Korean Skincare 10 step routine

The Korean 10-Step Skincare Routine

When people think about Korean Skincare, they may think of the infamous 10 step routine that became popular a few years back. People tried it out, raved about it and swore it could cure all of your skin mishaps if you were just patient enough to give it a go. Beauty magazines, bloggers and skincare specialists praised Korean products and the lengthy routine, establishing Korea as the innovation beauty hub of the world. Like many others though, I just sat and scoffed at the idea and questioned internally who on earth had time and money for that shizz?

My skincare regime back in the UK usually just consisted of face wipes; lots and lots of face wipes. They were quick and easy so they were my skin saviour. I would come home after a hard days work and the thought of washing my face just seemed TOO.DARN.MUCH. They were also a life saver when I would stumble home at 2am after too many proseccos. I slept soundly in the smug knowledge that I wasn’t one of those dirty girls that didn’t wash their face before bed. I was good, I cleansed, I used a face wipe for goodness sake.

But looking back my skin felt dry; my skin tone uneven. I used to love the feeling of using a stringent alcohol based toner thinking that if I could feel the burn then it must be tightening up my pores. The thought of oil cleansers repulsed me. And if I had a spot, well, that was what concealer was for. It was make up over skincare for me; that’s what makes you look half decent, right?

Wrong. It wasn’t until I moved to Korea that my whole perception of skincare changed. It is safe to say that Korean women are skincare obsessed; they spend more per year on beauty products than any other nation. In Korea, the motto is ‘skincare first, make up second’. Time well spent is time treating your skin, not hiding it with copious amounts of make up. Because if you have glowing healthy skin, then you actually don’t really need much make up to enhance your features.

Slowly my three step routine become a 5 step routine, and my 5 step routine graduated to a 10 step routine. I don’t use ten products every morning and evening, but I have a cabinet full of products in my arsenal to choose from depending on what my skin condition is that particular day. That is what the ‘Korean 10 step routine’ is for me – knowing your skin and treating it accordingly to its daily needs. After double cleansing (oil based cleanser + gel or foam cleanser), the products should be added in order of lightest consistency to thickest. This is to help maximise absorption of all the products, for example, toner before serum, before moisturiser.

1. Oil Based Cleanser

The first step is an oil based cleanser. I won’t go in to too much detail about this because I wrote a full blog on the importance of using an oil based cleanser to remove all your make up and why it is important. Some people double cleanse both morning and evening as well because even overnight you can build up excess sebum, dust and bacteria on your face so it can’t hurt to double cleanse twice a day!

My favourite oil based cleansers are Banila Co Clean it Zero (balm), Troiareauke Oil Cut Cleanser (this one actually contains no oil so a good one for those with oily skin who are a bit hesitant using oil cleansers), Heimish All Clean Balm and Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil.

2. Water-based/Foaming Cleanser

As part of the double cleanse method, you must always go in for another wash with a foaming or water-based cleanser. Whilst the oil based cleanser will get rid of any make up, suncream and excess sebum, the water-based cleanser removes any water-based substances like bacteria and dust. It will also help remove any leftover residue from the oil based cleanser and leave your face feeling nice and clean. As mentioned before, you don’t need to do all 10 steps everyday but this one is crucial and one I personally do morning and evening without fail.

My favourite water-based foaming cleansers are the Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam, Heimish White Clay Foam and Benton Honest Cleansing Foam. In the mornings, I will use the Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. I am also a recent convert of cleansing sticks like the Belif True Tincture Chamomile Cleansing Stick and su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick. Please see this blog on my review of Korean cleansing sticks. 

