5 days ago

How To Do The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

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Move over, West! The Asians are taking over the skincare industry.

Korean beauty brands have become more popular all over the world because of their quality ingredients and their super cute packaging. 

Along with the K-pop invasion, Korean culture has influenced the beauty industry so much, giving birth to the (rather exhausting) 10-step Korean Skincare Routine.

Why the Hype?

Koreans are known for their beauty routines because their culture places so much emphasis on natural beauty.

Even men are not averse to using more products than women. It’s normal to see men in Korea wearing makeup without being bullied for being feminine. According to Euromonitor International, Korean men spend four times more money on cosmetics than Danish women do.

In general, South Koreans value their skin health more than putting on makeup to cover up imperfections. For them, prevention is the goal towards having a good appearance.

Chok-chok

This weird word is the Koreans’ interpretation of sound your skin makes when your fingers tap it lightly. But it’s only supposed to make that sound when it’s hydrated and moisturized.

Chok-chok is the main goal of this 10-step routine. Koreans want to achieve that healthy, dewy, hydrated appearance and don’t care much for matte products.

This is why the routine involves layering on moisture after moisture. Your skin may drown afterwards, but it will drown in goodness. So let’s dive right in.

Step 1: Oil Cleanser

The first step in the 10-step Korean routine is removing oil-based dirt using an oil cleanser.

This may not be the best idea, especially for oily skinned people, but trust me—it’s going to do wonders for your skin.

What It Is

Like dissolves like.

Remember this nifty chemistry concept? This is the whole idea behind the effectivity of oil cleansers. While foam cleansers can remove sweat and dirt, they aren’t as effective in removing sunscreen, sebum, and waterproof makeup.

This is where oil cleansers come in. They react with oil-based impurities on the skin and effectively remove them without effort.

What It Does

Oil cleansers help eliminate skin impurities without drying the skin and eliminate the need to tug on the skin to remove makeup. You don’t need makeup wipes anymore or harsh soaps if you have an oil cleanser because this will dissolve even your waterproof mascara or foundation gently.

Aside from dissolving oil-based impurities, oil cleansers help soften the skin. This adds to the moisturizing power of this routine, which is what it’s mainly about.

All skin types can use oil cleansers. They may be made up of oil, but they are designed to not leave any oily residue on the face. This preps the skin for the second round of cleansing.

How To Apply

Oil cleansers are applied on a dry face, but it’s good to use a little bit of water after to emulsify the product.

This will leave you with a gross-looking face were mascara, foundation, eye shadows, and everything in between to be mixed up in a milky mixture. But you’ll thank yourself later because you wouldn’t have rely on exfoliating when you have this step.

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Step 2: Foam or Cream Cleanser

You have to double cleanse if you want to make sure everything unwanted gets removed. After taking care of the oil-based impurities, it’s time to get rid of the water-based ones.

What It Is

Foam cleansers are designed to create a foamy lather (hence the name) and help you get a squeaky clean face. Cream cleansers, on the other hand, are thicker and contain moisturizing ingredients. This helps you get rid of dirt without losing most of your natural oils.

Foam cleansers are ideal for people with oily skin while creams are best for those with dry and sensitive skin.

You can choose which one suits you better, but it’s important to know this step must not be skipped. This is true even if you’re not following the 10-step Korean skincare routine. Dermatologists require double cleansing to make sure no impurities remain as you apply other products.

What It Does

A water-based cleanser reacts with water-based impurities such as sweat and removes anything that might have been missed by the oil cleanser.

It ensures the skin is ready for the next steps by giving you a clean canvas to work on.

How To Apply

Add water to the product and bring it to a lather. Massage it across the face in circular motions, avoiding the eye area. Afterwards, rinse with lukewarm water.

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Step 3: Toner

While most experts agree applying toner is the next step in the routine, many would suggest exfoliating instead. However, because exfoliating should not be a daily thing, let’s stick to this as the third step.

What It Is

Toners are quick-absorbing products that normalize the skin’s pH. While toners of yesteryears were designed to strip the skin of moisture, toners made from Korean brands, are actually hydrating.

What It Does

A toner is a substance that helps bring back the pH balance of the skin after it has undergone cleansing. Getting rid of impurities, especially if you do it twice in a row, changes the pH of the skin which makes it vulnerable to breakouts.

This is why you need to apply a toner that is right for you. It not only keeps the pH level in check. It also hydrates the skin and conditions it to absorb more efficiently the next round of products you’re going to apply.

How To Apply

Toners can be applied in two ways, depending on the kind of toner you have. It can be applied using cotton pads or using fingers. Using the former will help eliminate extra dirt, but with the double cleansing ahead of it, you can opt to just gently tap it on the skin.

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Interested in more recommendations? Check out our post on the ‘Best Korean Toners‘. We go into detail and recommend which toners are best for your specific skin-type.

