Your Ultimate Guide to the Korean 10 Step Skincare Routine
If you are new to the K-Beauty world, we have created a simple guide below to get you familiar with the basics of the Korean Skincare routine. We know "10 Steps" sounds a bit daunting for beginners, so we have broken it down into 4 simple foundations - cleanse, prep, nourish and protect.
The "10 Step" method has been tested and proven for decades in South Korea and has now become a huge trend in the western world because of its benefits. Don't worry you don't have to follow the "10 Step" everyday, what’s important is that you understand the purpose of each step, then select and choose depending on your personal skin needs.
Let’s walk through each of the steps in this routine, explaining what they do, why they are important and how they can improve your skin.
So, “what is the Korean 10 Step Routine” you ask?
To make things easier to understand, I usually break it down into 4 parts.
- Cleanse: This includes Step 1. & Step 2. - Oil Cleanse & Water based cleanse.
- Prep: This includes Step 3. & Step 4. - Exfoliate & Tone.
- Nourish: This includes Step 5., Step 6. & Step 7. - Essence, Treatment & Sheet Mask.
- Treat: This includes Step 8., Step 9. & Step 10. - Eye Cream, Moisturiser & SPF/Nightcream
Step 1. Oil Cleanse
Start your routine by using an oil based cleanser. Oil based cleansers are used first for your double cleanse.
You can choose between an oil based liquid or solid - simply massage the oil cleanser into the skin, this will remove oil based makeup and draw out other impurities, such as sebum spf and pollution.
A cult favorite in Oil Cleansing and one of our bestsellers is the Balina Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm - Original. It melts off stubborn makeup seamlessly without stripping your skin of its natural oils, it naturally exfoliates and brightens with vitamin C-rich acerola extract. It's super easy to use - using the spatula provided, simply scoop a small amount and massage balm over dry skin, concentrating on eye and lip makeup. Add a splash of lukewarm water to emulsify into a milky texture. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry
Another favorite is the Mamonde Micro Deep Cleansing Oil unlike the solid form of Balina Co. Clean it Zero, The Mamonde Deep Cleansing Oil is in a liquid form. What form of oil cleanser you use it entirely up to personal preference. Personally, I like using both forms,
The Mamonde Micro Deep Cleansing Oil is a deep cleaning oil that removes impurities in your pores to the deepest of makeup. It contains natural oils to deeply cleanse and is 7 FREE of Animal raw materials, mineral oil, imidazolidinyl urea, triethanolamine, silicone oil, tar pigment, sulfate surfactant and It will softly erase even the fragile eye.
You can view all of our Oil Cleansers here.
Step 2. Water Cleanse
Water Cleanser is the second step in your Korean Skincare Routine. Aestheticians and dermatologists recommend double cleansing because it thoroughly cleans the skin and removes impurities that cause nasty breakouts.The water base cleanse will remove any impurities that the oil cleanser cannot remove.
One thing to keep an eye out for when choosing a Water Based Cleanser is pH Level. A good rule of thumb is to choose a cleanser with a low pH level.The natural pH level of your skin falls between 4.5 and 5.5 on the pH scale where 0 is the most acidic, 7 is neutral and 14 is the most alkaline.
That means our skin is on the acidic side. The reason skin is naturally a bit acidic is that it serves as the body’s first defense mechanism against foreign elements. Acidity serves to keep allergens, bacteria, wind, and pollutants out while keeping moisture in. When the pH level is affected—be it by UV light, pollution, or a beauty product—your skin can become dry and flaky, or inflamed. So, If your face feels too tight after you wash it, that’s not a clean feeling – that means your cleanser’s pH is too high.
Low pH Cleansers we love!
Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam EX The thick, smooth gel produces a generous amount of lather with a soft and gentle scent. it leaves my face soothed, clean, and comfortably hydrated. This cleansing foam gently removes dead skin cells without overstimulating the skin, leaving behind a layer of moisture for a clean and smooth base. The cleansing foam is made with botanical ingredients including duckweed and extracts harvested from the delicate inner shells of chestnuts, this foam cleanses the skin while leaving a deep moisture layer and a relaxed and smooth feeling that lasts long after cleansing.
