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Breaking Down The Daunting 10-Step Korean Skincare Regime

For generations, Koreans have been taking care of their skin with patience, products full of natural ingredients, and the multistep regime. But within the past few years, K-beauty and Korean skincare have taken the world by storm, with good reason—they work.

But what is it about Korean skincare that makes its so synonymous with a good, healthy epidermis? Alicia Yoon, founder and curator of K-beauty company Peach & Lily, told us that that the regimes and products are both unique. “The beauty culture and legacy in Korea is so steeped in the historical, traditional, and natural ingredients,” she said. “So ultimately, you’re going to have products that are much less harshly formulated and using a lot of natural ingredients that have been passed on and time tested through the generations.” Because of the fierce competition of skincare and beauty brands in Korea, the expectations are high. The scent, texture, price point, packaging, application, effectiveness–everything has to delight. “The consumer in Korea is very super savvy so the products themselves need to do things that the consumer here isn’t demanding,” she said. “They need to be extremely efficacious. If you don’t produce results as a brand in Korea, you’ll just die overnight.” Intense.

By following a multistep regime, “you’re essentially doing things that are much more of a long-term focus, less immediate gratification,” Yoon said. Preserving health skin while you can is an important mantra for those who follow these multistep regimes. It may seem daunting due to its common branding as “10-step routine.” However, it is not actually 10 steps. “I think it’s a marketing tool that someone came up with,” she said. Though several of the steps are essential, others are personalized depending on your skin troubles and concerns.

Below is a breakdown of the multistep regime in question.

Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse (and repeat.)

There are two types of cleansers that you should look into. The first is oil-based. Due to polarity  and all that science business we don’t fully comprehend, oil-based cleansers helps to take off all that oil-based grime, like makeup, sunscreen, sebum, and pollution. Then, go in with the water-based foam cleanser, which removes the rest. “Cleansing is not about overexfoliating. It’s about double cleansing and doing it in a gentle way,” Yoon said. And if you do want to exfoliate, it should be “super, super, super” gentle.

Posting a series of my fave @peachandlily picks for a full #kbeauty regimen! Step 1: double cleansing. This alone can make a huge visible difference – healthier, stronger, less compromised skin. Oil cleanser: oil draws oil, so it's key to use an oil cleanser to get draw out spf, makeup, sebum with impurities trapped in pores. This #cremorlab cleansing gel oil is for all skin types and is going to get everything off and leave skin soooo supple. No more tugging to get makeup off and no greasy residue. This is a staple in my bathroom! Water-based cleanser: remove everything else without stripping skin dry and get to cleaning deep into pores gently. The #mizon egg cleanser is great for even sensitive skin types. Papaya extract helps to gently slough away dead cells and also egg whites nourish. Post-cleansing, skin is still moist, not stripped dry, and really velvety feeling.

A photo posted by Alicia Yoon 알리샤 윤 (@aliciayoon212) on

Tone it up.

Yoon says while toners offer different benefits, their primary function is to balance your skin’s pH level. It is essential to follow up a good cleansing session with toner because “even though the cleanser may be pH balanced, the water is often not.” Your skin’s proper pH level ensures that there is a healthy skin barrier and your acid mantle—your skin’s protective layer—stays intact, preventing dry and sensitive skin. 

Essences, serums, and ampoules—oh my!

These three categories are products that seem to confuse people the most, so let’s break them down.  Essence is used for hydration, and serums and ampoules really penetrate the skin to target issues like hyperpigmentation, or add antioxidants to your skin.

Yoon’s favorite serum, one that she cannot live without, is Shangpree’s S-energy Long Lasting Concentrated Serum. Shangpree is the “literally, objectively” number one spa in Korea. The spa’s estheticians sweep national esthetician competitions (who knew they even had those?) and it even won awards from the government. With a formulation that includes hydrolyzed silk and liquid oxygen, it makes Yoon feel like she “slept well the entire week.” She says her face is plumped up, firm, and youthful after she uses this holy grail product.

Keep it tight! 