3. Exfoliators

Korean skincare 10 step routine exfoliate klairs skinfood Neogen

The third ‘step’ is using an exfoliator to get rid of dead skin cells that may have accumulated on your skin. Exfoliating helps regulate your skin cell cycle leaving your skin feeling healthy and glowing. It also helps minimise the appearance of pores and really helps get out all the gunk that gets trapped in them. Exfoliators usually come in ‘scrub’ types with black sugar being a popular ingredient in Korean exfoliators. More recently, chemical exfoliators are becoming increasingly popular, many of which come in pre-soaked pads that you simply swipe over your face. Depending on your skin type, you should aim to exfoliate once or twice a week. As I have problems with milia and excess sebum, I exfoliate 2-3 times per week.

My favourite exfoliators are the Skinfood Black Sugar Wash off Mask, Cosrx Salicylic Acid Exfoliator , Klairs Gentle Black Sugar Face Polish and Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine (offers both a chemical and technical exfoliation).

4. Sheet Mask

‘A sheet mask a day’ was a craze in Korea that I had heard about but wondered if anyone actually did it. At a skincare event I was invited to the dermatologist asked us if anyone did actually do this and I was amazed that 5 people put their hand up! Sheet masks have long been all the rage in Korea and have in the last few years hit the Western market as well. Its like a spa facial in a pack – it will leave your skin feeling super nourished. Plus its great to use before an event as it will give you that infamous Korean glow immediately after use. They are also a must when on a long haul flight (even if you do look scary).  I usually use a sheet mask once or twice a week and pick one according to my skins needs – if my skin is dry a hydrating mask, or a brightening mask if it just feels a bit dull.

My favourite sheet masks are the Cosrx Snail Mask, Too Cool for School Egg Sheet Masks, Mizon sheet masks, Troiareuke GPS Mask and Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Sheet Masks.

5. Toners

Korean skincare 10 step routine toners klairs belif troiareuke cosrx son&park

At the skincare event I just spoke about, the dermatologist presenting asked us to guess her age. We estimated about late 30’s. We were off by about 12 years. Her secret? TONER! She said that she uses toner 5 times a day. And whilst I do think that is overboard, toner is an important step in your skincare routine. Not only does toner help close your pore after cleansing, it also preps your skin for everything else that you are about to put on it; it’s like a base. Without it, your products like serums and essences will not seep in to your skin as effectively. Always pat in your toner – put a few drops in your hands and pat in or gently swipe over your skin with a cotton pad but be gentle so the product seeps in more effectively. Sometimes I will use two toners if I have the time – a gentle toner to close my pores and restore my natural skin pH level, followed by a specific toner like an AHA/BHA toner if I am experiencing a breakout, or moisturising toner if my skin is feeling a bit dry.

My favourite toners are the Son & Park Beauty Water (gentle, exfoliating), Troiareuke Skin Complex Toner with Ampoule (moisturising, brightening), Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner (sensitive, pH Balancing), Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract toner (good for dry skin) and Cosrx AHA/BHA Toner (good for breakouts).

6. Essence

People always think that adding too many products on your skin can’t be good for it as it will just create one thick oily layer but Koreans are masters at producing light formulations making layering super easy. Many Korean women consider essence to be the most important step in their skincare routine. Essences treat a particular issue and are concentrated formulations that help treat your skin at a cellular level. They usually have a watery, lightweight consistency. I have several essences that I will rotate according to my skins needs although on the whole, essences help brighten your skin and promote healthy cell turnover. Again, it’s best to use your hands to pat this product in – pat pat pat. That’s the Korean way.

My favourite essences are the Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence and the Belif Hungarian Water Essence.

Korean skincare 10 step routine essence missha cosrx belif

7. Serum/Ampoule

Korean Skincare 10 step routine essence Klairs Missha

Serums are like super-charged essences. They usually come in smaller containers (are usually a bit more expensive) and like essences target a certain skincare problem. They will sometimes have a slightly thicker consistency, or gel-like in consistency. They seep deeper in to your skin than any other skincare product and are a great anti-ageing addition to your skincare routine. Usually I’ll just use an essence but if something is particularly wrong with my skin then I’ll use a serum or ampoule as well.

