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Korean Skincare Routine for Acne: 10 Easy Steps to Follow

Korean Skincare Routine for Acne

Pimples, blackheads, scars, and acne breakouts…EVERYONE’s been there.

At one point in our life, we’ve dealt with acne-prone skin. It makes us feel self-conscious of how we look and can really lower self-esteem. So, if you’re reading this, we get it. We share your pain.

But, we have good news for you, even if you have acne-prone skin.


Believe it or not, clear skin is achievable!

Table of Contents

How to Achieve Clear and Flawless Skin

Have you seen Korean actresses in K-dramas?

If you don’t, look them up. Bae Suzy, Song Hye Kyo, Jun Ji Hyun, and many others. They have one thing in common (aside from being beautiful, that is).

They ALL have clear flawless skin. Whenever we watch them, we can’t help but feel envious.

And their secret? K-Beauty Skincare.

Taking care of your skin is important, and Koreans are the best role models.

In fact, their 10 step skincare routine is so famous we decided to give in on the craze. We tried out the skincare routine on our very own acne-prone skin, to see if it really works and if it’s worth the hype.

Did it? Is it?

We don’t kiss and tell. If you want to know the results, you better stick around.

10-Step Korean Skincare


The world is obsessed with the newest and hippest beauty trends. These days, beauty gurus are all about the 10-step Korean skincare routine and achieving that no makeup look.

So, what is this K-beauty routine exactly?

The popular 10-step Korean skincare is a beauty and skincare regimen that focuses on a long multilayered skin routine. Each step adds extra nourishment and cleans pores thoroughly.

Unlike the conventional way of skincare, which is cleanser-toner-moisturizer, the 10-step Korean skincare routine for acne-prone skin does the job of treating specific skin concerns and issues such as:

  • Cystic acne
  • Hormonal acne
  • Sun spots
  • Dark circles
  • Wrinkles
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Acne scarring
  • Pustules

Because it incorporates serums, ampoules, essences, and sheet masks, it doesn’t miss a spot. It’s a very extensive routine for acne-prone skin. To some, it might seem like it’s over the top, but trust us, you won’t regret it.

It’s one of the best and most effective ways to fight acne. 

With numerous cleansers, toners, exfoliators, it makes sure that no dirt or excess makeup lingers under the skin. It thoroughly cleans, while also maintaining moisture and rejuvenating skin cells.

In the long run, it’s one of the best cystic acne treatments there is. And you can do it with these 10 steps. Let’s get right into it.

Step 1: Double Cleanse

Step 1

Acne clogs pores, that’s why we need and use a good old cleanser. However, it’s just not enough to get rid of all the things that sit on the surface of our skin. We need to double cleanse.


Yes. You read it right. The Korean skincare routine is all about double-cleansing.

Growing up watching beauty vloggers on YouTube and putting on makeup, you’d know how much grime, dirt, oil, and even foundation can easily mold into the skin and clog pores.

Luckily, double cleansing solves the problem of acne-prone skin and it has many proven benefits. You can double cleanse by following these two steps:

Oil Cleanser

We start with an oil-based cleanser. Oil cleansers are actually beneficial at removing and breaking down excess dirt, sebum, silicone, and anything else clogging your pores.

How to Use:

  1. Scoop a reasonable amount of oil-based cleanser on your fingers and spread it evenly on your face.
  2. For this, you might want to do it gently. Massage it using light upward circular motions.
  3. Remember, rubbing your face hard isn’t a good skin care practice.

The best Korean oil cleansers leave little to zero dirt. You’d know this once you use a toner.  If your toner doesn’t pick up much dirt, that means most of it has been already cleared up by the cleanser.

Foam Cleanser

This is the second part of the cleansing process.

It works hand in hand with the oil cleanser by removing water-based impurities or things that might have been missed out such as stubborn gunk of makeup or a long-lasting foundation.

A foam cleanser comes in gel form (like a gel cleanser) or just foam, so it’s easy to use. You can apply it directly.

Some tips to help you find a good Korean foam cleanser:

  • Look for an acne-fighting cleanser. It helps remove bacteria and sebum buildup. Plus, it regulates sebum production.
  • Foaming cleanser must contain Salicylic acid or Benzoyl peroxide at 0.05-0.02%. An ingredient like Salicylic acid is highly effective against acne.

Step 2: Exfoliate

Step 2

Once you’ve double cleansed, it’s time to exfoliate. And yes, exfoliation is important for all skin types.

By exfoliating, we remove dead skin cells that are in the way. Because dead skin cells tend to build up and clog pores, it results in blackheads, pimples, and acne appearing.

Yeah ― we definitely don’t want that. We strive for clear beautiful skin!

So, when it comes to Korean exfoliating products, it’s important to choose wisely. There are many options to consider when deciding on an exfoliator:

  • Chemical Exfoliator: Made of acids and chemical ingredients that get rid of dead skin in order to boost skin cell production.
  • Physical Exfoliator: Scrubs and masks massaged into the skin whisk away dead skin cells and heal acne scars.

