I Tried a 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine…Here’s What Happened

korean beauty routine

For years, I’d accepted that I had good, not great or flawless, skin. I would get the occasional breakout, get a little oily in my T-zone – all things I could solve with a blemish treatment or toner. Over the past few months, I began seeing blog posts and photos of girls with perfect skin who attributed it to one thing: Korean skincare. Safe to say, I was intrigued. Could I potentially wake up to skin that wouldn’t have to be concealed and covered up with makeup? Could my dark spots fade without pricey laser treatments? I began looking into this miracle routine, to see if I could picture doing it everyday. When I saw that the typical regimen involved ten steps (twice a day!), it was daunting. Ten steps?! Before I began this routine, I would give myself a huge pat on the back if I managed to cleanse, tone and moisturize at night…now I’m expected to add seven more products to that routine? Twice a day? Insanity.

I gave up before I even started, but for whatever reason, Korean beauty wouldn’t escape my mind. I just had to give it a shot; see if it could really give me dewy, beautiful skin. About a month ago, I decided to take the plunge. I began doing the ten-step Korean skincare routine, and I’m proud to say I’ve kept it up. The first week was tough – so many steps – but it gets easier. I actually look forward to it now. At night, I take my time – I play music, put on masks a few times a week…it feels like a little spa day. During my hectic mornings, I go through the steps at a quicker pace: I can get through the entire process in 10-12 minutes. Keep reading for all of the steps, the products I use and how my skin has changed as a result of K-beauty!

josie maran cleansing

STEP 1: CLEANSING OIL: One of the commandments of Korean beauty is the ‘double cleansing method’: begin with an oil cleanser to remove surface impurities, then follow it up with a foam cleanser to give it a really good clean. I always start with a face wipe to take away the day’s residue: Neutrogena is my holy grail. I used Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil for a few days, but it broke me out like crazy. It’s widely said that oil cleansers are fine to use on oily skin, but this wasn’t the case for me. So for now I’m just sticking with my wipes. Keep in mind, this is just a guideline. Modify the routine to work for you. There’s a lot of trial and error that goes into perfecting your skincare routine. Cleansing oil didn’t work for me, so I nixed it, and that is fine. Don’t stress!

murad aha cleanser

STEP 2: FOAM CLEANSER: I have so many foam cleansers, but the one I’ve been reaching for the most this past month has been Murad’s AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser. The tiny exfoliating beads make my skin feel refreshed and squeaky clean. It’s definitely on the expensive side, but Murad products are simply unbelievable. When I want something gentler, I go for Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash. A little goes a long way, and it doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin at all.


STEP 3: EXFOLIATOR: Even though the Murad cleanser acts as an exfoliator, sometimes I need the real deal. If you haven’t tried Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate, run to Sephora right now and ask for a sample. OMG, this stuff is good. Don’t get turned off by the odd green color – this is magic. Rub a dime-sized amount on your face and neck for thirty seconds, let it sit for two minutes, rinse off and pat dry. Your skin will feel like you just got a facial – so smooth. For a good drugstore alternative, I love the classic St. Ives Apricot Scrub. Since exfoliating can be harsh on your skin, only do it two times a week as a little pick-me-up. If your skin is extra sensitive, focus the scrub only on areas that really need it: an oily T-zone, enlarged pores on your cheeks…

proactiv toner

STEP 4: TONER: Toning your skin is one of the most important steps in the K-beauty routine – don’t skip it! Essentially, it removes anything that remains on your skin, restores your skin’s pH balance and prepares your skin to absorb the upcoming products. I use the toner from my Proactiv sets simply because I have about four full-sized bottles lying around that I need to make use of. I’m always amazed by the dirt/makeup that shows up on my cotton pad post-toning…all of that was still on my face after cleansing?! Moral of the story: toning is key.

