The 10-step Korean skincare routine that will totally transform your skin.
Koreans have the best skin. There’s just no disputing that. It’s smooth, flawless, dewy and glows like a light bulb. It’s the kind of skin you read about as a little girl in fairytales.
So how do they do it? They work at it. Every single day. Religiously. So now that we’ve established that their porcelain skin is a result of hard work, what do Korean women do that most of us don’t? LAYER LAYER LAYER and then, some more! Most of us have a 3-4 step skincare routine, but the Korean woman’s skincare ritual consists of a minimum of 8-10 steps, not counting makeup. We are talking purely skincare here. That seems exhausting to most of us. The first excuse to leave our lips is “I don’t have time.” BUT this takes no more than 5 minutes in the morning and night (that’s 10 minutes in total). I think we can carve out 10 minutes a day for our skin…don’t you think?
Step 1: Double-cleanse for the ultimate clean.
Korean’s invented the famous ‘double-cleanse’ and it makes so much sense. You need to cleanse twice in order to thoroughly remove the day off your face – once with a cleansing oil, followed by a face wash.
1. Cleansing Oil painstakingly dissolves sunscreen, makeup and grime. Think about it – oil dissolves oil, and so it helps you remove the oils present in sunscreen, makeup and your skin (sebum). The best part, it’s suitable for all skin types (even oily skin) and won’t strip your skin.
How to use it: Just take a dime-sized amount in your palm, and use your fingers to spread evenly over your face, gently rubbing it in circular motion so as to ‘melt away’ all the sunscreen and makeup. Let the oil work its magic for a minute. Then wet your hands and once again, gently rub all over your face to emulsify the oil. The oil will turn to a milky fluid. Now simply rinse it off.
2. Face wash removes any residual oil, dirt and traces of makeup.
Tip: Double-cleansing should only be done at the end of the day to remove sunscreen, grime and makeup. In the morning, there’s really no need. Just use a face wash.
Products I swear by: My go-to product is Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil. Pick one that suits your skin type. See my review to get a complete low-sown.
Step 2: Scrub away the dullness.
Ok, so you don’t have to do this step every single day – just 3-4 times a week. This means, every alternate day. This step is really important if you want a smooth, baby soft texture. It also makes your skin glow. That’s because what you are actually doing is removing the dead cells that form on top of your skin. These dead skin cells make your skin look dull, uneven and rough. Which is why when you exfoliate, your skin instantly looks brighter, feels smoother and the overall texture is improved. With regular exfoliation, you not only unclog pores, but you also prevent fine lines and even speed up the fading of acne scars, spots and other discolourations. Also, whatever products you use after exfoliation are absorbed far better by the skin and are therefore a lot more effective.
Tip 1: Apply your cleanser with a facial brush (like the Clarisonic) every night. That way you remove every trace of oil, dirt and make-up, while also exfoliating and massaging the skin – all in one step.
Tip 2: If your skin is sensitive, use a washcloth along with a mild face wash to gently remove dead skin cells. And stay away from scrubs and brushes, which can really irritate your skin.
Step 3: Soften with a toner.
In the west, when you think of a toner, you think ‘alcohol-filled tingly astrigent-like liquid’. That’s NOT what the Koreans use. For the Koreans, a toner is a softener. It should contain ingredients that nourish, not strip your skin. According to the Koreans, good toner should:
- Balance the PH of your skin after cleansing.
- Act as a pre-moisturizer and start hydrating your skin.
- Prep your skin so that the products that will follow, will be quickly absorbed.
- Leave you refreshed with a nice dewy look.
Oh, and you don’t need a cotton ball to apply it. Instead use your fingers to gently ‘pat pat pat’ the toner onto your skin for 30 seconds for better absorption and circulation.
Stuff I swear by: I love 100% pure Rose Water from Forest Essentials. To know how it works on your skin, take a peep at my review.
Step 4: Prep with an Essence.
This is one of the best things you can ever do to your skin. An essence is a potent watery liquid that contains a high concentration of nutrients and moisture. Its watery texture is what makes it so amazing. The nutrient-rich ingredients get instantly absorbed, going deep into the skin to work their magic. So don’t be deceived by it’s liquidy texture. An essence is designed to treat numerous skin problems, from wrinkles to spots to pores to dullness to dryness. What’s more, it’s perfect for oily and dry skin as it contains no oils that clog your pores.
How to use it: Pour a few drops of essence in your palms and pat pat pat on your face. Holding the essence against your skin helps it to absorb better and the gently patting increases blood circulation and lets it penetrate deeper.
Tip: Pat your skin gently 30 times when applying an essence. It’s like a mini facial for your skin. Your skin will instantly appear brighter and healthier.
