I tried the 10-STEPS Korean-skincare routine...
So recently, I was kindly sent the deluxe samples for Laneige Whitening Plus skincare range. With the winter hitting its hardest now in Boston, I thought it'd be an excellent period to try the Korean 10-steps skincare routine. With the little sunlight and the brutal wind, my skin is looking dull and dry even though it is 'behaving'.
Now, when it comes to skincare, I've always err on the side of the simpler, the better. If you were to ask me a year ago, I would tell you I believe fully in the Western skincare routine - cleanse, tone, moisturize. I still stand by this, except with a few tweaks here and there.
But I definitely wasn't applying 10 layers to my face. That always seemed excessive! However, I can never deny that luminous glow Korean ladies have. That is the glow of really healthy, hydrated and youthful skin! Who is gonna say no to that??
With the help of the Laneige products, I went on a research-craze for Korean skincare routines and I was so blown away. I mean, I expected the number of steps but I wasn't expecting all the different names and products. The range is so extensive, it is an entirely different world of exploration altogether.
So today, I am gonna try and break down the steps of a Korean-skincare routine and talk about how I feel about them!
In Korean skincare, a lot of them are targeted at brightening and whitening as Asian girls tend to favor the glowy fair look instead of tanned, bronzed looks liked by their Western counterparts.
Same brand or mix it up?
I often get the question if we should stick to a same brand for the entire range of products or if its okay to mix it up. For me personally, I've always stuck to the logic of using different products to target different purposes. Asian brands hardly contain chemical exfoliants that I personally find useful for keeping black/whiteheads at bay. If you have combination skin, this method would suit you the best as it means you get to combat oiliness and yet, provide hydration where needed.
That aside, if the method of using a one-brand range has worked for you, pls stick with it! Skincare is not a one-size-fits-all. Your skin changes as you age, as you move to different areas with extreme climate differences, you eat unhealthily for a week, your sleep schedule is screwed up....and I can go on hahaha but I won't. You get my point.
I have a basic set of routine I use when my skin is 'behaving' but I also make sure I stay in tune with my skin. If the wind picks up in Boston, I do my best to make sure I pack on extra hydration. If I find that my skin is duller on days before I get my period, I include products that are brightening. With this method, I find that my skin has really improved by leaps and bounds.
I honestly can't believe the amount of products I am seeing as well hahaha When I first started this 'quest' to try out this skincare routine, I think one of my biggest fear was it being too heavy for my skin or just a complete shock since I don't really have this habit of layering products. But oh wells, okay, for the sake of beauty, I have been trying this routine out for 3 weeks now! I will also talk about how I prevent clogged skin.
Step 1: Removal of makeup/sunscreen
I think double-cleansing is more commonly preferred by Asian ladies and this simply means using a makeup remover first before using a cleanser. With the 'advancements' made on makeup today - theres budge-proof, smudge-proof, waterproof and basically, everything-proof - a normal cleanser won't cut it. It just won't. Don't clog up your pores by skipping this step.
For me personally, I stick to using a micellar water cause that has proven to work really well with the makeup I use and my skin type. If you have much drier skin you can consider using the Oil-Cleansing Method to remove your makeup! I like to use the OCM once every fortnight.
Even if you wear sunscreen alone, I highly recommend this step because sunscreen is also made of chemicals that sit on top our skin, that our cleanser might not fully clean off.
Step 2: Cleanse
When picking a cleanser, go for one that suits your skin type. Oily skins tend to prefer gel cleaners while drier or sensitive skins can benefit from a milky cleanser so it isn't too harsh. I also do my best to pick a cleanser that has gentle ingredients. For me, I don't require my cleanser to multi-task. There are cleansers out there with AHA or BHA, or whitening benefits - but tbh, I don't see how the chemicals are supposed to perform optimally when its being washed off after a minute. I just really don't get that.
In addition, I tend to use my cleanser with my beloved Foreo mini every night and I prefer a gentle cleanser because the Foreo is already exfoliating my face as it cleanse. In the day, I like to use my fingers to gently massage my face as I cleanse to wake my skin and prep it for the day.
