10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine GuidePosted on 03/07/2019
We LOVE Korean beauty – it’s effective, gentle, fun and affordable. We also love that Korean beauty brands believe in being environmentally sustainable and steer away from using harsh, toxic, controversial ingredients. Oh, and we’re totally obsessed with the packaging! At the very core of it is the K beauty philosophy and the 10 step skin care routine. Why? Well, understanding the concept of the routine, customising it to suit your skin’s needs and staying consistent with it is key to seeing results and achieving that clear, glowing complexion want. This is where our 10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine Guide comes in! We’ll break it down for you step by step and add in our tips so you can customise your routine and achieve your skin goals.
It’s important to note that this is our recommended routine. Slight variations of the 10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine do exist. Once you start your routine, understand your skin better as well as trial and error with a few different products and techniques, you will know the routine you should stick to consistently for your unique skin.
Introducing the 10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine
The Korean beauty philosophy is all about using clean, natural beauty to clear and bring radiance to the skin. The main focus is on prevention as well as treating the root cause of the skin concern/s. Koreans use products that nourish and hydrate the skin in addition to providing long term results. They believe in a gentle, layering technique and see skin care as an investment rather than a chore. Perceiving your skin care routine this way will also help you enjoy your routine, morning and night – despite the number of steps. Some important things to note before we get into the steps:
- Don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed when you hear “10 steps”. The whole 10 steps isn’t for everyone – some consistently do more, some less. And, not all 10 steps are necessary on a daily basis. Just check out our image above which outlines the essential and extra steps in a routine.
- If you’re new to Korean beauty or new to having a skin care routine, we recommend you gradually build up your routine. Don’t jump into 10 steps straight away or introduce 10 new and different products to your skin all at once.
- Your morning and night routines will differ slightly. We’ll go more into this later on.
- General rule of thumb for your routine is layer on products from thinnest consistency to thickest.
Essentially, we want you to ease into a daily routine and learn to love taking care of your skin! Your night routine is also a great way to relax and wind down at the end of the day.
We’re here to help you achieve that clear, radiant, flawless skin. So let’s face it together with Korean beauty!
Step 1: Oil Cleanser
The first step is to cleanse with an oil cleanser (on dry skin). This removes sunscreen, makeup, excess sebum on the surface of your skin as well as inside your pores.
Morning or Night? We highly recommend using an oil cleanser in your night routine, daily. Oil cleansing in the morning is optional.
- LFI Tip: For all our oily and acne prone skin beauties – don’t shy away from oil cleansers! Oil cleansers and double cleansing removes all impurities while maintaining your skin’s optimal pH balance. This is key for reducing excess sebum production!
It’s imperative that every skin care routine starts with cleansing. Why? Because you want a clean canvas to work with when you start layering on your treatment products! Thoroughly cleansing allows the skin care products in the rest of your routine to penetrate deeper into your skin and work more efficiently.
Step 2: Water Based Cleanser
The second step is to cleanse with a water based cleanser i.e. gel or foam (on damp skin). This provides a further deep cleanse within your pores and removes any residual impurities, also ensuring your skin is clean without feeling tight or dry.
Morning or Night? Both!
Steps 1 & 2 together is double cleansing. We highly recommend giving this a go. We’ve only ever heard positive reviews from those who have tried it and they have never looked back (ourselves included)!
- LFI Tip: Cleanse with the oil cleanser before popping into the shower and rinse off while you’re in the shower (don’t have the water temperature steamy hot!). Once you’re out, cleanse with the water-based cleanser and follow with the rest of your routine.
Find out more in our related Article: The Korean Beauty Double Cleansing Method.
Step 3: Exfoliate
This is an essential step, but not a daily step. Exfoliating not only improves the texture of your skin but also helps with removing all dead skin cells while accelerating skin cell rejuvenation. Regular exfoliation leaves your skin brighter, more youthful and helps reduce acne breakouts.
Aim to exfoliate between 1-3 times a week (spread out, not consecutive days) either by physical or chemical exfoliation. Depending on how your skin feels, sometimes it may need more or less exfoliation for that week.
Morning or Night? Best at night.
