Why K-Beauty is Taking Over the World

Discover the 10-step skincare routine Korean women swear by

Words by Emma Tiernan
June 6th, 2018

K-Beauty has taken the beauty industry by storm ever since they introduced us to BB cream back in 2011. This one-step hero product has become a makeup bag mainstay, however, all attention is now focused firmly on their skincare products. K-beauty, the umbrella term given to beauty products that hail from South Korea, focuses on the health, hydration and the preferred lack of pigment in the skin. The aim is to achieve a dewy, glowy and youthful looking complexion, so you can wear as little makeup as possible.

Dubbed as the new skincare superpower, South Korea is considered to be about 12 years ahead of skincare innovation globally. So, what makes South Korea miles ahead of the rest of us? According to Alicia Yoon, who is a Korean skincare expert, the reason is that “Korean beauty heritage is steeped in natural ingredients that are passed down from generation to generation and they tend to shy away from using harsh chemicals and draw more from the earth”. Korean women are not looking for an overnight answer to their skincare woes, they know that good skin starts from within. Effectively, it’s about looking out for what you put into your body and how, in turn, that affects your skin.

The Korean market utilises the most advanced western ingredients along with some pretty unusual ones of their own such as bee venom and snail mucin. That might seem a little out there but anyone who has been to South East and East Asia can understand just how big snail mucin is in beauty products- it’s everywhere. No matter how gross it may sound to us, this ingredient reportedly works wonders for Asian women and is included in a lot of beauty products in the East.

With Korean women so strongly focused on taking care of their skin, it is no wonder that they have a 10-step skincare routine. While not everyone will use the exact 10 steps, some might have less, and others might have more, the basic ten steps are a good guideline to use if you are looking to give your skin a little TLC, Korean style.

Step One/ Cleanse

Cleanse your skin using an oil-based cleanser to dissolve and remove makeup, SPF, excess oils and impurities that build up throughout the day.

Step Two/ Double Cleanse

Follow up with a second cleanse, this time using a water-based cleanser to deep clean the skin and prep your complexion for the following steps.

Step Three/ Exfoliate

Depending on your skin type, it’s not always necessary to exfoliate every day but aim to exfoliate at least twice a week to give your skin that little extra helping hand as this helps to get rid of dead skin cells that tend to build up and clog pores. Once the dead skin cells are gone it helps the rest of your skin care products work their magic.

Step Four/ Hydrating Toner

The key to a youthful looking complexion is all about keeping your skin hydrated. Specific toners help rehydrate your skin and balance the pH level after cleansing.

Step Five/ Essence

Essence is considered to be one of the most important steps in a Korean skin routine. Generally thought to be more lightweight and watery than a serum, essence is the latest development in this field. The purpose of them is to help hydrate the skin and aid in skin repair and cell turnover. Thanks to their thin, watery nature, they are easily absorbed by the skin.

Step Six/ Face Oils, Serums & Ampoules

This step of the skin care routine is the most personalised to individuals. As everyone’s skin is different, it’s important to use the right products for what your skin needs. So, for example, if you want to target redness or dullness, look for a facial oil, serum and/or ampoule (a supercharged, more potent version of a serum with higher concentrations of active ingredients) that specifically treats these concerns in this step. These are the products that you should spend the most on.

Step Seven/ Sheet Mask

When you think of Korean beauty, often the first thing that comes to mind are the kitsch sheet masks they have become famous for. Not only are they adorable they also provide maximum effects, whatever your reason for using them, be it hydration, X or X. Just like step three, you don’t need to include this part every day; once or twice a week will suffice. You can add a sheet mask in when you feel like pampering your skin a little extra, just pop one on for 15 to 20 minutes, relax with a cup of soothing green tea and you have yourself a little mini facial.

Step Eight/ Eye Cream

The skin around your eyes is delicate and one of the first places to age prematurely so taking care of that area in particular is of the utmost importance. Applying eye cream helps to protect and hydrate the skin, keeping pesky fine lines at bay and helping to reduce dark circles. Make sure to apply it before you moisturise the rest of your face, though.

Step Nine/ Moisturiser

As hydration is the key to that healthy glow it is important to find a moisturiser that works well for you and your skin type. For oily skin, a lightweight water-based moisturiser is often better while creams and oils are more generally suited to drier skin. Make sure to apply your preferred product to both your face and your neck!

Step 10/ SPF

While in the West many of us long to be sunkissed, in the East many women value having pale skin which is why they are so concerned with SPF – and rightly so! No matter if it is the height of summer or the middle of winter, it is vital to wear SPF every day as it is the easiest way to prevent premature ageing and skin cancer. Plus, many SPF products also protect you from other harsh elements such as pollution which is a huge concern in such a big city like Seoul.