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As an Asian girl with a lot of Asian friends, it was always a mystery to me how my friend’s moms seemed to never age. I’ve definitely seen my friends mature as we’ve grown up, but their moms managed to look exactly the same as the years went by.
A few years back, the conversation came up with a Korean friend of mine, where she mentioned her mother’s insane 10-step skincare regimen. I immediately wrote it off as an unaffordable solution for me, because 10 products sounded way out of my budget. But when my friend showed me her medicine cabinet, my perspective changed.
Korean beauty is based upon the “10-step regimen”: it is an art form that involves layering and using multiple products for maximum effect. Each product plays a specific and equally important role.
Over the years I’ve done heavy research on Korean beauty products and integrated many of them into my own skincare routine. However, I wound up removing certain steps because my acne-prone, combination skin would sometimes get congested. I’ve tried every step and learned that not everyone may need every step due to the difference in skin types.
After some heavy experimentation with both American and Korean brands, I’ve settled on the Korean side of things. Why?
Jump to: The 10-Step Korean Skincare Regimen
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Korean products have better ingredients
While not all products may be organic or preservative-free, Korean products tend to strive towards less toxic chemicals and synthetic ingredients. Instead, they are filled with naturally-derived, active ingredients like snail filtrate and even sake (Japanese rice wine). These exotic ingredients have properties that synthetic ingredients are actually inspired by, but usually come without the side effects.
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Korean regimens are a long-term relationship
Most of Korean skincare revolves around slowing down the aging process. While we tend to grab for medicated products like Retin-A or heavily-drying benzoyl peroxide, those short-term fixes can actually cause more damage in the long-run. The idea behind Korean skincare is to nourish your skin and boost its natural processes, not strip it and hinder it from healing itself.
Korean products encourage self-care
10-steps. Slowly massage makeup off. Lay down with a mask on for 20 minutes. Gently pat in product. Korean products all have distinctive methods of application, which all require care and mild handling. This self-pampering routine is something that our American culture tends to neglect. Many of us work high-stress jobs 5 days a week, so it’s a great habit to take some time out of your day and be kind to yourself.
They are affordable
The Korean beauty market is massive. Where we are forced to choose between the price points of sub-par drugstore items and bank-breaking products at Sephora, their “drugstore” brands can compete with many crowd favorites I’ve purchased at Sephora for $30-$70 a pop. 80% of my skincare regimen comes from Korean brands, and all of them are also under $12. This makes investing in a full Korean skincare regimen extremely affordable, whereas in American culture you’d normally walk out of the store $50 poorer with only a single item in-hand.
Korea definitely has their high-end luxury products and I’ve seen them go for over a hundred or more, but I’ve never found a reason to venture into that price point (although I’m sure the results must be otherworldly).
Of course, I’ll get to the meat of why you’re probably reading this. I’ve tried so many Korean products over time, and I’ve gotten comfortable with a few products. Here are my favorite products integrated into a full 10-step Korean routine, along with tips and tricks I’ve learned during my career as a licensed esthetician.
Unsure about what skin type is best for you? Take my skincare consultation quiz below and get a skincare regimen custom-tailored to you.
The 10-Step Korean Skincare Regimen
Step 1: Remove makeup
It’s very important to cleanse not once, but twice. The first cleanse removes all your makeup, and the second cleanse removes the rest of the leftover dirt and debris.
Contrary to popular belief, using an oil-based makeup remover gives better results, and here’s why: oil has more lubrication, so you’re not irritating or pulling at your skin when trying to remove long-lasting makeup. This is crucial for areas like the eyelids, where the skin is thinner and more fragile. Oil also helps remove sebum build-up inside the pores, so you’re actually getting a thorough cleanse.
My favorite oil cleanser: The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Light Oil. This oil is non-comedogenic, so it won’t promote pore congestion or acne. What I love about this oil is that the rice water extract actually helps a lot with hyper-pigmentation and acne scars, something that people with deeper skin tones tend to get more often.
How to use: Apply a dime-sized amount and remove all face make-up, using circular massaging motions. Be gentle when removing eye makeup. Afterward, use cotton rounds to wipe off the excess oil, paying careful attention to the eyes. To remove eye makeup, swipe the cotton rounds in a downward stroke, following the direction of the lashes. Never pull sideways – this can irritate the thin eyelid skin and cause accelerated wrinkling.
Other notable oil cleansers:
- Banila Clean It Zero Sherbet Cleanser: $17.05
- DHC Deep Cleansing Oil: $27.73
- Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil: $19.00
- Etude House Real Art Cleansing Oil: $14.48
Step 2: Cleanse
The second round of cleansing focuses on removing any excess residue. I prefer using gentle cream or foam-based cleansers that won’t dry-out the skin. Drier skin forces your sebaceous glands to secrete more oil in order to protect itself. If you like that paper-dry or tight feeling after a cleanse, you may very well be over-cleansing.
