Confused About Korean Skincare Regimens?

Confused About Korean Skincare Regimens?

the korean regimen

Before we really start diving into the glorious world of East Asian beauty, let’s discuss what exactly that entails. South Korea is considered the forefront of skin and beauty right now while the Western world sadly lags behind (but we’re picking up some ideas!). Natural ingredients free of parabens and fillers coupled with beautiful or cute packaging are the standard. Korean ladies expect bang for their buck and because they are so meticulous about what they use on their skin, companies are constantly innovating their products.

Now, many people have heard of the 10 step Korean skincare regimen… wait… the 14 step regimen… wait… how many? Exactly. There’s no specific number and no rocket science behind what exactly you should use. Really, there are three simple steps in any regimen (cleanse, treat, moisturize), but how and what you use is all up to you and how you feel!

Here’s a link to’s article where they interviewed Charlotte Cho from Soko Glam, the one-stop shop for Korean goodies, about what exactly is up with all this East Asian beauty stuff.

To summarize:

Cleanse: Double cleansing, beginning with an oil cleanser (rinsing) and then a foaming cleanser is ideal. Oil cleansers remove oil based impurities like sebum and oil based makeup. Foaming cleansers are usually water based so they remove water based impurities like sweat and water based makeup.

Tone: Asian toners, unlike Western counterparts, do not typically contain alcohol which can dry out skin. Toning can rebalance skin, remove any possible lingering impurities, and prep skin for absorbing all the wonderful treatments you’re about to apply!

Essence, ampoule, serum: Each of these are considered treatments because they are concentrated ingredients to focus on skin concerns. They can target wrinkles, acne, hyper-pigmentation, etc. They should be used in this order! The idea is to apply the thinnest formulas (essences) to the thickest (serums).

Emulsion, night moisturizer, sleeping pack: These are all moisturizers. Again, the idea is to apply the thinnest (emulsion) to the thickest (sleeping pack). These aren’t all required steps for moisturization. In fact, I don’t regularly use an emulsion or sleeping pack. They are just added benefits and more hydration if you need them.

Eye cream: Eye creams are suggested for every age! Be sure to lightly tap the cream around the eye area to ensure you aren’t pulling at the delicate skin.

For day, you would use a moisturizer with SPF added. Some people use a treatment (essence, ampoule, serum) during the day as well.

*Sheet Masks: 1-3 times a week, you can use a sheet mask which would be used after your toner, but before anything else. (*Note: Some people will also do them after their treatment, but before moisturization.) Be sure to check the directions: many Asian sheet masks don’t require you to wash off the essence afterwards, but you’ll want to be sure. There’s many other types of masks out there like for the lips, eyes, and hands. There’s even wash off masks (usually used between the second cleanse and toning) that include ingredients like clay or collagen. Have fun with it!

*Exfoliation: 1-2 times a week (depending on your skin’s sensitivity), you can include a physical or chemical exfoliation. Physical is something with ingredients that actually slough the dead skin off (microbeads, ground ingredients, etc). Chemical (not scary, I promise!) has ingredients that lift dead skin off like an AHA or BHA cleanser. These would be used after the second cleanse, but before the toner. (A lot of k-beauty chemical exfoliators use natural exfoliators like citrus or papaya to exfoliate dead skin cells. Cool, huh?)

I really hoped this helped you guys in starting to decipher some Asian beauty code. It can be a rabbit hole and a little intimidating if you aren’t careful so just start with the basics–cleanse, treat, moisturize–and go from there. Really, you can’t go wrong because there are a lot of great products and they are so much fun!


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23 thoughts on “Confused About Korean Skincare Regimens?

  1. This is a really informative and clear post! I’ve always wondered what the heck emulsion and a sleeping pack is. They are definitely not explained well on its own packaging. Recently, I’ve started getting to Korean beauty too and I thought of your blog b/c you post so many goodies on here! Have you heard of Etude House’s Moistfull line? What’s your absolute favorite line of Korean goodies?


  2. Great post! I like how Korean skincare is really gentle. They don’t even believe in using facial brushes/cloths/scrubs to exfoliate. Instead, they like to use peeling gels and clay masks.


  3. What a brilliant and informative post – I’ve never tried any Korean products but I’d certainly like to give them a go 🙂 Always good to try new things and they do sound temping – natural products & cute packaging gets me everytime! I have to say though I’m buyer that spends with her nose… sounds bizarre right?! But if it smells good I’m up for trying… if it doesn’t I’d have to pass lol Thanks for sharing this!! Karen xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I ordered a Memebox last summer and I absolutely loved the sheet masks and some of the unique products I was sent. I would love to try more Korean beauty products but honestly I get a little overwhelmed! Do you have any specific brands or products you love?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Some more department store brands that I’ve tried and like (or have a good rep) are Etude House, Skinfood (as you’ll see in the coming months when SO many of my loves are from Skinfood), Tony Moly, Mizon, and Insisfree. More high-end products are Laneige, IOPE, and Sulwhasoo. Great Japanese brands are SK-II and Shiseido. I’ve tried quite a few of these brands, but less of the high-end (you can probably tell why). I don’t think I’ve had too many products where I’ve just absolutely hated them. Plus, most brands are a combo of either natural, organic, or (in the case of Skinfood) use food grade ingredients. I’ve definitely considered signing up for Memebox, but just haven’t bitten the bullet. Sometime soon, I think. 😉


    1. It can be daunting at first (because Korean ladies have been doing this for years already) but, like I said, just start with the cleanse, treat, moisturize and go from there. I’ll be posting reviews of Asian products as the blog grows so keep an eye out for those so you can learn more about products you may want to try! I promise you’ll be hooked! Thanks for reading! 😀


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