What’s the Hype about Korean Skin Care Routine Steps?

Approximated Reading Time: 15 minutes

What’s all the buzz? Less than a decade ago, western and the rest of the world become more aware of Korean skin care through K-pop and K-drama. If you ever watch those movies stars, you will notice how flawless and dewy their skin are even the male stars. So what’s their secrets? Some will say because of plastic surgery. Some will believe because of their 10 Korean skin care routine steps.

Korean cosmetic industry is quite more advanced than the western world. Because of high demand of better and faster result of their consumers, the industry has significantly progressed in more innovative skin care technology. They use some unknown or uncommon ingredients in their products which I will discuss in another article.

Today I want to discuss about the Korean 10 steps skin care system that most of you probably heard or aware of. This routine is not “none or all” rule. Not all of us have the time or need to do all these steps. I’m encouraging you to modify this dill to suit your needs.

The Traditional Korean 10 Steps Skin Care Routine

Example of 10 Steps Korean Skin Care Routine
source: kbeautyskincareproducts.com

The whole idea is to make sure your skin is squeaky clean before putting anything on your face. Application order is to put watery stuff first then move toward more creamy stuff. It kinda a law of diffusion which means lighter materials get absorb faster than thicker materials. This is a nice way to remember which products to apply first and make the following steps make sense. Here is the details about 10 steps skin care routine:

1: Removing impurity

Getting rid of those dirts or makeup by using an oil based cleanser. It sounds kind of strange but actually the oil cleanser is very effective to extract and dissolve 98% of makeup and impurity. It is also quick and easy to clean off.

2: Cleansing round 2

After you get rid of those impurities, now you are ready to cleanse your skin with a water-based cleanser to wash away any remainingresidue for a squeaky cleaned skin.

3: Refreshing with exfoliator

This is not a daily routine but once or twice a week, you should exfoliate your skin. If you have sensitive skin, you would do this less often, maybe once a month. This is a way to give your skin a fresh and renew look by washing off your dead old skin. Be careful of over exfoliating. Always gentle
message your face with these types of products.

4: Rebalancing with Toner

Toner is rebalancing your skin moisture and pH level after all these cleansing. You can use cotton ball/pad to suck up the toner and then gently apply it all over your face. Let it absorb for a few seconds before going on to the next step.

5: Pampering with Essence

In this step and the next step is like one step. You can use just essence or serum or both. Essence is little lighter than serum. The texture is in between toner and serum which meant for fast absorption. Depending on the essence ingredients, it benefits your skin in different way.

6: Loading them up with serum

Similarly, serum is like a concentrated treatment. It can target specific skin concern. Generally, you would want to apply this serum and then gently tap it in your skin to aid penetration.

7: Rejuvenating with Masks

Commonly there are 3 categories of masks, wash-off mask, sheet mask, sleeping mask. In this step, it refers to sheet mask and sleeping mask. Wash-off mask would fit better into exfoliator step. This masking step just amplify your routine. You can check out this post here which dedicate to this

8: Making them look well rested with eye cream

This is a quick step to rejuvenate everything around your eye. You apply the cream above, side and under the eyes. Your eye area is very delicate so you want to be as gentle as possible. You would want to apply your cream by tapping with your middle finger since it has the less pressure.

9: Moisturizing up

Nothing bet a hydrated skin. This is step is critical to ensure your skin stays moist all-day long. Most moisturizers are thick so wait a few second before doing the next step.

10: Protecting with SPF

After all that work, you’re better protected it with sunscreen with SPF at least 20 or higher. Whether it’s summer or winter, using sunscreen will go a long way.

My Modified Skin Care Routine

Not all of these steps will apply to you. But for my lazy self, I only do a few essential steps that work well with my skin and schedule. Even the products, I change base on the season and the need of my skin.

Morning Routine- Quick and Easy

Morning Routine
source: kbeautyskincareproducts.com

Usually, I’m running late but I have to get ready to hit the door running for work before the traffic jam starts. I want a fast routine so I do the minimum the basic of 5 steps which usually take me about 5 minutes to complete.

Currently, I use Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser which does pretty good job of gently cleaning and balancing my skin pH. I’m love with this Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin Toner. It effectively hydrates and nourish my skin. I like to use Cosrx Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence because it is light and fast absorption, then moisturize light texture Mizon All In One Snail Repair Cream. My last step is a sunscreen. My Favorite is Klairs, Mid-Day Blue Sun Lotion with SPF 40. It does leave my skin a little whiter with a tint of blue but at the same time add glow and non-greasy look.

