The 10 Steps of the Korean Skincare Routine


The ten step Korean skincare routine has become a global phenomenon in the last few years. The Korean method is about layering each product in an order which makes them the most effective on your skin. The ten step routine is made up of four different stages: cleanse, prepare, nourish, & protect. This guide will show you how to use/apply the products in the correct order.

You may also enjoy my post: 7 Korean Beauty Secrets Every Woman Should Know.

korean skincare routine



Apply an oil based cleanser to dry skin. Massage the cleanser into your skin so it can remove all oil based impurities such as make-up, sebum, SPF and pollution. Add warm water to emulsify and rinse or use a bamboo cleansing cloth to remove the oil.

Three great oil based cleansers that I recommend are:

Balance Me Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm

Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

Emma Hardie Moringa Light Cleansing Gel

2. Water based cleanser

Apply a water based cleanser to damp skin, massage in and rinse off. Koreans cleanse their skin twice in order to make sure all impurities are removed. Water based cleansers will remove all water based impurities such as dirt or sweat that your oil cleanser did not pick up.

I recommend the ESPA Foam Cleanser

3. Exfoliator

Use a chemical exfoliator such as AHAs (e.g. glycolic or lactic acid), or BHAs (e.g. salicylic acid). AHAs are water-soluble and BHAs are oil-soluble. They help to clean out pores and remove dead skin cells. Regular exfoliation will help all your other skincare products to be absorbed better into the skin. This step in the routine should only be carried out 1-2 times per week or less if you have particularly sensitive skin.

My favourite exfoliator is Alpha H Liquid Gold which contains glycolic acid.


4. Toner

Apply a toner to your skin using a cotton pad. Toners remove any left over residue that your cleanser missed. They help to repair your skin’s barrier and enable your skin to better absorb all the products you apply after. Many toners will help to balance your skin’s pH levels.

A great toner is Super Aqua by the Korean company Missha

5. Essence

Sprinkle the essence into your palms and then pat into the skin. Essences help to hydrate the skin. They often contain yeast which provides an antioxidant function. They reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen and elastin production.

One essence that I love is the Estee Lauder Micro Essence.


6. Treatments

This is the stage where you apply serums or ampoules. These products usually target specific concerns such as fine lines, dehydration or hyper-pigmentation. They are packed with concentrated ingredients.

I think Aurelia products are excellent. They incorporate probiotics which help to protect your skin’s microbiome. I recommend trying out their Revitalise and Glow serum which is suitable for all skin types.

7. Sheet Mask

Sheet masks are cloth masks soaked in serum which you leave on for 15-45 minutes, depending on the mask. This allows time for the serum to fully absorb into the skin. Afterwards your skin will appear more hydrated and moisturised.

View my Sheet Mask Reviews

The egg cream mask is made by a Korean company too cool for school.

8. Eye Cream

Gently tap the eye cream around the orbital bone. Eye creams help to hydrate the skin under the eye and prevent dark circles, puffiness and wrinkles.

I recommend Clinique All about eyes


9. Moisturiser

During the day apply a lotion, gel or cream and at night apply a sleeping pack. Moisturisers seal in all the products you have applied before and help to plump up the skin. My favourite sleeping pack is the Etude House Moistfull Collagen Sleeping Pack which I reviewed here.

I think the Neal’s Yard Frankincense moisturiser is excellent and is suitable for all skin types.

10. Sun Protection

You should apply SPF every day in order to protect your skin from UV rays. Zelens is an excellent brand and makes a sunscreen which is SPF30

FREE Printable Skincare Checklist

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Further Reading

If you found this guide useful you may enjoy:

Ordering Korean Skincare Products Online

Soko Glam is a great place to buy Korean skincare products. Amazon also has a good selection at reasonable prices. You can view a sample of Amazon’s Korean skincare products below.

DISCLOSURE POLICY. There are affiliate links in this post.  For more information on affiliate links please read my disclosure here.

If this guide was useful to you please save this Pin to your Skincare board on Pinterest and leave me a comment below! 🙂

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10 Step Korean Skincare Routine FAQs

Is 10 step skin care necessary?

Yes if you want to have clear, dewy skin. Each step fulfills a different purpose and each is important.

How do I make my Korean skincare routine?

I have recommended products for each of the 10 steps in the routine however Soko Glam also sells full 10 step kits.

In what order do I apply skin care products?

1. Oil based cleanser
2. Water based cleanser
3. Toner
4. Essence
5. Serum
6. Ampoule
7. Sheet mask
8. Moisturiser
9. Eye cream
10. Sunscreen

Do I need both serum and moisturiser?

Yes. Serums have more concentrated ingredients and are lighter than moisturisers. You should apply a serum first and a moisturiser over the top to seal in the serum and keep your skin hydrated and plumped up.


1 Comment

  1. Emee
    February 24, 2020 / 8:56 pm

    I don’t know a single Korean woman who does all ten steps, all the time. For a lot of us, that much product used all the time makes your skin even worse!

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