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Korean Skincare: 10 step process

What does a girl have to do to be able to fix her face in a forest?

What is the Korean skincare 10 step process you ask? Basically, if I didn’t live in Korea for a few years, I wouldn’t have known either, so you’re forgiven. When I lived in Korea, my skin really didn’t like the pollution or the dry winters, and I had terrible breakouts, dry and flaky skin, and I noticed a few more wrinkles than usual. I was horrified.

Eventually, one such evening I stumbled upon a blog post about someone explaining the Korean Skincare 10 step process (there are 12 step and 7 step ones as well, but they stem from here) and I immediately set out to try it. Generally, it can be a bit expensive if you’re going for really great quality skincare items, but in my experience, there are cheaper versions out there that you can try and that will fit your skin profile.

If you’re thinking, where am I going to find the time to do this entire routine? The good news is, you’re not going to do all 10 steps every single day. In fact, the only steps that are an absolute must are cleaning, moisturising and sunscreen. The rest of the steps you can do if and when you have time.

One more thing…

Before we get into the details, I am not qualified in ANYTHING when it comes to skincare, but this post is about my experience and what worked for me (disclaimer). If you decide to start using the Korean Skincare 10 step process my advice will be to build on what already works for your skin by incorporating the things you’re already using and just adding a few more things.

If you are interested in buying any of the products below, please click on the photo or on the description below the product photo.

Step 1: Oil cleanser

For the first step in our South African version of a Korean skincare routine, we start with cleansing. Oil cleansers are not something that we’re very familiar within South Africa. The only one I could find at the time was one made by Sorbet, that you buy at Clicks. I actually liked that one, but the bottle it came in was not suitable and it leaked a lot of the oil. I might buy it again when they change their packaging. Meanwhile, I’ve found a nicer one from Skin Creamery. It’s an oil-milk cleanser, and the best of all is it comes in a very beautiful glass bottle, and they sell refills as well!

Why should we use an oil cleanser you ask? Won’t this make my skin more oily? No. And if you’re really concerned about it, step 2 in this 10 step routine will solve that problem for you. Oil cleansers are brilliant because it dissolves all the oily makeup and old lotions from your face. Because of this, starting with an oil cleanser is the best thing you can do for your face if you wear make up every day. Evidently, Korean skincare is all about double cleansing, so this is something that should be a permanent step in your skincare routine.

  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Certified by Beauty Without Cruelty
  • Soap-free, alcohol-free
  • Effective cleanser and makeup remover
  • Can be used to remove waterproof makeup
  • Silky smooth, skin-loving consistency
  • Won’t strip the skin of its natural oils
  • Safe for use around the delicate eye area
  • Leaves skin feeling soft, clean and pampered

Step 2: Foam cleanser

If you were concerned about the oil cleanser in step one, step two is where you will use a foam cleanser. Because the oil cleanser has lifted and dissolved all the oily dirt from your skin in step one, the foam cleanser can now wash away all remaining dirt as well as the remaining oil cleanser that might have stayed behind.

Esse Refining Cleanser is a gentle foaming cleanser that you should use daily. It also contains bentonite which draws out toxins and oils from your skin, thus also reducing the visibility of your pores. They market this cleanser as unisex, so it could also make a great gift for the men in your life.

In Korean skincare, the foam cleanser usually contains either snail mucin, rice water, or hyaluronic acid.

Step 2 is crucial and I would recommend that this be a permanent part of your everyday routine.

  • Fuss-free facial wash, great for guys
  • Thorough but gentle cleansing action
  • Suitable for all skin types, but ideal for oily skin
  • Bentonite clay exfoliates skin & draws out toxins
  • Kalahari melon provides 6 essential fatty acids
  • Aloe vera gel is soothing & healing
  • Certified Organic, Fair Trade
  • Endorsed by Beauty Without Cruelty; vegan-friendly
  • Travel-sized lightweight tube, ideal for gym bag or suitcase

Step 3: Exfoliator

When you hear the word ‘exfoliator’ most of you probably think about some creamy substance with a lot of course granules in it that you buff your face with. Yeah, I’m not a big fan. That is why the Korean way of thinking about exfoliating appeals to me a lot more. See they use AHA, BHA, and PHA that are chemicals designed specifically to gently exfoliate your skin by getting rid of all the dead skin cells and making room for new skin. They are so gentle some of them can even be used daily, although you need to read the label of the specific product that you will use. Some of them are suitable for only once or twice a week. You can read more about these exfoliators here.