Stuff I swear by: I’m a diehard fan of the Queen of all Essences – SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. Check out my review to know all about its magical powers.
Step 5: Nourish with a Serum.
What makes a serum so spectacular is that it’s formulated with smaller molecules so they can penetrate into the deeper layers of your skin, where your regular moisturizer can’t reach. A serum can actually penetrate all three layers of your skin, therefore making ingredients more effective.
Serums are designed to treat all kinds of skin conditions such as redness, dehydration, lack of firmness, wrinkles, dark spots, dullness and uneven skin tone. Just choose one to treat your skin issue.
HOWEVER, the one thing a serum doesn’t do, is moisturise your skin. Which is why you need to follow it up with a moisturiser to seal in all the nutrients.
How to use it: Pour a few drops and then spread evenly on your palms and then simply pat it on your face and neck. Do this slowly (unlike the quick patting when using an essence). Every time you pat your face, let it rest there for 3-5 seconds before moving on to the next area.
Step 6. Treat it with a mask.
Sheet masks are drenched in a treatment serum (depending on your skin needs) and because they are in such close contact with your skin, they trap the active ingredients and force them to absorb, which is why they are so effective in delivering nutrients and intensive moisture.
After just 20 minutes of slapping on a sheet mask, your skin will look more rested, plumper, brighter. Use it thrice a week if you want your skin to retain moisture for longer and repair daily damage. Most sheet masks don’t need to be washed off. Once you take it off, massage the leftover serum from the package on to your neck and décolletage. Just follow it with your moisturizer to seal it all in.
Step 7: Lighten, Tighten and Depuff with Eye-cream.
The Koreans believe that ‘prevention is better than cure’. So they make sure they use an eye cream twice a day, as the skin around our eyes is the thinnest, most transparent and fragile. It’s also the first one to show signs of aging, so extra care must be taken.
How to use it: Remember to always be gentle while applying eye-cream. Take a tiny amount on your ring finger. Then rub together with your other ring finger to warm the product. Now gently pat on your under-eye area as well as below the brow till completely absorbed. Never pull or tug. This leads to premature aging – something you’re actually trying to avoid.
Tip: Always pat on your eye cream before your moisturizer. By topping your eye cream with lotion, you actually seal in all its active ingredients.
Stuff I swear by: SK-II Stempower Eye Cream makes my eye area velvety smooth and taut. Take a quick look at my review. Blink blink.
Step 8: Hydrate with moisturiser.
Your skin is like a sponge. It’s all hard and wrinkly when dry, and soft and plump when wet. So make sure you keep it well hydrated with a moisturiser. Moisturisers are used to seal the skin and lock in the moisture, preventing it from escaping. Those with dry skin will benefit most from a cream. If you have normal or sensitive skin, pick a lotion or emulsion. For oily skin and acne prone skin, a gel cream is your saviour.
How to use it: Take a pea-sized amount and rub your palms together to warm it up. Then pat on the driest part of your skin (cheeks) slowly moving towards the not-so-dry parts (forehead, chin, nose). Patting is better than spreading on your moisturizer as it’s gentler. Patting doesn’t tug and pull at your skin, eventually contributing to more fine lines over time. It also distributes your skincare evenly, improves blood circulation and allows the product to penetrate deeper, since you’re pressing it into your skin.
Tip: Apply a moisturizer on slightly damp skin. It helps retain and lock in the moisture.
Stuff I swear by: La Mer Soft Cream is luxury in a jar. It instantly plumps up my oily skin without that greasy after-look. My review has all the details, so check it out.
Step 9: Spot treat it.
If you have any acne, blemishes or spots that need correction, now is the time to spot treat it. AFTER your moisturizer, not before. That’s because all the hydration helps heal your skin and prevent over-drying. This also reduces the chances of your skin getting red and angry.
Step 10: Protect with Sunscreen.
Make sure you slather on sunscreen every single day. It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy, raining or snowing, pat on a good amount of sunscreen on your face (read: ¼ teaspoon). Also, use a minimum of SPF 30 and ensure that it has PA+++ (that’s 3 pluses). Remember the best way to apply sunscreen is to pat it on instead of rubbing it in. This ensures that the application is even and uniform. Also it prevents tugging of your skin. Good thing.
Tip: Wear sunglasses on sunny days. Squinting and frowning can cause permanent crow’s feet and lines on your forehead.
Stuff I swear by: Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion for Sensitive Skin and Babies is a skin savior. It’s lightweight but gives great coverage. And it’s gentle enough to use around the eyes. Read more about it in my review.
Now that you’ve gone all Korean on your skin, maybe it’s time for some Korean drama…!