Your Crash Course on the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, but at some point, the toners and serums of South Korea grabbed the reins of the skincare world we originally knew and gave skincare and self-love a whole new meaning. All of a sudden, Western stores such as Sephora and other drug stores began curating their own sheet masks and amplifying their skincare marketing. Skincare packaging became cuter and the quality of different cleansers and moisturizers improved drastically; Sephora even began stocking up on Korean-branded cosmetics and products! If you go to certain malls in North America now, you’ll see adorable advertising at Nature Collection (a rebranded version of The Face Shop) and huge line-ups at Innisfree. These are Korean brand names that most people in North America didn’t even know about 10 years ago, and it’s amazing to see the impact that South Korea has made! I love how the culture really focuses on setting good habits now, so that your future self and skin thanks you, rather than focusing on convenience (hence the 10 steps in a skincare routine). 

A couple of years ago, I decided to learn a new thing or two about skincare. I ordered “The Little Book of Skincare” by Charlotte Cho, the founder of SokoGlam, and it became my forever skincare bible. It literally goes in-depth on everything you could possibly want to know about K-beauty. It’s where I’ve gotten the majority of my basic skincare knowledge and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more. Without further ado, here’s a condensed version of the 10-step Korean skincare routine! While this is an ideal routine, you definitely don’t need to do all the steps as it really depends on your skin type and what works for you! Keep in mind that I am not an expert in skincare - these are literally just the basics from my skincare bible and my impressions on them.

The Little Book of Skincare by Charlotte Cho (aka my skincare bible)


Step 1: Oil-based Cleanser or Makeup Remover

This is a no-brainer. Sleeping without taking off your makeup can lead to detrimental long-term effects on your skin, so it makes sense that this is the first step of the routine. If you want to get into double cleansing, you can try pairing an oil cleanser with a water-based cleanser. The oil cleanser helps to remove makeup and other impurities from your skin. You can also substitute the oil cleanser for a regular makeup remover if you wish. 

Step 2: Water-based Cleanser

I view this step as the basic cleanser step that everyone knows about. I feel like most people at least use some sort of cleanser at night, even if they don’t use any other skincare products. This is also the second part of the double-cleansing regime. 

Step 3: Exfoliator

This is great for really getting out any pollution particles or impurities in your skin and leaving your skin feeling baby soft! I find that it usually does a better job than an oil cleanser. Be careful with this step though! If you have eczema or psoriasis, then I would personally recommend choosing a lighter exfoliator or even skipping this step altogether to prevent irritation to your skin.

Step 4: Toner

From my understanding, toner is essentially a magical potion that is used after cleansing to reset the pH levels on your skin in preparation for your moisturizer. It also provides ample hydration which is always a good thing! 

Step 5 and 6: Essences and Serums

I’m not completely sure what the difference is between an essence or a serum, but I believe that essences are more lightweight compared to serums and seem to be a lot more popular in Asia. Serums tend to focus on specific purposes such as anti-aging and I find them more hardcore than essences. Nevertheless, both will help nourish and renew the skin!

Step 7: Sheet Masks and Face Masks

I know that this is low-key everyone’s favourite step - I see right through you! You can find sheet masks almost anywhere nowadays, and there are so many different kinds out there for different purposes. Hydrating, brightening, firming - the list goes on! I don’t do this step every day, but it’s definitely a staple of mine on self-care Sundays. My perfect weekend consists of putting on a sheet or clay mask while reading a good novel! Tip: Don’t wash off the essence from the sheet masks as they contain really beneficial ingredients for your skin. Rub it into your face and your neck instead!

Step 8: Eye Creams

They say that the skin underneath and around your eyes is the most delicate and fragile part of your skin. Investing in a good eye cream now is a great way to treat that delicate skin so that it doesn’t wrinkle as much in the future. There are a lot of heavy-duty eye creams that are reactive and focused on treating wrinkles once they happen, and there are a lot of lighter eye creams that are more preventive so find which one works for you.

Step 9: Moisturizer

If you’ve used a cleanser before, then the chances of you using a moisturizer are probably pretty high as well. The most basic skincare routine usually consists of a cleanser and moisturizer to get the job done. This is a really important step so make sure you don’t skip it - we want to avoid dry skin!

Step 10: Sunscreen (SPF)

I’m guilty of not doing this step at all, but I’m trying to change that! This step is usually overlooked by most people, but it’s pretty important! Even during winter, the UV rays from the sun are still there so it’s important to protect your skin against that. From what I gather, this step actually combats premature wrinkling from those pesky UV rays!

Remember that skin products work differently depending on your skin type! People with sensitive or dry skin should probably use different products than people with combination skin. Your diet and stress levels also play a huge factor in the health of your skin, so try to eat cleanly and stress less. Even your pillowcase can drastically affect the health of your skin, so make sure to wash it frequently to avoid potential breakouts. I hope this adds some spice to your self-care Sunday routine! Make sure to set good habits and routines now so that your future self is grateful!