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Japanese vs. Korean Skincare: Similarities and Differences

Japanese vs Korean Skincare

The beauty industry doesn’t just focus on makeup trends anymore; nowadays, skincare has become EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT to beauty companies and beauty enthusiasts alike.

For many women, skincare is also something that’s heavily influenced by Japan and Korea.

Japanese beauty and Korean beauty standards are known for their elaborate routines and natural approach to skincare, which deliver effective and long-lasting results.

Now, Japanese skincare vs Korean skincare—which is better for you? Read on to find out!

Table of Contents

About J-Beauty

About J-Beauty

Skincare Goals

Japanese beauty standards (J-Beauty) is all about achieving clear, ultra-soft, mochi-hada (rice-cake) skin.

Given this, it might be surprising to some that Japanese skin care is quite MINIMALISTIC; there are only a few simple steps involved, so you don’t need a whole array of different skin care products for your face.

This is because, in Japan, skin care focuses on prevention.

Rather than being an INSTANT CURE for existing skin problems, Japanese skin care is meant to be a regular routine targeting the overall appearance of your skin—the foundation of Japanese women’s beauty regimens.

In fact, Omotenashi, the Japanese philosophy of hospitality and respect, extended to skincare during the time of the geishas.

This tradition was passed down through generations, eventually influencing the beauty industries of today.

Skincare Products

Because Japanese skincare is so minimalistic, only a few basic products are involved.

However, these are usually VERY HIGH-QUALITY.

Brands in Japan adhere to strict pharmaceutical laws, and they’re also known to be some of the most innovative and technologically advanced companies in the world.

Japanese skincare products usually include:

  1. Oil-based/water-based cleanser (foam cleanser)
  2. Exfoliator
  3. Essence
  4. Serum
  5. Sunscreen
  6. Lotion
  7. Face masks

These are formulated with traditional, tried, and tested ingredients that are gentle to the skin.

About K-Beauty

About K-Beauty

Skincare Goals

Korean beauty standards (K-Beauty) focuses on flawless, youthful, and glass skin that glows from within.

Skin Philosophy

To nurture the skin through a personalized skincare routine that consists of gentle and effective beauty products.

However, getting the ideal Korean beauty results ISN’T EASY — a typical Korean skincare regimen consists of 10 steps (and sometimes even 12 or 15!). That’s a LOT of Korean beauty products to put on your face!

On top of that, there are also some Korean beauty hacks and tips you’re supposed to practice for the best results.

Don’t worry, though; although each step in this lengthy skincare routine does serve an important purpose, you’re free to customize it any way you want to.

Experiment with the routine; switch things up, and observe how your skin reacts to the changes.

After all, at the end of the day, it should be a fun, enjoyable, and comfortable experience for you!

Skincare Products

K-Beauty products are trendy, innovative, and backed by science.

In recent years, the Korean beauty industry has been taking the world by storm with unique, ALL-NATURAL formulas that leave your skin feeling rejuvenated.

If you’re new to Korean skincare, you might be shocked that brands include ingredients like snail mucin, bee venom, donkey milk, and pig collagen in their beauty products.

However, it seems like this unconventional approach has great results on your skin!

Korean skincare essentials for women include:

  1. Oil cleanser/foam cleanser
  2. Exfoliator
  3. Toner
  4. Essence
  5. Serum
  6. Face masks
  7. Ampoules
  8. Sunscreen
  9. Sleeping mask

Although a Korean skincare routine comes with a lot of steps, the high-quality products involved will definitely address a myriad of skin concerns.

Japanese Skincare and Korean Skincare

Japanese and Korean Skincare

Now that you have a general idea of J-Beauty standards and K-Beauty standards, let’s discuss their similarities and differences a bit further.


1. Consistency

Both Korean and Japanese beauty standards prioritize taking care of your skin through a regular routine.

In fact, they share a common philosophy when it comes to skincare—that it’s something you practice for life, rather than an instant remedy for skin problems.

2. Quality

Because Japan and Korea are also home to many great skincare brands, the products used in both routines are reliable and of good quality.

These often feature natural ingredients that are native to either country, so they’re not too harsh for your face. Organic ingredients in Korean skincare are actually not uncommon.

3. Common Goal

Lastly, although Japanese and Korean routines differ, they both put emphasis on cleansing, hydrating, and protecting your skin properly. Both routines also have an emphasis on the prevention of skin problems and having the “no makeup look.”