Homespun Lab’s AHA+BHA Resurfacing Overnight Tonic contains both AHA and BHA which is fine because it is in one product. Please don’t use both of these chemicals when coming from two different products, it could be damaging.

You can use this product nightly or three times a week, depending on how much you need it. If you have lots of pigmentation, I would suggest using it every day until you can see your pigmentation lightening and then change to three times a week just to maintain your skin.

  • Overnight facial tonic
  • With alpha & beta hydroxy acids (AHA & BHA)
  • Exfoliates & brightens the skin while you sleep
  • Helps to prevent congested pores, blemishes & breakouts
  • Works to brighten the skin & promote a smoother texture
  • AHAs (fruit acids) are also beneficial for blemishes, wrinkles & pigmentation
  • BHAs clean the pores, reducing breakouts & blackheads
  • Contains liquorice root extract, which helps to lighten pigmentation, dark marks & scars
  • Locally produced
  • Packaged in glass
  • No artificial colours or fragrances

Step 4: Toner

We use toner to get rid of the last bit of impurities that might still be lingering on your face, and also to prepare your face to be more susceptible to the products that you will apply next. I also find that using toner makes my skin absorb my moisturiser better.

Skin Creamery’s Skin Tonic is not for sensitive skin, so if you have very sensitive skin you can opt to use rose water as an alternative toner.

In Korean skincare, the toner is also used to lower the skin’s pH to between 4.5 and 5.5, which the range for healthy skin.

  • 50ml
  • Two-phase tonic
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Beauty Without Cruelty approved
  • Silky, luxurious consistency
  • Balances and restores tired or damaged skin
  • No parabens of preservatives
  • No synthetic fragrances or colours
  • Developed by a skincare therapist with a passion for organic products

Step 5: Essence

Essence is like dessert for your skin, and if the product your using is called GLOWDROPS it can’t really get any better. I was never familiar with using essence on my skin, but when I lived in Korea I found out how great it was. Korean essence usually has fermented ingredients, so if you can find those, buy it immediately! They are just as good for your skin as for your body. Surprisingly, essence is a relatively new product in South Africa and you can’t find it as easily. Lucky for you I found this one and it has superb reviews so you will not go wrong when buying it. SKOON GLOWDROPS contains concentrated drops of Orange Blossom, Vitamin E and Phytosqualane for a soft, and natural glow.

You can add a few drops to your moisturiser or your foundation, but I’ve found that a few drops rubbed between my palms and patted onto my face works extremely well. Therefore, I would recommend starting with 1-2 drops and then if your skin is extra dry you can do a few more drops. Essence is not oily and will not leave a residue on your skin. Your skin will absorb it completely.

  • For a soft, natural, luminous glow.
  • Quickly absorbed – no greasy after-feel.
  • Scented with SKOON. signature Damask Rose essential oil blend.
  • 100% natural and preservative free.
  • Skin loving – and can be applied as lavishly as you want, directly onto skin!
  • Concentrates can add extra nourishment to your moisturiser.
  • Bespoke skincare in the palm of your hand
  • Part of the SKOON. ‘Make it Yours’ product range

Step 6: Serum

After your essence is fully absorbed into your skin you can add 5 – 10 drops of the Eco Diva Superfood Face Serum to your face, eye and neck areas. Any serum is essence on steroids, so depending on which serum you use, I would only use it at night, as serum can be a bit oily and it can take longer for your skin to absorb this. Also please note that you should not mix products containing Vitamin C and products containing Retinol during the same session. Products containing these actives can make your skin extremely sensitive to the sun. This particular serum contains neither so feel free to use it twice a day!

Serums are sometimes also referred to as boosters or ampoules.

  • Natural facial serum with superfood ingredients
  • Contains argan & baobab oils
  • Sulphate-free, paraben-free
  • Moisturises & nourishes the skin
  • Helps to improve skin texture
  • Creates a healthy natural glow
  • Unisex scent
  • No artificial colours or fragrances
  • Cruelty-free (BWC certified)
  • Not tested on animals
  • Packaged in glass

Step 7: Sheet masks/clay masks

In Korea, seemingly the only face masks available are sheet masks – you find them everywhere, even in convenience stores! I really like to use sheet masks when my skin feels a bit dehydrated. I have never used face masks in South Africa, but I use clay masks and they are just brilliant. When I have dull and tired skin, only one clay mask pampering and I’m good to go! Use twice a week.

