The Korean 10 step skincare regime broken down (and how you use each step)

Probably the most frequent (and difficult) question I get is “What is your usual skincare regime?”.  This question is challenging for a few reasons:

  1. As a beauty addict, my regime changes quite often, with the exception of a few holy grail products that I find myself coming back to again and again;
  2. My skin is so fickle that I find my skincare needs (and thus skincare regime) changing frequently; and
  3. Everyone’s skin is different! So don’t feel you need to try everything — just test a few things out and see what works for you. And don’t go mad and change up your entire routine at one go. Your skin will be in shock, and will definitely not react well. If you’d like to explore some new products, I suggest introducing 1 new product at a time, using it for 2 weeks to a month, and then adding more slowly.

Today, I’ll be going through a 101 of the 10 step Asian/Korean beauty regime just to give you an idea of what it looks like, and what each step is for (there are good reasons, I swear!).


Some of the trusted soldiers of my beauty regime (placed in order of use): Sum:37 miracle rose cleansing stick, Neogen green tea foaming cleanser, Suki sugar foaming cleanser, (mechanical exfoliant), Neogen gauze peeling pads in wine (chemical + mechanical exfoliant), Klairs supple preparation toner, COSRX BHA blackhead repair power liquid, COSRX Snail 96 mucin power essence, Dermatics MD Vit C +E serum, LJH Vita propolis ampoule, Too Cool for School Egg Cream mask, COSRX nourishing rice overnight spa mask. 

So…. What is the Korean/ Asian 10 step regime? 

In a nutshell, this is it:

  1. Oil cleansing (first step of double cleansing): This is an essential step that removes the surface layer of oil, dirt, grime, pollution, and makeup on your face at the end of the day. The general idea is that since you apply your skincare and makeup in layers, it only makes sense that you need to accordingly remove them in layers to effectively clean your skin.

    How to use: With dry (clean) hands and a dry face, massage your cleansing oil onto your skin for 2-4 minutes, splash with water to emulsify the oil (it should turn milky white, indicating that it is ready to be washed off easily), and then wash off with lukewarm water.

  2. Water-based cleansing (second step of double cleansing): This can come in the form of foam, gel and even micellar water cleansers, and is the second step to cleaning your face.

    How to use: After washing off your oil cleanser, use your water-based cleanser as you normally would. Some people swear by the 4-2-4 method, whereby they oil cleanse for 4 mins, use their water-based cleanser for 2 mins, and then spend 4 mins splashing their face with water. This will help introduce moisture back into the skin.

  3. Exfoliation: There are 2 kinds of exfoliation — mechanical (such as sugar scrubs), and chemical (products that contain acid). There are even products that use both methods simultaneously.

    How to use: For dewy, clean, glowing skin, free of whiteheads/ blackheads/ enlarged pores, dullness and flakiness, try exfoliating 2-3 times a week! Try different products, from mild to hardcore, and see what works out for you.

  4. Toner/ first step/ skin/ refresher: This might be super confusing to many. Despite all the names out there, just remember that your most ‘liquid’ product goes on first. Your toner works to prep the skin for the rest of your skincare routine, balance your PH back to natural levels after washing, and also act as a light moisturiser to hydrate and soothe your skin.

    How to use: Either soak a cotton pad and apply to your face in upward strokes, or shake a few drops onto your palm, and pat all over your face. There is a new 7 skin method that has just burst onto the AB world, where you apply your toner in 7 layers, and then go straight to moisturiser or makeup.

    Special tip: If you have sensitive or dry skin, steer clear of toners that contain astringent ingredients such as alcohol or witch hazel! They will just dry out your skin and give you weird unsightly (and depressing) bumps.

  5. Essence: Widely touted as the ‘heart’ of the Korean skincare routine, essences are ultra moisturising toner-serum hybrids that seal in moisture and (I believe) are most responsible for the dewy, chok chok look of unmistakably bouncy and beautiful skin.

    How to use: While your face is still dewy and moist from toning, pat your essence into your skin with your palms.

  6. Serums and ampoules (aka “boosters): Still following? If you’ve wondered what the difference between serums and ampoules are, and why the latter always come in teeny tiny bottles, fret not. Serums are treatment skincare products, targetted to treat different skincare concerns (brightening, whitening, pore-refining, anti-ageing, acne, etc). Ampoules are ultra-concentrated versions of serums.Think of ampoules as the wheatgerm shot that you add to your Boost Juice to give it an extra kick of nourishment for your body! Check out what ingredients you should be looking for to address your skin type’s issues. 

    How to use: Similar to using an essence, pour a few drops of your serum into your palms and pat over your face. Extra points for achieving that famous Korean jok jok patting sound! For ampoules, feel free to drop them into any part of your skincare (essences, serums, moisturisers).

    Special tip: I like to add 1 drop of the LJH vita-propolis (pictured above) into my BB cream to give my skin an extra ‘lit from within’ glow! No highlighters needed after that 🙂

  7. Sheet masks: Think of your sheet mask as a ‘sealing layer’ for all the goodness you’ve patted onto your skin so far. It’s also really soothing to sit around with a cool sheet mask on your face, and I promise you, it is addictive.

    How to use: 2-3 times a week, use a sheet mask for 15-20 mins. Once your mask feels like it’s starting to dry out, don’t leave it on! As the essences dry up, the mask might end up drawing moisture back out of your face instead. So soothing as the experience is, do not fall asleep and leave your mask on your face any longer than you should.

    Special tip: Choosing a sheet mask can be incredibly daunting. Not only are there myriad brands out there, with masks targetted at so many different skincare concerns, but on top of that there are also more active ingredients than you could ever dream of out there! Try to focus on your personal skincare concerns, and then decide what ingredients are most effective to address them. You can also refer to the AB mecca that is this reddit thread to guide you along.

  8. Eye cream: Your eye area is the most delicate and sensitive part of your face, so treat it well. Select an eye cream that is soothing, nourishing, and most importantly, that will not leave milia on your face.

    How to use: Use your 4th finger to gently pat in your eye cream. If your eye area is unusually sensitive, do consider putting eye cream as your Step 4 — that way, your eye area will be more ‘protected’ against your other skincare actives.

  9. Moisturiser: Again, this is a product that will undoubtedly launch a million posts. But I’ll keep it simple for now. Hydrated skin is the only way you can achieve dewy, glowing skin. So find something that works for you (gel, cream, lotion, emulsion), and make sure you never skip this step!

    Special tip: Instead of massaging or spreading (or worst of all, RUBBING) your moisturiser on, try patting it in gently with your fingertips. This is a tried and tested AB method that will enable your skincare products to absorb better.

    Special tip 2: On nights that you don’t use a sheet mask, try using a sleeping mask instead. There are a ton of great ones out there — I especially love COSRX ones. They will work on your skin overnight, giving you plump, glowing skin the next morning.

  10. Sunscreen: Ah, another commonly asked question has to do with how to prevent ageing. The answer is always sunscreen. Prevention > cure is the mantra of Asian/ Korean beauty. Of course, skip this step if it’s night!

    Special tip: Again, I’ll be doing a longer, more detailed post on sun protection, as I have spent the last decade of my life extolling its virtues to anyone who would listen. But for now, just know that clouds only cover 30% of UV rays. This means even on a rainy day, you should be wearing sunscreen! Also, there’s no such thing as ‘waterproof’ sunscreen. If you’re not sure what sunscreen you should be using, check out this list.

And that’s it! Hit me up in the comments below if you have any questions, and let me know if there’s anything you’d like to read/ hear about!

You glow girls! Love,

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