The Korean 10 Step Skincare Routine
A common misconception is that the Korean 10 Step Routine means using all ten steps daily. For me personally, the Korean 10 Step Routine is all about knowing your skin and treating it daily according to its needs. One day, you may have excess oil to battle with. The next day you may feel your skin is looking a bit lacklustre and dull. The third day, a nasty spot may be brewing on your chin.
I believe the Korean 10 Step Routine is about having these 10 essential products at your disposal. The routine does not need to take a long time. In fact, mine rarely takes longer than 10 minutes (unless I'm using a sheet mask!)
step1: OIL BASED CLEANSER
The first step is an oil based cleanser. As soon as I started using an oil based cleanser to remove my make up, I noticed an immediate difference to my skin tone. Applied directly on to dry skin, not only do they effectively remove all traces of make up, but excess sebum and suncream as well. Many people with combination to oily skin types shy away from oil cleansers but they are good for your skin type too!
My favourite oil based cleansers are Banila Co Clean it Zero (balm), Troiareauke Oil Cut Cleanser (this one actually contains no oil so a good one for those with oily skin who are a bit hesitant using oil cleansers) and my holy grail – the Heimish All Clean Balm.
step2: WATER-BASED/FOAMING CLEANSER
As part of the double cleanse method, you must always go in for another wash with a water-based cleanser. Whilst the oil based cleanser will get rid of any make up, suncream and excess sebum, the water-based cleanser removes any water-based substances like bacteria and dust. It will also help remove any leftover residue from the oil based cleanser and leave your face feeling nice and clean. As mentioned before, you don’t need to do all 10 steps everyday but this one is crucial and one I personally do morning and evening without fail.
My favourite water-based foaming cleanser at the moment is the Whamisa Organic Flowers Foaming Cleanser. In the mornings, I will use the Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser which smells delightfully of tea tree.
The third ‘step' is using an exfoliator to get rid of dead skin cells. Exfoliating helps regulate your skin cell cycle leaving your skin feeling healthy and glowing. It also helps minimise the appearance of pores and really helps get out all the gunk that gets trapped in them. Exfoliators usually come in gritty ‘scrub’ types although more recently, chemical exfoliators are becoming increasingly popular. Depending on your skin type, you should aim to exfoliate once or twice a week. As I have problems with skin cell turnover, I exfoliate 2-3 times per week.
My current favourite exfoliator is the Cosrx Salicylic Acid Exfoliator which leaves my skin feeling smooth and healthy. The addition of salicylic acid also helps soothe skin and is great for those with acne prone or sensitive skin types. I also love the black sugar scrub varieties that are popular in Korea such as the Klairs Gentle Black Sugar Facial Polish.
step4: SHEET MASK
‘A sheet mask a day’ was a craze in Korea that I had heard about but wondered if anyone actually did it. At a skincare event I was invited to in Seoul, the dermatologist asked us if anyone did actually do this and I was amazed that 50% of people put their hand up! I should have known, I was in Seoul after all - of course they do! Sheet masks have long been all the rage in Korea and have in the last few years hit the Western market as well. Its a spa facial in a pack – it will leave your skin feeling super nourished. Plus, its great to use before an event as it will give you that infamous Korean glow immediately after use. They are also a must for me when on a long haul flight (even if you do look scary). I usually use a sheet mask twice a week and pick one according to my skins needs – if my skin is dry a hydrating mask, or a brightening mask if it just feels a bit dull.
My favourite cotton sheet masks are the Tony Moly Its Real Rice Sheet Mask (brightening) and the Thank You Farmer Miracle Age Sheet Mask (brightening, nourishing). My favourite hydrogel is the Whamisa Organic Flowers – such a treat!
