner, splashing it on and patting it in with your hands, in order to achieve a super-plumped, glowing appearance. These toners are made to seriously add a glow and bounce to skin.
An Emulsion is sort of like a hybrid between toner and serum – from what I can gather, it’s another hydrating step. I really should have asked for more detail, but since Leah sold me the Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence, which she says is a combination of toner AND essence in one, it didn’t seem important – and to be honest, there was so much information to absorb, and I had so many questions, I sort of let it slide. Of everything I end up choosing today, this is the most pricey, at $49 – however, you get a whopping 150ml of product! What makes this even easier to swallow is that Leah tells me the ingredients are nearly identical to the coveted SK II Facial Treatment Essence, which is $100 a pop. If you go on Reddit, which is like my go-to for honest opinions on all things beauty, Time Revolution is a trusted brand in K-Beauty. So yeah…gimme.
Then we have the serum – generally you have one for day, and one for night – although you can certainly use the same one for both, but if you’re me, you’re going to want to cover your bases and address as many issues as you can, and have two! Since i’m using the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Oil at night already, I wanted to pick something up for daytime use on the days when i’m not using my C-serum. Leah asked me about my routine, and told me about her two favourite products for my anti-aging concerns (I, of course, want them both!) – I was really intrigued by the I’m From Ginseng Serum, since the extremely popular, pricey and high-end Korean brand Sulwhasoo bases their entire skincare line on it. Ginseng is a great source of antioxidants, and it helps to tone and brighten the skin – which, when you’re my age, is something you definitely want, trust me. This stuff uses an extremely high concentration of 6 year-old red ginseng in its formulation, along with – my favourite – camellia, as well as licorice root, and a bit of hyaluronic acid. It’s also alcohol free. As a matter of fact, if you compare the ingredients of Sulwhasoo’s serum next to the I’m From Ginseng Serum, they are VERY close – except the I’m From serum’s ingredient’s are much simpler, and Sulwhasoo’s contains alcohol. And Sulwhasoo’s is like, five times the price. I think i’ll stick with the I’m From Ginseng Serum. Leah tells me it’s perfect for daytime use, and can be worn under my makeup, or primer and powder – so up on the counter it goes, where i’m collecting quite the little pile of products, indeed!
Then I asked about moisturizers – I wanted something that would help me achieve something along the lines of the coveted “glass skin” look, but you know…achievable for every day life. In essence, I wanted the most dewy, moisturized, young-looking, and healthy skin I could have – keeping in mind that i’m sensitive to fragrances, have dry skin, etc. I mentioned i’d heard of a certain brand they didn’t carry, saying I wanted THAT effect for my skin, and she nodded knowingly and led me over to Mizon’s Intensive Firming Solution Collagen Power Firming Enriched Cream (say THAT 10 times fast!). I’m not sure how I managed to toss the receipt before finishing this blog post** but alas, that’s what I did, and this cream is not yet on their website for purchase – but i’m pretty sure it was right around $30 Amazing! It has a wonderful, creamy gel-like consistency, and when I rubbed it in, it felt heavenly. So moisturizing and luxurious, but not at all greasy. I love my Drunk Elephant Lala cream, however sometimes it’s just a tad greasy during the a.m. for applying primer and powder over. This will be PERFECT for during the day, and I can save my DE Lala for night-time use, now that i’ll be backing off my glycolic acid serum use to every other night. It IS super cheap, and you get a lot of product, and the ingredients list is fairly chemical, which is fine; have you ever seen the movie How To Get Ahead In Advertising? Everything is chemicals. I’m chemicals, you’re chemicals. This pen is chemicals! Anyway…but it just means I need to research the ingredients list because I don’t recognize a fair amount of what’s on it (also, most experts say the collagen molecule is too large to penetrate into the skin) – however this cream does get consistently good reviews from those who use it for any period of time – so i’m giving it a shot. At that price, at 1.69 oz of product, why not? If I don’t like it, the other cream she recommended is still there for me to try ;).
