South Koreans take their skincare very seriously. By now you’re probably increasingly familiar with a number of Korean beauty products, from BB cream to face masks to snail slime-infused serums (yes, you read that right).
But perhaps the most infamous of all South Korea’s beauty exports is the incredible 10 step skin care routine that countless Korean women swear by. If 10 steps sounds overwhelming, let us walk you through it.
Step One – Oil-based Cleanser
The first step in this skin care routine is focused on breaking down your makeup, sun protection and any other oily stuff that may be on your skin. If you’re freaking out at the thought of putting an oil-based cleanser on your face, don’t worry, it won’t break you out. In fact, oil-based cleansers are exactly what you need to break down any oils on your skin – including sebum, SPF and pollutants.
The Beauty of Joseon Radiance Cleansing Balm is an ideal oil-based cleanser, breaking down makeup with ease and leaving the skin moisturised and supple, but not greasy. It’s gentle on sensitive skin and the Chrysanthemum extract soothes irritated skin.
Step Two – Water-based Cleanser
A unique part of the 10 step routine is the double-cleanse: the water-based cleanse is the second part of that. While the oil-based cleanser removes any sunscreen, make-up and pollutants, the water-based cleanser gets rid of the dirt and sweat and gets your skin clean.
With a well balanced pH level of 5~6, the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser is gentle on sensitive skin, making it perfect for dry skin and it doesn’t strip the skin of its natural oils.
Step Three – Exfoliator
Whether you choose to opt for a physical exfoliant or a chemical one, this is one step that you don’t want to do everyday. Once or twice a week, though, your skin will love you if you take the time to get it a good scrub to remove any dead skin cells and any impurities that your other two cleansers may have missed.
A combination of a physical and chemical exfoliator the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine gently exfoliates dead skin cells using the 3-layer pad while lactic acid cleanses impurities deep from the pores.
Step Four – Toner
No longer the astringent that left your skin feeling dry and tight, Korean toners remove any leftover residue and helps repair your skin’s lipid barrier. Toners rehydrate your skin, which is the key to fighting off fine lines.
With a blend of mint and basil extracts the Banila Co Dear Hydration Toner soothes skin irritated by pollutants, while the bamboo and lotus flower adds hydration back to the skin after cleansing and exfoliation.
Step Five – Essence
An essence is halfway between a toner and a serum; a lightweight product designed to hydrate and soothe your skin. This unassuming little bottle is packed full of active ingredients like hyaluronic acid and natural extracts to pack your skin with hydrating goodness.
Using fermented Artemisia (also known as Mugwort) extract to balance and hydrate the skin, while soothing sensitive skin with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The double fermentation process (in cold and warm environments) means that this essence also boosts the skin’s lipid barrier, increasing long-term protection against sensitisation.
Step Six – Treatments
This step is where you can really zero in on any skin concerns you may have, whether that’s acne or hyper-pigmentation. Boosters, ampoules and serums can be applied during this step. Packed with potent actives, gently tap these into your skin to boost absorption and to prevent tugging on the skin which can speed up signs of aging.
If you’re dealing with fine lines or acne scarring, Mizon’s Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule includes Korean skincare’s favourite ingredient: snail filtrate which is naturally rich in elastin, proteins and hyaluronic acid. At 80% snail filtrate, this highly concentrated ampoule also includes cocoa, which is rich in antioxidants.
Step Seven – Sheet Masks
The holy grail of Korean skincare products, sheet masks are super-concentrated forms of essences and serums. The prolonged contact between your skin and the mask infuses your skin with soothing ingredients like green tea and cucumber extract. Just don’t leave the mask on longer than the product says, otherwise the mask may begin trying to leech moisture out of your freshly hydrated skin.
This all-in-one face mask seemingly does everything: cooling, moisturising, soothing and lifting! The Benton Snail Bee High Content Mask is another product that includes snail filtrate, while also containing bee venom and EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor). Needless to say, avoid this product if you’re allergic to bees!
Step Eight – Eye Cream
The skin around your eye is incredibly thin and delicate. This area is one of the first to show signs of aging and the creams and serums you put on the rest of your face are too rich and heavy for this delicate area. Another hydrating product, a popular ingredient in Korean eye creams is snail filtrate (i.e. slime) because it contains hyaluronic acid and elastin. Gently tap this into your under-eye area with your ring finger as this is the weakest finger and won’t tug on the skin.
Etude House is an iconic K-beauty brand and their Moistfull Collagen Eye Cream, containing Baobab seed oil and collagen, moisturises and firms that delicate under-eye area. The lightweight formula also won’t leave you feeling oily or heavy.
Step Nine – Moisturiser
While you’re probably familiar with this product, Korean moisturisers come in many different forms such as gels, lotions, and creams. They seal in the moisture that earlier products added to your skin and smoothes fine lines. Just don’t be too rough when applying, use light upward strokes and avoid pulling on the skin.
Tony Moly, another mainstay in the K-beauty world, uses pure fermented green tea instead of water in their Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Cream. This moisturiser is high in antioxidants (thank you green tea!) and creates a thin layer, locking in hydration without feeling heavy or greasy.
Step Ten – Sunscreen
Of all the steps in the routine, this is absolutely the one you need to add into your own routine right now. UVA and UVB rays age the skin like nothing else, not to mention the health concerns of excessive sun exposure. Korean sunscreens are lightweight and broad-spectrum, minimising the amount of UV rays getting through.
Another multi-function product, the Tony Moly My Sunny Watery Essence SPF 50/PA+++ is a hydrating essence while also providing broad spectrum UV protection. Hyaluronic acid and aloe vera hydrates and soothes, this sunscreen’s lightweight texture allows the product to sink into the sink and provide long-lasting sun protection.
A 10 step skin care routine may seem like a lot, but we think it’s worth trying. Even just including one or two extra steps in your own routine could be the boost your skin needs to take it from drab to fab. Whether you start double-cleansing or take the time to find a sunscreen that works for you, the Koreans know what they’re talking about when it comes to skin care.