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The 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 philosophy that prioritizes healthy skin and a healthy you. K-beauty views skin care as part of your everyday hygiene routine and a little moment of selfcare. The Korean skincare method promotes a routine of 10 steps that covers all areas and all types of products to add to your personal routine. The three phases of skincare, cleansing, nourishing, and protecting, are all incorporated into this method. 

Peaks your interest, right? If it did then keep reading as we will explain the purpose of every step and tell you how to implement them into your 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, and sunscreen, and accumulated dirt from your skin. Cleansing oils are very good at rinsing off oil-based impurities, because the one thing that effectively cleanses oils is other oils. What's also great about oil cleansers is their hydrating, nourishing properties, and the fact that regular oil cleansing as a part of your double cleansing routine can help to clean the pores more effectively. Cleansing oils are formulated in two types of products: cleansing balms and cleansing oils. The former is a solid type which is meant to be melted between your hands first, while the latter is a liquid oil in a pump.

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.


Step 2: Water based 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 based cleanser.

Why? A water based cleanser (cleansing gel orfoam) ensures deeper cleansing of the skin. An oil cleanser is mostly meant to cleanse the surface of your skin, while the water based cleanser also cleanses in the skin. It is a mild yet effective way to rinse off the possible residue of the oil cleanser, cleanses sebum, and also gently exfoliates if it contains exfoliating ingredients. Besides, many water cleansers contain ingredients that are beneficial to your skin: think of salicylic acid to purify, or aloe to soothe.

How? Apply a small amount of the cleanser onto wet hands and activate the cleanser by rubbing your hands together. It’s the bubbles or foam you want. 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 yesterday. I repeat, don't. 

Step 3: Exfoliant

Is your skin feeling a little dull or flaky? Or does your skin feel bumpy with enlarged pores? 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. Then there is peeling gels, a hybrid product, which have a physical and chemical exfoliating component.

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 or toner pads, you can apply it to your skin after cleansing. If your skin is sensitive, it is recommended to wait for your skin to dry down before applying the chemical exfoliant. Exfoliating face masks are usually wash-off products that you can rinse off after leaving them to 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. Your skin needs water just like you do. When it comes to hydration, using a toner or a mist is the way to go! 

Why? Toners will amp up the hydration levels of your skin and will help you achieve that, volumised, 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 into the skin more evenly and 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? Your toner is versatile! Whether you prefer a drenched cotton pad or the warmth of your hands, both methods are valid. It all depends on a person’s preference and the toner’s formulation. A mist is easy. Close your eyes and spray it in an upwards direction about 10 cm away from your face. You can let it air dry or use patting motions to help the toner absorb better and more quickly.

Step 5: Essence

Essences are still relatively unknown in the west, but in Korean skincare they are a must. So what are they? An essence is best described als the happy medium between a serum and a toner: contains more water than a serum, more ingredients 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. For all the people with dehydrated skins that need just a little more attention, an essence is the way to go.

How? Cleanse and tone your skin, and then apply the desired amount of essence to damp skin. Gently tap the product into the skin until fully absorbed. Enjoy the warmth of your hands and the refreshing sensation of a properly hydrated skin.

Step 6: Treatment

This is where skin care really targets your skin goals. If you have specific targets and need a way to reach your desired skin, a treatment is the way to go. Korean skincare offersserums,spot treatments enampoules to effectively address all skin issues you can think of. 

Why? Hyperpigmentation? Choose a brightening serum with vitamin C or niacinamide. 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 promote more elasticity and firmness. And if you are dealing with a pimple or acne, reach for a spot treatment such as 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


The face mask! A moment to pamper yourself and like a perfect marriage of skincare and relaxation. There are lots of different face masks, all geared towards different skin types and skin goals.

  • Sheet masks are iconic in Korean skin care routines. These masks are made from a special sheet material (usually cotton), in the shape of a face with openings for your eyes, nose and mouth. Drenched in ampoules and essences, these are great for on the go treatments or a quick moment to help your skin to an extra boost of love and care.
  • Sleeping masks are meant to be applied at nighttime and nourish and moisturize your skin. While you are getting your well deserved rest, your skin will bathe in the beneficial ingredients and formulas. 
  • Peel off masks are used to remove dead skin cells and pore clogging debris. They are most populair among those with oily skintypes.
  • Wash off masks soothe, soften, firm or hydrate skin. Like the name says, you rinse them off after a while. As long as you and your skin want to be showered with this mask.

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. Use the leftover essence on your neck and other areas of your body. Remove the mask, dispose of it and gently pat the remaining serum into your skin. Taking a selfie is optional.
Night mask: Night masks are usually the last step in the night routine. Apply to your skin and massage your face gently. Leave it 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. Make sure to follow up with the rest of your routine.
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 crow's feet. Give this area extra attention with products formulated specifically for that area.

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. Want to reduce dark circles? Also an option!

How? Apply a desired amount to your eye area. Gently tap the product into the skin to enhance absorption. Always use the weakest finger on your hand, your ring finger!

Step 9: Moisturizer


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

Why? Some would call a moisturizer the basic necessity. 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 can benefit a lot from using a good moisturizer, because it locks in that crucial moisture and prevents excessive transdermal water loss. Drier skin types usually lean towardscreams andoils and oily/acne prone skin types see better results with more lighter emulsions orgel type moisturizers. 

How? Apply a desired amount of cream, gel or oil to your cleansed skin and gently tap it onto the skin. Keep in mind, less is more! Layer up in thin layers if needed.


Step 10: Sunscreen

In Korea, sunscreen is holy and UV-rays are the enemy. 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 wherever there is natural light, there is sunlight. And sunlight means UV rays. 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 activate free radicals, destroy collagen, and speed up skin aging. 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 to three hours. It’s important to use at least SPF 30. 

Hopefully, this blog cleared things up! Ten steps sounds pretty intimidating 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 and a personal daily routine, 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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