My favorite cleanser: Cosrx Low Ph Good Morning Gel Cleanser. This is my new favorite! Most cleansers have a high pH level (more alkaline), creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Your skin is slightly acidic, so this cleanser is a great way to control breakouts without drying your skin out. It also works well for dry skin.
How to use: A little bit goes a long way. Lather up a pea-sized amount and massage into the skin.
Other notable cleansers:
- The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Foam: $11.99
- Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick: $14.94
- Etude House Baking Powder Deep Cleansing Foam: $8.69
- Skinfood Egg White Pore Foam: $9.97
- The Face Shop Jeju Volcanic Lava Deep Pore-Cleansing Foam: $11.50
- Mizon Snail Foam Cleanser: $8.17
Step 3: Exfoliate
Exfoliating is a very important step in Korean skincare. A popular practice of exfoliation is scrubbing off dead skin cells to encourage new cells to the surface. However, there are plenty more methods other than abrasive scrubbing. One of the most popular exfoliating methods include gentle chemical exfoliations with acids or peels, and these are highly encouraged in the Korean regimen.
My favorite exfoliant: Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Exfoliator. Black sugar contains glycolic acid, which can penetrate deeply into the skin and break apart the outermost skin cells. This derivative of alpha hydroxy acid makes this product not just a scrub, but a chemical exfoliant too. This product is great multitasker for those who want to physically unearth clogged pores while lightening dark spots.
How to use: Dampen your face and massage a small scoop of scrub into the face for 2 minutes. After scrubbing, leave on for 10-15 minutes and wash off. Exfoliate 1-2 times a week, or as needed. Depending on the type of exfoliant, you may not need to exfoliate daily. It’s encouraged to exfoliate no more than once a week, but over the years many new products have developed that allow gentle exfoliating benefits safe for daily use. As a general rule of thumb, if you find your skin growing more dry, sensitive, or even extremely oily, you may be exfoliating too frequently. Give your skin a few days to recuperate in-between exfoliating treatments.
Other notable exfoliators:
- Mizon Honey Black Sugar Scrub: $14.89
- Mizon Apple Smoothie Peeling Gel: $10.18
- Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Soft Peeling Gel: $11.92
- Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine: $12.90
- Skinfood Pineapple Morning Peeling Gel: $11.40
Optional Step 4: Treatment Mask
For my oily skin, I like using a detoxifying mask to ensure a thorough pore cleanse right after exfoliation. If you’re suffering from breakouts or congested skin, this is the best time to do a treatment mask since the entrance of the pores are more exposed after exfoliating. Clay-based masks can also be very drying if used often, so sometimes it’s okay to skip this step if you’re in need of hydration.
My favorite mask: Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask. Maybe it’s the novelty bubbles, but I absolutely enjoy using this clay mask. After several minutes, this mask EXPLODES into foam and your face turns into the Michelin Man. The product uses carbonation to thoroughly cleanse out the pores. My T-zone’s congestion is completely obliterated after using this!
How to use: Apply onto skin and wait 10 minutes. After bubbles have finished rising, gently massage skin and then rinse off.
Other notable masks:
- SkinFood Egg White Pore Mask: $9.89
- Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask: $15.00
- Skin Food Rice Mask Wash Off (Jumbo): $24.99
Step 5: Tone
After cleansing, your skin is stripped of its protective barrier. More than likely, your skin won’t be at it’s normal 5.5 pH level. 5.5 is slightly acidic because the skin actually has what is called an “acid mantle,” or a protective barrier comprised of fatty acids. If your skin tends to be dry and sensitive, this is a sign of weaker acid mantle, meaning your skin is too alkaline. A toner helps bring your skin’s pH levels back to normal and creates a balanced environment for the next step in your skincare regimen.
My favorite toner: Skin Food Peach Sake Toner. My T-zone tends to get congested easily, but this toner controls sebum buildup and prevents the appearance of large pores. It also smells like fresh peaches!
How to use: Using a cotton round, swipe all over face and wait until dry before proceeding onto next step.
Other notable toners:
- Etude House 10-in-1 House Wonder Pore Freshener: $9.14
- Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner: $11.40
- Mizon Acence Derma Clearing Toner: $14.89
- Skinfood Lettuce & Cucumber Toner: $15.44
- Mamonde Rose Water Toner: $23.00
- Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner: $15.99
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Step 6: Essence, Serum or Ampoule
This is where it gets a little confusing. Essences and serums are basically leave-in products supercharged with active ingredients. Depending on your type of skin and the time of day, you’ll have different needs: essences are the least concentrated and very watery, whereas serums tend to be thicker in consistency and more concentrated. I would recommend essences for people with oilier, acne-prone skin, and a serum for others who need hydration.
My favorite serum: I have yet to find a budget-friendly essence (by about now you should be noticing that I pay no more than $10-$12 per Korean product here), but I do really like Skin Food’s Peach Sake Pore Serum. It is very mattifying and helps prevent that inevitable shiny T-zone I tend to get midday.
How to use: Apply a pea-sized amount of serum or essence to entire face, ensuring that the face is completely dry before proceeding onto the next step.
Other notable serums:
- Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum: $19.70
- The Face Shop The Therapy Essential Formula Emulsion: $21.58
- The Face Shop Whiteseed Brightening Serum: $16.99
Ampoules are another leave-in treatment that addresses specific skin concerns. Because it is far more concentrated than both essences and serums, I recommend using an ampoule during your nighttime routine in place of an essence or serum.
My favorite ampoule: Mizon’s Snail Repair Ampoule is one of the star players in my routine. I’m not joking when I say that when I wake up in the morning, my acne scars have significantly faded! This ampoule has anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, and healing properties thanks to the 80% snail secretion filtrate, which is just another fancy word for filtered snail slime. Don’t worry, there’s no funky smell or texture – it’s just a clear, viscous solution.
How to use: Drop a pea or dime-sized amount onto palm and pat into face until dry. Be sure to avoid physical contact with the dropper to avoid contamination.
Other notable ampoules:
- Mizon Original Skin Energy – Hyaluronic Acid 100: $14.98
- Mizon Night Repair Serum Ampoule: $15.89
- Mizon Original Skin Energy – Collagen 100: $15.89
- Missha Time Revolution Artemisia Treatment Ampoule: $27.50
- Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid: $14.80
- Cosrx Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence: $13.00
- Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence: $13.80
- MISSHA Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence: $27.79
Optional Step: Spot Treatment
I had to update this post and add a step for people dealing with the occasional zit or full-on break-out. Korean products focus on nourishing the skin rather than stripping it, which is why there aren’t too many Korean products on the market. Proper exfoliation in previous steps are key to preventing pimples, but sometimes they can be inevitable.
My favorite spot treatment: I prefer Mizon Acence Blemish Out Pink Spot over many other acne spot treatments on the market because it reduces redness and inflammation fast. It actually reminds me a lot of Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion, but more affordable.
How to use: Do not shake the bottle – use a Q-tip and dip it all the way down to the bottom and apply it to the pimple. Apply at bedtime.
Other notable acne treatments:
- Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch: $11.40
- Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers: $6.01
- Cosrx Centella Blemish Cream: $14.51
- Cosrx One Step Pimple Clear Pads: $16.95
Optional Step 7: Sheet Mask
I tend to skip past this step because layering too much product congests my acne-prone skin, but this step is great for those who need a boost of hydration. Sheet masks are layered on top of the products you’ve already applied, and then left in. It’s a step that also forces me to lay down and relax… something I don’t normally do. Maybe I should try this step more often.
My favorite sheet masks: TONYMOLY I’m Real Sheet Masks: this pack of 10 sheets comes in a variety of formulas to try, which lets you figure out which formula is your favorite.
How to use: Simply stick-on the mask and leave on for 30 minutes, then remove the sheet. Do not rinse the product off – massage into the skin until absorbed. If you feel there’s too much, pat down with a tissue and then proceed to massage into skin.
Other notable sheet masks:
- SNP Animal Character Printed Masks (Pack of 10): $13.98
- Dermal Korea Collagen Essence Sheet Masks (Pack of 16): $10.99
- The Face Shop Living Nature Grind Sheet Masks (Pack of 15): $15.99
Optional Step 8: Eye Cream
I’m a bit biased about this step, because I don’t feel that everybody truly needs an eye cream. As a licensed esthetician, I’ve witnessed many people develop milia (harmless miniature cysts) around their eyes as a result of using eye creams. These formulas tend to be overwhelmingly heavy for the delicate skin on the eyelids, so this may result in the skin’s inability to properly absorb it. For those with oily or acne-prone skin, I would say this is a product that’s probably safe to pass. I do, however, recommend this for mature folks whose skin may be getting thinner and more dry as the years pass. As we get older, our skin’s healing cycle slows down due to a decrease in collagen production, and this process starts around the age of 30.
In regards to dark under-eyes: honestly, those dark circles may just be a result of genetics. 2 other major causes of dark under-eyes are lack of sleep and proper nutrition, so try addressing those issues before resorting to an eye cream. Using eye creams as a first solution is like taking diet pills without exercising.
My favorite eye cream: Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream. This tiny little jar has similar ingredients to the Mizon ampoule I mentioned earlier, but those anti-aging properties are key here. The first signs of aging can be found around the eye area because of the thinner skin, so this cream can help prevent crow’s feet and fine wrinkles that may be developing.
