SKINCARE101: K-Skincare Routine For Beginners

by - November 04, 2017

Welcome back to my blog ~~

Now that you are able to identify your skin type, I'll walk you through different korean skincare routine steps that everybody is talking about.

Also just in case you didn't know, this is the second part of my "Skincare 101" series where I'm gonna go over the following sections in the next few weeks:

- What is your skin type?
Korean skincare routine for beginners ← We are here
- 10 not so common ingredients widely used in K-beauty
- Double cleansing: why should we double cleanse?
- Exfoliation: Chemical vs Physical
- Wash-off masks: Types and purposes
- Toners: Types, and how are they different from western toners?
- Acids and Actives
- First essences: What are they exactly?
- Serums, Ampoules: What is the difference?
- Moisturisers: Lotion, Emulsion, Gel and Cream: What's the difference?
- Eye creams: Why should you use and eye cream?
- Sheet masks: Tips and Tricks
- Pores: how to deal with them?
- Acne: Products that helped me and my siblings to get rid of my acne.
Ps: Keep in mind that I will include in each step some recommendations by skin type.

What's a Korean skincare routine? and why?

Contrarily to western culture where they use makeup to cover their flaws with layers and layers of concealer and foundation (which makes their skin condition even worse in the long run), Koreans (and East Asians in general) are taught since the young age of 12-13yo to focus on taking care of their skin and treat their skin concerns, to maintain a healthy and radiant skin and minimize the effects of aging, also use makeup to enhance their features instead.

So what Korean skincare routines basically aim is preventing different skin concerns such as acne, fine lines, blackheads, hyper-pigmentation etc, instead of covering it to the point it's no longer possible and then start looking for expensive and invasive ways to fix these problems, which would eventually take a toll on their self-esteem and stress them out.

It's not really uncommon among the k-beauty community to hear about skincare routines including 8-12 steps of cleansing and layering product over product, which seems like it's a lot of work compared to the minimalistic western skincare routines that include barely 3 steps, but it is absolutely worth it! I mean, just look how nice their skin is and how they take pride in having some of the best skin in the world!

That being said, this doesn't really mean that you should imperatively go through all of the 10 or whatever steps every day, AM and PM. It's actually all about what you feel like your skin needs that specific day, and the variety of choices a korean skincare routine provides.

What are these steps?

Korean morning skincare routine:

- Cleansing: wash your face with water or a mild cleanser.

Your skin doesn't need much cleansing in the morning since all you have on it is the skincare from the previous evening, and few impurities that settled in throughout the night. So it is preferable to wash your skin only with water, or add a mild cleanser if you have an oily skin.


Toning is an important step to balance your skin pH and prevent it from dehydration. It also helps the following steps of your skincare routine to absorb better into your skin.
PS: it is preferable to use a toner within the first 3 seconds after you cleanse your face, which seems kinda impossible but I believe you can do it. Hwaiting!

- Essence/Serum/Ampoule:

Mainly used to target specific skin concerns.

- Eye cream:

It's important to keep this area hydrated since there are no pores or sebaceous glands there to produce natural oils that maintain the skin's hydration, and thus it is the first zone affected by aging factors.
Also, make sure to be gentle and preferably use your ring fingers to spread the cream, this way you won't apply much pressure on the skin.

- Moisturiser:

Make sure to keep your skin hydrated throughout the day, but don't overdo it otherwise you'll end up with a super shiny face the whole day. (remember that you can always carry on a hydrating mist with you and spray it over your face whenever you feel like your skin needs some moisture)

- UVA/UVB Protection:

I believe this is one of the most important steps in a Korean skincare routine. You should protect your skin from the harmful UV rays on daily basis and not only during summer holidays to keep your skin healthy and prevent acne complications, discoloration, uneven skin tone, fine lines and cancer.

Personally, I don't go through all these steps every single morning. Most of the days I wash my face with water, apply a hydrating toner, a light moisturising lotion and a sunblock.

