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The 10 step Korean skin care routine: All you need, right here

The Korean skin care routine isn’t just a trend – it’s a lifestyle change that can transform the look and feel of your skin.

The famous 10-step process doesn’t require any radical products or practices – in fact, you might already be following some of the steps already. It includes many of the things you’d expect to find in a skincare routine, such as cleansers, exfoliators, and moisturizers.

The secret is specificity: using these specific products to perform specific functions in a specific order, to create the ultimate skincare recipe for healthy skin (and relaxation).

We explain what the 10 steps for Korean skin care are and share some of our favorite products for each step. Read on and learn how to build your own Korean skin care routine from scratch. 

But first: What is Korean skin care?

Korean skin care comes from (no surprise) Korea, where many women follow a rigorous skincare regime, morning and night, that involves 8-10 careful steps.

The traditional routine includes a collection of gentle K-beauty products that are designed to hydrate and replenish skin, creating a distinctly healthy and youthful glow.

Because of its amazing results and effectiveness, skincare brands and fans from across the world (like us!) began to take notice of the regime and find products that follow the same principles and practices.

This boost in popularity has made the Korean skin care routine accessible to everyone – all you need is the right pieces and a game plan, and you’re good to go.  

How to build your own Korean Skin Care routine 

The classic Korean skin care routine involves 10 steps. You might not do them all them every day, and the order of the steps can change from person to person – it’s important to find a vibe that feels right for your skin type.

We’ve listed the basics below, so you can start to experiment and build your own Korean skin care routine.

1. Oil-based cleanser 

  • What: Start with an oil-based cleanser to remove oily substances that are deep in your pores, such as makeup, SPF residue, and other impurities.
  • Why: Oil cleansers are great because they don’t interfere with the natural oils in your skin. Instead, they provide a thorough cleaning while helping to hydrate and soften.
  • How: Apply to dry skin on your face and neck gently, flush it out with warm water, and then rinse it off.
  • When: Use it every day, morning and night.

We love…

PCA Skin Daily Cleansing Oil

Avene XeraCalm Cleansing Oil


2. Water-based cleanser

  • What: Apply a water-based cleaner, which will tackle water-based substances such as dirt and sweat, as well as any remaining residue from the oil-based cleanser.  
  • Why: This ensures your skin is thoroughly cleansed and helps prevent breakouts.
  • How: Apply to skin on your face and neck gently and wash off with lukewarm water.
  • When: Use it every day, morning and night.

We love…

Avene Micellar Lotion

Bioderma Sensibio H2O

Nuxe Micellar Cleansing Water with Rose Petals

3. Exfoliator

  • What: Use an exfoliator to clear out dead skin cells and clean your pores.
  • Why: It will create a fresh canvas that allows the other skin care products to do their job.
  • How: Apply to your T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) along with any visible pores on your cheeks.
  • When: It depends on the type of exfoliator you use – 1-2 times a week is a good guide, but you can apply more frequently if it’s a particularly gentle product and you feel like your skin is craving it.  

We love…

SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser


Jan Marini Bioglycolic Oily Skin Cleansing Gel

SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub

4. Toner

  • What: Use a gentle toner to prepare your skin for the next stage of your routine.
  • Why: It will add moisture and balance out the pH levels of your skin.
  • How: Use a soft pad or clean, dry fingers to pat it gently across your entire face.
  • When: Use it every day, morning and night.

EltaMD Skin Recovery Toner

SkinCeuticals Conditioning Toner

PCA Skin Hydrating Toner

5. Essence (for hydration)

  • What: A less-common product in American skincare, essence is one of the key steps in the Korean skin care routine – lucky for us, it’s growing in popularity.
  • Why: It provides comprehensive hydration for your skin, helps with anti-aging, and boosts your complexion.
  • How: Apply gently to your face and neck.
  • When: Use it every day, morning and night.

Jan Marini Hyla3D

Revision Skincare Hydrating Serum

ClarityRx Daily Dose of Water

6. Your treatments: Serums and ampoules

  • What: Now’s the time to apply specific treatments that are geared towards your beauty goals, in the form of serums and ampoules.
  • Why: They zone in on issues like acne, hyperpigmentation, and lines and wrinkles.
  • How: Apply as directed by the product info – you may need to apply to your entire face or focus on a specific area.
  • When: Refer to the instructions for your specific product – some will be daily application, while others will be weekly.

