img_8172-2Last year, Korea became the fastest growing and overall third largest exporter of beauty and skincare products in the world. In addition to the innovative incorporation of natural ingredients such as green tea and botanical extracts, K-Beauty products are evolving from the utilization of harsh ingredients that you may struggle to pronounce.

South Korea’s consumers are more meticulous than ever, shifting their consumer ethics and the effect is cascading across the global skincare market. Subsequently, K-Beauty has aimed for shorter lists of ingredients that are recognizable and safe.

However, there is a catch. The Korean skin care routine is perhaps most notorious for having an extensive ten steps. Yes, you read that correctly — ten steps. While that might sound overwhelming, there is a reason that the Korean skin care regimen has become an international phenomenon. With emphasis on anti-aging, cell-turnover, balancing pH and attaining that ever sought after natural “glow,” you will be hooked when your skin transforms before your eyes. K-Pop star Jessica Jung among other Korean idols are exemplary success stories of how this regimen can help anyone attain the best skin they have ever had. Below is a breakdown of each step and our favorites.

Step 1: Oil Cleanser

The double cleanse step is imperative to the Korean skin care routine. The purpose of this step is to assure all the make up including your stubborn waterproof mascara comes off before you call it a night. Massage your oil cleanser into your face while dry, add a little water and then watch the make up melt off without a fuss.

Oily or Sensitive: Banila Co – Clean It Zero Purifying Oil Cleanser

Dry or Combination: Banila Co – Clean It Zero Original Cleansing Balm

Step 2: Water-based Cleanser

Part two of the cleansing step uses a water-based cleanser to get rid of any remaining residue. By the end of this step, your skin should feel deeply cleansed and prepped for the remaining steps.

Oily or Dry: Son & Park – Beauty Water

Sensitive: Skinfood – Egg White Pore Foam

Combination: Neogen – Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser

Acne Prone: Jan Marini – Bioglycolic Facial Cleanser

Step 3: Exfoliator

Roughly every three days or twice a week, your skin will need an exfoliator to help to strip dead skin cells and make way for a new layer of brighter skin! The key to this step is to massage gently, too much pressure can irritate the skin and can cause redness. A gentle touch and rinsing with lukewarm water will leave your skin feeling fresh and supple.

Oily or Dry: Paula’s Choice -Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid

Sensitive: Neogen – Bio Peel Gauze Peeling (Green Tea)

Combination: Skinfood – Black Sugar Strawberry Wash-Off Face Mask

Step 4: Toner

Korean toners are specifically designed to plump up your skin, provide moisture and will prep your skin for absorption of the products to follow.

Oily or Combination: Missha – Time Revolution Clear Toner 

Dry: Klairs – Supple Preparation Facial Toner 

Sensitive: Neogen Real Flower Cleansing Water – Calendula  (Doubles as a water cleanser!)

Step 5: Essence

An essence is… essentially, a marriage of toner and serum, which is why this step is plugged in right in between the both. This step is to facilitate cell turnover and improve complexion. Essences are unique to the Korean skin care routine and are fundamental to unlocking the secret of glowing skin. Using your finger tips, apply the essence across your face with soft tapping motions.

Oily or Dry: Missha – Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive Moist

Sensitive: SK-II – Facial Treatment Essence

Combination: Missha – First Treatment Essence Mist 

Step 6: Treatments

Serums and ampoules fall into this step and are tailored to your unique skin needs. Are your pores your biggest concern? There’s a serum for that. Fine lines? There’s a serum for that. Acne? There’s a serum for that too. Apply serums and ampoules the same way an essence, tapping gently into the skin.

Acne or Pores: Missha – MISA Geum Sul First Essence Booster

Anti-Aging: Klairs – Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum

Hyper-pigmentation: Neogen – White Truffle Serum In Oil Drop 

Step 7: Sheet Masks

This step should not be surprising considering how famous Korean sheet masks are. If you are a busy gal or guy, elect to do it once a week. If you love masks, you can do it every day! Put your mask on, watch 15-20 minutes of your favorite show and take it off. Easy enough, right?

Oily, Sensitive or Combination: Manefit – Natural Gift Green Tea Pore Care Sheet Mask

Dry: Manefit – Bling Bling Hydrogel Mask Soothing Aqua Collagen

Step 8: Eye Cream

The eye area is unique because it is extra delicate, therefore  extra prone to signs of aging. Naturally, the Korean skin care routine has a step for addressing this issue and helps add extra hydration and protection to this area. Using your ring finger, careful not to tug or pull on the skin, add a small amount of an eye cream and blend it out.

Anti-Aging: Etude House – Moistfull Collagen Eye Cream

Dryness: Misa Cho Bo Yang Eye Cream

Dark Circles: Missha – Misa Geum Sul Vitalizing Eye Cream

Step 9: Moisturizer

Now, by this step is going to have you going to bed or starting your day with a glow. A moisturizer is essential to youthful, soft looking skin.

Oily: Missha – Super Aqua Ultra Water-Full Clear Cream

Dry or Sensitive: Laneige – Water Bank Moisture Cream

Combination: Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream

Step 10: Sunscreen

Perhaps one of the most steps for the morning time is sun-care. Sun-care is synonymous to skin care. No matter the weather, UV rays are going to penetrate the skin every time you step outside. It’s the most obvious anti-aging step in this routine. No excuses! Sunscreen is an everyday must. If you live in a big city, some sunscreens will double as pollution protection!

Oily: Neogen – Day-Light Protection Sun Screen 

Dry or Combination: Tony Moly – My Sunny Watery Essence SPF 50

Sensitive: Missha – Near Skin Dustless Defense Sun Block 


That’s it! You’re done. Even though a ten-step routine may seem like a commitment, it will be far worth it when you have glowing, healthy skin! After trying the routine for yourself, your relationship with your skin will be anew and you can further customize this routine to your skin’s needs.

Written by Kate Sabatine and Shea English