There’s the Korean skincare routine…and then there’s the Korean skincare routine when the seasons are changing. Yes, it’s about to get more complicated comprehensive.
The name of the game now that dry, chapped, irritated skin looms on the horizon is hydration—it helps prevent and reduce fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and scarring by allowing skin to take in proper nutrients from other products. I personally follow a strict, almost OCD-like 10 to 11-step regimen because my skin is sensitive and about as dry as the Sahara. Here are some of the best (and personally tested) Asian skincare products buzzy enough to keep Korean skincare junkies sated and glowing through the harshest of winters.
(A word of caution: The Korean-derived regimen can be a bit overwhelming, both time and cost-wise, but if you ask me, it doesn’t hurt to dedicate a few more minutes and bucks to look visibly flawless without makeup.)
Step 1 + 2: Cleanse Two Ways
First, take off your makeup; then cleanse again. It’s a tad repetitive, but it’s worth it. If you value convenience as much as I do, Cremorlab T.E.N. Cremor Cleansing Veil wipes are it. They’re extra moist, and come in a huge pack of 70 sheets. For the second step, Amorepacific Treatment Cleansing Foam lathers up into a pleasantly soft foam and washes away any remaining residue. Vitamin E microbeads burst and nourish your skin as you massage the cleanser onto your face, leaving it soft and clean (but not to the point where you feel your face will rip apart from squeaky-cleanness).
_Step 3: Exfoliate _
Gentle exfoliators live on every Korean woman’s beauty shelf, and they lend more effective results than your typical drugstore facial scrubs formulated with irritating AHA exfoliants. I use one about four times a week. Tatcha’s Classic Rice Enzyme Powder has no fragrance and leaves your skin feeling soft and looking brighter with just one use. Tatcha is a Japanese brand, but if you’re looking to stick to the Korean theme, the Amorepacific Treatment Enzyme Peel is a botanical-based gentle exfoliator that leaves your skin feeling baby soft, but with some added fragrance.
_Step 4: Tone _
The Innisfree Green Tea Pure Skin toner got me through puberty. It’s got antioxidants and other botanical ingredients that thoroughly moisturize, while still fighting off oiliness. Enough said.
_Step 5: Sheet Mask _
Sheet masks right after you get out of the shower are truly a revelation. If you’re not doing this already, start immediately. I use the Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Water-Full Hydrogel Mask for ultimate nourishment, or the Cremorlab Herb Tea Blemish Minus Calming Mask to calm my skin, which easily turns red after cleansing. I keep mine in the fridge to add to a cooling effect. It’s the best feeling to sit in bed with a sheet mask and a good read. Do it! Three times a week!
Step 6: Essence
The current star of the Korean skincare show is essence. Often mistaken for toner, which balances skin’s pH level, essence packs active ingredients deep inside skin barriers. The Cremorlab Mineral Essence is a great multi-targeting essence with no fragrance (and the bonus of pristine packaging). A personal favorite is the Belif Hungarian Water Essence, which contains a natural herbal formulation that Hungarian Queen Elizabeth used to bathe in (apparently she had flawless, ageless skin).
Step 7: Eye Cream
Once you’re in your 20s, not using eye cream is no longer an option. Trust me—and many other Korean women. Tatcha Revitalizing Eye Cream is super dense and great for dark under-eyes and fine lines. It also works around the corners of your mouth.
__Step 8: Serum __
Also winning in the packaging category, Belif Peat Miracle Revital Serum Concentrate is an enriching serum that revitalizes the skin while smoothing visible fine lines. It’s formulated with glacier water and various herbs that deeply hydrate the skin.
Step 9: Moisturize
Rovectin Anti-Irritant Barrier Repair Ultra Cream is a hero of a product, flying off the shelves of lifestyle markets all over Seoul. The brand was originally created for cancer patients that suffer with skin deterioration and cell regeneration difficulties due to prolonged treatments. The cream guards against eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis—and it’s baby-safe. My skin is so flaky and never works well with regular foundations, but this particular cream has helped—you’ll be dewy without the extra layer of oil.
_Step 10: Oil _
Apply Aromatica’s Organic Argan Oil before heading off to bed—it’ll lock in moisture without making you look shiny during your day.
_Step 11: SPF _
Then comes sun protection. Cremorlab Sun Protective SPF35 pa++ is, so far, the only sun protectant that hasn’t caused my skin to break out into a bumpy-red rebellion. This product is very lightweight and can be used as a makeup primer.
As for cosmetics, I like to keep my makeup minimal. I always use the Hera Cushion Compact in C21 (which is super pale and fit for fairer skin tones) to hide blemishes and even out my complexion. If you are tan-skinned, I recommend purchasing the darker N tone. This specific cushion compact was developed in Amorepacific’s R&D center for 7 years, and it leaves your skin dewy and glowing. It’s the perfect addition to any beauty bag. Go ahead, indulge.
Photographed by Tom Newton.
Now that you've got skincare down, read up about Korean makeup.