How to Try the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine
From product innovations like BB creams and sheet masks, Korean beauty has majorly influenced our routines since taking the Western world by storm. One of the many K-beauty concepts we’ve thoroughly embraced is the 10-step skincare routine. It’s easier than ever to get your hands on Korean products stateside, but you can use any of your favorite products to give the regimen a try for yourself. Here, we’re breaking down all 10 steps, plus our product recommendations for each.
STEPS 1-2: Double Cleanse
The first step — or really two steps — in a Korean skincare routine is the double cleanse. It involves washing your face with an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser. Oil cleansers typically come in liquid or balm form and are designed to help remove makeup, sunscreen and other oil-based impurities that may be taking up residence on your face. After rinsing with lukewarm water, follow with a water-based cleanser to help remove dirt, sweat and other water-based debris.
We recommend starting your double cleanse with a product like the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil. Formulated with a blend of botanical oils, this cleanser can remove stubborn waterproof makeup, dissolve impurities and leaves the skin feeling soft and moisturized. Plus, it won’t clog pores. Follow with a gentle water-based cleanser like the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser.
STEP 3: Exfoliate (2-3x a week)
A common misconception about the 10-step Korean skincare routine is that you need to apply every product morning and night or even daily. Depending on your skin type and the formula, dermatologists typically recommend exfoliating two to three times a week.
Exfoliating removes built up dead surface skin cells, which helps prevent clogged pores and can improve skin tone and texture. You can use a physical scrub (like a sugar or salt scrub) or a chemical exfoliant. But overdo it, and you can experience dryness, irritation or excess oil — hence limiting exfoliation to a few times a week. One of our favorite Korean-beauty options is the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Lemon. The exfoliating pads are convenient to use and make skin feel baby soft.
STEP 4: Toner
Toners are designed to remove any leftover residue from your double cleanse while refreshing your skin and prepping it for the next steps in your routine. It can also help balance skin, which can be especially beneficial for oily and combination skin types. The Good (Skin) Days Prime Time Cleansing Toner was inspired by Korean beauty and contains soothing and hydrating ingredients.
STEP 5: Essence
An essence gives skin an extra layer of hydration and can promote a brighter-looking complexion. The Lancôme Hydra Zen Beauty Essence is refreshing, soothing and gives skin a moisturizing boost.
STEP 6: Serum
A serum is a concentrated formula designed to target skin concerns like wrinkles, hyperpigmentation or dryness. To find the best one for you, consider your top skin concern and look for a formula that contains ingredients that treat it. For example, if you want to improve skin texture, boost radiance and diminish the appearance of fine lines, we suggest trying the Vichy Minéral 89 Prebiotic Recovery & Defense Concentrate. If you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation, look for a vitamin C-infused formula like the Hyper Skin Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum.
STEP 7: Sheet Mask
Perhaps one of our favorite K-beauty products is the sheet mask. They’re easy to use, feel relaxing and drench your skin in a hydrating essence or serum. Use one in your skincare routine one to two times per week. We love to unwind with the Garnier SkinActive Moisture Bomb The Super Hydrating Smoothing Mask.
STEP 8: Eye Cream
The skin around the eye area is sensitive and is one of the first parts of the face to show signs of aging. Apply a formula meant for the face on the area and you risk irritation or milia. Use an eye cream like SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex in the morning and at night to help keep the area around your eyes looking smooth, youthful and radiant.
STEP 9: Moisturizer
In addition to nourishing skin, moisturizer helps lock in the products previously applied in your routine. You can apply a thick night cream in the evening such as the IT Cosmetics Confidence In Your Beauty Sleep Night Cream, and a lighter cream in the morning like the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream.
STEP 10: Sunscreen
Applying sunscreen may just be the most important step in your morning routine. Skipping sunscreen can result in sunburn, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and other signs of aging, not to mention, it can make your skin more vulnerable to developing skin cancer. Wear sunscreen every single day, including days when the sun appears to be nowhere in sight. A favorite formula is the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body & Face Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 100, which offers maximum sun protection, yet feels lightweight.
Photo: Jonet Williamson