10-Step Korean Skincare Routine: Ultimate Guide to Glowing Skin (2023)

Dive into the 10 Step Korean Skincare Routine with our in-depth guide. Learn each step, bust common myths, and tailor it to your skin type for radiant results.

Have you ever wondered about the secret behind the flawless, glowing, and youthful skin that Koreans are famous for? Well, let me tell you, it’s not just genetics or a stroke of luck. It’s all thanks to the revered 10 step routine—a game-changing regimen that goes beyond passing trends and becomes a way of life.

The Korean skin care routine is all about pampering your skin with a range of products from various Korean skincare brands, like oil cleansers, water-based cleansers, toners, hydrating serums, eye creams, and even sheet masks. It’s a carefully crafted process that focuses on layering products strategically and harnessing the powerful properties of beneficial ingredients.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down each of these 10 steps of the korean skin care routine, discuss why they’re important, and provide tips on how to make the most of your routine—so that you can finally achieve that dewy and glowing skin like a K-drama star.

But fair warning—once you start incorporating these essential active agents and methods into your daily routine, you’ll never want to go back.

The 10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine

The Korean beauty industry is all about achieving healthy, glowing skin through scientific advancements. You might have heard of the famous 10-step Korean skincare routine. It’s not as complicated as it sounds!

The secret lies in using the right products in the right order to address specific skin issues. This way, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by a ton of different products and get the best results for your skin.

10 Step Korean Skin Care

The K beauty skincare routine is all about prioritizing hydration, using top-notch products, and protecting your skin from the sun. It’s designed to deeply hydrate your skin and help fight signs of aging. The best part is, it works for all skin types – whether you have oily skin, sensitive skin, or specific concerns like fine lines and wrinkles. You can rest easy knowing that there’s a step in this routine that’s customized just for you.

If 10 steps is a little too much for you, then you can always pair this down to a simple skincare routine. Let’s take a look at each of the steps in more detail.

STEP 1: Use an Oil Cleanser

An oil based cleanser delicately removes makeup and excess oils while maintaining your skin’s natural balance. This oil cleanser deeply penetrates to dissolve even waterproof makeup, leaving your skin soft and hydrated.

This step, often referred to as double cleansing, involves gently massaging a Korean cleansing oil onto dry skin. Afterward, rinse with lukewarm water and follow up with a water-based cleanser.

Adding an oil based cleanser to your routine is vital for effectively removing oil based impurities at the end of the day. This step is a must for all skin types, even oily skin, acne prone skin and sensitive skin.

STEP 2: Use a Water-Based Cleanser

A water-based cleanser is the second step of cleansing. It helps remove any remaining makeup, dirt, and sebum that the oil based cleanser may have missed. This ensures that any remaining residue is eliminated. By using this dynamic duo of cleansing methods, you can guarantee a clear and radiant complexion.

To keep your skin barrier healthy, it’s super important to use a gentle Korean cleanser with low pH levels and hydrating properties. You see, your skin’s pH levels are a little acidic, so using cleansers with high pH levels (greater than 6) can mess up this delicate balance and cause irritation and damage your skin’s barrier.

10 Step Korean Skin Care

STEP 3: Exfoliate Your Skin

The next step of the Korean skincare routine is chemical exfoliation to remove dead skin cells for smooth skin. A chemical exfoliator works together with our skin’s natural processes, like cell turnover and your body’s natural sebum, and are gentler compared to physical exfoliant like sugar scrubs and brushes.

We’ve got two main types of chemical exfoliants:

  • AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) are fantastic for reducing signs of sun damage, evening out skin tone, and giving you that gorgeous smooth skin. AHAs remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.
  • BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with treating acne and minimizing those pesky enlarged pores.
10 Step Korean Skin Care

The main difference between AHAs & BHAs is that AHAs remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, while BHAs seep into your pores to remove all the excess oil and gunk for clear, healthy skin.

