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  5. A Detailed Guide To The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

Skincare has gone through a revolutionary change in the last decade, mostly thanks to the Korean beauty trends. From sheet masks, emulsions, essences, there’s just too many to deal with your skin issues.

While the variety is appealing, it is important to understand the purpose of each product to customize a skincare routine that is effective for your skin type.

Read on to know the basic 10 steps of the Korean skin care routine and how to best implement it for beautiful, glowing skin that refuses to age.

Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks

“Korean skin beauty regimens find many parallels with ayurvedic wisdom. The high botanical extracts and a deep understanding of skin needs make Korean skincare routines very effective and worth the effort.”

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix

How Is Korean Skin Care Different From Others?

What makes Korean skin care different is its deep understanding of skin structure and functionality and relative usage of natural micronutrients to bring about holistic skin improvement. While traditional skin care focuses more on using harsh chemicals to cleanse and deal with skin issues, Korean skincare believes in replenishing the skin with nutrition that fortifies and prevents skin issues.

Due to its detailed and gentle approach, Korean skincare caters to universal skin needs. Its innovative products are aimed at resolving specific skin issues such as premature skin aging, hyperpigmentation, acne, dryness or excess oiliness and believes less in the concept of one size fits all.

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix says, “Korean skin beauty regimens find many parallels with ayurvedic wisdom. Yet Ayurveda remains focussed on disease prevention as the goal of self care. Nevertheless, the high botanical extracts and a deep understanding of skin needs makes Korean skincare routines very effective and worth the effort.”

Glycolic acid, retinol and benzoyl peroxide like harsh exfoliants are rarely used in Korean skin care products. Instead, Korean dermatologists advise hydration and epidermal barrier repairment as the preventive approach while dealing with acne conditions.

What Are The 10 Steps Of Korean Skin Care?

10 steps of korean skin care routine

1. Oil-Based Cleansers

Using oils to remove superficial dirt and dissolve make-up is an age-old practice that is incorporated into the Korean skincare routine. Oil cleansing does not disrupt the skin barrier and thus has a more hydrating effect on the skin. It gently removes oil-soluble contaminants and excess sebum while keeping your skin’s natural microbiome healthy. This omits the side-effects and skin irritations that come with harsh surfactant cleansers.

How To Use Oil-Based Cleansers

Start your 10 step Korean skincare routine by applying a small amount of oil cleanser on dry skin. Use your fingertips to spread it evenly on your face and massage gently for a minute using upward strokes. Focus more on your T-zone that is more prone to sebum plugs. Rinse off with lukewarm water.

2. Water-Based Cleansers

While the oil-based cleanser removes bad oil, sunscreen and make-up, the water-based cleanser provides a deeper cleaning and removes water-based impurities like dirt and sweat. These cleansers are mainly of three types- cleansing gel, foam and cleansing waters.

Cleansing gels can be used by most skin types as they do not dry out your skin as certain foam cleansers do. Cleansing waters, however, are slightly different from the first two. They do not need additional water and can be applied on a cotton pad to wipe away dirt from your face.

How To Use Water-Based Cleansers

For the second step, squeeze out a coin size amount of cleanser and apply on your face. Gently massage in circular motion for a minute and wash off. Make sure to use a mild one which does not contain harsh surfactants.

3. Exfoliants

Exfoliation is the third step that is focused on gently sloughing off dead skin cells which may lead to pore blocking and acne. It is better to understand your skin’s requirements and limit exfoliation to 2 to 3 times a week if your skin is less exposed to dirt and pollution.

Korean skincare often prefers peeling gels or gentle chemical exfoliants to physical exfoliators. This is because physical exfoliators and harsh scrubbing methods can cause micro-injuries on your skin. This makes your skin more vulnerable to infections. Whereas, chemical exfoliants are more gentle and give you long term results. So you can limit exfoliation to even 2 times a week.

How To Use Exfoliants

Apply a small dollop of product on damp skin and gently exfoliate in a circular motion. Do this for about 30 seconds before washing off with lukewarm water.

