Breaking Down the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

True skin-care enthusiasts will tell you that the secret to achieving smooth, even-toned, dewy skin lies in a 10-step Korean skin-care routine. A leader in beauty innovation, Korea continuously pushes the standard with new ingredients, formulas, and techniques. The K-beauty influence on the U.S. is not new, but recently, more consumers are turning to Korea for best-in-class tips and tricks. According to licensed esthetician Natalia Barzotti, a 10-step Korean skin-care routine emphasizes hydration and mild exfoliation, resulting in the coveted glass skin.

Our Top Picks

The 10-Step Korean Skin Care Essentials

The steps themselves are pretty easy; there’s no need for using LED face masks every night to achieve results. They’re straightforward in the best way and can be easily incorporated into an existing routine if you trade a bit of your doom-scrolling time for some skin-appreciating time.

Remember that a 10-step skin-care routine requires something money can’t buy—patience and consistency. After all, these products will only collect dust in your medicine cabinet if you don’t stick to using them daily. While ten steps may sound overwhelming, especially if you prefer to keep things minimal, you don’t have to do all ten steps every night. Feel free to experiment and find what works best for you and your skin type.

In This Story

Step 1: Oil-Based or Balm Cleanser

According to celebrity esthetician and founder of Peach & Lily, Alicia Yoon, the first step in any 10-step Korean skincare routine is an oil cleanser. Oil-based impurities like excess sebum, makeup, and SPF are best removed with oil because like attracts like, a principle familiar to those who can remember their high school science class.

Peach & Lily

This cleanser effortlessly removes stubborn makeup and SPF and rinses off easily without any residue or greasiness.

Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil

If you decided to experiment with a waterproof cat eye or went for a full-coverage foundation look, you’re going to need something that removes everything easily and thoroughly. This means no rubbing, tugging at the skin, or worrying about emerging with raccoon eyes. This product melts everything off and leaves your skin fresh and hydrated in the process.

Step 2: Water-Based Cleanser

The second step is, you guessed it, another cleanser! Double-cleansing is essential in K-beauty routines, though its since been adopted in skin care routines all over, including Victoria Beckham’s. By following up with a water-based cleanser, you can properly remove water-based impurities like dirt, sweat, and grime. Yoon suggests opting for a low pH, sulfate-free, calming cleanser to give skin a gentle kickstart or choosing a treatment cleanser suited to your skin concern. However, if you have acne, she suggests using an acne-specific cleanser to deep cleanse down to the pores. Esthetician Mandy Epley recommends this step for the evening only, not as part of your morning routine.


Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

This gel cleanser is safe for all skin types to use, helping maintain the barrier rather than stripping it. Its pH-balanced and contains tea tree oil and BHA to soothe the skin and banish breakouts.


Perfect Oil to Foam Cleanser

Epley loves using this oil-to-foam cleanser as it effectively cleanses the skin. Simply rub it on dry skin, then wet your hands to start the foaming process, leaving a squeaky clean finish.

Step 3: Exfoliator

Depending on your skin type and exfoliator, this might be a daily or weekly step—make sure to read the instructions on the label. Yoon explains that on the days you’re exfoliating, you should do so after cleansing.


You may be committed to a ten-step routine, but doesn’t mean you can’t simplify the process. These exfoliating pads are easy to use and help remove dead skin cells, reduce sebum, blackheads, whiteheads, and breakouts, and minimize pores.

Peach & Lily

This exfoliator can be used daily to gently buff the skin with a pre-rounded powder containing rice bran and enzymes.

Step 4: Toner

Next come the toners. While toners may have a negative connotation in your mind, nowadays there are many that aren’t harsh, stripping, or astringent, especially if you choose a K-beauty option. “Korean toners are incredibly hydrating, and their main job is to focus on balancing the skin, including the skin’s pH level,” says Yoon.


Green Tea Enzyme PHA Toner

A favorite of Epley, this toner comes at a great price point and is suitable for all skin types. Sensitive skin types, in particular, will love it as it’s non-irritating.

Be The Skin

Botanical Nutrition Power Toner

Yoon recommends this toner because it drenches the skin with hydration through a cocktail of herbal ingredients (cucumber and thyme extract, and witch hazel) that nourish and soothe.

Step 5: Essence

Toners and essences may offer similar benefits, but they’re not exactly interchangeable. Yoon explains that the main difference lies in their primary functions: a toner helps balance the skin, while an essence floods it with hydration. If your toner is deeply hydrating, it can double as an essence. Depending on the essence, they may also contain more concentrated ingredients and benefits compared to toners. “Think of essences as hydrating elixirs that can also deliver lightweight treatment benefits,” says Yoon.


Formulated with anti-oxidant-rich ingredients, this bean essence is one of our favorites. It leaves the skin incredibly supple, soft, and luminous over time.

Beauty of Joseon

This product is composed of moisturizing ginseng water, niacinamide to strengthen the skin barrier, and a small dose of BHA to mildly exfoliate the skin.

