How To Do The Korean Skincare Routine

howtodo korean skincare routine text

How To Do The Korean Skincare Routine

Hello everyone!
It’s Bronwyn from BiiBiiBeauty here today to help clear some air on the ever so popular Korean skincare routine. This type of routine from Korea is becoming more and more recognized globally to women and even men. However the Korean skincare routine is much more in-depth and complicated in comparison to the average North American skincare routine. So today I will be explaining the routine steps to the Korean skincare routine and how you can create your own Korean skincare routine.


The average North American skincare routine contains at most, roughly around 3-5 steps depending on the individual and their age. This routine will generally contain the follow steps:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. Moisturize

Or for those who have more interest in skincare or looking to treat aging:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. Serum
  4. Spot treatment
  5. Moisturize

During my time working as a sale associate at a luxury beauty boutique, I ended up meeting many individuals from all ages looking to try new products, but not once did I see anyone who used more then 5 products at most. Even trying to sell additional products proved to be a battle of explaining and educating on why using more is better and will give more results. Many tend to go for the classic “3 in 1″ or “all in one” products and little to my surprise, they never see any great results.


On the other hand, the Korean skincare routine is very complex and diverse, which can be intimidated to any new comers to Korean skincare. These routines usually contain anywhere from 10-20 products depending on the individual. The amount of products used also varies based on day-time and night-time which is also something not commonly practiced in North America. You may be thinking, “wow, why would anyone put that many different products on their face at once?”, and that my friend, is because the results are outstanding.

Anyone who looks at Korean culture or even watches Korean dramas or even visits Korea will immediately ask the same question I did, and that is “Why is everyones skin so good?!”.

Let me share with you a quick look at the average Korean skincare routine

howtodo Korean Skincare Routine1


  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. First Essence
  4. Essence
  5. Treatment/Vitamin C
  6. Ampule/Serum
  7. Emulsion
  8. Eye Cream
  9. Lotion/Cream
  10. Sun Cream

Howtodo Korean Skincare Routine2


  1. Oil Cleanse
  2. Foam Cleanse/Cleansing tools
  3. Tone
  4. First Essence
  5. Essence
  6. Treatment/Vitamin C
  7. BHA/AHA
  8. Ampule
  9. Serum
  10. Sheet Mask
  11. Essential Oils
  12. Eye Cream
  13. Emulsion
  14. Night Cream
  15. Sleeping Pack

Of course, everyones routine is different in containing more or less depending on their skincare goals and needs. Not everyone may use 10 products in the morning and not everyone may use 15-20 products at night. But the average Korean women will most likely own and use these items on a daily basis. And it sure does show!

Now let me break down for your each product category and usage, since day-time products are generally also used in the night routine, I will be explaining all products in the night routine in addition to sun cream.


The #1 general rule when it comes to Korean skincare routine’s is that you should apply your products in the order of Thinnest to Thickest. This is ideal for products being absorbed correctly into the skin. Please make note of this when ever you are applying your current or new skincare routine.

cleansers toner

klairs cleanserklairs foam cleansercleansing brushkonjac spongecleansing brush2cleansing brush gentle toner


Cleansing is very important at night time. When you work a full day, are at school all day, or outside all day, you most likely have makeup on as well as sun cream. These impurities travel deep into the pores and get mixed together with sebum, which overall in time can create blackheads, whiteheads and acne if not properly removed at the end of the day. Even if you don’t wear makeup, excess sebum and pollutants in the air from open windows and being outdoors get trapped in the pores.

Oil Cleansing is done first to lift all the makeup, sun cream, skincare, pollutants, dirt and sebum from deep within the pores without harming or stripping the skin.
*Recommended: Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleaning Oil*

After rinsing away the oil cleanser, it is ideal to then use a mild pH balanced foam cleanser to remove any excess oil cleanser. This leaves the skin perfectly cleansed without harming, drying or stripping the skin of its natural moisture.
*Recommended: Klairs Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser*

While using a foam cleanser for second cleansing, it is often common to use a cleansing tool. These can be manual pore brushes, konjac sponges or even mechanical brushes.
*Recommended: COSRX Pore Control Cleansing Brush & CHICA Y CHICO Konjac Sponge & ElishaCoy 3D Spin Cleaner Brush*


In North America, toners are commonly more that of astringents, being very high in alcohol and other ingredients that strip the skin of oils and moisture. These actually are very harmful to the skin especially for those who do not have oily skin types. However in Korean skincare, these “toners” are very uncommon and many stay clear from them unless they have very oily skin.