Step 3: Exfoliate
Physical exfoliators can be used 1-2x a week and to clear away dead skin cells and dirt on the surface of the skin. Chemical exfoliants - my favorite - include AHA/BHA/PHA. This goes deeper than skins surface and helps to regenerate skin surface. They also remove dirt from deep within the pores!
For me, after so many trial and error, I have found my perfect HG exfoliator - the CNP Invisible Peeling Boost! This is a PHA and I choose to apply it both day and night after I cleanse my face. Personally, I feel that this step helps to prep my skin for better absorption. With this, I've cut down on physical exfoliants to 1x in 2 weeks.
My next exfoliant is a BHA with it's 1.5% salicylic acid. This however, goes only on my t-zone as my problem area is there.
It is also another HG of mine for clogged pores/black/whiteheads and textured skin. I've tried both the US and European Formulation and this US formulated LRP Effaclar K is truly the best one for my skin. In fact, this is my second almost-finishing tube and I have a backup on the way! I can't live without this.
Step 4: Replenish
*Step 4-7 is only on cheeks and forehead*
In this step, the main point is to introduce moisture BACK into your skin after cleansing. This is why people always say apply your products immediately after you step out of the shower/cleanse your face because as you wait, and as the water starts to evaporate further, your skin will get drier.
There's a ton of names for this step - treatment essence, microessence, mist, lotion, toner etc. The product is normally not as thick and is slightly watery. Normally, after CNP, I would just go in with my moisturizer + oil. Instead, I tried out the Laneige White Plus Renew Skin Refiner!
This is the most watery out of the range and I pour some on a cotton pad and gently PAT the product in. You can opt to do this with your finger tips as well but I find that with watery product, it can be slightly messy so I prefer a cotton pad. This is definitely lightweight and whenever my skin starts feeling too tight from cleansing, patting on a'lil of this gives it a hydrated feeling. BUT, I compared this to the Laneige Moisture Essential Power Skin Refiner and I find it gives the same sensation. It absorbs really quickly as well.
For me, this step can be easily replaced with my Estee Lauder Mikcroessence as well. I find that it immediately gives that boost of hydrating sensation. Amidst my research, I also found out that some ladies find using a mist in this step helpful as well! There's no need for cotton pads or anything, just spritz on the mist and pat it in!
Step 5: Tone
Ok, to be extremely very honest, this is the part where I got so lost and confused. After pouring through so many articles, I realized that the general rule of thumb is to apply your products from the lightest to heaviest consistency - that makes perfect sense. However, it still doesn't explain this step. For many, serums and essences go on top now and emulsion follows behind as it is often deemed as a lighter moisturizer. However, in this case, due to the labelling, it feels like I am doing it wrong but I really am not haha I checked like, 3 times.
As I mentioned above, the step technically would be a serum but as the Renew Emulsion is lighter than the Essence, this is the next step! The leaflet describes this as a 'BOOSTER' step to other products going on top and what it does is to lock down the first layer of moisture.
So this texture, as u can see, is definitely not as watery but its not thick either. Really lies somewhere closer to a watery gel. I apply the product on my fingers and pat it into my cheeks and forehead. I am kinda still on the fence about this product because firstly, I am not too sure it helps in any way. When I use it, my skin doesn't feel any different from after the Refiner (Step 4).
In conclusion, I find this step optional and will only do it if I feel like it haha
Step 6: Treat
This is my absolutely favorite step! I look forward to this step a ridiculous amount considering its probably a minute or two of my day. In the Korean skincare routine, this is a really important step! Ampoules, essence/serums, sheet masks are all categorized under this step. It's where you provide intensive treatments with concentrated products to correct imperfections such as hyper pigmentation, wrinkles, dryness, scars etc. This is a potent step to 'treat' our skin.
Ampoules are the most potent product for treatment in the market. It is often followed by essence or serum (an essence and serum generally mean the same thing in my head so I am gonna put them together.)
This whitening essence has a 4-Free formula and contains Advanced Melacrusher (which is a trademark ingredient) that brightens skin by preventing melanin pigmentation with saururus chinensis - main whitening ingredient developed by AMORE PACIFIC! Wtf it sounds damn magical but I gotta say, I LOVE THIS.
This is how the original bottle looks like. it comes with a dropper and I love that cause super hygienic! I apply one drop each to my forehead and each cheek. Then I just use my fingers and pat the product in.
