Korean Skincare

The Best Korean Skincare Products for The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine


American singer-songwriter and actress, Jessica Jung, has notoriously said that, “Korean skincare is about the daily and nightly routine. I do it religiously.” With popular Korean skincare products, the focus is on taking care of that precious skin barrier. Whether you’re in search of that double cleansing magic or looking for a more customized product layering regimen, there are plenty of stellar benefits that are delivered gently over time. 

The buzz on Korean beauty products is real, and with good reason. In this post we’re going to venture down the rabbit hole to uncover some of the best Korean skincare products on the market. We’re also going to find out just what it takes to experience what the beauty experts have hailed as pure innovation by shining light on the 10-step Korean skincare routine that shouts “move over!” to your mom’s old school routine. Ready for your glow-up? Let’s go!

The Philosophy Behind Korean Skincare: Tradition Meets Innovation

Korean culture ain’t messing around when it comes to the high regard placed on maintaining healthy, glorious, and glowing skin. I mean, we all know it’s no secret that if you look good, you feel good

When it comes down to it, skincare isn’t just about addressing pesky skin issues – being reactive will only get us so far. It’s about that proactive holistic approach to being healthy and feeling good inside and out. 

In Korea, skin care is all about self-love, and for that matter, a form of respect. Speaking of forms of notoriety, a key aspect of Korean products for skincare is the layering regimen that addresses many skin concerns. 

But hold up before thinking you’re going to have to apply more products! For beauty aficionados, less is indeed, more. That’s why Korean skin care is all about using the right products in the right order to truly “treat” the skin you’re in. For those of us killin’ it on the beauty scene, it’s important to note that this beauty routine focuses on prevention, rather than just treatment (now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about).

Cultural Significance of Skincare in Korea

With the roots of Korean beauty firmly planted in ancient times like the Three Kingdoms era (57 B.C.-668) and continuing the beautifying journey at its peak during the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392), it’s no wonder that Korean skin care and makeup has withstood the test of time (talk about a blast from the past). 

Koreans were known for developing many skincare and makeup products. But back in the day, Korean beauty products didn’t gain popularity through the mainstream. In fact, those of elite statuses in ancient Korea would take note from the playbooks of all the latest in beauty from the gisaeng (the working class women) who rocked it! 

Flash forward to now, and you’ll find that some things never change. The focus remains on gentle care, hydration, and brightening. But it’s not the beauty trend in just one hemisphere. It’s been embraced on a global scale, with Western brands ready to level-up their status in the game with these Korean beauty gems and concepts. In fact, South Korea just so happens to be one of the biggest movers and shakers for K-beauty – as they export to the United States, Hong Kong, and China.

Beauty companies have become wiser when it comes to innovation. In fact, they’re heavily invested in the research and development to bring forth cutting-edge beauty products. We’re talking that new-new value on the market. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that it’s no different when it comes to Korean skin care products. 

Just as these companies invest in the latest in beauty, so too, should you invest in your skin. Trendsetters know that self-care always starts with skin care. It’s true. It’s the road often less traveled because no one feels they have the time. But those times, well, they are a’changin’. 

With Korean products for skincare, there’s an answer to beautifying your skin without going overboard, or wasting time. Cause honestly, as an infamous meme once said, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”  

Let’s take a look at some the latest trailblazer beauty trends and see what all the fuss is about:

Skinimalism: A minimalist skincare routine that’s gaining traction called Skinimalism. This trend is showing us that minimalism is far from the absence of beauty. It focuses on multi-functional products that provide some pretty incredible benefits – minus the same old monotonous steps (talk about a time saver)!

Microbiome-focused skincare: Eyes-on the increasing popularity of products that support and balance the skin’s microbiome (the gathering place for the natural bacteria on the skin’s surface).

Natural Beauty: the use of clean, all-natural, and non-toxic ingredients continues to be in the spotlight!

