The Famous 10 Korean Skincare Routine



A Korean Skincare routine is quite different from the West. It starts from a pre cleanser and could go through many steps until you end up with sunscreens. It is a concept of layering  different liquids and creams to solve and prevent annoying skin problems. The important routines are cleansing, treatments, moisturizing and sun protection. 

You don't have to follow the whole Korean routine. Opt for a routine that suits your lifestyle and skin concerns. It might astonish you that the whole routine you chose, could only take up 5 to 10 minutes of your time in the morning or maybe more in the evening depending which routine you add to that, like maybe an exfoliation and a sheet mask. 

Think of the time you spent as a way of spoiling yourself, a timeout from the outside world.  A time to do something healthy  for your skin! Because you deserve it!!

The following is a guidline that helps you find the right product that works properly to treat your skin and skin problems and shows you how to use them in proper order. The rule of thumb is: liquidy products come first, creams go last.




MAKEUP REMOVER/OIL BASED CLEANSER: are usually oils use to remove makeups, moisturizers, sunscreens and any other cosmetics applied in the face. Instead of using harsh towels to get rid of cosmetics, switch to the gentle way through oil pre cleansers.

This is the first step of your (morning) and evening routine. This is a routine you should never skip! You don't want dirt and makeup linger deep to your pores and clog them, which will later develop to breakouts like acne and blackheads.




  • With dry hands and face, pump out an ample amount of your Precleanser Oil in the hands and gently apply to the face
  • Massage it in the face and or soak a cotton round to the pre cleanser oil  to remove eye makeup
  • Now, wet your hands a little bit and your face until you get a good milky consistency
  • Continue massaging face until dirt starts melting away
  • Rinse face with water and pat dry
  • Good for all skin types including oily skin





  • common choice of many. These are oil based but also contain emulsifying ingredients so that you can rinse them away without greasy feeling. It breaks down makeup even the waterproof kinds.
  • works for all skin type even those prone with acne



  • solid form of oil cleansers that turns to oil as your rub it to your skin. You can rinse this away with water or wipe it away with tissues.



  • these are thick, creamy makeup removers that have a moisturizing effect in the skin. 
  • good for dry and sensitive skin
  • how to use : lather in dry skin until makeup melts , add a little water and lather further to skin, rinse with water or wipe off with tissue. The use of water is preferable to rinse it away.



  • also called as miscellar water, is a makeup remover that needs no rinsing with water
  • ideal for travelling 



  • also called: all in one or dual action 
  • as the name implies these take the double cleansing routine ( refers to pre cleansing and cleansing ) in one product.
  • negative: leaves skin dry. Not for dry and sensitive skin
  • positive: good for travelling



  • wet tissues that remove makeup
  • it comes in many luxurious active ingredients like olive oil or green teas and many more
  • gentle and less drying compared to other wipes
  • practical to carry around





WATER BASED CLEANSERS: Korean cleansers are usually in foam, gel or cream forms. They are use to remove makeup or facial cream residues skipped by Pre Cleanser oils.

This is used after the Pre Cleanser. This could be your second step in your morning routine or the first, if you skip the Pre Cleansing in the morning. It is important to note that double cleansing in Korean skincare is a must, because not all dirt are washed away by oil cleansers. It is making sure that your skin is free from debris that block absorbtion of  essential nutrients from the next product you apply.



  • apply Cleanser all over face and scrub gently for 1-2 mins.
  • rinse off properly with warm water
  • pat face to dry



  • for normal to oily skin: use foaming Cleanser
  • for dry skin: use gel or cream Cleanser
  • look for a cleanser with proper pH: higher pH after prolong use, can lead to breakouts and irritations
  • you found a good Cleanser, when your skin feels clean and soft after use, not too tight and dry.





  • an ideal foaming cleanser has a pH between 5.0 to 6.0
  • oily skin may tolerate higher pH, but still advisable to use lower pH cleansers



  • are soap and bars 
  • there are great Korean facial soaps that are effective in removing dirt and even makeup and also moisturizes the skin





Contain grains or microbeads that help to remove dead skin cells and other dirt from the skin resulting to a brighter and smoother complexion, and also prevents formation of blackheads and reduces size of pores. These dead skin cells usually cause the skin to look dry and dull and gives makeup the cakey and patchy look. So, let's slough them off! 

This is part of your evening routine when you have plenty of  time to exfoliate. 