Like the title suggests this cleanser comes at a very optimal pH level of 6.5 which is very close to the skin’s natural pH level, leaving no room for irritation. This cleanser contains Madecassoside and Panthenol very high up in the ingredient list. Madecassoside is a molecule derived from Centella Asiatica which promotes wound healing, alleviates inflammation and has anti-oxidant properties. Panthenol on the other side is used in skincare as a humectant, which means it has the ability to attract and hold moisture.
View all our water cleansers here
Step 3. Exfoliate
Exfoliating regularly helps clean pores, remove dead skin cells and allows other products in your routine to penitrate into the skin layers. Exfoliators come in two forms - Physical & Chemical. Physical means to manually exfoliate the skin, this can involve using a product with small grains, micro beads etc. or using a brush. Chemical exfoliators use either AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) or BHA’s (Beta Hydroxy Acids)
What we recommend
Mamonde Aqua Peel Peeling Gel This exfoliating, yet moisturizing gel that removes deal skin cells.The apricot formula soaks built-up dead skin cells, and enzymes from plants to help with skin turn-over and to effectively remove dead skin cells for clearer looking skin. The plum blossom component delivers rich nourishment and moisture to exfoliated skin to keep the skin hydrated. It contains an AHA component effective for exfoliation to remove built-up dead skin cells.
Another bestseller at Sister Seoul contains natural Salicylic Acid that presents you with a clearer complexion as it exfoliates dead skin cells and removes impurities left inside pores. Bija seeds are a rare ingredient that can only be used after they have survived 20 years in the wild. Its hardy properties gently smooth skin and enhance the skin's natural defense system.
View all exfoliants here.
Step 4. Toner
After your double cleanse and exfoliating, your skin can be in a fragile state. This is the time to bring back the moisture with a hydrating toner. Toner also helps to prep the skin so to it will absorb the following treatments better.
Toners we love
Mamonde Rose Water Toner Our K-Beauts just can not get enough of this toner, why? Because, it is the ultimate hydrating toner! Formulated with extracts from 100% organic Damask rose, the multi-tasking liquid calms and moisturizes as it tones and preps the skin for the rest of your routine. The rose extract is sourced from flowers that are hand-picked at dawn, when it offers the most hydrating and soothing benefits.
For a more intense treatment, saturate cotton pads with the formula and place on top of skin like a sheet mask. Mamonde Rose Water Toner is also a perfect hydrating toner to use for the 7 Skin Method.
View all our toners here.
Step 5. Essence
Essences are the heart of the Korean skincare routine. They're lightweight but packed with concentrated hydrating, anti-aging, and complexion-enhancing ingredients.
Hera Cell Essence contains five secret codes that activate the skin – minerals, amino acids, lipids, sugars and peptides, and HERA grafted Cell-Bio Fluid Sync™, which mimics body fluid in cosmetics. Cell-Bio Fluid Sync™ is the most important technology found in HERA CELL ESSENCE, an innovation that helps make the skin clear and smooth.
CELL ESSENCE makes the skin feel smooth and look radiant overnight. Cell-Bio Fluid Sync™ is formulated with the principle of body fluid to deliver the all-day energy the skin needs.
Primera Miacle Seed Essence This Miracle Seed Essence is a bestseller in Korea and is made of 93.1% Lotus Seed Extract, which is known to contain high levels of amino acids and linoleic acid which moisturize skin. This watery essence improves skin texture by hydrating skin leaving it plump and even, helps create more translucent skin, and tones skin. It comes with a stack of super fluffy and luxurious organic cotton pads so you can gently apply the essence to your skin. The bottle even comes with markers that show you exactly how much essence you should be using so that you can get the most impact from one bottle.
Hanyul Rice Essential Skin Softner Picked for multiple beauty awards in Korea, the Hanyul Rice Essential Skin Softener is a deeply moisturizing toner/essence that revitalizes and nourishes skin. Brightening niacinamide and skin-smoothing Yeoju rice ferment make this favorite toner truly skin-softening.