And as u can see, it is slightly in consistency compared to the emulsion in step 5! I believe my skin is so much brighter cause of this essence! It has evened out my skin tone completely and gives it this glow. I can almost see an immediate difference when I use this on my forehead. I like to just pat the product in for ~10-15 seconds and my surface is immediately plumped up and more dewy. I really really like this.
Step 7: Moisturize
Now this is ALMOST the final step! I can't believe I am still typing. It's been like, 2 hours already....am I just slow? Okay, this is a step that requires you to know your skin type before committing. Oily/combi skins will do well with a gel or emulsion formula as it is essentially lighter and not as heavy. For drier skin types, opt for a heavier moisturize like a cream to fully hydrate your skin. You all also know I recommend oils for all skin types! Just go for a drier oil like RHO if your skin tends to be oily and use it only at night! I can't live without oils as part of my moisturization routine.
Over here, we have the Renew Original Cream. It does have a gel-cream kinda texture but definitely lightweight. Now, this alone does nothing much for my skin. I don't feel the hydration I need but when I mix it with a couple drops of Nuxe oil or RHO, it's just nice! This is also the step I feel is easily replaced. I usually gauge by how dry my skin feels and if needed, I will go in with a heavier product like smth that contains ceramide. However, I truly believe that the Original Cream will be just nice for me back in sunny SG cause my skin creeps back into oily mode there! Any heavier products will definitely cause me to break out.
Step 8: Eyes
Okay, I don't believe in this part being placed at Step 8 but for the purpose of the infographic, I will explain it as this step but do move it up to Step 4! Your eye area is particularly sensitive and the skin is much thinner. I like to make sure my fingers are clean before gently patting in coconut oil! I don't like to 'contaminate' the sensitive skin with other products that my fingers have been applying to my skin. I also don't apply facial products around my eyes as those are heavier and might cause milia seeds to form.
Step 9: Protect
I like how this step is called 'Protect' hahaha cause it really is! This is the final step of a complete routine! For the day, this is where protecting your skin from UV damages in the day. Apply 1/4 teaspoon amount and if you wanna read more on sunblock, you can find them here. Don't lessen the amount you apply because that will dilute the SPF and PA in it!
My absolute fave sunblock is the Hada Labo one. I did try the Laneige one and I was pleasantly surprised by it.
The sunblock also contain the MelaCrusher technology mentioned above. I like that it is SPF 40 and is pretty stable with 3 '+'s. If u can see, there's also a slight peach nude tint and I find that it does amazing in evening out my skin tone! People with normal skin will like this! After application, the sunblock doesn't set to a complete smooth finish but it has a TEENY TINY tacky sensation and I find that it helps my makeup stay longer! Probably the stickiness that helps makeup adhere better.
This is my 'protection' for night time! I have fallen back in love with sleeping masks cause winter is brutaaaaaal and the wind is just sucking moisture out of my skin.
I alternate between these 3 currently and my favorite is the capsule!! I have a full post on it here. I also have reviewed the Naruko Night Gelly here. The original sleeping mask are super useful on days when I just want a light layer of hydration and I am just keeping it simple.
Step 10: Pamper
Once a week, right after Step 5, I apply a sheet mask to replace Step 6 onwards and as an essence! This is my most 'anything' step cause as long as the sheet mask promises good stuff, I am okay with trying stuff!
Okay, whew...Did you make it to the end? I hope you did and found it helpful! I found this toe-dip into the big ocean of Korean skincare extremely fascinating and I really found some steps that seemed to please my skin plenty! As u can see, when I first came back to Boston in August, my skin was really dull from the long flight, climate change etc. But it's really so glowy and nice now! I love it.
Different skin type requires treatment differently. If all these while, you have stuck by a 3-step routine that works, then pls stick by it! If you are trying out a new product, do patch-test first to make sure your skin is compatible with it. If a product doesn't work after 2-3 weeks, then it probably doesn't suit your skin optimally! If you always have had 30 steps to your routine, and you LOVE IT, then continue pls! It's really personal preference and trial and error before settling on a routine that works for you!
I wish you good luck and plenty of fun finding your perfect Korean routine! Love, Pea.