We love…

Biopelle Tensage Intensive Serum 50 (10 ampoules)

DefenAge 8-in-1 BioSerum


7. Eye cream

  • What: Eye cream helps treat dark circles, puffiness, lines, and wrinkles around your eyes.
  • Why: It provides gentle hydration, helping to nourish and replenish the sensitive eye area.
  • How: Use your finger to tap it on to the area around your eye, very gently.
  • When: Use it morning and night. It’s up to you whether you want to apply before or after moisturizer.

SENTE Illumine Eye Cream

 SkinMedica Instant Bright Eye Cream

Avene Retrinal EYES

8. Sheet mask

  • What: A special mask that you place on your face for a set period of time – this is what truly differentiates the Koran skin care routine from everything else! Depending on your skincare goals, it will help to moisturize or cleanse your skin.
  • Why: The mask contains some form of moisturizer or cleanser, and the sheet ensures that the substance is absorbed by your skin.
  • How: Follow the instructions on your specific mask – place it on your face (and relax).
  • When: Use it before moisturizing, as often you feel you need it. When your skin is craving a refresh, try a daily moisturizing mask. If you feel like you need a reset, us a weekly cleansing mask.

Avene Soothing Sheet Mask

Patchology Flashmasque Illuminate 5 Minute Sheet Mask

9. Moisturizer

  • What: Find a gentle lotion, gel, or cream that works well with your skin type.
  • Why: As well as adding more hydration, moisturizer will create a barrier on your skin, locking in the moisture you’ve added throughout the previous steps.
  • How: Apply gently over your face and neck.   
  • When: Use it every day, morning and night.

PCA Skin HydraLuxe


EltaMD Moisturizer

Obagi Hydrate Luxe

10. UV protection

  • What: Yes, yet another reason to wear sunscreen. UV protection is the final part of the Korean skin care process, solidifying all the other careful steps you’ve taken.
  • Why: Even if you’re inside for most of the day, it’s important to protect your skin from UV rays – this will keep your skin healthy and combat signs of aging.
  • How: Apply to your face, neck, and other areas of your skin that are exposed to the light.
  • When: Use it every morning and reapply throughout the day as needed.

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50 Original


EltaMD UV Restore Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 Untinted

SUZANOBAGIMD Physical Defense Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 50


FAQs about Korean skin care

Still trying to get your head around the concept of the Korean skin care routine? We answer your top questions right here.  

What is a Korean skin care routine?

The Korean skin care routine is a 10-step process that involves using specific types of skin care products in a certain order. Inspired by K-beauty regimes in Korea, it has become a universally-celebrated way to promote healthy, bright, and young-looking skin.

What are the 10 steps of Korean skin care?

The frequency and order of the steps tends to vary, but typically it involves:

  1. Oil-based cleanser
  2. Water-based cleanser
  3. Exfoliator
  4. Toner
  5. Essence
  6. Treatment (Serums and ampoules)
  7. Eye cream
  8. Sheet mask
  9. Moisturizer
  10. UV protection

Why is Korean skin care so good?

There are many reasons the Korean skin care routine has become so popular. The short answer is because it’s effective – we’ve had tons of feedback about how people have seen great results after adopting and sticking to their own version of the 10-step process.

Some of the things that make it stand out include:

  • Gentle products: There’s nothing harsh or irritating in the routine – everything is designed to be soft and caring for your skin.
  • Plenty of hydration: Almost every step involves some sort of hydration, with care taken to lock this in for lasting results.
  • Preventative quality: As well as treating the current condition of your skin, the Korean skin care routine provides nourishment to ensure it maintains its healthy look over the long term.
  • Care and relaxation: The regime forces you to slow down and invest time and care into every step, encouraging mindfulness and relaxation (especially if you’re applying a sheet mask!).


Korean skin care is about so much more than just beauty – it’s a practice that allows you to truly pay attention to your skin’s needs, invest time in your wellbeing, and indulge in a little bit of self-care every single day. 

Do you have any tips on how you’ve made the Korean skin care routine your own? We want to hear about it – share them with us on Social. For more skincare advice, find out what the pros have to say on our blog.