If you’re quite familiar with Korean beauty and any aspect that’s related to it, I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous 10-step Korean skincare routine. But if you haven't, just keep reading so that you'll be equipped with the basic what's and how's of the 10-step Korean skincare routine that's taking the world by storm.
Korean women take pride in their skin by religiously and meticulously using certain products that they know will work for their specific needs. It might seem a lot to some, but don't be fooled. This doesn't mean they do all ten steps twice a day, every day. Some products enter the rotation for a specific purpose whether it be during the day, at night, depending on the season, or immediate skin concern. One simply must cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize and protect the skin. Believe it or not, it will only take you around 5 to 10 minutes in the morning, and 5 to 20 minutes at night.
Achieving good skin means knowing the right products for you as every skin is different. It is more than just the number of products you use — it's using the right products and applying them in the right order. May this serve as a guideline as you start planning on creating a routine that’s best for you.
1. Oil-based Cleanser
Also known as the first step in the double cleansing process, oil-based cleansers can thoroughly remove makeup and break down excess oil, silicone, and sunscreen. Trust me when I say this first step absolutely makes a big difference - your toner would pick up lesser dirt or close to none at all (this would be evident if you're using a cotton pad with your toner) because the oil cleanser already took out most of the dirt. Apply it on dry face directly with your fingers, using gentle, upward circular motions. You can use the Heimish All Clean Balm or Banila Clean it Zero line, both a sorbet soft balm that transforms into silky oil on the skin that effortlessly dissolves dirt and makeup. One thing that newbies mistakenly do during oil cleansing is that they don't emulsify the product - I've seen videos of bloggers just wiping the oil cleansers with tissues, which I think is absolutely a no-no. The right thing to do after applying the oil cleanser to your dry face is to add a bit of water and gently massage again to emulsify the product. You're doing it correctly if it turns milky. Lastly, rinse with lukewarm water, and you're done with the first step!
2. Water-based Cleanser
This is the second part of the double cleansing process, and yup, cleansing your face twice isn't just a Korean practice but recommended by dermatologists and aestheticians, too! It helps to thoroughly remove water-based impurities and other gunk on your face that the oil cleanse missed. I personally love the Neogen Real Fresh Foam in Green Tea. It's perfect for sensitive skin types, made with green tea extracts to fight off free radicals, leaving the skin soft and moisturized. Another great choice is the cult-favorite Cosrx Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, a gentle cleanser for all skin types that leaves your skin smooth without stripping your skin’s moisture.
Don’t underestimate the power of exfoliation! Do this once or twice a week to help loosen clogged pores, slough off dead skin cells, brighten your complexion, and help other skin care products absorb and work better. You can use a physical exfoliator such as the Dear Klairs Gentle Black Sugar Facial Polish, a premium facial scrub that contains natural moisturizers including black sugar, shea butter, and cranberry oil. If you feel that physical exfoliation is too harsh for you, you may opt for chemical exfoliators that use ingredients such as AHAs or BHAs, for example, the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. Or if you feel like you need a product that is both a physical and chemical exfoliator, use the Neogen Bio Peel Gauze Peeling Pads. It features physical exfoliating pads soaked in tartaric acid (AHA) to chemically exfoliate and to promote clearer, smoother, and brighter skin.
An important step that preps your skin and repairs your skin barrier for better absorption of products that follow. In this step, hydrating toners such as the Dear Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner, which is commonly used with the 7 Skin Method, layers quite nicely and is quickly absorbed by the skin, making it plump and hydrated all day long. Another great choice for hydrating toner is the Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner, which was raved by beauty blogger Reneé (a.k.a Gothamista).
An essence is considered as the heart of the Korean Skincare routine. It helps to hydrate skin and increase cell turnover, which results to glowing skin! A few notable products worth a try are the Cosrx Advance Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence which is one of the star products of Cosrx and Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence which is said to be a dupe of the popular and high-end product SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. You simply pat the essence over your face until your skin locks in all the goodness, giving you that glowing skin.
6. Ampoules and Serums
Usually has a thicker consistency and is more concentrated than essences, ampoules and serums are used to target and treat very specific problems. They can help brighten the skin, fade sunspots, and smooth fine lines. A few notable serums are Dear Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop (also known as Dear Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum) that fades acne scars and brighten the skin and the Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Activator Ampoule, a treatment for anti-aging that improves skin elasticity and protects the moisture barrier.
7. Sheet Masks
One of the most popular beauty products from Korea, a sheet mask is the go-to product when it comes to getting that dewy (or chok chok in Korean) skin. In just 15 to 20 minutes, with vast varieties to choose from, it can instantly leave your skin brighter, softer and hydrated to perfection. Use it twice a week or everyday! A few picks I love are the HelloSkin Jumiso sheet masks, that fits amazing on the face and filled with so much essence, and the Innisfree My Real Squee sheet masks.
8. Eye Cream
We often hear the saying, “your eyes are the windows to your soul” but in retrospect, it usually shows the threshold of your age! Those fine wrinkles around your eyes, dark circles tend to age you because the skin around the eyes is the thinnest and most sensitive skin around the face. Keep dark circles, puffiness, and fine lines at bay by religiously using your eye cream. Keep an eye out for the Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream which runs out quickly because it's not only effective but inexpensive, too.
Hydration is the most important part of your nighttime skincare routine. Moisturizers come in different forms — creams, lotions, gels — best ones to use depends on your skin type. Some well-loved products are the Cosrx Oil-Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion for oily to combination skin and the Dear Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream for dry and sensitive skin types. Usually the thickest formula in the routine which is why it comes last to take advantage of your skin’s restorative hours. When you’re feeling extra dry, you can easily swap this with a sleeping pack such as the Cosrx Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Sleeping pack or Laneige Water Sleeping Pack for deep hydration and healing.
If a moisturizer is essential at night, a sunscreen is a must in the morning where you’re constantly exposed to the sun. Even if you're just seated indoors near a window, or stepping outside for just a few minutes, this is your first line of defense against skin damage brought about by the sun's rays. A step often missed or gets neglected altogether, but whenever you feel like doing so, remember this: prevention is always better than cure. If you’re new to this, you might want to try the best-selling Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sunscreen or the newest release from Klairs, the Dear Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence. Both of them contain SPF 50, does not smell like your typical sunscreen, does not leave a white cast, and gets easily absorbed by the skin too.
Once you’ve curated your routine, keep in mind that it is not always set on stone. It can change as our skin ages or as the weather changes. There is no one skincare routine that fits all and it must constantly be tweaked to your needs.