Step 4: Essence

We aren’t halfway yet, but we’ve arrived at what’s called the heart of Korean skincare. While toners help hydrate the skin and prepare it for the next step, an essence takes it to the next level and goes deeper to lock moisture in.

What It Is

An essence is a watery substance that repairs the skin while hydrating it. It feels creamier than toners and has more active ingredients that help the skin prepare for the hydration that is to come.

Essences are a hybrid mix of toners and serums.

Toners are designed to be quick-drying while essences are designed to keep the skin feeling moisturized. It penetrates deeper, into areas where the toner did not reach, in order to aid in absorption of the subsequent products.

What It Does

Essences increase cell turnover, which means it sheds off dead skin cells in order for younger ones to grow in their place. This results to glowing skin and enhancement in complexion.

Essences are also packed with anti-aging and moisturizing ingredients, which makes it a welcome addition to your skincare routine even if you don’t follow the 10-step suggestion.

How To Apply

When applying an essence, don’t use a cotton pad because this wastes the product by getting absorbed into the pad. Instead, use the desired amount onto your fingers, rub them lightly, and gently pat into the skin.

This way of application helps the skin absorb the product more efficiently and maximize its benefits.

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Step 5: Emulsion

We’ve prepped the skin for product absorption twice, but as they say, third time’s the charm.

What It Is

An emulsion is a lightweight non-sticky moisturizer that hydrates the skin. It’s water-based properties make it excellent for those with oily skin.

So what’s the difference between an emulsion and a moisturizer? The former is made with lighter formulas and are therefore thinner. Unlike a moisturizer, they are absorbed by the skin faster.

What It Does

Emulsions help the skin absorb other products and keep the skin from losing surface moisture. They are formulated in a way that makes them more easily absorbed compared to heavy moisturizers while containing active ingredients.

How To Apply

Emulsions are applied like creams. Dispense enough amounts into your fingers and apply to the face in upward circular motions. Afterwards, gently pat the product into the skin.

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Step 6: Ampoule or Serum

Here come the treatment products! After all that prepping, we finally get to target specific skin problems. This is done through ampoules and serums. You can just take your pick, but you could also use both.

Difference Between Ampoule and Serum

Serums are concentrated formulas of skincare goodness. They have high amounts of active ingredients that target specific skin concerns like wrinkles and dark spots.

Serums are able to penetrate the skin deeper, providing it with nutrients. They are very potent products that must not be skipped.

Ampoules, on the other hand, are more concentrated than serums. They are the booster version and are better left to those days when you’re having uncommon skin problems.

Ampoules usually come in bottles with droppers.

How To Apply

Because serums and ampoules are designed to target specific skin concerns, they don’t always have to be applied to the whole face. You could get away with applying them on the specific areas of concern.

While serums can be applied as much as twice daily, ampoules should be applied less regularly. You can do it on a weekly basis or twice a week.

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Amanpoules

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Serums

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Step 7: Sheet Mask

By now, you may be getting bored of all that patting and massaging. Sheet masks are a good break from that and is arguably the most fun step in the routine.

What It Is

A sheet mask is basically a cloth soaked in serum. It provides additional moisture and nourishment to the skin. Remember the layers of moisture I promised earlier? This is another addition to that.

Sheet masks are a pack of skin-loving ingredients concentrated in sheet form. It should not be confused with facial masks, which are often in paste form.

What It Does

A sheet mask maximizes nourishment to the skin. Its main purpose depends on your target problem.

The main task of the sheet is to prevent moisture from evaporating easily, making sure your skin fully absorbs the products contained in the sheet masks.

As a result, you get skin that is extra-hydrated and more luminous.

How To Apply

Sheet masks come in individual packets, so all you need to do is open them and apply to your face for 15 to 30 minutes. This is the longest step in the routine, which is why it’s a relief to know you don’t need to do this every day.

Think of exfoliation when it comes to sheet masks. Sheet masks are highly flexible skincare products so if you’re feeling extra tired or running late and didn’t have the time to go through all these steps, sheet masks can save the day. 

However, sheet masks may be used instead of serums. And if you do so, you might want to do this daily. Personally, I recommend choosing a serum because that step is faster, but if you feel more luxurious with a sheet mask on every night, then go for it.

You are not supposed to rinse off after using face masks. Your skin might feel extra wet and icky after this step, but washing it off defeats the purpose of the whole routine.

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Step 8: Eye Cream

We’ve treated and moisturized the whole face, but the eyes need extra help. Being the thinnest and most vulnerable part of the face, the skin around our eyes deserve more attention.

What It Is

Eye creams are thick formulas specially designed for the skin around the eyes. They are oftentimes thought of as ordinary moisturizers packaged in smaller amounts and sold at higher prices.

However, eye creams (the good ones, at least) offer much more than moisture.  They repair signs of aging and help reduce the appearance of dark circles and fine lines.