Evening Routine – Effectively Pamper

Evening Routine
source: kbeautyskincareproducts.com

There is a couple additional steps I do for my nighttime skin care. If I use makeup, I will do a couple cleanse and use Banila Clean It Zero first then the Cosrx cleanser.

I usually exfoliate once or twice a week using Secret Key Lemon Sparking Peeling Gel. I do notice a white residue coming off the skin when using this gel, and my skin feel softer and smoother. Then following with Benton Toner and instead of essence, I use Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop serum to help with discoloration and even out my skin tone.

Sometime I would do mask especially when I have an event to attend on the weekends. Otherwise, I don’t usually do it. If I do a wash-off mask, I do it in between cleanser and toner but I do sheet mask between serum and eye cream. My go to wash-off mask is Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask and my sheet mask is Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Mask. For sheet mask when I’m done I don’t wash it off. I gently tap the leftover serum and let my face dries a little before applying my eye cream.

I have tried many eye creams but my favorite one so far is this Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream. It has light scent and a boat load for the price. It helps keep my dark circle and wrinkle away.

My last step is either using a moisturizer or sleeping mask. If I don’t use sheet mask, I will use Laneige waster Sleeping Mask for extras boost or I end the night with my Mizon moisturizer.

My verdict

source: kbeautyskincareproducts.com

I haven’t seen my face glow before. This is awesome! My skin now is more radiance, smoother, brighter, even skin tone, less noticeable discoloration. I couldn’t be happier.

I will let you be the judge of my before and after photo here. Both of them is a selfie without filter and with no-makeup except the eye area.

My skin is not perfect but I’m far better off now with this skin care regime. I truly believe in prevention before treatment. One thing I always do is to wear sunscreen like a mad woman. My skin is very sensitive to the sun so I wear sunscreen every day reapply twice a day even though I don’t go out in the sun. But even I’m in the sun, I always wear double layer of sunscreen and wear a hat. Those freckles will not go away nor getting worse so that good news.

Best Places to Buy These Korean Skin Care Products Online

If you have access to Amazon.com, it is the best place and sometimes best prices to get all your Korean skin care products.

Due the raising interest in Korean skin care industry globally, there have been so many new online places to get these products. Here is list of some but it is not an extensive list:

  • Yesstyle.com They are Hong Kong based company. I do affiliate with them. They offer free shipping over $35 and they ship to most countries. For the first time customer, they offer $10 off. They also sale other Asian skin care products. Price sometime is comparable or cheaper than Amazon.com. The Best time to buy is to watch out for deal or sale.
  • Sokoglam.com You can get 20% for your first purchase by using clicking here. Free shipping for order over $35 for US and they do ship internationally. Their price points tend to be little more expensive than other websites.
  • Memebox.com They are US based company and offer free shipping for order over $40. They have exclusive brand for their products so you probably can find the best deal for these brands with them. They used to have a lot of other products but they changed their business model.
  • PeachandLily.com They are another US based company that curated quality Korean products. They offer $10 off $50 order for first time customer. You can click here for that offer. You also get free US shipping for order over $50 with free samples. They have some unique brands. Their products tend to be little pricey.
  • GlowRecipe.com They are another US based company that curated quality natural Korean products. They offer 10% off $50 order for first time customer. You also get free US shipping for order over $50 with free samples. They have some unique brands and products. Their products tend to be more expensive.
  • Koreadepart.com They like Korean Department Store. They do ship internationally from Korea but charge a shipping fee. You need to account for that in your cost per item price. They have huge selection of Korean skin care products. You need to know what you want to ease of navigating.
  • Beautytap.com They offer free shipping internationally for order over $60. They ship directly from Korea. They have a quite a bit of selection

The post got little longer than what I would usually write but hope you find this post useful. Feel free to leave your comments, thoughts or questions, experience with these products or online shops below. I would love to hear from you.

Cheers to beautiful skin!


Edit: from one of the comment from the reader, I would to address that the Amazon links that I provide with the products are authentic products made in Korea from legitimate sellers.

Posted by Sophorn

I'm a skin care enthusiast who love to do research on skin care active ingredients and trying new skin care products. I love Korean skin care products because it is affordable, effective and innovative. I have been using Korean skin are product since 2014 and haven't looked back! Skin Type: Combination skin with slightly oily T-zone freckles on my upper check area. Dream Skin Condition: like those Korean actresses with glow and dewy skin.

