Makeup and Skincare

Korean 10-Step Skin Care Routine

Watching Jun JiHyun 10+ years after My Sassy Girl and seeing the same porcelain, wrinkle-free complexion can do things to a girl. It makes you ransack Google for no-makeup shots of the actress to catch even the slightest blemish on her perfect face. Finding none (dang it!), you go to Plan B – discover the ultimate secret.

Surprisingly, finding the “secret” was pretty easy. Unsurprisingly, applying it, not so much. While I beg to infer that poreless, blemish-free Korean skin is still largely due to good genes, good weather, healthy eating (all that kimchi) and maybe something in the water, it still requires a lot of time and effort. Korean women religiously go through a 10-step beauty ritual every night to ensure that their skin looks clear and supple, and stays that way for as long as humanly possible. Sounds like a lot of hard work and hard bucks? Definitely. Let’s get right to it.

Enumerated below are these 10 steps, and the products I’m currently using for each step:

The Cleansing Arsenal: The Face Shop Herb Day Lemon Cleansing Foam, VitaOils Be Calm gel cleanser, ACNAID EGCG Powder. Human Nature Balancing Facial Wash doubles as exfoliant.

    1. Pre-cleanse Double cleansing is the requirement for any girl who wears make up and SPF. Pre-cleanse is the first step–the make up removal phase, designed to take off that layer of gunk plus all the pollution and dirt that has settled over it. My new favorite here is The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil (P800+). Light, non greasy and mildly fragrant, half a pump goes a long way, taking everything off including waterproof make up without breaking out the skin or stripping it dry. Organic with not a drop of mineral oil. A cheaper alternative is The Face Shop Oil Specialist Fresh Cleansing Oil with Cherry Blossom (P400+ sale price)This one is a stinger if you make the mistake of splashing in your eyes, so beware. But apart from that it does the job for half the price. Pump a few drops on your palm, massage gently into the face, add a bit of water to emulsify, and wipe away with a clean damp towel. For those hesitant to use oil, my go-to water-based cleanser is always the Bifesta Cleansing Water (P400+). Pump a good amount to moisten your flat cotton, press on your skin for a few seconds to melt the make up, then wipe. Repeat until you get that fresh feeling.
    2. Cleanse again – After getting the first layer off, you would want to cleanse again. If you fear drying out your skin, always choose a mild nourishing cleanser. My oily skin is more comfortable with the gel and foam types, but milk cleansers are great too. Currently in rotation are VitaOils Be Calm gel cleanser (around P200), the Face Shop Herb Day Lemon Cleansing Foam (P200+), and ACNAID EGCG Powder (P1500). The first two are for my “pamper my skin” kind of days. Get a small amount of product on your dry palms, lather on your face with the help of some water, massage well, then again wipe off with your towel. The last one is for my “got a new zit” kind of day. It comes in powder form; shake a bit of powder out on your hand, mix with water until the powder dissolves, and massage on the face like any cleanser.
    3. Exfoliate – This is one step I skip every few days. The face towel in your cleansing steps should be exfoliation enough, but there are days when your face feels extra rough (eww). When that happens, you’d want to get one of these babies: Clarins White Plus HP Gentle Brightening Exfoliator (P2000+), Human Nature Balancing Facial Cleanser (P80), or Cure Natural Aqua Gel (P1500)
      The Clarins one has extra fine beads and feels as luxurious as it costs, but the Human Nature one is a good cheaper alternative, although the beads are larger. Apply and massage on skin with great care. Use immediately after your double cleanse. Cure is my favorite skipped-my-facial exfoliator, but this one you use before your second cleanse to get the product and the rubbed off mess off.

Dr Oguma AquaKey Intense mineral spray doubles as essence and toner. Etude Wonder Pore is a sting-free, fragrance-free 7-in-one freshner. Freshner = toner = alternative facial mist.