How to use: Using a fresh cotton swab to prevent contamination, scoop a tiny amount of eye cream the size of the white moons on your fingernail. Distribute this amount onto both ring fingers and gently pat the cream onto your eyelids, paying special attention to the area directly underneath your lower lash line. Use quick, light tapping motions until the product is absorbed. Do not rub, pull, or stretch the eyelids.
Other notable eye creams:
- Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream: $18.60
- Etude House New Moistfull Collagen Eye Cream: $10.70
- Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Eye Cream: $16.84
- Mizon Collagen Power Firming Eye Cream: $14.60
Step 9: Emulsion, Lotion, Gel or Cream
We’re almost finished! This is the moisturizing step. For daytime, a lotion (or “emulsion,” as some of them are marketed as) is ideal since they are usually lighter in consistency. For those who have oilier skin, a gel would be optimal. Gel moisturizers tend to contain glycerin, a humectant that helps moisturize the skin without weighing it down.
Creams are the nighttime alternative to moisturizing. A thicker moisturizer helps to seal in all the product and prevent the skin from drying out as the hours pass.
My favorite emulsion/lotion: Innisfree’s Green Tea Balancing Lotion is a watery and lightweight moisturizer that my troublesome skin actually reacts well to. My skin is hydrated from the get-go, but my skin doesn’t create excess sebum as the day passes (yay, no dinnertime oily T-zone!). I also absolutely love the subtle earthy smell!
Other notable emulsions and lotions:
- Cosrx Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion: $14.45
- Skinfood Premium Avocado Rich Emulsion: $20.99
- Mizon Collagen Power Lifting Emulsion: $18.99
- The Face Shop Arsainte Eco-Therapy Moisturizer: $20.96
My favorite gel: Natural Republic Aloe Vera Gel comes in a huge jar the size of a hair gel jar, making the $8.79 price tag very reasonable. For those who have heavily oily skin, I definitely recommend this mattifying moisturizer. My boyfriend has been using it for several months now and I’ve noticed that the high aloe content calms down the redness and inflammation in his breakouts.
Other notable gel creams:
- Mizon Water Volume Ex Cream: $13.20
- Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream: $9.99
- Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel: $15.81
- Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Fresh Watery Cream: $12.85
My favorite cream: The Face Shop’s Mango Seed Facial Butter is literally like ambrosia in a jar. It seals in moisture without feeling too heavy and is perfect for the drier winter months. A little goes a very long way with this product, so this jar could probably last you almost a year.
Other notable creams:
- Mizon All In One Snail Repair Cream: $16.90
- Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream: $15.00
- Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Cream: $16.93
- Innisfree Orchid Intense Cream: $18.90
- Etude House Moistfull Collagen Cream: $12.91
How to use all of the above: If product is in a jar, scoop a dime-sized amount with a clean cotton swab and pat into the face until product is absorbed.
Optional Step: Nighttime Mask
Sometimes your skin is in turmoil and you just know you need to do a little something extra to help it. When we sleep, our body works hard to regenerate and heal itself in every department, and your skin is no exception to that. Incorporating an extra step during your slumber can help boost your skin’s ability to repair itself.
My favorite sleeping mask: Laneige’s Water Sleeping Mask is something I have been using for years. Each time I use this mask I can see a huge difference in my skin when I wake up. My skin tone is much more even and the texture is extremely soft. This mask also claims to have calming properties that aid in sleep. I’m not sure how solid this claim is, but I’ll never forget the first time I put this on and immediately passed out in bed. I think it may have been the light floral smell… or perhaps just the long day I had at work.
How to use: When your skin is suffering or if you’re prepping for a huge event, use this the day before. After your moisturizer is fully absorbed, massage in a pea-sized amount of this mask right over your moisturizer until your skin soaks it up. Since it functions as an extra layer that seals in everything underneath, you don’t want to lay it on too thick and suffocate your skin. Leave it on overnight and then rinse off in the morning, followed with a moisturizer.
Other notable sleeping masks:
Step 10: Sunscreen
Sun exposure is the #1 cause of physical aging in the skin, and is something that is also avoidable. Aside from wearing hats or staying out of the sun completely, sunscreen not only helps you age slower but also helps slow down the process of hyper pigmentation. Did you ever notice that after a day in the sun, your dark spots look even darker? The sun acts like glue to pigment and makes it harder for the spots to fade.
My favorite sunscreen: Biore’s Aqua Rich Sunscreen is a very lightweight sunscreen that feels as thin as an essence. It dries to a matte finish, and I absolutely love this because it’s hard to find a sunscreen that doesn’t feel greasy or look shiny. Not only is the texture lightweight, but it has a huge amount of SPF and PA. SPF only protects from UVB rays, whereas PA protects from UVA rays. And you see those +’s? That’s actually a PA ranking: the more +’s the better. Just like SPF’s number: the higher, the better.