Toners in Korea are more often liquidy formulas containing treatment ingredients as well as Hyaluronic acid and pore tightening agents to prep the skin for the additional skincare products to be added.

Common ingredients in Korean toners are, Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide, Witch Hazel, Aloe Vera Extract, and Centella Extract. These are most common however Korean toner formulations contain many additional beneficial ingredients that prep, treat and add hydration to the skin. These toners usually do not contain alcohol and have a slightly thicker consistency than water.
*Recommended: Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner*


first essenceessence


The first essence is a power house player in the Korean skincare routine. These types of essences are liquidy products that absorb very quickly into the skin. These are products that contain high amounts of treatments for the skin, not only prepping it for additional skincare, but adding essential nutrients the skin needs at the moment in the routine where it is best absorbed. Not everyone uses a first essence, but using them will significantly boost the effectiveness of all additional products that come after.
*Recommended: Tosowoong Time Shift First Essence*


Similar to that of the First Essence, regular essences are high concentrates of liquid that absorb quickly into the skin that contain treatment ingredients for your targeted skincare needs. These prep the skin and boost the effects of the skincare that follows.
*Recommended: Skin&Lab Bio Activating Essence*




Treatments can vary depending on your skincare need. However these generally are any type of acne treatment, prescription topical medication, or any single focus ingredient product. These included many “whitening”, “brightening”, “Pore tightening” products that have a thinner consistency liquid type texture. Vitamin C serums are also a type of skin exfoliator and should be applied at this point in any skincare routine if the products is of a liquidy consistency.

Vitamin C can be used either during the day or during night. However if you start using a Vitamin C product, then you must start using a sun cream during the day. Vitamin C is an exfoliant that makes the skin more sensitive to sun damage.
*Recommended: Skinmiso Pore Corset Serum or C20 Pure Vitamin C21.5 Advanced Serum*




Now, BHA (beta Hydroxy Acid) and AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) and two types of skin exfoliators. These are ideal for anyone who wants their skin to have a smooth consistent texture, wants to reduce wrinkles, fine lines, prevent wrinkles and fine lines and who also wants get rid of acne pimples, blackheads and whiteheads  as well as skin pigmentation. Basically, they are the ultimate skin perfecters.

BHA works deep into the skin to lift away blackheads and prevent close comedoes and overall keep the skin and pores clear.
*Recommended: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid*

AHA works on the surface layers of the skin to keep whiteheads away, fight against scars and pigmentation as well as fine lines.
*Recommended: COSRX AHA Whitehead Power Liquid*

These are ingredient specific products and are best used before serums and ampules.

If you start using either AHA or BHA then you must also use a sun cream during the day. These types of products chemically exfoliate the skin, making it more sensitive to sun damage.



whiteningampulehydrating serumvitamincerum


Ampules and Serums are very similar in the formulations and the choice between using an ampule or a serum is a choice that is completely up to the individual. These choices on which to use generally is ruled out by which product caters more to their skincare needs or concerns.

Ampules generally are products that target 1 skincare concern, usually containing a highly concentrated main focus ingredient.
*Recommended: COSRX Mela 14 White Ampule*

Serums generally are a thicker consistency and have multiple highly concentrated ingredients to focus on multiple related skincare concerns or a single skincare concern.
*Recommended: Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum & Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop*

Both products are an essentials in anyones skincare routine and should be added to your skincare routine if you are not already using one. Serums are also very popular now in North America and can generally be found for anti-aging and vitamin C or even labeled as all-in-one products.




Sheet masks are just now becoming popular in North America. Korean sheet masks generally are skincare concern targeted treatments that provide either deep hydration or deep moisture into the skin. Sheet masks have many functions and are always used in Korean skincare routines to boost the effects of all the products previously used, creating a “sealing” effect so they absorb deeply into the skin, while providing extra benefits with amazing hydration. Sheet masks are staples in Korean skincare and are used at least 3 times a week or every night. They also are commonly used before applying makeup so the skin looks extra healthy and glowing.

