Whenever we talk about K-beauty, the 10-step Korean skincare routine inevitably comes up.
Attributed as the reason why Korean celebrities have such great skin and more recently, what you’d need to go through in order to achieve the coveted “glass skin”, the 10-step Korean skincare routine may sound like a chore yet there are some who see it as a worthy challenge.
If you’ve been trying to figure out what are the 10 steps and whether you can go through it as a skincare beginner, you’re on the right article. Read on to find out what’s the right order to apply the products in the 10-step Korean skincare routine and application tips to help you get the most out of it.
Step 1: Cleansing oil
The Koreans typically go for a cleansing oil as the first step of their skincare routine (and will do another round of cleansing after this – we’ll get to that later).
While many associate this step as a part of the evening routine to remove makeup, many Koreans actually also perform this step in the morning to get rid of sebum that may have accumulated on their skin overnight.
The idea is that oil removes oil (which is what a lot of makeup and your natural sebum is made up of), so using a cleansing oil as the first step of the Korean skincare routine ensures that all traces of oil is removed without drying out the skin.
DV Tip: Many people are get the application method of a cleansing oil wrong. You should apply it onto dry skin, before wetting your fingers to go over the oil on your skin to emulsify it. It should turn into a milky texture at this point. Remember to be patient and gentle by massaging your skin till all traces of makeup and other impurities are removed. Finally, rinse off.
Also, use lukewarm water instead of hot water for this step to make sure you’re not stripping your skin of its natural moisture.
Step 2: Cleanser
You may be surprised, but second step involves cleansing again. This time, with a gentle foam cleanser.
Known as double-cleansing (a routine that the Japanese also subscribe to), cleansing your face for a second time will make sure that none of the impurities are left behind on your skin to avoid clogging up your pores. With clean skin, there is a lower chance that your skin may break out due to residual makeup on your face.
This step also preps your skin so it is ready to take in all the goodness from the products you’ll be applying later on.
DV Tip: Note that it is the foam that cleanses. So, always make sure you lather up and apply the foam onto your skin (instead of the product itself). Besides cleaning better, the foam also acts as a cushion between your fingers and your face so that there’s less tugging on your skin.
If you find it tough to get your cleanser to foam up, consider getting a foaming net (they can be found in places like Daiso at an affordable price) to effortlessly produce foam from your regular cleanser.
Step 3: Exfoliator
Exfoliation helps get rid of dead skin cells that have accumulated on the surface of your skin. This step helps remove these old cells so that the newer cells below can be revealed and your complexion will look brighter. It also clears the way so that the skincare products you apply later can penetrate more easily and deeply.
There are many kinds of exfoliating products in the market; check out our guide on how to exfoliate your skin the right way to make sure you’re doing the best for your skin!
DV Tip: It is important to note that this is not a step that you should do every day as it can be too harsh on your skin and dry it out, leaving it irritable and flaky. Consider doing it just once a week, or take a longer break if your skin tends to be more sensitive. Most importantly, listen to your skin’s reaction and respond accordingly.
Step 4: Toner
Sometimes called the final step of facial cleansing, toners do a few things for you: it refreshes and hydrates your skin and at the same time re-balance your skin’s pH.
If you’ve picked out good cleansers for the first few steps, your skin’s pH shouldn’t be upset too much. However, just in case it becomes too alkaline from the cleansing steps, toners are supposed to make the pH environment on your skin ideal again, which will help prime your skin for better absorption in the upcoming skincare steps.
DV Tip: For those who have irritable skin, you may want to avoid applying toners with a cotton pad – an application method that many do. Instead, pour the toner on your palm and then gently pat it onto your skin.
Step 5: Essence
It’s impossible to talk about a Korean skincare routine without essences. You can say that the Koreans are the ones who have made the product mainstream.
Think of this step as the start of you “nourishing” your skin and the lightweight essence is like an “appetiser” that kicks off the routine.
Most essences are hydrating and come with a suite of other skincare benefits as well, such as brightening, anti-ageing, or soothing. You should choose the ideal essence that addresses your skincare concerns.
Apply it by patting the essence lightly onto your face until it is fully absorbed.
Step 6: Serum
Korean skincare routines don’t just stop at a single essence. If an essence is a catch-all blanket skincare that helps to generally repair your skin, serums and ampoules are the intense treatment to really target specific skincare concerns.
If you are not sure what the difference between ampoule and serum is, never fear, we are here to explain:
- Serum: A concentration form of targeted ingredients that aids in reducing dark spots, acne scars, improving skin discolouration and so on. You typically apply this to your entire face.
- Ampoule: Even more concentrated than a serum. It usually comes in small vials, and you’re only supposed to use a tiny amount at the specific spot that needs it.
To give your skin the extra boost with targeted ingredients, try either a serum or ampoule to feel the difference.
Step 7: Sheet mask
Another beauty product Korea is famous for is their sheet masks, and we’re sure nobody would disagree. There are different types of sheet masks available for different skincare needs. Brightening, hydrating, tightening… you name it, they’ll have it.
The traditional sheet masks are just sheets of tissue or cotton soaked in some form of skincare essence, and all you have to do is position it on your face and let it sit. More recently, Korean sheet masks have evolved – you can even decide to have different essences for different skincare concerns on each half of your sheet mask!
Apply the mask, then relax and unwind for about 15 to 20 minutes, letting your skin soak in the goodness.
After removing the mask, gently tap in any remaining essence in to your skin.
As for the remaining essence that is left in the pack (and there can be quite a lot left), you can consider storing them in smaller bottles for future use, or just pour it out and apply it all over your neck, collarbone, arms, and legs!
DV Tip: It is recommended to use about one to two masks per week to ensure that your skin is well nourished and pampered. However, there are also those who swear by using one sheet mask every day.
How do you determine whether you should use one per week or one every day? Be responsive to your skin’s reaction. For some, using one sheet mask per day may be too rich on their skin, causing them to break out instead. If you fall into this category, try to use only one per week as a booster and consider patting off excess serum that’s left on your skin with a clean tissue.
Step 8: Eye cream
Fine lines, dark circles, and puffiness – those are just a few common concerns for under eyes. To combat these issues, the Korean skincare routine recommends gently patting on some eye cream below your eyes and slowly make your way up to your temples.
Try not to put it too close to your eyes, though! You certainly don’t want any eye cream to accidentally get into your eyes.
DV Tip: Use your ring finger to tap on the eye cream. Your ring finger is proven to have less muscle and so it will create less pressure on the sensitive skin underneath the eyes when you apply eye cream.
Step 9: Moisturiser
Whether you use a regular moisturiser or a night cream, you absolutely can’t miss out on this step. While we’re not subjected to dry and cold weather that Koreans encounter in certain seasons, we are often in air-conditioned environments that makes the air cold and dry.
Moisturising is important because your skin gets drier as you age, and dry skin leads to fine lines and wrinkles.
DV Tip: Don’t forget to moisturise your neck! The skin on your neck is delicate and can give away your age, so remember to give it some care.
Step 10: Sunscreen or sleeping mask
Depending on whether this is a day or night routine, your last step would either be a sunscreen (day) or a sleeping mask (night).
Sun protection is an extremely important step in a Korean skincare routine because it protects your skin from UV damage. UV rays are one of the top factors for causing signs of ageing to appear on our skin. A good sunscreen (of at least SPF30 if you’re indoors, and SPF50 if you’re outdoors) will help you shield off UV rays so your skin will be protected their damage.
With the increased usage of electronic devices, blue light (emitted from these devices) is another element that skincare enthusiasts are looking to avoid. If you’re exposed to devices like the laptop, phones, and TV screens, look out for sunscreens that also provide protection against blue light.
On the other hand, if you’re doing a night routine, finish it with a sleeping mask instead. This helps seal in all the goodness of the products you’ve applied and many of them also contains ingredients that help you sleep better so you can truly reap the skincare benefits of a good night’s rest.
Video tutorial to help you follow a 10-step Korean skincare routine accurately
Prefer watching a video? We love this one by YouTuber Kimdao: