The 10-step Korean skincare routine may seem intimidating at first, but the ultimate goal of the intensive regimen is gorgeous, glowing skin and who doesn’t want that?!
Think about it — the more glorious your complexion is, the less time (and money) you need to spend on applying makeup. Think of all the extra minutes you can sleep in! There’s the added bonus that if a paramour spends the night (get it girl!) you don’t have to worry about either leaving a muddy, beige imprint of your face on the pillow (gross) or being seen without a face full of foundation (oh, the horror!).
While I’ve loved working from home a lot more than I had anticipated, being stuck indoors with the AC blasting recycled air all day has been making me feel I’m being mummified with my skin being leeched of all of its natural moisture. Despite how overwhelming even attempting to parse though the Korean skincare routine, I figured I’d give the the process a shot!
the 411 on korean skincare ℹ️
What is the guiding philosophy of Korean skincare?
K-Beauty brands and products may be the most innovative and trendy in the world but the guiding philosophy of the Korean skincare routine is prevention. It’s better to take care of your complexion before any unsightly problems rear its ugly head (all over your face) than to applying quick fixes to deal with issues after they’ve already arisen.
I don’t have time for a 10-step skincare routine!
The Korean skincare process can seem overwhelming from the outset — who has the time for 10 steps #amiright?! Some nights I’m so tired that I’m lucky if I deign to splash a little water on my face.
But here’s the thing — not all of the 10 steps are required ALL the time and for every skin type.
Some steps (like applying sunscreen) are either for morning or night and others (like exfoliating) are too abrasive to do daily.
The most important thing is to understand the cause and effect of each step, your skin type and goals and applying according to your specific needs.
At the core of this holy grail of beauty regimens is double cleansing. The idea is that your pores need to be thoroughly and effectively clean in order to soak up all the goodness of the products applied afterwards. Makes sense, right?
Necessary morning and night (whether you wear makeup or not), get into the habit of double cleansing as soon as you get home. First use an oil-based cleanser — to melt away any sebum, pollutants and SPF — and follow it up with a water-based cleanser for any leftover sweat and dirt. It will prevent breakouts from happening and provide a clean canvas for skincare and makeup.
Now you’re seeing how the steps are adding up in the 10-step routine — they double everything up. While seemingly redundant, the key to glowing skin achieved by Korean skincare is using both an essence (similar to serums, boosters and ampoules) as well as a regular moisturizer.
If you’re disinclined to slog through the full 10 steps (fair) then abbreviate the routine to include at least a double cleanse and moisturize.
Korean Skincare Goals 🙌🏼
The ultimate goal of Korean skincare is to achieve an enviable glowing complexion. While the Japanese process focuses on getting that mochi skin, the Korean skincare regimen aims to achieve that glow up life. Here are some terms to become acquainted with:
What does “Chok Chok” mean?
A term worth knowing in the dizzying world of K-beauty trends is “Chok Chok” that literally translates to “damp” or (everyone’s favourite word) “moist.” It refers to super hydrated, bouncy skin and is the first stage of all hydration-oriented Korean skincare trends — you must first maintain a state of subtle, pillowy softness (chok chok skin) before continuing on to the glossy translucence of glass skin, the glazed sheen of “honey skin” or the clear, semi-matte “cloud skin.”
What is “Glass Skin”?
The pinnacle of skin quality in Korea,
“glass skin” is the fancy name for clear, luminous, seemingly transparent skin that is so intensely moisturized that it catches and reflects light.
The surface will be free of bumps or rough texture, while looking plump and firm due to plenty of water underneath. It may not be as appetizing as glutinous rice cake skin, but attaining a complexion so flawless that it’s likened to glass is still pretty appealing.
1. Cleansing Oil
Kick off the Korean skincare routine by first creating a pristine canvas. Use a cleansing oil to fight oil-based makeup products while also drawing out other impurities such as sunscreen, sebum and pollution that clog the skin and make it dull.
Use: Some say morning as well as night (since our skin produces oils overnight) but if your skin is on the drier side, just massage the cleansing oil into your skin with circular motions (to increase circulation for a brighter complexion) before rinsing off in the p.m. For the morning, you can pre-cleanse by splashing your face with regular, micellar or cleansing water.
