Reading about the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine three years ago changed my skin and my life.
I had gotten into a major skincare slump, and instead of trying to fix my skin woes, I accepted that I had bad skin and there wasn’t anything I could do, other than find a good concealer.
I had near constant breakouts along with rosacea, and I was convinced that they must all be hormone related, from the constant hormone swings of pregnancy, postpartum, and nursing.
I happened to read an article in Vogue online about the Korean 10-step Skincare routine, and I was so convinced that I immediately bought several of the products that I would need to complete the a good portion of routine.
In the following months I added the missing products until I had everything that I needed to complete the entire 10-step Korean skincare routine.
Over the course of several weeks, my skin underwent a transformation. I do still suffer from an occasional blemish, but I never have more than one or two on my face at any one time (and more often than not, I am totally blemish-free). My rosacea has also completely cleared up and I haven’t suffered one recurrence.
My skin is moisturized, exfoliated, and well-nourished with the very best, cutting edge skin care products. Korea leads the world in skin research and innovation. The culture is practically obsessed with youthful, gorgeous skin. And now, we all can benefit from that!
I’m not obsessed with my skin being as perfect as possible, but I do want to try to keep my skin looking as youthful as possible for as long as is practical. I also love the idea of wearing lighter makeup (a balmy BB Cream instead of a matte foundation and powder) on the skin, in order to allow the skin’s beauty to be shine through.
Here is the 10-step Korean Beauty Routine, and I will be linking up to the products that I currently use and love for each step.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase those items through my links I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link.
Step 1 of Korean Skincare- Makeup Removal and Oil Cleansing
Korean beauty enthusiasts take cleansing so seriously, they do it twice. The first cleanse is done with an oil cleanser which will effectively dissolve all of the makeup that is on your face and your eyes.
Remember, oil binds to oil, so this is a great way to get into your pores and really clean everything out.
I have tried a lot of different products, and the two that I have settled on aren’t even Korean.
In the evenings when I am just too tired to stand in front of the sink to cleanse, I use the Pond’s Original Fresh Wet Cleansing Towelettes. I have tried so many different brands, and these are my favorite. They stay so much wetter than other towelettes and really do an excellent job of cleansing.
These are not oil based, so if I were a Korean Skincare purist, these would not be included in my first step, they would be used after a true oil cleanse. But some cleansing is better than no cleansing at all (much better!) so for those Imperfect nights, these fill the bill rather well!
I actually keep them in my nightstand drawer, because if I am using them it’s because I am too tired to do the job properly. So I just climb into bed, use a towelette, and don’t feel one ounce of guilt over it.
If I am doing a proper oil cleanse in the evening, and I always do a proper oil cleanse in the morning, I am currently using the Neutrogena Ultra Light Oil Cleanser. I have repurchased this cleanser three times now, and I love it.
It is a perfect blend of oils, it’s inexpensive, and it gets the job done. Both of these products can be purchased at Wal-mart, or any drugstore.
Step 2 of Korean Skincare- Water-Based Cleanser
Step two of the Korean Skincare routine involves a water-based cleanser. This step is so important because it takes care of any oily residue left behind by the oil cleanser, along with any stubborn traces of dirt, makeup, or anything else.
The key to clear, beautiful skin is clean skin. Before you start layering on all sorts of amazing products, you have to start with a perfectly clean palette.
It took so much experimenting for me to find a water-based cleanser that didn’t end up leaving my skin feeling dry and tight. Dry and tight skin is a sign of skin that desperately needs moisture. You do NOT want your skin to feel dry and tight, this is one of the factors for premature wrinkles.
You always want your skin to feel moisturized. So if you complete the second cleanse and your skin has a tight, itchy feel, you need to try another water-based cleanser.
I went through several before I read a blog post at Skin and Tonic about a Cera Ve cleanser. I could not find the exact one that she used at my local Wal-mart, but I found this one, and I’ve been using it ever since!
I love it so much! I have repurchased it at least four times. This cleanser does the trick for cleansing, but without stripping my skin’s natural moisture away. It is so perfect.
I love the cleanser so much that I have tried other Cera Ve products, and have loved everything that I have tried so far. It’s an excellent brand, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Step 3 of Korean Skincare- Exfoliation
I have three different exfoliators that I really love, depending on my mood, and depending on what my skin needs at the time. One is a manual exfoliator, one is a chemical exfoliator, and one is a combination of both.
The first and least expensive option that I love is the Skinfood Black Sugar Strawberry Mask. This is the first exfoliator that I purchased, and I always keep a jar in my arsenal. It smells like strawberry jelly, it’s gentle, and you can leave it on your face for a few minutes to get a few extra benefits, or just immediately wash it off.
