Korean skincare: the best products, brands and classic ten-step routine

Healthy and glowing skin awaits ✨


by Nathan Katnoria |
Updated on

Korean skincare has become increasingly popular in the last few years thanks to beauty gurus raving about K-beauty products online and is now easily accessible to order online.

But if you’re feeling confused by the idea of a 10-step routine or having trouble figuring out your snail mucin from your sheet masks, fear not as we’ve enlisted the help of Cigdem Kemal Yilmaz, a chemical engineer, skincare formulator and the founder of skinmasterclass.com, to break down everything you need to know.

“Korean skincare has become popular because it really does put skin health at the forefront, the formulations are also more popular as they are generally lighter in texture (more water-based), non-tacky, not sticky, and do not feel heavy on the skin,” she says.

The classic 10-step routine is one of the basic principles of Korean skincare and has been used for decades to achieve healthy, glowing skin. Although 10 steps (and products) might feel slightly daunting, it’s far less complicated than it sounds.

The 10-step routine

Step one: Eye make-up remover

The skin around your eyes is much thinner and more delicate than the rest of your face, so using a gentle cleanser that doesn't drag your skin around is important.

We love... Garnier Micellar Oil-Infused Cleansing Water

Step two: Double cleanse

If you're not double cleansing, you really should be. An oil-based cleanser will remove make-up and SPF worn during the day, as well as any dirt sitting on the surface of your skin. Following up with a water-based cleanser will gently remove any impurities and oil residue without leaving your skin feeling stripped.

We love...AHC Hydrating Aqualuronic Facial Cleanser

Step three: Exfoliate

Exfoliating two to three times a week with a gentle chemical exfoliant, like glycolic acid, lactic acid or salicylic acid, will remove dead skin cells that dull your complexion and prevent toners, serums and moisturisers from absorbing into your skin.

We love... COSRX Low pH Goodnight Soft Peeling Gel

Step four: Toner

Toner helps to remove any residue left over from cleansing and preps your skin for the next steps. Cigdem suggests that toners should be applied with a cotton pad.

We love... Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Revitalizing Toner £23

Step five: Essence

You might not have heard of an essence before, but it's basically a lighter, water-based serum that aids hydration and preps your skin for other treatments and serums.

We love... Cosrx Advanced Snail Mucin Essence

Step six: Serum/ampoule

Target specific areas of concern such as dehydrated, dull or oily skin with your favourite serums or ampoules. The concentrated active ingredients will get right to work and you'll see results in no time.

We love...Beauty Pie Japanfusion Genius Lift Elixir

Step seven: Sheet mask

Of course, you don't need to incorporate a sheet mask into your daily routine - once a week is enough. They're a Korean skincare favourite for a reason and will keep you hydrated, moisturised and glowing.

We love... Holika Holika Pure Essence Mask Sheet

Step eight: Eye cream

As previously explained, the delicate skin around your eyes needs special care and attention. Regular creams and moisturisers can be too heavy for the thin skin in this area, so make sure you're using a dedicated eye cream to target specific concerns like dark circles or wrinkles.

We love... Facetheory Ocuwake Eye Cream EYE1

Step nine: Moisturiser

A good moisturiser will help lock in the benefits of the products you've already used, leaving you with hydrated, happy and healthy skin.

We love... Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Cream

Step ten: SPF

One of the most essential elements of any skincare routine is SPF. Use this during the day to keep your skin protected from sun damage and all its side effects. You should be using it every single day, even if it's a bit overcast as the sun's UV rays can still penetrate through.

We love...COSRX Aloe Soothing SPF50 PA+++ Sun Cream

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