Aged like a fine wine: In cases like these, we can “trust the science.” Fermented ingredients like yeast, fungi, and bacteria are believed to help with the absorption of skincare products. And to top it all off, they’re said to provide enhanced hydration along with some highly sought after anti-aging benefits.

One size doesn’t fit all skincare: Let’s be real here. Everyone’s skin type, concerns, and even genetic dispositions are different. That’s why skincare solutions that are tailored to show your individual skin some love are becoming a hot-topic that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Of course, other trends including beauty devices for at-home skincare treatments are honorable mentions. Things like LED therapy, microcurrent stimulation, and ultrasonic cleansing are on the rise. Without question, even the trends with eco-friendly packaging tend to stand out in the beauty world.

Key Ingredients in Korean Skincare Products

Some of the best Korean beauty products keep it gangster for a reason. Gentle care, hydration, and brightening are the name of the game. Here are the 10 most popular ingredients that are found in Korean skincare products:

  • Green Tea: Look out, fine lines, green tea not only rejuvenates the skin, but it smooths those lines and wrinkles like no other.
  • Hyaluronic acid: Say hello to my little humectant-hydrating friend. 
  • Snail Mucin Extract: Rejuvenates the skin while fighting acne and reducing dark spots.
  • Propolis: One of the many reasons we’ve got to save the bees is Propolis. Found on the walls of honeycombs, this natural ingredient acts as an antibacterial, antioxidant, and an antimicrobial.
  • Birch Juice (Sap): Ditch the coconut water, there’s a new kid in town. Birch, aka sap moisturizes the skin and contains tons of proteins and antioxidants.
  • Tremella Mushroom (Silver Ear): Not only is this skincare ingredient edible, it’s a moisturizing superstar. 
  • Ginseng: No list on K-beauty would be complete without the plumping effect of Ginseng. Say goodbye to dark spots or hyperpigmentation with this all-star.
  • Centella Asiatica (Cica): Hydrating powers that’ll strengthen the skin barrier while protecting from pollution, UV rays, and other free radicals.
  • Bamboo Extract: With skin repairing and anti-aging properties, Bamboo extract is an incredible means of exfoliation, as it hydrates deeply.
  • Yuza (Yuzu/Yuja): packin’ a powerful Vitamin C punch! This undercover anti-aging ingredient brightens dark spots while moisturizing the skin, naturally.

Of course, with a Korean skincare routine, take note of fermented ingredients that support a healthy skin barrier and work to bring balance to your microbiome.

Choosing the Right Ingredients for Your Skin Type

As mentioned earlier, with a Korean skincare regimen, you’re definitely not looking at a one-size fits all routine. I mean, we’re all unique in our own quirky ways, and so is our skin type. So, let’s break it down and address the weaknesses we don’t want to talk about (but have to) right now:

Dry Skin:

  • Weakness: Lacking moisture and prone to the dreaded flakiness.
  • The Fix: Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerine and ceramides to hydrate, restore, and maintain the skin’s moisture balance.

Oily/Acne-Prone Skin:

  • Weakness: Overproduction of oil that leads to our skin being compromised by acne and blemishes.
  • The Fix: Ingredients like tea tree oil, Salicylic acid, and niacinamide to control the “oil-spill” and unclog pores.

Sensitive Skin: 

  • Weakness: Agitated easily (like a mama grizzly bear) prone to redness, irritation, and reactions 
  • The Fix: Choose ingredients such as Centella asiatica, aloe vera, and madecassoside to find the sweet spot that soothes and calms sensitive skin, while reducing inflammation.

Mature Skin: 

  • Weakness: Signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.
  • The Fix: Be on the lookout for products in your 10-step Korean skin care that contain retinol, peptides, and fermented extracts for skin-revival.

Additionally, lighter, water-based products may work wonders for oily and combination skin types by hydrating without adding too much oil. As for dry skin, creamier, richer products tend to be ideal for combating dryness and flakiness.