Laneige Time Freeze Essence the Anti-aging ingredients extracted from ceratonia siliqua fruit and hibiscus abelmoschus seed have an effect on the skin to improve elasticity thus making your skin look younger.
Hyaluronic Bouncing Water is a key moisturizing ingredient and specializes in elasticity, not only by providing rough and dry skin with moisture, but also holding moisture and elasticity with Skin Fit Up™ technology.
View all essences here.
Step 6. Treatments/Apoules, Serums
Feeling overwhelmed yet? If so, this is a perfect time to stress that even though the Korean beauty routine is famous for having 10 steps, there’s nothing wrong with doing less. Typically serums and ampoules come next in the lineup, but if you feel your skin has had enough? Feel free to skip them, only you know what works best for your face.
These products are formulated with active ingredients that target specific needs by skin type, such as fine lines, loss of firmness, hyperpigmentation and dehydration. You can customize your regimen here, adding or removing products as you see fit. You can use them in any order, but generally thicker, more viscous products go on later.
View all serum/ampoules here.
Step 7. Sheet Masks
The purpose of your mask depends on what your skin needs. Hydrating sheet masks are most common but you can also choose one for brightening that may be packed with vitamin C. This is not an every-night step, you really only need to do it once or twice a week.
Sheet masks originate from South Korea and they are the soul of the Korean skincare routine. Sheet masks are soaked in concentrated serums or essences, which consist of many beneficial ingredients such as vitamins, minerals and hyaluronic acid. Sheet masks prevent quick evaporation of water phase and extent the time frame needed for the beneficial ingredients to penetrate deep into the skin.
Some of our favorite Sheet Masks
Step 8. Eye Cream
The skin around your eyes is thinner and more easily dehydrated, so it should be treated with a cream specifically formulated to protect, nourish, brighten or de-puff.
Using the ring finger is the best way as it uses the correct amount of pressure rather than your pointer finger, which is bound to push harder since it’s used more often. The skin around the eyes really is that sensitive! It also dries out easily, so layering your eye cream in cold months is not a bad idea either. One trend among celebrities in South Korea is to wear eye cream as a night moisturiser all over the face.
Our favorite eye creams
This eye cream is intensely hydrating. It contains natural bilberry extracts that alleviate stress in skin around the eyes and provide moisturizing effects that can last up to 24 hours
View all our eye creams here.
Step 9. Moisturise
A moisturiser is designed for your skin type creates a barrier that will lock in all the beneficial ingredients you’ve just applied, instead of letting them evaporate out of your skin.
There are many moisturisers out there. Thick moisturisers are great for people like myself who suffer h dry skin. Someone with normal skin may opt for a lighter moisturiser. Oily skin types tent to have difficulty finding the right moisturiser as they often struggle with clogged pores. My advice would be to opt for a water based moisturiser as these do not contain oil and have a water base.
Great for the first signs of aging. Another one of our bestsellers and Great for the first signs of aging, the Bloomstay Vitalizing Cream contains the anti-oxidant energy from plum blossom with five germinated fruits and seeds, Yuzu, hardy orange to protect the skin from external stimuli and early signs of skin-aging.
Great for dehydrated skin and anti aging, The face cream works in several ways. Firstly, Etude House Moistfull Collagen Cream has a number of moisturising ingredients, like glycerin, to deliver hydration to the skin and boost the health of skin cells. Additionally, the cream contains hydrolyzed collagen, which tightens skin in the long term.
While this cream is soft, its contact on your skin is firm and hydrates your skin all day, leaving your skin healthy.
Great for anti-aging. Intensive moisturising and elasticity care cream for a supple and younger-looking skin with long-lasting elasticity.
Great for all skin types. Great hydration, without oilyness. This refreshing gel-cream moisturiser hydrates deep within skin to keep it soft from morning to night. Inspired by traditional Korean remedies handed down from mother to daughter, the mild but effective blend of locally grown medicinal herbs soothes skin and protects from damage and inflammation.
Shop here through our products to find the right routine for you x