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Kathleen Braine
Mar 17, 2015 @ 10:15 am

As beauty-obsessed Americans, we've been openly adopting beauty rituals and products from Korea for years now. From BB Creamsto Sheet Masks, there's no denying that Korea is a mecca of innovative skin care products. Recently, the US beauty consciousness has been focused on the "whole package" of imported Korean skin care; the highly buzzed about "Korean Skin Care Routine." The number of steps in this reported routine ranges from a casual 6 to a daunting 15, but the major points remain the same -- you're utilizing layers of products to cleanse, hydrate, rejuvenate, and protect your face. According to Dermatologist and President of Amarte Skincare Dr. Craig Kraffert, "the multistep Korean regimen has been born out of an obsession with the Korean concept of skin care as a privileged activity of indulgence, enjoyment, and self-respect. Individual steps are [customizable] based on personal preferences and skin requirements."

But listen, I get it, there is a ton of information about building a Korean skin care routine out there, but we don't all have the time to research different Korean products to order off of Amazon, or to fly to Korea to get a custom skin care routine built for us at a spa (ugh, I wish). So, I've simplified the process for you. It's only 9 steps, and I've bucketed them out by cleanse, hydrate, rejuvenate, and protect, so you can save vital brainpower for learning all the lyrics to Rihanna's next single. You're welcome. Read on to discover how to create your own stress-free Korean skin care routine without using any airline miles.


Step One: Cleanser

Seems obvious, but I always wash my face before I apply any makeup or products. The Korean skin care routine asks that you cleanse and then re-cleanse when you're removing makeup, so start with an oil cleanser to remove makeup like Shu Uemura's Whiteefficient Clear Brightening Gel Cleansing Oil, and follow with a gentle cream cleanser that doesn't strip your face of any moisture, like Clinique's Wash Away Gel Cleanser. If you're acne prone you might also want to use a cleanser with acne-fighting ingredients, like Peter Thomas Roth's Beta Hydroxy Acid 2% Acne Wash.

Step Two: Exfoliator

Eliminate dull or rough skin by exfoliating gently post cleansing, but look for scrubs or cleansers that don't debrade or injure the skin (believe me, I love sugar scrubs because I want to eat them directly from the jar, but they're usually too harsh for daily use). Try Amarte Daily ExfoliPowder, or Philosophy's Microdelivery Exfoliating Wash if you're prone to acne.

Step Three: Toner

Toners may seem just like an extra step in the cleansing process, but they actually offer tons of benefits in addition to taking any extra dirt of of your mug. Toners can act as humectants, fight acne, and restore the balance of your skin post cleansing. Try: Fresh's Black Tea Age Delay Instant Infusion Toner.


Step Four: Essence

I'll admit, when I first tried an essence I was very much in the "why is this at all useful" camp. However, after only a few months using SK-II's Facial Treatment Essence, I'm a believer. Essences essentially prepare your skin for moisturizer, but they also are jam-packed with moisturizing and brightening ingredients to basically make your skin look as good as it possibly can. Try essences from SK-IIor Tata Harper if you don't believe me.

Step Five: Serum

According to Dr. Kraffert, "serums deliver optimal levels of hydration directly into the skin...and when applied on just cleaned skin, the serum will penetrate more deeply." I love Amarte Aqua Veil Hydrator for moisture, and DERMAdoctor's Kakadu C Serum for firming and anti-aging.

Step Six: Eye Cream or Serum

It's counter-intuitive, but you don't just have to apply eye cream at night. Try lighter serums or creams like Peter Thomas Roth Power K Eye Rescue or Bioxidea Outline Saver Eye and Lip AntiWrinkle Serum.


Step Seven: Face Mask

You don't need to use a face mask every single day, but adding one to your skin care routine 1-2 times week can give your skin the mini-boost it needs. Try face masks from Dr. Jart or SkinCeuticals.

Step Eight: Night Cream

Conventional wisdom asserts that night cream is too rich for daytime use, hence the "night" descriptor in the title. However, with your personal skin care routine, feel free to throw all arbitrary distinctions right out the window. I love using my CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion in PM during the day because it's rich and doesn't contain any skin-irritating ingredients.


Step Nine: Moisturizer

If you haven't already applied a night cream, finish your skin care ritual with a hydrating and effective daily moisturizer. I've already admitted that I'm obsessed with Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, but if you're not planning on applying makeup with SPF you should look for a moisturizer with sun-protection Bioelements Sun Diffusing Protector.

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