I use it in the shower and let it sit on my face while I perform the rest of my shower rituals, and my skin always feels so soft when I am done and most importantly, it doesn’t feel tight, dry, or abused.
The second exfoliator that I tried and love is the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. This is a great product that will last you a long time. (I’ve had my bottle for over 6 months, and it’s still halfway full. I only use it about twice per week, and to spot treat any blemishes.
This particular exfoliator goes on after toning (which is step 4), and it doesn’t wash off, you just let it absorb into your skin. The use of Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is what does the exfoliation work.
My third, and perhaps, favorite exfoliator is the Neogen Dermology Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine. These pads are double-sided. If your skin is very gentle or sensitive, there is a softer, less scrubby side, or if your skin needs some extra sloughing there is a side that has a little more exfoliating power.
Even though I have very sensitive skin, most times, I still used the scrubbier side. The liquid that is in the pad also has lactic acid in it, which is a lovely chemical exfoliator. On top of all of that, you get Resveratrol. Resveratrol also has AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) which helps with the exfoliation process.
Resveratrol also helps in the wrinkle prevention process.
I am currently out of my Neogen Bio-Peel exfoliator pads, and I desperately need to re-order. They work extremely well, are easy and clean to use, and there is enough liquid in each pad to also use on other areas of concern like your chest, elbows, knees, and feet.
Step Four of Korean Skincare- Toner
Toner restores your skin’s pH level and adds a bit of moisture to your skin before you start layering on the good stuff!
I have tried so many toners, and only ever considered re-ordering one of them, and it’s the one I use now. And I’m obsessed with it!
I am currently more than halfway through my first bottle of Neogen Real Flower Cleansing Water in Rose. It has actual rose petals floating in it, it smells divine, and my skin always feels so amazing after I use it.
Hands down, using my cleansing water is my favorite part of my routine, but I get a little dopey over anything with a nice rose scent. This product also comes in the Calendula scent (with real calendula flowers!). But I don’t think I’d be willing to part with the rose in order to try the calendula!
Because I have LOVED both of the Neogen products that I have tried, I’m thinking it may be time for me to branch out into some of their other products…
Step Five of Korean Skincare- Essence
Now we are going to venture into what may be a new territory in skincare. But Essence is one of the most important parts of skincare for a lot of Korean women.
The essence is a dual purpose product, but shouldn’t be left out. It picks up hydrating where the toner left off, but it also provides some additional benefits, depending on what your skin needs. Whether it be blemish repair, cell turnover, tightening, brightening, or wrinkle prevention/correction, there is an essence for you.
I have the CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. Now, in case you were wondering, yes, you did read that correctly. This product contains snail mucin, aka, snail slime, snail goo, whatever you want to call it. And I LOVE it!
Snail mucin has crazy awesome powers in the area of repair and moisture. So, if you have cystic acne, slap some snail mucin on it. If you have regular pimples, slap some mucin on it. If you have scars on your face…mucin. If you have sun damage, snail mucin!
Everyone should be using snail mucin. But there’s no reason to get icked out about it! It doesn’t smell at all, and it’s clear. It absorbs quickly into your skin, and your skin will love you for it.
The CosRX product is 96% snail mucin extract. I think that is higher than any other product, and that is why I LOVE it. A little goes a long way too! I use two pumps which ends up being less than a dime-size of product every morning, and I’ve had my bottle for over six months. This is fantastic stuff!
Step 6 of Korean Skincare- Treatments-Serums, etc.
This is where you are going to apply your stronger, concentrated products. Heavy duty wrinkle treatments, pore refiners, brighteners, acne treatments…there’s a serum for any of these.
One of the main tenets of Korean skin product application is that you want to tap it in, not rub it in. So make sure you are tapping your essence and your serum into your face.
Some say that the tapping motion helps your skin better absorb the product. it also stimulates blood flow.
I only use a serum at nighttime and it’s a fantastic product. I use the Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule, and I can’t say enough about it. This is one of those products that you would be paying over $100 for in the department store, and it probably outperforms them all.
This product will brighten, tighten, prevent wrinkles, repair any that you may have, moisturizes, soothes, it does it all. It’s amazing. And it’s very affordable!
Step 7 of Korean Skincare- Sheet Masks
The sheet mask is a wonderful little ritual that takes skincare to a whole new level. Just like serums, you can get a sheet mask for anything!
Clarifying, pore reducing, moisturizing, wrinkle correcting, acne, you name the skin problem, there’s a sheet mask for it!
