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Korean skincare routine for men

2 Jan 2021
by M. Toledo

Korean skincare is gaining more and more popularity among men who are looking to keep their skin looking smooth, even toned and youthful for as long as possible. This blog is a shout-out to all the men who are curious about what Korean skincare has to offer for male skin! With a consistent, effective approach, it’s possible to treat most skin issues, or better still, prevent them, and get the best skin you’ve ever had. 

Oh, and girls (and guys, or anyone with a BF who's a skincare brute): feel free to share this blog with your BF if he needs some skincare education. ;)

I know many men who don’t really ‘do’ skin care. They wash their face in the shower (with shower gel or shampoo, the horror!) and maybe slap on some lotion after shaving, but that’s about it. Not a lot of them use specialized, high-quality skincare as a form of personal care, unless they are dealing with obvious skin concerns like excessive dryness, irritation or acne. Male skin just doesn't get the attention it deserves!

In Korea, girls ánd boys are raised with the importance of good skin care from a very young age. Taking proper personal care of your skin is not considered to be ‘girly’, or something for elderly women, or even something luxurious. Having a good skincare routine is an important part of personal care and hygiene. You can compare it to the Western views on dental care. You don’t skip the dentist or think brushing your teeth is something optional or luxurious, right? 

Korean skincare bases itself on mild yet effective skincare formulas that nourish the skin, and focuses on prevention rather than damage control. You don’t wait for wrinkles and acne to appear, but choose hydrating, caring ingredients that offer high quality care that keeps male skin healthy. The average Korean skincare routine may look a little daunting or extensive for the ultimate beginner, but don’t worry, it's easy peasy! With some slight tweaks and hacks, there are many ways to simplify your routine, save your time and have wonderful results all at once. 

Underneath, you'll find a perfect example of a routine with products for male skin. I even included a time indication, a short explanation and a how-to so you know how to handle each step. I've made sure to choose products that are compatible with most, if not all, male skin types, and are suitable for people with sensitive skin, or who are just getting started with skincare. 

Step 1: Oil cleanse

30 seconds

Why: To gently clean the skin and get rid of dirt, sebum and harmful bacteria.
When: Every night, and no more than twice a day.    
How: Apply to dry skin, gently massage and rinse with lukewarm water. 

Oil cleansers are facial cleansers based on oils in stead of water, and they are a very important part of Korean skincare. They are more effective than traditional water based cleansers when it comes to dissolving oil based dirt like excessive sebum, dirt and sunscreen. Long term use of a oil cleansers deeply cleanses the pores, leading to pores that seem less obvious and appear less noticeable. 

The From Green Cleansing Oil by Purito is a scent-free no frills oil cleanser great for all skin types.


Step 2: Water Cleanse

30 seconds

Why: For removing the residu of the oil cleanser, plus water based impurities like sweat.
When: As a second cleansing step, following the use of the oil cleanser.
How: Apply to damp skin, gently massage into the skin with circular motions and rinse with lukewarm water.

Oil dissolves in oil, but you need a second cleansing step to remove water based impurities like sweat. Sounds logical, right? Double cleansing may sound like a drag, but it's one of the most important parts of Korean skincare. It cleanses the skin very effectively, yet is extremely mild for the skin. Unlike with aggressive, harsh cleansers, double cleansing doesn't strip the skin of natural protective oils. The result? Smooth, bright male skin! Choose a mild cleanser that doesn't make your skin feel try and tight after using it. 

The Low pH Pore Deep Cleansing Foam by Pyunkang Yul rids your skin of dirt and sweat while keeping the skin fresh and hydrated.


Step 3: Exfoliant

10 seconds

Why: To remove dead skin cells and dirt that clog pores, to even out the skin tone and to enhance the absorption of the following products.
When: Once or twice a week, according to your personal needs.
How: Varies, depending on which product.

You may be familiar with this step. Facial scrubs contain small particles that exfoliate the skin, but Korean skincare tends to emphasize chemical exfoliants. Habitual use of a chemical exfoliant gently dissolves dead skin cells and dirt that clog pores, leading to a more smooth and bright skin tone. Moreover, chemical exfoliants help to hydrate your skin, and they can have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory effects on male skin suffering from acne, inflammation and blackheads.

There are exfoliating toners with chemical exfoliants such as AHA's (glycolic, lactic or mandelic acid) or BHA's (salicylic acid). Toners are leave-on products, but you can also choose for exfoliating wash off products like face masks, that you leave on your skin for a short period of time and then rinse off. Incorporating an exfoliant in your male skin care routine is a small effort, but can yield huge results, especially if your skin is oily and/or acne-prone!

The Original Clear Pad by COSRX is a great quick fix. Just wipe your face with this exfoliating pad and you're good to go.


Step 4: Essence / Toner

10 seconds

Why: To hydrate the skin and prepare it for the following steps of your skincare routine.  
When: Morning and night. 
How: Collect an appropriate amount in the palm of your hands and gently press in onto the skin of the face and the neck.

