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A Beginner's Guide to the 10-Step Korean Skin Care Routine

by Nicole M. Arcano | Nov 21, 2018

The 10-step Korean skin care routine is not as difficult as it seems! Here, we go through all the steps with you so you can start your journey to achieving "glass skin."

Korean celebrities are known for their immaculate skin—a feature that's been well-attributed to having an intensive skin regimen. Some even go as far as having a 10-step skincare routine, sometimes longer, all in the name of achieving a clear, luminous, and blemish-free complexion.

While having that many steps may sound intimidating, the transformative effects of a well thought-out routine that provides what our skin needs and more could be worth it. Also, remember that there's absolutely no need for you to incorporate all the steps right away! Start with what you consider are basics, and then gradually add more products at your own pace.

Want to take your cue from your fave Korean stars? Here's a full breakdown of the famed 10-step K-beauty routine:


1. First Cleanse

Two-in-one cleansers just won't do for this kind of skincare regimen. You have to remove your makeup first and then move on to your regular face wash—or as it's called in the K-beauty world, a double cleanse. Oil cleansers are your best bet, because not only will these will break down all the product on your skin, they're also incredibly easy to use. After massaging the oil all over your face, emulsify it with a little bit of water and massage again before rinsing it off completely.

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2. Second Cleanse

You're probably already familiar with this step. Use your favorite gentle foaming cleanser to wash off the remaining traces of makeup and impurities on your skin, including the slightly tacky feeling your cleansing oil might've left behind. 

3. Exfoliation

Get rid of dead skin cells, dry patches, and unwanted texture with a round of proper exfoliation. Pick between a physical (scrubs, exfoliating pads, cleansing brushes) and chemical (AHA, BHA products) exfoliant and use it as recommended. If you're using a gentle product, feel free to exfoliate every other day. Strong exfoliants, on the other hand, should be used no more than twice a week to prevent overexfoliation and irritation.


4. Toner

After all that thorough cleansing, it's time to calm your skin down and give it all the good stuff. In Korea, toners aren't just used as a last cleansing step, they're also used to rehydrate and bring back the skin's natural pH. Basically, you're making your skin feel like its real self again, hence the reason toners are sometimes called skin in Korean.


You have two options when it comes to applying your toner. First is the old-fashioned way, which is swiping it all over with a cotton round to remove excess dirt. The second way is to pour the toner onto your palms and to pat the liquid directly onto your face, which will help you make the most out of your toner's ingredients. You may even opt to apply several layers, a technique popularly called the Seven Skin Method, wherein you use your toner as your sole hydrator instead of using heavy cream products.


5. Essence/Booster

An essence is a watery liquid that resembles a toner but serves an entirely different purpose. It's slightly more viscous, and contains substances that you'd expect from a serum, albeit less potent. Aside from giving your skin beneficial ingredients and hydrating it, essences also aid the absorption of the products you apply after it—like a skin booster, so to speak.


6. Serum/Ampoule

This step is all about addressing your main skin concern. Whether yours may be acne scarring, dehydration, or dullness, serums and ampoules have high concentrations of ingredients designed to help you solve them. That said, the difference between the two is that serums can be used daily, while ampoules are made to be used only as long as you're dealing with the skin issue—hence why they're packaged in such small bottles!

To apply your serum or ampoule, simply put on a light layer all over your face and neck. Let it absorb for a few minutes before moving on to the next step!


7. Sheet Mask

With your serum slightly absorbed, it's time for what's arguably the most fun part of the Korean skincare routine: masking! Choose a kind that'll solve any of your skin concerns and leave the sheet on your face for 15 to 20 minutes. While you wait, you can get the excess liquid from the packet and apply it on your neck and body, because why save all those benefits for just your face?

After peeling the mask off, wait for the leftover essence to absorb for a few more minutes. No rinsing!


8. Eye Cream

We have very thin and sensitive skin around our eyes, so they need more TLC to maintain a bright, youthful appearance. This is where eye cream comes in to save the day. Whichever kind you choose, be sure to put it on it as gently as possible—avoid rubbing and tugging! The most effective way is to use your ring finger (the weakest one of the five!) and gently tap the product around your eye area until it's well-distributed.


9. Moisturizer

Almost done, promise! Apply your favorite moisturizer all over your skin and neck for a final layer of hydration and to lock in all that hard skincare work you've just done. At this point, your skin should finally reach glass skin territory—so worth it.

10. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is the best anti-aging product in your routine—yes, even better than your serum! That's because instead of reversing signs of aging, it helps you prevent them from forming in the first place. It's therefore indispensable in a K-beauty routine, and the reason why your favorite Korean stars look so much younger than they are. So wrap up your day time skin regimen with a generous layer of broad spectrum SPF 15 or higher to protect yourself from harmful UVA and UVB rays.


If you'll be under the sun for a long time, don't forget to reapply once every few hours to stay protected. That said, staying indoors isn't an excuse to skip sunscreen either! UV rays can still penetrate through windows and some doors. The same applies to when it's raining!

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