I spend a lot of time online because, well, it’s partly my job. From blogging to social media marketing for clients, I’m constantly in the online jungle, fighting through the barrage of information available.
And because I love skin care, my attention is naturally drawn to articles on beauty. I’m sure you’ve seen it too–the numerous articles and posts praising the Korean skin care routine. Also known as K-beauty, this multi-step skin care routine has been changing the face of America…literally.
However, Korean skin care is more than just a routine–it’s a lifestyle for many Korean women and it has helped many women improve their skin–from helping to prevent breakouts, to reducing dark spots, or by leaving the skin with a fresh glow. And it’s not just about what they put on their face–it’s also a way of life encompassing:
- Drinking the daily recommended amount of water,
- Eating a clear skin diet which includes healthy, anti-aging foods,
- Getting enough sleep each night, and
- Regularly participating in cardio and strength training activities that exercise the body.
But trying the regimen out for a week and then switching to something else is not the way Korean women get beautiful, porcelain-like skin. So just how do they get that flawless-looking skin? Just keep reading and I’ll show you how.
The Korean skin care philosophy
One of the philosophies of Korean skin care is the belief that caring for your skin is a way of life, not just a passing fad. This means having to make time for your skin, mornings and evenings. So if you’re used to a simple two- or three-step skincare routine, then this will definitely take some commitment.
The K-beauty routine doesn’t necessarily consist of 10 exact steps. In general, it includes multiple steps that layer on hydrating ingredients aimed at gently cleansing the skin while providing moisture. However, you don’t need to complete every step each day. For example, you only need to exfoliate the skin once or twice a week.
What drew me to the Korean skin care philosophy is that, at it’s core, the routine is about respecting your skin. It avoids harsh ingredients that strip the skin’s natural barrier. Instead, the routine aims to create an environment where the skin thrives by using hydrating and nourishing ingredients. And I have found that the multi-layered routine has greatly improved my skin over time. So much so, a friend who I hadn’t seen since before starting the routine kept remarking how great my skin looked four weeks later. Now I’m a true believer!
So what are the 10 steps? I thought you’d never ask!
Korean skin care routine for radiant skin
Having great skin doesn’t mean you have to militantly follow a strict 10-step regimen. It means you tailor the guidelines to meet your skin type, your skin’s needs, and your lifestyle.
That said, you can choose to use green, commercial products or you can make your own, all-natural ones. I like knowing exactly what’s in my products and how much, so I chose to make my own Korean skin care-inspired line. Because I love to share, you can grab my recipes here for free.
Now on to the routine…
Step #1 – Oil-based Cleanser
The first step in the 10-step routine is cleansing. During the evenings, you will double-cleanse your face to ensure you’re removing all make-up and impurities. The first half of this dual-cleansing step is using an oil-based cleanser. If you have oily skin like me, you’re probably cringing at the thought of putting more oil on your face. But not to fear!
Makeup, sunscreen, and our own sebum, which can trap impurities, are best removed with an oil-based cleanser. And using an oil cleanser has actually helped to reduce the oily shine from my face.
Be sure not to wet your skin before cleansing with an oil. Water repels oil, so if your face is wet, the oil won’t be able to effectively cleanse your skin.
There are several green oil cleansing options in the natural beauty world, such as S.W. Basics Makeup Remover or It’s All Good Love Your Skin 100% Natural Deep Cleansing Facial Oil.
Or for a completely DIY, all-natural oil cleanser, try my Nourishing Oil Cleanser. You can get the recipe from my eBook.
Step #2 – Water-based Cleanser
Now it’s time to follow the oil cleanser with a water-based cleanser to gently remove any remaining residue. Using a two-step cleansing process removes impurities without stripping the skin. A foaming cleanser will remove dirt and sweat from your pores.
If you want to DIY a gentle foaming cleanser, my Foaming Rice Water Cleanser or my Foaming Jojoba Cleanser are included in the ebook.
Step #3 – Exfoliator
Now that you have clean skin, it’s time to remove the dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. This is an important step because your cell turnover process slows down as you age. Dead skin cells, if not removed, can cause problems that could potentially lead to dull skin, less absorption of products, and even breakouts.
Depending on which type of exfoliator you use, you might exfoliate daily or a few times a week. However, as a general rule, dryer skin types benefit from exfoliating once a week while two- to three times a week is ideal for oilier types.
And for you DIY-ers, look for my Exfoliating Honey Scrub and my Lavender Sugar Scrub in the eBook.