But, which one of the two should you use?

The best exfoliator for acne-prone skin and combination skin is a chemical exfoliator. They contain AHAs and BHAs that are effective at fighting acne breakouts. It’s able to reach deeper underneath the skin and cleans out the pores.

Just a tip, people with oily skin, acne-prone skin, or combination skin should steer clear from physical exfoliators because it can be rough.

When buying a chemical exfoliator to combat acne-prone skin, here are things that you should look for in the ingredients: 

  • Salicylic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Hyaluronic Acid

Note: Because these chemicals (like Salicylic acid) are strong, exfoliate only twice or thrice a week. The purpose of an exfoliator is to slough off dead skin cell build-ups, so it’s not necessary to do it everyday.

Step 3: Toner

Step 3

Toners are the ultimate prep product. It’s the last chance to get rid of leftover dirt and oil in pores that may have been missed out.

It does the job of balancing out PH levels of the skin for moisture and keep it acne-free.

Aside from that, toners are great skincare products as it repairs the skin’s barrier to better absorb moisturizers and serums later on.

How to Use:

  1. Use a cotton pad to swipe the formula
  2. Pat gently on skin
  3. Wait for it to dry. Give it 5 minutes or so.

Ingredients you’ll love are aloe vera (very good for moisture!), licorice, and citric acid.

If you have acne-prone skin, the best choice for you is toners with BHAs (Beta Hydroxic Acid).

It would also be a plus to go for beauty products with soothing anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial components. These would be perfect for combatting acne and spot treatment.

Or, if you’re the sensitive skin type, a gentler formula would be ideal.

How so? Gentle formulas usually make use of natural ingredients that remove dirt and grime, while still being able to even out and hydrate your skin.

For a list of options, you can check out our review of the best Korean toners for different skin types.

Step 4: Essence

Step 4

An essence treats the skin and its different trouble spots. Whether you have acne issues or looking to get rid of acne scars, essences are your new best friend.

They’re packed with added vitamins and nutrients that help build up moisture, improve complexion, and brighten the skin.

In short, its role is to plump the skin up.

People usually use it to prevent wrinkles for anti-aging and for hydration, but it’s not only limited to that.

There’s so much more an essence can do for your skin care routine.

Our experience using one led to reducing face redness and lightened acne scars.

Every night, we use our absolute favorite Korean essences that contain snail mucin and bee venom as ingredients which are known for:

  • Fighting breakouts of cystic acne
  • Treating acne scars
  • Repairing red patches
  • Hyperpigmentation

There are also oil control essences that target sebum production according to your skin type by balancing out your skin’s PH level.

For oily skin and acne-prone skin, this type is more suitable since it reduces oil production and makes pores smaller.

How to Use:

  1. Pool it on hand
  2. Slather all over skin
  3. Wait for your pores to completely absorb or drink it up

Step 5: Serum and Ampoules

Step 5

Once the skin is all prepped up nicely, it’s time to bring out the big guns: Serums and Ampoules

These two provide extra nourishment to the skin. Using active ingredients, it addresses specific skin issues.

Now, it sounds similar to essences. You’re right. It does. In fact, people mistake serum and ampoules for the former.

But, actually, it’s not.

Korean serums and ampoules are extra-strength acne treatments. Unlike essences, they are both highly concentrated.

What does that mean?

Think of them as super boosters that you use whenever you have a SKIN CRISIS or whenever you just want to pamper yourself.

For acne-prone skin, we recommend using serums that contain glycolic acid. This ingredient has magical antioxidants to heal and protect skin from possible breakouts.

Together with the Korean ampoule of your choice, you can achieve bright, flawless, and dewy skin.

Tip: Only apply it to the problem areas you want to address. DO NOT APPLY EXCESSIVELY.

Step 6: Sheet Mask

Step 6

The Korean skincare routine would not be complete without a fresh sheet of mask. Its purpose is to allow the skin to absorb all the moisture and nutrients we’ve put on.

We know. Korean beauty routines sound tiring.


Rather than letting all the products go to waste, a mask pushes all those beautifying chemicals deeper into our skin.

Korean mask products comes in different forms. Some are infused with cucumber, vitamin C, rose, and green tea extracts. And they’re all good for the skin.

Choosing one is only a matter of exploring. 

When it comes to acne-prone skin, acne treatment, and acne-fighting formulas, any mask sheet with tea tree will do.

Tea tree oil has ALL the acne-fighting ingredients to keep skin smooth and blemish-free.

How to Use:

  1. Smooth out mask into freshly washed skin
  2. Go read a book or listen to music for 15-20 minutes as you let your skin absorb
  3. And take it off

Tip: Make sure to pat excess essence into the skin. Don’t let any drop go to waste.

Step 7: Moisturize

Step 7

This is a no-brainer. A moisturizer locks in hydration and smoothens the skin.

