The Korean ten step skincare routine is much simpler than you think; Here's why

The Korean ten step skincare routine is much simpler than you think; Here's why

Posted by Maheen T on 2nd Nov 2020

Korean glass skin and skincare regimes are like a blazing fire in the western world right now. Wondering why you haven’t heard of the “ten-step routine”? The answer to your question lies within the question; because they consist of 10 steps and so many people skip even reading about it. We get it, in the time and age where we live; everyone has over 10 things on their plate at all times. This usually pushes back the things that matter the most in life, namely our physical health and peace of mind.

The skincare routine, although comprising of 10 steps does not take up more than 10 minutes of your time. Also, it isn’t as much about the steps as it is about the right level of layering, the right products, and the order of the routine.

The reason why we can see Korean skincare routines and the products hailing from the industry making waves all around the world is largely due to the practice of layering formulas to get the most out of each of the individual products. The implication of layering one product over the other is that it makes it possible for each formula to sit on your skin or absorb into it for longer and to provide added layers of protection without clogging pores. Therefore, think of this routine as a slow build-up of skincare. A simple way to remember how to layer your products is by layering them from thinnest to thickest while doing the routine. This way you’ll never be confused about how much product to apply.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the details of the 10-step process where we will explain, briefly, what each step is and what it does for you.

The Morning Routine:

The morning routine consists of only 6 out of the 10 steps, so there’s no need for you to worry about being late to that meeting; and no, you won’t be compromising on the routine either. As with any other skincare routine, you need to go all in only once every morning for the Korean routine too.

P.S please note that all the products mentioned under the “we recommend” heading below and the ingredients to look out for are highly generalised and we would suggest you do your own research regarding your skin type and the type of products that would suit it. If you need help choosing the right products for your skin, then contact us and we can help you out!

To start off your mornings right, begin with:

1. Water-based cleanser

A water based cleanser will help you get rid of any any impurities that may be clinging on to your skin, as well as any skincare products used the night before. Just the first step will help your skin feel more breathable, but on its own, it is nearly not enough.

We Recommend: Purito Defence Barrier pH Cleanser

2. Toner

Incorporating a toner in your routine will balance the pH of your skin, provide a layer of hydration and will prep your skin for the remaining steps of the routine. Korean toners are unique in that they are gentle and are used as a layer of hydration, while including active ingredients that target various skin concerns. Generally, toners with hyaluronic acid work great for most skin types and are commonly found in many Korean skincare products.

We Recommend: Roots Base Botanicals Hydrating Essence Toner

3. Essence (or serum)

This is something that you may be new to, and therefore might find confusing, but when you take a closer look, you’ll be able to see that there’s really not a lot to unpack. Serums are formulas that are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals, whereas an essence is a more dilute variant of serums that are designed specifically for the purpose of targeting specific problem areas in your skin such as that stubborn dry patch on your chin that just doesn’t seem to go away, or the reddish rash on your cheekbones that your skin is breaking out into. Essences are the heart of Korean Skincare. They make it possible for you to concentrate the treatment onto one area, but this also implies that there is no one-size-fits-all type of essence and the one you decide to get should be one that is suitable for your exact needs, or else you may end up exacerbating the problem.

We Recommend: Bellflower Idebenone Brightening Serum

4. Eye cream

We’re sure you’re aware that the skin under your eyes is much more delicate than any other part of your body, and yet its care is still among the most overlooked aspects of a skincare routine. Not every step is applicable to the eye area due to its sensitivity and so you need to take separate measures to make sure that the eye and the area surrounding it is adequately hydrated and cared for. An eye/under-eye cream reduces fine lines and minimises the appearance of dark circles. However, make sure to do your research and choose the type of eye cream that is best suited for the issue you are trying to resolve.For instance, eye creams that help you reduce the appearance of under-eye bags might not be the most effective in combating premature wrinkling. We recommend eye creams with top notch ingredients, such asginseng, peptides, niacinamide, shea butter, squalene and/or beta glucan.