- LFI Tip: We recommend a combination of physical and chemical exfoliation in your routine. In this case, use the physical exfoliation once a week and chemical exfoliation 1-2 times per week.
Learn more about the types of exfoliation and how they work in our Ultimate Guide on Exfoliation.
Step 4: Tone
Toner is another step we believe is essential to any routine. It is the first treatment step after your cleansing steps (steps 1-3). This treats your skin to some much needed hydration after cleansing and also keeps your skin at its optimal pH level – so its not too dry, not too oily. Sometimes, toner can be replaced with a first treatment essence (more on this below) but if you’re not using an essence, toner is a must.
Morning or Night? Both!
- LFI Tip: If your toner has a thin, watery consistency and your skin feels it needs a bit more hydration, apply a few more layers of toner! This builds up hydration without any heavy or sticky feeling. When layering toner, use a hydrating, alcohol-free toner that doesn’t contain acids in it.
Related article: Korean 7 Skin Method.
Step 5: Essence
For Koreans, this is the most essential step in their routine. Essences penetrate the deeper layers of your skin, working on a cellular level rather than on the surface level. They use specific ingredients that not only provide hydration but also promote skin cell renewal and prep your skin to to better absorb other treatment products (e.g. serum / ampoule). Essences help slow down natural ageing which is noticeable with time.
Morning or Night? Either, or both.
- LFI Tip: Essences are great to add into your routine if you’re looking for extra hydration, extra anti-ageing benefits as well as extra brightening benefits for your skin.
First treatment essences such as the Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence, Klairs Midnight Blue Youth Activating Drop, or the Neogen Real Micro Ferment Essence are light, watery essences that can be applied as the first step after cleansing; before or in replacement of, toner. This is so the active ingredients penetrate your clean skin first and are first to reach the deep layers of your skin.
Confused about toners and essences? Don’t be – we go more into detail about the differences between these two steps in our Korean Beauty Breakdown: Toner vs. Essence.
Step 6: Serum & Ampoule
This step consists of highly concentrated products (a serum or ampoule) to treat specific skin concerns such as acne, pigmentation, scarring, dehydration, wrinkles etc. You would usually just apply either a serum or an ampoule in one routine.
Morning or Night? Either, or both. Serums / ampoules with high concentrations of actives such as Vitamin C, AHA, BHA, Retinol are best used at night.
- LFI Tip: On those lazy days, mix your serum with your moisturiser and apply in one step. Also good for those with sensitive skin. Make sure the active ingredients in your serum and moisturiser are ok to mix.
Serums & Ampoules are great for when you want to go that extra step in combating a specific concern, or just to improve your skin health in general.
Step 7: Sheet Mask
Sheet masking is the fun step that can be done daily, a few times a week or occasionally. You can use a sheet mask to treat a specific concern (redness, acne, dehydrated skin) or to treat yourself to some ME time!
Morning or Night? Better at night, or when you have some time for pampering.
- LFI Tip: Store your sheet masks in the fridge! This preserves the ingredients for longer and provides a cooling effect.
There are so many different sheet masks to choose from; there’s one for every skin type and concern and they all give your skin a good moisture boost!
Step 8: Eye Cream
The last treatment step in this 10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine is eye treatment. The skin around your eyes is delicate and thinner than the other areas of your face. Keeping this area hydrated is key for minimising fine lines as well as preventing further wrinkles.
Morning or Night? Either, or both.
- LFI Tip: Hydrogel eye patches like the Heimish Bulgarian Rose Patches or the Benton Snail Bee Patches are eco-friendly. After use, put them in hot water to turn them into an essence you can apply to your face!
Eye patches are also great to use if you need to de-puff and revitalise your eyes before (or after) an event.
Step 9: Moisturiser
After applying your treatment products, you want to seal in all the moisture and active ingredients as well as protect your skin. This is an important step and must not be skipped even if you have oily skin or even on days when your skin doesn’t feel “dry”. Your treatment products will not work as effectively if you do not prevent moisture loss and protect your skin barrier for the rest of the day, or night.
Morning or Night? Both! A lightweight cream or gel moisturiser is great for the day time while a richer cream is best for night time use.
