Whether you realize it or not, the Korean beauty industry has undoubtedly made its way into mainstream Western beauty culture and the hands of so many consumers. For more about the history of how Korean beauty brands have influenced the global beauty industry, read this.
However, you’re probably here to learn more about what a 10-step Korean skincare routine looks like. Fortunately for you, my sister Azadeh has been a loyal follower and subscriber of Korean beauty long before it’s gone mainstream. She put together an amazing 10-step Korean skincare routine for you below.
Remember, the standard Korean skincare routine generally encourages the use of over 10 products daily or twice a day. To achieve that signature glowy, radiant “glass skin” at home, you would need to incorporate the following steps into your routine:
Start your double-cleanse with an oil-based cleanser.
Dear Klairs Gentle Black Fresh Cleansing Oil, which retails for $24.
Next, cleanse with a foaming cleanser like this dokdo cleanser from the Korean company Roundlab, which retails between $10.50 and $26, depending on the size.
The third step of the skincare routine is a gentle exfoliator. I have heard good things about this green tea bio-peel one from Neogen Lab. Remember. green tea is a powerful antioxidant that has been known to help with anti-aging.
The next step is a toner, which I have to say, is one of my favorite steps of this skincare routine. I just love the way it feels to swipe a toner across my skin! A Korean toner that is pretty popular is this Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner, which is fairly inexpensive and easy to get online.
Next is the essence, which is great for brightening dull skin. It also provides long-lasting hydration and “plumps” up the skin! Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence is a good one. It contains 96% snail mucin, which is a powerhouse ingredient that you’ll find in many Korean skincare products.
You’re probably already pretty familiar with serums, and probably use one or two in your current skincare routine. This is something that’s probably worth spending a little bit more money on if you can, because the ingredients really matter. The MISSHA Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule 5X is a best-selling K-beauty serum that costs about $50 for a 50 ml bottle.
Sheet masks are almost synonymous at this point with K-beauty. I am not a huge fan of them because of the waste factor. I would rather just apply the product to my skin rather than have a disposable mask, but if you want to do the 10-step Korean beauty routine, sheet masks are a part of it. You can find these pretty much anywhere, even at many popular and mainstream drugstores!
The skin around your eyes is SO important to take care of, so I love that one of the 10 steps is dedicated to this area. The skin is extra thin, so it’s more prone to wrinkles. Keeping it really nice and hydrated is key to appearing more youthful. There are so many options when it comes to good eye creams, but the Fermentation Eye Cream by the brand Benton is a popular Korean product and the price point is really good.
Next, you need a separate moisturizer for the entire face, neck, and décolletage area. So many people are under-moisturizing, and it’s not just those with dry skin. You don’t have to spend a lot, either. There are great drugstore (and drugstore-priced) options out there that do a great job. The cult-favorite MadeCera cream by SKINRx LAB is great for all skin types, even acne-prone skin. You should be moisturizing twice per day to keep your skin hydrated and happy!
The last step of the 10-step beauty routine is kind of a choose-your-own-adventure. If you’re doing this skincare routine in the morning, you should definitely be applying an SPF as the last step in the process. If you’re doing it at night, think about what your skin needs most. It might be a night cream, some kind of mask or treatment, or some people do a second sheet mask at this point. I would personally go for a night cream or overnight mask.
Taking a cursory glance at some of these products, you may notice another trend that has very recently infiltrated skincare and makeup: active ingredient focused marketing. Instead of buying a “miracle cream” from some high-brow brand, people are starting to look for key ingredients in order to make purchasing choices. Something entirely unique to Asian beauty is Ithe use of ingredients that most Western audiences may not have previously been exposed to.
Like bee venom, which is marketed as anti-aging or for problem-prone skin.
Snail secretion, used like a humectant.
Rice water or sake is a traditional clarifier.
Fermentation is a popular process in formulation to boost ingredient properties.
Ginseng is often used like caffeine.
The list can go on forever. Many of these ingredients are especially Korean, and it makes sense. Korea is extremely culturally homogenous, and its economic decisions are usually in favor of promoting domestic goods over foreign imports. Why buy an expensive Western foundation that isn’t necessarily made for your skin and doesn’t really fit the standard of beauty where you live? Why not use the historical or cultural remedies that are available, especially if it helps your local economy, it works well, and it’s affordable?
I can’t help but feel like Korean beauty is an equal and opposite reaction to the growing trend of beauty interest on the internet. Yep, the internet. You’ve probably noticed that the internet is not shy when it comes to excess in order to supply endless amounts of content. We have ALL seen influencer after influencer promoting beauty routines that only look good on camera in front of a harsh ring light.
And I’ll say it again – skincare is the true foundation of makeup.
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P.S. If you asked me a beauty question, if I don't immediately know the answer, I must thoroughly research every question I receive, and sometimes do not have an immediate answer or I need clarity on unlisted ingredients in certain beauty products, sometimes getting a clear answer takes up to 3 weeks... have patience, it'll be worth it!
Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.