Chapter 1: Intro to a Korean Skin Care Routine

Beauty Book

Welcome to the Beauty Book, a new series on YesStylist that covers everything you need to know about skin care and makeup. We’ll have tips, guides and answers to all your beauty-related questions!

Let’s start with Chapter 1: An introduction to a Korean skin care routine.

I’m sure many of you have heard of this routine – over the years it’s gained popularity not only in Asia but also across the globe. I initially thought Korean skin care was just going to be a trend that people would eventually forget about, but it looks like it’s here to stay. So what’s there to know?

Skin comes first

If you’re an avid follower of K-Beauty, you know all about the importance of putting skin first. Unlike the quick and easy 3-step routine popular in the West, Korea takes it to a whole ‘nother level. The Korean skin care regimen takes a different and rather lengthy approach when it comes to taking care of skin. Yes, it’s a 10-step routine. And yes, it will take up a lot more of your time. But is it worth it? 100%.  You’ll know once you see the amazing results on your skin.

The Routine

If you’ve never used any Korean beauty products before, the routine might feel a bit overwhelming at first but you’ll get used to it. Once you make it a habit, it’s actually not that much work and really kind of fun. As mentioned, the routine involves 10 steps but you don’t necessarily have to do the whole routine twice a day. Feel free to skip a few steps in the morning and personalize the routine according to your skin type and needs. Now let’s get you one step closer to attaining that healthy, glowing skin!

Step 1: Oil Cleanser

First things first, grab your oil cleanser. After a long day at work or running errands, you need to remove all that makeup.

Wait, can’t I just use my facial cleanser? Sure, that’s fine in the morning when you don’t have to wash off any makeup or sunscreen. But in the evening, using an oil cleanser helps to gently dissolve the layers of sebum, sweat and SPF on your skin – especially if you wear waterproof eye makeup. The area around the eyes is delicate and using facial cleanser to wipe off that waterproof eyeliner or mascara is just going to tug on your skin.

Oil cleansers work on all skin types, so those with oily skin don’t have to shy away from this step. I often hear from people who think that using this type of cleanser will make their skin even oilier simply because it has the word “oil” in it. But that’s not the case! Water and oil don’t mix, therefore water – or a water-based cleanser – can’t dissolve oil. An oil cleanser can dissolve makeup and sebum on an oily face without disturbing the skin’s pH balance or stripping your skin of its natural oils. If you use a harsh cleanser, you disturb the skin’s protective barrier and the skin will actually produce more oil to make up for moisture loss.

Step 2: Cleanser

Don’t leave the sink just yet! You’re going to need another cleanser for the second step. This is called double cleansing. After the oil cleanse, move on to your water-based cleanser to make sure you don’t leave any traces of dirt or makeup on your face. The skin’s natural pH level is around 5 so it’s best to use a gentle cleanser with a low pH level, preferably below 7, as this will help keep your skin balanced and protect its moisture barrier.

Step 3: Exfoliate

It’s important not to miss exfoliating as it sloughs off dead skin cells and allows your skin to better absorb the rest of your skin care products. Skipping this step will make it harder for skin care products to do their magic! When picking an exfoliator, go for one that isn’t too harsh on your skin. Aside from the usual scrubs, there are other types of exfoliators like exfoliating pads and even beauty tools that do the job! You only have to do this next step twice a week, but you can exfoliate up to three times if you choose to.

Step 4: Toner

The majority of toners from Korean brands hydrate the skin and balance its pH levels. After cleansing, dampen a cotton pad with some toner and gently wipe it over your entire face and neck. If you’re someone who has occasional breakouts like I do, check out the AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner from COSRX, which helps to prevent the early development of whiteheads, blackheads and blemishes.

Step 5: Essence

We’re halfway there! Now, essences may be new to those unfamiliar with the K-Beauty routine. But hey, you learn something new every day, right?  Once upon a time, it was also my first time hearing about essences, and I’m so glad I discovered them! Essences normally have a watery texture and sort of feel like a serum. The consistency is so light and thin that once you apply essence, it feels like your skin absorbs it within a second!

So why add an essence to your routine? Because it adds another layer of moisture and, with its anti-aging ingredients, it’ll also help repair your skin. My personal favorite is the Snail Bee High Content Essence from Benton.

Step 6: Serum or Ampoule

Applying serums or ampoules is essential. They’re packed with active ingredients that tackle different types of skin concerns. Consider this the step to apply special treatments that your skin needs – whether you’re dealing with acne, dryness, uneven complexion or hyperpigmentation. The one thing to remember after applying serum or ampoule is patience. These are highly concentrated treatments but that doesn’t mean they’ll work overnight! Give them some time, at least a month, and you’ll begin to see a difference.

Step 7: Sheet Mask

This is where the real fun begins! You’re told to eat your fruits and vegetables for nutrition for your body and, well, sheet masks do the same for your face. Apply one a few times a week and keep it on for around 20 minutes. There are plenty of types of masks to choose from. Go for whatever you think your skin needs. All you have to do is sit back, relax and let the mask do its work. After you’re done, don’t throw away the packet just yet. Each mask is soaked with a lot of essence so squeeze out the leftover and gently pat it into your skin until it’s fully absorbed.

Step 8: Eye Cream

This may be an optional step for some, but if you want to avoid wrinkles around your eyes, it’s better to start early. You may not see a major difference now but your future self will thank you. The eye area is very delicate so remember never to rub the cream but gently tap it with your ring finger – which is your weakest finger and therefore puts the least amount of pressure on your skin.

Step 9: Moisturizer

If you’re following this routine at night, lucky for you, it’s the last step. Keep in mind that when layering, you always apply the lightest products first and progress to the heavier ones. This is why the moisturizer comes last. Moisturizers have a thicker consistency that helps to seal everything in and keep your skin hydrated all day or night long.

Step 10: Sunscreen

If you’re still reading this, congrats because you made it to the end! Applying sunscreen is a must for your everyday morning routine. I repeat: a must! I cannot emphasize enough how important sunscreen is and I can’t imagine ever leaving the house without it. Even on days when the sun is hiding behind the clouds and you think it won’t do much harm, think again. Wearing sunscreen shields your skin from the UVA and UVB rays that are the number one culprit behind sunburns, premature skin aging and skin cancer. You can find plenty of SPF-infused products out there, including makeup and moisturizers with SPF, but they don’t offer enough protection for your skin. It’s best to stick to a separate sunscreen.

The Bottom Line

That wasn’t too bad, right? Doing the entire routine every morning can be a bit much, especially if you have a busy schedule. You can simplify it by following five out of the ten steps instead: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer and sunscreen. And remember, everyone’s skin is different. Experiment here and there until you find the perfect products that suit you. Once you’re all set, just follow the steps above and you’ll soon say hello to beautiful skin!

Comment below if you have questions about this routine or other topics you want to see in future chapters of the Beauty Book.

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