Hey there friends! I’m finally (unfortunately) back from my amazing vacation in Europe with my wonderful boyfriend, and while I wish it would never have ended, I’m glad to be back to my normal routines: eating healthier, going to the gym regularly, catching up on my TV shows, and, of course, my skincare routine. And girl, my skin needs it. It’s freaking. out. After all of the trains, planes, and buses I’ve taken, with hardly any rest. And given the popularity of my post on my advanced Korean skincare routine last week, I figured it would be a great time to go back to basics and help you all build your own beginner’s korean skincare routine!
Now, for those of you who read my post last week when it was still mislabeled as a beginner’s guide (heads up, it’s definitely not, and please read my post on my Facebook page here about why I changed it), hopefully this will give you a bit more clarity while also preventing overwhelm! A beginner’s Korean skincare routine is one of the best ways to start taking care of your skin, and, in my opinion, one of the best ways to #treatyoself without breaking the bank.
Ready to jump in? Because I can’t wait!
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I am not a skincare professional. This advice is based off of my personal experience, but should not replace the advice of your doctor. Please always make sure to consult them when incorporating new products. This article is meant for informational purposes only.
The Simple (But Effective) Guide to Beginner’s Korean Skincare Routines
So… What is a Korean skincare routine anyways?
No worries, I got you covered with the basics. When you hear skincare addicts say “Korean skincare routine,” they’re not just referencing some Americanized exotic mumbo-jumbo, I promise! Korea as a whole has an obsession with creating healthy, glowing skin, and thus the 10-step Korean skincare routine was born.
The main tenant of a “Korean skincare routine” is that that magical, one-size-fits-all product that will solve all of your skin concerns? Yeah, it doesn’t exist.
Korean skincare focuses on the idea that each skincare concern that you have should be treated with specific products tailored to that concern, in a step-by-step process that gradually layers healthy, targeted products into your skin. These products are applied based on a few different factors, but generally, the more concentrated products come earlier in the routine, as well as the lighter products that absorb easier.
Umm, hold up. 10 steps?? How is that a beginner’s Korean skincare routine?
Yes, yes, I know, I’m sure that’s the part where you all gawked and thought, “This girl is crazy.” So let’s get one thing straight:
This guide is to help you get to a 10-step routine, if that’s what you want. I would never encourage anyone to go from a 1- or 2-step routine to a 10-step routine overnight! But if you have some serious skincare goals, I’ll be showing you how to get on your way to that right here, right now.
Now that doesn’t sound all that scary, does it?
Okay, cool. But do I have to throw out my ride-or-die American brand products? Since they’re not Korean?
Good news, my friend! You absolutely do not need to get rid of any products in your current routine just because they’re not Korean!
Here’s the real deal: just because it’s called a “Korean skincare routine” doesn’t mean that all of your products must be Korean. The term “Korean” primarily refers to the 10-step routine that is popular in Korean culture!
Many Koreans themselves prefer to use Western products, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re better. For your beginner’s korean skincare routine I definitely encourage you to branch out and try some Korean skincare products! But remember: you should always choose what you believe will work best for your skin!
Alright, I’m ready to start my beginner’s Korean skincare routine. What do I do?
Familiarize yourself with what constitutes a 10-step Korean skincare routine.
We may not be starting off with a 10-step routine right away, but in order to make our beginner’s Korean skincare routine the most effective, we still need to know how it works. For a more in depth description of each step, make sure to check out my advanced Korean skincare routine post, but here are the steps:
- Oil/Cream Cleanser – Breaks up makeup and loosens dirt from pores
- Foaming Cleanser – Cleanses face
- Exfoliator (2-3 times a week) – Removes dead skin cells for a smoother/more even complexion
- Toner – Balances skin pH / prepares it for topical products
- Active – Highly concentrated products that target specific skincare concerns (such as a prescription acne topical)
- Essence – Increases cell turnover and helps products absorb easier
- Sheet Masks – Concentrated serums in mask form that help with absorption of the product
- Serums – Heavier products that target specific skincare concerns (like wrinkles, acne scars, skin damage, etc)
- Eye Cream – A light moisturizer to prevent under eye bags, wrinkles, milia, etc.
- Moisturizer – Moisturizes the skin and repairs your moisture barrier to keep skin healthy and young
Those are the 10 steps, and the order that everything goes in! But remember, we’re going to be taking this more intense routine and making it our own as we go. Do you see something that you don’t think you’ll ever use? Don’t worry about it! The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to. This beginner’s korean skincare routine is for you!
Identify the skincare concerns that you want to address with your new routine so that you can more accurately pick out products.
While cleansers and exfoliators don’t generally target specific skincare concerns, because they’re not on your face for an extended period of time, the rest of the products in your beginner’s korean skincare routine should aim to help with any skin problems you may have. And keep in mind, you may have multiple! Here’s a list of a few:
- Oily / Normal / Dry Skin
- Sensitive Skin
- Acne Scars / Age Spots
- Fine lines and Wrinkles
- Dull Skin
- Uneven Skintone
- Sun damage
Once you figure out which issues you’d like to address with your beginner’s korean skincare routine, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices of products in the next few steps!