2. Water Based Cleanser
Everyone likes a good sequel, right? Or does nobody like a sequel…? Either way, give your skin a double-whammy of purifying goodness with a water-based cleanser to thoroughly remove any leftover dirt or debris. Opt for a gentle foam cleanser or one with clarifying AHAs that will help dissolve dead skin that may be stubbornly clinging.
Use: As your first step in the morning — if you lack oily skin or time/patience — and post-cleansing oil at night. Lather in hands before using gentle, circular motions into face before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
Time to buff your dull skin to a smooth, glassy shine. A drag complexion and uneven texture may be due to an accumulation of dead skin cells. That’s why exfoliation — whether you use a scrub or chemical agent (such as glycolic or lactic acid) — is necessary. It’ll resurface the skin to expose the glow beneath as well as help other skin products absorb better.
Use: 1-2x per week or as needed when your pores are feeling congested. Not every day as it can be abrasive, especially for sensitive skin. It’s best implemented post-shower when the pores are open.
Now that your canvas has been properly stripped of all the ickiness (technical term), a toner will return balance. Not only will it begin the process of rehydrating your face, but it will even out your pH level. This will help your skin maintain a good barrier and effectively absorb the moisturizers to follow.
Use: Morning and night after cleansing. Either use with cotton pad and swipe on face or use hands to pat into skin.
Uniquely characteristic of the Korean skincare routine, an essence is a concentrated formula in-between a watery toner and a more viscous serum. The active ingredients found in lightweight essences more deeply penetrate the skin barrier to tackle anti-aging and hydration concerns to enhance the complexion.
Use: Morning and night, because of its watery consistency, it’s better to pat the essence directly into the skin (vs using a cotton pad as it wastes it). Look for mixes containing hyaluronic acid for more hydration.
This step covers products referred to as serums, ampoules and boosters that may seem a bit repetitive after the previous step. Sometimes containing 50% or more of the star ingredient, these more viscous essences target complexion concerns from dryness to large pores to redness to help restore, correct and regenerate skin.
Use: Morning and night. Usually slippery and easy to slide over the skin, apply a mere drop or 2 to skin by tapping in.
7. Sheet Masks
What makes sheet masks so effective is the prolonged contact with the face. The sheet is soaked with the highly concentrated serums which gives the skin more time to absorb its goodness for ultimate hydration. Whatever your skin concern is, there is a sheet mask for every occasion!
Use: Some Koreans use a sheet mask daily but the average person (with a normal schedule) uses them 1-3x a week. Apply, lay back and relax for 15-20 minutes, remove and gently pat in excess product. Don’t leave on for longer or the mask will suck the moisture right back out of your skin.
8. Eye Cream
The skin around your eyes is the thinnest and most delicate on your face which means it’ll be the first to show signs of aging or stress. Prevent and tackle the appearance of crow’s feet, puffiness and dark circles with gentle and non-irritating treatments that target this area to keep it looking youthful.
Use: Morning and night. Use the ring or pinky finger to gently tap the product along the orbital bone (the skin around the eyes will pull the product up). Don’t rub it in or you’ll pull at the delicate skin!
Aaaaahhhh…finally a familiar step. Since we’ve already covered all of our bases in the previous steps, it’s dealer’s choice what you use to seal in the moisture for plump, baby-soft skin. Whether you use a lotion, cream, gel or oil, these products are full of humectants to attract and prevent the loss of moisture.
Use: Morning and night. Pat into face and neck every day.
10. Sun Protection
Crucial to the prevention philosophy of the Korean skincare routine, applying SPF is the final (!) step of the process. Sunscreen protects skin from UV rays that damage collagen and elastin fibres that help maintain the skin’s structure. Not only is it a key defence against skin cancer but it’ll keep you looking so young — sun spot and wrinkle-free! — that you’ll continue to be carded long after you’re of legal drinking age.
Use: Every. Morning. Even when it’s grey out or you’re inside. EVERY. DAY. For obvious reasons, you can skip it in the p.m.
After doing my research to understand each of the 10 steps of the Korean skincare routine, I realized that it was already pretty close to my daily process. I did incorporate a cleansing oil at night and upped my p.m. regimen with glowing results. My skin feels much more hydrated! Definitely worth the extra effort. I can’t wait to experiment with more Korean skincare products once I finish the ones I already have.
Want to level up your skincare routine but the Korean process is too intensive? Incorporate these Japanese skincare products.
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