Given this, they share quite a number of steps that involve similar products such as sheet masks, eye creams, cleansers, and serums, among others.


1. Complexity

The biggest difference between a Korean skincare routine and a Japanese skincare routine is that J-beauty is typically a lot simpler.

In fact, the most basic one only has 3 steps: Cleanse, hydrate, and seal!

On the other hand, a Korean skincare routine usually involves more potent treatments through an ampoule, a serum, or a booster for the face.

Korean women also use leave-on products such as overnight face masks more frequently.

2. Ingredients and Formulation

Another difference is that Korean skincare formulas are more creative while Japanese products are MORE TRADITIONAL.

Although Japan invests a lot in research and development, Japanese brands tend to stick to natural, traditional, and high-quality ingredients to ensure their products consistently work well.

These also contain fewer chemical additives, which aligns with their all-natural approach to self-care and skincare.

In comparison, Korean brands are highly innovative. They are always seeking a new way to improve the consumer experience.

We mean, where else in the world will you find snail slime power essences and thick rubber sheet masks?

There’s definitely more room to experiment in a Korean skin care routine—just make sure not to try them all at once so you don’t irritate your face!

J-Beauty Skincare Routine

J-Beauty Routine

Here are the steps to a sample Japanese skin care routine:

Step 1: Double Cleanse

Start by thoroughly cleansing your face with an oil-based cleanser and a foam cleanser.

  • The oil-based cleanser removes your foundation and waterproof makeup
  • The foam takes care of any remaining dirt and impurities on your face

Once a week, you can also opt to use an exfoliator to remove dead skin cells, which will leave you with SOFT and SUPPLE skin.

While washing your face, take care not to rub too vigorously, especially around your eyes—this can promote the formation of wrinkles over time. Gently massage the product and take your time!

Some popular Japanese cleansing products are:

Step 2: Essence

Next, apply essence. We’d recommend something like SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence. However, this is one EXPENSIVE product!

Besides priming your skin for the next steps in the routine, this product is made to help with common problems such as fine lines and an uneven skin tone.

It also has a watery consistency that’s light and refreshing on the face too!

Step 3: Serum

Because serums contain higher amounts of the active ingredients in essences, they’re often used to target serious skin concerns for various skin types.

If you’re worried about dryness, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and/or dark spots and circles, you can try this out.

However, if you don’t have any problems, feel free to skip this one.

Step 4: Emulsion

To achieve the perfect balance of water and oil on your face, you should use an emulsion, which is lighter than moisturizers/creams, but thicker than a water-based essence.

This product will provide immense hydration to your skin and SEAL IN ALL the nutrients from the essences and serums you applied to your face.

Alternatively, if you’re having a problem with dryness, you can opt to use a HEAVIER moisturizer, especially during the colder season.

Some of our top picks include the Sekkisei Emulsion and the Curel Kao Intensive Moisture Cream.

Step 5: Sunscreen (Day)

The last product in your daytime skincare routine is arguably the most important: Sunscreen.

Without SPF protection, your face will be exposed to harmful UV rays — even indoors!

That’s why you should always make sure to apply sunscreen first thing in the morning. Trust us, your skin will thank you for it.

A great option is the Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen, a cult favorite made by renowned Japanese brand Shiseido.

Step 6: Face Mask (Night)

At night, you can skip the sunscreen and go straight to a relaxing face mask from brands like Lululun, Minon, or SK-II.

You don’t need to do this every day, but it’s a great way to REINTRODUCE moisture and nutrients into your skin when you feel like it needs a little pampering.

Just leave the face mask on for a few minutes so your skin can soak up all the good stuff, and enjoy how much smoother and softer it feels after!

K-Beauty Skincare Routine

K-Beauty Routine

Now, here’s what a typical Korean skin care routine looks like:

Step 1: Double Cleanse

FIRST, do the double cleanse technique with an oil-based cleanser/makeup remover and a foam cleanser.

The former will remove any traces of makeup, dirt, and grease, while the latter will ensure your face is completely clean.

Once or twice a week, it’s also recommended to use physical and/or chemical exfoliators to clean your pores and remove DEAD SKIN.

BUT Be Careful!

Chemical exfoliators that contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) have potent formulas to address more serious concerns, but they also make you more sensitive to sun damage for a little while.