Step #4 – Toner
I used to wonder if toners were really necessary. I’ve since learned how vital they are, especially if you use face oils. Toners help balance the skin’s pH, which is essential for the health of our skin. They leave the skin feeling soothed and prepped to absorb the next skincare treatments in the regimen.
Be the Skin’s Botanical Pore Toner is a great natural option because it completely drenches the skin with hydration while balancing the skin’s pH. Another effective toner is Skin Nation’s The Best Facial Toner Ever. This custom skincare toner removes excess oil, makeup, and bacteria. This results in shrinking pores while balancing the skin’s pH.
The Rice Water Toner and Acne-Fighting Toner from the eBook (as well as my Star Anise Toner) are great DIY options.
Step #5 – Essence
At the heart of the Korean skin care routine is the product called an essence. It’s similar to a toner. However, while a toner’s main function is to help balance the skin’s pH, an essence is all about drenching the skin with hydration, helping to create a healthier environment for the skin. An essence also has a higher concentration of active ingredients that are designed to penetrate more deeply into the skin.
If you’re looking for a natural version of an essence, try Biossance’s squalane + micronutrient fine mist. This ultra-fine facial mist replenishes minerals and hydration, leaving a weightless veil of moisture behind. And just plain-o rosewater makes a good natural essence.
If you like to mix your own skin care products, try my Herb-Infused Essence found on page 15 in the eBook.
Step #6 – Serums and ampoules
This step is highly customized to your personal skin care needs and preferences. If you’re focusing on correcting uneven skin tone, or fighting breakouts, or uncovering a more youthful appearance, there’s a serum or ampoule that can help. In this step, you can mix and match treatments to address your needs.
One good anti-aging serum is the It’s All Good Natural Vitamin C Facial Serum, while Pai’s Rosehip Seed BioRegenerate Oil replenishes the lipid barrier, refining the appearance of damaged skin and fine lines.
The Face-Firming Chia Seed Serum and the Vitamin C Night-time Serum are two great DIY options. While argan oil with a drop or two of Frankincense makes a great natural ampoule.
Step #7 – Masks
Typically, sheet masks are used in this step because they’re easy to apply and don’t require rinsing off, making them a great option. They leave your skin luminous and plump–like getting a mini-facelift. Sheet masks can be used daily after cleansing and toning, and before moisturizing.
Step #8 – Eye cream
The area around our eyes is so delicate it should be treated with extra care. Using a cream developed especially for the eye area is crucial for combating crow’s feet, fine lines and wrinkles. The skin around the eye is very thin which means it loses moisture faster. You want to choose a cream that hydrates and treats, keeping the eye area healthy.
For a natural eye cream, try Tata Harper’s Restorative Eye Crème. Though it comes at a hefty price, it delivers on its promises. A great DIY option is the Anti-aging Eye Cream found in the eBook.
Step #9 – Moisturizer
After layering on toner, essence, and serums you may be tempted to skip the moisturizer. However, you now need to seal in all of the moisture you’ve just applied while adding another layer of hydration.
If you have dryer skin, reach for a moisturizer that’s a little heavier and includes added oils, like the Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream. For oilier skin types, a gel-based moisturizer may be ideal for you, like BioClarity’s Restore.
And for you DIY-ers, the Triple Treat Oil Moisturizer or the Green Tea Moisturizer from the eBook are great options.
Step #10 – Sunscreen
I must admit, this is one step I haven’t been consistent with, though it’s a non-negotiable step in Korean skin care. Every day–and thoughout the day when out and about in the sunshine–you should apply SPF. The sun’s UV rays can potentially damage your skin–even darker skin tones can suffer.
I’m still experimenting with DIY sunscreen recipes, so for now I like Elta MD SPF. It’s lightweight, doesn’t clog pores and doesn’t leave a cast. It’s a pretty good natural option as well.
Getting started with your DIY skin care routine
Now that you have all the guidelines and product ideas, it’s time to outline your personal skin care routine. Decide on the recipes or products you will use, and then shop for the ingredients. If you plan to DIY, you can download the recipe eBook here. When shopping, be sure to get dispenser bottles in which to store all of your newly mixed products.
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, set aside enough time to make all of the recipes at once so you’ll have everything you need to begin. Then set your start date, commit to having healthier, glowing skin, and get going!
This routine may seem like too many steps, but it’s oh, so worth it. And in reality, it really only takes a few minutes out of your day, once you get the hang of it. Don’t you think having hydrated, glowing, youthful-looking skin is worth it? I know I do!