It’s the hallmark of Korean beauty, and the secret to achieving smooth, glowing and ‘glass skin’. Here’s your complete guide to reaping all the benefits of the 10-step skincare routine, according to a K-beauty expert.
While a 10-step skincare routine sounds intimidating, it’s hailed as the reason so many Koreans boast flawlessly hydrated skin all year round. And who doesn’t want that?
But the 10-step is more than just a skincare routine. It has become a lifestyle that’s grounded in Korea’s obsession with healthy, smooth and glowing skin, and is backed by decades of scientific advancement. But what many people don’t know is that it’s not about having more products than you can count – instead, it’s about having the correct products that do the correct job, and most importantly, using them in the correct order.
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So, to help you reap the benefits of the famous 10-step, we asked K-beauty expert and founder of Style Story, Australia’s number one K-beauty online store, Lauren Lee, to give us a complete rundown of everything you need to know about the skincare routine.
Why follow the 10-step Korean skincare routine?
Lee: The most important thing to know about the Korean skincare routine is that it’s more than a set of steps that “must” be followed; it’s a philosophy. The guiding principle is hydration.
Koreans believe that keeping skin well-nourished and hydrated makes it look and feel softer, plumper, and younger. This is because fine lines and wrinkles are filled out.
The “middle steps” of the routine are all about treating any skin issues that crop up from time to time, whether that’s acne, pigmentation or wrinkles. Therefore, the routine is completely tailorable to your skin type, the weather, and any skin issues you are experiencing.
Is it good for all skin types?
Working out your skin type is the starting point for any Korean skincare routine, because all the products you use will be made for your skin type.
K-Beauty generally uses a lot of light layers, which makes it perfect for a range of different skins.
Do I have to do all 10 steps?
Lee: Not at all.
Korean women’s skincare routines are as varied as they are – some people lean towards the minimalist side and others use multiple steps of skincare.
A typical Korean skincare routine does contain more steps than a typical western routine, but don’t let the idea of a 10-step routine turn you off K-Beauty.
Whether it’s a 10-step routine or a simpler one, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.
The easiest way to find the best skincare routine for your skin is to try out some different products and routines and see which fits you best.
The famous 10-step Korean skincare routine
A typical 10-step Korean skincare routine includes the following steps:
1. A balm or oil cleanser
2. A foaming cleanser
3. An exfoliant (1-3 times a week)
4. A toner
5. An essence
6. An ampoule / serum / emulsion
7. A sheet mask (several times a week)
8. An eye cream
9. A moisturizer
10. PM A thicker night cream or sleeping mask or AM sunscreen (SPF)
People tend to do more steps in winter and fewer in summer, particularly in Australia because we just don’t need the extra hydration in summer.
How to do the 10-step Korean skincare routine
Steps 1 and 2: Double cleanse
The double cleanse is an essential part of the Korean skincare routine.
The idea is that even though you need to remove your makeup and SPF at the end of the day, you shouldn’t be harshly scrubbing your face to get it off. Using an oil-based cleanser helps cut through foundation, eye makeup and sunscreen without harming your skin.
The second step, the foaming cleanser, is to remove any leftover debris after your oil cleanse.
Fresh Seaberry Skin Nutrition Cleansing Oil ($60, at Sephora) and Innisfree Green Tea Foaming Cleanser ($16, at Style Story).
Step 3: Toner
Korean toners are unlike western toners in that they are not designed to be another step of cleansing; they are the first of the treatment steps, so they tend to be much more hydrating and less astringent.
They are designed to press reset on your skin after cleansing and balance your skin’s pH levels.
Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer ($41, at Sephora) and COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol if you suffer from regular breakouts ($30, at Style Story).
Steps 3-6: Essence/Facial Oil/Serum/Ampoule/ Emulsion
The middle steps of the routine are completely customisable.
They are all highly concentrated skincare products that are designed to target specific skin issues. They hydrate and target a variety of common concerns like freckles, sun spots, wrinkles and acne.
Try: Dr.Jart+ Vital Hydra Solution Biome Essence ($60, at Nudie Glow) and Alpha-H Vitamin A ($69.95, at Alpha-H).
Step 7: Face Mask
The sheer array of face masks might seem overwhelming, but the point of masking is simply to provide intense hydration and nourishment to your skin.
Like the middle steps, most masks are made to target a wide variety of issues, from freckles, wrinkles, skin tone and acne, through to pigmentation and fine lines.
Although some Koreans mask every night, plenty more stick to masking a few times a week.
Aceology Green T. Infusion Gel Mask ($64 for pack of 4, at Aceology) and Sukin Deeply Hydrating Biodegradable Sheet Mask ($8.95, at Sukin).
Step 8: Eye cream
A good eye cream prevents eye bags, dark circles and puffiness by providing hydration to your delicate under-eye area.
Korean eye creams can also double as an intensive treatment for marionette lines around the mouth.
Indie Lee I-Waken Eye Serum ($68, at Sephora) and Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream ($51, at Mecca).
Step 9: Moisturiser
Moisturisers hydrate and protect skin from the stressors caused by the external environment.
Rodin Luxury Face Cream ($142.96, at Net-A-Porter) and A’Kin Hydrating Antioxidant Day Cream ($17.99, at Priceline).
PM – Sleeping Mask
Sleeping masks are thicker night creams that are designed to be left on while you sleep. They make the most of your skin’s natural repair cycle so that you wake up to softer, supple, more hydrated skin the next morning.
Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask ($48, at Sephora) and Lanolips Face Base Aussie Flyer Mask ($26, at Adore Beauty).
AM – Sunscreen
This step should go without saying for Aussies as well as Koreans. We need to be wearing SPF every day (rain, hail or shine), and ideally SPF 50+ (even if you aren’t spending time outdoors).
Basically, if you have windows in your house, sunscreen is a must.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL AntiShine Dry Tough SPF 50+ ($23.99, at Priceline) and Ultra Violette Supreme Screen Hydrating Facial Skincreen SPF 50+ ($45, at Sephora).
Lauren Lee is the founder and CEO of STYLE STORY, Australia’s #1 online Korean skincare destination. Follow STYLE STORY on Instagram @stylestory_kbeauty.