The Ultimate 10-Step Korean Skin Care Routine

Beauty gurus like Charlotte Cho of Soku Glam helped the 10-step Korean skincare routine skyrocket to fame. The Korean regimen became a global sensation (almost overnight). This was due to the effectiveness of the products alongside the fact that it wouldn’t put a hurtin’ on your wallet (like those overpriced drugstore options). Let’s talk about the Korean skincare routine order and learn how the magic happens below:

1. Apply Oil-Based Cleansers

What to do: Gently massage the oil-based cleanser onto dry skin in circular motions. Focus on areas that tend to be covered in makeup or any impurities. Rinse with lukewarm water.

What it does for the skin: As popular Korean skincare products go, this one is your go-to for dissolving and removing oil-based impurities such as makeup or excess sebum.

Products to look for:

2. Water-Based Cleansers

What to do: As part of your Korean skin routine, apply a small amount of the water-based cleanser to a wet face. Lather up, gently massage, and rinse thoroughly.

What it does for the skin: Water-based cleansers complement oil cleansers by removing water-based impurities while acting as the double cleansing technique.

Do you need to be double cleansing?

With all things beauty, nothing is finite. Double cleansing depends on your skin-type, lifestyle, and personal preference. It’s a game-changer for those with oily or acne-prone skin. But dry or sensitive skin types, beware! Proceed with caution, as it may strip your skin.

Products to look for:

3. Toners

What to do: Using either a cotton pad or your fingertips, apply toner.

Types: Alcohol-based, glycerin or glycol-based, and water-based toners.

What it does for the skin: As the best Korean skincare products and their order go, toners provide your skin’s pH with that balance it needs for better absorption of subsequent products.

Products to look for:

4. Essences

Essences are some of the best Korean beauty products. This fluid is less concentrated than serums and is applied in thin layers. 

What to do: Gently pat the essence onto the face after toning.

What it does for the skin: Essences hold the key to deeply hydrate and may aid in brightening, anti-aging, and soothing your skin.

Products to look for:

5. Treatment Solutions

Spot the Difference:

With Korean beauty products, it’s important to know the difference between serums and ampoules.

Serums: A highly concentrated, targeted treatment that penetrates deeply into the skin.

Ampoules: An intensive treatment for short-term use that is meant to deliver quick and noticeable results.

What to do:

  • Before applying serums or ampoules, be sure that your skin is clean.
  • For the best results in your Korean skin routine, apply thinner, water-based serums first. Then follow up with thicker oil-based ones if using multiple products.

Do I need serum if I use an ampoule?

They can be paired together, packing that one-two punch. However, it’s important to realize that an ampoule is used occasionally, while serum can be used twice a day.

What it does for the skin:

Active ingredients to target different skin concerns. Serums address those oh-so fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. While ampoules offer spot-on treatment for specific skin concerns that aim to rejuvenate and revitalize the skin.

Products/Ingredients to look for:

  • Acne concerns: Use products with BHA (salicylic acid) or tea tree oil
  • Hyperpigmentation woes: Look to ingredients like Vitamin C, arbutin, and licorice root extract.

6. Exfoliators

There are 2 types of exfoliators to be aware of in Korean products for skincare. They are physical and chemical. Chemical exfoliators are made up mostly of acids, and there are 3 common types: AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs. Use physical on the surface (only works on this level of skin) and chemicals for a deeper exfoliation.

What to do: Follow the product instructions when applying the chosen one (exfoliator).

What it does for the skin: Remove dead skin cells, unclog pores, and improve skin texture.

Products to look for:

7. Eye Creams

All eyes on me! The eye area needs special care due to the thin skin in this area. Be kind to your eyes with your Korean skincare routine. This area is prone to damage, dehydration, and signs of aging. Plus, the eye area has fewer oil glands and can become dry more easily.

What to do: Gently dab eye cream around the eye area with your finger.

What it does for the skin: Address concerns like dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles.

