Do you ever notice how Korean women have the most beautiful, porcelain skin? If you assume this is all because of genes then you are totally wrong. They actually work quite diligently to achieve that perfect skin, and take a different approach to makeup than we do on the Western side.
In Eastern cultures, skincare is a part of their culture, and while the American approach to skincare is more reactive (like, “Oh my god is that a wrinkle forming!? I need a eye cream!”), Korean women start being proactive from a very young age and treat their skin and complexion like the ultimate investment. It is not just financial investment but a time investment. So although you might be following a strict cleansing and moisturizing regime every night before going to bed, but you are still not even coming close to some important steps that Korean women use to help them achieve that spotless, beautiful skin.
Now, I am sure you have heard of the famous “million-step” skincare routine when it comes to Asian beauty. Fear not. It’s actually made up of about 10 steps, and while this might seem like a process that would take up your whole morning and evening, it actually only takes about 15 minutes, and leaves your skin glowing.
This is how the Koreans do it, so read and learn.
1. Pre-Cleanse: Step one is part of the ever-popular “double cleansing.” First, use a good eye makeup remover or towelette to rid your skin of any liner, mascara, lipstick and even that tinted moisturizer around your hairline. Next, loosen the face makeup and buildup from the day with an oil-based cleanser. Ever wake up with a mascara-streaked pillowcase even though you’ve washed your face? You won’t after using an oil-based cleanser! Massage it over your dry face and neck to break up makeup, add a splash of lukewarm water to emulsify, and massage again, rinsing everything away.
2. Cleanse: And now the ‘double’ portion of the double-cleanse. Using a water-based cleanser to wash your face whisks away any residue from your oil cleanse and the remaining impurities with it.
3. Exfoliate: Use a soft exfoliating cleanser and only focus on the areas that really need special attention like the t-zone or around the nose. Exfoliating is crucial for a polished complexion. Sloughing off dead skin cells and debris makes it a breeze for the rest of your skin care products to mingle with your pores and really get down to business. Up to twice a week, gently massage or tap in an exfoliant into skin for your smoothest and softest-feeling skin.
4. Tone: Time to prep your skin with toner. You can sprinkle into your hands and tap directly onto your skin or dispense onto a cotton round and gently swipe all around your face working outwards. Toner helps balance your skin’s pH levels and preps your skin with a bit of hydration to better absorb your following skin care treatments. Think about your skin like a sponge—it’s more difficult to rehydrate it when it’s dried up and hardened than when it’s already a bit damp. Make sure to avoid alcohol-based toners.
5. Essence: The main difference between an essence and a serum is that while the toner cleans and preps the skin, the essence improves the skin. Skin becomes breathtakingly crystal clear. You can consider essence the heart of a Korean skin care routine. A bit dual purpose, essence is a kind of toner and serum hybrid made for hydrating and aiding skin repair and cell turnover. You apply it directly to freshly toned skin with your hands and pat it in.
6. Serum: Curious about what a serum really is? Read an explanation here. These babies brighten, lighten and plump skin, improve texture, reverse the signs of UV damage and more with cutting-edge technology and powerful vitamins, minerals and botanicals. You apply these in the same fashion, it’s all about the tap! These products can address any issue including brightening, pore-refining, pigmentation, wrinkles, acne—this is your skin-perfecting step.
7. The Sheet Mask: These masks are basically super-charged sheet laced serums. If essence is the heart of a Korean skin care routine, the sheet mask is its soul. It’s a quiet meditative, skin-nourishing ritual that imparts maximum treatment into your skin while you chill out for 15-20 minutes, looking a bit like a damp ghost. This is also the best selfie opp during your skin care routine. Once or twice a week is enough for this step. The cool thing about these masks is that there are hundred of different kinds that target a variety of concerns, and even sensitive areas like the lips, eyes, chin and neck.
8. Eye Cream: A thick eye cream, should be applied twice a day, morning and night. The skin around your eyes is the most delicate skin on your face and should be treated like the fragile flower that it is, with extra helpings of hydration and protection. Use your ring finger to very gently tap—never rub—eye cream around the entire orbital bone, avoiding the water line.
9. Face Moisturizer: During the day, try to use something lightweight, that blends into skin really fast without leaving it greasy. Also don’t forget about neck when you are blending into your face. At night, use a cream that lets your skin breathe yet at the same time, locks moisture in the skin throughout the night, so you wake up looking fresh and beautiful.
10. SPF (AM only): Even if you’re stepping outside for a few minutes, sunscreen is the best thing you can do to prevent premature aging—it’s the OG anti-aging skin product. Apply every—and we mean every—morning, reapplying throughout the day as needed. It’s important as the last step so it can shield your skin from the harmful effects of UV rays without being diluted by all your prior skin care products.
Remember, the most important Korean beauty makeup secret is less makeup, more skincare. You don’t need to exfoliate and mask every day, but whenever you can give your skin an extra boost.