Skincare 101: All about Korean Skincare - and starting your K-Beauty skincare journey

With the Korean fever taking the world by storm (together with K-dramas, K-pop, and the “hallyu” craze), you’ve probably already heard about Korean beauty. “K-beauty” for short, you might have encountered it with the infamous concepts like “10-step” or “7 skin” skincare routines – and we get it. You have questions!

Whether you’re a few years into K-beauty or just starting, there are always new things to discover and learn about it. If you’re curious, or want to get the facts straight, or need a little bit more convincing to try your first K-beauty product, here’s our version of a primer on K-beauty. Read on to learn what makes it so unique, and why we love it – and hopefully, why you’ll love it, too!


What is K-beauty?

Let’s just get it out of the way, K-beauty products like skincare, makeup, and cosmetics all come from Korea. But what makes it distinctly K-beauty is because it’s a culture – and like any culture, it is based on a philosophy. Some key essential points:

1. There are no quick fixes – we’re talking long-term skin health.
You can’t get good skin instantly. While some products may claim that they work overnight or instantly reduce irritation or redness, approaching your skin with overnight results in mind don’t give you lasting results and may even damage your skin. It’s the same way crash diets don’t work – it’s not about quick, instant results that can as instantly rebound, but a long-term habit done consistently with long-term health in mind.

Korean beauty is all about improving the quality and condition of your skin over time, for lasting results and great skin from within.

2. Now it's personal.
The “way” of Korean beauty and skincare is to have a personalized routine based on your skin type and skin goals/needs, and to follow that routine religiously and consistently. The end result: beautiful, healthy skin that lasts.

Korean beauty and skincare products are designed for what we call layering – you can apply nourishment, treatment, and hydration one layer at a time with the same product or multiple products, so you get just the right amount that your skin craves at any given day. This way, your K-beauty routine is flexible and buildable, and you can always adjust it depending on what feels right.

3. K-beauty is inspired by nature.
Korean skincare is all about gentle, nourishing ingredients for smooth, even, bouncy skin that glows from the inside out. (Seriously, you have to see it to believe it.)  

Historically, Korea comes from an agricultural social background. Because of this, for Korean people it has always been about finding ways to treat and correct environmental damage to the skin. This is also the reason why Korean skincare products always feature natural ingredients like aloe, rose, rice water, herbs, mung beans (yes, beans), a range of botanicals, even snail mucin. These ingredients are rich in nutrients, with protective and hydrating properties that are gentle and good for the skin.

three different iUNIK toner bottles with botanicals

What makes K-beauty different (and special)?

The Korean skincare routine is all about layering products like toners, essences, serums, and masks that all work together to moisturize, treat, and nourish your skin one layer at a time.

The K-beauty philosophy golden rule? Every skin is unique, and your routine therefore should be customized just for you at any given time. Hence, skincare products designed to be buildable into layers, flexible enough to accommodate even small changes in your skin needs.

K-beauty features a handful of unique features:
Essences – after using toners prep and balance your skin surface, it’s time for some deep hydration. Essences usually have water-binding ingredients to drench your skin, keeping it moist and bouncy. Shop our essences here.

Masks – after cleansing and toning, you can also go for a sheet mask which is loaded with ingredients that are good for your skin. They’re relatively cheap, and an easy way to try new ingredients. Just leave it on for 15-20 minutes and pat the remaining essence to see your skin transform into dewy, glowy goodness. Shop sheet masks here.

Sheet masking is a good opportunity to sit back, relax, and have some me time. If you’re a beginner who wants to see what K-beauty is all about, try sheet-masking daily for 5 days to a week, and you’ll see (and feel) the change in your skin.

    Many of us have grown up with the idea that “beauty” is all about dressing up the surface with cosmetics and makeup – but with K-beauty, it’s all about having skin that is good enough to wear on its own. Imagine that!

    What to love about K-beauty and skincare

    Understanding your skin is the #1 most important, fundamental thing as you start building your personal skincare routine. It’s all about knowing what your skin type is and discovering products and ingredients that work best for you. (Learn more about knowing your skin type with our handy guide here.)

    Most products are designed for layering, so you can choose the levels of treatment and hydration that works best on your skin at any given time (e.g. feeling stressed? Extra humid day? Traveling to somewhere with different climate?)

    For instance, on a normal day, you’ll have your toner and essence after cleansing. Say you’re feeling extra grimy, you can do a double-cleanse (with an oil-based followed by a water-based cleanser). Or for example your skin is feeling extra parched after a whole day under the sun or after a long flight. You can then either use several layers of essence, turn your toner into a mask, or use the 7-skin method to give your skin some extra love.

    Here is Gothamista to show you how to turn your toner into a powerful tool for nourishment, hydration, and ultra pampering using the layering technique: 

    Key to a successful K-beauty routine is being aware of your skin – by doing your regimen consistently – and paying attention to how your skin’s needs change. This is the personal, customized routine that will truly give you some amazing, long-term results.

    10 layers? Really?

    It’s not the number of steps, but the principle behind it that matters when it comes to the Korean skincare routine: it’s about layering, customization and flexibility, and long-term skin goals.

    And just to clear up some misconceptions:
    • You DON'T need to do all 10 steps to get radiant, bouncy skin.
    • Korean skincare is NOT only for Koreans or Asians. (Skin is skin!)
    • Using anti-aging products too early will NOT make your skin age faster – but using harsh products probably will.
    • K-beauty products can be used by women AND men. (Again, skin is skin. Skin type is not determined by gender!)
    • You DO need to wear SPF even when it’s not sunny out. UV rays don’t care about clouds - or windows. (They also make your skin age faster.)

    Whether you have 3, 4, 10, or 12 steps in your routine, as long as you’re constantly paying attention to how your skin needs are changing and evolving, including how your skin is responding to the additions or changes you incorporate in your routine, then you’re on the right track.

    Wanna start building and curating your new Korean skincare routine? Read more about it here.

    For us, Korean beauty and skincare is a journey of discovery. Have fun with it. And be consistent! It is definitely worth it to spend a few minutes of your day to take care of yourself and see how well your skin responds when you treat it with love and attention.

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