What It Does

Overall, eye creams are designed to hydrate because the thin skin around the eyes does not contain sebaceous glands. This is why eye creams tend to be thick.

They generally protect and repair the skin around the eyes, but different ones are designed for specific purposes. Some target dark circles while others focus on fine lines.

How To Apply

Use your weakest finger (generally, your pinky) to apply eye creams to avoid tugging on the skin. The ring finger is the best one for this. Gently tap the product under the eyes. Remember not to rub it.

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If you’re interested in more of our recommendations, check out our comprehensive list of the best Korean eye creams! We review each of the top 5 Korean eye creams in detail.

Step 9: Moisturizer

Because the 10-step routine promises extra-hydration, of course we have to add in another moisturizer into the mix.

What It Is

Moisturizers are basically emollients that lubricate the skin. There are also oil-free moisturizers that have humectants. In general, they prevent water evaporation from the skin by forming a coating on the skin’s surface.

Moisturizers vary in terms of consistency. Choose one that matches your skin type. More emollient formulas are good for dry-skinned people while oil-free ones are best for those with oily skin.

What It Does

Remember the task of the sheet in sheet masks? Moisturizers do the same thing but without you looking like a burglar the whole day.

Moisturizers help seal the moisture in to avoid it from evaporating. For what reason would serums and essences be if they are not locked appropriately?

Moisturizers also smooth away fine lines to maintain oil balance in the skin. It helps the skin repair itself and stay healthy.

How To Apply

Place enough amount on clean fingertips. Depending on the thickness and absorbency of the cream, you can use as much or as little as you want. Apply it in upward circular motions all over the face.

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If you’re looking for more options, you may want to check out our post on the ‘5 Best Korean Moisturizers‘. In that post, we enumerate and review in detail our favorites!

Step 10: Sun Protection (For Morning Use)

What It Is

There’s not much explanation needed for this step, but it’s important to underscore its importance.

A sunscreen is a chemical mixture of ingredients that either blocks or absorbs UV rays to protect the skin. There are two general categories of sunscreens: physical and chemical.

Physical sunscreens block the rays while chemical ones absorb UV rays before they can get into the skin. The former can cause less irritation to sensitive skin, but both kinds are effective and safe for everyday use.

Note: Physical sunscreens are still made of chemicals. They are still inorganic compounds.

What It Does

SPF blocks out the sun’s harmful rays to protect the skin. This protects you from premature skin aging and a whole range of skin diseases.

SPF helps protect the skin from the sun’s rays, which can cause skin cells to die or be damaged. Worst of all, it can cause skin cancer especially if you have a fair complexion.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, we should be wearing an SPF of at least 30 every day. This SPF blocks out 97 percent of UVB rays. It is important to remember, however, that no amount of SPF can block the sun’s rays totally.

How To Apply

SPF should be applied and reapplied regularly (about every 2 hours). It is important to put sunscreen on the face, but don’t neglect the rest of your body.

Korean skincare is not concerned only about the face although this 10-step routine focuses on that. Every exposed area of the skin should be protected, so do yourself a favor and buy a lotion that has at least SPF 30.

Ingredients to look for

For physical sunscreens, the most common ingredients would be titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. For chemical ones, look for oxybenzone, octinoxate, and avobenzone.

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Step 10: Sleeping Mask (For Evening Use)

Obviously, you wouldn’t apply sunscreen before going to bed. Instead, you should use a sleeping mask in lieu of the sunscreen.

What It Is

Sleeping masks are designed to moisturize the skin and lock in moisture throughout the night. Because sleep is when the body easily absorbs beauty products, it is important to keep everything in check.

What It Does

Sleeping masks treat the skin on a deeper level as you sleep. They are gentler on the skin in the long run.

Unlike sleeping masks before, there are new ones on the market that do not cause any mess. They are easily absorbed into the skin.

How To Apply

Apply your sheet mask 20 to 30 minutes before going to bed just to make sure you don’t stain your pillows. Apply it like you would any ordinary moisturizer—in upward circular motions.

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Not Too Strict

The 10-step Korean skincare routine can be too much for most people. It’s hard enough to wash your face once in the evening. Add in 9 more steps in there, and it becomes downright exhausting.

The routine becomes especially cumbersome when you’re travelling because of the amount of products you carry with you. The good news is you don’t have to follow the routine to the bone. You can cut it short to five steps if you want. 

The important thing is to keep the skin clean before any product application, don’t skip moisturizing, and never ever forget the sunscreen!

The rule of thumb is to apply the products from the thinnest to the thickest consistency. This helps the skin absorption process.

Whether you’re going for the chok-chok look or just want an overall healthy complexion minus the dewiness, remember to always check the label for any irritants that might not sit well with your skin. Now go get that glow!

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.

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