If you browse beauty blogs, you know there’s a slew of suggestions on when to start using that eye cream. Because collagen production starts to decline right around when you hit 20, Yoon says that’s when you should begin. Because your eyelids have the thinnest and delicate skin of your body, moisture leaves this area rapidly. Eye cream is essential to keep the moisture from evaporating from your skin. While you may feel you may not need it at that age due to a lack of wrinkles, Yoon says, “preventive skincare is far more effective than repairing damage.” 

You worked hard. Now, lock it all in.

Moisturizer locks in all the goodness that you worked so hard to carefully layer on. One of Yoon’s all-time favorites is Cremorlab’s Snow Falls Melting Cream. She says her face feels “embalmed in this very gentle formulation.” In the pot, it’s waxy, but it melts in your hand to create a velvety texture. Because her skin is on the dry side, she even uses a small amount of it in summer.

Posting a series of my fave @peachandlily picks for a full #kbeauty regimen! Step 6: moisturizer. Seal in all the skin-benefitting ingredients with a moisturizer that'll lock all that into skin. Find one that won't irritate or break you out, and with a texture and scent you love so that you'll enjoy this last step and stick to your routine. Remember, consistency is everything! #cremorlab snow falls melting cream. I've gone through so many tubs of this one. Extremely hydrating. Lightweight but the heaviest texture of the 3 shown here. Such a fun unique texture that scoops out like a waxy texture but then totally melts into skin and embraces the skin like a hydrating, velvety balm that isn't greasy or heavy at all. Great for dry, normal and combo skin. Some folks w oily skin love, others not as much. It's not a big oil-based cream so ok for oily skin but a god-send for dry, normal and combo skin. #aromatica calendula juicy cream. Amazing for all skin types. Super duper gentle and calming and soothing. Makeup applies well over it. Reminds me a bit of the cult fave @embryolisse lait-creme concentre for how it hydrates and primes skin, and it's texture. I product-test a lot, and this one is the cream I reach for all the time when my skin isn't happy w me. Toxin-free and gentle enough for everyone. And pretty lightweight for oily skin types but somehow really hydrating even for dry skin types. This one got a lot of beauty awards in Korea. #mizon all-in-one snail repair cream. This, like its sister eye cream, does it all. Hydrates without greasiness, firms, fights hyperpigmentation, helps keep acne at bay, and helps skin regenerate. Also went on @qvc w this super popular cream. Would recommend for combo and oily skin types. Dry skin types (like me) will find this not heavy enough, but oily and combo skin types will love this one.

A photo posted by Alicia Yoon 알리샤 윤 (@aliciayoon212) on


If you plan on leaving your vanity and stepping into the sun’s rays, slather on that SPF, especially in the summer. SPF is an essential step, but that’s not always enough to protect your skin. “Keep your skin loaded with antioxidants,” said Yoon. “SPF is not foolproof and when free radicals from, a lot of them can be fought off by the antioxidants in your skin.” When Yoon goes on vacation, she wears a lot of SPF, but she is “also doubling down on products that have a lot of antioxidants.” These can be found in the serums and ampoules that talked about earlier.

That’s so extra…

To get that extra boost of hydration, look into sheet, peel off, and clay masks. All have different purposes. Just one important thing—whatever you do, do nooot leave on the mask for too long.  If you do, all the moisture that you patiently waited to seep into your now-gorgeous visage will go back into mask.

For newcomers to the world of Korean skincare, Yoon offers these words of wisdom: “Cleansing is half the battle, so make sure you’re doing a good double cleanse. I would say if you want to combine things, use a toning essence so it’ll can balance your skin’s pH plus hydrate. Make sure you seal it all in with moisturizer and, of course, use SPF. That’s the foundation. From there, if you want add in functional things that will help regenerate skin cells, help with firmness, help with hyperpigmentation—you can choose a la carte.” She says to focus on proper cleansing, good hydration, good protection, and you’re off to get great start.

Stay tuned to Milk for more demystification of beauty routines. 

Photo from Dramafever. 

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