The Editors Answer: The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine for Beginners
Every day, we get questions from our customers about all things beauty. It can be anything, from which products we personally swear by to exactly how to use them for best results. So this week, the BeautyMNL Editors are answering a few inquiries that came in through the mail. By that, of course, we mean our email: email@example.com. There’s no Q too big or too small, too strange or too simplistic, so keep ‘em coming, beautiful!
WHAT IS THE BEST 10-STEP SKINCARE ROUTINE FOR BEGINNERS?
Stef: “I’ve recently gotten into Korean beauty, but I don’t know where to start. What is the ideal 10-step routine for a newbie like me?”
ANSWER: At best, every step in your routine should be tailored to your skin’s needs. Building it takes time and a whole lot of trial and error. That said, there is a shortcut if you’re too busy for the guesswork. Start right here—with the most popular, tried-and-tested Holy Grails.
Now, everyone reacts differently to different products (thus the acronym YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary). But based on our research—and plenty of personal experimentation—some have proven to be actual miracle-workers across the board. Below, we’ve curated our Korean cult-faves into a 10-step skincare routine for beginners. And don’t worry, we’ll explain EVERYTHING.
STEP 1: OIL CLEANSER
WHAT IT’S FOR: Oil-based cleansers are the first step in the double-cleansing process. They dissolve everything a typical foam can’t, including waterproof makeup, excess oil, and other debris.
TRY: Banila Co. Clean It Zero. This balm cuts through every layer of makeup without stripping the skin of its natural oils. Shop it here.
STEP 2: WATER-BASED CLEANSER
WHAT IT’S FOR: Water-based cleansers are the second step in the double-cleansing process. They usually come in the form of foams or gels. When mixed with water, they lather up, lifting away any remaining dirt and flushing out the residue of your cleansing oil.
TRY: COSRX Low pH Good Morning Cleanser. This gel formula is a godsend for all skin types. Boasting of a low pH level, it thoroughly removes dirt without triggering irritation. Shop it here.
STEP 3: ACNE TREATMENT
WHAT IT’S FOR: No matter what your skin type, pimples are a universal problem. A good acne treatment should do two things: calm existing pimples and prevent budding flareups.
TRY: COSRX BHA Skin Returning A-Sol. This clear solution pulls double-duty as a spot treatment and a chemical exfoliant. Using natural AHA acids, it shrinks the size of active pimples and removes dead skin cell buildup. Shop it here.
STEP 4: VITAMIN C SERUM
WHAT IT’S FOR: Acne scars are no match for this brightening elixir. Packed with skin-lightening properties, Vitamin C serums quickly lighten pigmentation and even out the skin tone for a healthier glow.
TRY: Dear Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum. This cult-fave delivers visible results in no time! Its antioxidant-rich blend fades the appearance of acne scars, minimizes fine lines, and counteracts dullness. Shop it here.
NOTE: As per expert advice, a Vitamin C serum should not be used together with other acids—such as the COSRX BHA Skin Returning A-Sol mentioned in Step 4. However, you may alternate these products in your daily routine. Use the acne treatment alone in the morning and the Vitamin C serum alone in the evening (or vice versa). This is best especially for super sensitive skin.
STEP 5: TONER
WHAT IT’S FOR: Toner plays the crucial role of preparing your skin for your routine. Essentially, it’s the primer of skincare. By delivering penetrative hydration, it boosts your skin’s ability to absorb several layers of product. As a result, it maximizes the effects of your entire regimen.
TRY: Dear Klairs Supple Prep Facial Toner. This gorgeous toner combines hardcore hydration with a light-as-water formula. Infused with nourishing essential oils, it feeds your skin exactly what it needs for a softer and more supple feel. And have we mentioned the heavenly smell? Shop it here.
STEP 6: ESSENCE OR SERUM
WHAT IT’S FOR: Essences and serums are the workhorses of any skincare routine. Made with concentrated ingredients, they target and treat specific skin issues and quickly provide visible results. (You can learn about the exact difference between them here).
TRY: COSRX Galactomyces Whitening Power Essence. This is a popular alternative for the iconic SK-II First Treatment Essence. Made with 95% galactomyces, COSRX’s fermented formula fights every sign of aging and lends the skin a radiant glow. Shop it here.
STEP 7: MOISTURIZER
WHAT IT’S FOR: Moisturizer is one of the most fundamental steps in any routine. At the very least, it should provide long-lasting hydration and strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier.
TRY: DewyTree Ultra Vitalizing Snail Cream. This snail cream is a bestseller among BeautyMNL customers. Its rich, mucin-infused formula delivers a myriad benefits—from soothing dryness to healing stubborn acne. Shop it here.
STEP 8: EYE CREAM
WHAT IT’S FOR: Essential especially for mature skin, eye creams protect the most vulnerable area of your face. They’re usually crafted with anti-aging properties, which plump up fine lines and diminish the appearance of crow’s feet.
TRY: Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream. Made with snail mucin filtrate and niacinamide, it brightens the under-eyes and plumps up sagging skin for a more wide-awake look. If you’ve been fighting dark circles, this’ll definitely help you fake eight hours sleep. Shop it here.
STEP 9: SLEEPING PACK (EVENING)
WHAT IT’S FOR: In the evening, sleeping packs help seal in every layer of your skincare. They’re usually formulated with an emollient base to lock in hydration and nourish the skin as you snooze. After a full night’s sleep, you’ll wake up to plump, glowing skin come morning!
TRY: COSRX Honey Overnight Mask. This sleeping pack is intensely moisturizing and safe for acne-prone skin, so it’s pretty much the one to beat. It’s made with 85% propolis extract and beeswax. Together, these honey-like ingredients plump up the skin and calm irritation overnight. Shop it here.
STEP 10: SUNSCREEN (MORNING)
WHAT IT’S FOR: In the morning, trade in your sleeping pack for a cream with high SPF. Sunblock your No. 1 defense against environmental oppressors. It blocks out UV rays, shields you from pollution, and ultimately prevents irreversible skin damage.
TRY: COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream. This is a sunblock and after-sun lotion in one bottle. It filters out harmful UV rays with SPF50 and soothes exposed skin with Aloe Leaf Water. Shop it here.
And there you have it: a K-beauty starter pack handpicked by the girls at the BeautyMNL office. Once you get the hang of this routine, feel free to experiment with your own product discoveries (sheet masks, ampoules, and the like). Good luck!
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NOTE: Customer names have been changed to protect privacy.
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