  • spread ample amount of Exfoliate all over the face
  • massage it gently in circular motion for 2-4 mins., paying extra attention to skin concerns (acne, pores, blackheads, etc.)
  • rinse face with lukewarm water
  • pat dry



  • exfoliate only 1-2x/week to prevent skin dryness and breakouts!
  • if there is a necessity to do it more than 2x a week, use the exfoliate only to parts of the face that needs exfoliating, like your chin, forehead or maybe around the nose.





  • contains microbeads of grains like sugar or cellulose granules that slough off dead skin cells and debris
  • labeled as: "polish or scrub"
  • advantage: after scrubing you see the result of your skin feeling smooth and glowing



  • are gentle acids or enzymes that promotes skin renewal through sloughing off dead skin cells first.
  • labeled as: "peeling or enzymes"
  • help stimulate collagen production, reduces wrinkles, it firm, smoothen and brighten skin
  • they come in form of: cleansers, exfoliates, serums and moisturizers
  • good for sensitive skin, since they exfoliate gentle and you can't overscrub
  • contains:

 AHA: Alpha Hydroxy Acids

exfoliates the outermost layer of the skin

- for normal and sensitive skin

- effective in treating sun damage, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone,  dryness, fine wrinkles and lines

- look for lactic or glycolic acids if you think AHA is right for your skin concerns


BHA: Beta Hydroxy Acids

- their actual ingredient is salicylic acid, which is an anti inflammatory and known for treating acne

- for normal and senstivie skin

- exfoliates the outermost layer of the skin and penetrates oils and other debris that clog pores

- therefore: they're not just effective in treating sun damage, hyperpigmentation, red marks, dry patches, and wrinkles, but they are also best in treating breakouts like acne, pores, milia and blackheads.





Korean Toners/Skin/Boosters/Refreshers/Skin Softener are non-alcohol solutions, which aim to remove traces of impurities left behind Pre Cleansers and Cleansers and help hydrates skin further and balace the skin pH. They also increase the penetration of the skin products that follow. Just some reasons, why this is should be a must in your routine.

This is use in the morning and evening after Pre Cleansers and Cleansers. 



  • use cotton balls or pads to brush the toner all over face and neck
  • let it dry completely around 1-2 mins. before going to the next step



  • if you want to use it at night, look for soothing Toners





Essence is the HEART of Korean skincare. These are liquid solutions which can either be a spray (mist) or a light weight lotion that contains concentrated active ingredients that target fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. They also promote skin cell renewal turning skin younger and firm.

This is part of the morning routine (after Pre Cleansing, Cleansing, Toner). This is an optional step, unless you have skin concerns like stated above to prevent or treat. 




  • Lotion Essences: with your fingers, pat lotion gently all over face and neck and let it dry
  • Mist Essences; spray all over face and neck, pat it dry with fingers for better absorbtion



  • Let essences dry completely and absorbed before going to the next step about 1 min.
  • The watery the product, the less you should wait to dry.
  • Because of it light consistency, essences are usually applied in the morning, but you also apply it at night too





Korean Ampoules are concentrated form of Essences packed with powerful active ingredients and vitamins that moisturizes your skin and addresses very specific skin problems like wrinkles, acne, uneven skin tone and saggy skin.

They usually come in a container with an eye dropper. This is part of your evening routine. Again, this is an optional step like Essences, but your skin would thank you a million if you give it more essential nutrients it needs.





  • Squeeze a few drops and pat it in the face. One container will last you really long



  • try interchanging different ampoules every now and then according to your skin concerns to get highest benefits
  • applied at night because of their heavier consistency 
  • morning: essences: night: serum/ampoule
  • some people even mix their own ampoule mixture depending on their targeted skin concerns. If you do this, check it out first for good combinations.





Provides the skin the best hydration it needs, daytime or nighttime. It also offers night repair, sun protection, wrinkle care etc. Find the moisturizer that best serves your skin concerns




  • Massage ample amount to the entire face.
  • Mornings: try to use lighter moisturizer called emulsion
  • Nighttime: you can use the same moisturizer for daytime or opt for a heavier cream



  • Emulsions: lighter than a cream. Good for people with oily skin or who lilve in humid climate
  • Moisturizing creams: thicker than emulsions and  contains occlusive properties. Good for people with dry skin
  • You can apply a sleeping pack/sleeping mask after a moisturizer. Just make sure the first cream is absorbed by the skin properly first.
  • Nighttime/sleeping packs/sleeping masks: heavier creams with anti aging effects. The last cream to apply before going to bed!