Most Korean skincare enthusiasts only use a sheet mask one or two times per week, but there are plenty of die-hard enthusiasts that go for one every evening.
Think of the sheet mask as an esthetician in a packet. They really are THAT good!
I, myself, was a bit skeptical. I mean, sure, it felt great, but did it really make a difference? Well, after trying my first sheet mask, the next day, my husband commented on my skin.
He NEVER does this. He said, “Your skin looks different. It looks brighter. Did you try new makeup?” It’s not that he isn’t observant. He’ll notice if I wear my eye makeup totally different, or if I wear new earrings, or try a different hair color.
But the brightness of my skin seems like a subtle change. But it was obvious enough for him to notice and comment. So I figure that had to be an amazing sheet mask!
For the record, it was a Benton Snail Bee Mask (one of the more affordable options!). This particular mask is great for a bunch of different things. It helps with pores, acne, wrinkles, and brightening.
Step 8 of Korean Skincare- Eye Cream
The eyes are one of the places on your face that will show your age first. Crow’s feet, sagging eyelids, under eye crinkles, etc.
Giving your eyes a twice daily boost from eye cream will help preserve this delicate area.
Like all other products, tap it gently into the skin.
Don’t skip step 8!
Step 9 of Korean Skincare- Moisturizer
This is another crucial step to your skincare routine, and it cannot be overstated. Moisturized skin is skin that is way less likely to wrinkle, and less likely to break out.
I have to tailor my moisturizer to the weather, and also to what my skin is currently doing.
In the summer, I use a gel moisturizer during the day, under my sunscreen. In the evening, I use an emollient lotion.
In the winter, I use the emollient in the morning and in the evening, unless I start breaking out, then I will switch out the day time emollient to the gel moisturizer.
Having a few different moisturizers on hand for different weather and face situations will help you keep your skin perfectly moisturized no matter what is going on externally or internally!
My favorite emollient moisturizer that I have re-ordered, and will continue re-ordering is the Etude House Moistfull Collagen Lotion.
I have used both the Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel moisturizer and the Missha Super Aqua Cell Renewal Cream moisturizer. I LOVE the Missha gel moisturizer, but it is a bit pricey. So, I use and like the Benton as well. Benton products are always very low cost, but high quality.
The second part of the moisturizing equation is sleep packs! These are heavy duty moisturizers that are only used at night, and are only needed once a week. I have occasionally used them more often than once per week.
My preferred sleep pack is the Liole sleep pack.
Step 10 of Korean Skincare- Sun Protection
Sunscreen is the last step in the Korean skincare repertoire, and it is essential. Finding a good sunscreen to wear on your face that won’t break you out or clog your pores can be tricky. But it is worth trying several different products to find a winner.
The thing about sunscreen is that it really only lasts for about 3-4 hours, so reapplying is important throughout the day.
But how do you reapply sunscreen if your makeup is already on? This is why I absolutely love Korean BB cream air cushion compacts.
Most of the cushion compacts come with SPF of 50 or higher, and it makes it easy to freshen up your face, and your sunscreen, keeping your skin protected all day long!
Korean BB creams, unlike a lot of American brand BB creams, have tons of nourishing skin ingredients as well. So you aren’t just freshening your makeup, and SPF, you are improving your skin every time you “powder your nose”!
I love and continually restock the IOPE cushion compact. It is light, fresh, smells great and really does an all around great job.
I also use the Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk. This is a very light, almost watery sunscreen that moisturizes and has skin correcting ingredients. It doesn’t leave a white or ashy cast to your skin like some sunscreens can.
Neogen has a sunscreen out that I want to try next. Considering how much I LOVE the other two Neogen products that I have tried, I have a feeling it will be a winner!
Curating Your Own Korean Skincare Routine
When I first started working on my skincare routine I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get everything. So I picked the most important items and then added one or two new steps each month.
I already had a water based cleanser that I liked, so I added an oil based so that I would have the cornerstone of the Korean routine down…double cleansing.
I added in a toner, moisturizer, night cream, the IOPE cushion compact (so I had my SPF covered) and the night time serum.
I waited to buy an essence, exfoliator, sleep packs, an additional SPF, and sheet masks.
Once I had all ten steps covered, that is when I started experimenting with different products.
Now, I do not follow the 10 step routine perfectly. It would probably make a Korean gal shudder if she saw how loosely I follow it some days!
I will have to share in another blog post my Lazy Girl Nighttime Skincare Routine. It’s the routine that I do from the comfort of my bed, instead of standing in front of the sink for 20 minutes.
What kind of skincare routine do you currently have? Do you have some holes in your routine that you want to fill? Where are you going to get started?