Best of Beauty · Korean · THE SKIN

Korean Skincare: A Beginner’s Guide


I love skincare! I’m a firm believer that no matter how potent or well formulated a beauty product may be, all these wonderful virtues will just go to waste if I’m not investing the time and attention to care for my skin. Korean skincare speaks to this philosophy and focuses on slowing down your cleansing rituals and feeding your skin with layers of sophisticated and unique ingredients.

Adopting the Korean skincare method into my routine has given me the skin I’ve longed for!  I hope that this blog will help you reevaluate if the western slapdash methods of skincare are working for you, and inspire you to explore the potential of your beauty game.

I’ve put together this guide to serve as an introduction into K-beauty and provide some resources and product suggestions to get started on creating your own regimen. I strongly encourage incorporating new products slowly and carefully. You should be taking the time to see how each new product reacts to your skin and how they react in synergy with one another.

Korean 10-Step Routine

Step 1: Pre-Cleanse

The first step in your skincare routine should be to remove lip and eye makeup. The skin around the eyes is extremely delicate so you should avoid any unnecessary tugging or pulling on the skin during cleansing. I use a mixture of cotton squares and swabs to gently remove mascara and color cosmetics.

My picks:
Lancôme BI-FACIL – Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover ($15)
Son & Park Beauty Water ($30)

Step 2: Oil or Cream Cleanser

Cleansing is essential to skin’s health, and if done right it can prevent breakouts, brighten complexion, and help preserve your youth. I have found that double cleansing has had the greatest impact on the overall luster of my skin, and I can definitely see why this method is a coveted ritual among Korean women and estheticians alike.

The first step in the double cleanse method is to apply an oil-based cleanser over your dry face and neck in soft, circular motions. Once the oil has been spread over your targeted areas, you should add a splash of water to emulsify the liquid and continue to massage it into the skin for half a minute. A good oil cleanser will lift the dirt, sebum, and makeup from your pores with minimal stress to the skin.

My picks:
Innisfree Olive Real Cleansing Oil ($18)
Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil ($15)
Dermaquest Peptide Glyco Cleanser ($33)

Step 3: Water-Based Cleanser

The next step is to wash your face again! Only this time you should use a foaming cleanser and massage the product into your skin in upward and outward movements with lukewarm water. After rinsing off your product, your face should feel soft, clean, and well moisturized.

My picks:
COSRX Low-pH Good Morning Cleanser ($11)
SU:M37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick ($28)

Step 4: Exfoliate

If your skincare goals are to improve clarity, smoothness, or freshen your appearance then exfoliating is key. Up to twice a week, you should spend time freeing yourself of the dead skin cells that have accumulated on your face. I prefer chemical exfoliants over mechanical ones, but either type will help your products absorb better and loosen clogged pores.

My picks:
Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine ($29)
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel ($16-$148)
Skinfood Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash Off ($11.50)

Step 5: Essence

The Korean skincare regimen emphasizes the importance of layering products from lightest consistencies to the heaviest. They believe that lighter formulas will be more easily absorbed if they don’t have to fight through a thick layer of product to even get to your skin. Thus, essences are typically the first step in the layering process due to their thin and watery textures followed by serums. Essences are unique to Korean skincare, and act as a means to condition the skin surface with hydrating and nourishing ingredients. Adding this treatment to your regimen will help soften your skin and make it more supple.

My picks:
Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence ($49)
COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($19)
May Coop Raw Sauce ($43)

Step 6: Serum

Skincare technology can do some amazing things to transform your complexion, but if you want to be successful at reaching your beauty goals you must put thought into what your skin really needs and can handle. It’s a fact that your skin changes during that time of the month, with the climate, and because of your lifestyle choices so one of the best ways to  consistently achieve beautiful skin is to feed your skin what it needs at the moment. Serums are a blend of potent and active ingredients that work their way deep into your skin and energize it from within. Depending on their formulations a quality serum can effectively improve hyperpigmentation, dullness, elasticity, and/or acne. Take the time to evaluate your skin’s condition and choose a serum that’s purpose can treat your skin’s deficiencies.

My picks:
Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule ($49)
Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum ($23)
Ultraluxe Omega 3 Repair Complex ($42)
Drunk Elephant T.L.C Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90)

Step 7: Sheet Mask

The Korean skincare method is very much a time investment. Although, you definitely don’t need to do all 10 steps daily to receive the benefits from their approach your skin, mind, and body will thank you for the time spent quietly unwinding with a sheet mask. A sheet mask is basically a super-charged essence, embedded into a microfiber or hydrogel material, that soothes and hydrates your skin. There are a ton of super cute sheet mask designs out there to make you look less like a serial killer while your skin marinates in all of the nourishing ingredients.

My picks:
Manefit Beauty Planner Mask Mugwort Astringent + Pore Care ($10)
Missha Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule Mask ($8)
Near Skin Total Repairing Hydro-Gel Mask ($5)
Dr. Jart+ Pore Minimalist Black Charcoal Sheet Mask ($35)

Step 8: Eye Cream

The area around the eyes is very delicate and prone to dryness. Always treat this area gingerly, and tap in your eye treatment with your pinky finger. I tend to use serums/oils during the day and creams at night.

My picks:
Verso Super Eye Serum ($80)
Sulwhasoo Concentrated Renewing Eye Cream ($180.00)
Tarte Maracuja Oil ($48)

Step 9: Moisturizer

I have oily skin so I usually to skip a standalone moisturizer during the day. However, I seal in the nutrients and hydrate my skin with a thick formula at night.

My picks:
Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream ($32)
Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask ($52)
Laneige Water Sleeping Pack ($24)

Step 10: Sun Protection

The sun’s ultraviolet waves causes your brown spots, wrinkles, and sagginess. A good skincare routine is not complete unless you take a preventative approach to the damaging effects from the sun. You should look for formulas that contain both UVA and UVB protection, and Asian brands are great at making  broad spectrum protection products that won’t make you feel greasy or ghost-like.

My picks:
Missha All-Around Safe Block Sun Essence SPF 45/PA +++ ($14)
Ultraluxe Microvenom Face and Body SPF 30 ($48)

Special Note: You should be using more than just skincare products in your sun protection game. Hats and sunglasses are absolute must-haves. I know they make you feel like Rachel Green, but at least Ross will still love you!


3 thoughts on “Korean Skincare: A Beginner’s Guide

    1. Hey Jey, I started off with double cleansing which my skin loved and eventually added more of the steps into my routine because I saw my skin actually get better when I took the time to look after it with the wonderful beauty innovations from Korea. Let me know how the routine works out for you!

      Liked by 1 person

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