32 thoughts on “What’s the Hype about Korean Skin Care Routine Steps?”

    1. Thank you for stopping by and take time to read article. Let me know your experience with the product you did try. I’m eager to hear about it.

  1. Sadly, I did not realize there was such a difference in skin care requirements for people of different ethnicities. Very good laydown, truly appreciate the insight.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and read the article. Yeah, when it comes to beauty, we probably try almost anything that might work. I’m guilty of that. After all our face is our brand ^_^

  2. All I know is that I’ve noticed that Koreans always appear young looking to me. My skincare routine is tame compared to that – I cleanse, then tone and then moisturize daily. Once a week I do a facial scrub before cleansing. My day moisturizer has sunscreen in it and if I am going to be in the sun I put on additional sunscreen before going out.

    This Korean skin care routine actually looks great, not something I would be able to fit in every single day but for a monthly pampering it would be perfect. I’m going to be adding those extra products to my shopping list for some extra self-care. 

    1. That’s true Lynne. It is a lot of steps. I also simplify to what fit my schedule. The more I do it, the faster it takes. Nowadays, I only take me 5 minutes for the routine. Do what works for you. 

  3. It’s so important to take care of our skin properly. There are so many products out there that are supposed to help with skin conditions, but I swear most of them are completely worthless. I enjoyed reading your article, because I’ve struggled with acne in the past, but I’ve recently found a product that helps me. However, I know that certain products don’t work for certain people, so I enjoy seeing what else is out there and what others are benefiting from.

    1. Hi Danny, I’m a firm believer on less is more. I put a lot of effort in keep my skin as best as possible so I don’t have to spend any time doing makeup. I have tried many products from brand names to organic, but I found out that Korean products work best for me. You have tried more products eventually you find something that your skin loves. 

  4. I just saved this to my bookmark bar, thanks for the advice!

    I’ve struggled to find the right combination of things. I have more oily skin, and I’ve struggled with breakouts for years, so I use a very powerful face wash that ALSO has the negative side affect of drying out my skin, and making it more red.

    Does this routine work equally well for all skin types? And are moisturizers clean enough that they won’t perpetuate acne or anything like that? I’m tired of experimenting with things that are only half working for me.

    1. Hi Jordan, the routine works for all skin type but the products you use might be different. I have combination and oily t-zone skin type. These products work wells for me. 

      I would recommend the following products for your oily skin type:

      1. Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Revitalizing

      2. Cosrx, Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser or Klairs, Rice Moist Foaming Cleanser

      3. Once or twice a week depending on you, you can exfoliate with Secret Key Lemon Sparking Peeling Gel

      4. Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin or Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner

      5/6. Depending what kind of skin concern you have, you can try this Klairs, Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop for boost of radiant skin or this Klairs, Rich Moist Soothing Serum for more hydration

      7.  You can try sheet mask or sleep-in mask like these  Klairs, Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask or  Laneige, Water Sleeping Mask or Ariul, 7 Days Masks

      8. Cosrx Honey Ceramide Eye Cream

      9. Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream or Klairs, Rich Moist Soothing Cream

      10. lastly, SPF up 

      You can give slowly introduce one product at a time into your routine.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes.



  5. Hi Sophorn and thank you for sharing this regime in skin care

    I have a daughter in law that is a beauty therapist here in New Zealand and she love learning about products and application and everything skin care so I will give her your URL so she can come see what your site is all about as I feel she will enjoy it as much if not more than I did so thank you

    1. Hi Vicki, 

      Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to learning for her as well. I’m not expert in this field but I do like to research and learn more about skin science. I’m also interested in trying new skin care products as well. I have recently join the K-beauty skin care boat and haven’t looked back. It doesn’t happen over night and there is also trial and error. Today, I believe the products does work well for me. 



  6. Do you have any recommendations for men skin products? Also I live in right next to Korea town in New York City, Have you have you been there? Any products you recommend I can get there(K-town) or is it best to buy online?

     Thanks in advance I look forward to your reply.

    1. I haven’t been Korean town in NYC but I have gone to one in Chicago. For me, I like to do research and read reviews first before buying a skin care product. Buying in the store is not that convenience for me unless I know what I want already. For price wide, the one I went in Chicago was slightly higher price than online and having to pay tax wasn’t a plus. Maybe it is different in NYC. There are a lot of variation in price too. But when you in the store you can always check online first to see if you have a good deal. 