STEP 4: Pat Toner on Your Skin

The next step of this k beauty routine is to apply a hydrating toner to balance the pH level of your skin. Unlike the harsh, alcohol-based toners of the past, Korean toners are hydrating and gentle. This step in your k beauty skincare routine ensures proper absorption of the next skincare products and keeps your skin hydrated throughout the day.

To apply your toner, soak a cotton pad with toner and gently swipe it over your face and neck in an outward motion. Avoiding the eye area. You can also pour a few drops into your palm and gently tap the toner on your skin using your hands.

STEP 5: Apply Essence

Essence is your skin’s best friend and provides your skin with all the hydration. Packed with active ingredients, it hydrates, strengthens, and reduces sebum production resulting in glowing skin.

Apply it by gently pressing all over your face for better absorption. This watery wonder is a blend of serum, toner, and moisturizer, and it’s a must-have in every Korean skincare routine. Pour a few drops into your hands and gently pat into your face and neck.

Did you Know?

Korean women view essence as the most vital step of their routine, for it is designed to soothe and accelerate cell turnover for a smoother and healthier complexion over time.

STEP 6: Address Skin Concerns With Treatments

The next step in the Korean skincare routine is all about personalization! This is where you get to treat your skin with an ampoule or a hydrating Korean serum packed with powerful ingredients that target specific skin concerns like dark spots, wrinkles, or acne.

When buying Korean skincare products online, here are a few popular skincare ingredients to look for:

ActiveBenefitsConcentrationIs It Backed By Science?
Hyaluronic AcidDeeply hydrates, plumps skin. Draws moisture into your skin. Did you know that Hyaluronic acid helps with acne by hydrating your skin to prevent over production of oil leading to more breakouts. Cool right?2%Backed by research to hydrate skin.
CeramidesDeeply hydrates and reduces skin inflammation. It’s best to find a moisturizer with ceramides vs. a stand alone product.

When used alone, ceramides can dehydrate your skin, but most productsceramides are formulated with this in mind.
NABacked By research
Collagen peptidesStimulates collagen, firms, hydrates.

Not all peptides are created equal. Matrixyl 3000 one of the only well researched peptide and proven to be effective in visibly reducing wrinkles. Look for ingredients – Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (need to have both to be effective).
3% Matrixyl 3000 is backed by science, be wary of claims of others.
Aloe VeraSoothes, hydrates, heals your skin5-40%Backed by research
Snail MucinHydrates, makes your skin look plump and glowy, helps to heal your pimples.1-10%Backed by research for wound healing & hydration.
ActiveBenefitsConcentrationIs It Backed By Science?
RetinolPromotes collagen (making your skin look plump & youthful), reduces wrinkles, improves texture0.25-1%Gold Standard: Backed by research
Vitamin CBrightens, boosts collagen (plump & youthful), reduces wrinkles, protects your skin against environmental damage5-20%Gold Standard: Backed by research
BakuchiolAnti-aging, improves elasticity, less irritating than retinol0.5-2%Gold Standard: Backed by Science
GinsengAnti-aging, revitalizes, brightens skin1-5%Proven by to prevent skin aging.
Bee VenomAnti-inflammatory, facial wrinkle reduction, collagen synthesis 1-3%Limited research. More effective ingredients.
ActiveBenefitsConcentrationIs It Backed By Science?
Vitamin CBrightens, boosts collagen (plump & youthful), reduces wrinkles, protects your skin against environmental damage5-20%Gold Standard: Backed by research
Kojic acidLightens visible sun damage, age spots, or hyperpigmentation1% to 4%Backed by research.
Not as effective as Arbutin, azelaic acid, or Tranexamic Acid.

But effective when combined with other whitening ingredients.
Azelaic AcidReduces facial redness and inflamed skin, anti-bacterial to help treat acne.15%Backed By Research
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)Brightens, reduces wrinkles, strengthens skin barrier2-5%Backed by research
Tranexamic AcidReduces hyperpigmentation, evens skin tone2-5%Backed by research
Licorice Root ExtractBrightens, evens skin tone, anti-inflammatory1-5%Backed by research

To get rid of pimple redness quickly, use ice packs and apply anti-inflammatory creams like aloe vera or green tea extract or spot treat with benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, or sulfur.