  1. Toner – Once your face is as squeaky clean as it can get, its time to grab your toner. Contrary to popular belief, the toner or lotion is not for cleaning your skin. Your cleansers should have done that. The purpose of this stage is to prep your skin for better absorption of the serums and creams that will follow. You are recommended to use two kinds of toners, one for exfoliation and one to replenish moisture. My number one exfoliating toner is Clarins Exfoliating Toner (P2000+), followed by the similarly pricey Rice Force ACPOLESS Clear Lotion ($50). A cheaper, awesome, non-sting, fragrance-free find is Etude Wonder Pore Freshner (P400+). For moisture, the current undisputed favorite is the proudly local, Moringa O2 Toner (P89).
  2. Essence – This part is a bit hard to explain. To quote, “essence is a nourishing liquid concentrate that effectively enhances skin’s cellular renewal process, leading to an increase in elasticity and firmness, as well as a brighter complexion.” It sounds a bit fussy, but I found one that also doubles as all-day facial spray. Dr Oguma AquaKey (SGD50 for a 2+1 set) is a multi-active mineral spray that promises to intensely hydrate the skin, thus helping it absorb the nutrients of your skin care. During the day, it also serves as a great hydrating, sebum-away spray. Dr Oguma likewise claims to be anti-aging and anti-acne, but will get back to you on that. 
  3. Serum – This step is where you never scrimp. The serum is the concentrated version of your cream, thus it deposits the goodies into your skin deeply and more effectively. In the morning, I prefer the light, moisturizing, organic Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum (KRW22,000). At night, its a tandem of Purelease Whitening Spot Ringer Corrector (P1500) and The Face Shop Core Seed Purifying Essence (press kit)Purelease has an intense formula that lightens spots and blemishes, while the Core Seed Essence (still unavailable in Philippine stores) is a lovely, rich 5-in-1 formula that sinks so nicely into the skin seconds after application.
  4. Mask sheet – Mask sheets are basically drenched in serums. I allow my skin this luxury only once a week, and choose a variant depending on my mood and my skin’s (quite erratic) moods. Etude, The Face Shop, and Nature Republic (P65 up) all have affordable and effective selections. Apply the mask sheet, relax and enjoy for 15-20 minutes. Peel off then pat, massage dry.
  5. Eye cream – Nobody should cross the age of 25 and neglect the eye cream. Skin around the eye area is thin and quite sensitive, and thus is the first to show signs of aging. For now, I use Virgin Coconut Oil (P200+) or Innisfree Olive Real Power Cream (KRW18,000)The Innisfree Olive is actually a moisturizer that feels and melts like butter, but it is too creamy for daily application on my oily skin. It’s fantastic as eye cream though.

    Rice Force Moisture Balance Milk, White Label Placenta Cream, Innisfree Olive Real Power Cream

    Rice Force Moisture Balance Milk, White Label Placenta Cream, Innisfree Olive Real Power Cream

  6. Emulsion or moisturizer – NOW we get to the moisturizer. Similar to the serum, you don’t scrimp on these babies either because they are your skin’s best friends, en guarde to balance moisture and nourish your face. I’m presently faithful to the White Label Placenta Cream (P900), a Japanese cult hit available online. I do not know if this is human baby placenta, and no one needs to tell me. All I know is that my skin feels super soft and supple every morning thanks to this. It also comes with whitening, anti-aging and anti-acne promises. Alternatives are the Innisfree Olive Real Power Cream, and the Rice Force ACPOLESS Moist Balance Milk (USD50). 

    The last layer of moisture: Laniege Water Sleeping_Ex Pack, Nature Republic Aloe Vera Pack

    The last layer of moisture: Laniege Water Sleeping_Ex Pack, Nature Republic Aloe Vera Pack

  7. Sleeping pack – Finally, the last step! I admit to sometimes skipping this, but a sleeping pack completes and seals the deal, ensuring hydration that lasts until you open your eyes in the morning. Lightweight and easily absorbed as well, I’ve used the Laniege Water Sleeping Pack_EX (P1000+), The Face Shop Raspberry Roots (P1000+), and Nature Republic Aloe Vera Gel (P200+). 

    Acne care: Centella gel, Erythromycin Solution, Dermglow Basic Set

    Acne care: Centella gel, Erythromycin Solution, Dermglow Basic Set

  8. Acne Care – Fact: I have been born with acne-prone, oily skin that threatens to plague me beyond PMS. Thus acne care is a never ending battle. My derma recommends Erythromycin Solution (P200), and Dermstrata Centella Gel (P200) as topical solutions to zits. But my recent super awesome find is Dermglow (P1900, 4-piece set). The basic set composed of soap, toner, moisturizer and anti blemish cream was recommended by my MUA friend, swearing that this was the only thing that worked on her cystic zits. I’ve only been on Night 3 but I’ve already seen my pimples dry up, the skin peeling ever so slightly. So far I am very happy, but still I reserve judgment until about after a month or so. Stay tuned.

Okay so this is quite a long ritual pre-bed time. I’ve heard the joke a million times over that I probably start this routine as early as 8pm so I can hit the sack by 11pm. That is kind of true, because I want to make sure that each step has had enough time to work its magic before I move on to the next one. But this is daily pampering after a hard day’s work, so it is actually something I look forward to every day. “No pain, no gain” doesn’t even apply (well maybe a little, budget wise). Maybe then after 10+ years I can also look at my 20-year old self in pictures and barely see the difference. Oh why not?

Reference:, Pictures are mine.

Store Directory:

Korean brands are available online via w2beauty.

The Body Shop, Etude House, The Face Shop, Moringa, Laniege, Dermstrata, Human Nature, Bifesta – in all leading local malls and department stores.

Clarins – Rustan’s

Purelease, ACNAID – Care to Bare Korean skin center

Rice Force, White Label, VitaOils – online. VitaOils available in EchoStore branches.

Dr Oguma – in Amazon, and in stores in Singapore, HK and Taiwan.

VCO – still on the hunt on where to replenish this


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