Once the sheet mask is finished, Korean skincare routine generally follows up by patting the excess product into the skin and also doing a small facial massage with the product left on the face. This stimulates blood flow and also allows all the products to fully absorb.
*Recommended: Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Mask Sheet & C20 Natural Vitamin 21.5 Enhancing Sheet Mask*

essential oils

jojoba OilArgan Oil


Oils are not used by everyone, but most commonly used by those with dry and sensitive skin. The oils used are very dependant on the individuals skincare needs and concerns. For example those with dry skin need nourishment and moisture. As such, Jojoba Oil or Argan oil are most commonly used. Those with oily and acne prone skin will use a tea tree oil or combination treatment oil. Korea brands have many different oil combinations for certain skin concerns.

These oils are most commonly applied by being mixed into emulsions, lotions & creams.
*Recommended: Lei Lani Jojoba 100 Natural Oil or Lei Lani Argan 100 Natural Oil*


Donkey Milk EmulsionAcne Control Emulsion


Emulsions usually are lighter moisturizers that are targeted to skincare concerns. In Korean skincare, every skincare line has an emulsion. These usually are milky lotion textures. Usually those this combination to oily skin prefer to use an emulsion as their daily moisturizer.
*Recommended: Pongdang Donkey Milk Emulsion or Enca Acne Control Balancing Emulsion*



Eye creams are cream formulations that are specifically designed for the eye area. The skin around the eyes is the thinnest skin on the body. As such, this skin is the area where the first signs of aging appear. As you get older, you will notice this area feels more dry and tight. At this time it is best to start using eye creams to prevent the signs of aging. There are many types of eye creams and they can be found commonly in both North American and Korean skincare.
*Recommended: ElishaCoy Skin Repairing Snail Eye Balm*

Light Weight Lotion


Lotions are a moisturizer with a consistency of that between emulsion and cream. Generally those with Normal to combination skin will prefer using a lotion during the day and even night. Lotions in Korean skincare come in many different types including those with skincare concern ingredients to suit every need. The choice is dependant on the individuals preference.
*Recommended: Ciracle Radiance Whitening Water Lotion*




Creams are generally prefered for those with dry and sensitive skin types as well as those with mature aging skin. Creams generally have very deep nurishing ingredients that are designed to repair the skins barrier, provide elasticity and collagen back into the skin.
*Recommended: Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream*

Night Creams come in many different forms and are not strictly for those with dry, sensitive or mature skin. Night creams are designed to work best while you sleep. At around 10pm, the skin starts it’s recovery cycle, this is the ultimate time of night to be asleep with a night cream on. Night creams are very nourishing and very targeted to what ever your skin concern is. Night creams are a must have for anyone in their early 20’s and up.
*Recommended: Skinmiso Pore Zero Night Cream*

sleeping pack


Sleeping packs are native to Korean skincare and have just recently been adopted into North American skincare brands. Sleeping packs are designed to be left on the skin while you sleep. They are the final step in night time skincare and are designed to “seal” in all your skincare products. There are many different types of sleeping packs to best suit every skin type. Sleeping packs can be very thick and moisturizing or can be very thin and hydrating. These are excellent to add to anyones night time routine, even if you use minimal products, adding a sleeping pack at the end will overall boost the effects of everything.
*Recommended: COSRX Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask*



Sun cream is a 100% must have in all Korean skincare routines. There are hundreds upon hundreds of different facial sun blocks in the Korean market. And they are so important because over 90% of skin aging is caused by sun exposure. UV rays are the #1 cause of fine lines, wrinkles and skin tone discolouration. By applying sun cream daily at a young age, you are preventing aging in itself. Not only is it the leading cause to visible aging, it also is cancerous, so please do your research or visit a beauty counter with a skin analyzer to see your current level of sun damage. Trust me… once you see what the sun has done to your skin, you will always want to use a sun cream during the day.
*Recommended: COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream*

Also please keep in mind, that skin damage happens deep within the layers of your skin. Damage surfaces over time which is why it is best to start protecting your skin earlier then later.

You can find our full sun cream guide for every skin type here.

Well, that it it for the general structure of a Korean skincare routine. I hope this article could be helpful and educational to anyone who was feeling confused about certain types of products, when to use products and how many products to consider using.

I will see you all next time! xoxo