How to Adopt A Korean Skincare Routine
7 minutes read
The rise of K-beauty has been fast and furious, and the impact Korean skincare has had on skincare routines here in the West has been profound. From sheet masks, and double cleansing to lengthy 10-step routines and new ingredients like snail mucin, the demand for K-beauty has never been higher. In fact, the K-beauty market is now worth an estimated $10 billion dollars and counting, “thanks to the innovative and highly effective skincare it produces year after year,” shares facialist at the Dr David Jack Clinic, Izabela Pawlitka. To discover everything you need to know about adopting your own Korean skincare routine read on…
The Korean Skincare Philosophy
When it comes to perfecting a Korean skincare routine it’s important to understand the ethos that underpins the K-beauty philosophy. “Korean skincare regimes don’t focus on quick fixes. Instead, it’s all about encouraging healthy skin long term, by way of thorough cleansing, hefty doses of hydration, and innovative formulas and actives that nourish and protect to achieve glass skin status,” shares Pawlitka. Cue the 10-step Korean skincare routine.
The Steps of a Korean Skincare Routine
There’s no denying that a 10-step routine is lengthy and time consuming, but for centuries Korean women have held the belief that even-toned, luminous skin was a marker of status and beauty. “This desire for perfect skin has led to skincare routines made up of multiple steps that far exceed the basic cleanse, tone, and moisturise routine and even the cleanse, treat (with a serum), moisturise, and protect (with an SPF) regime that is classed by most people as an advanced daily skincare routine,” says Pawlitka. In the correct order, here’s a full run-through of the K-beauty 10-step routine.
01. Oil-Based Cleanser
For the best way to dissolve make-up and dirt on the surface of the skin, an oil cleanser is the way to go. Oils are drawn to each other, so when used as a cleanser you’ll find they have the ability to cling on to, and remove, oil soluble ingredients found in make-up, as well as dirt, environmental pollutants and excess sebum – all without striping the skin.
Try: Clarins Total Cleansing Oil, £25, cuts through long-wearing, heavy and waterproof make-up and turns into a silky milky cleanser that’s easy to rinse off.
02. Water-Based Cleanser
Once the surface of the skin is cleared, the next step is to cleanse again to ensure the pores have been given a deep clean. Pawlitka recommends choosing a cleanser that’s formulated for your skin type and concerns – think dry, oily, combination, acne-prone, mature and sensitive.
Little but often are words to live by when it comes to adopting a Korean skincare routine, and exfoliation is one area where this mantra matters most. Hardcore exfoliators are a no-no for daily use, as over exfoliation can result in a damaged skin barrier and this can lead to moisture loss, rough texture, redness and irritation. “Those with acne prone oily skin should exfoliate with a BHA or AHA every other day or daily, depending on what their skin can tolerate. While those with normal skin should use an AHA chemical exfoliant or extremely gentle microbead based exfoliator twice a week. And those with dry or sensitive skin should also consider exfoliating with an AHA that’s suitable for sensitive skin – like azelaic acid, mandelic acid or lactic acid once a week or every 10 days,” says Pawlitka.
Generally toners help to remove any dirt, make-up and even cleanser that’s been left on the skin. They also restore the skins pH balance, and when it comes to K-beauty the extra hit of hydration they provide is key.
Try: My Clarins RE-FRESH Hydrating Beauty Mist, £18.50, is infused with nourishing organic coconut water, hydrating fig extract and radiance-boosting acerola seed extract for skin that glows.
As a K-beauty novice, you may well be wondering what an essence actually is, what’s the difference between an essence and a toner, and why it’s an important step in the Korean skincare routine. “It’s a water-based liquid that has a low molecular weight – so like a serum an essence is able to penetrate deeper within the skin to deliver antioxidants and hydration boosters where they’ll make the most difference to your complexion,” explains Pawlitka. They are also thought to help the actives in your serum penetrate the skin more effectively.
With more actives than a moisturiser and designed to target specific skin concerns, serums are a revered element of the K-beauty 10-step skincare routine. While you should choose one that targets your key concerns, remember Korean skincare routines prioritise clarity, tone, and radiance.
Try: myBlend Superserum Hydration, £60, offers intense hydration for dull dehydrated skin, thanks to a mix of hyaluronic acid, peptides and allantoin.
07. Sheet Mask
Sheet masks tend to be active packed and promise to rejuvenate the skin in anywhere between five to 20 minutes. Not only do they target specific skincare concerns while boosting hydration, they also provide the opportunity to slow down and fit some ‘me time’ into your schedule. However, if you use one daily you may find this is the part of your 10-step routine where you can make a start on breakfast or pick your outfit for the day.
08. Eye Cream
When it comes to the thinnest and most delicate skin on the face Korean beauty buffs take their eye care seriously. Formulas are generally powered by peptides and the focus is on collagen boosting, line smoothing and brightening. “Peptides are short-chain amino acids, aka the building blocks of collagen, elastin and keratin which provide the skin with structure. The more you have the more youthful you’ll appear,” explains Pawlitka.
Try: Clarins Precious La Crème Yeux Age-Defying Eye Cream, £125, is infused with a peptide packed cryoextract from the moonlight flower, and works to soften lines, and wrinkles, as well as reduce puffiness and dark circles.
As you’ve now learnt, hydration is the key to getting K-beauty worthy dewy skin. And moisturising is the key to keeping cells hydrated thanks to its ability to act as a barrier to protect the skin against water loss. Choose one that suits your specific skin concerns, with the right texture for your skin type.
Try: Clarins Super Restorative Rose Radiance Cream, £80, is a best seller thanks to its ability to youth-boost the skin by smoothing lines and wrinkles and enhancing radiance.
10. Sun Protection
Koreans are huge fans of sunscreen, and it’s not surprising as the benefits of sunscreen are manifold. By protecting the skin form UV rays a daily SPF will ward off hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and sagging too. So, if you’re looking to achieve glass skin status, this is a step not to be missed.
Try: myBlend Hydrating Antioxidant Screen SPF50, £40, has been formulated for all skin types, has a light non-greasy texture, includes a high concentration of protective anti-oxidants and doesn’t leave a white cast.
Building a Customised Routine
Like all things one size does not fit all, and you might find that 10 steps are too much for you to handle on a daily basis. Not to worry, says Pawlitka, who recommends adapting your K-beauty routine to suit your skin and your lifestyle. “Keeping the skin hydrated and protecting it from sun damage are the two most important elements of a Korean skincare routine. Be sure to incorporate hydrating actives like hyaluronic acid and use an SPF, and you can’t go wrong,” adds Pawlitka.
For a faster version of the 10-step routine, try a 5 step K-beauty inspired regime instead…
Selecting the Right Products
When choosing each product in your 10-step K-beauty skincare routine, ensure that they are formulated for your skin type and your key concerns.
Key Skincare Ingredients to Find
- Rice water
- Snail muncin
These ingredients are used to achieve dewy, smooth, clear complexions, K-beauty ingredients are generally powerful skin boosters that you may well want to test first. It’s always worth asking for a sample or patch testing at a Clarins counter to ensure they work for you.
However, there’s also no need to throw away anything you’ve been using that works for you, but whatever you do add, do it gradually.
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