10 Step Korean Skin Care:

Making it Easy Peasy

Starting in my 30’s I realized the importance of skincare and SPF, although I wish I had this profound wisdom during my college beach tanning days. Now, just a few [ahem] years in, I have been religious about skin care maintenance. I started my skincare obsession through google, moved onto YouTube, and was fascinated by everything that I learned. One interesting discovery was the difference between western and eastern asian skincare philosophies. No Judgement. On average, the western (US being in this group) philosophy is a tremendous amount of emphasis placed on correction and troubleshooting. Whereas In most eastern Asian cultures the philosophical emphasis is placed on prevention and perfection. As an American-Asian who is not getting any younger, I decided to curate my own philosophy, a bit of a blend of western and eastern, while taking into consideration my overall lifestyle, which, during any given day can feel like the juggling act at a circus. I call my philosophy pragmatic prevention.

There are some mornings I hit the snooze one too many times and need to get myself and my daughter out of the door ASAP. Or there are nights that I am just so tired, the thought of spending the only free third seconds that I have on my face is just downright offensive.

And if you are throwing your hands up in the air and yelling “AMEN” (in a sign of solidarity), then you have come to the right place. If you desire a fabulous skin routine that you can do between getting the kids ready for school, getting a bra on, and whilst holding a cup of coffee, you’ve come to the right place!

*Caveat-  by NO MEANS am I a medical professional. The steps below account for my skin (normal/combination). So if you have any questions, use some common sense and please see your dermatologist.

Now… onto the good stuff. Buckle up, because this is a LOT of information coming at you.

STEP 1: Oil Based Cleansing

Oil based cleansers are meant gently draw out the oily gunk from your skin, such as sunscreen and makeup.

Skip it or Keep it?
Keeping or skipping this step is not a black and white answer. In theory, you should never skip this step, however, there are some amazing cleansers out there that can do the trick of the double cleanse. My recommendation is to do this step when you have the time. If that is everyday, great! If that means only mornings? Sure! At minimum, this step should be done at least 2-3 times a week (even if not everyday).

Product to the right: Banila Co Clean it Zero

STEP 2: Foam, Water Based Cleansing

Water Soluble cleansers are designed to do a deeper clean going deep into the pores whisking away sweat and dirt, you know, water-based debris.

Skip it or Keep it?
Same answer as above ^^

Product to the left: Skinfood Egg White Pore Foam Cleanser

STEP 3: Exfoliating

Exfoliators are used to remove dead cells from the very top layer of your skin allowing your skin to generate new ones. From a cosmetic perspective, this is the step that is needed to help create glowing, blemish free skin.

Skip it or Keep it?
This is an important step but you can definitely skip it from your daily regimen. In fact, exfoliating too much can cause skin irritation. Experts say the frequency for exfoliation shouldn’t be more than three times a week.

Product to the right: Kate Somerville, ExfoliKate

STEP 4: Toner

After cleaning and/or exfoliating, your skin can be a bit vulnerable since it has just been striped of its protective barrier. Typically skin is slightly acidic since its protective barrier is an acid mantle, made up of fatty acids. Toners help to bring the pH balance back to normal.

Skip it or Keep it?
No need to do either! Instead… combine it with your essence for a two-for-one that doesn’t feel like you are skimping out.

Product to the left: Shangpree BITGOA Hue Essence Toner 

STEP 5: Essence

Essences are staple in Korean skin-care and what some may deem as the most important step. Essences are lighter in weight but are more concentrated to target uneven skin, fine lines and even wrinkles. The lightweight nature of the formula allows it to quickly penetrate on a cellular level helping with skin cell turnover.

Skip it or Keep it?
See above ^^ under Toners.

Product to the right: Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner

STEP 6: Serums / Ampoules

While serums and ampoules are all concentrated care treatments that have similar functionality, there are some slight nuances (which honestly, are becoming blurred more and more each day). Serums contain a few key hyper active ingredients to address specific skin concerns, such as brightening, wrinkles, etc. Ampoules are supercharged serums with an even higher concentration of active ingredients that is designed to be used for a short period of time, when you have a skin crisis (vs. serums which can be used daily). Serums and ampoules are designed to be layered starting with the lightest formula to the heaviest. Good rule of thumb is no more than 3 layers.

Skip it or Keep it?
Absolutely keep it… but you can abridge this step by applying only one treatment when you are rushed for time.

Product to the left: fresh, Black Tea Age-Delay Firming Serum

STEP 7: Sheet Mask

Sheet masks are light cotton sheets that are face-shaped and a soaked in a skincare treatment and then applied to the face anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Sheet masks are an amazing way to saturate your skin in moisture and allow it to rest.

Skip it or Keep it?
You can definitely skip the daily sheet masks which will shave some time off your routine. Because of the moisturizing and hydrating benefits though, I would recommend trying to use a sheet mask 3 times a week when convenient.

Product to the right: Dr. Jart + Vital Hydra Solution

STEP 8: Eye Cream / Eye Serum

Eye serums are the same are face serums, but specially formulated to deeply penetrate the delicate skin around the eye and of course, treat it for any problems such as fine lines, puffy bags, etc. Eye creams are thicker than eye serums and behave similar to face moisturizers with its primary goal to hydrate and act as a protective barrier to the outside elements. Eye serums and eye creams can be layered together, or worn separately.

Skip it or Keep it?
Skipping or keeping this step will be dependent on your own skin and needs. For example, if you have fine lines and wrinkles, a good serum should be used daily to help with some anti-aging. Or if you notice chronic dark puffy circles under your eyes, an eye cream with some Vitamin C can help lighten and brighten. If you don’t have any treatment needs you can skip eye care entirely, just make sure you bring your moisturizer up high enough hydrate the skin.

Product to the left: Kiehl’s Concentrate

STEP 9: Moisturizer

Moisturizers are used to attract moisture and prevent the skin from becoming too dry which can help with retaining skin elasticity and keeping the skin soft. Additionally moisturizers help the skin maintain its balance from becoming too oily or too dry, which can cause skin problems to pop up.

Skip it or Keep it?
Keep this. Moisturizers are chock-full with benefits and is another added layer of protection between the elements. Moisturizing in the a.m. and the p.m. should be a part of your routine (although you can definitely switch between a lighter daytime cream and a heavier nighttime cream)

Product to the right: La Mer, Soft Cream

STEP 10: Sunscreen

Sun Protection Factor (known as SPF) measures how well sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays (the kind of rays that cause cancer and skin damage). The higher the SPF, the better (although in recent years some scientists debate that SPF higher than 50 is not needed). Some moisturizers have SPF included, while other moisturizers do not, which means SPF needs to be applied on top of your moisturizer.

Skip it or Keep it?
Absolutely keep this. Many times we forget to apply SPF during days that are overcast, but UVB rays can slowly wreck havoc on your skin. Dermatologists recommend taking it a step further and reapplying every 2 hours when outdoors (no matter the weather).

Product to the left: La Roche-Posay Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid

Bottom Line?

Make it Yours.

Your skin is the only one that you get. Don’t neglect your skin and throw away the whole regimen. Figure out what works for you, your schedule, and your lifestyle. Need to do a couple of steps while in the shower? Great! Need to skip a step (or four) to get out of the house in time? Excellent.

While at first it could feel like work, stick with it and you will start to find a quick rhythm.


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