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What is the 10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine?

Updated on October 13, 2019
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Dani is a college student as well as a makeup and skincare enthusiast, as well as an Avon Representative.

The most important step is the famous double-cleanse. It removes not only makeup and daily impurities but makes sure your skin is truly purified and refreshed.

Step 1: Oil-based Cleanser

What Is It?

Oil cleansers typically come in two popular forms: cleansing oil and cleansing balm. Cleansing oil is generally better for those with oily skin, while cleansing balms are better for those with on the drier side.

What Does It Do?

Sunscreen, foundation, excess sebum, and pollution are all washed away with this step. It also preps the skin for a foaming cleanser so you won't feel that dry, tight feeling when you're done with your wash.

Why Shouldn't I Skip It?

If you are someone who is prone to acne breakouts, the idea of adding more oil to your face might make you cringe. Don't worry! That's a common misconception, and usually only affects those with the most sensitive of skin. If this is you, don't worry, there is a sensitive skin oil-based cleanser out there for you. One of my favorite oil cleansers, Radiance Cleansing Balm by BEAUTY OF JOSEON, does an excellent job of removing your daily dirt with gentle rice water.

Water-based cleansers are an important part of the double cleanse.
Water-based cleansers are an important part of the double cleanse. | Source

Step 2: Water-based Cleanser

What Is It?

Washing your face with a water-based cleanser is the second step in the double-cleansing process. Water-based cleansers are foam, gel, or sometimes micellar water.

What Does It Do?

The purpose of step two is to remove impurities that an oil-based cleanser won't catch, like sweat and dirt.

Why Shouldn't I Skip It?

Two steps might seem excessive, but cleansing is the foundation of a good skincare routine. Improper cleansing can lead to a variety of skin problems, including discoloration, large pores, improper absorption, and even bacterial infections.

Some people, myself included, follow a triple cleansing method instead of just the double cleansing method. All you have to do is add a micellar water to your routine before your toner and you'll see the benefits!

Have you ever heard of the 10 step Korean skin care routine?

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Step 3: Exfoilate

What Is It?

There are two types of skincare exfoliants: chemical and physical. Most of us are already aware of physical exfoliants and have used countless sugar masks to scrub away dead skin as a part of our normal routine. Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, are acid-based and dissolve dead skin, doing all of the hard work for you.

What Does It Do?

Exfoliants are a vital part of skincare routine and get rid of excess dead skin cells, leaving skin soft and glowing. It can also increase the rate of cell turnover, which makes your products work better and improve your skin's youthfulness and elasticity.

Why Shouldn't I Skip It?

An excess of dead skin cells can get in the way of revealing the healthy, glowing skin you have hidden underneath. While it is important not to stress out your skin by using too much friction or too harsh of chemicals (for example, alcohol-based formulas) you should also not allow buildup.

Step 4: Toner

What Is It?

A toner is a facial wash or lotion, usually with no rinsing involved, that preps your skin following cleansing and minimizes the appearance of pores.

What Does It Do?

Toners help prep your skin for the upcoming treatments and rebalance the pH levels that might have been thrown off during your cleansing.

Why Shouldn't I Skip It?

Toners and astringents are commonly misused and given a bad name, but when used properly they can maintain a clear and healthy complexion. Using a toner also increases the effectiveness of the other products you use. Korean toners are different than their American counterparts and contain less alcohol and aren't as harsh on the skin.

Step 5: Essence

What Is It?

An essence is an ultra-hydrating liquid that adds moisture to the skin. They have a watery texture, are usually thin and contain high amounts of active ingredients to do an effective job.

What Does It Do?

A facial essence's main job is to add hydration back to your skin after your extensive cleanse and prep. It allows your skin to better react to the next steps.

Why Shouldn't I Skip It?

This step seems unnecessary to many new skincare enthusiasts. One of the most common misconceptions is that toner and essence do the same thing, but this couldn't be farther from the truth! They have a similar consistency, but toner is part of the cleaning/prep process, whereas an essence is sort of a pre-moisturizer.

Step 6: Treatments

What Is It?

Serums, ampoules, and boosters are all forms of skincare treatments that target specific skin care problems.

What Does It Do?

The purpose of skin care treatments is, as stated above, directly target problems like

  • Dull, dry skin
  • Acne-prone skin
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Wrinkles and fine lines

You can use several products in this single step to deal with different problem areas.

Why Shouldn't I Skip It?

This is the fun part! When people start a skincare routine, it is usually because they have a specific problem they would like to deal with. This might be the step where you see the most immediate results, and you may even incorporate this in your skincare routine as it is.

Step 7: Sheet Masks

What Is It?

Sheet masks are the quintessential Korean skincare product. They are made of a thin sheet (hence the name) of cotton, cellulose, or other materials that are soaked in a skincare treatment.

What Does It Do?

Sheet masks work in a similar way to treatment, but with the added benefit of being held close to the skin.

Why Shouldn't I Skip It?

First of all, it's relaxing and gives you a break in between the more tedious steps of a skin care routine.

Step 8: Eye Cream

What Is It?

Many of us already have implemented eye creams into our daily skincare routine. They are generally thicker than facial moisturizers.

What Does It Do?

Eye creams can target several problems, but the most common are fine lines and dark circles.

Why Shouldn't I Skip It?

The skin under your eyes is some of the most delicate on your body. If you wear eye makeup, it puts extra stress both when applying and removing the pigment. The eyes are also are the first to show the signs of dehydration, poor diet, and lack of sleep.


Where Can I Buy K-Beauty?

Quality Korean beauty can be hard to find if you live outside of South Korea. While I'm only familiar with American companies (sorry overseas beauty enthusiasts!) I've compiled a small list of my favorite brands and stores.

Independent Brands

  • Etude House
  • Ulta: This store has a small range of beginner-friendly Korean beauty products.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Dani Merrier


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