It wasn’t until I moved to Korea that I became utterly obsessed with skincare. Originally from the east coast of Canada, I grew up with the classics: clean & clear and that St. Ive’s apricot scrub your Mom used that felt like literal sand paper rubbing against your cheeks. You know which one I’m talking about. Flash forward a decade and here I am living in the middle of a skincare lover’s dream – South Korea. I had heard bits and pieces here and there about the obsession Korean’s had with their appearance, K- Beauty seemed to be quite the popular buzzword. It wasn’t until around 3 months into my new life where I really started feeling the pressure to constantly look good, I’m talking like red lips on a Tuesday afternoon good. There was actually a point in Korean culture that women would get sent home from work if they weren’t wearing enough makeup. Insane, right? This is just an example to give you some insight as to how big of a role the beauty industry plays here. There’s been quite a bit of backlash from society recently about the dangers of looking “perfect” 24/7 and how it’s affecting the younger generations which I totally get. I mean I want to look like Jennie from BLACKPINK too? Who wouldn’t.
But if it’s one thing Koreans do best, it’s skincare. There’s no arguing here. Health and wellness is huge in Korea – taking care of yourself by movement, hydration, nutrition and – you guessed it – skincare. Like Lee Sa-Bi, a South Korean model says in an interview with Byrdie: “Taking care of your skin means taking care of your overall health. Beautiful skin is an outcome of a healthy lifestyle: eating well, sleeping well, and exercising enough, and, of course, using products with great ingredients that are right for your skin type.” and I couldn’t agree more.
So let’s get started, this is going to be an overview of the 10 step method that i’ve recently introduced into my life and has changed my skin forever. Think dewy, glowing, bright – all the words you want to describe your skin with. These are the steps and products I’ve used to completely transform my skin. I know what you’re thinking though, OMG 10 STEPS! I get it it sounds so daunting, but you have to think about the importance of your skin, like it’s your fucking face people? It’s not just a random part of your body no one sees. It’s the first thing you see in the mirror, its the first think others see, and honestly I think we all know how shitty it feels to be going through a breakout and how you don’t even want to go out in public at times, nobody enjoys that. Want to know what we all enjoy? Feeling confident enough to go out and about makeup free, there’s nothing better than having a good skin day both girls and guys. So what I say to people is you have to start treating your skin like the queen organ she is and if you don’t, well then keep your complaints to yourself.
STEP #1: OIL BASED CLEANSER
First step is by far the most important. It’s called a double cleanse. I genuinely think that this is one of the most, if not the most important step in the k-beauty method. Whether you wore makeup that day or not, your skin goes through a lot that you don’t even realize – the toxins in the air, blue light from screens, chemicals from literally EVERYTHING, gravity constantly pulling it down? Shits tough. So cleansing is so key to healthy glowing skin and not just any cleansing, an oil & water based cleanse.
First, you want to start off with an oil based cleanser. I use the ma:nyo brand (orange bottle in the picture above) an oil based cleanser gets way deep into those dirty pores that a typical water based one can’t get to. The oil strips off any leftover makeup and really gets into the hard to reach places. After you get down and dirty with an oil based cleanser you should notice that your face looks a hell of a lot cleaner. When oil mixes with water it turns into a white creamy/foamy texture that gets rid of oil-based impurities like makeup and sunscreen.
STEP #2: WATER BASED CLEANSER
Next you want a water based cleanser. I use Klair’s foaming cleanser which I’ve been loving and it’s only $15. You want to use a water based cleanser next because it removes all the water – based impurities which is sweat and dirt.
I wasn’t even aware of the fact there was an oil and water based cleanser. I just thought there was a…cleanser? All my years I only used a water based cleanser, which actually makes me think just HOW much makeup is left deep in my pores…which is a lot.
STEP #3: EXFOLIATE
Next up, we exfoliate. This is where you need to figure out your skin type and if it can handle exfoliation every day. I’ve noticed that my skin looks the best when I use a small pea size of exfoliator every night in my routine. I typically use my Acure facial scrub (yellow bottle) 5 nights per week. Exfoliator gets rid of all those dead ass skin cells that have no business being on your face anymore, this allows all those fancy serums & products to actually penetrate the skin, because whats the point of buying all these products if they can’t actually get into your pores?!
STEP #4: TONER
Ah, toner. One of my favourite steps. I just LOVE the way it feels after I wipe my face. I’ve been using Tony Moly’s brightening toner (green bottle) it was the first Korean product I bought so it holds a special place in my heart. Pollution, oils, makeup and alcohol all throw off your skin’s pH level. Toner is what balances the skin’s PH levels meaning it won’t cause excessive dryness, it brings it back to its natural sate. Also, if you’ve toned before, you know it gets all the rest of that makeup/dirt thats been left behind. You feel SO clean after using it.
