The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine: A Crash Course
The 10-step is more than a routine, it’s a lifestyle - and now, a global phenomenon. Backed by many years of scientific achievement, it is grounded in Korea’s cultural obsession with healthy and beautiful skin. (Remember "glass skin" and "no-makeup makeup"?)
The 10-step Korean Skin Care Routine, essentially, is a process of thoroughly cleansing, exfoliating, treating, intensely hydrating, and applying SPF during the day. It’s not having more products than you can count, but about having the right products that do the right things, and using them in the right order. When done correctly and religiously, it can unlock the most amazing skin of your life!
The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine
Oil-based cleansers remove makeup and other oil-based impurities like sebum and pollution from the surface of your skin.
Water-based cleansers clean off dirt and sweat. Some cleansers also have moisturizing or treatment properties, which are maximized when you do Step 1.
Exfoliating (physical or chemical) clears pores and dead skin cells for brighter and smoother skin. Only do this 2-3 times a week.
Toners prep your skin barrier so the skin can effectively absorb the products coming next. They also help your skin recover or retain moisture after washing.
Essences hydrate and aid in cell renewal so your skin can quickly recover and encourage that glow from inside-out.
Treatments such as boosters, serums, and ampoules perfect your skin and target problem areas such as dry patches, wrinkles, or acne.
Sheet masks infuse your skin with nutrients and moisture. These are usually essence-rich sheets that you leave on for 15-20 minutes. (Perfect for some Me Time!)
Eye creams hydrate the sensitive eye area and prevents puffiness and dark circles.
Moisturizers seal in moisture to make your skin smooth and plump all day.
Sun protection is important - even if you're only indoors during the day. UV rays may be invisible, but they still cause premature aging and dehydration!
Too much to handle? Let's make it simple
The 10-step routine can be simplified into 4 main step and functions. You're pretty much covered with these skincare steps.
- Cleanse (Steps 1-3)
- Prep (Step 4)
- Nourish (Steps 5-8)
- Protect (Steps 9-10)
From these basic steps, you can start expanding your routine depending on what you feel your skin needs at the moment. It's doesn't have to be all ten steps all the time, and it doesn't have to be all Korean products, either. If you have products that are working for you and you're perfectly fine with, then it's okay to keep them in your skincare routine.
Keep in mind what those products do for your skin and put them in their right order to maximize their benefits as you explore and expand this multi-step routine.
SKINCARE TIP: Don't layer too quickly. Wait for each step or product to be fully absorbed before adding another one.
I’m confused! How do I know which products I have to apply first?
A good rule of thumb is to apply treatment products (essence, serum, ampoules, etc) in order of their viscosity: lightweight, more fluid products go on first, working your way up to thicker products. Make sure each step is fully absorbed by your skin first before layering.
It's not about jumping to 10 steps all at once
Whether ten or four, following these steps is a choice. It's not required for good skin - but it is a tried and tested way to get there. While Korean women (and men) are dedicated to their skincare and follow the layering technique, you are free to choose what works for your unique skin type.
If you’re just starting, it’s a good idea to start with the most essential products and gradually incorporate additional steps to your routine.
You know your skin the best. Skin care (Korean or not) is very personal and all about finding out what works best for you. It’s a continuous process of discovery, and there really isn’t a foolproof way to get it right the first time! Your skin type can also change over time and can be influenced by genetics and external factors, so your skincare needs will also change over time.
Learn more about finding your skin type here.
Check out our collection for skincare beginners!
I have sensitive skin. Can I still do all 10 steps of the routine?
Of course! It is only a matter of finding the right products for sensitive skin type. You need to be patient in undergoing trial and error when looking for tolerable skincare products and thoughtful of the ingredients in each product before using any. Make sure to spot/patch test any new products, use a mild, gentle cleanser and alcohol free toner, use a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free moisturizer that contains ceramides and a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, avoiding harsh acids, fragrances, dyes, sulfates, parabens, and other common allergens, and look for all-natural products with calming ingredients.
Check out our products for sensitive skin here.