My favourite serums/ampoules are the Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Activator Ampoule, Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum and Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop.

8. Eye cream

Korean skincare 10 step routine eye cream missha thank you farmer

Being honest, this is one step that I almost always miss. This is purely because I suffer from milia around my eyes do I don’t really like loading up cream around that area. I also have very sensitive eyes so whenever I seem to use an eye cream they get all itchy *sob*. The skin around your eyes is different from the rest of your face and therefore needs its own skin care. It is also the first area to show signs of ageing so treating it is a must. I am still on my quest to finding the perfect eye cream although I do enjoy the Missha Time Revolution Eye Cream and Thank You Farmer Miracle Age Repair Eye Cream.

9. Moisturiser / Sleeping pack

It’s pretty obvious what this step does. Moisturising is important, even if your skin is oily. Korean brands have come up with very lightweight gel moisturisers that are great for those with oily and combination skin types as they seep in quickly but provide enough hydration to keep your skin healthy. Moisturisers help seal in all that good stuff that you’ve just put on your face.

My favourite moisturisers are the Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Cream, Too Cool for School Egg Mellow Cream, Troiareuke AGT Hydro Essence (can also be used as a sleeping pack), Thank You Farmer True Water Light Gel Cream and Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb.

‘Sleeping Beauty’ is a big category here in Korea. Instead of using a night cream or regular moisturiser, why not use those 7 hours of z’s by treating your skin to a deeply hydrating treatment? Enter – sleeping masks (also referred to as ‘packs’). These were a game changer for me and a lot of other people – you will wake up the next morning with glowing and hydrated skin.

My favourite sleeping masks are the Cosrx Ultimate Moisturising Honey Overnight Sleeping Mask, Too Cool for School Pumpkin Sleeping Pack and Laneige Water Sleeping Mask.

10. Suncream

Korean Skincare Suncream Sunscreen missha thank you farmer too cool for schoolI never really gave sun protection much thought, which to be fair, was pretty easy to do when you live in a country like England. However, including a SPF in to your daily skincare routine is a must; even if it’s not sunny! Korea has produced some wonderfully fresh scented, light weight formulas for suncream which I adore. Many have multi-use functions like combining to act as a primer, essence or mist. Using a SPF everyday has helped even out my skin tone and no doubt will help reduce the number of wrinkles I will get later in life! I used to be all about that tanned life but moving to Korea, I am definitely more conscious about using SPF on my face now on a daily basis.

My favourite suncreams are the Too Cool for School Sun Primer, Thank You Farmer Sun Project Shimmer Essence and Missha Sun Milk range.

A final note on the Korean 10 step skincare routine …

I now look forward to coming home, unwinding and commencing my evening skincare ritual. Yes I may now spend 15 minutes a day cleaning my skin instead of 3 minutes, but what’s 15 minutes of your day? The results are worth it. Your routine doesn’t need to be this lengthy process whereby you must use all products twice a day; it’s mostly about knowing your skin and treating it accordingly with the necessary products at your disposal. Trust me, your skin will thank you for it!

Missha Tension Pact Review

Move over BB Cushions, there’s a new kid in K-Beauty town! This summer in Korea saw the entrance of the Tension Pact; a similar design to the BB cushion compact but instead of a soaked sponge, the tension pact has a thinly-woven mesh net that distributes the product more evenly on to the puff. Several brands have come out with their versions including Missha and Etude House – I decided to try Missha.

 

Missha came out with 4 types of tension pacts – cover, natural cover, tone-up and moisture. I opted for the cover as this is their bestseller and I got it in the shade No.23.

Packaging 

As previously mentioned, the packaging is exactly like a BB cushion and comes with a puff.  I particularly like this one because the clasp is in rose gold – YEAH.

