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Yes, You Can Do This 10–Step Korean Beauty Routine

Korean beauty regimens require discipline, but when you're ready for the best skin of your life, Korean beauty pro Vicky Lee's 10 steps will lead to complete complexion perfection.

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Step 1: Initial cleansing

Korean beauty products and techniques are taking the internet by storm—and why not? Everyone wants the dewy, flawless complexion and overall youthfulness that defines Korean beauty. The nightly routine starts with double cleansing, which involves using an oil-based cleanser on dry skin and massaging well to dissolve oil-based impurities, such as sunscreen, makeup, pollution, and sebum. “UV rays are the main cause of premature aging, which is why Korean women never leave the house without putting on sunscreen first,” says Korean beauty and lifestyle expert Vicky Lee of Sorabelle. “They also use makeup products with SPF, such as CC cushions, that make it easier to incorporate sun protection into your skincare routine.” Just as important as wearing SPF during the day is taking it off at night, with an oil-based cleanser such as Belif Cleansing Oil Enriched or Tatcha One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil. Rinse the oil with water and move on to step two.

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Step 2: Secondary cleansing

After using an oil-based cleanser, Korean women then use a water-based cleanser (foaming, gel, milky, and creamy cleansers or non-foaming powder) to get rid of water-based impurities such as dirt and sweat. You might be wondering: Is it really necessary to double your cleansing? Absolutely, according to the Korean regimen. “It effectively removes all kinds of impurities from the skin while providing a gentle moisturizing action that leaves it soft and clean,” Lee says. For a water-based cleanser, try Mizon Egg White Bubble Cleanser or Shu Uemura Porefinist Gentle Foaming Cleansing Water, or non-foaming powders such as Peach & Lilly Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash or Josie Maran Argan Exfoliating Cleansing Powder. (And consider quitting these habits that are clogging your pores.)

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Courtesy Vicky Lee

Step 3: Exfoliation

The next step is exfoliation, which removes dead skin cells to give the skin a brighter, smoother, and more even-toned appearance. “Korean women value natural beauty above all else, so they focus all their efforts on achieving a flawless complexion by taking proper care of their skin rather than the use of makeup,” says Lee. Try Belif Mild and Effective Facial Scrub or Boscia Exfoliating Peel Gel.

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Step 4: Toner

Many people think toner is completely unnecessary, especially if you don’t suffer from acne. However, Korean beauty experts know that exfoliation should be followed up by toner to balance the skin’s pH levels after cleansing and help skin retain moisture. “Korean women follow the 10-second rule. During the cleansing process, skin inevitably loses moisture; the longer you wait to apply toner, the more dehydrated it becomes. That’s why Korean women always apply toner within 10 seconds after washing,” Lee says. Son & Park Beauty Water is a Korean beauty cult favorite. Also try Belif Bergamot Herbal Extract Toner, or Boscia Balancing Facial Tonic. (Here are more ways to improve your complexion in just one day.)

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Step 5: Essence

Essence is a hybrid between a toner and a serum. It works perfectly to hydrate the complexion, aiding cellular turnover for a fresh, youthful appearance. Essence also contains a humectant, which re-hydrates the skin after so much sebum has been removed during the cleansing steps. If you’ve never heard of an essence, you’re not alone. A majority of American women have never incorporated this product into their nightly routines. A great first buy is the BENTON Snail Bee High Content Essence or SKII Facial Treatment Essence. “Korean women take a proactive approach to skincare that focuses on prevention rather than responding to and dealing with skincare woes only after they’ve already appeared,” Lee says.

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Step 6: Ampoule

By applying this super-charged version of a serum at night, your skin will be able to absorb all the hydration it needs following a long day’s work. We particularly love the LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule. A super-affordable option is It’s Skin Power 10 Formula Propolis. “This routine has a strong focus on hydration, which has many benefits for the skin: it plumps it up, instantly reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and gives it a dewy glow,” explains Lee. “When following a hydrating routine, layering is absolutely essential. Skin is like a sponge—the wetter it is, the more absorbent it gets. Each layer helps the following one better penetrate the skin, enhancing the effectiveness of the entire routine.”

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Step 7: Serum

Serums contain a few key active ingredients to address specific issues such as brightening, discoloration, and wrinkles, and the actives are usually more concentrated than what you’ll find in your every day moisturizing cream. Serums can be thin or have a thick, oil or gel-like consistency, and their bottles often have droppers to dispense the product. Together with the ampoule, this step of the Korean beauty routine will target dehydration, wrinkles, or hyperpigmentation when worked into your specific areas of concern. Try Be The Skin Botanical Nutrition Power Serum. “Korean women take a holistic approach to skincare, making extensive use of natural ingredients that have been traditionally used for centuries in oriental medicine (hanbang),” says Lee. “The Koreans believe that food is medicine for the skin, so when their skin starts to act up, they drink herbal tea to soothe the inflammation and switch their diets accordingly.”

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Step 8: Sheet mask

Sheet masks deeply hydrate and revitalize the skin, leaving it soft and glowing. “Do a sheet mask treatment once a day to deeply hydrate your skin and prevent the premature appearance of the signs of aging,” instructs Lee. Try Hanskin Hydro Sheet Mask or Karuna Hydrating Face Mask. “You should also do regular sheet mask treatments on the body to keep it soft and glowing,” Lee adds. “In Korea, there are many sheet masks for the body that target every part, like Innisfree Anti-Aging Mask Neck and Collarbone, Innisfree My Secret Body Patch, and Tony Moly Super Peeling Liquid Foot Mask.”

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Step 9: Eye cream

Next, Korean women apply an eye cream, such as Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream, to moisturize the eye area and a facial moisturizer, such as belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb, to lock in moisture. “Korean skincare has a strong focus on hydration, which makes layering absolutely vital. Each layer soaks the skin with enough moisture to aid the penetration of the following one, boosting the efficacy of the entire routine,” says Lee. Check out these other amazing tricks for healthy, glowing skin.

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Step 10: Sleeping mask

The final step in the 10-step Korean beauty routine is a sleeping mask to help skin retain moisture while you snooze. And don’t worry, this mask won’t stain your sheets because it’s absorbed into your skin. We particularly love the Shiseido Beauty Sleeping Mask. So, now that you know the details and purpose of all 10 steps, are you up for the Korean beauty challenge? “Although it can often seem daunting, the Korean 10-step night time routine is a nourishing ritual that helps women achieve the glowing and flawless complexion they deserve,” Lee says.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest