Korean Skin Care Routine Guide: 5 Steps for Incredible Results

If you’re a beauty connoisseur who follows online beauty news religiously, then you’ve probably seen more and more articles about Korean skin care. From sheet masks to snails, at first glance the Korean skin care routine can look like a confusing and strange new approach to skin care.

The truth is that the Korean skin care routine is nothing new. In South Korea, women have been using long and elaborate routines to improve their skin for centuries. Here’s everything you need to know about this skin care routine and how you might be able to incorporate it into your beauty regimen.

blonde woman with eyes closed

Korean Skin Care Routine – The Basics

If you’ve been to a dermatologist in America, Britain or any western country, they’ve probably preached the same edict. Use as few products as possible. Avoid layering on too many treatments and serums. Stick to simple products, such as oil-free moisturizers and no-frills treatments.

This advice is dismissed as rubbish amongst fans of the Korean skin care routine. The biggest principle in the Korean skin care routine is not less is more, but rather that flawless skin requires a lot of time and effort. Many routines under the Korean skin care umbrella are structured around eleven or more steps. Different steps and products are designed to treat different issues. A cornerstone of the Korean skin care routine is sun protection; Korean women believe that the biggest rule of good skin is protecting oneself against the harsh rays of the sun.

“[A] thing about Korean skin care that I love is that it’s very sunscreen prominent,” dermatologist Lauren Ploch told the Chicago Tribune. While many western dermatologists might be split on whether or not the numerous steps in the routine are beneficial in their medical opinion, most of them agree that the routine’s emphasis on sunscreen is stellar.

How Does The Korean Skin Care Routine Work?

The Korean skin care routine involves multiple steps. Each step involves applying a product that targets a specific issue. The overall idea is that few people have only one skin concern. Rather, a person whose skin is acneic may also worry about dark circles under their eyes or future wrinkles and signs of aging. In the Korean skin care routine, each step identifies each of a person’s myriad skin care concerns.

Certain ingredients are staples of the Korean skin care routine. One of the most popular ingredients in Korean skin care is snail secretion. While that might make Westerners recoil, it usually only takes a few weeks of using snail-based products to turn them into believers.

So what’s so special about snail goo? Well, it is one of the most natural sources of one of the world’s best skin care components, hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid holds up to a hundred times its mass in water. When applied to the skin, it greatly increases the amount of moisture in the skin. Moist and hydrated skin is more resistant to signs of premature aging and fine lines. When you combine this with the Korean skin care routine’s emphasis on sun protection, the anti-aging results of the routine are quite noticeable and effective.

korean skin care routine

The Pros and Cons of The Korean Skin Care Routine

Like any other skin care regimen, the Korean skin care routine has a few pros and cons.


  • The effects are extremely noticeable after a few months, provided that individuals stay diligent to their routines morning and night.
  • Most products are relatively inexpensive. Unlike the western beauty marketplace where prestige products are often only available at premium prices, the Korean beauty market is quite saturated and thus brands price their products competitively.
  • Many Korean skin care enthusiasts treat their routine like a hobby or lifestyle. For example, members of the Reddit forum Asian Beauty spend their free time gushing about products, techniques, and hauls. Becoming a devotee of the Korean skincare routine is like adopting a fun new hobby that isn’t just fun, but that greatly improves your appearance.
  • You’ll reduce your risk of skin cancer. Remember, the cornerstone of the Korean routine is sun protection. With daily SPF-usage year-round, you will dramatically reduce your risk of contracting melanoma.


  • Products might be cheap, but wait times are long. Since many online retailers are located overseas, you’ll have to get used to waiting two weeks or more for products to arrive. Gone are the days of just running out to the local drugstore when you’re out of something.
  • It’s time-consuming. Many products require you to wait for them to soak into the skin before moving on to the next step in your routine. Be prepared to add at least a half hour to your morning and night routines.

The Steps Of The Korean Skin Care Routine

woman washing her face with water

Everyone’s routine is a little bit different. However, overall the Korean skin care routine follows the same basic formula.

Step One: Double Cleanse

A double cleanse is basically what it sounds like. Use an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup and debris from throughout the day, then follow with a foaming cleanser.

Step Two: Actives

These are products that contain targeted and potent ingredients. For example, an acne sufferer might use a product with salicylic acid to combat pimples.

Step Three: Toner

Don’t think of western toners. Instead, Asian toners are thin lotions that add extra moisture to the skin.

Step Four: Serums, Ampoules and Essences

These products are packed densely with ingredients that prevent aging and benefit the skin, such as the aforementioned snail secretion. Essences are the thinnest, serums are medium consistency and ampoules are extremely thick. Always use these products from thinnest to thickest.

Step Five: Moisturizer

Finish off your routine with a moisturizer. At night, use a thick cream to seal everything in. In the morning, use a lighter cream, followed by a sunscreen. Don’t forget an eye cream to add moisture and improve the appearance of the skin under your eyes.

woman applying cream on her face

Getting The Most Out Of The Korean Skin Care Routine

Even if you don’t have all of the products that you want when you first start out, the key to a successful routine is consistency. The most important thing is that you stick to your routine and do it faithfully morning and night. It’s also a great idea to stay on top of Korean skin care blogs and websites. Blogs like Fifty Shades of Snail and YouTube channels like Gothamista are great resources for information about new products, trends and techniques.

Precautions To Remember When Trying The Korean Skin Care Routine

Remember, you might be sensitive to certain ingredients and products. Introduce new products into your routine one at a time so that you can easily identify anything that you might be allergic to or that might be causing breakouts or sensitivity. Just because Korean skin care gurus use upwards of a dozen products in their routines doesn’t mean that you have to use that many when you’re first starting out. Instead, ease into it and remember that the people who use that many products have been doing the routine for years or even decades.

The Korean skin care routine isn’t just a skin regimen. Rather, it really becomes a way of life, the same way a new diet or exercise program does. From researching new methods to testing out new products, Korean skin care is a hobby that isn’t just entertaining, but that can have amazing benefits for your skin.

The habits that you form as a Korean skin care routine devotee will indeed do wonders for your complexion. Breakouts will clear up and signs of aging will diminish. Even if you don’t start out with a dozen products morning and night, easing into this lifestyle will be one of the best decisions you make for the health of your skin.

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