When you open up the case, you will see the mesh net which underneath contains the product. When pressed down with the puff, the product seeps through between the net which is extremely satisfying.

img_0527

Application 

Application is VERY different to the typical BB cushion. Whilst with a BB cushion I will need to go in several times to get sufficient product on my puff, with the tension pact, only one firm dab is all I need to cover my whole face! The first time trying the tension pact I pressed down hard as I would my BB cushion and loads of product came out of the net and all over my hand – epic fail. Word of caution – dab lightly! A little goes a long way. As you can see in the photo, the product is more evenly distributed on the puff in comparison to a BB cushion.

img_0530

True to its name, this particular tension pact is very high coverage, I don’t even need to wear concealer with it. Despite the high coverage though it feels incredibly lightweight on the skin which is exactly what I want in a BB cream/foundation. It’s also incredibly long lasting; I wore this for about 10 hours and had little fading. Some have said that the cushion has a high matte finish but I find that using the product sparingly (only one dab blended across my face) that the product still retains that Korean dewy glow.

Scent 

I am horrible at describing scents. The only way I can describe this is that it has that quintessential ‘Korean make up’ scent; similar to the Etude House Precious Mineral Cushion (which I love). It is only faint but very fresh, light and slightly floral. See, I told you I’m horrible at describing scents.

Would I repurchase? 

This has become my go-to product at the moment and I’m already considering stocking up on it before I leave Korea! The cover version cost 17,800 WON which is roughly £12.00 which I personally think is a bargain for such a good quality product. I am definitely keen on trying out the natural cover version (which is even cheaper at 15,800 WON!) but all in all, this cover version is the perfect product to use for a long day at work or a night out – the staying power combined with the finish and low price point just makes this product insanely good value.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

KBeauty: The Battle of the Cleansing Sticks

Battle of the Cleansing Sticks

As you may have seen in my previous post about the Korean Double Cleanse method, cleansing sticks are increasingly becoming very popular here. After the success of the Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick which people go gaga over, many other brands have taken to their innovation labs and come up with similar products. Cleansing sticks are essentially a face wash in a stick. You simply wet your face, give the stick a few swipes over your skin and lather it up. The rise of Korean cleansing products has meant that in order to differentiate themselves, brands have sought to find new formulations and I personally think this one is a winner. The sticks, for me, are an absolute must when travelling. In this blog I’ll talk about my first impressions with the Neogen Green Tea Cleansing Stick, the Belif True Tincture Cleansing Stick – Chamomile and the infamous Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick.

The Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick 

The first cleansing stick that I purchased and tried out was the Neogen Green Tea Cleansing Stick. I love Neogen products, in particular their wine gauze peeling pads and their foam cleansers so I had super high hopes for this one. Their products are usually affordable, clinical and do the job. I purchased mine at Olive Young where it was on sale for 11,000 won ($11) – even better. The Neogen cleansing stick claims to be hypoallergenic and suitable for sensitive skin. It contains a lot of essential oils like olive oil, camellia oil and coconut oil (although the latter can trigger breakouts in some people so be careful). It also contains green tea seed oil and green tea leaves which you can see dispersed throughout the stick, is loaded with 99% of natural ingredients and claims to leave skin feeling clean, clear and hydrated. Sounds wonderful, right?

Wrong. Whilst I did not dislike this cleansing stick completely, it did the job and foamed up nicely, I hated the smell of it. It smells literally like a bar of Dove soap; perhaps stronger. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that smell but I just don’t want it on my face. That is just a personal preference though; I just like my skincare products smelling fresh. After usage, it also left my skin feeling a bit tight making me question how hydrating it really is. Also, after a few uses the green tea specks were hardly in there. That being said, it’s the most affordable one I have tried and works fine as your average face wash; it just wasn’t anything to write home about.

