Most people who are in some way familiar with South Korea, or South Korean culture have the idea that most Koreans have amazingly smooth skin. While this is a misconception and definitely not all Koreans have great or flawless skin, the skin of many Koreans does seem to be in better condition than its non-Korean counterparts. But, how do Koreans go about achieving their smooth skin? And is there one plan that suits all?
10 Steps To Perfection?
Those who have looked into Korean skincare may have found some very extensive 10-step skincare plans that Koreans would follow to achieve amazing skin. While skincare is indeed more intensive in South Korea than it is in for example the Netherlands, the belief that every Korean would follow these 10-step routines is not true. Just like elsewhere there are those who are extremely serious about their skincare, and those who settle down on a simple and short routine. The skincare routines I have found online differ a bit, using certain products in the evening or in the morning, however, for those interested I will explain the most extensive routines below.
Night Time Routine
The most extensive night time routine is a 9 step routine, which goes as follows. Oil-based cleanser – Water-based cleanser – Exfoliating – Toner – Essence – Ampoule/Serum – Sheet mask – Eye cream – Moisturizer. While some of these words might sound completely new to some of you, and this routine seems a bit intimidating at first, many of the steps are actually sort of repetitive, and can be swapped and/or left out.
You start with an oil-based cleanser to remove your make-up and oil-based products, such as sunscreen. You then move on to a water-based cleanser, or a foam cleanser, to remove any dirt left. While double cleansing might seem a bit weird at first, I personally do notice my skin feeling much cleaner after.
After cleansing comes exfoliating, however, this should not be done every day, as that would be really harsh on your skin. For people with sensitive or dry skin, exfoliating 1 time a week should be enough, if you have a combined or oily skin you could exfoliate 2-3 times a week. The next step is essential to Korean skincare, and a step I had never used before trying Korean beauty products, namely toner. Toner is used to balance the pH-levels in the skin, and it helps to absorb all the moisturizing products that will follow.
After toner, essence follows, which is basically a combination of a toner and a serum, and helps to hydrate your skin. After this you can use a ampoule or a serum, which are often used to target specific needs in your skin, such as redness, fine lines or other skin concerns. After this you can use a sheet mask (which is probably one of the most popular Korean skincare items known abroad).
To top of the skincare routine, the final to steps are eye cream and a moisturizer. The eye cream can again be used to target personal needs (for example fine lines, or dark circles), and the moisturizer is used to seal everything in.
Day Time Routine
For the morning routine I have seen many different versions ranging from 7 to 10 steps, but because I personally prefer using sheet masks in the evening (due to time constraints), I will explain the 7 step routine. Wash with water – Toner – Essence – Ampoule or Serum – Eye cream – Moisturizer – Sunscreen. The morning routine is essentially shorter, because the cleansing steps are left out.
You can clean your face with just water in the morning, as you do not have any make-up, and little to no dirt or sweat which you need to cleanse from your skin. After this you follow the same steps as the night routine, however, you can leave out the sheet mask (this is totally optional, you can still do this if you like it, or if you prefer using sheet masks in the morning instead of the evening). After completing the steps of the evening routine, it is time for the most important step of the morning routine, sunscreen. While I actually know almost no one who uses sunscreen on a daily basis, especially in the rainy Netherlands, it is actually a really good habit to protect you skin from the sun.
10 steps too much?
If these long routines might be a little intimidating to you (or a bit expensive), as they are to me, you can also use a less intensive version, especially if you are just getting into Korean skincare. My personal evening routine exists of 5-6 steps, beginning with a water-based cleanser (unless I have used foundation or heavy make-up, then I might use an oil-based cleanser first). I rarely exfoliate as I have very sensitive skin, but I try to do it once a week, to prevent any impurities. I then use a toner and essence, after which I will apply a sheet mask. To finish I apply my eye cream, and during the winter time I might add a moisturizer, as my skin gets dry very easily.
My morning routine exists of 5 steps, washing with water – toner – essence – eye cream – sunscreen. While this is certainly a step down from the possible 10 steps, I feel that using these steps, has made my skin feel much softer and nicer, I have noticed that although I have relatively clear skin, my skin is less red, and I have had less problems with breakouts.
Even though a Korean skincare routine might seem extreme at first, it is all about adapting to your own skin type and to your own likings. And, while it might take some time the first few days, after a while it actually becomes a nice little time to relax after a long day.