To remove dark spots caused by pimples, look for skincare products with vitamin C, retinol, or glycolic acid. These ingredients help brighten and even out skin tone over time.
Best ForActiveBenefitsConcentrationIs It Backed By Science?
Treating acneAdapalene (topical retinoid)Reduces fine lines & hyperpigmentation. Prevents new acne from forming by increasing cell turnover to keep your pores unclogged. 0.1% available over the counter.Backed By Research
Dark spots + hyperpigmentation, acne & roseceaAzelaic AcidMinimizes bacterial growth, reduces dark spots, soothes rosacea.

Studies show that 20% Azelaic Acid is just as effective as other common acne treatments like Tretinoin, Benzoyl Peroxide, and Erythromycin.

It’s also gentler on the skin and a great option for those with sensitive or dry skin who want to avoid Benzoyl Peroxide.
15%Backed By Research
Hyperpigmentation & reduces oil Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)Brightens, reduces wrinkles, strengthens skin barrier2-5%Backed by research
Unclogs pores & reduces rednessSalicylic Acid Exfoliates skin to dissolve oil & debris in pores to prevent breakouts.0.5-2%Gold Standard: Backed by Research
Treats acne Benzoyl PeroxideReduces break outs by minimizing bacteria growth5%-10%Gold Standard: Backed by Research
Treats acneTea Tree OilAntimicrobial, reduces acne, soothes skin5-15% (diluted)Limited Research:
Other treatments may be more effective, but super effective when combined with salicylic acid.
ActiveBenefitsConcentrationIs It Backed By Science?
Aloe VeraSoothes, hydrates, heals your skin.5-40%Backed by research
Snail MucinHydrates, makes your skin look plump and glowy, helps to heal your pimples.1-10%Backed by research for wound healing & hydration.
Azelaic AcidSoothes rosacea, reduces redness & irritation.20%Backed By Research
Centella AsiaticaSoothes, heals, anti-inflammatory.1-5%Backed by Research
Green TeaAntioxidant, reduces inflammation, soothes skin1-10%Popular Claim: No Research to Support
My Favorite Korean Skincare Actives For Clear, Radiant Skin

Have you ever come across the “big four” in skincare? These are the top four ingredients consistently proven effective for tackling your skincare concerns: chemical exfoliants (like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid), retinoids, vitamin C, and retinol.

First, lets talk about Vitamin C and Retinol. They are your secret weapons against aging, acne, dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C is great at protecting your skin from UV rays and pollution while getting rid of your dark spots and evening out your skin tone.

On the other hand, retinol fights fine lines and wrinkles by ramping up collagen production for plump and radiant skin. But here’s the catch: retinol can be a bit irritating especially if your skin is on the sensitive side.

That’s where Bakuchiol steps in – think of it as the kinder, gentler cousin of retinol. So if you have sensitive skin, consider Bakuchiol vs. Retinol. Bakuchiol offers similar anti-aging benefits without the irritating side effects.

Here are a few tips of how to incorporate Korean vitamin C serums & retinol in your routine:

  • Apply vitamin c serum in the morning because it will protect your skin throughout the day.
  • Apply retinol in the evening to tap into your skin’s natural repair cycle, boosting its recovery while you sleep.

Here’s how you can combine these two skincare ingredients with others to address specific skin concerns:

  • Treat acne: Use Retinol and Salicylic Acid. They work together to unclog pores and boost cell turnover, preventing future breakouts.
  • Banish blemishes + treat hyperpigmentation: Use Azelaic Acid and Retinol + Vitamin C. This trio helps fade blemishes, reduce redness, and treat post-acne dark spots, resulting in a clear and even skin tone.
  • Reduce oily skin: Use Niacinamide and Salicylic acid. This dynamic duo enhances your skin barrier, minimizes oil production, unclogs pores, and exfoliates for clear, radiant skin.

