Admit it. Whenever we see a Korean up close, we can’t help but be extremely jealous of their bright and dewy complexion. Even though they were born with it (another reason to make us even more envious), the way they maintain their skin and the trouble they go through just to take care of it has become a frustration of many.
Lately, people all over the world are obsessed with their rigid routine. While most of us give up after putting on at least two products on our face and would rather give in to the warmth of the bed calling, Koreans religiously follow a strict process popularly known as the “10-step Korean skincare regimen.”
Thanks to the genius that is Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam and author of The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin, we are now able to debunk their secrets to looking as young and fresh as celebrities like Song Hye Kyo and Kim Tae Hee (we wish!).
Warning: Do not try this if you don’t have enough patience. This could take a long time.
STEP 1: Remove Your Makeup and Cleanse
Sometimes after a long day, we just want to hit the sack and rest. But Koreans think otherwise. They believe that the first step to getting flawless skin is by treating it right. You need to get all that gunk off your face—dirt, dust, and makeup—by using a makeup remover.
What about the stubborn, waterproof kind you say? Don’t rub. Use an oil-based cleanser with a cotton pad and massage it all over your dry face and neck to break the makeup. Then add a splash of lukewarm water to emulsify and massage again to rinse out everything. Remember: avoid tugging on your skin or wiping vigorously.
- Innisfree Olive Real Cleansing Tissue
- Banila Co Clean it Zero Cleanser
- DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
- Etude House Real Art Cleansing Oil
STEP 2: Use a Water-Based Cleanser
Yep. We’re not yet through with cleansing. This two-step cleansing method involves washing your face with a water-based cleanser to remove any residue of your oil cleanse as well as the impurities that come with it. Always use gentle, circular strokes with your fingers to thoroughly massage your face. It has been said that Koreans believe that massaging the face increases circulation, which equals brighter skin.
- Tea Tree Balancing Foaming Cleanser
- The Face Shop Rice Water Cleansing Oil
- Nature Republic Soothing & Moisture Aloe Vera Foam Cleanser
- NEOGEN Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser
STEP 3: Exfoliate
Want a skin so smooth that’s hard to resist? Exfoliating is an important step to remove the dead skin cells, thus making it easier for your pores to absorb the other skincare products you put on your face. It’s recommended that you do this twice a week. Make sure to focus on your t-zone or where there are tons of blackheads.
- Skinfood Black Sugar Mask
- RE:P Bio Fresh Mask with Real Calming Herb
- CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
- Primera Facial Mild Peeling
- Skinfood Coffee Body Scrub
STEP 4: Prep Your Skin with Toners
Koreans call these “refreshers” since a toner helps balance your skin’s pH levels by hydrating. Compared to other harsh toners that most of us are used to, Korean products are usually on the milder side. Through the process of “toning,” your skin will be prepped and soothed so it can well absorb the next step, which is the essence.
You can sprinkle a little on your hands and tap directly onto your skin or you can use a cotton pad to evenly wipe your face and neck. Experts say that you should think of your skin like a sponge: it’s more difficult to rehydrate it when it’s dried up and hardened than when it’s already a bit damp.
- SON & PARK Beauty Water
- Missha Time Revolution Clear Toner
- Etude House 10-in-1 Wonder Pore Freshner
- Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence
- Skin Food Peach Sake Toner
STEP 5: It’s All About the Essence
People have labeled this the “heart of the Korean skincare routine,” “an integral step,” or the “miracle worker” for one’s skin. Why the hype? An essence functions as a toner and serum hybrid created to hydrate your skin and aid its repair and cell turnover. It gives a whole new meaning to the saying “glowing from within” as it speeds up the cell turnover rate to make your skin smoother and brighter. Sounds amazing, right? Apply the product directly on your freshly toned skin with the use of your hands then pat afterwards.
- Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence
- Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence
- ENATURE Birch Juice Hydro Essence Skin
- Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence
- Skin Food Royal Honey Propolis Essence
STEP 6: The Serum, the Booster, and the Ampoule
As cool as these sound, they also work wonders. They are meant to address specific issues such as wrinkles, acne, pigmentation, brightening, and pore-refining. Otherwise known as the more concentrated version of an essence, these are the treatment products your skin needs. Itching to have a flawless complexion? This skin-perfecting step is just what you need.
- Missha Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule
- RE:P Nutrinature Ultra Moist Gel
- COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
- Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum
- Skin Inc. Collagen Serum Elasticity and Suppleness
STEP 7: Put on Sheet Masks
Some people love this part since aside from your face feeling refreshed and hydrated, you can lie down and rest for 15-20 minutes while waiting for your skin to absorb this product. Assess your skin’s problems and use a sheet mask at least twice a week. However, if your skin is a bit dry, use it more often. Koreans are known to do this daily (or twice a day). Talk about dedication! No wonder they have extremely enviable skin.
Into the Gloss explains its secret: “They force your skin to absorb the nutrients and moisture better than if you just applied a cream or serum—before the product has a chance to evaporate. The immediate effects are addicting, after one use your face is slightly more plump and much brighter due to all the moisture your skin just absorbed.”
- MANEFIT Natural Gift Green Tea Pore Care Sheet Mask
- MISSHA Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Hydro Gel Mask
- Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Sheet Mask
- Skin Food Real Tea Gel Mask – Rose
STEP 8: Dab on Eye Cream
It’s an age-old beauty tip that has been passed down to generations. Even my mother always tells me this. The skin around your eyes is the most sensitive and delicate skin on your face so you should always be gentle with it. No wonder my hand gets swatted whenever I rub my eyes.
Eye creams are extremely helpful in providing the much-needed hydration and protection. When applying, tap or dab—I repeat, never rub—cream around your entire eye area. Make sure to avoid the water line.
- Etude House Moistfull Collagen Eye Cream
- ERBORIAN Seve de Bamboo Eye Matte
- Skin Food Royal Honey Eye Cream
- Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream
- Missha Misa Cho Bo Yang Eye Cream
STEP 9: Pack on the Moisture
Moisturize—a cardinal rule that most experts swear by. Even after you’ve layered on so many different products (trust us, it’s worth it), hydration is the key to dewy, supple, youthful glowing skin. Make sure to find the moisturizer that works best for your skin type by reading reviews and descriptions since it matters a lot if you want protection. They also come in different forms like an emulsion, lotion, gel or cream.
Pat the moisturizer all over your face and neck during the morning and again in the evening. Soko Glam recommends that you should substitute creams with a sleeping pack once a week to wake up with revitalized and fully hydrated skin.
- Etude House Moistfull Collagen Emulsion
- Skin Food Royal Honey Essential Queen’s Cream
- Goodal Anti-Wrinkle Sleep Cream Pack
- COSRX Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream
- Missha Cell Renew Snail Cream
STEP 10: Protect Your Skin from the Sun
We’re pretty sure you’ve heard the timeless advice of applying sunscreen before you leave the house (even if it’s just for a few minutes). As icky and gooey as it feels on your skin, this is an important step to protect you from the rays of the sun.
Apply every morning and reapply throughout the day as needed. Your skin will thank you for shielding it from the harmful effects of the UV rays. Did you know that too much exposure to the sun without protection causes premature aging and worse, skin cancer? You gotta smear lots of SPF if you don’t want to regret in the end.
- Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF 42 PA+++
- NEOGEN Day-Light Protection Sun Screen
- Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk
- Innisfree Eco Safety No Sebum Sunblock
- Missha Signature Essence Cushion