If you are using a peeling/ exfoliating gel, use a similar quantity and evenly apply on your face. Now massage in circular motion. You will soon notice the gel slowly clamping together and dropping off as little white balls which are basically dead skin cells. Rinse off with lukewarm water for baby soft skin.

4. Toners

Toning is essential to skin care as it tightens your pores and helps maintain your skin’s pH balance. However, make sure to choose one which does not contain alcohol. While hydrating toners are best for dry to normal skin, toners with green tea or tea tree oil work well for oily and combination skins.

How To Use Toners

Put a few drops of toner on a cotton pad and pat all over your face to distribute it evenly. Work your way up from your chin to the forehead and then apply on your neck. Focus on areas where you have wrinkles or fine lines.

5. Essences

This Korean invention is still a novel product that many aren't aware of. Essences are packed with active ingredients and can be compared to serums, but their formulas are more lightweight. They aim to hydrate your skin and restore its moisture balance. Owing to their water-based nature essences can penetrate deep into your skin layers and boost its overall health. Essence also helps to prep your skin for the next steps in your skin care routine and enhances product absorption.

How To Use Essences

Take a few drops on your palm and gently pat it all over your face. Since essence is a potent formula, a small quantity of it is sufficient.

6. Serums

Serums [1] are slightly more viscous than essences and come next in the Korean skin care routine. These contain active compounds in high concentrations that perform specific actions such as anti-aging, skin brightening, oil-control, pore-minimizing, hydrating and many more.

How To Use Serums

Squeeze 3-4 drops of serum onto your palm and use your fingertips to gently pat it on your skin. Avoid rubbing it on your face as serums have small molecules that get easily absorbed into your skin.

7. Sheet Mask

Woman with face mask

The next step in Korean skin care involves pampering your skin with a sheet mask. These are made of cotton or microfibres often dipped in natural extracts, serums, vitamins, essential oils and hyaluronic acid. Sheet masks aim to hydrate, detoxify, rejuvenate and nourish your dull skin and leave you with soft, supple radiant skin.

How To Use Sheet Mask

Carefully unfold the mask and place it on your skin. Leave it on for a minimum of 20 minutes till it dries. Gently remove and pat your skin for better product absorption. Sheet masks are a quick fix to dry, dull skin and can be used daily as part of your skin care routine.

8. Eye Cream

A stressful lifestyle and frequent exposure to the elements can affect the skin around your eyes which is more vulnerable to damage. Eye creams [2] provide a perfect solution to dark circles, puffiness, wrinkles and fine lines around your eyes.

How To Use Eye Cream

Apply 2 to 3 dots of eye cream under your eyes and gently pat to spread it.

9. Emulsion/ Moisturizer

woman applying moisturizer to her face

Emulsions and moisturisers [3] differ slightly in texture. Emulsions have a water base with a milky texture and are lightweight when compared to a moisturizer. However, they both work to improve your skin barrier function and retain essential moisture into your skin.

It is a vital step in the Korean skin care routine as it works to seal the goodness of the previously used products into your skin through an occlusive effect. For those with dry skin, you can first use an emulsion and follow it up with a moisturiser.

How To Use Moisturizer

Squeeze out a coin-sized amount onto your palm and dab on your skin. Gently massage for better absorption of the product.

10. SPF/ Sleeping Mask/ Night Cream

The last step of the Korean skin care routine involves protecting your skin with SPF during the day or repairing it with a sleeping mask/night cream at night. As part of your Korean morning skincare routine select a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has SPF 15 or more. If you have oily skin choose a non-comedogenic, lightweight sunscreen that doesn’t clog your pores.

For the Korean night skin care routine, use a night cream according to your skin type. Sleeping masks have more potent formulas and can be applied 2 to 3 times a week to address specific skin issues.

How To Use Night Cream

Apply the product on your face, neck and hands. Repeat a few times in a day as per your sun exposure.

Vedix Tip: Including Ayurvedic herbs such as manjistha, haridra, sariva, saffron, sandalwood, yashtimadhu, ashwagandha, triphala and guduchi into your 10 step Korean skincare routine can help rejuvenate your skin and enhance its glow.