How to use: Apply all over face, neck, and all other areas exposed to sun. Reapply every 2 hours – no ingredient remains active all day!
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Other notable sunscreens:
- The Face Shop Natural Sun Eco Sebum Control SPF 40 PA+++: $14.56
- MISSHA All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk SPF 50+/PA+++: $13.96
- Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun SPF45/PA+++: $8.50
- Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++: $15.00
- A’Pieu Pure Block Natural Sun Cream SPF45/PA+++: $6.50
- Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+ / PA+++: $9.95
Optional Step: BB Cream
If you’re an avid make-up lover and can’t seem to put the foundation down, a BB cream is a great alternative to take care of your skin while getting the coverage you need. BB creams serve as a foundation with hydrating and brightening effects and can also double as a sunscreen. While BB and CC creams have made their debut in America, Korean-brand BB creams have still remained superior to their American counterparts.
Fun fact: Many BB creams have a limited selection of colors, but that’s because they actually change color to match your skin. They may appear gray at first, but give it some time and some window light and the product will oxidize.
My favorite BB cream: MISSHA’s M Perfect Cover BB Cream is my all-time favorite BB cream. Not only is this formula hydrating (which is rare in a foundation), but the coverage is buildable due to its opaque color. You can apply it using your fingers for a natural look, or you can use a foundation brush for medium to full coverage. The second reason why I like this BB cream is that this line has colors in the deeper tonal range, something that most Korean BB creams don’t bother with – east Asians have very fair skin, so Asian manufacturers don’t see a need to formulate darker color options.
How to use: Pump a small amount onto the back of your hand, and using either your finger or foundation brush, apply it to the face as you would with a foundation. I personally like using my finger and blending it over dark spots for a more natural look. Give it time to oxidize, and then set with powder.
Other notable BB creams:
- Etude House Precious Mineral BB Cream Moist: $13.50
- Holika Holika Aqua Petit Jelly BB Cream: $7.99
- Missha M BB Boomer: $9.49
- Skin79 Super+ BB Triple Function Hot Pink: $17.96
- Skin79 Super+ BB VIP Gold Label: $17.96
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15 Total Products: $155.12
*Note: All prices and stock are subject to change.
If you had to average this total out, you’d be looking at about $10.34 per product, which is very reasonable. Also remember: you may not even need all of these products. With the choices between treatment masks, sheet masks, sleeping masks, to essences, serums and ampoules, and emulsions, gels, and creams, it’s probably safe to say that you’d walk away spending less than $100 on products that you actually need.
I used to shell out hundreds of dollars at Sephora, and now I’m spending far less and getting even better results. Everyone’s got their tried-and-true beauty staples, but sometimes those products aren’t worth the heavy prices. Will you be trying out Korean beauty? Let us know in the comments below!
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Whoa. I LOVE this article. I’ve just recently began researching Korean skincare products, but felt overwhelmed by the steps (weren’t explained as clearly), and the cost ($$$ :'( ). After all my research I felt I could only treat myself to one step from the regime and bought a Missha essence that I paired with my current Lush cleanser…. However…. I really wanted to try way more Korean care products! So in conclusion THANK YOU. Your article is a godsend, and I can’t wait to level up my skincare ritual!!
I love this article! Because it’s so informative Wirth reviews and price, I’m more likely to go and try something new with my face. I’ve always been washing my face with regular body soap, but now adays I’m learning so much more for what best for my skin. thanks!
Korean and Japanese skincare have always been my favorite. I discovered them when I went to Japan a few years ago and I never changed my routine since!
I’m obsessed too! What are your staples? I’m always open to finding new products! I haven’t tried much of Japanese skincare but I’ve tried out a few haircare products and love them!
What Japanese haircare products do you use? and what were your results?
I had no idea there was so many steps to a skincare regimen! The Korean skincare items intrigue me, and I want to try some of these items.
Korean regimens are definitely a lot more extensive that the traditional skincare routine which would be 1- cleanser, 2- occasional scrub, 3- occasional mask. 4- toner. 5- moisturize. Asian beauty methods are far more extensive but that’s why most Asian women have very youthful skin even in more mature ages!
This is absolutely amazing! I am going to refer to this post many times! I have slept with my make up on in pure exhaustion! Ugh — I need to remember to give my lovely skin LOVE! I would love to try everything out there!
xo Debbie | http://www.tothineownstylebetrue.com
Agreed, our skin needs love! I have definitely been slacking on my skin routine, big no-no haha. Time to get back on this routine!