  • are lighter version of creams
  • recommended for oill and combination skin type
  • good for people who live in humid climate
  • you can use this in the morning since it has lighter consistency that blends well with makeup


  • have a heavier consistency than emulsion, but lighter than a cream
  • good for all skin types


  • are rich and emollient since they contain more oil than water
  • you can use it in the evening, since many of the creams available are formulated to lock in moisture and sustain nutrients while you sleep
  • good for dry and mature skin


  • are water-based, light and rapidly absorbed by the skin
  • prevents clogged pores
  • good for oily skin and skin prone to acne and other breakouts


  • are applied to skin after your toner and exfoliate
  • can be mixed with your facial lotion for dry and flaky skin type
  • not recommended for oily skin


  • applied to face once or twice a week instead of the night cream
  • gives skin a high dosage of hydration
  • apply a thin layer in the face without massaging it in or patting it in, go to sleep and wash it off in the morning
  • usually have a gel consistency, won't make much mess in the bed or make sure to apply it 30 minutes before going to bed to give time to dry




Hydrates, brightens and prevents wrinkles and puffiness around the eyes 



  • Same rule like moisturizers
  • daytime: lighter eye cream to complement better with makeup
  • evening: heavier cream for best Hydration
  • apply by tapping the cream gently
  • avoid rubbing the eye skin to prevent further wrinkle formation



use eye creams when

  • skin around eyes is drier than the rest of your face: use heavier eye cream 
  • your moisturizing cream is too rich for your eyes: use lighter eye cream
  • you want to target a specific problem that only pertains to your eyes: puffiness, darkness, wrinkle, dryness




Sunscreens  are very essential in your skincare routine to protect the skin from the harsh effects of the sun,  like dark spots or hyperpigmentation, skin damage, fine lines and wrinkles. These are concentrated forms compared to suncreens incorporated in moisturizing creams or in BB creams.

This is a step not allowed to skip in your morning routine! It does not treat any of your skin concerns (although some products have this additional benefits), but it prevents them from coming. A nice tan is indeed pretty, but they also cause you skin cancer. Protect your skin as much as possible, it is the largest organ in your body, you don't want to destroy.



  • apply it after the very last cream of your morning routine and before applying makeup
  • use at least 1/4 tsp of sunscreen to benefit from sun protection



  • Asian Suncreens in general have higher spectrum of UV protection (usually above 30 SPFs in the products) without heavy and greasy finish and many so far, avoid the white cast usually seen in suncreens
  • Korean Suncreens blend and mix well with makeup
  • If you have sensitive skin look for ingredients like zinc or titanium oxide in sunscreens




Intensive treatments full of beneficial nutrients that promise skin hydration, reduce signs of aging, draw out impurities, brighten skin tone and more!



Wash off mask packs

  • use after Cleansing: apply all over face and let it stand for around 20 mins.
  • rinse off and dry
  • this is also called your exfoliate


Sheet masks

  • most popular in Korea, bec. they are easy to use
  • are shaped to fit your face, with nose, eyes and mouth cut through
  • soaked in active ingredients of essences
  • forces the skin to absorb nutrients, leaving skin glowy
  • use after Cleansing and Toner: unpacked mask and place it over the face unti it adheres
  • leave mask for about 20 mins, or more


Sleeping masks

  • easiest to use, apply mask and go to bed!
  • applied after moisturizer or in replacement of your night cream or as indicated per product
  • use once or twice a week


Partial care masks

  • for nose, eyes, lips, neck and other parts of the body



  • use masks once or twice a week or if necessity thrive upto 3x a week.
  • this is part of your evening routine
  • try alternating different types of masks to expose your skin to different nutrients and active ingredients
  • in summer: cool your sheet mask in the fridge before using 




Pre Cleanser - daily 

Cleanser - daily

Toner - daily

Chemical exfoliate - optional

Essence - optional

Moisturizer: Emulsion - daily

Eye Cream - optional

Sunscreen - daily



Pre Cleanser - daily 

Cleanser- daily 

Toner - daily 

Exfoliate - 1/2x a week

Sheet Mask- 1/2x a week

Serum - optional

Moisturizer: Cream - daily

Sleeping Mask- 1/2x a week

Eye Cream - optional



To explore products according to the Korean Skincare  Routine or shop according to your skin type and your  range of concerns like acne, wrinkles, pores, and hyperpigmentation you can start in the following links:








9 Important FAQ in Korean Skincare Products and Routines

Skin Types and Tips

Unique Ingredients in Korean Skincare Products

FAQ General Information



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