I decided it was time to do an updated post about my Korean style skincare routine! (If you’re interested here are the links to my March 2016 morning routine and night time routine posts..some things have changed, some haven’t! I also discuss a little more on the ideas behind a Korean skincare routine in that morning routine post).
In this post, I’ve laid out all of my steps (EDIT: “products I’m currently using” are outdated; my most current routine is available and kept up-to-date on this page), day and night, and I’ve added some little explanations of each step for those of you who might be new to K-Beauty. I don’t use all of these products all the time. I approach my skincare on a daily basis according to my skins needs (and time restraints), so some days I may use 10 products, and on other days only 3. The most important thing about beginning a skincare routine is knowing your aims, and choosing products to suit those aims. With my skin type (normal-combination, with redness and heat) I’m looking for hydration without heaviness, brightening, calming and evening skintone. Others look for acne solutions, or intense moisturizing. The aims can differ slightly day to day, and I adjust my routine to suit my daily needs. Having a flexible routine to address your needs is what k-skincare philosophy is all about.
Also, remember I’m a skincare blogger and I have waaay more products than the average person honestly needs! This isn’t my whole stash, only the stuff I’m regularly reaching for right now. So let’s get stuck in ‘cos this isn’t gonna be short…
*Some of the products mentioned in this post were provided by individuals or companies for my consideration to review. These will be individually disclosed in the text.
In the mornings I use one foaming cleanser. I do double cleansing at night: oil/balm cleanser followed by a foaming/second step cleanser. I guess if you include the eye makeup remover I use first, I do triple cleansing!
Why double cleansing? If you only use one cleanser, I’m gonna bet your skin isn’t properly clean afterwards (I see you, relying on your toner to get rid of leftover grime from your face- I used to do the same). If you don’t thoroughly cleanse, your skin can become problematic and your skincare routine will not be working efficiently. Hence the need for double cleansing, which is really one of the most crucial parts of a Korean skincare routine.
So first an oil or balm cleanser, to break up and loosen your sunscreen and makeup. Massage this in, emulsify with water, and rinse. Then onto your second cleanser, to remove oily residue and any leftover crap. After this, your skin is going to be your blank canvas for your skincare.
Eye makeup remover I’m currently using:
- Scinic My Peach Lip and Eye Remover
- Heroine Eye Make Up Remover
- The Faceshop Real Blend Calming Cleansing Oil
- G9 Skin It Clean Oil Cleansing Stick (provided courtesy my friend Brenda, at Berrisom)
Second step cleansers:
- Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick
- Belif The True Tincture Chamomile Cleansing Stick
- Olivarrier Emollient Cleansing Bar (provided courtesy Olivarrier)
Sometimes if I want an extra cleanse, or after a workout or something, I also use:
- Neogen Real Flower Rose Cleansing Water
I don’t claim to be an expert on actives and acids. I’ve only ever used Korean products in this category, and many people prefer western because they tend to be stronger. Acids are pH dependent products to exfoliate skin. In a nutshell, AHA products are used to exfoliate the skin’s surface and help skin retain moisture, whilst BHA products are oil soluble and can go deeper into pores to help target whiteheads and blackheads. Vitamin C is great for brightening pigmentation, evening skin tone, as well as lightly exfoliating. I’m going to leave my explanation there because there are tonnes of resources online that can explain better than me! I leave actives for 15 minutes to work their magic before moving on.
I’m currently using:
- Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner (this is not an acid itself, but is a pH balancing toner specifically to prep skin for acid products)
- Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
- Alive: Lab Cotton Candy Balls (provided courtesy Alive: Lab)
Toners/First Treatment Essences (FTEs)
Korean toners are not an extra cleansing step and they’re not like those harsh astringents that were so normal to me whilst growing up. Your skin should already be thoroughly clean, and then Korean toners generally fall into two categories- hydration or exfoliating. They are the first layer of hydration and used to prep skin for the rest of your routine. Exfoliating toners obviously help lightly exfoliate skin surface.
First treatment essences are very watery, and are supposed to be used directly after cleansing (they come second if you’re using a actives). Similarly to toners, they prep skin, but also usually contain a high number of active ingredients for a wide variety of purposes (brightening, evening skintone, anti-wrinkle yada yada…)
As with a lot of Korean skincare words, these two terms can sometimes be used interchangeably. I tend to use a toner followed by an FTE if I’m using both. However I’m more likely to use one or the other.
I’m currently using:
- Su:m37 Secret Repair Toner
- G9 Skin White in Milk Toner (provided courtesy my friend Brenda at Berrisom)
- Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum Ex (confusingly called a serum, but for use at the first skincare step)
- Kiehls Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence
- Purpletale Setting the Scene Treatment Essence (provided courtesy Purpletale)
So yeah, the Korean skincare market likes to switch up the names of products, and confuse us all as muuuuch as possible. The terms essence, serum, and ampoule have become kinda interchangeable names for products packed with active ingredients, applied before creams and moisturisers. The consistency of these products can vary hugely, from watery liquids, to thick viscous gels, to lotion type. They target specific skincare needs like brightening, moisture, anti-wrinkle etc. I usually use a selection of products from this category, particularly in an evening routine.