I dont wear much makeup and only use cleansing water before washing my face. Do i need to change to cleansing oil? I hv combination to oily skin
If you don’t wear much makeup and have oily skin, you might not need a cleansing oil. Cleansing oils are great for congested pores and makeup wearers, but you can live without it!
Omg you are truly amazing ! Thank you so much! You shed a light to my newly korean skin care regime!
Its hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what youre talking about! Thanks
My current skin care routine includes the following:
1. Dove beauty soap (I don’t wear makeup so i only need a gentle soap)
2. Human Nature Strawberry face scrub
2. GT Witch Hazel Toner
3. It’s skin Li effector Serum (I’m not sure which goes first, serum or my spot corrector; i go with my gut cause my spot corrector is on the creamy side so maybe the serum will not absorb well if applied after this)
4. Spot corrector
5. Boomdeahdah Lemon lime Face mask
6. Sooayeon aloe vera soothing gel
7. Pond’s moisturizing cream
8. COSRX rice sleeping mask (for night time)
9. Sensé daily protective emulsion spf 15 (for daytime)
10. Beauty Bakery witch hazel mist (I do this for every step)
Please help if this is the correct order. I go from less oily products (more watery) and build up towards the creamier ones.
Hi Mia! Seems like you have a lot of moisturizing products going on – do you normally have dry skin or do you feel you have a bit of congestion?
I would avoid the Pond’s cold cream as it contains mineral oil and is highly comedogenic. At the most you could use it as a makeup remover, but I don’t recommend to use it as a leave-on moisturizer.
Also, I would use the Lemon Lime face mask after toning because leaving that mask on will move your spot corrector around. For the most part, your routine looks good!
Of course, I’ve found this post AFTER I bought a whole bunch of stuff on both Amazon and Soko Glam. LOL. But the Black Friday sales on Soko Glam were too enticing.
Anyway, it turns out I’ve bought several of the things you’ve mentioned, and I’m going to bookmark this post so I can get back to it when I want to try other products. I kind of stocked up (40% off all Missha stuff and 30% of everything else – I sure hope I like it all, haha), so I’m not going to NEED anything for a while, but I like variety. I have an acquaintance that’s been trying to sell me a Rodan & Fields regimen for a while now, and she’d be super pissed to find out I’ve actually spent more than what I told her was too much (for like 4-5 products only, and you can’t swap things out). Ha. But I’ve been approximating the regimen as best I can with the random things in my house (I imagine that Noxema isn’t the best swap for an oil cleanser, but I’ve been double cleansing with that and a Vitamin C foaming cleanser that Ofra accidentally sent me and I got to keep for free, exfoliating with a washcloth or scrub…then using food grade rose water to tone, a cheap hyaluronic acid serum, the occasional sheet mask, moisturizer, and sunscreen, etc.) and my skin is already softer and less red. When I skip the skin care, it’s obvious. If I’m really lazy and have no makeup on, I try to at least swipe my face with a cotton pad soaked in micellar water cleanser and then do the toner, serum, and moisturizer, and that seems to be okay in a pinch.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have no clue what’s really working unless I’m scientific about it, changing or adding one product at a time, but I’ll probably be too impatient! Thanks again for this excellent post!
I recently went to Choc Choc in Chicago and purchased some of the products listed. I am in love with the price and quality. I did purchase a Klair’s serum and a Dr. Jart mask. They are popular k-products and I’m wondering if you had any tips or experience with them. I’m half Korean and I was buying so much stuff at Sephora, I wish I would of listened to my mother earlier.(on a lot of things) Also I’ve seen some products with honey, so you have any advice on how they might work?
Yay, Liz! Glad you loved the recommendations! I’ve heard great things about Klairs but haven’t tried any of their products out. As for Dr. Jart, it’s a little more expensive but definitely effective! However, if you’re on a tighter budget, there are definitely other brands that work just as well (a lot of the products I’ve already listed in this post, for instance!).
Regarding honey, I love honey-based products! A lot of Korean acne products use propolis extract (from honeycombs) as it has great anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that are perfect for healing acne without drying it out or stripping it! Mizon’s Mark X Blemish After Cream is less than $6 and contains propolis extract – it’s my go-to for pimples!
OMG! I just purchased everything in this blog! I did a lot of research about Korean Skin Care and I came up to this! However, some of the products are out of stock so I chose other options you provided. 🙂
1. The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Light Oil
2. Cosrx Low Ph Good Morning Gel Cleanser
3. Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Exfoliator
4. Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask
5. Skin Food Peach Sake Toner
6. Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
7. Centella Blemish Ampule
8. Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Lotion
9. Mizon All In One Snail Repair Cream
10. MISSHA M Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF42 PA+++
I would like to know if BB Cream can serve as a sunscreen? Or should I purchase sunscreen?