One way to remain youthful looking is to moisturize… even if you have oily skin and acne-prone skin. Don’t be scared to use a moisturizer. It’s a must in any skincare routine.

Now, the idea of slathering a sticky substance on our already oily face isn’t very appealing.

But contrary to the belief, a moisturizer actually keeps control of harsh acids in order to avoid oil glands from going overdrive. After all, oily skin needs a moisturizer just as any skin type. 

The trick here is to find a lightweight Korean moisturizer.

Step 8: Face & Eye Cream

Step 8

As we said, the 10-step Korean Skincare Routine is an extensive one. An eye cream and face cream make sure that puffiness and redness around the eyes and the cheeks are well taken care of.

For this, you may want to use the best Korean eye cream for your skin type.

Tip: Apply the eye cream to the sides of your eyes and corners of your cheeks. That’s where fine lines and wrinkles usually form.

Step 9: Sunblock

Step 9

Hang in there, we’re almost done!

Korean skincare wouldn’t be without a good sunblock. Protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Neglecting sun protection makes it harder for your acne scars to heal and causes skin cancer.

If you have acne-prone skin, a lightweight formula is best.

When you’re choosing the BEST Korean sunblock, make sure it’s higher than SPF 30 to guarantee the best skin protection. SPF 50 is generally a good maximum SPF level to get.

Bonus Step: Pimple Patches


Finally, it wouldn’t be a complete Korean skincare routine for acne if not for the pimple patch.

These are wonders of work!

If you have stubborn acne that just wouldn’t go away and it’s bugging you, try a pimple patch.

By placing the patch on top of your pimple, it absorbs the pus and fluids trapped in the blemish, drying it out quickly.

For this, we recommend using COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch. The acne patches work like magic!

What NOT to Do When Doing the Skincare Routine for Acne-Prone Skin

To make the most out of the Korean skincare routine, here are things you shouldn’t do. Some skincare mistakes that seem trivial but would only get in the way of having clear skin.

Being Inconsistent

When it comes to Korean skincare routine for acne, the secret is being consistent.

The results of your hard work won’t appear overnight. It could take weeks or months even before you see it. And that’s only when you maintain and keep up the practice.

Changing Your Skincare Products Too Quickly

We all know it when a product doesn’t fit our skin. An acne breakout, swelling, and redness are all tell-tale signs. That’s why we adjust and change our skincare products from time to time.

However, the problem lies when we change it too quickly. It can easily overwhelm our skin and cause the opposite of what we want.

Not Taking Preventive Measures

Although the Korean skincare routine for acne is a well-balanced and extensive process, it’s not foolproof.

There are some types of acne that are difficult to get rid of with just the daily skincare routine.

Pustule, cystic acne, and hormonal acne might require a topical solution or a strong benzoyl peroxide ingredient to combat it.

Our Experience With the Korean Beauty Routine for Acne

Our Experience

We’re not professional K-beauty gurus, but all we can say is that we genuinely enjoyed the 10-step Korean skincare routine.

In our early twenties, it’s common to be plagued with acne. Just last year, a terrifying Frankenstein breakout led us to this routine.

We started Korean skincare back in June and maintained it for a good 6 months.

The results? Clear acne-free skin.

FAQs About Korean Skin Care


In case, you’re wondering…Here are some commonly asked questions.

#1 Am I limited to using Korean brands only?

No. It’s not necessary. You can switch things up with Western skincare brands. As for toners, you can alternate between COSRX Original Clear Pad (night) and Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner (day).

Just be aware that Korean brands are generally lighter on the skin.

#2 Do I have to do all 10 steps morning and night?

Doing all 10 steps takes most people over an hour.

If you’re in a rush, this wouldn’t do at all and it’s reasonable. That’s why we only do the whole routine at night. In the morning, you can focus on double cleanse, apply toner, sunblock, and face cream.

You can also reserve the essences and the sheet mask at night.

#3 What happens if I skip a step?

It’s not a huge deal. If you skip a step, because you don’t have enough time (this is true especially in the morning), it’s understandable. It won’t do any drastic damage to your skin.

Just make sure to be consistent with it every night.

#4 How do I create my own Korean skincare routine for acne?

There’s this myth called the “one size fits all.” While this might only be true for the Sisterhood of Traveling Pants, it’s not when it comes to skincare.

What we’ve been talking about and suggesting works for us, but it might be a miss for you. It all depends on how your skin would react.

Our tip for you when creating your own Korean skincare is to know your own skin and religiously study the ingredients behind each skincare.


There you have it. The best Korean skincare routine for acne and the tips and tricks to help you get by.

Say no to minimalism! And yes to healthy glowing acne-free skin!

Don’t let acne get in the way of your dreams. Here’s to clearer days ahead!


August 26, 2021 – Improved article formatting, reviewed and updated overall content

July 15, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links, removed 1 unnecessary section

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.