STEP 7: Put on a Sheet Mask

Sheet masks are the soul of Korean skincare routines. Korean sheet masks come in cotton, cellulose, or bio-cellulose sheets infused with serums and essences. A sheet mask can provide deep hydration to your face and neck by enabling your skin soak in a high concentration of active hydrating, soothing, and brightening ingredients for Korean glass skin.

Korean sheet masks allow your skin to absorb active ingredients and moisture for nourished and rejuvenated skin. After applying, leave it on for 10-20 minutes. Gently pat any remaining essence from your sheet mask into your skin including your neck.

Sheet Mask Tips

I love using sheet masks during my night routine. I’ll light a candle and have a mini self-care and relaxation session before bed. While my skin soaks up the nutrients from the sheet mask, I’ll read a book, journal, or reflect upon my day. I encourage you to do the same.

STEP 8: Gently Dab on Eye Cream

The skin around your eyes is delicate and requires special attention. By applying an anti-aging Korean eye cream, you can ensure that your skin stays hydrated and protected. These creams are enriched with collagen, which helps reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and dark circles.

In Korean skincare, this step is dedicated to taking care of the delicate eye area, effectively minimizing dark circles and fine lines. Eye cream is suitable for all ages and plays a vital role in maintaining youthful-looking eyes.

ARe Eye Creams Effective?

There is a debate among the skin care community on whether eye cream is effective and worth buying. Eye creams are best for individuals that experience dark circles, fine lines, puffiness, etc., but are not necessary for everyone.

Aging can cause a considerable amount of volume loss, for which an eye cream may not be the ideal solution. If you want to obtain the most effective results, then consult with your dermatologist to determine if other treatments (E.g. botox, lasers, fillers, PRP or microneedling) would work for you.

Key takeaway:

  • Looking for hydration: No eye cream is needed. Use your daily moisturizer.
  • Treating superficial eye problems (dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles): Use eye cream.
  • Looking to address more severe issues like volume loss: Consult with your dermatologist to determine the best option for you.

Step 9: Lather on Moisturizer

Moisturizers matter because they keep your skin hydrated and act as a protective shield. They help your skin stay hydrated to make it look smoother, plumper and more youthful. They also protect your skin from pollution, UV rays and harsh weather to ensure your skin barrier remains healthy.

Even if you have oily skin, the right moisturizer can help balance oil production. When your skin is adequately hydrated, it produces less oil, which means you break out less. Properly hydrated skin can also make you look younger by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Choosing the best Korean moisturizer to hydrate your skin is a bit tricky. The key is to read the ingredient list (first five ingredients) to ensure you pick a moisturizer that has ingredients that are best for your skin type.

10 Step Korean Skin Care

Step 10: Sunscreen for Sun Protection

Finally, remember to always apply a Korean sunscreen! This simple step is crucial to protecting your skin, maintaining your skin health, preventing wrinkles and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

Sunscreen protects your skin by acting as a barrier to shield your skin from harmful UV rays. But did you know that sunscreen doesn’t actually completely block these rays? Instead, it absorbs them and disperses a small amount of energy as heat. When sunscreen absorbs the rays, it prevents the UV radiation from penetrating your skin to prevent sunburn, skin damage, and fine lines and wrinkles.

There are two types of UV radiation that we need to protect our skin from:

  • UVA rays, they’re like the “aging rays”. They go deep into the skin, causing premature aging, wrinkles, and all that fun stuff. Not only that, they can even damage our skin cells’ DNA and increase the risk of skin cancer. Yikes!
  • UVB rays are the “burning rays”. They mainly affect the outer layers of our skin, giving us those nasty sunburns. Over time, they can also contribute to skin cancer, including the deadly melanoma

What Should I Consider When Choosing A Sunscreen?