I ordered everything online through ALTHEA and I LOVE their packaging! <3
I am still waiting for the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and Centella Blemish Ampule to arrive to start my Korean Skincare. Can't wait! So excited!
BTW, I have sensitive skin. Hope this will work!
Hey Shim! Yes, BB creams can serve as a sunscreen since they normally have a really high SPF compared to most foundations that have around SPF15-30. I just recommend sunscreen for people who want sun protection on no-makeup days. 🙂
I’m sure this will work for your sensitive skin! Email me if it doesn’t!
OMG. This is exactly what i was lookin’ for! Great help. Thanks for the article.
I read this blog and I found it to be very informative.
I wanted to ask, if you also have any recommendations for men? Like I don’t want to have to apply too many steps. But maybe one or two most important type of products?
Thank you very much!
Hi Don! I would say at least go with the cleanser, toner and moisturizer. These are the must-have skincare staples 🙂
cool..though i am often confused on when to use the masks since most masks often states to tone your skin first before using the mask..either way..thanks for the info on this.
It depends on what kind of mask you are using. For sheet masks you would use after rinsing, exfoliating (if applicable) and toning, because after you remove the sheet mask you do not rinse off the serum that is left behind and would proceed with moisturizing. If you’re using a clay-based mask or any other kind of mask that needs to be rinsed off, then you would use your toner after masking.
Hope that clears it up!
would be interested to know what products above are best for dry sensitive skin.
Is the 10-step routine meant to be used both morning and night?
Hi Anna! I suggest doing the full 10-step regimen only in the evening, since your sebaceous glands are resting when you sleep and will not interface with the absorption of product. Here’s the morning regimen I suggest that everyone do: https://www.theballeronabudget.com/2017/01/01/battling-oily-skin/
Hello! I was wondering if I could get advice on my skin care products. My current skin care routine consists of:
Cleanser: Dr. Bronners Eucalyptus Castile soap and Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser mixed together on facial towel
Toner: Thayers Witch Hazel used with cotton pad
Serum: Clarins Double Serum (pat on)
Moisturizer: Clarins Multi-Active Jour SPF 20
Night mask: Derma-E Vitamin C Intense Night Cream
Occasional: Lush Mask of Magniminty, L’Oreal Detox Mask, Vitamin E oil, Tea tree oil for pimples
According to your quiz I have balanced skin, I also get an oil t-zone from midday forward. My primary skin concerns are rosacea, acne scars/ dark spots and the occasional pimple. I feel there is room for improvement in my regime, so I was wondering if you had any tips on changing the order of things, changing products, or adding products. Thank you <3
Hello! I was wondering if I could get some advice on my skin care products. My current skin care routine consists of:
Makeup remover (usually just mascara): Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water
Cleanser: Mix of Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser and Dr.Bronners Eucalyptus Castile Soap on a Facial towel
Toner: Thayers Witch hazel on a cotton pad
Serum: Clarins Double Serum ( I sometimes mix with Vitamin E oil or Rosehip oil)
Moisturizer: Clarins Multi Active Jour SPF 20 or Neutrogena Hydroboost when I’m not going to be in the sun
Occasional: Lush Mask of Magniminty, L’Oreal Detox Mask, tea tree oil for pimples
According to your quiz I have balance skin, I also get really oily on my tzone when I’m outside closer to midday. My primary skin concerns are rosacea, acne scars/dark spots and the occasional pimple. I feel my regime has room for improvement and I was wondering if you think I should change products, change order, or add products. Thank you <3
I’d say if you’re worried about dark spots and acne scars, definitely pick up a sunscreen to prevent the spots from darkening – I listed my favorite budget-friendly ones here: https://www.theballeronabudget.com/2017/07/04/5-benefits-of-sunscreen/
To lighten the spots I’d definitely suggest swapping the tea tree oil for lemon oil and mixing it into your serum for even distribution across the face. I personally love Edens Garden oils as they’re therapeutic-grade and much more affordable than DoTerra and Young Living since they don’t use distributors. https://www.theballeronabudget.com/2017/10/05/6-affordable-essential-oils-and-5-diy-recipes-to-boost-your-skincare-regimen/
I’d stay away from the Dr.Bronners Castile Soap as it’s really stripping and not specifically formulated for the face. The face has a different pH level than the skin on the rest of your body.
MORNING only toner : clear skin avon, sea breeze or witch hazel
weekly mask, alternate with clay (queen halene mint) and charcaol peel mask, then aloe gel like ‘after sun’
once mid week, exfoliate weekly , then aloe gel like ‘after sun’
daily ,except days of mask and exfoliate , cold creme like noxema no moisturizer
I just started this routine yesterday and I had question about Step 4 the optional treatment mask. I bought the Pink Piggy Carbonated Clay Mask and used it after exfoliation, but noticed immediately that my skin began to burn and was very irritated after this use, which only lasted one minute before I had to wash it off. I tried again tonight, by doing the clay bubbling mask before using my cleanser and noticed the burning sensation was much more tolerable. I have combination skin, but it’s not very sensitive, I was wondering if I need to continue using the mask before exfoliation or if the burning sensation was some sort of issue caused by my own improper use of products? Also, this is a great article, thank you!
