The secrets to the 10-step Korean skincare routine

Written by Yasmine Mubarak by Pari Damani

The Korean multi step skincare regime is packed with all the essentials to make your skin boost. Established and developed through centuries of Korea's cultural fascination with healthy looking skin. The skincare routine is today less of a “routine” than it is a lifestyle and usually starts from an early age. After living in Hong Kong, learning more about the lifestyle of sheet masks, double cleansing and skincare brands in every corner of the city –the whole island of Hong Kong is obsessed with Korean skincare, and they have all right to be. The history of Korean skincare is long and broad, some say Korean skin care rituals date back to some purported document from 700 B.C. Koreans believed makeup and self care not only benefited your external appearance, but also your internal self. In ancient times, they produced facial scrubs, beauty lotions, facial creams and oils, along with colored powders, rouge and eyebrow ink from herbs and extracts from the nature nearby. All that ancient knowledge have paid off, and with the growing economy during the 1990’s K-Beauty exploded together with other culture fascinations for example Korean Pop. One of the reasons why Korean skin care is so successful is their advanced technology with chemistry and bioscience to create groundbreaking skincare products. They are always one step ahead, BB Cream, CC cream, everything origins from Korea, it’s truly the future of skincare.

What can we learn from K-Beauty?
The 10 step routine teaches us the underlying purpose of each step and to understand how our skin behaves. The routine can easily be tailored and for that reason, fits all skin types; dry, sensitive, matured or oily. One day it might be 4 and the next day 7 steps whenever you wish to boost your hydration or target a specific problem area. K-Beauty teaches us the secrets of essence, exfoliating and most of all to use sunscreen everyday. However the most important part with this routine is that you take care of yourself and feel good from within. Tapping your products gently on to your skin is a key factor with K-Beauty, never rub. Finding the right Korean products can take time, not to mention a bit tricky to get through, here’s a breakdown of each step, how it works, and some products involved, all South-Korean.

1. OIL CLEANSER
In Korean skincare double cleansing is a key element in the routine, where you use an oil cleanser first. The oil helps remove your makeup and first layer of impurities from big city air pollution. How to: Massage it over your dry face and then add lukewarm water to emulsify the cleanser. Massage again and then rinse everything off! Erborian cleansing oil, this formula has a cream texture which transforms to a smooth oil as it touches your skin. Formulated with coconut and sunflower seed oil to help leave skin soft. Without parabens, sulfates and phthalates.

2. WATER-BASED CLEANSER
Cleansing twice is recommended by dermatologists because it helps remove impurities that can create a break out. The second step to the double cleanse is water based, it washes away the remaining oil and eliminates all the dirt from your face. Now your face is absolutely clean for the remaining steps. How to: Add water and lather, massaging onto face and neck; rinse with lukewarm water. Make sure you rinse off all the oil cleanser, so your eyes don’t start to hurt from the oil. I tried ‘Neogen Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser’ and the main ingredient in this cleanser is fermented green tea extract, which brightens, calms, and hydrates skin without stripping your skin's natural oils.

3. EXFOLIATOR
You don’t always have to exfoliate (especially if you have sensitive skin), take it in your routine around once a week or when you are having a home spa. Robbing off dead skin cells on your face makes it possible for the rest of your skin care products to mingle with your skin and for a longer lasting make up during the day. Gently massage or tap an exfoliant into your skin. If it’s a wash off mask, gently massage the product into your skin and leave it on for 5-10 minutes and then rise off with warm water. Skinfood ‘Black Sugar Honey Mask Wash Off’ is packed with organic black sugar that is enriched with vitamins and minerals to hydrate and nourish skin. Choose between Black Sugar or the Black Sugar Honey which is more suitable to sensitive skin.

4. TONER
The toner helps restore your pH-balance to prepare your skin to better absorb what comes next in the routine. Compared to many western toners, Korean brands are more focused on hydration and as you will notice, are a bit thicker in the formula. Pump 1-2 drops of the toner into your hands and dap it directly onto your skin or dispense it onto a cotton pad and gently dab around your face. The skin toner from Benton contains Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, and Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice. BHA (0.5%), Snail Secretion Filtrate and Hyaluronic Acid. Which all help skin texture, heals, balances, and hydrates your skin.