Korean night skincare routine:

This is where it gets a little bit intense, and where you'll need to do lots of layering.
this is the usual order you should follow, but it's not always the case. Make sure to layer your skin care products from the thinnest to the thickest (except for if you are using acids or actives that need a specific order, I'll talk about them later in a detailed post)

- Oil Cleanser:

Apply an oil or balm cleanser over your dry skin to remove all the makeup, sunscreen and some other oil based particles and dirt that built up on your skin throughout the day. Keep in mind that you can still use it if you have an oily skin.

- Foam/Gel cleanser:

Another important thing in korean skincare is double cleansing: After removing all the oil based products from your skin, use a foam cleanser to remove any makeup or oil residue as well as water based impurities that are still on your skin.

- Exfoliation:

Once or twice a week, use a scrub or a peeling gel to get rid of the dead skin cells that make your skin look dull, your makeup patchy and might cause clogged pores, blackheads and acne.

- Toner:

Just like I said before, use a toner within 3 seconds of cleansing your face to balance its pH level (it's okay if you can't but just try), and allow the following products to absorb better.
It is preferable to use a cotton pad to apply toner in the PM routine and swipe it gently over your skin (you don't wanna rub your skin, sensitise it and create unwanted wrinkles) to make sure there is no left over makeup, and mildly exfoliate your skin daily.

- First essence:

First essence is something that you can rarely find in other cultures other than korean and japanese. This is considered as the heart of korean skincare routine although. It is a multipurpose product that targets at the same time wrinkles and fine lines, dullness and uneven skin tone by promoting the skin regeneration.

- Ampoule:

Ampoules usually are the most concentrated skincare product with active ingredients. Used for targeted skin concerns

- Serum:  

A less concentrated version of an ampoule, also used for targeted skin concerns

- Sheet mask:

One of the most interesting steps of a korean skincare routine. It can be anything (from cotton sheets to Kelp and gold sheets) soaked in a lot of essence that you leave on your face for 20-40min until your skin absorbs all the goodies. Some koreans use it on daily basis while some others use it once a week. it all depends on what your skin needs.
A more detailed post about sheet masks coming soon ^^

- Eye Cream:

Apply an eye cream to hydrate and protect your eye area.

- Moisturiser:

This can be anything from an emulsion to a rich and thick cream, depending on how much hydration your skin needs. It is imperative to use a moisturizer after all these steps to lock in all the goodies you layered on your skin.

Any more steps?

Some people use spot treatments, acids, actives and night packs in addition to these steps or instead of some of them (I for example, skip essences and ampoules, and use sheet masks once or twice a week only)

How much time should I wait between every two steps?

As long as you aren't using actives and acids, a minute or so until the product is fully absorbed is largely enough

Should I start with a full skincare routine?

As I said before, it's not imperative to go through all of these steps every single day, and if you are new to skincare, it is preferable to introduce products gradually to your skincare routine by replacing your western products or starting from scratch, this way you would know which product broke you out if they ever do.

If you are new to skincare, I would recommend to start first with:

Cleansers (both oil and foam cleansers): cleansing our skin every day is imperative. you don't want to let dirt and small particles build up on your skin.

- Moisturiser: Moisturising our skin daily is a must. Most skin problems are related to the lack of moisture, since once it's dehydrated it becomes dull, loses its radiance and becomes easily irritated (=>acne), and you won't even need to treat them later.

Sunscreen: protecting our skin from the sun damage including skin discoloration (and dark spots) and fine lines. Prevention is the key.

Remember, you should start using them one by one, and give each of them 3  days to test how your skin reacts to it.

An example of a basic skincare routine for beginners:

I've received many messages from people asking me about a basic skincare routine, I'm gonna add recommended products for every skin type in each of my following posts (where I'll break down every skincare step for you guys), but for now, I'm gonna suggest a simple 4 - 5 step skincare routine that works pretty much for everyone, even newbies.

