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The Korean Skincare Routine - The Original 10 Step Routine [Part 2]

The 10-step skincare routine may sound perpexling at first; why in the world would someone need 10 steps with 10 different products to achieve healthy skin? Surely no one’s got the time for that and isn’t it taking things a tad bit too far I hear you say! However, if you bear with me, I will try to unravel some of the mystery around this topic and provide the logic behind this approach to skin care.

Firstly, it is important to understand the value of good healthy-looking skin from the perspective of Korean culture. In Korean culture good healthy skin has been an obsession for decades and the pace of scientific advancement in the number, type and quality of products has meant that an ever-increasing number of steps have become incorporated into this routine. Furthermore, it is essential to appreciate that the average individual does not have to partake in every single one of the 10 steps [apart from the foundational steps which are considered essential and include cleansing, moisturising and sun protection – see Part 1]. You can choose what is most relevant to your skin type and concern although of course if you’d like to try all 10 at first and then hone down onto steps that have the greatest impact for you, this would be a very logical approach to take. With that cleared up, lets take a look at what type of products are included in the 10-step routine and the order in which it should proceed!


1.Oil cleanser

As discussed in part 1, double cleansing is a foundational step in the Korean skincare routine. The use of an oil cleanser to remove make-up and sunscreen is essential to prepare the skin for the steps that come after. Oil cleansers also help to clear up and purify your skin from an excessive build-up of naturally produced substances such as sebum which could lead to clogged up pores and oily skin. Oil based cleansers deal with “hydrophobic” [water-hating] impurities that don’t dissolve with water alone.


2.Water based cleanser

Following the removal of make-up as discussed above, the next step is to use a water based “foaming” cleanser to cleanse your skin of dirt and sweat. Water based cleansers deal with the “hydrophilic” [water-loving] impurities that are water soluble but do not dissolve with oil cleansers.



Physical and chemical exfoliation removes dead skin and helps to clear up clogged up pores giving you visibly brighter and smoother skin. Exfoliation should be performed around 1-2 times per week. If you do exfoliate more often, it is likely to cause damage to your skin leading to redness and inflammation. Certain individuals may benefit from more regular exfoliation but generally 1-2 times per week is sufficient for most individuals.



As discussed in part 1, the pH balance of your skin can get thrown off after cleansing. In order to restore your skin’s balance to it’s normal 5.5. pH level, you need a toner. When you hear the word toner, you may think of the majority of Western toners which typically contain high levels of alcohol and end up making your skin very dry. Korean toners are the exact opposite, created to preserve your acid mantle, draw water into your skin and prepare your skin for absorbing the solutions you apply afterwards.



Steps 5-8 are considered optional parts of the Korean skincare routine. Each of them have a specific target and can be customised according to the needs of your skin. Starting off with essences, these are products that are light weight and packed with hydrating, anti-aging and complexion enhancing ingredients.


These include serums and ampoules and are the ultimate skin enhancers. Again, a variety of high impact ingredients target specific skin concerns such as acne, fine lines and hyperpigmentation.


7.Sheet masks

Sheet masks are a Korean skincare favourite having achieved cult status even in Western routines due to their convenience, lack of mess compared to a typical facial and its ability to nourish the skin and replenish it with essential skin plumping ingredients. The key to sheet masks is the sheet which is soaked in various nutritious ingredients. When the sheet mask is placed onto the skin and makes contact with it for a prolonged period (roughly 15-20 minutes) this enables the skin to pick up essence from the sheet via a process called “osmosis”. Osmosis is the key to the effectiveness of sheet masks.


8.Eye cream

The skin around the eyelids and orbit are the thinnest in your body and usually lack support due to the absence of a thick subdermal skin layer making them prone to wrinkling, drooping and hyperpigmentation. Eye creams may help to prevent and reduce dark circles from forming around the orbits and may have beneficial effects on reducing puffiness as well as wrinkling and drooping of this very delicate skin.



This, again like step 1 and 2, is a foundational step. The need to moisturise your skin is essential and a key step in any skincare routine. As discussed in part 1, There are 3 types of basic moisturizing ingredients – humectants which draw water to the skin (i.e. glycerin, urea, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid), occlusives which seal in water (shea butter, dimethicone, lanolin) and emollients which make skin soft and smooth (ceramides, squalene, fatty acids).


10.Sun protection

This is another essential foundational step of any skincare regime. There are, in very simple terms, two types of sunscreens, chemical and mineral (reflective). Choose one that you feel is most appropriate for you [more on that to follow!] and apply as the last step to prevent it getting mixed in and diluted with other products. It is important to remember that sunscreen is the most effective way to prevent a whole host of skin aging issues from premature wrinkling, to changes in pigmentation and loss of volume including skin cancer. Do not miss this vital step!

May 26, 2020 — Dr J

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