belif hungarian essence

STEP 5: ESSENCE: Essence (and sheet masks) was a product I’ve never used or even heard of before embarking on this skincare journey. Essence, where have you been all my life?! Widely considered the most important step in the K-beauty routine, this watery formula increases your cell’s turnover rate and regenerates your skin. What that means, in layman’s terms, is that your skin will look noticeably brighter and refreshed. I’m hooked on Belif’s Hungarian Water Essence. One little pump adds endless hydration to my skin. (Tip: essence is often referred to as ‘booster’ in America, so also look into that. Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster is fantastic.)

skin inc serum

STEP 6: SERUM: Serums are like a thicker, more concentrated version of essence, and this is the part that gets a little crazy. Serums cater to individual skin needs (hydration, fading dark spots, brightening tone, anti-aging, etc.), so feel free to layer them. I have too many serums to count, but some of my favorites include Pur~Lisse Brightening Serum, Skin Inc. Vitamin A Serum and Philosophy’s Time in a Bottle. Sometimes I leave it at one serum, sometimes I put up to four…it depends on what my skin needs at that moment in time. One tip: I like to tap everything in, rather than rub. It enhances how well the products absorb – the more you know!

the face shop sheet mask

sheet mask

STEP 7: SHEET MASK: Easily the most fun part of the routine, sheet masks are those crazy-looking paper masks you’ve definitely seen on Instagram. While stores like Sephora have begun carrying them, I was tempted to get the real deal. I ventured to The Face Shop in Manhattan, a K-beauty mecca. They had an entire wall packed with different sheet masks catering to different needs. Since I’m a newbie to this product, I grabbed one of everything (at $20 for fifteen masks, I decided to go a little wild). A sheet mask is essentially loaded with serum, so just like serums, each mask caters to a different need. You should use a sheet mask two or three times a week; when your skin is in need of a little boost. Place the soaking wet mask on your face, let it sit for about fifteen minutes and watch the magic happen. You’ll be amazed at how refreshed and revitalized your face will look after using it. I’m officially addicted.

murad eye cream

STEP 8: EYE CREAM: Eye cream was already a standard part of my skincare routine, but through my K-beauty research, I realized my application wasn’t ideal. Rather than rubbing the cream in, I now tap it. Tapping allows for better absorption. Plus, it’s best not to rub and pull around your delicate eye area. So many eye creams irritate me – my eyes are super sensitive. One I’ve found and love is Murad’s Renewing Eye Cream. I’ve never experienced any burning or redness with it. Holy grail.

benefit emulsion

STEP 9: EMULSION: Almost at the finish line! The next-to-last step is an emulsion, which is a fancy word for a lightweight moisturizer. During the day, this is my final step before applying BB cream or SPF. Using a lightweight moisturizer plumps up and hydrates your skin and really gets your blood flowing. Go for one that’s not greasy, so it’ll absorb into your skin quickly. I am hooked on Benefit’s Triple Performing Facial Emulsion. It’s practically weightless; I apply my makeup literally one minute later.

origins night a mins

STEP 10: NIGHT CREAM: At night, add an extra, heavy-duty moisturizer that can really seep into your skin while you sleep. Yes, it might feel like one-layer-too-many, but when you wake up, your skin will be soft, smooth and hydrated. My current favorite is Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins. It’s not the heaviest cream in the world – my skin feels like it can breathe – but it really works. In the morning, my skin looks fresh and radiant. Don’t forget to also apply it to your neck!

FINAL THOUGHTS: I began the Korean skincare routine on a whim, but I can’t picture myself stopping any time soon. My skin is noticeably brighter, I have less breakouts, and my dark spots are fading. This is not merely hype – there’s really something to this 10-step routine. Yes, it is both a time and financial investment, but I truly think it’s worth it. Your skin is so important, and it’s never to early to start being careful. I’m so thankful for K-beauty!

What do you think of the Korean skincare routine? Will you give it a shot? Let us know in the comments below and on PAMPADOUR.COM!

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