AM: Water based cleanser (you can skip it) → Toner → Moisturiser → Sunscreen.
PM: Oil Cleanser → water based cleanser → Toner → Moisturiser.
Use sheet masks whenever you feel like using them (once a week to once a day, whatever you like), but make sure to use it before your moisturiser.

Oil Cleanser:

This step is obviously reserved for the PM routine to get rid of all the makeup ad oil based stuff that sit on top of your skin.
I've tried quite many oil cleansers but I just love this Heimish All Clean balm. It is less messy than oil cleansers, works really well and is made of awesome ingredients. Check my full review here.

Get yours at Amazon for $17.50

Water based cleanser:

Like I said before,in your morning skincare routine, you can either wash your face with water, or use a mild cleanser.
The cleanser I'm gonna recommend is COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, it is really gentle, cleanses well without leaving the skin squeaky clean, and has a low pH so it doesn't damage the skin's moisture barrier as the time goes by. And although it says "good morning cleanser" it works just fine even for the PM routine.

Get it for $9.57 from Amazon or for $11 from wishtrend


Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner has been one of my fav toners for more than two years now (I've reviewed it here). It hydrates the skin, soothes it, balances its pH and is free of harmful ingredients and Alcohol that dries out the skin and can irritate it even more. It works for all skin types. I use it during the winter when my skin is super dehydrated, the summer when my skin becomes unbelievably oily, and spring, my skin's favourite season to act up and become super sensitive and make my life a living hell (actually it's one of the few products I use during spring).

You can also use this as a sheet mask alternative by soaking thin layers of these layered cotton pads in this toner and apply them on your face for about 10min. it would soothe your skin and hydrate it at the same time.

You can get it at Amazon for $17.80 or Wishtrend for $20.99


for this section, I have 2 moisturizers to choose from depending o skin type:

- For Dry and Sensitive skin types:

Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream is just like its name says: Rich and Soothing, which makes it perfect for people with dry and dehydrated skin. And also just like all of Klairs products, it isn't irritating at all and works really well for people with sensitive skin.

It retails for $20.70 at Amazon and  $24.50 at Wishtrend (currently at only $17.50 so hurry up!)

- For Oily and Combination skin types:

Another favorite of mine: COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All in One Cream. There are many light moisturisers out there but I choose to recommend this one because it contains lots of snail mucin that isn't only really hydrating, but also has great healing and regenerating benefits and would help you with your acne and acne scars if you have any.

It retails at Amazon for $14.62 and at Wishtrend for $21


Even though I know how important using a sunscreen is, I've used to go out without applying it most of the time because I just hate white casts, and how greasy they make my skin look, or how some chemical sunscreens oxidize and leave an yellow-orangey film on my skin that makes me look sick. But after trying Missha and Bioré sunscreens, I finally started applying it daily.

Get it from Amazon, $9.89

Sheet Masks:

If you are new to sheet masks and just wanna try some for fun but don't wanna spend lots of money on them, check Innisfree and Etude House $1 sheet masks. They aren't as effective as pricier sheet masks, but they get the job done. And they also have a wide variety to choose from depending on your skin concerns.

Click on the picture to buy  a set of 15 Etude House 0.2mm Therapy Air Mask for $16

Click on the picture to buy a set of 15 innisfree  It's Real Squeeze Mask Sheet for $16.90

That's it for today. Hope it was helpful and don't forget to like, share with your friends and family and comment down below to let me know if there is anything you want me to include, or any questions in general.

Have a lovely day ♥

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking those links before you shop means that I will receive a small commission that wouldn't affect the final cost, which helps to support this blog.

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  1. I love the Korean philosophy for skincare! I've never been one for wearing a lot of make-up and instead have focused on healthy eating, drinking lots of water, and wearing sun block every day. Thank-you especially for the philosophy behind using an eye cream. I had no idea that there aren't pores or gland in that area to produce natural oils. Also from now on I'll be thinking of you when I use my ring fingers to apply the cream. x

    1. That's awesome! many people nowadys use tons of makeup and eat fastfood and unhealthy stuff, and forget about their daily needs of water and vitamins.

