A Beginner-Friendly Guide To The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

A Beginner-Friendly Guide

Did you know that Korean women spend twice as much on skincare and makeup products than Americans?


Well, you shouldn’t be.

Koreans strive hard to achieve clear and flawless skin and this is why they are willing to invest in the latest skin care products.

Now, if you dream of having the same flawless complexion but not sure where to start, I have something really interesting for you.

Below, I’m sharing with you this handy guide to the famous 10-step Korean skincare routine.

So, shall we dive into it?

A Beginner-Friendly Guide To The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine
10 step korean skincare routine

Step # 1: Cleanse

Korean Skincare Routine 1

Have you heard of double cleansing?

It’s exactly what the name implies: it’s washing your face with two types of cleansers.

In Korean skincare, an oil-based cleanser always comes first. This is followed by a water-based cleanser which I’ll talk more about later.

So, why oil-based?

Oil-based cleansers target oil-based impurities. The list includes your makeup, sunscreen and excess oil.

What these cleansers do is melt those impurities so you can easily remove them, preventing them from clogging your pores.

You can get them in oils, creams, and balms. Some are formulated to be rinsed off while others can be wiped away so make sure to read instructions carefully.


Oil-based cleansers are great to use at night since that is when your skin has more oil-based impurities. In the morning, you can directly do the next step.

Step # 2: Double Cleanse

Korean Skincare Routine 2

While oil-based cleansers are effective in lifting oil-based impurities, they aren’t really enough. There are other impurities that don’t react the same way when cleansed with oil.

Sweat and dirt are great examples. If they aren’t completely removed, your skin can end up with a lot of problems (read: clogged pores, acne and dull skin).

Water-based cleansers come in foam or gel forms. They are usually the rinse-off type.

Now, here’s a tip:

To make sure your cleanser is able to do its job, avoid rinsing it off right away. Give it a few seconds to allow its ingredients to work.

Make sure to use it in the morning and at night, right after your oil-based cleanser.

Step # 3: Exfoliate

Korean Skincare Routine 3

This step is crucial in making your regimen effective.


Well, exfoliation removes dead skin cells, revealing newer and healthier cells underneath. It can restore your radiance and your natural glow.

And you know what else?

Since exfoliation buffs away those dead skin cells, it enables your skin to absorb your skin care products better.

But, here’s the thing:

Although exfoliation is great, you shouldn’t overdo it. Exfoliating more than thrice a week can damage your skin, making it more vulnerable to acne and irritation.

Surprisingly, Koreans don’t use physical exfoliators that much, particularly on the face. Most of them prefer peeling products, such as those that contain natural enzymes.
If you’re not sure which exfoliator to pick, there’s a quick and handy guide you can check out here.

Step # 4: Tone

Korean Skincare Routine 4

Toning treats and prepares your face for the other products you’re about to use. It can also help in removing any residues your cleanser may have missed.

If you have enlarged pores, a good toner can also help minimize them, too.


There are a lot of toners available so it’s important to choose one based on your skin type. Check out ingredients and read product labels carefully.

For your toner to be effective, you have to be consistent in using it twice a day. It should go right after cleansing your face in the morning and at night.

Step # 5: Apply an Essence

Korean Skincare Routine 5

Essences are considered as the heart of Korean skincare.

They’re particularly popular among Asian women because of their skin’s structure. Their moisture barrier is thinner compared to Caucasian women, meaning they’re more prone to moisture loss.

But, there’s a catch.

Essences aren’t for all skin types.

If you have acne-prone, oily skin or you are struggling with excessive oil production, this product may not be for you. However, if your skin leans more on the drier side, your skin will surely thank you for adding an essence to your routine.

Essences are best applied at night. And compared to toners where you use a cotton ball to swipe the product all over your face, essences are applied using patting motions with your fingertips.

Step # 6: Use a Serum

Korean Skincare Routine 6

Serums are much concentrated and thicker if you compare them to essences. This is the reason why you see them enclosed in smaller bottles and vials.
And honestly, serums tend to be pricey.

The good news is that a little goes a long way for this product. This means that one bottle can last you for quite awhile.

Also, serums typically come with a dropper so you have control over how much product to dispense.

Get this:

Serums and essences are basically the same nowadays. Well, not all.

Some serums are getting more lightweight while other essences are becoming heavier. The two are also sometimes formulated with the same level of active ingredients, making them more difficult to differentiate from each other.

Now, going back...

Controlling the signs of aging is one of the reasons why serums were created. And based on our research, vitamin C serums are the best ones you can use on your skin because of their benefits.

If you still don’t own one yet, you can check our in-depth review here or just directly check out our top-rated serum.


You can get as much as 10% discount if you use this link.

Step # 7: Put on a Sheet Mask

Korean Skincare Routine 7

Sheet masks are extremely popular because, for some, they deliver instant results. They’re also very cheap, giving “sheet mask addicts” the excuse to use them every day.

Most skin care products aren’t readily absorbed by the skin or evaporate quickly and that is where sheet masks fit in.

They form a barrier to help lock in moisture. This explains why your face feels softer and looks brighter after each use.

They are, however, not as perfect as you think.

Most sheet masks contain preservatives, fragrances, and alcohols that could irritate the skin. This is why it’s best to be cautious in picking the right products with the right ingredients.

Use them at night and only at least twice a week.

Step # 8: Apply an Eye Cream

Korean Skincare Routine 8

Did you know that the area around the eyes is among the first ones to show the signs of aging?

Constant eye movements like squinting worsen the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Fluids that accumulate under the eyes can also lead to dark circles and puffy eyes.

The right eye cream can solve those issues by nourishing the skin around the eyes. Just make sure that the one you’ll be using contain the right ingredients.

Peptides and hyaluronic acid are great choices since they can smooth and hydrate under eyes.

A word of caution:

The skin around the eyes is delicate and fragile. When applying your eye cream, make sure to use your ring finger and gently pat the product until it gets fully absorbed.

Consistently apply it in the morning and at night if you want to see dramatic results.

Step # 9: Moisturize

Korean Skincare Routine 9

Here’s the thing:

Dry skin isn’t the only one that needs to be moisturized. Those with acne-prone and oily skin can also benefit from using a moisturizer since it works to counter the dryness of oil and acne-fighting products.

Apart from that, moisturizers can help boost your skin’s health by keeping it adequately moisturized.

Take note, however, that not all moisturizers are formulated the same way so make sure to pick one that’s right for your skin type. You should also pay close attention to their formulas.

Moisturizers are available in emulsion, cream and gel forms.

Step # 10: Apply Creams

Korean Skincare Routine 10

This will depend on the time of the day.

Sunscreens should always be used during daytime. They protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun and from skin cancer.

They must be worn whether or not you’ll be exposed to the sun. According to the WHO, at least 80% of the sun’s rays can still damage the skin even on a “cloudy day”.

So, choose sunscreens that with SPF 15 or higher to effectively guard your skin against these rays.

At night, you should apply a sleeping pack to seal in all the benefits of your skincare products.

And you know what?

A sleeping pack can also help you wake up with glowing skin regardless of how many hours you actually slept.


There’s no wonder why Asian products are dominating the American beauty market these days. Just take a look at what a complete 10-step Korean skincare routine can do.

Although it’s not easy and cheap, the results will surely impress you.

I have to warn you, though, this routine won’t give you results right away. It can still take some time before you see a dramatic improvement in your skin.

You have to fully commit to it if you want to see results.

What products do you use for your Korean skincare routine? We’d love to know!

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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