The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine Explained: Steps, Tips & Results

One of the most trending topics in the world of skincare and beauty, the 10-step Korean skincare routine has been approved by dermatologists all around the world for its insane results.

With Korean skincare products beginning to show up in Western stores, this Korean beauty routine isn't going anywhere any time soon.

But can it work for you, or is it only effective on Korean skin?

And is it possible to create an affordable Korean skincare routine without having to ship dozens of expensive products from Asia?

Not only is it possible, but we've delved into the world of Asian skin secrets and brought back a no-nonsense, easy to follow breakdown of the Korean 10 step skincare routine for those of us who live elsewhere, with recommendations for different skin types and product substitutes to make it as easy to manage as possible.

Let's get into it!

What is the Korean Skincare Routine?

10 step korean skincare routine

Before breaking down the individual steps, let's take a look at what this revolutionary new Korean skin regimen is, and why it's become so popular so rapidly.

Asians and Koreans especially, have long been known for their smooth, clear skin, and cultural awareness of skincare has led to a boost in skincare products, routines and discussion across South Korea.

This has led to the Korean 10 step skincare regimen, which has exploded in popularity, first across South Korea and then across the entire world. On first arriving in the United States, the K-beauty routine appeared to be just another fad spurred on by the internet, but dermatologists quickly began swearing by its effectiveness, YouTubers began posting unbelievable before and after videos, and before long, this simple Korean skincare routine had become a global staple.

With the Korean skincare subreddit growing in popularity, and experts everywhere swearing by Korean skin care secrets, you should be curious to learn more.

But is it possible to build your own Korean face care routine with products from the West, and potentially a completely different skin type to the average Korean?

We'll answer all of these questions shortly, but first:

How Often Should I do the Korean Skincare Routine?

follow a korean skincare routine

The overall routine should be done every day, morning and night for the best results, but this isn't 100% necessary.

The exfoliation step should only be done 1-3 times per week to avoid damaging your skin, and the sheet mask step can be done as little as once per week and still be effective.

Everything else is best done daily though, and taking the time to practice adequate self-care each day will provide incredible results quicker than you might think.

Let's dive straight into our guide on how to follow a Korean facial regimen that may just transform your skin for good!

Korean Skincare Routine for Sensitive Skin

While different skin types and different product availability may convince you that a Korean skincare routine isn't necessarily for you, the one time this isn't the case is if you suffer from sensitive or dry skin.

Korean skin tends to sway towards the dry/sensitive side, so the 10 step routine is incredibly beneficial for that type of skin, thanks to the several layers of hydrating and protective product that need to be applied.

If you suffer from sensitive skin we highly recommend trying our snail essence cream or Niacinamide serum as they are some of the best and most protective skincare products available in the West.

If you want to take it even further though, and keep your skin highly protected and hydrated in the long term, read onwards, as there are no more effective skincare routines for dry, sensitive skin than the Korean 10 step:

What are the Korean Skincare Routine Steps?

These may change slightly depending on your own personalisations or skin type but this is the generally accepted Korean 10 step skin care list:

  1. Oil cleanser
  2. Foam/cream cleanser (these two steps make up the Korean double cleanse)
  3. Toner
  4. Emulsion
  5. Essence
  6. Serum/Ampoule
  7. Sheet Mask
  8. Eye Cream
  9. Moisturizer
  10. Sunblock/sun lotion

Step 1: Korean Double Cleansing

korean double cleanse

The Korean 10 step begins by cleaning your face twice, first with an oil cleanser and then with a foaming one. This is necessary because the two types of cleanser do slightly different things and you will need both to 100% remove all the grime and nasties from your face, which is a necessity for the rest of the Korean face routine.

You may be tempted to skip the oil cleanser if you have naturally oily skin, especially since Korean skin is rarely oily, but don't do this! Oil cleansers help to rebalance the oil content of your skin and are excellent for removing sebum and foreign pollutants.

For the second cleanse, you should aim for a cleanser with balance pH value (from 4.2 to 5.6 ideally). Cleansers that are overly acidic or overly alkaline can cause irritation and even acne. 

The Korean double cleanse is famous and a crucial starting point. Once your skin is nice and clean you have a good foundation ready for the following stages.

Let's carry on with our Korean skincare steps:

Step 2: Toner

korean skin toner

In the West, toners are incredibly harsh and damaging to the skin, compared to the Korean idea of what a toner is.

Whereas our toners are usually quite acidic and clean our skin by stripping off the outer layer, the best Korean toners cover your skin in a moisturising layer that protects against foreign bodies, balances the skin's pH level and helps to soften the skin's outer layer.

 As a result, purchasing a toner from your local store is probably a bad idea for this step, and we would recommend you either order a genuine Korean toner from the internet or use a product that has similar ingredients and gentle properties to Korean toners such as Niacinamide B3 serum.

 We would also recommend applying your toner with your hands and gently massaging it in to improve circulation at the same time, as opposed to using cotton pads.

Step 3: Essence

korean essence

Korean skincare routines focus on layering different products and are based on the belief that this is more gentle and allows the skin to breathe more easily than simply layering on thick skincare products.

The easiest way to think of it is that Step 1 cleaned your skin thoroughly and got it ready, Step 2 was the base protective layer that keeps in your skin's hydration and nourishment, not Step 3 is the first real layer.

