So, you might know that I’ve been leading the Autumn is for Asia Challenge, which aims to explore Asia via books. What you might not know is that I’ve been taking it to a whole new level and exploring the continent via skincare too! You may have heard of the mysterious 10 Step Korean Skincare Routine, and seen phrases thrown around like “sheet masks”, “oil cleanser” and “essence” and wondered what on earth it’s all about.
Well, I’m here to demystify it for you! I’m brand new at this too, so I’ll share with you what I’ve bought and what I’ve learnt so far.
The 10 Step-Korean Skincare Routine
South Korea is growing more and more popular in the Western world, widely due to K-Pop and K-dramas, whose popularity has led to an influx of tourists, who have in turn flooded our Instagram feeds with photos of beautiful flower gardens, the cutest foods you’ve ever seen, and of course, the perfect skin its residents showcase.
This “glass skin” is achieved through years and years of Korean residents seeking out newer, better methods of achieving and attaining healthy skin. Unlike in the western world where using more than a face wash and a moisturiser is seen as a bit excessive, Korean culture embraces and encourages taking care of one’s skin. It’s not just something you do at the start and end of your day, it’s a lifestyle and something to be looked forward to.
So where do I start?
Korean Skincare Routine Step 1: Make Up Remover/Oil Cleanser
This one’s pretty easy, but there is a twist. Obviously, to start off your skincare routine, you have to remove any make up you have on. It’s encouraged to do this via an oil cleanser, such as Clean It Zero by Banila, which uses natural ester oil, papaya extract and Vitamin-C filled acerola extract. It’s kind of weird to start with – it looks a lot like solid coconut oil, and melts in your hands in the same way.
Rubbing oil all over my face, especially as someone with oily skin, originally made me somewhat panicky, but apparently oil cleansers are actually better for oily skin, as they draw out any impurities such as sebum, leftover make up and face creams without drying out your face. For oily skinned folks, drying out your face doesn’t seem like a worry, but oiliness can actually come from your skin not having enough moisture, and overcompensating in the oil department as a result.
Anyway, you simply rub this cleanser onto your dry face, massage in, and wash off with lukewarm water. It makes your skin feel squeaky clean and soft, and it does remove even stubborn eyeliner! However, I found it a bit messy for make up removal, so I remove my make up first with micellar water then oil cleanse afterwards.
Korean Skincare Routine Step 2: Water cleanser
Next up is something you’ll be familiar with – a water-based cleanser. This forms the second part of the “double-cleanse”, and helps to remove any leftover dirt that could linger and causes break outs or other skin issues. An oil cleanser acts as a magnet for dirt, pulling it to the surface and breaking it down, while the water-based cleanser dissolves the dirt and other substances such as sweat that the oil cleanser didn’t fully get rid of.
I’ve been using Skinfood’s Egg White Pore Perfect Cleansing Foam, which contains egg extract. I know, gross, right? But it’s said to help oily skin, and I like it because it smells NOTHING like egg (phew!) and makes me skin SO soft!
Korean Skincare Routine Step 3: Exfoliator
Again, probably something you’re familiar with. An exfoliator works by cleaning your face of any dead skin cells, and also leaving your face as a smooth canvas for your products to sink into. You can use a physical exfoliator – the type with the rough stuff in such as sugar or salt that you buff your skin with – or a chemical one, which works by dissolving the dead skin cells on your face instead.
Exfoliate just a few times a week, and focus on any visible pores and your nose.
I’ve been using Skinfood Black Sugar Exfoliating Mask Wash Off.
Korean Skincare Routine Step 4: Toner
Hey look, we’re nearly halfway through!
So, everything that comes before this step is part of your cleansing routine. Your toner is a kind of halfway ground before the pampering, used to prep your skin and balance your skin’s pH level again, readying it for your next treatments.
They also get rid of any leftover cleansing products, and get your skin ready to absorb your moisturiser.
I’ve been using Skinfood Premium Peach Cotton Toner, which has a powder in it to help with sebum control for oily skin.
Korean Skincare Routine Step 5: Essence
Now, if you’re anything like me, this is the bit that’s shrouded in mystery! It sounds like something from Harry Potter, and actually, they do look a bit like potions! Essences are kind of like a mix between a toner and a moisturiser. They’re thicker than toner, but more watery than moisturiser. They aim to hydrate your skin and aid cell turnover, and are full of “magic” skin ingredients like hyaluronic acid, rice extract, vitamin C and more. It’s an extra step that’s lightweight but packs a punch when it comes to anti-aging and enhancing your complexion.
