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10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine

31 Jan 2020
by LW Editorial Team

K-Beauty (or Korean Beauty) is so much more than just a trend from South Korea. It's a beauty method that prioritizes healthy, hydrated skin above smothering your skin under layers of make-up. A typical Korean skin care routine consists of 10 steps, all of which help you get deeply cleansed, healthy and nourished skin. Sounds interesting, right? We'll explain the purpose of every step and tell you how to implement them into your own routine!

Step 1: Cleansing Oil

First, we cleanse! The very first step is an oil cleanser.

Why? A cleansing oil is a very effective yet gentle way to remove make-up, excess sebum and sunscreen from your skin. Cleansing oils are very good at rinsing off oil-based impurities because the oils attract and dissolve these types of dirt. What's also great about oil cleansers is their hydrating, nourishing abilities, and the fact that regular oil cleansing can help to deeply clean the pores.

How? Apply a small amount onto your skin and gently massage using circular motions. Add a little water in the mix to emulsify the oil cleanser, and rinse off with lukewarm water after massaging the skin for 30 seconds or more. Pat your face dry with a dry, clean towel. 


Step 2: Water cleanser

Have you ever heard of the famous Korean double cleansing method? It’s easy. After using an oil cleanser, you follow up with a second cleansing step: a water cleanser.

Why? A water cleanser (like a cleansing gel or foam) ensures deeper cleansing of the skin compared to just using an oil cleanser by itself. It’s a mild yet effective way to rinse off the possible residu of the oil cleanser. Besides, many water cleansers contain ingredients that are beneficial to your skin: think of salicylic acid to purify, or aloe to soothe.

How? Apply the cleanser to your fingers and gently massage it into damp skin. Take your time to lather it on, because cleansing is a very important step! If you’re done, rinse off with lukewarm water and gently dry your face with a clean towel. Don’t use the towel your boyfriend used to dry off his feet with yesterday. I repeat, don't. 

Step 3: Exfoliant

Is your skin feeling a little dull? Or is your skin feeling rough and congested? Do you feel that just cleansing alone isn't getting you the results you want? Exfoliating your skin is a wonderful way to upgrade your skin care routine. 

Why? Exfoliants help to remove dead skin cells and debris that pile up on your skin and clog your pores, leading to a dull skin tone and blemished skin. Regular exfoliating will help to smooth out the skin while revealing your natural glow. Chemical exfoliants use acids to dissolve grease and dirt. Famous chemical exfoliants are BHA's (salicylic acid) and AHA's (lactic acid, glycolic acid), but there are many more, each with their own characteristics. Physical exfoliants (a.k.a. scrubs) use tiny particles like sugar grains or walnut shells to exfoliate the skin and make it feel soft and smooth.

How? Don't overdo exfoliating, especially if your skin is sensitive or rosacea-prone. It won't give you better results, just red and irritated skin. If you use an exfoliating toner, you can apply it to your skin after cleansing. If your skin is sensitive, it's advisable to wait for your skin to dry down before applying the chemical exfoliant, because damp skin tends to absorb products more. Exfoliating face masks are wash-off products that you can rinse off after leaving them sit on your skin for a while. If you choose to scrub, use gentle circular motions and rinse off. Be careful with the delicate skin around your eyes and lips!

Step 4: Toner/mist

Repeat after us: hydrated skin is healthy skin. When it comes to hydration, using a toner or a mist is the way to go!

Why? Toners will amp up the hydrating levels of your skin and help you achieve that dewy, healthy skin. They prep your skin for the following steps in your routine, ensuring that any serums or moisturizers you use afterwards will be absorbed in to the skin more effectively. Toners are generally geared towards hydrating the skin, but most Korean toners will contain antioxidants or soothing plant extracts that are beneficial in other ways.

How? Different strokes for different folks. Some people swear by drenching a cotton pad in toner and wiping it across their face. Others just pour some toner directly onto their palms and apply it to the skin with their hands. If you use a mist, spray it into your face (close your eyes, you don't need to hydrate your eyeballs) from about a 20cm distance and gently tap the product into the skin to help it absorb.

Step 5: Essence

Essences are still relatively unknown in the west, but in Korean skincare they are huge. So what are they? An essence is best described als the happy medium between a serum and a toner: more watery than a serum, but more concentrated than most toners. 

Why? Essences are the key to hydrated, radiant and healthy skin. They are great for both morning and evening skin care routines because they are perfect to layer after using toner, creating a radiant base for healthy skin. Plus, because essences are generally more concentrated than toners, they tend to contain a higher percentage of skin beneficial ingredients. 

How? Cleanse and tone your skin, and then apply the desired amount of essence to dampened skin. Gently tap the product into the skin until fully absorbed.


