All You Need to Know About Korean Skincare

In my post, “14 Little Things to Make Life Better,” I mentioned my self-care ritual being the 10-step Korean Skincare Routine.  For me it is an essential part of my self-care and helping me to love and appreciate a body that causes me all kinds of problems.  I’ve yet to see a post explain it better than this one, so I encourage you to read it.  But, for those who see that and think “tl;dr”, let me list the steps that I do below.


  1. Gently wash the face with water only (the intense night-time ritual should mean that there is no need to do more than that for cleansing of a morning);
  2. Apply toner;
  3. Apply an essence (I usually skip this step in the morning as I only have one essence and it lives in the other bathroom);
  4. Apply an ampoule;
  5. Apply a serum;
  6. Apply eye cream;
  7. Apply a daily moisturiser;
  8. Apply sunscreen.


  1. Use an oil cleanser (see here for how to do it properly – it’s a little more complex than just smearing oil on your face);
  2. Use a water-based cleanser;
  3. Exfoliate (do not do this nightly – two-three times a week for most skin types is plenty);
  4. Apply a clay mask (not in the original but I prefer clay masks to sheet masks and this is the best spot for them in the routine);
  5. Apply toner;
  6. Apply an essence;
  7. Apply an ampoule;
  8. Apply a serum;
  9. Apply a sheet mask (I don’t do this step as sheet masks aren’t super eco-friendly or cost-effective);
  10. Apply eye cream;
  11. Apply a nightly moisturiser.

Is it excessive?  Probably yes.  Are all the steps necessary?  Of course not.  I’ve survived years without doing most of them.  Does my face feel like angel-kissed silk since I’ve started doing this?  Definitely yes.  I’ve never had such smooth, hydrated skin.  No more dry, flaky bits or that weird network of micro-cracks I used to get on my nose.  Whilst my blemishes still appear (thanks, hormones) and I’ve still got dark circles, the love I am showing my skin makes me feel 100% more confident in it.  I can’t wait to see what more time will do.

It’s also giving me time to relax and unwind at night, and to wake up slowly in the morning.  The whole process is so luxurious and gentle (harsh scrubbing is not a thing in this ritual) that I feel great mentally doing it.  It sets my mind for bed, or for the new day, and it feels superb to begin and end the day doing something quiet that is just for me.

So, what products am I using?

At the moment, I’m using a weird mix of the super budget and the true Korean stuff (although all cruelty free and vegan).  Once I’ve given the Korean stuff a proper whirl, I’m intending to migrate all the steps to a brand I love, like Sukin or maybe even ELF (although they’ve been getting fancy and expensive with their skincare).  Both ELF and Sukin are cruelty-free.  Sukin is entirely vegan and ELF has just one or two non-vegan products.  Sukin is my preference as they are also very eco-conscious.

Oil cleansing

Right now I’m using coconut oil.  Yes, all the experts say don’t do it because it can clog your pores, but it is actually working really well for me and it is cheap and readily available, and I already had it in the pantry.  If I tried to use it as a moisturiser rather than wiping it off I think I’d get a cloggy face, though.  In future, I’m planning on investing in Sukin’s Super Greens Cleansing Oil, because I love the Super Greens range and it is a lot more convenient for travel than a giant jar of coconut oil.

Sukin Super Greens Cleansing Oil

Water-based cleanser

This is basically any cleanser that isn’t an oil cleanser.  Almost all cleansers are water-based.  I’ve got a reaallly old passionfruit Body Shop one I’m trying to use up, but my go-to is this Sukin one.  It isn’t particularly foamy, despite the name, but it does the job and smells nice.


Toner is important to rebalance the skin after being washed and to better prepare it to absorb your moisturiser.  I switch between this one by Skinstitut (also vegan), which has a lovely botanical smell, and this Sukin one, which is the same thing but less strong-smelling.  I only use two because then I have one in each bathroom (I tend to use the main bathroom in the morning and the ensuite in the evening) and I’m not organised enough to move my products between the two.  The Skinstitut one is gorgeous but it’s more than twice the price of the Sukin one, so Sukin will be my future staple.

Multi-Active Mist
Skinstitut Multi-Active Most Toner


Sadly, Sukin doesn’t have anything that could be classed as an “essence”, which is a slightly watery substance somewhere between a toner and a serum.  I’m using this one by Missha, a Korean brand, which purports to calm redness and iritation (something I don’t see much of with the double cleanse anyway).  This ELF one seems like a nice alternative for waking the skin up, as it has coffee in it and that just sounds energizing.  Surprisingly, though, the Missha one is cheaper.

MISSHA Near Skin Simple Therapy Essence Lotion
Missha Near Skin Simple Therapy Lotion.  The website I purchased it from, Soko Glam, makes it easy for people wanting to start this routine by dividing products into the different steps.