Not only does toner help close your pores after cleansing, it also preps your skin for everything else that you are about to put on it; think of it like a base. Without it, your products like serums and essences will not seep in to your skin as effectively. I always find toners from Western brands can be quite drying due to the high amount of alcohol they use. Korean toners are far gentler, are sometimes thicker in consistency and use some incredible inrgedients. Always pat in your toner – put a few drops in your hands and pat in or gently swipe over your skin with a cotton pad but be gentle so the product seeps in more effectively. Sometimes I will use two toners if I have the time – a gentle toner to close my pores and restore my natural skin pH level, followed by a specific toner like a thicker, moisturising toner if my skin is feeling a bit dry.
People always think that adding too many products on your skin can’t be good for it as it will just create one thick, oily layer but Koreans are masters at producing light formulations making layering super easy. Many Korean women consider essence to be the most important step in their skincare routine. Essences treat a particular issue and are concentrated formulations that help treat your skin at a cellular level; they usually have a watery, lightweight consistency. I have several essences that I will rotate according to my skins needs although on the whole, essences help brighten your skin and promote healthy cell turnover. Again, it’s best to use your hands to pat this product in – pat pat pat. That’s the Korean way!
My favourite essences are the holy grail Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence (good for uneven skin tones), Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence (a cult favourite that has a lightweight, watery texture and using fermented ingredients) and the Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence (anti-ageing and great for acne prone skin).
Serums are like essences on steroids. They usually come in smaller containers and like essences, target a certain skincare problem. They will sometimes have a slightly thicker consistency and seep deeper in to your skin than any other skincare product. They are a great anti-ageing addition to your skincare routine.
My favourite serums/ampoules are the Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Activator Ampoule (a gentle ampoule that works magic on your skin whilst you sleep) and the Thank You Farmer Miracle Age Serum (super moisturising).
step8: EYE CREAM
Being honest, this is one step that I almost always forget which is awful because the skin around your eyes is different from the rest of your face and therefore needs its own skin care. It is also the first area to show signs of ageing so treating it is a must. My current favourite is the Benton Fermentation Eye Cream which is just chock full of amazing ingredients that help soothe and brighten that eye area. It’s an anti-ageing eye cream too! I also like the Missha Time Revolution Eye Creams.
step9: MOISTURISER / SLEEPING PACK
It’s pretty obvious what this step does. Moisturising is important, even if your skin is oily. Korean brands have come up with very lightweight gel moisturisers like the Thank You Farmer True Water Light Gel Cream that are great for those with oily and combination skin types as they seep in quickly but provide enough hydration to keep your skin healthy. Moisturisers help seal in all that good stuff that you’ve just put on yo’ face.
‘Sleeping Beauty’ is a big category in Korea too. Instead of using a regular moisturiser, why not use those 7 hours of Z’s by treating your skin to a deeply hydrating treatment? Enter the sleeping pack! These were a game changer for me and a lot of other people – you will wake up the next morning with glowing and hydrated skin.
My favourite sleeping masks are the Cosrx Ultimate Moisturising Honey Overnight Sleeping Mask and the Too Cool for School Pumpkin Sleeping Pack.
I never really gave sun protection much thought, which to be fair, was pretty easy to do when you live in a country like England. However, including a SPF in to your daily skincare routine is a must; even if it’s not sunny! Korea has produced some wonderfully fresh scented, light weight formulas for suncream which I adore. Using a SPF everyday has helped even out my skin tone and no doubt will help reduce the number of wrinkles I will get later in life. Since living in Korea, I am definitely more conscious about using SPF on my face now on a daily basis.
My favourite suncreams are the Thank You Farmer and Missha Sun Milk ranges.
A FINAL NOTE ON THE KOREAN 10 STEP SKINCARE ROUTINE …
I now look forward to coming home, unwinding and commencing my evening skincare ritual. It doesn’t need to be looked at as a chore but rather a good investment and a way to relax. Yes, I may now spend 10 minutes a day on my skin instead of 3 minutes, but what’s 10 minutes of your day? Trust me, your skin will thank you for it!