We’d recommend these brands to start with:

  • Skinfood
  • Beauty of Joseon
  • The Face Shop
  • Innisfree

Step 2: Toner

Next, prep your skin with trustworthy Korean toners. This is a crucial step in the K-beauty skincare routine!

Using toner will rebalance your skin’s pH levels.

This helps you absorb more of the good ingredients from the succeeding products, ensuring the nutrients permeate deep into your skin.

Step 3: Essence

After that, it’s time to apply an the best Korean essence for you!

This lightweight formula is packed with TONS of hydrating, anti-ageing, and nourishing ingredients, so don’t skip this in your routine.

Did we mention that it’ll help speed up cell turnover and skin regeneration too?

Step 4: Emulsion

The great thing about the best Korean emulsions is they soften the skin WITHOUT creating a moisture barrier. This way, your serums and treatments can still be absorbed very easily when applied to the face.

Some people opt to skip this, but you could benefit from it if you have a VERY DRY skin type or have dull skin.

Step 5: Ampoule or Serum

Let’s get to the treatments!

The best Korean ampoules, Korean boosters, and Korean serums are formulated to address issues such as acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation/uneven skin tone.

Remember: These have a high concentration of active ingredients so they should be directly applied onto problem areas on your face.

Many women trust K-beauty brands such as COSRX, Dr. Jart+, and Laneige for their treatments.

Step 6: Sheet Mask

Often seen as the staple in any K-beauty skin care routine, nourishing Korean face masks are packed with a ton of face-pampering  and anti-ageing ingredients that hydrate, smoothen, and brighten your skin.

The key is to leave sheet masks on for more than a few minutes (can vary depending on the product instructions) so that all the GOOD STUFF gets absorbed. Our K-beauty favorites include ones by Sulwhasoo, Amorepacific, and Innisfree.

Step 7: Eye Cream

Did you know that the area around your eyes is extremely delicate? That’s why the skin around it is prone to fine lines and wrinkles too.

Fortunately, using the best Korean eye cream formulas is great at fighting against these first signs of aging. Just make sure to apply the eye cream very gently — pat, don’t rub!

Eye creams like the Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream are gentle and non-irritating options that are perfect for any skin type.

Step 8: Moisturizer

Now, seal everything in with hydrating Korean moisturizers from top Korean beauty brands like Laneige, Dear Klairs, Huxley, or Mamonde.

Creams, lotions, gels, and thicker emulsions will help lock in moisture, keeping all the nourishing ingredients from the previous Korean beauty products deep in your skin.

Step 9: Sunscreen (Day)

The last thing you should do in your daytime routine is apply sunscreen.

Health professionals all over the world have written articles about using SPF to protect your skin year-round from sun damage and even skin cancer! Clearly, Koreans feel the same way.

Try out Korean sunscreen lotions by COSRX, Etude House, and A.H.C., but make sure you pick one that’s AT LEAST SPF 30!

Step 10: Sleeping Mask (Night)

At nighttime, on the other hand, you should end with a sleeping mask.

Unlike a regular sheet mask, this is meant to be left on OVERNIGHT so that each active ingredient will really have time to seep in.

Sleeping masks such as those from Korean beauty brands like Laneige, Dear Klairs, and COSRX will deliver hydrating, nourishing, and skin-boosting ingredients straight to your skin.

This way, every inch of your face will be pampered and repaired while you sleep!

Doesn’t that make you excited for bed?

Verdict: It's a Tie!


The difference between Japanese skincare and Korean skincare beauty rituals lies in the approach, but they’re both good routines that will greatly benefit your skin.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and determining which products work effectively for you.

Here’s a guide to help you:

Choose J-beauty if:

  • You live a busy lifestyle with minimal time on your plate
  • You prefer ALL-NATURAL ingredients
  • You’ve tried several products before that led to an acne breakout

Choose K-beauty if:

  • You prefer a more intensive, thorough skincare ritual
  • You enjoy using herbal ingredients
  • You have limited access since Korean skincare is more readily available, accessible, and has a wide range of affordable choices

In the end, this also heavily depends on your skin’s reaction to the ingredients so as much as you might love all-natural, if they don’t react well with your skin, DON’T PUSH YOUR LUCK no matter how great those Japanese or Korean skin care secret tips sound.

Just remember to enjoy the process and do what’s best for you! Every person’s skincare routine will be a little bit different, so feel free to customize according to your needs!


September 2, 2021 – Improved article formatting, reviewed and updated overall content

July 13, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.