Essence is a type of Korean skincare product that is quite watery and uses a lot of active ingredients such as Niacinamide and snail mucin. The purpose is to penetrate the skin layers deeply, nourishing the skin and aiding the following layers to get absorbed in more deeply too.

Step 4: Emulsion

korean emulsion

Yes, emulsion is another layer of protective, hydrating skincare product.

I bet it's beginning to make sense why Koreans' skin is so healthy now, right?

Emulsion is packed full of botanical extracts and helps to hydrate the skin even further, however, it has been found to make oily skin feel slightly too greasy.

If you're looking for a Korean skincare routine for dry, sensitive skin, we recommend doing as many layers as you can, but for oily skin, be sparing here and just do one thin layer.

Step 5: Ampoules/Serums

korean snail essence serum

Serums are highly concentrated products with a thicker texture and higher levels of active ingredients. They come next to help plump up your skin and make it look super youthful and glowing.

Ampoules are marketed as being a fancy version of serums but are essentially the same thing, so don't feel any pressure to use both. 

Our snail extract serum and all-natural eye serum are ideal products for this stage, using highly concentrated and all-natural ingredients with zero synthetic chemicals or nasty additives.

The snail serum especially is based on a Korean formula and is comparable to any Korean skincare serum you will come across.

This stage is all about creating a powerful layer full of useful ingredients and is in many ways the most important step of the whole Korean daily skincare routine.

Step 6: Sheet Mask

korean sheet mask

Sheet masks are popular around the world and chances are they are part of your skincare routine already, but they need to be mentioned in our exhaustive list of Korean skincare routine products regardless.

They are the least important step of this whole K-beauty routine and can be done as often or as rarely as you like, or even skipped entirely.

They are generally soaked in a moisturizing serum so this is essentially just another layer. If you do consider this an important part of the 10 step routine and want to use them, we recommend using good quality sheet masks once every week or two, as opposed to using $1 corner store ones every day.

Step 7: Natural Eye Cream

korean eye cream

An all-natural eye cream helps to prevent wrinkles, crows feet and other signs of aging. In the West, eye creams are most popular among those maturing in age, but in Korea, their use as a preventative measure is widespread, and for good reason.

Using an eye cream regularly as part of your personalised Korean skincare routine is a must and will keep your skin looking young, smooth and beautiful for longer than ever.

We would recommend applying this layer with your ring finger as gently as possible as the skin around the eye is extremely delicate and easy to damage, leading to dry skin and irritation.

Our all-natural eye cream is one of the best products available in the West for this and uses gentle, natural ingredients and powerful botanicals such as aloe and rose oil to hold back the effects of time, giving the best Korean eye cream more than a run for their money.

Step 8: Moisturizer

korean moisturizer

Another layer? Seriously?

Yep, although the purpose of this one is to seal in all of the layers before it.

This essentially forms a protective layer around the outer layer of your skin, keeping the hydration in, protecting you from damage, and forcing all of the previously used ingredients to stick around and slowly get absorbed.

No tricks with this stage, and no Korean products necessary, just a good quality all natural cream with moisturising and protective effects such as Dragon's Blood Serum.

Step 9: Sun Lotion/Sunscreen

korean sunscreen

Sunscreen is one of the most important aspects of skin care, with the sun being one of the leading causes of skin dryness, damage, irritation, skin cancer, and of course, sunburn.

We're not talking about putting some sunscreen on when you visit the beach.

No, for the best Korean skincare results, you need to be applying sunscreen daily, and even topping it up every 2-3 hours if you can find the time.

Step 10: Nighttime Masks

korean night mask

This step is far from necessary, especially if you have done every step so far.

However, if you truly want to do the correct Korean skincare routine order and get the same results that caused the Korean skincare routine to go viral worldwide, then you should definitely do it!

Sleeping masks are essentially just sheet masks or regular face masks made with a night cream, meant to be kept on overnight so that they can prevent any hydration from leaving and (hopefully) have you waking up with an 18-year-old face even if you're 45.

Bonus Tip: Korean Facial Massage

This isn't strictly part of the Korean 10-step skincare regime and certainly doesn't need to be done daily, but is worth being aware of anyway.

Koreans swear by facial massages and the benefits that come from improved circulation and adding an occasional professional massage is sure to help your skin improve a lot, even if it's once per month or less often.

You can also make use of this knowledge by delicately massaging the above products gently into your skin as opposed to just layering them on with a cotton pad.

When to Apply Makeup After Korean Skincare Routine

apply makeup after korean skincare

Makeup can technically be applied as soon as your skin is dry following the Korean 10 step routine, but we personally would recommend waiting at least 30 minutes to make sure everything is fully absorbed.

In general, we would recommend cutting down on makeup if at all possible, as following this routine will make your skin so smooth and flawless that makeup is unnecessary.

Learn more about this in our post Is Skincare the New Makeup?

We hope you have enjoyed this complete guide to how to start a Korean skincare routine day and night! The following Luminositie products were mentioned in this article and are highly recommended as part of your 10 step Korean regimen:

Dark-Eye All Natural Serum

Dragon's Blood Moisturizing Protective Serum

Niacinamide B3 Serum

but most importantly, our Snail Extract Essence Renewal Cream is the most effective you'll find outside of Korea, if not the most effective period, and is formulated from cruelty-free snail farms and the highest quality all-natural ingredients around the world, making this product especially an absolute must when devising your personalised Korean skincare routine.