I did get tempted looking at all the snail-slime products, and asked Leah about them. Are they for real, or just a fad? She rolled her eyes a little and laughed. “You know, when they came in, it was all my American customers who came in and bought them – we were sold out in a week! They were so popular! It definitely was sort of a fad for a while…” But then she got serious, “The history behind snail slime is, they take the mucus of the snail, and, historically, it was used for wound healing – it has regenerative properties. So it was then used in skincare creams to help with wrinkles and softening their appearance, and preventing them from occurring. So it became a very popular thing!” It sounds interesting and all, but ultimately, she doesn’t recommend any of the snail mucus products for my specific skin needs.
But I did end up picking out a snail sheet mask (because you can’t leave a Korean beauty store without getting some sheet masks), as well as a Brussels sprouts mask, because…well, Brussels sprouts! And wow, did they have a lot of sheet masks! Bee sheet masks, vegetable masks of every variety you could imagine, every fruit, and for every skin concern. There was even a salmon sheet mask. They’re definitely not all listed on the website – which i guess means we are just lucky if we live here!
At this point, another customer comes in with her young daughter, so i’m happily browsing on my own as i’ve had plenty of the lovely Leah’s undivided attention up until that point – and decide to take a look at the makeup section. There are lipsticks, blushes, and oh, look! Liquid eyeliner pens! And they’re only like $15 on sale?? I test one out on my hand, and lo and behold, not only is it the blackest black, but it’s got a BRUSH instead of a felt tip! I adore brush-tip eyeliner pens, and they are so hard to come by! The last one I had was the Tom Ford pen, but that puppy was fifty bucks. Granted it lasted me an age, but LORD. Of course i’m buying this. Also a blond, angled-tip eyebrow pencil oddly named “pink” in colour, but it’s a nice neutral blond. Not as ashy as I usually prefer, but it’s $4 and has a spoolie on the other end. And did I mention it’s an angled tip? Mine. There’s a red jelly lippie I want, but it’s sold out until next week (even though Leah is helping the other woman, she notices i’m looking at the lipstick and lets me know this – I love this woman!). There are powders that are surprisingly finely milled for the cheap price – Etude House is a brand I recognize from my meanderings on Asian beauty websites over the years – and all sorts of cute compacts in the shape of kittens and such. I want to buy it all, but stop myself at the eyeliner and brow pencil. *Update – it is now ten hours later, and the eyeliner is STILL on my hand, even after cooking and washing my hands repeatedly. I will need an oil cleanser to remove this. Win!
Finally, I know i’ve reached my spending limit for this visit. I’ve been planning this for a bit, and had a nice little chunk put aside – when I look at the pile of products i’ve collected, my mind reels at how much i’ve managed to accumulate for the money i’ve allotted for my spree. If this had been at any downtown department store, I wouldn’t have been able to get half of what i’ve managed to haul at Choc Choc! I’m in love with this place. Leah rings me up, and gives me some samples for sunscreen (yay!), the SRB rice cleanser samples, and a lovely hand-held mirror as a gift! She also gives me a sheet of of stickers to help keep track of the 10-step skin-care process, which are so cute*.
All in all, my experience at Choc Choc was absolutely lovely! Leah, the Owner, was extremely knowledgeable and helpful, not to mention a total darling. I had a super fun time shopping there, learning about the products, and look forward to going back. I’m so glad there is a place in Chicago for me to go and try out all these wonderful Korean creams and serums and makeup and things in person! If you live in the area, stop on in and check it out – the prices here are incredible, the quality of the products is wonderful, and Leah really knows her stuff.
Choc Choc Cosmetics, 614 W Belmont Ave, Chicago IL 60657
And for those of you who don’t live here, of course there is the website – Leah is always willing to answer any questions you might have – trust me, she knows her skincare, and is super sweet!
I hope you all enjoyed this post – check back tomorrow for my first review of one of my K-new Beauty products!
*Found receipt and pricing correction was made for moisturizer and eyeliner!
**I will post the pic of stickers tomorrow – i am having issues with uploading right now!