I tried a Korean beauty 10 step cleansing routine for a week

Welcome to Hit Refresh. This month, we’ll be bringing you articles created by experts that will help you live your best life in 2019. Today, beauty editor Anna Lavdaras takes us through her Korean 10-step skin routine.

After years of observing Korean-born beauty trends as they ricocheted around the rest of the world, I learnt a lot. Mainly that K-beauty is a lifestyle, not a fad. Like the French, Korean women have skin-health deeply entrenched in their culture. Girls are groomed from a young age to care, wash, and eat for their skin. And contrary to what beauty brands will have you think, their beauty routines don’t have products at their core, but rather are built around skin-preserving methods and techniques.

As a skin enthusiast myself, this ethos completely aligns with my own. I prioritise time spent prepping my skin over disguising it, as you can read about here in detail. The logic is, if you spend more time feeding your face with healthy ingredients, you’ll have less blemishes to deal with when you get to the makeup stage. It’s just like your health: prevention is better than a cure. And for the Koreans, prevention entails a beauty routine that spans from seven steps up to 12! I settled on a happy ten.

In a dream world in which I’m up with the first alarm, this could just be doable. For the purposes of this story, I committed to this extensive skin regime for a whole seven-day week to see if the K Beauty way could really make a visible difference to the clarity and texture of my skin. Spoiler: it did. After seven days of following a typical Korean beauty routine, my skin changed. Those painfully stubborn blackheads on my nose and chin were noticeably smaller. Blemishes on my cheeks and forehead were faded. And overall, the clarity of my skin was just brighter! Read on for all the details.

Step One: Oil Cleanser.

While this may seem counter-intuitive, it actually makes perfect sense. Cutting through grease (SPF, foundation, pollution etc.) requires something heavy duty that has the power to attract and pull the oily residue away from your skin. I used Origins Modern Friction Cleansing Oil, really rubbing into my skin before wiping it off with a hot muslin cloth.

Step Two: Foam Cleanser.

Once you’ve cut through that first layer of grime, this step focuses on cleansing the skin at a much deeper level. Cleaning again feels excessive at first, but the feeling afterwards is amazing. My skin was squeaky clean. I used Ren Clean Skincare Rosa Certified Foam Cleanser.

Step Three: Exfoliator.

This step is all about clearing out any lingering dirt and removing dead skin cells which can build up and give your complexion a lack-lustre look, while blocking pores and preventing ingredients from absorbing into the deeper layers. I used my favourite Skinstitut’s Glycolic Scrub 14%.

Step Four: Toner.

This is a crucial step in Korean beauty circles, meant to balance the skin’s pH levels after an intense cleansing routine. Personally, if I’m short on time this is the first thing that goes, but for the sake of the experiment I committed to a quick wipe down with this blogger favourite.

Step Five: Essence.

Essences are more lightweight and less concentrated than serums, and they aim to add another hit of hydration before you go in for the actives. It can also act to prep your skin for the next all important step – I tried this one by Caudalie from Sephora.

Step Six: Serum, Boosters, or Ampoule Treatments.

This is your chance to load up your skin with all of the active ingredients your skin needs – be it Vitamin A (brightening),Vitamin B (hydrating), or Vitamin C (evening).

Step Seven: Mask.

Sheet masks have made this once-laborious skin step so much easier. They help to deliver – and lock in – skin-boosting ingredients, limiting evaporation in the process.

Step Eight: Eye Cream.

The extra shot of coolness will soothe tired eyes and help with puffiness. Using eye cream under your makeup can help concealer apply more smoothly and prevent it from building up in fine lines. Since the eye area is so sensitive, the best eye creams will be fragrance free.

Step nine: Face Cream.

Simply put, a moisturiser is too thick to deliver any skin-boosting ingredients to the deeper layers of your dermis. It is purely a padlock for your serum, locking down all of that juicy hydration before it evaporates into the atmosphere.

Step ten: SPF.

The single most important step to any skin routine, SPF is a proven anti-aging essential. No longer a thick, white, greasy formula, there are loads of new and improved products that deliver protection in the form of lightweight creams and even serums. I love this one by Ultra Violette.