What post better to start with than the famous ten-step Korean skincare routine. In comparison to the western markets, a simple cleanse, tone and moisturise will suffice. However the Koreans (and the Asian markets in general) take skincare very seriously. It’s a nation that knows its ingredients with new skincare products emerging daily. I was fascinated when I first stumbled across the ten steps because at the time I had around 6 steps in my own routine (which I was very proud of because I didn’t think people had that many steps). Ten products on your face twice a day seemed like much but I learnt that you don't actually use all ten steps daily as explained below. You would start with the lighter, thinner formulas and work your way towards the heavier consistencies. Below I have given a brief overview on the routine and I will discuss each step in detailed blogposts later so stay tuned for that in the upcoming weeks!
What are the steps?
Step 1 and 2 - The double cleanse - every day
The double cleanse is simply cleansing your face with two different types of cleansers. The first, an oil based cleanser which will help break down makeup, sebum, sunscreen and pollution. Then follow with a water-based cleanser which should banish any residue left from the oil cleanser, sweat, dirt, and water-based debris that’s still hanging around on the skin. The double cleanse just ensures you have thoroughly cleaned your face.
Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells but also loosen debris in clogged pores. Overall, it can help brighten your complexion and improve the texture of your skin. There are two types: mechanical and chemical exfoliators. Mechanical exfoliators are more physically abrasive like a sugar scrub. This is good for normal to combination skin but avoid if you have regular breakouts, dry or sensitive skin. Chemical exfoliators uses ingredients like lactic acid to remove the dead skin cells. This is great at working deep in your pores to remove sebum.
Step 4 - Toner - every day
Toner is a very important step that is generally skipped. Toners are great for resetting your pH balance and prepping the skin for moisture. Charlotte Cho uses a great example - you can’t put a heavy cream on a dry, brittle sponge. You have to wet the sponge first for it to accept the cream. Think of your toner like that - it helps your skin absorb the next skincare products.
Step 5 - Essence - every day
This is considered the heart of the Korean skincare routine. Essence contains active ingredient which helps to hydrate, reduce the visibility of wrinkles and increases cell turnover. It’s a thin, watery consistency which you literally pat on top of your skin.
Step 6 - Serum - every day
Serums and boosters absorb well into your skin. It’s a thicker consistency to your essence (a bit like an oil and moisturiser combined). Again they are filled with active ingredients that help brighten, fade sunspots, increase cell turnover and smooth out fine lines. Serums and essences are great at penetrating the skin which is why they would generally fall under the category of skin treatments - because they treat and improve the texture of your skin.
Step 7 - Sheet mask - twice a week - more if you want to
The sheet mask comes is either in your standard cotton or hydrogel material. It’s drenched in active ingredients like your essence and serum. You place the mask on your face, leave it on for x amount of time (as per the instructions) and then either wash your face or pat what’s left over on your skin (again as per the mask instructions). They are quick to use, relatively inexpensive and there’s a huge variety available. Think of this as your mid-week pick me up.
Step 8 Eye cream - every day
Eye creams are a bit like essence and serums - formula wise. They are thinner, less rich and filled with potent ingredients to tackle the designated area. Using your ring finger, tap the cream lightly along your orbital bone avoiding the waterline.
Your face cream should be the thickest formula out of your ten steps. This step is simply hydrating and retaining moisture in your skin. Dehydrated skin makes your fine lines and wrinkles more visible. Adding a good moisturiser (and the right type) will fill in the fine lines and help plump the skin to make these issues less apparent. You can use a night cream to intensely hydrate whilst you sleep or substitute your moisturiser for a sleeping pack.
Step 10 - SPF - every morning and throughout the day
This is the most important step in your day time routine, as your moisturiser is for the night routine. SPF protects you from the sun. The sun produces UVA and UVB rays which damage and age your skin. If you want to look as good as you do now, wear SPF because if you don't you will only accelerate your ageing process. Google Bill McElligott to see why wearing SPF is so important.
I've been using the ten steps for over six months and I can instantly see the transformation in my skin to the point where I stopped wearing foundation - yes not needed anymore. I have dry skin so it's normal to see dry patches on my cheeks and around my nose area. Since using the ten steps my skin is so much softer, radiant and healthier. Healthy to the point where I feel like I have a teenagers skin, not my own. I use 8 steps in my morning routine and this precisely takes around 10 minutes. Each step takes less than one minutes, believe me! And when your skin starts to feel incredible, you will seriously look forward to it and treat it like a pampering day.
My favourite steps that I feel have made the most difference to my skin are Essence and Sheet masks. Essence has made my cheeks feel like a babies bottom and sheet masks, are not only the best part of my week (I do need to find several new hobbies I know), feels so good that I can't stop touching my face after! I always hand a sheet mask to a new friend and see them come running back with rave reviews. I am guilty for the addiction that follows.
In terms of price, Korean skincare is relatively inexpensive. In comparison to similar products from Space NK or the big retailers, you are getting a product maybe a third off with better ingredients! Korean skincare is light years ahead and remember it's a market that is constantly producing new products - more so than we do here, so their prices are always reasonable.
I really recommend reading Charlotte Cho little book of skincare - see link. I learnt so much that truly shook me to start taking good care of my skin.
Disclaimer: all pictures used in this post are not my own - all from google search.