With at least twice as many steps as your average skin care regime, the Korean 10 step routine may seem intimidating. But in Korea - with its skin centric culture - the 10 step routine is seen as the reason why flawless dewy skin is the norm.
In fact as beauty bloggers are spreading the word, the 10 step routine has reached almost cult status. Luckily, it is not rigid - you don’t need to do every step every day - it’s about paying attention to your skin and adapting the routine to your own needs. Having said that, I recommend everyone should at least follow the double cleanse, tone and SPF steps.
So here’s a masterclass in the Korean skincare routine, with a full breakdown of what the steps are and why they are so effective. Turn your bathroom into your own treatment room and look forward to dramatically improved skin.
Step One: Oil Based Cleanser
Double cleansing is the way to go and an oil cleanse is the first step. Massage an oil cleanser into dry skin to remove makeup (even the waterproof stuff) and get rid of any impurities or pollution. Next add some warm water to emulsify (break down the oil) and the cleanser will turn into a milky lather that rinses easily away.
We love Banila Co’s Clean Zero 3-in-1 Cleansing Balm Original and with one pot being sold every 3.1 seconds we’re not alone.
Step Two: Water Based Cleanser
The goal of the second cleanse is to clean the skin itself and to wash off any remaining dirt, oil or residue, after you’ve removed your makeup. When you do this, you optimise the skins natural protection and prepare your skin for the rest of your skincare ritual. There are many options for this step, but it is best to do this gently and choose a cleanser with the correct pH. Unfortunately, many cleansers have a high pH, and are too strong for most of us. Your face should feel soft and clean, if it feels “squeaky clean” or tight your cleanser is too harsh.
Step Three: Gentle Exfoliation
This final stage of cleansing sloughs off dead skin cells to reveal brighter, smoother skin, it also helps to unblock pores and prevent blackheads. The key word here is gentle, one of the worst things you can do to your skin is to scrub it too roughly or too often. You can use a manual exfoliator, like a sugar scrub, or chemical exfoliator one that uses acids or enzymes like AHAs and BHAs (AKA hydroxy acids), to gently dissolve away dead skin cells and debris. Exfoliating regularly is vital to keep your skin looking it’s best, but you can overdo it. Remember gentle is the way forward and once or twice a week is frequent enough. Focus more on your nose or anywhere else with visible pores. For those of you who prefer manual exfoliation -even those with very sensitive skin - try the Cosrx Blackhead Silk Finger Ball and if you prefer chemical exfoliation you can’t go wrong with the gentle but effective CosRx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
Step Four: The Toner
We’ve all heard of toners, but Korean toners are nothing like the astringent toners you may be familiar with. Thankfully, Korean toners are a totally different breed, designed to lovingly plump skin with lots of hydration. You can think of toners as the prep stage for your skin- they balance the pH and moisture in your skin so that products will be absorbed more effectively. Apply with fingers or a cotton pad. If you’re looking for a cult favourite, look no further than Son & Park, Beauty Water which lives up to its name or if you have combination or reactive skin SOME BY MI AHA, BHA, PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner has a perfect balance of effectiveness and tolerance.
Step Five: The essence of Essence
A skincare category created in Korea, many Korean women consider the essence the most important steps of their whole beauty routine and one of most popular essence products is Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence. A heavenly hybrid between a toner and serum, performing some of the prepping properties of the former and the treatment of the later like TONYMOLY Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Essence. Essences target your skin all the way down to the cells and work to revitalise, brighten and hydrate your skin from the inside out! Simply tip the essence into your palm and gently pat into your skin.
Step Six: Treatments, Serums & Ampoules
This is the step that you can tailor to target whatever you like. Whether you’re trying to get rid of wrinkles, acne or discolouration nothing works as hard as a serum or ampoule. This step gives you the freedom to customise your regimen, add or remove products as you see fit, one serum we think would be worth adding is Benton Cacao Moist and Mild Serum a lightweight and hydrating face serum that revives skin with vital moisture and balances the complexion’s water-oil balance. You can use them in whatever order you like, but generally thinner products like TONYMOLY Vita Vita 12 Brightening Ampoule go on first. Tap these gently into your skin to improve absorption and increase blood circulation.
Step Seven: Sheet Masks - the difference between good skin and great skin
Sheet masks are without doubt the holy grail of Korean skincare - Instagram is awash with sheet mask selfies and they’re now sold in shops all around the world. They work by physically holding their healing ingredients against your face - allowing them to fully infuse into your skin and bringing countless benefits. Just like treatments, face masks target individual problems so you can pick whatever bothers you the most and there will be a face mask to make it better and as with A'Pieu Icing Sweet Bar Sheet Masks they like to make their product and packaging fun. Korean women use a sheet mask between two and seven times a week. N.B. don’t leave on for longer than the recommended time, they dry out and will start leeching moisture from your skin.
Step Eight: Eye Cream
Don’t forget your eyes are surrounded by thinner and more delicate skin, than the rest of your face. This means taking extra care of it with a specific cream like Benton Fermentation Eye Cream that will help keep those lines and dark circles at bay. Koreans start applying eye creams long before the age of wrinkles, often using their pinkie to gently tap in, so they don’t pull on this delicate area.
Step Nine: Moisturiser
Whether you use a gel, cream or oil, this is the final step in your nighttime routine. A moisturiser is absolutely necessary to lock in moisture to your face. Think of it like the lid on a casserole, you’ve added all the lovely ingredients and now it needs to slowly cook and like a casserole in the oven it does much better with the lid on. One of our best moisturisers is BANILA CO Dear Hydration Balancing Moisturiser which is enriched in bamboo extract, lotus flower water and hyaluronic acid this daily-use cream will revitalise your skin to reveal a more rested, radiant complexion.
Step Ten: Sunscreen
Korean women are practically vampiric in their avoidance of the sun and use of sunscreen. SPF isn’t just something you need to consider when you’re on holiday, but rather a vital part of your morning skin routine- even if you won’t be spending any time in direct sunlight. Protecting your skin against UV damage is simply the most effective defence we have against uneven pigmentation, skin damage, fine lines and wrinkles. Sunscreen should be done as the final step of your morning routine. In fact, this could also be known steps 11, 12 and 13, as sunscreen should be reapplied throughout the day. The good news is that Korean sunscreen formulas feel weightless, absorb quickly and are an excellent base for your makeup just like Innisfree Intensive Anti Pollution Sunscreen SPF 50+/PA+++ which has the added benefit of also being anti pollution for anyone that works or lives in the city.
Think of your skincare ritual as a bit of relaxing me-time, as something that will not only feel good and smell even better, but will leave your skin soft, dewy and glowing. Find products you love and make those moments of caring for your face a pleasurable nightly event. Building your skincare routine shouldn’t be intimidating - it should be fun! As you introduce new products pay close attention to how your skin reacts. If you have sensitive skin patch test all new skincare products for 24-48 hours - behind your ear is a good place to test. The most effective routine is a consistent one, whether it includes 4 steps or 12.