K-beauty is more than the newest ingredients or the perfectly luminous complexions of K-pop stars. The famous multi-step skin care routine, which typically ranges from five to twelve steps, is the heart of traditional Korean beauty practice. There are so many steps involved because each product used is hyper-targeted for one area of concern. You take time to apply them because you appreciate that skin care—however simple or intricate—is a luxury. And you treat your skin gently, because you believe it helps maintain firmness and resilience in the long term. Principles passed down through generations for oh, the last 1500 years or so? Yep. Easy for anyone to adopt as her own? Definitely.
My beauty backstory: I was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved stateside when I was four years old. Since then, I’ve traveled there every year, experimenting with the products and experiencing the beauty cultures of both worlds. Years ago, I worked as a cosmetics model, and I’ve always believed in and advocated for individualistic beauty. Beauty is about how you come as you are. Now, I’m a freelance writer on weekends, and my real job is here at Clinique. It’s exactly the right fit for me, because it’s a brand that genuinely cares about how women feel, both on the inside and out.
The following is my personal take on the K-skin care routine; remember that there’s always room to customize and remove (or add) steps as you see fit for your skin type and preference. This multi-step process renews and revitalizes me on a far deeper level than just the surface of my skin. My daily routine is for relaxation and meditation—a time to really take care of myself as I would by way of healthy eating or exercising. I hope the steps help you find your own sense of happiness and Zen, as well.
THE 10-STEP K-BEAUTY SKIN CARE ROUTINE
Step 1: Makeup remover
Step 2: Cleanser
My #1 priority is thorough makeup removal with a 2- or 3-step cleansing process—one step just isn’t enough to get every last trace, especially if you’re a fan of long-wearing formulas. If you’re a makeup wipes type of gal, use a separate eye makeup remover with cotton so as to not rub your delicate eye areas with a rough cloth. Follow with a general cleanser based on your personal preference and skin type.
Step 3: Exfoliator
(3 or 4 times a week)
This crucial step helps you avoid a buildup of dead skin cells that can cause dullness, dryness, blemishes, and additional skin concerns. In turn, it helps your other products absorb more effectively. Since you’re exfoliating a few times a week, you want to stick with a gentle, emollient scrub like the 7 Day Scrub Cream Rinse Off Formula.
Step 4: Clarifier
A clarifying product provides gentle exfoliation that you can do twice a day, every day—and it allows my other products to sink right in and do their best work. It makes a huge difference. I dab some on a cotton pad and sweep it over my face and neck.
Step 5: Masks
(3 times a week)
“Multi-masking” is spot-treating with different facial masks at one time—you personalize your mask game based on your skin type and concern. My ideal multi-masking session would include a charcoal mask on my T-zone to draw out impurities and a micro-polishing mask on the rest of my face to promote cell turnover and restore vitality. Pick and choose your masks here.
Step 6: Essence
An essence is key for getting the signature K-beauty glow. It hydrates, plumps, and comforts—and feels amazing going on your skin. Even Better Essence Lotion, Clinique’s take on this K-Beauty necessity, helps brighten your skin, bringing radiance and luminosity. But don’t apply it with a cotton pad—instead, use your hands to gently pat it into your skin. Patting with your hands helps with absorption and, if done regularly, promotes elasticity.
Step 7: Serums
Many dedicated Korean women use 2+ serums that hyper-target concern areas. They layer them on, in no particular order. (The steps you just did will allow them to quickly sink into the dermis.) I’m a fan of the Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, an everything-in-one treatment that targets all major skin concerns, whether they are fine lines or dark spots— it’s pretty much a dream come true.
Step 8: Eye Cream
Korean women tend to be seriously devoted to eye creams, beginning in their early 20’s; and, I am no exception. The Repairwear Anti-Gravity Eye Cream is a personal favorite to address my fine lines, shadow-casting under eye craters, and dryness. But if you deal with puffiness and circles, then I recommend the lightweight All About Eyes.
Step 9: Moisturizer
Almost there! This step seals in the benefits of previously applied products, and, of course, keeps your skin hydrated. My trick is to use an intensive, revitalizing night cream…for more visibly radiant skin by day. I always seem very well-rested the morning after an overnight mega-moisturizer session.
Step 10 (Daytime): Sunscreen
Last but certainly not least, never skip sunscreen—sun damage can take you to a land of no return. City Block Sheer with SPF 25 is a great broad-spectrum sunscreen, meaning it protects your skin from both aging and burning ultraviolet rays. As a side note, it also makes a great makeup primer.
Optional: throughout the day
Follow up with a moisturizing spray throughout the day and/or more sunscreen. Keep these products close, whether inside your bag or on your desk, and use them to stay hydrated and protected.
When experimenting with new skin care products, try to use them for at least one month, but preferably three months, to determine if they really work for you. (Unless, of course, they cause substantial breakouts—then it’s time to reassess and tweak the lineup.) Trust in the process, enjoy the steps, and let us be your cheerleaders.
Photos and Words: Stella Kim, Clinique Global Makeup Marketing Associate