5. ESSENCE
Step five and you are halfway through! An essence is a kind of toner/serum hybrid for your skin and is an extra layer of hydration after toner, some are a bit thinner and some thicker in the texture. Finding the right essence can be a bit tricky from my experience, many of them contains different acids and active ingredients, which is specific for certain skin types, but don’t give up because when you find the right one your skin will thank you. Apply it to freshly toned skin and it is very important to pat it in gently, to not irritate the skin. ‘Cosrx Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence’ is one of the most sold essences, packed with 96% snail secretion filtrate for super intense repair and hydration. Snail mucin has the ability to repair everything from dry patches, to acne breakouts and hyperpigmentation.

6. TREATMENTS
These products are highly focused on what you wish to boost, which directly treats the issues you’re most concerned about. Whether they target dull skin, large pores, pigmentation, wrinkles, or acne, Treatment serums are the ideal skin perfecting step. Gently dap these into your skin using your fingers! The serum can be used a few times a week, whenever you want your extra boost of confidence.

Klairs - Rich Moist Soothing Serum
This soothing serum gives a moist boost and fits skin types which easily becomes inflamed and needs a calming serum. One ultimate friend is the Klairs Juiced Vitamin Drops which you can mix with the soothing serum. After using the two, your skin becomes softer and clearer. 

7. SHEET MASKS
Many say that, if essences are the heart of the Korean skin care routine, sheet masks are the soul and provides your skin with maximum nourishment. All you have to do is put one on and relax for 15-20 minutes. Use one at least once a week or every single day if you’d like, sheet masks have clear instructions on the back of the product. After you removed the sheet mask feel free to dap the remaining products into your skin. Some use the sheet mask as a finalizing step in their skincare routine and for sensitive skin that needs hydration MediHeal N.M.F Aquaring, Dr Jart+ and for normal/blend skin: Oh K! Snail Sheet mask are three masks I have tried out and are available in most parts of the world.

8. EYE CREAM
The skin around your eyes is thin and delicate, which means you should treat it with care. An eye cream provides the area with extra helpings of hydration and protection. Use the eye cream around the entire orbital bone, avoiding the water line. Cosrx is one of the biggest Korean skincare brands which have multiple different product lines for dry, oily and maturing skin that you can fit in your 10 step beauty regime. One of their most popular product is the Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Eye Cream.

9. MOISTURIZER
By now your skin should be feeling super hydrated and dewy. Hydration is the final key for glowing skin, so it’s important to find a moisturizer that works for your skin type. They come in many forms, from a lotion, gel, or cream all of which work to seal in moisture to plump up skin and smooth away any fine lines. Pat a moisturizer into your face and neck morning and night every day. On days when your skin feels extra dry, swap your regular moisturizer for a sleeping pack.

Innisfree Green tea balancing cream
To become a true K-beauty expert you have to try Innisfree, one of the leading skincare brands. Their green tea day cream is rich in moisture  and delivers hydration and antioxidants from Jeju green tea extract. They also have a wide range of amazing sheet masks and cleansers.

10. SUN PROTECTION
Koreans fully understand just how damaging the sun can be for the skin when it’s not properly protected, which is why SPF is so important. Even if you’re stepping outside for just a couple of minutes, you must wear sunscreen. It’s the easiest and most effective way to prevent early aging (and skin cancer!). It’s important to put this on last so it can fully shield your skin from UV rays. Apply every morning as the last step of your skin routine!

Innisfree - Perfect UV protection cream anti-pollution SPF50+ PA++++
This triple function UV screen is formulated solely with mild ingredients and provides a safer protection. The sunscreen from Innisfree also have a PA++++ rating (Japanese sunscreen rating system) which means that it has the highest rating and protection for sunscreens.

Many skincare brands outside of South Korea have now adapted the routines and have made their versions of K-Beauty products, it is safe to say that it is here to stay. If you are curious about the regime and want to try it out I would recommend starting lightly with a product or two and slowly adapt a few products in to your existing skin routine depending on your skin's needs. Between the aha, bha, boosters, vitamin serums, and essences it is hard to know which products works together and on your skin so take your time exploring. Now that winter is here a moisturizing sheet mask is definitely a good start.