      I haven’t thought of guy skin care routine. But a good cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen are a must product for either gal or guy. I would recommend to start with these products: Cosrx, Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser;  Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream and Missha, All-around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk. They are very affordable and gentle enough to try out. 

      Please share your experience buying Korean skin care product in NYC 🙂 

  7. wow, I had no idea that there were so many steps in to their flawless looking skin! One thing I did not see on there was facial oil? I have been using an oil as well as a serum, but to be honest I am not really sure what the difference is. I just thought people were supposed to use both. Are you able to clarify that for me? 

    Also, are the products off of Amazon legit? How do we know which ones are real or not? 

    I really enjoyed your page, I will definitely be back for more 🙂 

    1. Serum can be water or oil based and contain high concentrated ingredients. Oil consists of a blend of essential oil and plant extracts which can have larger molecules. Oil is more suitable as moisturize since the large molecule tend to sit at the surface of the skin. 

      K-beauty guru do state that you can use both. If you do, do the serum first then apply the oil that way you can ensure the your serum can sink into your skin. 

      The links I provide in my blog are legit products from legit sellers. I do buy both on Amazon and Yesstyle.com (they are authorize dealers for all the Korean skin care products). Both products are identical. If you want o have more experience with the authentic products first before buying on Amazon you can check out this post which I have listed all US based company that sell Korean skin care products. They are all authorized dealer for all the brands that they have on their websites. They just somewhat more expensive than Amazon. 

      For real or fake, you can notice in the label and packaging. If there is something off like a label is smear or unclear ink, I would doubt that is a real product. 

      Please do stop back and let me know your experience with Korean skin care. 

  8. Wow.  I’ve started to notice a difference in my skin here lately since I hit about 40.  I had no idea the regiments people go through to address this.  After about half-way through your article I was going to ask if I have to do all 10 steps but then I saw your reduced steps morning routine. 

    I do have a couple of questions I hope you can help me out with… 

    In step 7 you mentioned “You can check out this post here which dedicate to this topic.” but I couldn’t find the link to follow so I could read that post.  Can you provide it here?

    Do the products and regiments differ for men vs women?  I ask because I’m a man and when it comes to appearance regiments, let’s just say I’m pretty lazy.  Do you happen to have a 5-step (or less) recommended program for men?

    Last question… I see you have a morning and night routine…is 2 daily routines necessary?  Again I’m lazy and looking for something manageable for a man in his 40’s with a short attention span.

    Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you for reading through this in detail. I did fix the link :).

      I don’t think the routine is different from men and women but the implementation might be different. I wonder if men even do a skin care routine. My husband only wash and moisturize in the morning and at night lol. 

      I’m also quite lazy too or don’t have enough time to take care of my skin. But a good cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen are a must product for everyone. I would recommend to start this 3-step routine with these products: Cosrx, Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser;  Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream and Missha, All-around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk. They are very affordable and gentle enough to try out. 

      If you want to pamper your skin, you can add one or twice a week mask session(check this post out to pick the right one for you). And/or you can serum to treat your skin concerns like this Klairs, Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop

      Once you’ve done a couple time you can be very fast and it takes only a few minutes. 

      Good luck and please let me know how it goes for you! I’m curious to learn more 🙂

      1. Thank you! I’ll have to give it a shot. I will let you know how it goes (but keep in mind, I am a man, so when I’ll actually get to it is anyone’s guess).

        Thanks again!

  9.  This is a really interesting article I’ve not heard of Korean skincare products before personally I just thought all skin products with a sign that look like you’re before and after pictures I can certainly see a difference.

    What time interested to know this seems to be a lot of steps involved with Korean skincare how long the products last and what is the actual cost per month to pry these products?

    I do suffer from dark circles under my eyes, can I benefits from just using the eye products or will I be missing out key steps ? 

    1. Interesting question. Usually, each product last me at least a month or 3 months depending on the usage frequency. I would estimate around $70 per month assuming average of $20 per product and usage of 10 products over 3 months. For the basic steps like cleansing, moisturizing and sunscreen would cost around $20 per month. So with this routine is might be higher as expected.

      For dark circle under the eyes, there is no instant fix and eye cream would only do so much to help. But to get the desired result, I believe that you need to get enough sleep and keep yourself hydrated. Then use the cream will help you achieve and maintain your result.

