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You listen to Korean Pop songs. You watch Korean dramas. And now, you want to try a Korean skin care routine. You’re not the only one.
The Korean Wave, or Hallyu, has been taking over the world through music, shows, movies, literature, and cuisine. But whether your interest in all things Korean started with kimchi or BTS, one thing is for sure, the Korean influence over many aspects of our lives — including beauty— is here to stay. Korean skin care is filled with moisturizing ingredients that give skin that dewy glow. If you’ve ever wanted to try this famous 10 step regimen, then we’ve got you covered with an easy guide.
A note about “glass skin” & Korean skin care
Before we talk about these steps in detail, let’s discuss “glass skin”, which is usually associated with the Korean skin care regimen. Usually characterized as clear, smooth, and hydrated, glass skin is often described as the expected result of following a 10-step Korean skin care routine.
However, as many beauty enthusiasts and experts have pointed out, blemish-free and “almost reflective” skin that resembles a glass surface isn’t exactly a realistic nor healthy standard for all of us. Dewy skin is possible, after the proper use of serums and essences, but our skin is ever-changing so if you don’t get this “glass-skin” that’s okay. Let’s be honest, a lot of people with poreless, glowing skin don’t just have a brilliant skin care routine. Monthly facials, laser treatments, expensive skin care products, and even a person's genes come into play with skincare.
So, experts emphasize that healthy and not flawless skin should always be the goal. If anything, the 10-step skin care regimen will definitely help make your skin healthier and more moisturized. Now that we’ve taken care of that concern, let’s look at the 10 steps to Korean skin care.
Intro to the 10-step Korean skin care routine
Many people are overwhelmed with the number of products and steps involved in the globally renowned Korean skin care routine. But the main principle behind K-beauty is having the right products and using them in the right order. In fact, some products in the routine aren’t supposed to be used daily because of potential drying effects. Keep in mind that everyone’s skin is different, so your skin’s needs will ultimately determine which products you’ll keep or skip.
With that being said, the traditional 10-Step Korean skin care regimen is:
- oil-based cleanser
- water-based cleanser
- serum or ampoule
- sheet mask
- eye cream
1. Oil-based cleanser
As you may have noticed, there are two cleansers on the Korean skin care routine list, hence the term “double cleansing.” Double cleansing removes impurities and dirt from your skin without compromising the skin’s barrier, especially natural oils that protect the skin. To achieve this, only gentle products should be used for double cleansing.
Oil-based cleansers target oil-based impurities such as sunscreen, makeup, and excess sebum. They’re often used as alternatives to traditional makeup removers because the latter are often drying.
2. Water-based cleanser
Following up your oil-based cleanser with a water-based (a.k.a. foaming or foam-based) cleanser makes sense because there are impurities that oil-based cleansers leave behind. You can remove these residues and fully cleanse your skin by using a second cleanser. Low pH water-based cleansers are recommended for better hydration.
You can opt for a physical or chemical exfoliator based on your needs and preference. Physical exfoliators are textured substances that slough away at the top layer of the skin. Examples of physical exfoliators include peeling gels and sugar scrubs. Physical exfoliators give you instant results but only work on the surface. Meanwhile, chemical exfoliators are primarily composed of acids that remove dead skin cells and promote skin cell turnover. They work beyond your skin’s surface.
Toners are designed to balance the pH level of your skin. Our skin is protected by a slightly acidic layer (ph 5.5) that keeps out harmful bacteria but keeps in moisture. Toner is said to be the perfect prep product since it helps skin care ingredients sink deeper into skin by hydrating the skin very well.
Essences are essential! That’s because they flood your skin with moisture and increase cell turnover. The reason why boosting hydration is crucial to your skin care is that your skin better absorbs products when it’s hydrated. The classic sponge analogy applies here. A damp sponge is much better at absorbing a spill compared to a dry sponge. In the same manner, your skin can absorb all the products you’ll apply after your essence.
6. Serum or Ampoule
Serums and ampoules have a thicker consistency and higher concentration than essences. Both contain active ingredients that are meant to treat skin issues such as wrinkles, dark spots, and dullness. Ampoules are more concentrated than serums and they’re usually applied to skin when you need to prepare for a big event or after a serious skin crisis.
7. Sheet mask
Sheet masks give you brighter, softer, and perfectly hydrated skin in just 15 to 20 minutes! Prolonged contact with your skin allows full absorption of nutrients and moisture, giving your skin that to-die-for, signature Korean skin care glow. So, sit back, relax, and let your favorite sheet mask do its miracle work on your face.
8. Eye cream
Crow’s feet and dark circles under the eyes can be prolonged with a good eye cream. Keep in mind that the skin around your eyes is the thinnest on your whole body, it needs the extra care that comes with a hydrating and sealing eye cream.
Seal in hydration, pump up your skin, and smooth out fine lines with a moisturizer. Moisturizers come in gels, lotions, creams, emulsion, and other forms but ultimately choose the one that best suits your skin type. On nights when your skin feels extra dry, moisturize with a sheet mask. Whatever moisturizer you choose, just live by the golden rule: keep your skin hydrated!
It’s no secret that the sun’s UV rays are not your skin’s best friend. So, protect your skin even on days when you’ll be sitting indoors, the sky is overcast, or it's snowing. Prevention is better than cure, even when it comes to sun damage. If moisturizer is the last skin care step at night, sunscreen is the last step in the morning. And as always, make sure to use an SPF over 30 for effective coverage.
Simply put, Korean skin care achieves optimum skin health by using the proper products at the proper time. Basic products under Korean skin care are oil- and water-based cleansers, exfoliators, toners, essences, serums and ampoules, sheet masks, eye creams, moisturizers, and sunscreen. Remember to consider your skin type and needs as you try this routine.
Share below your favorite step in a Korean Skincare routine or even your favorite K-Beauty brand.