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With the global dominance of K-pop, K-dramas, K-beauty, and just about everything related to Korean culture, many of us have noticed that Koreans have such beautiful and flawless skin. And we want it too!
The good thing is, we’ve unlocked the secret of Korean beauty – and the answer lies in their Korean day and night skincare routine.
Koreans have popularized a 10-step skincare routine that hydrates, protects, and revitalizes one’s complexion.
It is based on the concept of layering different products to maximize the skincare benefits they provide.
As you go through each step, you apply products with skin-loving ingredients that work to nourish and moisturize your skin.
While the process seems a bit tedious at the start, we guarantee that following this tried-and-tested routine is worth the investment.
To get started, here’s everything you need to know about the Korean daily skincare routine.
How to Follow the 8-Step Korean Morning Skincare Routine
In the morning, Koreans usually follow a condensed version of the 10-step skincare routine.
We recommend following an 8-step K-beauty morning routine to achieve healthy, glowing skin. Here are the steps to follow:
Step 1: Wash with a Cleanser
There’s nothing better than a splash of cold water to wake you up in the morning!
Apart from that, washing your face in the morning gets rid of all the oil, sweat, and bacteria that accumulate during the night.
Cleansing also removes remnants of your nighttime Korean skincare routine and preps the face for your morning routine.
For some, the usual foam wash will do. However, if you packed on too many products the night before, you can do a double cleanse.
To double cleanse, start with an oil-based cleanser or cleansing balm and gently massage it into your dry skin. Rinse away the cleanser and then follow up with a water-based cleanser.
We recommend double cleansing for those with oily and acne-prone skin as this can reduce the amount of oil production throughout the day, as well as remove bacteria and other impurities.
Meanwhile, if you have dry skin, we recommend using a gentle face wash to avoid stripping the face of all your natural oils.
Step 2: Prep the Skin with Toner
Toner is another essential step in the daily Korean skincare routine.
Unlike the harsh, alcohol-based toners that we’ve come to know in the past, Korean toners are hydrating and gentle on the skin.
Why do we need a toner? The skin’s pH levels go up and down throughout the day, so the purpose of a toner is to bring back the balance in our skin.
A toner also promotes better absorption of ingredients, ensuring that we get the most out of our products.
Step 3: Apply Essence
Once your skin is clean and prepped, it’s time to apply essence. But what exactly is an essence?
Essence is a watery liquid that’s packed with active ingredients to hydrate and strengthen your skin. Like toners, essences also help boost the absorption of the skin-loving ingredients that you need.
Essences are gentle so there’s no need to worry when adding this step to your Korean skincare morning routine.
Another benefit of using it is that it keeps your skin hydrated and reduces sebum production throughout the day.
Step 4: Apply Ampoule
A lot of people are still confused about ampoules and how they differ from serums. Yes, these two products are similar, but here’s why you need both of them.
An ampoule is like a supercharged version of a serum. Ampoules usually feature a superstar active ingredient (making up about 50% of the concentration) which targets a specific skin concern.
Due to the high concentration of activities, it’s best to use ampoules once or twice a week — or at times when your skin desperately needs a boost!
Step 5: Target Skin Issues with Serums
Like ampoules, serums contain a high concentration of active ingredients to address specific skin concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and dryness.
They usually have a viscous consistency with tiny molecules. This is so that the active ingredients absorb quickly and penetrate the deep layers of the skin.
All you need are a few drops of serum. Gently massage into your face and go all the way down to your neck.
Serums are gentle enough to use twice a day as part of your Korean skin routine. But if you have sensitive skin, it’s always best to patch test first as active ingredients in serums may cause irritation.
Step 6: Eye Cream
Did you know that the skin around your eyes is actually the thinnest and most delicate? Thus, it needs extra care and attention.
Koreans understand this and have dedicated an entire step to taking care of your eye area.
An eye cream not only hydrates but also protects the skin from the signs of aging. It can help tighten the skin and minimize the appearance of dark circles and fine lines.
It is also suitable for all ages. If you start young, eye cream can prevent (or at least delay) the signs of aging and help us pull off the aegyo sal look for longer!
Step 7: Lock the Products in a Moisturizer
By now, you’ve layered many skin-loving ingredients on your skin. That’s why this step is important to lock everything in. Moisturizers also provide additional hydration to your skin.