So for instance, I have oily, sensitive skin with active acne as well as acne scars. The active acne is already addressed by my Curology (the prescription active that I use), so the main focus of the rest of my skincare routine is reducing the oiliness of my T-zone and lightening my acne scars! But because my skin is sensitive to new products (and climates, and everything basically) I have to be careful with the products that I choose to make sure I don’t break out.
Choose which steps you’d like to begin adding to your skincare routine.
Now, of course, this assumes that you have a semblance of a skincare routine to begin with! So, for example, let’s say your skincare routine currently consists of a cleanser, a prescription topical, and a moisturizer. Pretty standard routine, right?
Those are only three steps of the ten, but we can’t add them in all at once! So now is the time to prioritize what you would like to add to your routine based on what is available to you, what you’ll actually use consistently, and what fits in with your lifestyle!
[ Looking for a more advanced Korean skincare routine post? Click here! ]
My recommendation? Start with properly cleansing and preparing your face for the future topicals you’ll add. So in this scenario, I’d recommend looking into adding an oil cleanser first! From there, I’d look into toners, and after that, maybe an exfoliator. The good news is that most cleansers (and exfoliators) won’t address any specific skincare concerns that you have, since their primary focus is to cleanse (or exfoliate). So if you’re still figuring out what skincare concerns you want to target, no worries! You can still start adding things to your routine!
Personally, I’d save the more intense serums and essences until you’ve gotten a bit more comfortable with your beginner’s Korean skincare routine, and you’re sure what skin issues you want to address! And if you’re planning on adding Korean products you’ll already have familiarized yourself with some brands by that point, too!
Only purchase Korean skincare products from reputable, authorized sellers.
Now, we’ve already established that you don’t have to incorporate Korean brand products into your beginner’s Korean skincare routine if you don’t want to. However I would highly encourage you to consider doing so! Many Korean skincare products are of extremely high quality and are comparable to many high-end Western brands that you’d find at Ulta, Sephora, Nordstrom, etc., but Korean skincare products are often way less expensive.
But here’s the thing: you have to take into account the fact that you won’t be able to read the labels on the actual bottles, so you have to be very wary of fakes (which can contain dangerous filler chemicals). This means that you have to very careful about where you purchase your products.
[ Want to browse some product recommendations? Check out this post ]
Both Sephora and Ulta are great places (with great return policies!) to find Korean skincare brands, and because they have hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores around the United States, it’s super convenient to pick up a new product and return it if it doesn’t work. Another website that I absolutely adore is Soko Glam! They carry only authentic Korean skincare products, are constantly curating new brands, and they even have a rewards program! While Amazon does carry authentic products of some brands, it can be extremely difficult to ensure that’s what you’re purchasing, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.
But wherever you buy your products, make sure they’re authentic, and also check their return policy! Ideally you want a return policy of ~ 60 days, because sometimes it can take that long to really figure out if a product is working for your skin or making you break out!
Incorporate products one at a time so as to not overwhelm yourself or your skin.
I’m going to repeat that again. Incorporate products one at a time. Incorporate products one. At. A. Time.
Look, I totally understand. You’re excited about starting a new skincare routine, more than likely you’re about to fill that shopping cart with products and all you’ll want to do is throw everything on your face when it arrives! And I’m here to tell you: resist that urge.
[ Ready to take your skincare to the next level? Check out my post on advanced Korean skincare routines! ]
Why? Because if you suddenly add an extra seven products to your face when you normally only use three, your skin is going to freak. out. And maybe four out of the seven products are actually great for your skin! But those extra three products are causing hella breakouts, rashes, or irritation. How are you supposed to know which products are actually bad for your skin and which aren’t? The answer is: you can’t.
Or, another scenario: Let’s say you added four new products, and nothing is making you break out, but they’re only mildly helping your issues. How are you supposed to know which products to switch out to improve your routine? The answer is: you can’t.
So please remember to start slow! Your skin, and your wallet, will thank you.
The number one thing to remember about a beginner’s Korean skincare routine, though? Be patient.
Everyone wants a one-stop shop to fix all of their problems, and they want it now. They need it now, and more than likely, that’s how you’re feeling too!
But remember: there is no one-stop shop to fix all of your skincare woes. There is no single-magical product that will fix your face overnight! It takes time, dedication, and ultimately, the right routine for you. And sometimes, that might take a while.
You might get discouraged, you might get frustrated that you need to switch another product, you might have to wait a while to get the results that you want, but it’s all a process that you need to go through to finally get your skin where you want it to be!
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’ll never get to that 10-step routine, or you’re not sure you even want to, then think about this: you don’t have to get to 10 steps if you don’t want to. You don’t have to add in a specific step if you don’t feel like you want to! I’ve been doing a Korean skincare routine for years and didn’t add a serum until two months ago. No joke.
So please please please remember, this beginner’s Korean skincare routine is your own, and you can make it what you want. Just be patient and I promise, you’ll get the results you’re looking for!
Need advice on a product for your new routine, or have questions about starting your own beginner’s Korean skincare routine? Let me know in the comments below!