If you only buy one clay mask every, buy this one. It is worth every cent.

  • All-natural facial clay mask
  • Reduces the appearance of rosacea
  • Reduces redness
  • Minimises pores
  • Balances complexion
  • Hydroquinone-free
  • Paraben-free
  • PEG-free
  • Naturally fragranced with essential oils
  • Suitable for vegans and strict vegetarians

Azelaic Acid is a naturally occurring ingredient with proven abilities to reduce the appearance of rosacea for a more even, beautiful complexion.

Step 8: Eye cream

Wrinkles around the eyes is where we start looking older first. I remember noticing my first wrinkles and how unnecessarily upset I got. It is a gift to get older, but we should at least not give up trying to find that fountain of youth!

It is important that your eye cream contains hyaluronic acid which hydrates your skin, so check for it in the ingredients list when buying.

Esse Eye & Lip Cream is packed with active ingredients that combat the signs of ageing. Gentle on skin but highly effective at treating wrinkles. If used consistently you should notice improvement after just two weeks.

  • Hyaluronic acid hydrates delicate skin for a fuller, firmer appearance.
  • Vitamin K lightens dark circles around the eyes.
  • Copper boosts collagen production to keep the lip and eye area looking plump and youthful.
  • Barley grass is full of antioxidants like beta carotene, and skin-loving nutrients like chlorophyll.
  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant, protects against UV damage and has a lightening effect.
  • Natural and Organic Cosmetic certified by ECOCERT. Dark glass bottles used to ensure fresh ingredients stay pure.

Step 9: Moisturiser

Let me just celebrate this real quick: I have NEVER seen a moisturiser this big anywhere in South Africa and the fact that you can buy a 200 ml pot as well as a refill makes me happy. Also, are you just as confused as I am about what day cream and what night cream to use? Confused no more! You will use this cream both day and night. This might seem like a new idea here in South Africa, but it is the norm in Korean skincare routines. You have one huge pot and you slather it on whenever you want. I also feel that the price is ridiculously low for what you get. For other brands, you will easily pay R300 for 50 ml. Here you pay less than that for 100 ml. It’s a win-win!

  • Rich & nourishing but lightweight
  • Easily absorbed into the skin
  • Restores the skin’s natural moisture
  • Made with organic ingredients
  • Hypoallergenic; won’t cause irritation
  • Non-greasy, won’t clog pores
  • Fragrance composed of 100% natural oils
  • Packaged in recyclable, reusable frosted glass

Step 10 (day): Sunscreen

This is probably the most important step in Korean skincare. While some of us might try to get a great tan during summer, Koreans try their best to maintain their porcelain skin. So in addition to various skin brighteners, they also use sunscreen every day.

The best thing you can do for your skin (after cleansing and moisturising) is sunscreen. Listen to Baz Luhrmann if you don’t want to listen to me. Harmful UVA and UVB rays are the number one cause of wrinkles.

Enjoy moments of bliss in the golden South African sun knowing that your skin is protected by SKOON Sunnybonani SPF20 Day Defense Sun Cream. This day defence sun cream is a mineral-based sun cream for your face that’s infused with antioxidant-rich South African botanicals. We love that SKOON Sunnybonani SPF20 Day Defense Sun Cream is made from pure and natural ingredients that are suitable for all skin types.

Give this sunscreen a few minutes to be absorbed before applying your makeup.

Step 10 (night): Sleeping mask

The last step in the Korean skincare routine is probably the most decadent as well. According to the instructions you should use sleeping or overnight masks only a few times a week, but they are so luxurious there is no reason why you can’t use this every night to make sure your skin regenerates to the best of its ability.

  • Intense moisture repair blend of Organic Coconut and Wildflower Honey
  • Infused with Nordic Marine Extract to entrap water molecules on the surface of the skin
  • Soothes and hydrates while you sleep
  • Proudly preservative free
  • Scented with natural vanilla
  • Perfect for all skin types, even sensitive

SKOON. Skincare Tip
In summer the texture of Ruby Marine may slightly soften and conversely slightly harden in colder temperatures. A spatula is perfect to help scoop the product out when temperatures drop.

If you liked this article, please consider sharing it so that others can read it too. You can also let me know what you think in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

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