I grew up in a Korean household, so taking good care of my skin was always a part of my lifestyle. My mom would buy products from a very specific Korean market an hour from where we lived. We’d make the drive and stock up on things I wouldn’t fully come to appreciate until I moved away for college and I realized that the products I’d been using for years looked very different to what my roommates were using. Essence? Sheet masks? They had no idea what I was talking about.
Needless to say, I am SO happy to see how accessible Korean beauty has become from the days I desperately stalked Korean moisturizer refills on the depths of the internet. Now they have their own real estate at Sephora, and are always available on dedicated K-beauty sites like Soko Glam and Peach & Lily.
So for those of you who haven’t dabbled in Korean skincare yet – it’s not too late! Here’s my take on the infamous ten-step process, along with some of my few tried-and-true favorite products, tips, and tricks to lessen the intimidating ten step routine.
The Ten-Step Process:
1. Eye makeup remover: A very necessary, targeted step to make sure all product is thoroughly removed from your delicate eyes! I’ve been using Neutrogena eye makeup remover for years with a qtip to make sure I get all the nooks and crannies.
2. Oil cleanser: The first step in the double cleansing method. Banila Co cleansing balm is my absolute favorite because it feels great on the skin and really erases everything on your face using such little product.
3. Water based/foam cleanser: The second step in the double cleansing method that will seriously leave you feeling fresh! I’ve been using Innisfree face wash because it lathers wonderfully and leaves the skin feeling super hydrated.
4. Exfoliator: This step is not for everyday use. Depending on your skin, this step should be taken 1-2 times a week to remove dead skin cells and clear up those pores. My Aesop exfoliator smells divine and makes my skin feel baby smooth after use.
5. Toner: Son & Park beauty water is a cult favorite on the K beauty scene because of its multitasking abilities.
6. Essence: If there’s an item on this routine worth splurging for, SK II’s facial essence is the holy grail. It brightens, smooths, and firms – yes to all of this.
7. Treatments (serums/ampoules, sheet masks, etc): These are the extra goodies to treat yourself to depending on your mood, like Sunday Riley’s Good Genes serum or Missha’s Time Revolution. As for sheet masks, you can get amazing, budget friendly options from Soko Glam targeted by skin concern. And if you’re feeling extra luxurious, I can’t get enough of Dr. Jart and SK II face masks. They are pricey, but they are WORTH EVERY PENNY! I save these for the night before a special event to leave my skin looking post-facial dewy and plump.
8. Eye cream: An essential to incorporate into your skincare routine at any age. Sadly, I haven’t found the perfect one just yet… so I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments!
9. Moisturizer: Seal in all the goodness with Laneige moisturizer (I have been using this for over 15 years).
10. Night cream (or in the daytime, sunscreen): Night cream is an optional step, but sunscreen during the day is a must. Neogen’s lightweight option is great and provides a little extra hydration as well.
Tips and Tricks:
Ease in to the process. Don’t rush into fulfilling all ten steps in the routine, because you’ll have no idea which product is helping or hurting your skin. Start off with the basics (face wash, toner, moisturizer), and then gradually add in new products and steps as needed.
As you can see, not all steps are necessary for both daytime and nighttime routines. In the morning, my routine shrinks to a total of about 5 steps: foam cleanser, toner, essence, moisturizer, and sunscreen. I don’t find it necessary to double cleanse in the morning because I’m not taking off as many impurities after a night’s sleep. I also don’t like to put too much product on in the mornings before going about my day. Tailor your morning and nighttime routines to what feels right for you.
Identify your skin concerns and target them! The great thing about Korean skincare is that they’ve formulated products for every skin concern, so you can get really specific about what you want to target.
Skip the cotton balls for application- I use my hands for all steps (except using q-tips for eye makeup removal) and really massage everything in there. Nothing scientific about this approach, it just feels nice to do in this way :)
Just because it’s a Korean skincare routine doesn’t mean you have to be limited to using Korean brands – it’s more about knowing the steps in which you apply them for maximum efficacy.
Consider seasonality. The products you might need in the winter and summer may be very different, so listen to your skin when things may feel too heavy or not hydrating enough.
A Korean skin care routine isn’t a strict regimen. Getting to know your skin, taking proper care of it, and using your intuition with products is what Korean beauty is all about.
It may be a funny thing to think about skincare as a value, but this skincare routine has always been about self care – taking time in the morning and night for myself. If we can all start and end our days in that mindset, who can complain?