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Is the Korean 10-step routine outdated?

20 Jan 2022
by Horia

Are 10 steps really necessary to take proper care of your skin? All those separate steps and products seem time-consuming and excessive. Another drawback is the cost and the amount of shelf space it takes.

A misunderstood skincare concept 

This terminology ‘10-step Korean skincare routine’ was introduced by Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam, and became a viral sensation in the online beauty community in the past years. Cho’s intention was to use this method as an educational tool. She described it as a lifestyle, and she encouraged users to get to know the products they use. Using them in the right order will help to get the most out of them.


Korean 10-Step Routine



However, Cho’s routine seems to be a misunderstood concept. Navigating the world of Korean beauty can be a very confusing feat if you are new to this world. You can get lost in the products with names and descriptions such as toner, essence and sheet masks. Korean skincare products are formulated with careful consideration for their consistency, formulation and weight. Typically you’ll be advised to use the product with the thinnest consistency first and then follow up with other products, using the densest product last before ending the routine with an SPF. Cho summarised and compiled this into 10 steps. The method is not bound by strict rules that have to be followed twice a day, every day. It’s meant to be used as a guideline and recommendation.


The crucial points of your routine

Every skin is different and has its own needs. Its behaviour and what it shows you on its surface is your skin’s way of communicating with you. An efficient routine for its needs can be broken down into three phases: cleansing, nourishing and protecting. 

In the 10 step routine, cleansing has been described as a two-step process: an oil cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser. Oil cleansers are meant to break down oil-based products and dirt on the face, such as makeup and sunscreen products. In the mornings, I personally don’t see the need to use an oil cleanser knowing that none of those things are on my skin. I do use a water-based gel cleanser every morning to clean my skin of sebum and to start with a clean base to absorb the nourishing products.

Most peelings and masks are recommended to use on a weekly basis, rather than a daily basis. So I advise you to read the description and instructions of these types of products and make informed decisions about how and when to use them. Generally, I like to integrate these products into my nighttime routine once or twice a week as a treat to my skin and to myself.



and essences tend to bring up a lot of confusion. Don’t they basically do the same thing? Well… no, not really. Toners prepare the skin for the nourishing products that follow this step. Essences on the other hand hydrate and aid in cell turnover. They are lightweight and concentrated with complexion-enhancing ingredients. While toners have a very water-like consistency, essences come in a variety of consistencies to treat specific needs. Some people do not wish to use both a toner and an essence but would rather stick to one.

To target specific skin concerns, treatments are recommended. Treatments are formulated with active ingredients and can be applied on the entire face or to specific areas as spot treatment. They come in a lot of different types. Not every skin requires a separate treatment product. Especially since in the past years active ingredients have been integrated into moisturisers, toners, masks and peeling products. This is why it might be a good idea to check your products for active ingredients and then consider whether you still need a separate treatment (with the same effect).


Want a shortcut? Combine steps!

When we look at the skin’s needs and the variety of available products on the market, it’s safe to say that the routine can be cut down in steps significantly. Lately, multifunctional products have found their way into the market and have gained popularity. With new formulations, these products are meant to combine steps and functions. Let’s introduce you to some of our favourite multifunctional products.

Troiareuke Acsen Oil Cut Cleansing

Steps: oil-based + water-based cleanser

Let’s begin at the first phase of the skincare routine: cleansing. The Troiareuke Acsen Oil Cut Cleansing is an oil-based and water-based cleanser. This product breaks down makeup, sunscreen, sebum and dirt. This cleanser is also hypoallergenic and very suitable for acne-prone and sensitive skin.


Sioris My First Essener

Steps: Toner + Essence 


The Sioris My First Essener already gives away its multifunctional use in the name. This product combines an essence and a toner into one product. It is formulated to hydrate the skin and prepare it for the products that follow into one step. This product is a personal favourite and recently dubbed as a holy grail.

Tip: The Essener’s texture changes depending on the storage temperature. For a thicker consistency, you can store the bottle in the refrigerator.


Holika Holika Aloe 99% Soothing Gel

Steps: Multiple uses


A very well-known and popular product is the Holika Holika Aloe 99% Soothing Gel. Aloe vera gel is a product with many purposes and can be used in many ways. Its hydrating and soothing properties can be used to treat the skin after sunbathing or to relieve skin irritation, as a moisturising sleeping mask or to combat frizzy hair. These are just a few examples of the many ways it can be used.


How many steps does it take?

After having analysed the central points of the skincare routine, we are ready to answer the question: Are 10 steps really necessary to take proper care of your skin? 

The answer is: no. 

Every skin is different and every individual is different. Not all 10 steps of the Korean skincare routine are necessary twice a day to ensure healthy skin. The average person does not need peelings, treatments or masks on a daily basis - especially not twice a day. In fact, overstimulating your skin with too many products and ingredients may result in irritation and breakouts. 

Skincare rules are not set in stone and the same routine does not work for every person. Your skin might wish for different things in the morning than it does in the evening. So in the end, the amount of steps depends on your skin and your wishes. Listen to your skin! It is always communicating with you.

Multifunctional products can help reduce the number of steps. However, sun protection is an exception! Even when skincare and makeup products contain SPF, it is recommended to use a separate sunscreen with at least SPF 30 on a daily basis and to reapply it during the day. During the nighttime routine, this step can be omitted of course.


Do you have a multifunctional product tip?

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