As our education in health and wellbeing has grown exponentially over the past decade, so has our knowledge of beauty and, in particular, skincare. We’re more aware of the ingredients in our products, and the weight given to a brand by ethical practices or scientific backing is more important than ever. So it might come as no surprise that Korean beauty, where ‘skincare first’ is a popular mantra, is now big news over here.
‘People are on a journey of discovery with K beauty,’ says Victoria Martin, co-founder of Crane & Peach, a specialist distribution company for Korean skincare. ‘We’re breaking out from what we know and looking at global brands.’
With almost unrivalled innovation in everything from packaging to ingredients, it’s no wonder K beauty is so popular right now. ‘There’s an air of mystery around the Korean 10-step routine,’ says Victoria. ‘Like, how can there be so many products? But once you start looking into it, it makes perfect sense.’
Plus, you don't need to do every step every day: ‘It’s about personalising and adapting it to suit your skin. But I would advise everyone to follow the double cleanse, tone and SPF steps. Prepping and protecting your skin is key.’
So here’s a masterclass in the Korean skincare routine, with a full breakdown of the 10-step method that has shaken up our traditional cleanse, tone and moisturise rules.
The double cleanse
This is the cornerstone of Korean skincare and one of the most important steps to add to your routine. If you’re a quick-swipe-with-a-make-up-wipe kind of person, cleansing twice might seem a bit much, but once you see the benefits of rinsing off make-up and surface impurities with an oil cleanser and environmental aggressors with a water-based version, we think you’ll be converted.
The gentle exfoliator
Korean women are careful not to over-exfoliate. Once or twice a week is more than enough to slough away dead skin cells and keep your complexion looking bright. Opt for AHA and BHA exfoliators over scrubs, which can be abrasive and do more harm than good.
The return of toner
Toner has been overlooked in recent years, but it’s a mainstay in Korean skincare because it balances the skin’s PH levels and helps subsequent products absorb into your complexion. New-generation toners are also full of skin-loving antioxidants and offer an extra hit of your favourite ingredients.
The essence of Korean skincare
An essence is similar to a serum, in that it contains more concentrated ingredients, but it’s much lighter in consistency – making it easier to layer up as part of a 10-step routine. As a rule, you should apply your skincare products from the thinnest consistency to the thickest, adding an essence after your toner but before an ampoule.
The introduction of ampoules
This is still a fairly new concept in the UK, but some brands are already offering this targeted treatment. To be used for a finite amount of time, ampoules offer an even more intense number of active ingredients than an essence or a serum. The perfect booster for stressed-out skin.
The (slightly scary-looking) sheet mask
You might have already added a sheet mask to your skincare routine, but it’s worth knowing why they are so popular right now. Soaking your complexion with a cloth, saturated with potent ingredients, gives them more opportunity to sink into the skin. They also contain fewer preservatives than regular masks, making them ideal for daily use.
The new-generation eye cream
Your eyes are the first part of your face to show signs of ageing, so it’s important not to skip this stage in the routine. Look out for creams, balms and concentrates with high levels of hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate the delicate skin.
The must-have moisturiser
Hydration is the key to a flawless complexion, according to many Korean dermatologists. So make sure you keep skin plumped with a rich cream, even if you’re using serums and an SPF. Wait five minutes for your moisturiser to sink in before applying SPF to stop skin becoming overloaded.
The all-important SPF
Korean women wear sunscreen even on a rainy day, even if they are staying inside. UVA and UVB rays can still penetrate glass and cause signs of ageing. Get into the habit of wearing sunscreen every day, just as you do with moisturiser, and your skin will benefit for years to come.