Okay, so the question of skincare right now: What the heck is the Korean skincare and why is it so complicated and why am I so intrigued??

I’m not an esthetician, nor am I Korean, but after moving to South Korea in 2017, I was elated to be able to learn more about the culture of the industry. In Seoul, you can find entire neighborhoods dedicated to skincare shopping and facial treatments. There’s no surprise that years of Korean family knowledge and traditions passed down through generations have recently been modernized & commercialized to take the global cosmetics world by storm! But, what all does it entail?

A thorough South Korean skincare routine consists of 10 steps. Yes, you read that correctly: TEN!!! A balm or oil cleanser, a water-based cleanser, an exfoliant, a toner, an essence, a serum, a sheet mask, an eye cream, a moisturizer, and then either a thicker night cream or sleeping mask or an SPF are the 10 elements.

Let’s dive into each step a little further, shall we?

STEP ONE: Oil Cleanser

The first step of the double cleanse method, the intent for this step is to break down sebum, sunscreen and makeup to prep the skin.

My choice cleanser:

BANILA CO NEW Clean It Zero Revitalizing Cleansing Balm 3-in-1 Makeup Remover

STEP TWO: Water Cleanser

This second cleansing steps intent is to remove dirt that may cause breakouts.

My choice cleanser:

COSRX | Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

STEP THREE: Exfoliant

This step is only necessary 1-2 per week and it is primarily utilized to clear pores and remove dead skin. Personally, when I exfoliate, my skin’s radiance is restored so exfoliate when my skin is noticeable more dull.

My choice exfoliant:

NEOGEN Dermalogy Bio Peel Gauze Pads- Wine


The toner is the final removal step, but also severely misunderstood. In Western beauty, often a toner is very harsh with too much alcohol in the ingredients. Korean toners are gentle, prepping the skin for the treatments to come. This is one of the most relaxing experiences of the routine.

My choice toner:

ETUDE HOUSE Moistfull Collagen Facial Toner

STEP FIVE: Essence

This is where you can truly begin to customize the routine for your needs. An essence is concentrated with ingredients that you can introduce to meet your needs: hydration, age prevention, etc.

My choice essence:

Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence-Intensive Moist 


Although similar to essences, serums are lighter and focus more on the problem areas, such as acne, redness, texture, etc. I usually have a few serums that I will introduce for different purposes.

My choice serum:

Dr.Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Re.Pair Serum

STEP SEVEN: Sheet Mask

LUXURY! A sheet mask is the essential element to a South Korea skincare experience. Once you’ve prepped your skin, a sheet mask ensures the absorption of the products and helps with many different areas such as hydration, radiance, etc. The key is not to allow the mask to dry 100% before you remove it. Keep those nutrients in your skin wet!

You don’t have to use one of these every day, but you may soon become addicted as they are very relaxing.

My choice mask:

THE FACE SHOP The Solution Radiance Face Mask


The skin under your eyes are one of the most gentle, sensitive areas and require specific attention. The skin is thin around the eyes and a cream specified for the area can help with puffiness, darkness and wrinkle prevention.

My choice eye cream:

ETUDE HOUSE Moistfull Collagen Eye Cream

STEP NINE: Moisturizer

This step is really the seal for all the elements you just introduced to the skin. In my opinion, this has such a personal preference element as far as texture goes because you can get the moisturizer in a gel, cream or lotion form.

My choice moisturizers:

COSRX Oil Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap


Innisfree Orchid Enriched Cream

STEP TEN: Night Cream/SPF

Finally, you either need to utilize a “sleeping mask” or an SPF depending on whether it’s day or night. During the day, it’s important to protect your skin from the harsh damaging rays. At night, you can utilize a sleeping mask to boost your skin and wake up feeling plumped and ready to conquer the day.

My choice night cream:

Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

I was so very grateful for the opportunity to learn more about South Korean skincare culture in Seoul and there is always more to learn! You can find more information and some of my favorite products on my Instagram @along.came.alex. Thanks for reading!