Why you should *actually* try a 10-step Korean skin care routine

10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine: Everything you Need to Know - Jessica Alba

It may sound like overkill, but your skin will thank you for it

Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / November 11 2018

Korea have delivered some epic pearls of wisdom and wonderment in the beauty world. Cushion compacts, BB creams and let’s not forget all their genius skin care inventions like bubble masks, snail mucin serums, lip patches… we can’t get enough of them.

Great skin is really important to Koreans. They are *so* devoted to their routines that they are willing to dedicate half an hour (or more) to it every single morning and night and a typical Korean skin care routine has a whopping 10 steps. They also start young - like from early childhood! Yep, skin care is SERIOUS business in Korea. And the results are hard to ignore: Korean complexions are often described as ‘glass skin’ - i.e. clear and flawlessly smooth. We want in.

Now for most of us, 10 steps seems like an absolute chore. Who has the time? But for the Koreans, it’s a pleasurable ritual - and an investment in their skin, which really is priceless. And the best part is, you don’t actually have to do all 10 steps every day.

According to Soko Glam, an online Korean beauty retailer (think of it as the Korean version of Sephora), “It's not about having more products than you can count, but rather about having the right products that do the right things, and using them in the right order”. The premise is more about interchanging a variety of products depending on what your skin needs on any given day. So you can mix and match and change up your routine as needed.

Another thing to love about K-beauty is that they’re dedicated to making amazing formulas without the hefty price tag. It’s a lot like the French pharmacy beauty phenomenon - great products at accessible prices. Oh, and animal testing is illegal in Korea. How good is that?! 

When following a 10-step routine, you don’t need to exclusively use Korean skin care brands, although their formulas are world-class so we highly recommend giving them a go. Good to know: Nudie Glow is basically the Australian version of Soko Glam and they stock many of the best Korean skin care products from K-beauty brands like CosRX, TonyMoly, Missha, Neogen and Saturday Skin.

Intrigued to know more about what all the 10 steps actually are, and why each one matters? This is what you need to know.


Makeup remover or oil cleanser

Koreans are big advocates of the double cleanse. First up is an oil cleanser that not only removes makeup, but also dissolves oil-based products like your sunscreen, as well as pollution particles and sebum. To use oil-based cleansers, massage it into dry skin then splash with lukewarm water to form an emulsion. Massage again then wash off with warm water. Good news! You can get away with only doing this step at night. 

Product to try: iUNIK Calendula Complete Cleansing Oil

iUNIK Calendula Complete Cleansing Oil


Water-based cleanser

If you think cleansing twice seems redundant, we promise it’s not. The first cleanse removes that layer of makeup and grime sitting on the surface, then the second cleanse with a water-based cleanser can get down deeper, clearing pores of any debris and giving the whole face another once-over to make sure you’ve left no dirt behind. Plus, by using an oil-based cleanser in the first step, then a water-based cleanser in the second, you target every kind of product and impurity on the skin. Water-based cleansers are great for dissolving sweat and dirt.

Product to try: Rovectin Skin Essentials Conditioning Clean

Rovectin Skin Essentials Conditioning Clean



We all know the importance of exfoliating. It removes dead skin cells and stubborn debris from the face to reveal a smoother and brighter layer below. It also clears the way for all your other skin care products to sink in deeper to your skin and do their thing. But you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to exfoliating - reserve this step for just one to two times a week. 

Product to try: Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine

Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine



Toners are a bit of a controversial product - some swear by them, others find them redundant. Koreans are very much on team toner. The idea behind a toner is that they dampen, hydrate and prep the skin so that everything you apply after it absorbs better into the skin. It’s also an essential step for improving your skin barrier. Toners have a water-like texture that you can either apply to a cotton pad or directly onto your palms, then smooth over the face.

Product to try: Dr Jart+ Water Fuse Hydro Toner

Dr Jart+ Water Fuse Hydro Toner



Essences are another product you probably don’t currently have in your kit, but should definitely consider adding to your daily routine. For Koreans they are at the heart of their routine. They pave the way post-cleansing for all those skin-loving ingredients that are coming next. An essence is a lightweight water-like treatment that contains high doses of active ingredients to hydrate skin and aid in cell turnover. To apply one, press it into you skin.

Product to try: Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence



This step is all about your skin and what it needs most. What do you need to make your skin the picture of perfection? Something to control oil and keep acne at bay perhaps, or a brightening, pigmentation-fading super serum. The products in this step come in the form of serums, boosters and ampoules and have potent formulas.

Product to try: Hanskin Bio Origin the Ampoule Serum

Hanskin Bio Origin the Ampoule Serum



Sheet masks are the go-to in Korean skin care, but any face mask will do. This step is really about finding the perfect formula to address your top concerns - be that ageing, hydration, brightening, acne, etc. And you don’t need to do this step daily. Phew! Aim for twice a week and feel free to switch between various mask formulas depending on your current skin issues. What the Koreans love about a sheet mask in particular is that it traps on all those great ingredients so they can’t evaporate and have nowhere to go but straight into your skin!

Product to try: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Jelly Sheet Mask


Eye cream

Ah eye cream - we’re back on this topic again! Specially formulated to be gentle on your delicate eye area and targeted towards your biggest eye care woes (dark circles, crow’s feet, puffiness, fine lines - whatever’s got you down), it’s a step you really shouldn’t skip. Use one daily - twice if you really want to reap the maximum benefits. For Koreans, the application technique is key - tap, don’t smooth (which can tug on your skin).

Product to try: Tonymoly Intense Care Gold 24K Snail Eye Cream

Tonymoly Intense Care Gold 24K Snail Eye Cream



Everyone’s skin needs a moisturiser to make sure it’s well-nourished and radiant-looking. The actual product you choose will depend on your skin type and how lacking in the hydration department it is. Normal skin may find a lightweight formula does the job, while dehydrated skin might need to reach for a rich, extra-creamy texture. For oily skin, opt for an oil-free formula. Swap between a day cream in the morning and a night cream in the evening - your skin will benefit from different ingredients at different times of the day.

Product to try: Innisfree Orchid Enriched Cream

Innisfree Orchid Enriched Cream


Sun protection

Looks like us Aussies and the Koreans are on the same page when it comes to sun protection - it is a *top* priority. Obviously, this step is for the AM only. The reason it goes on last is so it doesn’t interfere with all those important ingredients you just spent a good 15+ minutes applying. 

Product to try: Missha Safe Block Daily Sun SPF50/PA++++

Missha Safe Block Daily Sun SPF50/PA++++

If you think 10 steps sounds excessive, you should see Lucy Hale’s 15-step skin care routine!

For skin care minimalists, this five-step basic skin care routine is better suited to you.

Have you tried a 10-step Korean skin care routine? Do you have any favourite Korean beauty products?

Main image credit: Getty 

Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.