Step 6: Treatment

This is where skin care gets really targeted, specific and with that interesting! Korean skincare offers serums, spot treatments en ampoules to effectively address all skin issues you can think of. 

Why? Hyperpigmentation? Choose a brightening serum with vitamin C or licorice extract. Is your skin irritated and in need of soothing? Perhaps a calming ampoule with panthenol or centella asiatica is worth a try. Peptides and retinoids stimulate collagen production and result in more firm, resilient skin. And if you are dealing with a pimple, reach for a pimple patch to speed up wound healing and to protect the infected area. Acne, skin aging, redness: there's nothing that Korean skincare can't solve. ;)

How? Serums and ampoules are meant to be applied to clean skin and gently patted into the skin to improve the absorption. Spot treatments are meant for use on specific areas of concern. When in doubt, read the instructions on the packaging, or get in touch with us for additional advice.

Step 7: Face mask

Ahh, the face mask! It's like a perfect marriage of skincare and relaxation. There are lots of different face masks, all geared towards different skin types and skin issues.

  • Sheet masks are iconic in Korean skin care routines. These masks are made from a special sheet material, have holes for your eyes and mouth and are drenched in ampoules and essences.
  • Sleeping masks are meant to be applied at nighttime and nourish and moisturize your skin while you're knocking out the Z's (sleeping). You can rinse them off in the morning.
  • Peel off masks are used to remove dead skin cells and pore clogging debris. They are most populair among oily skinned folk. 
  • Wash off masks soothe, soften, firm or hydrate skin. Like the name says, you rinse them off after a short while. 

Sheet mask: Remove the sheet mask from the packaging and carefully unfold it. Apply the sheet mask to your face and wait for 15-20 minutes. Remove the mask, dispose of it and gently pat the remaining serum into your skin. Making a selfie is optional.
Night mask: Night masks are usually the last step in the night routine. Apply to clean, preferably dry skin and massage your face gently. Leave on overnight and rinse off in the morning. 
Peel off mask: Apply the desired amount to your face or a targeted area of your face, like your t-zone. Let the mask dry for 20-30 minutes. When it's dried down, you can gently peel off the mask. It's very satisfying. 
Wash off mask: Apply to dry, clean skin and leave it on for 10-20 minutes. Rinse off with lukewarm water. 

Step 8: Eye care

The skin around your eyes is delicate and thin. It's where the first signs of aging usually creep up: hello fine lines, eye bags and crows feet. -_-

Why? Your eye area doesn't have as many sebaceous glands compared to the rest of your face, making it more vulnerable. It's not a bad idea to invest in a special eye cream geared towards firming and nourishing the skin around your eyes.

How? Apply a desired amount to your eye area. Gently tap the product into the skin to enhance absorption. 

Step 9: Moisturizer

A good moisturizer that complements your skin type can make such a big difference!

Why? Some would call a moisturizer a skin basic. But 'basic' doesn't mean that it isn't important: a good moisturizer is like a firm foundation for your Korean skin care routine. Especially drier skin types van benefit greatly from using a good moisturizer, because it locks in that crucial moisture and prevents excessive transdermal water loss. Drier skin types usually lean towards creams and oils and oily/acne prone skin types see better results with more lighter emulsions or gel type moisturizers. 

How? Apply a desired amount of cream, gel or oil to your cleansed skin and gently tap it onto the skin. 


Step 10: Sunscreen

In Korea, sunscreen is holy and the sun is de devil. What can we learn from them?

Why? Sunscreen isn't just important during those sunny days at the beach. During the colder months the UV index may be low, but if you're outside all day or your office is located near a sunny window, consider wearing sunscreen all year round. There are two types of UV that affect our skin: UVA and UVB. UVB is the kind that causes skin burning in the form of redness and blistering, so those negative results show up pretty quickly. UVA is the sneaky form of UV that penetrates deeper into the skin, to destroy collagen and make your skin age faster. The harm done by UVA tends to show up later in life, manifesting itself in saggy skin, uneven skin tone, wrinkles and even an increased risk of cancer. 

How? Generally speaking, it's advised to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. If you want to stay protected throughout the day, it's important to reapply your sunscreen regularly: say about every two hours. 


Hopefully this blog cleared things up! Ten steps, sounds pretty intimidating right? But when you look at it more closely, it's all pretty logical. Now that you know what every skincare step entails, it should be easier to apply this method to your own skincare routine. Feel free to tweak and change this routine to fit your goals, your lifestyle, skin type, and so on. Skincare is a personal journey, after all!

16 May 2020
If you do this routine at night would step 7 be the last step? I assume that nothing goes over the sleeping mask. At the same time, step 7 is skipped in the morning right?
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