Korean Skincare Tips For All Skin Types

To get blemish-free skin like the Koreans naturally follow the below-mentioned tips.

1. For Oily Skin

women's hands hold cotton pad and tonic to remove makeup

  • Don’t dry out your skin with harsh surfactants. This disrupts the skin barrier [4] and causes your skin to produce more oil to battle the dryness.
  • Plan your Korean skin care routine for oily skin with water-based, non-comedogenic products.
  • Use an alcohol-free toner that has tea tree oil or green tea extracts for better oil control.
  • Use sheet masks that keep your skin hydrated and help to balance oil. Look for ingredients like cucumber, tea, turmeric, hibiscus, sandalwood, bamboo, rose, lime, pomegranate, bija seeds and berries.

2. For Dry Skin

  • Oil cleansing is highly beneficial for dry skin. Follow it up with a mild water-based cleanser that hydrates your skin.
  • While including a toner in your Korean skincare routine for dry skin, perform a patch test. In case of irritations, invest in a herbal toner or use rose water.
  • Look for ingredients like coconut oil and other plant and seed oils, shea butter, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid [5], honey, essential oils, ceramides, antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, glycerin, avocado, papaya and banana in your sheet masks, serums and moisturizers.
  • Use an emulsion and follow it up with a moisturiser for better moisture retention. Apply it frequently whenever your skin feels dry.
  • Use a night cream/ sleeping mask that repairs the skin barrier to prevent dry skin.

3. For Combination Skin

  • Combination skin needs the care of both dry and oily skin. Hence while planning your 10 steps Korean skincare routine, choose an oil-based cleanser that balances oil and detoxifies your skin. This benefits both the oily and dry areas of your face.
  • Comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads) is a problem frequently observed in combination skin. Using mild chemical exfoliators with fruit acids or peeling gels 2-3 times a week can prevent pore clogging and acne concerns.
  • Go for a hydrating toner that contains aloe vera, chamomile or other floral extracts.
  • If your skin feels too greasy during the day, use only an emulsion after the serum in your Korean morning skincare routine. Moisturize at night.
  • Invest in non-comedogenic, water based products.
  • Include pore-cleansing clay masks for clean, healthy skin.

4. For Acne-Prone Skin

  • The Korean skin care routine has its own set of solutions for acne-prone skin. A wide range of clarifying cleansers, toners, gels and serums are available to control your acne concerns.
  • Use products that contain hydrating, anti-inflammatory, healing and soothing ingredients like turmeric, triphala, niacinamide, tea tree extracts, green tea, centella asiatica [6], gotu kola, hyaluronic acids and bija seeds.
  • Don’t skip the moisturizer. Keeping your skin hydrated from the inside and the outside is a vital step in controlling acne problems. Drink 7 glasses of water everyday. This helps to flush out toxins from the body that are responsible for causing acne.
  • Use a hydrocolloid patch to treat inflammatory acne. Studies on efficacy treatment of acne vulgaris using a new method show that these patches are gentle on the skin and also prevent the formation of acne scars.

Does The Korean Skin Care Routine Work?

Beauty concept in korean skin care

Glass skin’ is a term frequently used to refer to Korean skin that seems almost permanently flawless. The secret is their specially crafted skin care products and their well-known 10 step Korean skin care routine.

Extensive use of antioxidant loaded, natural hydrating ingredients like ginseng, green tea, fruit and floral extracts, tea tree, green tea, bamboo and others along with anti-aging compounds such as vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide etc. makes the Korean skin appear younger than its actual age.

With millions of women all over the world switching over to the Korean skin care routine provides tangible proof of its effectiveness. With its minute attention to your skin needs, adapting this skin care routine is bound to show results in a very short time.

The Last Word

While we’ve always lauded the Korean glass skin, and wondered how they manage to defy age, thanks to Korea’s global reach their beauty secrets have finally been shared. However, the 10 step Korean skin care routine is a procedure, achieving the desired results depends on the products you choose. Steering away from chemical-laden products and including mild, herbal, nature-derived ingredients into your Korean skin care routine can give you flawless, glowing skin in a matter of weeks.

Know Your Dosha Now

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