If you’ve been paying attention to the world of skincare and beauty, you might have noticed that Korean skincare is the trend du jour that it-girls, makeup artists, magazine editors, and models alike are obsessed with, and here in the Style office, we are no exception. With innovative technology building upon ancient traditions, they Korean beauty world has proved that they are light-years ahead of the rest of us, and we’ve decided that we want in.
Below we’ve gathered all the tips from beauty bloggers, dermatologists, make-up artists, and beauty editors so that you can dive face-first into Korean skincare. From breaking down 10-step beauty rituals (or 5 steps if you’re in a pinch) to all the brands you need to know, here’s everything you need to know about Korean skincare.
At its heart, Korean skincare is very holistic. It might be quite extensive, but that is because it provides undeniable results. The key to the practice is hydration, exfoliation, sun safety, and self-care.
Dermatologists and beauty experts across the world agree that hydration is the key to flawless, glowing skin. Investing in good quality, hydrating products help your skin to look plumper, younger, and clearer. Use products that don’t strip your skin of its natural oils (which are vital for keeping your skin hydrated and healthy) and remember to moisturise at least two times every single day. If dryness is a specific concern of yours, investigate different serums, ampoules, boosters and emulsions to ensure you have an arsenal of products at your disposal whenever your skin needs a little extra love. Sheet masks are also an incredible tool for keeping your skin hydrated and nourished!
Exfoliation is vital for good skin as it peels away dead skin cells and impurities to encourage skin cell renewal. Exfoliants come in two main types - physical and chemical – and should only be used once or twice a week depending on your skin's needs. In between exfoliations, you can use warm water and an exfoliating mitt to gently buff the skin. Be sure to use cold and warm towels to open and close the pores prior to both exfoliation and product application.
Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is vital in nurturing healthy skin. Whether the weather is sunny or overcast, or even if you’re at home or in the office all day, and SPF 50+ product ensures your skin is protected at all times.
All the products in the world won’t be able to help you if you lead a poor lifestyle. A holistic approach to skincare, which includes healthy eating and quality sleep, is just as important as the products you use. Korean culture particularly emphasises this. For example, if you have a spot on your face it may be caused from stress that has caused your heart to overwork. Korean women will treat this not only with skincare products but also by minimising anything causing them stress and by drinking green tea or date tea, which are said to improve heart health. Having both a reactive and proactive approach to skincare will ensure beautiful and healthy skin for years to come!
While it might sound crazy, a traditional Korean skincare routine can comprise of anywhere from 8 to 10 steps, performed morning and night! Although it may be more work than your current routine (e.g. cleanse, moisturise, and hope for the best!) each step of the skincare regime has a specific purpose for your skin and is invaluable at generating healthy, clear skin. First, we’ll go through the full 8 steps, and then we’ll run over how you can maximise your routine even when you’re short on time (after all, we all oversleep some mornings). In between, you’ll also find a bunch of recommended products based on your skin type.
Step 1: Make-Up Remover / Oil Cleanser
Starting with an oil-based cleanser will help remove any oil-based or waterproof makeup you may be wearing, as well as any impurities on the skin. Massage the cleanser into your skin to break-up the makeup and then splash lukewarm water over your face to emulsify the cleanser. Continue to massage into your skin and then rinse it all off. In the mornings, you don’t need to use a cleanser if you thoroughly cleaned your skin the night before. Water is perfectly sufficient to remove any surface impurities that may have gathered in the night!
Step 2: Water-Based Cleanser
Double cleansing is a cornerstone of Korean skincare as it enables you to thoroughly remove any impurities from your skin as well as all traces of makeup and congestion. Following an oil cleanser, a water-based cleanser can help gently remove any oil residue and remaining impurities.
Step 3: Exfoliator
Exfoliating is not an everyday step. Rather, twice a week you should gently exfoliate your skin with either an enzyme or bead-based exfoliator to remove dead skin cells that can make your skin look dull and block your pores. Sloughing these dead skin cells off can help the rest of your products better absorb into your skin and work their magic. Be sure to gently exfoliate your skin, and select a product that works best for your skin type.
Step 4: Toner
If like me, you’ve always heard about toner but never really understood why your skin needs it, it’s time to clear things up. Toner helps to rehydrate your skin after cleansers and exfoliators have stripped it. It balances your pH levels and lightly hydrates your skin so that you can go in with your remaining products with a perfectly prepped canvas. When correctly selected, a toner can also help prevent your skin from becoming overly oily or dry throughout the day.
Step 5: Essence
If you’ve been following a western skincare routine thus far, it’s likely you are yet to come across essence, the heart of Korean skincare! An essence is a hybrid of a toner and a serum, made for hydrating your skin, aiding skin repair, and aiding cellular turnover. The result? A beautiful, youthful appearance!
Step 6: Treatments
Treatments, which can include ampoules, boosters and serums, are similar to essences but are specifically formulated to target specific issues. Whether it’s acne, elasticity, dull skin, or pigmentation, this is the step where you are able to target and perfect all your concerns. Serums are concentrated formulas with multiple active ingredients to really target where your skin might be a bit weak. Ampoules and boosters comprise of a higher number of active ingredients than serums and are used for a finite amount of time when your skin needs the extra help.
Step 7: Sheet Masks
In recent years, sheet masks have become a veritable cult-favourite in Western skincare thanks to the hundreds of amazing developments coming from Korean beauticians and dermatologists. Quite simply, sheet masks are a fine cloth that has been soaked in a nourishing formula of skin-loving ingredients. Perfect for all skin types, you can easily select different skin masks to target different concerns, whether it’s for extra hydration or a skin-brightening treatment. While I had always assumed sheet masks could only be used often semi-regularly, I’ve recently started sheet-masking as often as every second day, and sometimes even more often than that. I am a veritable sheet mask addict.
Step 8: Eye Cream
As there are no sebaceous glands to produce natural oils, this skin around your eyes is the thinnest and delicate skin on your body. Eye creams are specially formulated for this skin and can help add extra hydration and protection against fine lines. Use your ring finger or pinky to gently rub eye cream across the skin of the orbital bone, being sure to avoid your water line.
Step 9: Moisturiser
Hydration is one of the key pillars of skincare, so it’s important to select a moisturiser that is formulated for your skin type. They can come in many different forms – emulsion, lotion, gel, or cream – each with their own benefits, and all designed to seal in moisture for long-lasting all-day hydration. Make sure you apply a thin layer of moisturiser every single day, morning and night, for skin that is healthy and glowing. If your skin is feeling a little parched, in the evening you can swap your regular moisturiser for something a little more intense, such as a sleeping pack, to help lock in ingredients throughout the evening so you can wake to rejuvenated skin and a brighter complexion.
Step 10: Sun Protection
Sun damage can cause dark spots, wrinkles and fine lines, so no matter how long you’ll be outside if you’re stepping into the sun make sure you’re wearing sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Apply every – yes, every – day, reapplying as needed, as the last step of your skincare routine.
While the full 10-step routine is recommended for optimal results, some days it can be hard to fit in the entire extensive routine into your day. Sometimes we sleep in, sometimes we come home a bit tipsy and cannot be bothered – we’re only human! On the days when your schedule just will not budge, or if you’re new to the routine and just want to sample the process, you can condense the routine into a more-manageable 5-step version, which saves time while still yielding brilliant results. Using the same techniques as above, you can condense the routine into the below:
Step 1. Cleanser
Step 2. Toner
Step 3. Serum
Step 4. Eye Cream
Step 5. Moisturiser with SPF
Feautre images: Pinterest