So, now your skin is properly cleansed and prepared, it's time to give your skin some serious hydration. Essences and toners are the products that really stand out in Korean skincare. Essences and toners are used to dampen and hydrate the skin, enhancing the absorption of the following products in your skincare routine. Generally speaking, essences are more concentrated than toners. That's why essences tend to be pricier, and with toners, you get more of the product. The textures can vary from watery to more thick, opalescent and jelly-like. Both contain ingredients that are beneficial to male skin, like hyaluronic acid or botanical herbal extracts. 

This concentrated toner smooths out bumpy skin and deeply nourishes it, plus it really packs a punch hydration-wise.


Step 5: Serum

10 seconds

Why: To give your skin specific, targeted treatments. 
When: Anything from a few times a week to twice daily, depending on the formula and your preference.
How: Collect an appropriate amount in the palm of your hands and gently press in onto the skin of the face and the neck.

Now, serums are where Korean skincare get really interesting. They contain the highest concentrations of active ingredients, and are real powerhouses for treating any concern male skin can suffer from. Want to treat wrinkles? Go for a peptide complex. Is your skin looking a little dull? Vitamin C will brighten things right up. Do you want to treat dark spots? Ingredients like Arbutin and Licorice extract are your best friend. Serums are where male skincare gets really specialized, and where continued use will give you considerable results.

The high concentration of Vitamin C in this powerful serum brighten a dull skin tone, diminishes dark spots and make your skin look lively and even-toned.


Step 6: Sheet masks

15-20 minutes

When: Once or twice a week. 
Why: The sheet mask material prevents evaporation and further enhances male skin hydration.
How: Unpack and unfold the sheet mask, place it on a clean face and remove after 10-20 minutes.

When you think of Korean skincare, sheet masks are iconic. Sheet masks are facial skincare masks intended for single use that are are drenched in essences. Think of it as a soothing, pampering form of personal care. There are sheet masks for every skin concern. The sheet material forms a barrier that prevents the hydrating, nourishing ingredients from evaporating, increasing the effectiveness of the essence. Another great thing about sheet masks if that you can try several essences without having to commit to buying a full-size product.

So, do you have some time to spare and intend to use it on relaxation and some serious male skin and self care? Slap on a sheet mask, lay back and let the mask do its work. 

Even if the taste of cucumber isn't your thing, this Missha Cucumber sheet mask perfectly adheres to the skin and delivers some serious hydrating refreshment.


Step 8: Emulsion

10 seconds

When: Morning and night.
Why: For skin types that prefer lighter moisturizers, to lock in hydration from previous steps.
How: Apply the desired amount to the skin of the face and neck and gently tap.  

An emulsion is a lighter form of a moisturizer. Because male skin tends to be less dry, lots of men prefer an emulsion to a regular moisturizer. This is why emulsions are generally more popular in hot, humid countries where many people prefer a lightweight texture. Emulsions let skin breathe. Just like a moisturizer, emulsions are used to lock in all the hydrating, skin-beneficial ingredients you've applied in the previous steps. 

The E Nature Birch Juice Hydro Emulsion is a lightweight emulsion with birch juice and chamomile, to intensely hydrate the skin without leaving a trace of greasiness.


Step 9: Moisturizer

10 seconds

Why: To nourish the skin and to lock in hydration.
When: Especially at night, but morning and night for dry skin types.
How: Apply an appropriate amount to the face and nek.

A good moisturizer is key for male skin care. A moisturizer combines hydrating and moisturizing ingredients; the hydrating ingredients attract water to the skin, and the moisturizing ingredients make sure the skin retains the moisture. Dehydrated skin is more prone to irritation and break-outs, so properly moisturizing male skin is key to maintaining a solid male skin care routine.

Contrary to populair belief, oily and acne-prone male skin needs a moisturizer too. If you dry out your skin, it will overproduce sebum in an attempt to moisturize itself. Opt for a lighter emulsion-type product, or choose a moisturizer that is oil free. 

The Madecassoside Cream by A'pieu contains 40% Centella Asiatica extract, which is proven to have significant antioxidant, skin restoring properties.


Step 10: Sunscreen

10 seconds

Why: To protect the skin from harmful UV radiation.
When: Every morning.
How: Take an appropriate amount (about half a teaspoon) and spread out evenly over the face.

In Korean skincare, the sun is the enemy and sunscreen is a holy savior. And, if you think of it, they have a good point. UV exposure is one of the main contributing factors when it comes to wrinkles, skin aging, sagging, sun spots and hyperpigmentation. Wearing sunscreen isn't really a option, but a must! It's one of the best things you can do for your skin. Luckily, Korea is one of the frontrunners when it comes to formulating lightweight, wearable sunscreens that don't feel like a drag to wear. Don't forget to reapply your sunscreen approximately every two hours, especially when you're outside a lot.

Bioré UV Watery Essence is a light, refreshing sunscreen with a essence-like texture. Try it, and you'll actually look forward to using sunscreen!


Who said Korean skincare isn't for male skin? Male skin needs K-beauty too! There, we said it. Taking care of your skin isn't a luxury, but an important part of personal care. Spending a few minutes everyday to give your skin some attention will improve the appearance of your skin, and will likely improve your self esteem! And, seriously, skincare is fun!


XXX, M. 

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