We Recommend: Roots Base Botanicals Soothing Eye Cream

5. Moisturiser/Emulsion

A moisturiser, as the name indicates, is a critical element of the skincare routine that locks in whatever skincare treatment steps that you just took before this step. It also provides extra hydration to the skin and serves as a protective barrier. It is important to choose a moisturiser that works best for your skin type, because using a heavy moisturiser, formulated for dry skin, on oily or combination skin types would be counterintuitive, as this skin type requires moisturisers that are light and do not block the pores.

The ingredients in moisturisers are divided into three types; occlusives, humectants and emollients. Occlusives prevent water loss and an example of this type of ingredient is beeswax. Occlusives are usually not suitable for people with oily or combination skin types, as they can clog pores. Humectants are very good at binding water and can improve the hydration of the statum corneum. Examples of effective humectants are hyaluronic acid and beta glucan. Emollients soften the skin by filling in the spaces between skin flakes and creating a smooth skin surface. They are usually light oily substances, such as grapeseed oil and shea butter.

We Recommend: Roots Base Botanicals Intensive Moisturising Emulsion


Sunscreen, a critical addition to all the skincare routines, used to be a luxury that only rich people with their plastic surgery treated skin would use, but with the depletion of the ozone layer and other environmental factors, it is not a beauty-care product anymore, it is a matter of safety now. Harmful sun rays that penetrate your skin can cause more than just sunburn, they are also responsible for premature aging and skin cancer.

There’s a common misconception that you only need to put on sunscreen when you are planning to spend part of your day outdoors, but that could not be further from the truth. Even if your work or play entails you being indoors in offices or facilities that let ample sunlight through, you may still be indirectly affected by UV rays; and though the impact of indirect UV rays is nowhere near as harmful as direct ones, it is still not negligible and should always be taken into account. This is why applying sunscreen is absolutely necessary even if you are indoors and even on a cloudy day!

We Recommend: Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ or W.Skin Laboratory Triple Care Sun Cream SPF 50+ PA ++++

The Night Routine

Undertaking a nightly routine after a long day of work help you get rid of all the impurities that your skin barrier has protected you against throughout the day and ensure your skin is clean and well-prepped for a long night of beauty sleep so that your repair system can work on your skin cells unhindered and you can wake up the next day ready to take on the world all over again!

To start off your bedtime skin care routine, begin with:

1. An oil-based cleanser

An oil-based cleanser is one that deep cleans your skin and gets rid of the dirt and other impurities that build up over time due to the use of makeup, face creams, and sunscreens, as well as the dirt that your skin’s natural sebum traps and stops it from entering your pores. This step is absolutely crucial, cannot be substituted with a water-based cleanser or micellar water, and foregoing it can put you at risk of horrid breakouts or just generally dull and sulky looking skin. You must double cleanse EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.

Double cleansing originated in Asia during the 14th century and has been revered for its ability to brighten the complexion and also for its anti-acne benefits.

We Recommend: Purito From Green Cleansing Oil

2. Water-based Cleanser

After you have rinsed off all the sebum, dirt, sunscreen and waterproof makeup with the first oil cleanse, now it is time to follow with a second cleanse. This will help to remove the remaining oil residue, as well as any impurities that were not removed by the first cleansing step. You can use the same gentle water-based cleanser used in your morning routine.

We Recommend: Purito Defence Barrier pH Cleanser

3. Exfoliant

An exfoliant does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting rid of the stubborn impurities that build up on your skin throughout the day, in addition to ridding you of the dead skin cells that accumulate on your skin over time, thereby making your skin look brighter and more radiant, while also paving the way for the next set of products to work more effectively.

There are two types of exfoliants: Physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants remove dead skin cells and dirt through mechanical scrubbing of the skin. This could be in the form of beads or granules. Sugar scrubs and peeling gels are great for this.

Peeling gels are a Korean innovation that exfoliate your skin in a gentle fashion. The carbomer and cellulose fibres act like the grains in a scrub, however they are gentler and more thorough. The friction used to massage a peeling gel is what aids exfoliation.

Chemical exfoliation is when gentle acids react with the skin, removing the layers of dead skin cells, oil and sebum. Examples of chemical exfoliants are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), such as glycolic and lactic acids, and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), otherwise known as salicylic acid.