We recommend using day creams because they have a lightweight texture compared to night creams, which are heavier. They also won’t feel too oily or sticky on the skin.
The formulation of day creams also makes them a good base under sunscreen and makeup.
Step 8: Sunscreen
If you’re running late in the morning, you can choose to skip any step EXCEPT this one. Never skip sunscreen!
Sunscreen is undoubtedly the most important step because it protects our skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.
Cleansers, toners, essences, serums, and creams can only do so much if you don’t take proactive steps to protect your skin from sun exposure.
Though there are moisturizers or foundations with SPF, they do not provide enough sun protection.
It’s still best to use a separate sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30, and make sure to apply liberally!
Related: 9 Best Korean Sunscreen Sticks for Effective Skin Protection
Bonus Tip: Apply a Sheet Mask Before Makeup
Are you in desperate need of a hydration boost? Use a sheet mask in the morning before applying makeup!
Not only will this help your skin feel more hydrated and moisturized, but it will also give you that extra glow!
In a Pinch? Try this 5-step K-beauty Morning Routine
Here’s an even more condensed version you can follow for mornings when you’re in a rush:
- 01 Cleanser
- 02 Toner
- 03 Essence/Serum
- 04 Moisturizer
- 05 Sunscreen
Related: What Is K-Beauty? The Ultimate Korean Beauty Guide
The 10-Step Korean Night Skincare Routine
After a long, busy day at work or school, what better way to pamper and treat yourself than doing your nighttime Korean skincare routine?
Following 10 steps might be intimidating at first, but as you get the hang of things, this can be a fun self-care activity that you will enjoy before bedtime.
Here are the Korean nighttime skincare steps we recommend:
Step 1: Use an Oil-Based Cleanser
A Korean face wash routine is just as important at the end of the day.
First, use an oil-based cleanser or cleansing balm to melt away your makeup — especially if you use waterproof mascara or have eyelash extensions — as well as to remove all the oil and dirt that have built up on your face throughout the day.
Step 2: Cleanse Again With a Water-Based Cleanser
Following up with a water-based cleanser ensures that all the impurities on your face have been washed away.
Step 3: Exfoliate your skin
To reap the benefits of your skincare routine, it’s also important to exfoliate your skin.
This step is necessary to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores to make way for brighter, rejuvenated skin.
There are many different types of K-beauty exfoliators including peeling gels, wash-off scrubs, face wash, and peeling pads.
Since exfoliating the skin can be a bit harsh, you should only do this step about two to three times a week.
Step 4: Pat Toner on Your Skin
Like in your morning routine, patting toner on helps balance your pH level and preps the skin for all the wonderful ingredients that are about to be layered on.
Toners are also formulated to target specific skin types so they’re suitable for both your Korean day and night skincare routine.
Step 5: Apply Essence
Applying essence at night is just as important.
Essences are packed with hydrating and nourishing ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals to give you plumper and softer skin.
Step 6: Address Skin Concerns with Ampoule
Once the skin has been properly prepped, you can apply an ampoule to your face and neck.
It’s important to choose an ampoule that is suited for your skin type and addresses the specific needs of your skin.
As the active ingredients penetrate the deeper layers of your skin, they can work better and give you brighter, glowing skin in the morning.
Use an ampoule one to three times a week, depending on your needs.
Step 7: Massage Your Face with Serum
Then, apply a few drops of serum onto your fingers and gently massage them on your face and neck. Serum addresses broader skin concerns that you may have.
To get the best results, keep in mind the best ingredients to address certain skin concerns:
- Dry and flaky skin – hyaluronic acid, ceramides, collagen peptides, vitamin E
- Fine lines and wrinkles – Retinol, caffeine, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C
- Hyperpigmentation – Kojic acid, glycolic acid, azelaic acid, arbutin, niacinamide
- Inflammation and redness – Niacinamide, green tea, Centella Asiatica, aloe vera, resveratrol
- Oily and acne-prone skin – AHAs, BHAs, lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, evening primrose oil
Step 8: Put on a Sheet Mask
Catch up on your current K-drama obsession while putting on a sheet mask.
The purpose of the sheet mask is to drench your face with skin-loving ingredients and the act of covering ensures that they are better absorbed into your skin.
Sheet masks are made to target specific skin issues, too, and there’s plenty to choose from! You can also choose between fruit or active ingredients.
