Your Ultimate Guide to the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

If you’re looking for a guide to the Korean skincare routine, don’t worry because I have your back. This post will take you through each step of the 10-step routine that will leave your skin feeling smooth and radiant! The first five steps are geared towards cleansing and toning while the last five are focused on moisturizing. It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of every single product in Korea, but instead what products would be most effective for different skin types. So now let’s get started with step one!

The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

1: Oil-based Cleanser

Oil-based cleansers are a great first step because they remove oil-based debris such as sunscreen, makeup, dirt, and sebum. However, since they can be pore-clogging for some people with sensitive skin, it is recommended to test a small amount on the inner part of the arm. If no irritation occurs after a few minutes, then one can proceed with massaging onto the face using circular motions. Once all of that grime has been loosened up, simply rinse it away with lukewarm water! A good alternative to an oil cleanser would be micellar water which does not contain any emulsifiers as oil-based cleaners do. It works by attracting oil and dirt onto its surface area, so by placing a cotton pad on the micellar water and gently swiping it over the face, it can effectively eliminate oil-based impurities.

Banila Co Clean It Zero Purity ($20)

Etude House Real Art Cleansing Oil in Chamomile ($15)

2: Water-based Cleanser

If you have normal to oily skin then this is where your skincare journey should begin. A water-based cleanser will ensure that all of the impurities are removed from your face while also maintaining the moisture barrier on your skin! One thing to make sure of is that after cleansing, one must still rinse their face with water to ensure that all of the product is off the face. There are some people who choose not to rinse with just water but instead opt for cleansing water, toner, or micellar water. However, this is typically up to personal preference! A gentle cleanser will leave the skin feeling refreshed and clean without drying it out or stripping away any of its natural oils Korean Skincare Routine.

Can: Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask ($13)

3: Exfoliator

Exfoliation is an important step in one’s skincare routine because it removes dead skin cells which can lead to uneven texture, dullness, breakouts, and other issues that are commonly associated with problematic skin. It helps with the renewal of the skin by revealing the smooth and healthy layer of skin underneath all of that nasty dead stuff. Exfoliation is a very personal preference, but typically gentle formulas work best for most. However, if you have sensitive or easily irritated skin then it is recommended to opt for a chemical exfoliant instead!

Papa Recipe Bombee Honey Black Sugar Scrub ($14)

4: Toner

A toner helps to remove any dirt (or makeup in this case) left behind from your cleanser and adds back moisture into your face post-cleansing. Just apply it on a cotton pad and swipe it over your face! There are different kinds of pH balances that can be purchased for certain skin types, so it is important to know the right one for you. For example, if you have sensitive or dry skin then opt for the balancing type! Don’t go overboard with this step though because using too much can irritate your skin / leave your face feeling sticky. Can: Hada Labo Gokujyun Super Hyaluronic Acid Lotion ($11)

Missha Near Skin Simple Therapy Toner ($8)

5: Essence

An essence is basically like a watered-down version of serums which means that they also help with brightening one’s complexion, regenerating one’s skin cells, protecting against free radicals and other external aggressors by supplying nutrients to the dermis. There are also multi-functional essences that contain different benefits in just one bottle! If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin then it would be best for you to opt for a lightweight formula that doesn’t contain any fragrances because they can irritate your skin further. However, if you have drier skin then go ahead and load up on the hydrating essences!


Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence ($28)

6: Ampoules and Serums

Ampoules and serums are highly concentrated substances that typically penetrate deep into the lower layers of your skin in order to deliver that active ingredient! They’re not just used for hydrating either. These products can help with everything from anti-aging to whitening, plumping up fine lines and wrinkles, etc. This is also where things tend to get pricey because if you’re going for an ampoule or serum then it would be best to invest a bit more money into it because these formulas often pack a higher concentration of their key ingredients which yields better results. However, if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin then opt for something lighter!

Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence ($17)

7: Sheet Masks

Sheet masks go hand-in-hand with ampoules and serums because they basically do the same thing! The only difference is that sheet masks use a masking material (usually cotton or paper/silk) as a delivery system for those active ingredients instead of a bottle. It’s also less messy, which makes it super easy to travel with! Plus, it’s way more budget-friendly than an ampoule or serum would be. Make sure you’re storing your sheet masks properly though by keeping them in a dark and humid-free area because if they dry up then you’ll have to throw them away! Can: My Beauty Diary Black Pearl Mask ($19.99)

Skinfood Royal Honey Mask (Price unknown, but similar products range from $4-8)

8: Eye Cream

I probably don’t have to say this, but it’s recommended for people to apply an eye cream every morning and night! However, if you’re on a budget then you can just use a moisturizer for your eyes as well because the skin around our eyes is thin and sensitive which means that those with acne-prone or sensitive skin should opt for a lightweight formula that doesn’t contain any fragrances. Can: Secret Key Starting Treatment Eye Cream ($15.99)

Nature Republic% Aloe Vera Soothing Gel ($8)


9: Moisturizer

There are two types of people in this world, those who prefer gel moisturizers and those that prefer cream. Heavier moisturizers are great all year round, but during the summer months then I would recommend sticking to a gel since they’re lighter on the skin! Also, if you have drier skin then go ahead and use your heaviest moisturizer because you’ll need it more than anyone else! Can: Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream ($17).

CosRX Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion (Price unknown, but similar products range from $14-20)

10: Sunscreen

Mentholatum Sunplay Skin Aqua Sunscreen SPF 130 PA+++ (Price unknown, but similar products range from $9-13)

MISSHA All Around Safe Block Essence Sun SPF 45/PA+++ (Price unknown, but similar products range from $10-15) [ARTICLE END]

Questions or clarifications:  Contact us on our ask.FM! We’d be more than happy to answer any and all questions you may have! 🙂 Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where we will be discussing cleansers, toners, exfoliators, moisturizers, and sleeping packs!

We’re currently in the process of finding replacements for discontinued products such as Benton’s Snail Bee Essence and Cream, but we were not able to do so in time for this article. We’ll make sure to keep you updated once we find replacements! 🙂

Different skin types

  • For oily skin: Use a light, refreshing product that is water-based or gel texture. Moisturize with products containing humectants for moisture without sebum (oily) or emollients for moisture and suppleness.
  • For dry skin: Use rich, creamy products formulated to provide the hydration your skin needs without overheating in the summertime.
  • For combination skin: Balance out oily areas with astringents while using richer creams on drier areas of your face.
  • For acne-prone skin: Keep it simple when possible by choosing non-comedogenic ingredients to prevent excess sebum production, too much irritation, and breakouts. If you need extra hydration in your acne regimen, use oil-free products with mattifying properties to keep your skin from getting greasy.

The bottom line

You are not required to use all 10 steps. For example, if you have oily skin, feel free to skip the oil step! The recommended order of application is generally cleanser → exfoliant → toner → essence, serums, ampoules, sheet masks → moisturizer. Exceptions may be made depending on skin type and skin concerns. For an even simpler routine that requires only seven steps (instead of ten), check out our Brighten Up! post here.

Have fun exploring the wide world of K-beauty with these routines—just remember to adjust them as needed based on your current skincare needs and skin type! If you’ve been paying attention to Korean beauty trends, then the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine may sound familiar. But what is it? And how can I get started with one? We recommend starting small and working your way up gradually to avoid any complications or allergic reactions that could come from introducing too many new products into your life all at once. Check out our blog post for a detailed guide on getting started with this regimen today!

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