      For long term usage (at least a couple months) these creams seem to work for me: Innisfree, Orchid eye cream and Benton Fermentation Eye Cream.

  10. I can’t imagine spending the time it would take to do all those steps all the time.  I would go mad.  My wife spends probably a half hour in the morning, but she’s now reading this post and writing things down.

    South Korea is a such busy place with their big cities bustling and people rushing everywhere they must have to get up early.

    1. Lolz I personally know many women who spend quite a bit of their time in the bathroom. I’m kinda lazy so initially I thought this routine is very time consuming. At first it was, it took me a while to get into a routine and know which products go first. After a few week, I became a pro at this and now it only take me about 5 minutes for morning and regular night routines. If I do mask, then I can add another 30 minutes to my night routine.

      South Korean men and women do stress the important of looking good and taking care of their skin. So that makes sense that they religiously following this routine.

      Hope there is something useful for your wife 😉

  11. OK, so I’m getting a bit older (well, OK, I’m 58), and I have tried to follow a skin care regimen over the years, so I’m not in TERRIBLE shape.  But reading through this shows me clearly what I’m doing wrong and how to fix it.  Lighter things FIRST; heavier things LATER.  Duh, how could I have not figured that out?  And you have links to the products right there which makes it very handy.  I have some of these things, but I’ll try some of the eye cream.  I like your recommendations and clear article.  Thanks.

  12. Taking care of the skin is so very important. As a women in her 40s I never did when I was younger, now I wish I had. My young daughter on the other hand already has a great skin routine.  She has acne which she deals with on a daily basis. 

    I like the glow on your face, it definitely shows a difference in the way skin can be so clean, once it is taken care. I myself believe now after many years, our outside is a first impression.The Korean skin care routine seems to embody exactly what I am looking for.

    1. The same for me. I didn’t have a skin routine until my 30s. I thought I would be forever young because I’m Asian and petite lol. It hit me hard in when I reached 30. I’m glad I found this routine to work out for me. Now I’m addicted to Korean skin care 😀

  13. Hi Sophorn!Very interesting read for me because I am someone who has personally struggled with even complexion, acne, grease, and dryness for years because I hadn’t a single clue on how to take care of it which left me with scars. I certainly had noticed how flawless K-Pop stars’ skin looked—I have a close friend who is big into the culture. I always wondered why they seemed to have porcelain doll-like skin—I had no idea how advanced their cosmetic industry was.

    It was only after I discovered effective skin regimes like this which started by completely cleaning and cleansing the face FIRST gently (especially for an ultra-sensitive skin like ours) before anything and then going into exfoliation (1 or 2x a week), toning, treating, moisturizing, and SPF.

    By the way, your before and after photos look great! It’s brave and powerful to seem someone be so vulnerable yet so diligent about the care of their skin. I use to have awful severe cystic acne and have cleared up almost completely through strategic preventive diligent regimens like the typical k-pop regimen and your modified personal morning/evening regimens.

    I have a similar but simpler process myself as yours:


    -Cleanse with ultra-sensitive face wipes (no water)

    -Exfoliate with brand natural lemon/sugar blends or Dermalogica exfoliant (1-2 a week)

    -Moisturize with SPF moisturizer


    -Cleanse with ultra-sensitive face wipes (no water)

    -Moisturize with SPF moisturizer (3x a week)

    – alternate with a masque by Dermalogica (3x a week)

    What could you recommend to help improve my regime? Toner & Essence even for extra oily skin like myself?  

    Also, which one of the companies that you listed offer natural-based products?

    Looking forward to your reply….I bookmarked your site. Genuinely interested in your content. —Francesco

    1. I’m impressed you do take time to take care of your skin. Most guys I know only clean and moisturize sometime no SPF. Seem like you have a good routine going on here. I would recommend to add a toner to your routine so that your moisturizer can absorb faster. If you have skin trouble you can do essence or serum to help treat those.

      My current favorite toner it’s this Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner which made mostly out of Milk Vetch root extract which rich in antioxidants. It’s free of paraben, sulfate, silicone, alcohol and EU Allergen. No added fragrance. Less than 10 ingredients.The company use a lot of herbal ingredients because they are made by Pyunkang Oriental Medicine Clinic in Korea.

      Good luck and please let me know how it goes for you.

      1. I guess I had no choice because of my unlucky genes! lol Thank you for taking the time to write me back! I will definitely look into that and add it to my routine.

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