The Belif True Tincture Cleansing Stick – Chamomile 

After the disappointment of the Neogen cleansing stick my quest continued and a few days later I found myself at the Belif counter in Lotte Department Store, Myeongdong. I love Belif products; the packaging and brand identity is right up my street. Similar to Kiehls, it has that ‘apothecary’ feel which makes me believe that everything they sell must be great for my skin. The Belif True Tincture Cleansing Stick was 28,000 won ($28) and is suitable for all skin types. It contains chamomile extracts and natural chamomile flower petals that gentle lather up and cleanse your skin. It claims to provide a solution to dullness, uneven texture, redness and dryness. Like the Neogen Green Tea Cleansing Stick, it also has a neutral/slightly lower pH.

The moment I opened the Belif cleansing stick, the first thing I did was smell it and it.was.wonderful. It was fresh, slightly herbal and citrus/lemon-like. The stick was easy to lather up and the foam felt more creamier and softer than the Neogen Cleansing Stick. After patting my face dry, my skin felt fresh, clean and not tight at all. What more can I say? First impression of this stick was very positive and it now has a place in my daily skincare regime.

The Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick 

It felt wrong to do a cleansing stick review without trying the Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick. Almost without knowing, I had subconsciously tried the others first, believing I was saving the best until last. The Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, or the MRCS as the cool kids call it, has cult like status around the K-Beauty lovin’ world. It’s weird but in Korea it’s actually not one of the so-called ‘holy grail’ products; it seems to be way more popular overseas in countries like China and the USA. For a while the MRCS was difficult to find; it was constantly out of stock, forcing people to buy back ups upon back ups of the stuff. It was so elusive that it was not actually displayed in Su:m37 shops here; you had to ask the shop assistant who would whip one out from under the counter. I cannot deny that I fell in to the trap of the buying frenzy that this cleansing stick induces. I purchased one online but as I was too impatient to wait until it was delivered, I purchased another one in the Su:m37 shop in Garusogil when I saw that it was actually out on display for once!  It too, retails for 28,000 won ($28).

True to it’s name, the stick is made from fermented rose and has little bits of it spread throughout the stick. It smells gloriously of roses as well making it feel luxurious to use. It has a completely different feel and packaging to the Belif Cleansing Stick which appears more ‘functional’ and ‘good for your skin’. The MRCS is all about the pampering. Coupled with the knowledge that it is so elusive and coveted, you get an extra hit of giddiness when using it *smug face*.

The MRCS lathers up nicely as well, has a lovely scented, creamy foam and does not leave my skin feeling sucked of moisture. The only tiny gripe I have with it is that the stick is ever-so-slightly convex which makes it a little difficult to manoeuvre around my cheekbone and eye area; a problem I don’t have with the Belif one. But other than that, both are very, very similar.

…and so the winner is….

In the way of formulation, ease of use and quality the Belif Cleansing Stick and the MRCS are hard to separate. Both smell great, both are easy to use, both foam up well and both leave the skin feeling fresh and clean. They both retail for the same price here in Korea and they both contain the same amount of product; this comes as no surprise as both brands are in fact owned by the same company – LG. My favourite is purely based on my own personal preferences – the smell. And so, the winner is…. The Belif True Tincture Cleansing Stick! I was really impressed with this stick after the first time I used it. I think the MRCS has been so bigged up that when I finally got around to trying it, I just felt a teeny bit underwhelmed – I’m such a rebel. I much prefer a fresh scent over a floral one but as I said before, that is purely my own preference. I know there are a lot of rose lovers out there and coupled with the luxurious feel of the MRCS, this will be, (and clearly is) the firm favourite of many a skincare addict. I have no qualms in highly recommending both cleansing sticks, it purely comes down to whatever scent and packaging you prefer. But for me, the Belif True Tincture just about wins it!

The Korean Double Cleanse; innisfree olive real cleansing foam, innisfree olive real cleansing oil

The Korean Double Cleanse

What is the one thing that has helped improve the condition of my skin? Easy. The Korean Double Cleanse. Growing up and learning how to look after my skin, I was always taught to use some sort of cleanser, usually a face wash, twice a day, morning and evening. I think most people do this to some extent. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Korea that I realised – we’ve been doing it wrong!