Part of the secret to having beautiful skin is to exfoliate regularly. Remember to do this 1-2 times a week. Doing it more often than this can irritate your skin!

We Recommend: Beauty of Joseon Apricot Blossom Peeling Gel

4. Toner

Toner is essential in any skincare routine because it helps prep your skin for the following products which you will use to target specific problem areas of your skin. Just as in the morning routine, make sure that you pick a toner that suits your skin type. In addition to hyaluronic acid (that we mentioned in the morning routine), you will also love rice and/or lemon extracts in toner products.

We Recommend: Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner

5. Sheet mask

It is a good idea to incorporate a sheet mask into your night-time routine because these come packed to the brim with amazing nutrients and minerals, and the sheet aspect of the product that allows the substances to seep into your skin makes it all the more effective. Using them at least once a week (or even more often if you like!) will give your skin a beautiful glow. Most sheet masks are applied for 20-30 minutes so make sure to read a book or just relax in the evening. Beauty tip: Use the excess essence in the packet to hydrate your elbows and knees.

As with all other products, there are sheet masks that target various concerns, so make sure to choose the one that’s perfect for your skin type. Look out for masks that contain cucumber, rose or green tea extracts as they are the most soothing ones out there.

We Recommend: Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Sheet Mask

6. Essence

Essence, as we mentioned earlier, is the milder member of the serum family that comes with the same benefits as the serum, but is used to effectively pinpoint and target specific problem areas of your skin. Along with the targeted treatments, these also allow your skin to heal, recover and stay healthy and radiant throughout the day.

We Recommend: By Wishtrend Quad Active Boosting Essence

7. Serum

Serums will provide an overall burst of health and radiance added to the entirety of your skin through nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals. They are more concentrated versions of essences. Often the terms essence, serum and ampoule are used interchangeably for products that have a similar function.

We Recommend: Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop

8. Ampoule

Ampoules are small vials of highly concentrated serums that are meant to be used as a supplementary booster to your otherwise normal skin care routine. To put it into perspective- if essence is the mild cousin of serums, then ampoules are the serums on steroids.

We Recommend: Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Ampoule

Note that you should only be using one of the three aforementioned formulas; so you should either use essence, serum, or ampoules because there’s only so much that your skin can take, and overdoing it with the nutrients could unfortunately have the opposite effect of what you were originally intending to use these products for. So the entire night routine can be simplified into 8 steps, 6 of which are required nightly.

9. Eye cream

As emphasised in the morning skincare routine, you need to provide a targeted layer to your undereye area; this implies giving it a vital night dose as well. Also as with all other skincare products, make sure you choose the type of eye creams that are best for the issue you are trying to combat, because the formulations for eye creams to reduce puffiness and those that combat signs of aging are completely different.

We Recommend: Roots Base Botanicals Soothing Eye Cream

10. Sleeping mask (or night cream)

Finally, for an added oomph to your skin care, incorporate a sleeping mask into your night time routine, which is packed with nutrient-rich ingredients. This is a great opportunity for the ingredients to seep into your skin and work their magic all throughout the night, without interruption from pollutants and impurities from the outside world.

Sleeping masks are meant to replace your night cream and are washed off in the morning.

We Recommend: Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask

And just like that, you’ll be done for the day. Despite having so many steps, each step is simple and does not take long. In fact, the morning and night routine can be simplified into 6 steps. The night routine only requires 8 steps once a week. You don’t need to jump into such a routine right away, you can build it up slowly as your skin gets used to each product. Building it up slowly also allows you to get used to the routine.

Some other tips Koreans swear by are:

  • 2-5 min facial massages to stimulate the skin before beginning any kind of skin treatment using jade facial rollers.
  • Washing the face with cold water as a final rinse.

These help to enhance the effect of the whole routine.

Consistency is key; you will only be able to see noticeable results if you commit to these routines, as every product needs time to work and your skin needs time to acclimate to the dose of nutrients that it is being fed. With a little patience, you will be surprised to see how effective the ten-step process is and why it is all the rage in skincare communities all across the globe!

Are you ready to try out the Korean ten-step routine? Contact us at or dm us on social media if you need help customising a routine tailored to your skin’s needs.