Step 6: Prescription Topicals

“If you are using any prescription topicals, you would typically apply them directly onto dry skin once everything is patted in, either right after cleansing or right after your toner and essence,” explains Yoon. Every prescription has its nuances, so check in with your doctor on where exactly this would fit into your routine.

Step 7: Treatments

The next step is your treatments: serums and ampoules. “Depending on the formula, the order might differ, but the general rule of thumb is light to heavy in texture to optimize absorbency,” says Yoon. You’ll want to choose a serum that either hydrates, brightens, firms, and/or calms to achieve luminous, smooth, clear skin. Ensure it can be easily paired with other treatments without concern.

Eco Your Skin

Per Yoon, this serum is loved by A-listers in Korea for the hydrolyzed sponge in the formula, which has a microneedle-like effect on the skin to help visibly fade stubborn scars.


Madagascar Centella Asiatica Ampoule Facial Serum

This lightweight ampoule absorbs into the skin easily and isn’t sticky, so you don’t have to wait too long before moving on to the next step. Gentle and hydrating, even those with the most sensitive skin types or eczema can use it without worry—instead, they’ll notice a soothing and calming sensation.

Step 8: Eye Cream

Don’t forget eye creams! Yoon advises choosing one that suits your eye area and addresses specific concerns you’re targeting. The eye area is sensitive and prone to milia, so always make sure to patch test. “Remember to dab on the product rather than tugging and pulling,” she adds.

Haruharu Wonder

This eye cream is infused with bakuchiol, a plant-based alternative to retinol for those who want something more gentle. It also contains vitamin-rich black rice, which helps nourish the sensitive skin around the eyes.


Retinol Firming Cream Treatment

If you’re using retinol all over your face at night, it’d be a real shame if you let the under-eyes fend for themselves. This pure retinol eye cream is creamy yet lightweight—just remember, a little goes a long way!

Step 9: Moisturizer

It’d be a crime to skip moisturizer, which is why this step comes last to seal it all in. According to Yoon, Korean skincare offers incredible textures and exceeds expectations with sensorial experiences. This is particularly true for Korean moisturizers, as the final step not only provides skin-care benefits but also significantly affects how your skin looks and feels after application.

Dr. Jart+

Cicapair Cooling Gel Moisturizer for Redness

Redness doesn’t chance against this soothing repair gel cream. Unlike many moisturizers that feel heavy on the skin, this one absorbs immediately and leaves behind a soft, selfie-ready finish.


According to Yoon, this cream is often credited as the OG Korean brand that truly focused on being clean for both skin and the earth. “This cream has a delightful and unique lightweight, custard-like texture that instantly refreshes and soothes.”

Step 10 PM: Masks

This is a bonus step for nights when you have extra time or want to treat yourself. Masks are an incredibly diverse and fun category in Korean skincare. “Depending on the mask, its application might vary, but typically, they are used after cleansing and toning. What comes next is up to you: some prefer to complete their entire skin-care routine after masking, while others may simply want to lock in the benefits with a moisturizer,” says Yoon. Her motto: Have fun with your skincare, pay attention to your skin, and see what it needs.


Jam-packed with amazing ingredients like glycerin for hydration, dimethicone for preventing water loss, and zinc sulfate, which can be effective for mild acne.

Glow Recipe

You can sleep with this mask on as it slowly sinks into the skin, revealing an otherworldly glow when removed.

Step 10 AM: SPF

And in the mornings, the final step is SPF, rain or shine. “With the diverse and modern sun filters that can be used, Korean sunscreens are typically weightless, invisible, and feel more like a light moisturizer or soothing serum than the sunscreens we might be familiar with stateside,” says Yoon.


One of Yoon’s favorites, this sun gel is effortless to wear and reapply, never causing breakouts or irritation to sensitive skin.


The True Cream Aqua Bomb Hydrating Sunscreen

This sunscreen is a moisturizer-sunscreen hybrid, so each time you use it, you’ll notice plump, bouncy, white-cast-free skin. With an SPF of 45, you can wear it with confidence, knowing you’ve completed your 10-step routine with the ultimate protector.

What is the 10-step Korean skincare routine?

A 10-step Korean skincare routine is a multi-step regimen that emphasizes hydration, gentle exfoliation, and targeted treatments to achieve its results. Known for its meticulous and holistic approach, per Yoon, the result of this regimen is a glowing complexion.

However, one important thing to understand before starting a 10-step K-beauty skincare routine is to fully know your skin type, warns Epley. For instance, you may want to skip the exfoliating scrub step if you have sensitive skin, rosacea, or active acne as it may cause further irritation.

Why is Korean skincare so good?

According to Barzotti, Korean skincare focuses on using highly hydrating ingredients that support skin barrier health. It’s beneficial for all skin types, particularly sensitive skin, thanks to its gentle yet results-driven approach.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button