  2. I am trying to do better at a skincare regime. I know that I really need it now that I'm 40 and getting older. I always wash my face and moisturize, but need to do better about toner and everything else. My face does feel much better when I take the time to do the whole routine.

    1. I think spending extra minutes to take care of your face is one of the most rewarding things when we get older.

  3. I am happy to see more and more skin care products using natural ingredients and relying less on synthetic chemicals and fragrances. Often fragrances trigger a bad skin reaction due to allergies. Cleansing and protecting your skin is vital at any age.

  4. You're right about the benefits of maintaining healthy skin, the long term effects are great. I would like to go back to my old regimen.

    1. What were you using in your old skin care regiment?

  5. I love this philosophy for skincare! You described it so well. I liked your Facebook page, so I can learn more about it.:-)

    1. Thank you! Hope it would be helpful ^^

  6. This was so helpful to me, I have a terrible skin care regime and really want to start trying harder! Great post!

    1. Glad to know I could help! please don't hesitate to reach out if you need any help regarding your skin care routine, I'll try my best to help ^^

  7. I agree - great skin is the best make-up we can ever wear! I love Korean skincare products. This is a great reference on how to get into a nice routine.

    1. It is indeed the best makeup we can wear!

  8. It makes sense that K beauty focuses on enhancing beauty in a way that does not damage the skin as opposed to Western culture where we use layers of make up. I know that I myself definitely need to do more to have a better skincare routine x

  9. I've always marveled at what great detail is put into skincare routines. That night time routine seem really detailed...I'd love it if you did a skincare routine for me to compare the differences.

    1. I'll gladly do so! Just email me your skin type and concerns, and I'll try my best to help you with your skincare routine ^^

  10. Your beauty products are awesome however one should focus on both healthy eating and skin care products to look good. We should maintain the balance between the two.

    1. You are right, a healthy diet is a must to obtain a nice skin and body.

  11. I absolutely am going to try the night routine! I think my skin is in dire need of a good nightly routine.

  12. I love Korean skincare products, they are the best! I never actually used any of it before, but I'm always hearing how much great they are! Will try one of the products you showed in your post, thanks for sharing!

    1. You are welcome, and hope my series will help you start a good skin care routine to see how amazing k-skincare products are yourself.

  13. I am in need of decent skincare routine at the moment, I will take some of this on board!

    1. Let me know what you think about them once you try them out !

  14. I am not Korean but I do follow a regime much closer to this one than the typical Western one. I also use only natural ingredients like lemon and honey.

    1. That's great, I'm sure you have a nice skin!

  15. I love this! I have recently started to bring the K-Beauty skincare routine in to my life after having NO skincare routine at all. I don't have the ampoule but I do have a pot of mask that I use 3 times a week and an essence and serum, my skin definitely looks better since I started on this routine (more of a 7 step routine lol)

    1. Reminds me of when I started actually taking care of my skin after having no routine at all. I first thought that it was a lot of work but after seeing the results, I was convinced that every second is worth it

  16. Korean skincare routine might be tedious for most, but it is better than not doing it at all. I followed this technique and it gave me a huge change!

  17. As a half-Asian, when I think "makeup" I immediately think of my mom's makeup counter that was 80% skincare products. I actually thought makeup was mostly clear liquids until I started wearing makeup myself. Loving this series of posts so far.

    1. Hahah! on the other hand, I thought that skincare = applying Johnson baby lotion every once in a while xD because that's what my mom used all these years (she has a nice skin tho)

  18. I genuinely thought by my thirties I would have my skincare regime sorted but nope! This post is so useful, I love the korean approach

  19. I am not too much in beauty products, but I can surely find some great tips for skin care as a beginner, which I would love to try out some time:) But I definitely recommending this to my wife. Looks like she is gonna love it! Thank you for sharing

  20. Great post. I'm one of those girls who were minimum makeup, perhaps you can do a minimum makeup look next time ?