Korean Skincare Products: What goes Where & The Infamous 10 Step Skincare Routine

Korean Beauty 10 Step Skincare Routine

As you may or may not have noticed from my ever growing list of reviews, I am quite a fan of Korean beauty products. There are so many lotions and potions and pretty bottles and tubes (not to mention all the on going sales throughout the month) that it's hard not to get hooked.

There is also a reason that Korean Beauty products are so sought after...they work.

As a South African (ie I do not have, nor do I want, a face that is as white as snow) I have had my fair share of trial and error when it comes to Korean beauty products. Being part beauty blogger (I also sell stationery and am a freelance photographer) I choose to only review the products that I really do love and actually use. If I buy a product and I don't like it, I won't feature it. I'm not into tearing down a product just because it didn't work for me, as it may work for the next person. 

As Korean skincare products are so different to Western brands, it goes without saying that there are different ways to using them and preferred method of application for each product. Have you heard about the 10 Step System? If not don't worry, all will be revealed soon!

Skincare in Korea is ingrained into the Korean culture, which places a lot of emphasis on beauty. This isn't to say that everyone is obsessed with their looks, although all my students stare at themselves in tiny pocket mirrors throughout class and wear hair curlers throughout the school day because heaven help them if a hair should shift out of place. It took a lot of getting used to, the constant selfie taking, the cellphones used as mirrors & checked every few minutes while on a bus, and of course the pressure to always look like you stepped out of a Vogue magazine. But if, you're like me, and you believe prevention is better than cure when it comes to your skin, then join me in this rather simplified look into world of Korean skincare.

Korean 10 Step Skin Routine CityGirlSearching

10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine

Depending on what products you like to use/own, you may have more or less steps that I do in my skin care routine. Korean products and their formulas are constantly evolving, meaning that now days essences, ampoules & serums can be interchangeable and it's more about looking at the ingredient list of each product and whether it would be beneficial for your skin type. So please do read the following steps with this in mind. 

1. Cleanse (& Remove Make-up)

Double cleansing is recommended here in Korea and for good reason. Have you ever washed your face and then gone onto use a cotton pad soaked with toner and noticed how much grime is actually still left on your face? Double cleansing makes sure this doesn't happen. The first cleansing step removes your makeup and grime sitting on the surface of your skin, while the second step cleans deep down to make sure you skin is prepped so the following products in your skin care routine are full absorbed and can work their magic. I use makeup remover wipes as the first step, and follow with an oil based cleanser. I find foaming cleansers to be too harsh on my skin, especially in winter, while oil cleansers (although it seems contradictory) do not make my skin oily, they clean deeply without stripping my skin of moisture. My favourite oil cleanser is the Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil

2. Exfoliate

I don't do this every day, instead opting to use my Elisha Coy Cleansing Brush once a week while cleansing. You don't want to strip your skin and so try not to exfoliate more than 2 - 3 times a week. When I am needing a deep exfoliation, usually more so in winter, I reach for my favourite Gentle Black Sugar Facial Scrub from Klairs. It's gentle but super effective at removing dead skin and restoring a natural glow. 

3. Tone

Korean Toners ('Skin' or 'Refreshers') are a lot gentler on your skin that Western brands. They are designed to remove any traces of your cleanser as well as restoring the natural PH level of your skin. The optimal PH level of your skin is 5.5 (which you can test with Litmus paper...that paper we all used at kids during science experiments at school!). I don't test the PH of my skin or my skin care products (having so many steps in my skin care routine is time consuming enough, but there are lots of serious beauty bloggers who do and swear by it). Toners soothe and prep your skin to absorb the next step—the essence. I've been alternating between the Innisfree Rose Clear Toner, Innisfree Eco Science Skin and I just recently added the Misha Time Revolution Clear Toner to my beauty shelf.

4. Essence

Missha First Treatment Time Revolution Essence

I have only just started using an Essence and have since read that this step is the bee all and end all of the skincare routine for Koreans. Essences have higher doses of active ingredients. In the case of my new found favourite Essence, the Misha Time Revolution First treatment essence, that active ingredient is Fissione, a yeast by product. This particular Essence is recommended to be used RIGHT AFTER cleansing (ie. before toning) but I have popped it down here as step 4 as most Essences are designed to be used in this step, and not after cleansing.

5. Sheet Masks

Innisfree Sheet Face Masks

Depending on your skin concerns, you may choose to use these masks more often. I use a sheet mask about once a week, especially if my skin is feeling particularly dry. My current favourites are anything from Innisfree and the Mamonde Flower Essential Mask Rose Moisturizing sheet mask (I must admit this is mostly because of the gorgeous packaging!). UPDATE: I recently hosted a 7 day face mask challenge over on Instagram (click here to read the full post) and I can't begin to describe how amazing my skin felt and oft it was after using a face mask every day. I may make a daily face mask part of my routine from now on.

6. Ampoule/Serum

I have noticed recently that the word ampoule & serum seems interchangeable on a lot of Korean products. Depending on the brand of product you are using, they may use the term ampoule or serum. I have used (and loved!) the Innisfree Whitening Pore Synergy Serum, Innisfree Canola Honey Serum as well as the Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum. I am currently testing out the Klairs Vitamin Drop vitamin C serum. Ampoules and serums traditionally come in a glass/plastic bottle with a dripper to easily dispense the product. 

7. Eye Cream

I have mad love for the Innisfree Eco Science Eye Cream and use it both morning and night. I have gone through 3 bottles of the stuff and will be buying a fourth.

8. Moisturiser

One of the final steps is to apply your moisturiser. If you have very oily skin you may opt for a lotion rather than a cream. For night time I swear by the Innisfree Eco Science Cream which is VERY thick and does a super job of giving my skin lots of moisture. A few complain that this cream 'sits' on their skin and doesn't ever seem to sink in but I don't have this problem and think it's because I thoroughly cleanse & tone my skin, and it's prepped and ready to absorb the moisture in it. Depending on just how 'thirsty' your skin is, it may take longer for the cream to absorb into your skin. For day time use I really loved the Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream but have been using up my stock of Nivea Q10 Anti-Ageing Day cream. 

9. Sleeping Pack (night time)

These are relatively new to stores and I'm not sure how I feel about them yet. I have only tried a tester for the Innisfree Jeju Sparking Mineral Water Sleeping pack and didn't really notice any difference in my skin. I would like to try them more though and I'm sure they will grow on me considering how much I love just about all the other skincare product I have tried. They do seem a little bit like overkill, but perhaps I haven't tried the right one yet...any recommendations?

10. Sunscreen

One of the MOST important steps in ANY skincare routine is the sunscreen/cream/block. I am loving the Innisfree Eco Safety Perfect 50++ Sunblock which leaves my skin looking matte, but not feeling dry. I also love this suncream as it doesn't leave my skin looking like a ghostly shade of pale, it has no white cast whatsoever on my olive skin. 

Are you completely overwhelmed? I know I am and I follow most of the steps above every day! Don't worry though, I'd take these steps with a pinch of salt and bear in mind how much time you have. You probably have more time in the evenings than in the morning and so rather focus on your night time routine than your day time routine. Also, it's while you're sleeping that your skin rejuvenates and repairs itself, so if you only have an extra 10 minutes to devote to your skin (apart from ALWAYS wearing a sunscreen during the day!) devote that time to your night time routine. 

Do you follow the 10 step routine? Does this post inspire you to start adding more steps to your current skincare routine? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.