I’m currently using:
- Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
- Olivarrier Dual Moist Hyraluron Essence (provided courtesy Olivarrier)
- Throwing in a curve ball here- Goodal Waterest Lasting Oil. Despite being an ‘oil’ its pretty thin, and absorbs very quickly. I apply it after my essences before ampoules/serums.
- Scinic All in One Snail Ampoule
- Nature Republic Honey Real Nature Ampoule
- Su:m37 Secret Repair Concentrate
- Yvesom Lemon Cucumber Carbonated Water Serum (provided courtesy Yvesom)
I’m not a big believer in eye creams generally, just in hydrating the eye area with whatever you wish, but I’ve recently been using:
- G9 Skin White in Milk Capsule Eye Cream (provided courtesy Brenda at Berrisom)
I did a two part mini review of the cream on my Instagram. It’s been giving me decent results in terms of brightening, and slightly softening fine lines.
Gonna admit it, I have more lotions and creams than I know what to do with, with about 7 waiting to be opened. No regrets. I need creams for all different situations- to target winter dry skin, suitable for summer humidity, suitable for when I’m having a breakout etc etc. Emulsions tend to be lighter consistency and more runny than “creams”.
I’m currently using:
- Goodal Moisture Barrier Liquid (this is like a gel liquid and is the one I always use first as it’s the lightest- it’s kinda a hybrid between an essence and cream)
- Hadalabo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Milk
- Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb (provided courtesy The Korean Economic Review)
- Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All in One Cream
- Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Cream (provided courtesy Cosrx)
- SkinRx Lab MadeCera Cream (provided courtesy SkinRx Lab)
- Su:m37 Secret Repair Concentrated Cream (I strictly only use this in winter/at night)
Sunscreen (morning routine only)
SO NECESSARY. I never realised when I was younger how important sunscreen is to prevent aging and skin damage. I should have started earlier, but I’m hoping that by beginning to incorporate this step regularly by age 23, I’ve helped my skin for the future. If you’re using acids or actives you should 100% be wearing sunscreen, as these products increase photo sensitivity.
I’m currently using:
- Scinic Aqua Fresh Sun Gel SPF 50+ PA+++
- Clabiane Ultra Daily Sunscreen SPF 50+ PA+++ (provided courtesy Clabiane)
- My HG sunscreen, Biore UV Aqua Rich Water Essence SPF50+ PA++++ just ran out, sob
Sleeping Packs (night time routine only)
These are used at night after your last step of cream, to seal in moisture overnight. They’re not to everyone’s taste, as they often leave a slight film on skin, but I always wake up with glowy skin when I use one.
I’m currently using:
- Biotherm Life Plankton Mask
- Too Cool For School Pumpkin Sleeping Mask
So in between all of these steps, I often will opt for a treatment too. These are the treatments I go for and why:
- Eye Masks- Shangpree and Berrisom. I use these almost daily while I wait about 15 minutes for my acids to work. You can read my comparison post of these masks, which I use to reduce morning puffiness, to temporarily reduce fine lines, and for preventative aging.
- All the masks: sheet masks, nose patches, modelling masks, rubber masks. I frequently use a wide variety of masks after my essence stage for extra hydration, moisturising, brightening etc.
- Laneige Waterclay Mask. I use this mainly in the summer to help clear extra sebum and oiliness. I apply it after the cleansing stage.
- Olivarrier Gentle Glow Seed Polishing Mask (provided courtesy Olivarrier). This is applied after cleansing, to help clean pores, and for mild physical exfoliation.
- Sulwhasoo Clarifying Mask. This is a peeling mask to clean pores, also applied directly after cleansing.
- Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. My ultimate HG that I wear all day and night to keep my lips soft and moisturised.
I’ve tried to simplify it as much as possible, but writing it down makes my routine sound so complicated! It’s really not, and there are no rules to a Korean style skincare routine! The only general rule I stick by is to apply products in order of thickness, from thinnest through to thickest, and to target my aims for that day (be it hydration, controlling excess sebum, brightening, etc). A Korean skincare routine is fun and effective (for me) because it’s flexible, picking and choosing products to suit my skin that day. I lay on as many or as few layers from this collection as I wish.
What does your routine look like? Do you multi-step? Have you tried any of the same products I’m using?
If you have any questions at all about my routine, or want any clarifications about Korean skincare please don’t hesitate to comment or shoot me a message at email@example.com . Hope you’re all having a great week!