Erin Sykes

Breaking Down the Korean Skincare Routine for an American Attention Span

The Korean skincare routine is the Holy Grail of beauty rituals; lasting anywhere from 10 to 17 steps, depending on how enthusiastic you are during the serum portion of the regimen. Almost more important than the products, is the order in which you apply them, as it directly affects how well they're absorbed. I’ve tried a variety of methodologies, but being a realist, decided to break it back down to a more manageable 6 steps. The Korean ritual of ‘double cleansing’ is becoming more popular stateside with the first step being removal of stubborn eye, lip, and face makeup with an oil cleanser (e.g. GloTherapeutics Cleansing Oil) followed by a pore freshening foaming cleanser (e.g. Peter Thomas Roth Gentle Foaming Cleanser); both applied with circulation-boosting circular massage. Double-cleansing is the most effective way to wash your face as it first removes oil-based debris (makeup, sunscreen and sebum) completely. Otherwise, the foam cleanser would just push these elements around on the surface of the skin, leaving a residue, preventing future products from fully penetrating.

The next most impactful treatment, also gaining popularity from Asian culture, is the use of an essence lotion (e.g. YonKA HydraNo1 Fluid). This product may look like your typical toner, however, it is packed with powerful anti-antiaging ingredients. Still liquid, but lightly thicker and with a slight slip, this product is best applied when skin is still damp from cleansing and using fingertips (no cotton pads needed). Its light texture will allow for the deepest pore penetration.

Waiting 30 seconds between each product to allow full penetration is essential to magnifying effectiveness. After 30 seconds has passed, apply your targeted serum (waiting 30 seconds), follow with your favorite eye cream (wait 30 seconds) and then follow with moisturizer (with SPF). Note the order of product application moves from thinnest to thickest… i.e. from deepest penetrating to surface protectant.

Soup to nuts, less than 5 minutes… and it’s actually a bit therapeutic. The key is daily prevention, which eliminates any need for expensive facials. Sure, if you’re stumbling home a bit toasty, do yourself a favor and at least wipe off the day’s makeup with some cleansing tissues. Sleeping in your makeup is the universal ultimate skincare sin—whether you're in NYC or Seoul.