STEP #5: TREATMENTS
This is the fun part – those fancy serums and ampoules you buy to really boost your skin even if you don’t actually know what they’re doing. This will be different for everybody, but I’m currently using COSRX’s propolis light *ampoule* which contains 83.25% of black propolis, which is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredient, the ampoule helps in healing stressed skin and reducing redness. (*psssst…an ampoule is NOT a serum, it’s actually a more concentrated version of a serum so it’s way more of a boost for your skin vs a serum*)
I’ve also been using the VC Power 10 Formula Ampoule. This shit is insane. I bought it after my backpacking trip in Vietnam when my skin needed some serious help. The lady at the department store told me it was their best seller, a little goes a really long way with this one. It hydrates my skin like no other and I literally look wet after I put it on. Just the way I like it.
STEP #6: ESSENCE
Essence – can be both in a spray form or similar to a toner (not to get confused with a toner though). Essence is the other secret k-beauty weapon I give a lot of credit to. ‘Originating from the Korean beauty industry, a facial essence – not to be confused with a toner – essentially works as a primer for your moisturiser whilst also including a lot of extra benefits for the skin,’ explains Julia Marinkovich, COSRX UK Representative.
‘Essences combine the various elements of a skincare routine in one step: they hydrate and re-balance the skin whilst also using highly concentrated levels of active ingredients, enabling a deeper penetration into our skin barrier. This extra hydration allows your skin to absorb all the goodness of your next product even more so than usual.’ – From Elle Magazine.
You can never have enough glow people.
STEP #7: SHEET MASKS
The importance of these are severely, SEVERELY, underrated my friends. I have an entire insta highlight dedicated to these and for good reason. I’ve said this twice now, but let’s make it a third. I think this is the step that’s transformed my skin the most. You see they all are like the domino effect, you need to double cleanse OBVI before you do a sheet mask so you can’t have one without the other. Here in Korea, they sell sheet masks in bins on the side of the road. So accessible, so cheap. In Canada you’re paying $5 minimum for a mask, here they vary from $1-2.50, for a good one. High end ones are around $5. My absolute FAVE brand is Mediheal (like seriously, go check my iG highlight if you don’t believe me @stilllinprogress) I’ve linked ones in my amazon shop here. This just FEEDS and NOURISHES your skin to the max. The top models/idols use one every single night, I get it though, you’re drowning in student debt. Same. So I try to do one at least 3 x per week.
STEP #8: EYE CREAM
I have yet to find an eye cream I like, currently I’m not using one. So I don’t have much to say but when I find one I will use it AFTER the sheet masks and tell you exactly which one I’m using don’t worry.
STEP #9: MOISTURIZER
If you scroll up until you see the purple bottle – that’s my moisturizer. Its Haruharu WONDER Maqui Berry Anti–Oxidant Cream. I’m currently experimenting with moisturizers. I really like this one because its light and smells fucking delicious. They use fermented maqui berry which is like the most amazing superfood ingredient that really focuses on anti aging. You can check it out here.
STEP #10: SUN SCREEN
If this is your morning than you would put on some type of sun protection. It’s the step we all roll our eyes at, I get it. I still can’t seem to give it enough credit even after reading hundreds of articles on the importance of it. It’s sort of like water, we ALL know we’re supposed to wear it, we ALL know the benefits of wearing it and the horrible consequences of not wearing it, but we just choose to look past it. Us humans, we always tend to ignore things we know are good for us – but I’m getting better at it. I recently bought Dr. G’s Sun Brightening Stick and I’ve been loving how easy it goes on, it doesn’t look like sunscreen or smell like it, it’s also not oily so it doesn’t make your skin look like you just worked out in 30 degree weather.
Here we are, at the end of our skincare journey together. My final reminder to you is that no 1 product will magically change your skin, at the end of the day it is a direct reflection on how you treat your body. For me personally, it was never one product that made a entire difference it’s the consistent practice of following this step-by-step routine that’s made the biggest change – so like anything worth having, great skin takes time. Just to clarify, I use this 10 step routine every single night. But in the morning I typically just do a water based cleanser, treatment, moisturizer & sunscreen. I don’t feel the need to do it in the morning because I was simply just sleeping. I really hope this helps spark your interest in skincare, this shouldn’t be intimidating I honestly find it so much fun – it’s like the best form of self care for me (especially the sheet mask). I’ll continue to share my skincare journey with you, part of the fun is buying and testing out new products. You can always send me a DM if you have any other questions – so in the meantime happy hunting!
I’ve posted some youtube videos going over my skincare routines – check them out & don’t forget to subscribe xx.