How rough was your exfoliant? If I use an abrasive scrub or liquid exfoliant that’s too strong sometimes any mask I put on my face will sting. I think the carbonation could also be exacerbating the burning sensation so maybe wait a day or 2 after you exfoliate and then use this mask!
Currently, I’m using the Skinfood Strawberry Black Sugar Mask.
Hi.i was wondering if you know any korean product for face pigmentation?trying for 10 years to get rid of them so i am trying korean products that are suitable for sensitive and pigmented skin.thank you
The Mizon Snail Ampoule is great for hyperpigmentation. I also recommend a sunscreen to prevent any future hyperpigmentation. My favorite ones are listed here: https://www.theballeronabudget.com/2017/07/04/5-benefits-of-sunscreen/
Hi there! . I love your blog and the info it provides is super helpful. I am based in India and K-beauty products have just made a splash recently. I have tried a few and am in LOOOOOVE with K- beauty. I curretly use the Klairs Freshly juiced Vit C serum and the Klairs midnight blue caming cream as part of my night time routine. I have two queries for you and I am so hoping that you can answer them. 1: Would it be safe to wash my face with the Corsx goodmorning gel cleanser in the morning since it contains BHAs and I’ve read that BHAs and Vit C are not supposed to be used together( i do not use the Vit C serum as part of my morning regime) and 2: Is the Mizon snail repair Ampoule safe to be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I am currently 7 months pregnant. Please do advise n help. Thank you once again for all the info you have shared n all the very best to you on your beauty journey.
Hi JeAnne! I wouldn’t recommend doing both an acid and vitamin C as it might make your skin a bit more sensitive than usual. I would definitely stick to vitamin C for your nighttime regimen only, especially since daytime use might result in sunburn from sun exposure.
I’ve never read about the Mizon snail ampoule having a contraindication with pregnant women and would assume it safe since there are no abrasive or harsh chemical ingredients that force your skin to shed – it simply nourishes your skin to produce more fresh skin cells and retain moisture. I would be more wary of using acids or vitamin C during pregnancy since they’re chemical exfoliants, but usually anything under 2% is fine. However, I do recommend better safe than sorry and perhaps consider a manual exfoliation (scrub or microdermabrasion – my fav recipe: https://www.theballeronabudget.com/2019/02/20/diy-skincare-2-ingredient-microdermabrasion-scrub-fresh-aveda-inspired/) until you deliver.
Of course, I am not a doctor, so please keep in mind that if these are serious causes for concern to bring this up with your doctor.
Love this. Wish there were bb creams for black people but that’s expected.
Korean beauty products are famous all over the world for their quality and results. Thanks you for shairng the post.
Hi there! I’m in the middle of my first week of trying this regimen (with some product substitutions) and I love it! I haven’t had excess oil, my breakouts have been contained, and my face feels amazing!
One thing I really struggle with is ingrown hairs on my chin – I unfortunately have a lot of difficult facial hair, and while I never really have issues removing hair from my lip, I constantly get ingrown and angry red bumps when I pluck or wax my chin no matter how well I exfoliate before or clean after.
I know you went back and updated this post to include a spot treatment, so I was wondering if there are any Korean products that might help treat ingrown hairs? Or even better, will I see a reduction in ingrown hairs if I stick with a skincare regimen?
So glad to hear that your skin has improved! Ingrown hairs are similar to clogged pores in that there is a lot of dead skin cells at the surface which does not allow the hair a clean exit route, so it winds up curling back into the skin. You’re on the right track with exfoliating but have you tried a chemical instead of manual (scrubbing and waxing)? Any kind of light-grade peel like a pumpkin, salicylic acid, lactic acid or enzyme peel can help melt away the dead skin cells that are sitting inside the pore that scrubs and waxes may not be able to reach. I would definitely consider trying a salicylic treatment pad like Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine. It’s a little on the pricier side (it’s Korean), but if you’re not particular on Korean or not, Clearasil Rapid Action pads are less than $10 and work just as well!
I haven’t tried any chemical exfoliation but that should probably be my next move! Thank you for the Korean and “budget” suggestions!
Omg, just came back to say I picked up a container of Aveeno Clear Complexion Daily Cleansing Pads and used one last night and I can already see a HUGE difference in redness reduction on my chin.
You are an absolute lifesaver and this post has changed my life ❤