Now I know the thought of extending your daily skincare regime sounds like a faff and I definitely do have my lazy days where I skip it but double cleansing is the only sure fire way to remove all your make up, suncream, and excess sebum efficiently. I think back to my teens when I would use a face wash and then rub the stubborn leftover eye make up around my eyes furiously with a toner-drenched cotton pad and I cringe inside. Not only would that not clean my skin properly, but left my face feeling irritated and stripped of moisture.

So what is the Korean double cleanse method?

The first step is using an oil based cleanser. These come in either liquid oils, creams or balms and should be placed directly on to dry skin. Here in Korea, cleansing oils have been popular for yonks. The majority of women will double cleanse in the evening, sometimes even in the morning as well. Oil cleansers hit the Western beauty market a while ago with Bobbi Brown and Mac varieties proving to be popular among skincare enthusiasts. But some people were sceptical – mainly those with combination / oily skin. More oil on my already oily skin?! Are you mad?! But the reality is that these cleansers, containing good oils, are highly effective at removing all the bad oils that accumulate on your face throughout the day. Cleansing oils don’t sink in to your pores – they work hard to draw out all the impurities and then, when mixed with water, wash it all away without leaving your skin dry and stripped of essential moisture. Hooray!


My favourite cleansing oils are the DHC Cleansing Oil, Troiareuke Acsen Oil Cut Cleanser and The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Oil. The Troiareuke Acsen Oil Cut Cleanser is actually more like a gel, it doesn’t contain any oil but works just as effectively; it’s very gentle and great for sensitive or acne prone skin.

Banila Co Clean it Zero and Heimish All Clean Balm
More recently cleansing balms have become very popular after the huge success of Banila Co Clean it Zero. Although this launched a few years back, it is still considered the holy grail balm among the K beauty community. Cleansing balms melt in your palms to become oils and when mixed with water create a milky emulsion that removes all impurities away from your skin. Like cleansing oils, they should go on to your face dry – a sensation that most people find strange but trust me, it is so satisfying seeing all your eye make up wash off so easily! My favourite oil cleansing balms are the original Banila Co Clean It Zero and the Heimish All Clean Balm. The Heimish All Clean balm has a more neutral scent compared to the Banila Co one and has a more natural ingredient list. Both are highly effective.

The second cleanse

So if cleansing oils are so amazing at getting rid of make up and the like, then why do we need to go in again for a second cleanse? Whilst the cleansing oils effectively remove excess sebum, make up and suncream, a foaming cleanser will help remove any water-based substances like bacteria, perspiration or dead skin cells leaving your face feeling super clean! For this second step you will want to choose a good foaming cleanser that lathers up well and does not leaving your skin feeling tight or stripped of moisture. My personal favourites are the Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam, Heimish White Clay Foam and Benton Honest Cleansing Foam.

My personal favourites are the Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam, Heimish White Clay Foam and Benton Honest Cleansing Foam.

Foaming cleansers now come in a wide variety here in Korea. Tools such as a foaming net, sponge or ‘whip maker’ can turn any old face wash in to a luxurious lather. Cleansing sticks are also becoming increasingly popular. I am currently  loving the Belif Chamomile Cleansing Stick. I simply swipe it a few times on my wet face and lather up making it the ideal face wash to take travelling.

The double cleanse method may seem high maintenance but honestly it has helped my skin improve so much, reducing redness, evening out my skin tone and causing fewer breakouts. In typical Korean fashion, the double cleanse method keeps evolving. Brands are now coming out with formulas that go from oil to foam making the double step cleanse quicker and only requiring one product. Conversely, I am now a covert of the triple cleanse. Yeah, you heard me. I will use an eye make up remover or a face wipe to gently remove stubborn make up before going in for my double cleanse. Or, following my double cleanse will use a cleansing water like Son & Park Beauty Water to remove any excess residue. Two months in this country and I am sooo Korean.