When finding the right sunscreen for your skin, choose a sunscreen that provides you with broad spectrum protection and one that suits your skin’s needs (e.g. a sunscreen that feels comfortable on you skin & that you’ll wear daily). Tip: Keep your skin protected throughout the day by using a Korean sunscreen stick re-apply your sunscreen.

Morning vs. Night Routine

The 10-step Korean skincare routine adapts to the differing needs of your skin throughout the day.

10 step korean skincare routine

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Hey, let me tell you about some myths surrounding Korean skincare routines that I’ve discovered. It’s really interesting, and I think you’ll find it eye-opening!

Debunking Skincare Myths

1. “One Size Fits All?” Not Really! – You know how people say there’s one perfect routine that works for everyone? That’s not true at all. Skincare is super personal. What works wonders for me might not do the same for you. It’s all about what your skin personally needs, considering your age, where you live, your genes, and even your lifestyle.

2. Overnight Magic? Think Again! – So, expecting to wake up with flawless skin overnight is just wishful thinking. Real skincare is more of a journey. You’ve got to give those ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid time to work their magic. It’s more about patience and consistency, you know?

3. Pricey Equals Better? Nope! – Now, this one’s interesting. Just because a skincare product is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best. There are loads of affordable Korean skincare products that are amazing. It’s all about what’s in them – the ingredients and how they’re formulated – not just a fancy brand name or a big price tag.

4. 10 Steps Every Day? Not Necessary! – There’s this idea that you have to follow all 10 steps every single day. But actually, it’s pretty flexible. Some days your skin might need the whole shebang, and other days just a couple of steps are enough. It’s like listening to your skin and giving it what it needs.

5. More Steps for Better Skin? Not Exactly! – So, adding more and more steps isn’t always the answer. It’s more about the quality of the products and how well they suit your skin type and concerns. Like, if you have acne-prone skin, you might benefit more from products with BHA rather than piling on a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really address your main issue.

6. Too Complicated and Time-Consuming? It’s Manageable! – At first, it seems like a lot, right? But you can totally make the 10-step routine fit into your life. You don’t have to do every step every day. Some things, like exfoliating, are just a few times a week. Think of it as your personal time to pamper your skin, not a chore.

7. Only Korean Products Work? Not the Case! – It’s not just about using Korean products. The real essence of this routine is the approach to skincare. It’s about finding what works for you, whether that’s a Korean essence or a serum from another part of the world. The goal is to find products that really target your specific skin needs. This way, you get to try all sorts of great stuff from all over!

FAQ: Most Common Questions About 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

So, the big deal with Korean skincare is all about prevention. It’s like, why wait for skin issues to pop up when you can keep your skin looking young and healthy from the get-go? The idea is to start early with a thorough skincare routine, rather than just covering up aging signs or waiting until problems show up to deal with them.

Here’s What Makes It Super Effective:

  1. Sunscreen is Non-Negotiable: Korean women are super serious about sunscreen. They wouldn’t dream of stepping outside without it because they know how harmful UV rays can be for their skin. It’s like their secret shield against aging.
  2. No Compromise on Cleansing: No matter how exhausted they are, Korean women stick to their guns about removing every bit of makeup and dirt before hitting the bed. It’s like a cardinal rule in their skincare bible.

Korean skincare is like a decade ahead of Western practices, and there’s a bunch of reasons for that. First off, they’re pretty relaxed about experimenting with new ingredients and techniques. There’s also this whole cultural mindset that having healthy skin is super important – it’s not just some luxury, it’s essential. This attitude means they end up buying way more skincare products per person compared to the West.