For an added cooling effect, put your sheet mask in the fridge prior to application. Cold sheet masks also further increase blood circulation in your face for better absorption.
Use a sheet mask two to three times a week.
Step 9: Gently Dab on Eye Cream
Upon removing the sheet mask, allow your skin to dry before applying eye cream.
Use your ring finger to dab a small amount under your eyes — making sure that you’re not too close to your bottom lashes.
Then, gently tap into the skin starting from the innermost corner and making your way to the outer corner.
Step 10: Lather on Moisturizer
Last but not the least, it’s time to lather on your moisturizer.
We recommend using a night cream, which is usually heavier or thicker in consistency, and serves as an occlusive or protective barrier.
This way, you can be sure that you’re sealing in all the skincare goodness that you previously applied.
Bonus Tip: Use a Sleeping Pack
You can also trade in your night cream for a sleeping pack. What’s the difference?
Sleeping packs are supercharged moisturizers. So if you need that hydration fix badly, use a sleeping pack at least once or twice a week!
Korean Skincare Hacks for Healthier and Better Skin
1. Pat, Not Rub
The patting or tapping method will not only let you use less product but also prevent aggressive tugging and pulling of the facial skin. Additionally, patting helps improve blood circulation around the face.
2. Massage and Exercise the Face
Get rid of waste and toxins in the face with a lymphatic drainage massage. You can use a jade roller and gua sha to help push the toxins to the lymph nodes.
To learn how to use the jade roller and gua sha, watch this:
To prevent mouth sagging, you can do the A-E-I-O-U method. Simply say these letters but make sure to open your mouth as much as you can. This will help stretch the muscles around the mouth!
3. Steam, Air Day, and Use 10-Seconds Rule
Steam the face before applying skincare products. Steaming helps open up pores, so the skin is ready to absorb the product you’re going to use.
Air dry the skin after washing instead of drying with a towel. This prevents friction from the towel rubbing as well as bacteria transfer!
The 10-second rule states to apply skincare products 10 seconds after washing the face when the skin is damp. The longer you wait, the drier the skin will be!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Secret of Korean Beauty?
How is Korean skin so flawless? Korean beauty products are known for combining natural and heritage ingredients with innovative skincare technologies.
By layering these gentle but effective products step by step, the skin-loving ingredients are able to penetrate the deep layers of the skin — giving you that glowing, flawless skin that Koreans are known for.
What Is the Best Korean Skincare Routine for Oily skin?
The beautiful thing about the 10-step Korean skincare routine is that it is suited for all skin types.
Make sure to look for gentle products with key ingredients such as salicylic acid, niacinamide, and tea tree oil that help reduce oil, shine, and acne.
You also want products that are free of parabens, mineral oils, and lanolin — which can clog pores.
What’s the Difference Between Essence, Serum, and Ampoule?
It’s all about consistency and concentration!
Essences are water-based so the consistency is runny, whereas serums and ampoules have a thicker, more viscous formula.
This means that they have smaller molecules, which enables the product to sink deeper into the skin.
Another differentiating factor is their concentration. While all three have beneficial ingredients, essences are the least concentrated, followed by serum and then the ampoule.
Ampoules often have a high concentration of one specific ingredient, which is designed to target a specific concern while serums and essences address a broader range of skin concerns.
You can also differentiate essence vs. serum vs. ampoule by their usage. Essences and serums are gentle enough to use as part of your morning and night routine.
Ampoules, due to their higher concentration, are best suited 1-2 times a week or whenever your skin needs a boost.
How Do I Start a Korean Skincare Routine?
If you’re new to the 10-step Korean skincare, following the day and night routine might feel intimidating.
You don’t need to go out and buy 10 different products at once. You can always start with the basics first: cleanse, toner, moisturize, and sun protection.
Add products gradually as you develop a solid foundation for your skincare routine.
Ready to Give the Korean Skincare Routine a Go?
At this point, you have a good understanding of the Korean day and night skincare routine.
As you follow each step of the routine, you’ll be one step closer to achieving that flawless and glowing skin that Koreans are famous for!
Looking for the best products for your K-beauty routine?
Find them here:
- 9 Best Korean Exfoliators To Try
- 10 Best Korean Cleansing Oils
- 13 Best Korean Mascaras (Volume, Waterproof & Natural Options)
- 9 Best Korean Toners For Different Skin Types