What is the 10-step Korean Skincare Routine?

_DSC0850-as-Smart-Object-1 In my previous post regarding my skin, I talked about a basic routine to get you started. This was a common routine we see in Australia, but in this post I am wanting to talk more about Asian skincare. This routine utilises several more steps than many of us are used to and some people may view it as unnecessary. However, I wanted to write this to explain why certain steps are necessary and what they do.  I really like the routine and if I had the time and money I would definitely use it (definitely when I graduate).

It’s important to note that it’s not always 10 step, it could even be up to 17! It will depend on your skin type and it could be more or less. This is just a generalised routine to get an idea. Not every step is needed for every person and some people want to add in even more. The ultimate goal is to get flawless and radiant skin, not to stick to every single step. Alice Yoon (founder of Peach and Lily) quotes “Korean women don’t think, Oh, I have to do my 10-step regimen. Instead, what they think is that flawless, radiant skin that is very healthy is a sign of true beauty”.

I won’t be recommending actual products in this post because there are just so so many to choose from. Everybody has different skin and different problems they want to treat, so I can just direct you towards the general ideal behind it all.

Step 1: Oil Cleanse 

Oil cleansing is supposed to gently remove makeup and sunscreen. It comes before actually cleansing the skin. You can find a lot of oil cleansers or even make your own! I have one made from jojoba, and rosehip oil. It removes all of my sunscreen without irritating my skin.

Step 2: Cleanse 

This is the step where you actually cleanse your skin. This should be done in soft circular motions, do not rub. The cleanser could be a foam, gel or cream depending on your skin type. I personally use a cream cleanser because foam is too drying for me.

Step 3: Tone 

Toners aren’t harsh on the skin and usually provide moisture. In Western skincare we are used to seeing toners containing harsh alcohols and that are quite drying to the skin, but these toners are pretty different. They’re basically used to ‘prepare’ the skin for extra steps by normalising the pH. They’re very gentle.

Step 4: Essence/serum/ampoule

This step utilises products that work on specific skin problems. Some of these may include Vitamin C (for sun spots and increasing collagen), snail (to treat acne and repair skin tone) and salicylic acid (a BHA used to unclog pores and treat acne). You can read more about different things to use for different skin conditions on the /r/Asianbeauty subreddit on Reddit. /u/Sharkus_Reincarnus has done an awesome write up about it.

Step 5: Emulsion/lotion 

Emulsions and lotions are  used to moisturise and soothe the skin. I like to think of it as layering on moisture. They are lighter than the moisturising creams we are used to.

Step 6: Eye Cream

Eye cream is just like a moisturiser for your eyes. There are heaps of different ones to try! I use a Vitamin C one under my eyes.

Step 7: Cream 

This is kind of like the typical moisturiser we are used to. It’s much thicker and more moisturising.

Step 8: Sleeping Pack 

Sleeping packs go on top of the moisturiser and acts as an occlusive to keep the moisture in. It’s the last step in the routine before you would go to bed. Definitely a favourite of mine in winter.

Other Steps: 

Sunblock: Used daily after moisturising. This is an important step because it ensures that you have no skin damage and prevents dark sun sports or darkening or pigmentation.

Exfoliate: This could be a physical exfoliation once a week or a chemical exfoliation, such as an AHA, every day. I wrote more about chemical exfoliation here.

Sheet Masks: These are masks soaked in essence that are used for different problems. They could cater for dry skin, acne, firming etc. I feel like I’m at a day spa every time I use them. They’re so perfect for long airplane rides, when the air conditioner is drying your skin out.

Where can I buy Asian beauty products? 

Here in Australia we are super lucky because we have access to many stores. Here is a list of popular stores around Melbourne and Sydney. There may be more around, these are just the ones I personally know of:


  • MD Ranking (225 Swanston St, Melbourne)
  • Vivi’s Beauty Shop (1001/Level 1, Bourke St – it’s above the Priceline)
  • Pudgy Panda (3/274 Lonsdale street – outside of Melbourne central)
  • The EcoSkin Shop (The Glen Shopping Centre)


  • Blush Cosmetics (Central Park)
  • The Face Shop (Check The Face Shop website for several addresses)
  • Tony Moly (68 Dixon Street, Haymarket)
  • MD Ranking (585G George St, Sydney)

There are also several websites and ebay-ers that are reputable and often cheaper than in store.  Some of the ones websites I have personally used:

Also some ebay-ers I have bought off:

Quick extra tips

  • The word “whitening” is often labeled on products, which scared me when I first started. It does not literally mean to whiten your skin, it’s kind of like how western brands use the word “brightening” on their products.
  • /u/Sharkus_Reincarnus on Asian Beauty (Reddit) brings up a good point in regards to the quality of the products. There is talk about how there is no brand loyalty in the Asian skincare market, so companies are always looking to improve their formulas to get the next best thing. Unlike the Western market where something has been tried and tested for 20 years, there is always something new and exciting to try. This doesn’t mean the products aren’t high quality though. Companies want to protect themselves legally so aren’t going to release something that isn’t well researched.

Links to read more about these routines:  http://www.reddit.com/r/AsianBeauty/comments/2jcss2/asian_skincare_101_a_beginners_guide_faq/


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