Here’s the scoop on the differences between essence, serum, and ampoule in skincare:

EssencePrimarily focused on hydration and nourishing the skin.Usually lightweight and watery.Contains a lower concentration of active ingredients compared to serums and ampoules.Often used after toning to prep the skin for subsequent products.
SerumTargets specific skin concerns like fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, or hydration.Typically thicker than essence but still easily absorbed.Contains a higher concentration of active ingredients than essence but lower than ampoules.Used after essence to deliver targeted treatment to the skin.
AmpouleProvides an even more concentrated treatment for specific skin issues.Often thicker and more viscous than serums.Contains the highest concentration of active ingredients among the three. Used sparingly, often a few times a week or as a short-term treatment, due to its high potency.

Getting started with the 10-step Korean skincare routine is all about understanding your skin and being patient as you build your routine. Here’s a friendly guide on how to get going:

1. Know Your Skin Type: The Foundation of Your Routine

  • Why It Matters: Different skin types have their own unique needs. If you have dry skin, you’ll be looking for hydrating products, while oily skin benefits from oil-control options. Figuring out your skin type is the first step towards selecting products that will work well for you, without causing issues.
  • How to Determine: Pay attention to how your skin feels and reacts to different products and environments. Does it get oily easily? Does it feel tight and dry? Observing these details will guide you towards your skin type.
different skin types_ oily skin, combination skin, dry skin, sensitive skin

2. Identify Your Skin Concerns and Goals

  • Consider Your Needs: Think about what you want to achieve with your skincare routine. Are you aiming to reduce signs of aging, tackle pigmentation, boost hydration, or improve texture? Your goals will dictate the types of products you’ll incorporate into your routine.
  • Adapt Over Time: Remember, your skin’s needs might change as you age or as your environment changes, so be open to adjusting your routine as needed.

3. Building Your Routine Step-by-Step

  • Start Slow: Begin with one product and use it for about two weeks to see how your skin reacts. This gradual approach helps ensure that you don’t overwhelm your skin and can identify any irritants.
  • Patience is Key: Remember, skincare is a long game. You typically won’t see significant results for at least a month, so patience is crucial.
  • Adding Products: Once you’re comfortable with one product, you can slowly introduce additional steps, one at a time. Keep testing and evaluating how each product works for your skin.

Remember, the 10-step Korean skincare routine is more of a guideline than a strict rule. It’s all about finding what works for you and your skin.

No, it’s not mandatory to follow all 10 steps. The routine can be adapted based your skin needs, concerns, and time constraints. It’s more about the philosophy of layering products for optimal skin health rather than strictly adhering to all 10 steps.

Absolutely. The routine is very flexible. You can skip certain steps like sheet masks, eye creams, toners or exfoliation on some days or if they don’t suit your skin type. The key is to listen to your skin and provide what it needs.

If 10 steps is a little too much for you, then you can always pair this down to this 5 step skincare routine. Let’s

Generally, it can take about one to three months to see noticeable results from a consistent skincare routine. However, some products like hydrating toners or moisturizers can show immediate effects in terms of skin texture and hydration.

Adjusting the 10-step Korean skincare routine for morning and night involves tailoring the products and steps to suit the different needs of your skin at different times of the day.

Protection vs. Repair: Morning routines are about protecting your skin from the elements and preparing it for makeup, if applicable. Evening routines are more about deep cleansing, nourishing, and repairing the skin from daily stressors.

Product Formulation: Generally, lighter formulations are preferable in the morning, while richer, more potent products are suitable for nighttime.

Active Ingredients: Some active ingredient are best used at in the morning vs. night. In the morning, focus on protection and preparation with Vitamin C to guard against environmental damage and enhance sunscreen, Hyaluronic Acid for hydration without heaviness, and Niacinamide for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

At night, shift to repair and rejuvenation using Retinol to promote skin renewal and collagen production (best used away from sunlight), AHAs/BHAs for exfoliation and unclogging pores, and Peptides for enhanced skin repair while you sleep.


And there you have it – your roadmap to the 10-step Korean skincare routine. It’s not just about the steps; it’s about tuning into what your skin needs and making it a part of your daily self-care. Remember, skincare is personal. Mix, match, and modify these steps to fit you. Here’s to starting this journey towards glowing skin.

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