I’m trialling two ampoules at the moment, one for morning and one for night.  An ampoule is supposedly like a serum on speed, and concentrates all its energies on one particular skin-loving benefit.  I’m using this Vitamin-C-packed ampoule by Yuja in the morning, not because I need it’s weird whitening properties (any whiter and I will literally vanish) but because I would love the brighter complexion it promises.  We’ll see how that goes.

At night I’m getting into this rather intense Time-Stop ampoule, which allegedly brightens, calms, strengthens and prevents wrinkles.  I’m not too worried about the wrinkles, but stronger, brighter, less irritated skin does sound attractive.  That being said, if I can have a decolletage like my mother’s, who is nearing sixty and doesn’t appear to have a trace of a wrinkle on her neck or chest, I’ll be pretty chuffed.  The lady knows how to moisturise.

Time Stop Collagen Ampoule
Time Stop Colleagen Ampoule.  It has a bizarre, slimy feel and smells faintly of mushrooms, but feels lovely on the skin despite that.

An alternative to an ampoule might be one of Sukin’s skin oils.  I currently use the rosehip one, but I’m keen to try some of the others.  Of course, you can always use both!  I’d throw on the oil after the serum or even after the moisturiser.


This is another area where I’m alternating.  I started the Skinstitut Retinol serum a few weeks ago, but it is only supposed to be used every second night.  It allegedly will help reduce the blind pimples on my chin and jawline.  I’m willing to try anything to stop those painful little blighters.  On the other nights and in the morning I use Neogen’s Pore Refine Serum to try and shrink the large pores on my cheeks and hopefully give those blind pimples the old one-two, as Vernon Dursley might say.  Once my skin situation is a little more level I’d like to investigate Sukin’s Super Greens Serum, or maybe even their Intensive Firming Serum when I get a bit older.  I’ve used ELF’s Hydrating Serum before and quite enjoyed it, and I’d be interested to see what their Beauty Shield Serum is like.

This stuff felt so hydrated I nearly forgot to put moisturiser on afterwards.

Eye Cream

I currently use Sukin’s Antioxidant Eye Cream, although I still don’t really understand what antioxidants are or why they need to be in your eye cream.  A pricier alternative is ELF’s Illuminating Eye Cream, but I won’t try that unless it goes on sale.


I’m currently using Sukin (surprise surprise) day and night.  I’m thinking of switching out my day cream for one of their more hydrating ranges, but that’s a maybe.  I’m pretty happy with the ordinary one.

I’ve tried ELF’s Nourishing Night Cream before and liked it for its powers of hydration, despite the rather weird, silky texture.  They also now offer an Illuminating Moisturiser and a Daily Hydration one.  I’ve not tried either.  They also have this very funky-looking cream that has a built-in massaging cap.


As indicated above, I can’t make any recommendations as to sheet masks as I’m not a huge fan.  In the past I’ve used Sukin’s Super Greens mask and quite liked it, but I am in love with their Purifying mask at the moment.  I’ve never met such a clever creature when it comes to drawing out reluctant pimples that just need to develop and move on.  Love it.  The Charcoal one is nice too, if a little less intense.

I’m currently trialling this but suspect I’ll go back to the purifying mask for the anti-acne superpowers.

I confess, I am curious to try ELF’s bubble mask and their magnetic mask, because both sound like fun concepts, although I will wait for a sale.  They also have a gel mask, which doesn’t sound quite as exciting.

Overnight masks are also a thing in Korean skincare for those seeking hydration above and beyond the norm.  I don’t think I need one, but if I did I’d probably turn to this ELF one.


I’ve got a couple of different exfoliation methods at the moment.  I’ve tried a sample of the Skinstitut glycolic scrub and was very impressed with how smooth my face felt afterwards.  I would buy again if I was buying a bundle (makes their otherwise pricey products much more affordable).

My go-to is the Sukin Super Greens exfoliator.  No micro-beads and no harsh little kernels causing micro-tears, as far as I know.  It’s very gentle but gets the job done.

One a week I also use my Baiden mitten gently on my face.  The website for the mitten looks like a total gimmick and I assumed I was waving goodbye to my money, but it came through and I’ve been in love ever since.  It’s very eco-friendly (I’ve had mine for years now) and boy, does it do a good job of peeling off that dead skin.  I don’t think the website is accurate in saying it will change your life, but it does exfoliate well.

Image result for baiden mitten
An example of the super-gross but incredibly satisfying exfoliation the Baiden mittem offers.

ELF have two, a peeling one and a bog-standard exfoliating scrub.  I’ve not tried either.


For vegan sunscreens I can’t go past Sun Bum or Sun Bear. Sun Bum smells a bit like a banana, and Sun Bear supports charities that rescue sun bears (although it is worth noting that they are not reef-safe as claimed).

So there we have it: my lengthy skincare/self-care ritual.  I won’t always be well enough to commit to every step and I do keep micellar water and cleansing wipes handy just in case I can’t stand up, but every day I can this little routine makes me happier, and I believe is doing wonders for my skin.

What are your go-to skin products?  Would you be interested to see how this routine is treating me in the future, or to read reviews of different products I use?


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