Products/ingredients to look for:

8. Moisturizers / Oils

As the eighth step in the Korean skin routine, the role of moisturizers and oils is to hydrate and lock in that moisture. And hey, have you ever heard of transepidermal water loss? This hindrance is where water evaporates from the skin. It needs one helluva savior. That’s where moisturizer comes in and helps by forming a protective barrier to prevent that unnecessary water loss.

What’s the difference between a moisturizer and a facial oil?

Moisturizers hydrate, while facial oils seal the deal in retaining that moisture.

Hydration vs. Moisturization:

Ingredients designed for hydration in skin care products draw moisture towards the skin’s outermost layer. Meanwhile, moisturizing components act as a lubricant, forming a barrier that halts water from escaping.

What to do: Apply a generous amount of moisturizer or facial oil to your face. Massage gently until fully absorbed.

What it does for the skin:

Maintain skin hydration levels, prevent dryness, and create a solid protective barrier against environmental factors with this step in Korean skincare.

Products to look for:

9. Overnight Masks

This Korean skincare regimen step is burning the midnight oil on the night-shift for you.

What to do: Apply the sleeping mask about 20-30 minutes before bedtime.

What it does for the skin:

An overnight skincare step to lock in moisture and provide additional hydration.

Products to look for:

10. Sunscreens

This may be the last step in our 10-step Korean skin care, but that doesn’t make it any less important! It’s vital to know the differences between mineral, chemical, and hybrid sunscreens. So be sure to do your research and dig into this before applying.

What to do: Apply as directed.

What it does for the skin:

Korean sunscreens are essential in preventing skin damage from those nasty UV rays. They’re known for their lightweight formulas and strong protection. It’s recommended to go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

Products to look for:

Korean Skincare Brands Overview

The pioneers of the Korean beauty scene are worth their weight in gold in our eyes. Take a look at the most notorious Korean skincare brands:

K Beauty: K-Beauty products began in 2011, making a splash by word-of-mouth recommendations and its beauty boom is still going strong in the US today. Known as the way to achieve radiant skin.

Beauty of Joseon: Inspiration is key with this brand. It’s inspired by the beautiful people of the Joseon Dynasty. Clean and effective skincare since 2010.

Laneighe: Since 1994, Laneighe has been holding down the fort with their top-rated Korean skin care and makeup.

Sulwhasoo: With origins transcending many generations, as early as 1932, Sulwhasoo could be the answer to youthful looking skin for us all.

Innisfree: 2000 marked the year that the eco-friendly brand made boss moves as the manufacturer’s first of its kind. Providing solutions to preserve your skin’s youthful glow.

Emerging Brands to Watch

Keep a look out for these up-and-coming Korean products for skincare:

Numbuzin: Targeting specific skin concerns with a catchy slogan- ‘What’s your number?’ They use numbers instead of complex names so you can find the right creams, toners, and serums for your personal skin concerns.

HaruHaru Wonder: The anti-aging essentials for every age. Count on only natural, plant powered ingredients along with innovative fermented ingredients!

P.Calm: Developing products to help solve your skin woes. Providing that specialized touch for acne prone skin.

Glow Recipe: Hydrating, all-natural Korean beauty products and skincare remedies. Cruelty free!

LYCL Inc.: Korean skin care with a touch of tech in the beauty sector.

Kuoca: Premium skin care with a twist- Delivering only fresh products that sell within 30 days of production. Consider it a fine-dining take on skincare products!

Just because something is a bit on the new side doesn’t mean that it’s not worth the buzz!

Parting Words

Without a doubt, this journey into the epicenter of the Korean beauty realm has been a wild ride. But don’t let this 10-step process overwhelm you. Think of it more as a sort of beauty buffet filled with options so that you can choose what works for you. Remember to be patient with your skin. For as Andre Gide has said “Loving your skin isn’t vanity, it’s sanity.” Test the waters by experimenting with different Korean skin care brands and products. Let us know what your Korean skin care journey has been like! We’re all ears! Until next time, Beauty aficionados, stay radiant!