- LFI Tip: Most moisturisers can be used as both day and night creams. If it suits your skin well, does a good job of keeping hydration and absorbs completely, there’s no harm in using the same moisturiser, twice daily!
Failing to moisturise properly can lead to excess sebum production as your skin tries to compensate for the lack of moisture by producing more oil, which can also lead to acne!
Step 10: Sun Protection / Sleeping Mask
Sunscreen is a must!! Rain, hail or shine. The best, and easiest, way to protect your skin from ageing is to wear sunscreen daily. Whether it’s a bright and sunny day or overcast, sunscreen is essential.
- LFI Tip: Check that your sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays! UVA rays penetrate the deeper layers of your skin and cause long term damage such wrinkles and saggy skin. UVB rays harm the surface of your skin, causing sunburn, pigmentation, freckles/moles, sun spots and redness.
Sleeping masks are great on those nights you feel like your skin needs an extra boost of moisture and protection. Apply on top of your moisturiser to reinforce the moisture barrier and further prevent moisture loss from occurring overnight.
- LFI Tip: There are some moisturisers which also can act as a sleeping mask (and visa versa). Simply apply a thicker layer of moisturiser to use it as a sleeping mask (or thinner layer of sleeping mask to use as a moisturiser)!
Recommendations & FAQs About The Korean Skin Care Routine Steps
Which Oil Cleanser Is Most Suitable For My Skin Type?
Most oil cleansers / oil balms are suitable for all skin types. There are some that go the extra mile in their formulations and are best for certain skin types. For example, Banila Co Clean It Zero Nourishing suits dry skin types, Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil is great for oily, acne prone skin and our Aromatica Natural Coconut Cleansing Oil is for our organic, vegan beauties.
Which Water-Based Cleanser Is Most Suitable For My Skin Type?
We generally always recommend a low pH cleanser for all skin types, especially if you’re new to K beauty or new to a routine. Our best selling, and most recommended water-based cleanser is the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. Other low pH / pH balanced cleansers include the Heimish All Clean Green Foam and Klairs Rich Moist Foam Cleanser.
Which Type Of Exfoliation Is Best For My Skin?
Despite sounding more harsh, believe it or not, acids (chemical exfoliation) are actually more gentle on skin compared to physical scrubs. The COSRX AHA and COSRX BHA exfoliators are effective and gentle for all skin types, including sensitive. For those who have non-sensitive and quite dry, rough skin, physical exfoliation may be a better option.
For our sensitive skin beauties, while most Korean exfoliators are gentle enough for your skin type, if you have very sensitive skin, try even gentler acids such as PHA or Mandelic Acid. Peeling gels are also great for sensitive skin types.
What’s The Best Korean Toner For My Skin Type?
We have a variety of toners to cater for different skin types and concerns. Some of our toners contain specific ingredients which help with oily, acne prone skin (e.g. BHA, Centella Asiatica Extract). These include the Pyunkang Yul Acne Toner and the COSRX AC Collection Calming Liquid Mild and Calming Liquid Intensive. Others toners like the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner and iUNIK Vitamin Hyaluronic Acid Vitalizing Toner are more dense in texture and great for all skin types, but in particular, dry skin. The consistency of your toner (thin/watery, medium, dense) will also depend on your personal preference.
What’s The Difference Between A Serum & Ampoule?
Traditionally, ampoules are said to have a higher concentration of active ingredients compared to serums and are slightly thicker. However, this is now not always the case. These days you’ll find many serums are rich in actives and dense in texture or even light, watery serums that are still highly concentrated. Rather than focussing on whether you should use a serum or ampoule, look at the active ingredients and assess whether they treat your specific skin concerns / goals.
When Do I Apply Facial Oil In My Routine?
Facial oils should always be the last step of your routine, so after your moisturiser or sleeping mask at the end of the night.
We hope we broke down all the steps of the famous 10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine in an easy to understand manner! Use this as a guide but remember the key is to understand your skin’s needs so you can customise your routine for your unique skin. For those new to K beauty, start with the essential steps and gradually add on the extras.
For an easy go-to guide on morning & night routines, see our How To Korean Skin Care Routine Day & Night.
If you have any other questions about the 10 step Korean skin care routine, pop them in the comments below!
Let’s Face It
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