I’m going to try Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence, but haven’t yet as I didn’t understand the value of essence when I bought everything! To be honest, I’m going to keep trying my routine without this step and see if I feel I need it, as essences are quite pricey! Though I did spot an Essence Lotion with rice extract in The Body Shop yesterday for only £15, so I may give that a go!
Korean Skincare Routine Step 6: Treatments
This is the bit where you attack whatever annoys you most about your skin! Mine is its oiliness, so I bought It’s Skin Power 10 Formula VB Effector serum, which is full of vitamin B6, which is said to balance and restore the skin’s moisture balance and aid with any blemishes.
This step is a tailored step designed to help your combat anything that troubles you. They’re packed with specialist ingredients to target what you want to hit, whether it’s spots, wrinkles, dry skin, oily skin or anything else. I’ve also got myself a hyaluronic acid and vitamin C serum to repair my skin after any sun damage, even out skin tone and lock in moisture.
Korean Skincare Routine Step 7: Sheet Masks
Wahoo! We all love these, right? Apparently Korean women use one of these every day! These things are the backbone of this routine from what I can gather. They’re masks made of anything from cotton to gel or even knitted materials, which are soaked in essences, moisturisers, and skin-friendly ingredients to give you a spa experience at home.
Simply whack one of these on your clean face, lie back and let it absorb for 20 mins or so. Make sure you tip the leftover liquid out of the packet, as you can rub it into your neck, chest and arms!
Korean Skincare Routine Step 8: Eye cream
Your eyes are surrounded by the thinnest, most delicate skin on your body, yet it takes a bashing – we’re constantly blinking, laughing, rubbing our eyes, whacking make up on them, sleeping in funny positions and creasing our skin up…you get the idea.
So you need to get an eye cream! Gently tap it all around your eye, down to your orbital bone (the fancy term for the bottom of your eye socket!). Use your ring or pinky finger to tap this on, as those fingers won’t be as strong and therefore won’t pull your skin around too much. Ingredients to look for include hyaluronic acid, manuka honey, ginseng, bamboo, and caffeine.
Korean Skincare Routine Step 9: Moisturiser
We’re nearly there, guys!
Your little pamper sesh above needs to be followed up by protection, and the first step in this little routine is moisturiser. Moisturiser locks in all the good stuff you’ve just put on your skin – almost like a varnish! They come in loads of formats, from gels to lotions, thick creams and masks, but choose one to suit your skin type. For me, I choose lighter gel and lotion type moisturisers with an oil-free base for my oily skin.
Great moisturiser ingredients are hyaluronic acid (I’m not obsessed with it, I swear!), bamboo, green tea, snail slime (well, mucin, as it’s technically called!), collagen, and cica. I’ve been using Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence. Yes, I have been waking up and rubbing snail slime and bee venom (and hyaluronic acid of course!) on my face and neck. But my face feels so soft I’ve gotten over it! I wash with oil and egg extract and moisturise with snails and bees – it’s a new skincare era guys, you gotta embrace it!
Another great thing you can do is use a sleeping pack once a week. These are heavier, kind of sticky creams that you put on before bed and wash off in the morning. I’ve bought Etude House’s Moistfull Collagen Sleeping Pack and also their Bubble Tea sleeping pack, which is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!
Korean Skincare Routine Step 10: SPF
Yes, you read that right. SPF, even in winter. Did you know the sun is the number 1 cause of skin damage and aging? Even in winter, the sun’s rays damage your skin. Whether it’s so cloudy you start to doubt the sun even exists or so sunny you’re feel like you’re in a furnace, you need SPF. Not only does it prevent premature aging, it also prevents skin cancer, so it’s not just a cosmetic step you can justify skipping.
Pat around a 20p piece size of sun cream onto your face as your last step before make up. I’ve been using Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel, as it’s good for oily skin due to its light lotion-like texture. I think it’s Japanese, not Korean – but it’s the only non-Korean product I’ve bought for this, and it’s still Asian, so 😉
In case you’re wondering, if you buy an Asian sun screen, the SPF rating will be called PA instead. The highest is PA++++. SPF measures UVB rays (the ones that burn) and PA measures UVA rays (the ones that age you). They both do the same job and provide the same protection, but I think the Asian ones are better as they’ve perfected making sunscreens light and nice to wear due to how commonplace it is to wear it every day there. In western countries, it can be greasy or oily and take forever to absorb in, and it’s often hard to find sun creams that offer both adequate protection and don’t make you look like an oil slick!
I’ve been doing this routine for two weeks now, and my skin feels super soft! However, it’s been hit and miss with my main problem – oiliness! I’m going to keep trying for a few months and see how it goes.
Would you like an update then? Let me know in the comments! 🙂