The secret ingredients of my secret 10-step Korean skincare routine

I’ve always battled with dry, dull, and pale skin. I reached a point in my life when I just learned to accept it with open arms thinking that maybe it’s because of my genes, my stress, the junk food that I eat, blah blah blah, and whatever. So I stick to my original course which is to grab any foaming cleanser that I can lay my hands on. When I notice specs of flaky skin along the way, I get my handy-dandy petroleum jelly and apply it on my face (Ewww). My previous idea of skincare revolves around cleansing. I thought that as long as I keep my face clean, then it’s done. Clear cut and simple. I had this thinking that only celebrities have access to pristine and clear skin, so it’s okay if my skin is less than perfect, because after all, I’m not working in the entertainment industry.

My fondness of K-dramas exposed me to the Korean beauty regimen. I’m in awe, maybe in shock even, when I learned that some of the Hallyu actresses that I’ve been watching on TV are 30+ and even 40+ years old, but they only appear to be in their early 20s. One actress, Song Hye Kyo (Descendants of the Sun), didn’t even seem to age a bit ever since I first watched her almost a decade ago. I also take pleasure in intensely scanning the faces of these actresses for any grains and signs of makeup on TV, but their skin looks so good and so calm it looks like they aren’t even wearing any makeup sometimes. It also looks like they don’t have any pores at all! This grew my curiosity on how Koreans go about their usual skincare routine–little did I know that I’m about to get the biggest surprise of my life.

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Song Hye Kyo in Full House (2004)
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Song Hye Kyo in Descendants of the Sun (2016)

I researched online, and got word from Sokoglam.com that wow, the Korean skincare routine has 10-steps, which is a far cry from my meager 1-step skincare routine involving only cleansing. Apart from this, they have this thing called “double-cleansing” where they use an oil-based cleanser first to make sure that the face is rid of any excess oils and makeup, succeeded by the most popular method which is using a water-based cleanser, which is popular and which I already know, ha ha.

What I like about Korean skincare is that it works, you truly see results, without burning a hole on your wallet or robbing your bank account. I also like the concept of balancing the skin chemistry. Before, I used to think that all oil on the face must be avoided so I spend a lot of time washing and washing my face until the last traces of oil is removed (even the natural oil), thus, drying it up. I learned that oil on the face is meant to be balanced and you should nourish it to get that 촉촉 (chok chok) look, which is how Koreans refer to dewy and moist complexion. That’s right, not oily, but dewy. I also noticed that during summer, even though it is humid and scorching hot outside, my skin wasn’t oily at all and sweating didn’t cause me to breakout.

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#NoMakeup #NoFilter

Like a recipe, I tested it, I studied it,  and sticked to the steps which I think worked well for me. For example, an eye cream is a really good part of the routine, but I find that my moisturizer and serum are already doing a good job to get rid of my fine lines so I skip this and in place, I use a lip sleeping pack (since I have a perpetual dry lip issue). What you see here is a my version of the 10 steps so feel free to play around and test until you find what suits you! Adjust and modify based on the season and skin phase that you’re in. Create a routine that you can stick to and sustain. The key here is to love the skin you’re in. 🙂

I started this routine about two years ago (sure, there were u-turns and stopovers sometimes), but honestly and no sugarcoating, I saw the results in a just a few weeks time. I’m not a skincare expert, but I’m so pleased with the results, so here I am sharing this and encouraging you that there’s hope for your skin. Isn’t that an exciting and a good motivation to immerse yourself in this now? 🙂  You don’t need to stick to just one brand of skincare too–just hop on this new adventure and enjoy trying out products from different stores and brands until you finally meet your best friend.

Steps 1 and 2 – The Double Cleanse

Yep, steps 1 and 2 are merged and you’re about to find out. 🙂 This is the part of the routine that I look forward to the most especially after a long day’s work.

1. Oil Cleansing

You might be thinking, what, oil? That was my first reaction too. The idea of putting more oil might be gag-worthy. But trust me, once you get the hang of it, you will realize that this step will actually make your skin soft and clean like a baby’s butt.

On the rare occasions that I do wear makeup (like a sheer BB cream or cheek tint), I find that oil cleansing is an effective way of removing makeup without necessarily having to rub your face a couple of times just to remove it from your face. What I do is to pump the oil from the bottle directly to my hands, and massage my face with it for a minute or two before washing my face with trepid water. Sometimes, when I’m feeling a bit fancy, I pump the oil on a cotton pad and wipe it around my face to remove excess oils, followed up by  a wash. By the way, I rarely wear makeup, but I find that oil cleansers effectively remove sunscreen from my face.

Oil cleansing is helpful especially for those who have dry skin (like me). Foam cleansers can sometimes leave your skin dry and tight, so this is a good way to cleanse the face  without necessarily stripping your skin’s natural oil.

My secret ingredient:

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Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Cleansing Oil

I like how light and sweet-smelling this cleansing oil is, plus it’s not expensive. Got this one from Lazada for about ~Php 300. This is effective in removing cheek and lip stains and sunscreen.

2. Water-Based Cleansing

After the oil cleanse, it’s time to wash your face again and this time, you can use a water-based cleanser. This step ensures that impurities and dirt are removed for your skin, prepping it up for the stuff you’re going to put much later. Aside from the goal of thoroughly cleaning the face, I take this time as an opportunity to do a light massage on my face which is very relaxing after a looong workday.

My secret ingredient:

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The Face Shop Moisturizing Foaming Cleanser

I honestly, I bought this cleanser because I found Muzi from Kakao Friends so cute! Look, Muzi even has a headband on the packaging! Seriously though, I like its cucumber scent, and as it’s a moisturizing cleanser, so I don’t feel any tightness after cleansing. Word from the wise: Be wary of  skin tightness, it’s a sign of skin damage.

3. Exfoliating 

If your blackheads and whiteheads are stressing you out and you’re spending too much time pricking on those stubborn little ones on your nose or chin, lady (or man), you gotta stop doing that and start exfoliating once and for all! Stop finding pleasure in seeing the gunk come out from your pores unto your hands, ha ha (I know and I understand, I do that sometimes too), You can do this once or even twice week, but personally, I do this just once a week since I just work from home and rarely go out.

Exfoliating can improve your blood circulation and free up your clogged pores so your skin brightens up in an instead.  This is also an effective way to get rid of dead skin cells and help the growth of healthy / new skin.

My secret ingredient:

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Laneige Multi Cleanser_Ex

This is actually a mild foam cleanser, but it has micro-sized Papaya-based exfoliators that  glide smoothly on your skin and doesn’t sting. Once or twice a week, I merge step 2 and step 3 and use this as my water-based cleanser / exfoliant.

4. Toning

This step ensures that that all residues and impurities that weren’t removed by Step 1 and 2 are removed from your face. In Korea, mild and moisturizing toners are all the rage and it is rare that you’ll find a toner which is alcohol- based. I used to avoid this step because I was only familiar with alcohol-based toners that dry out the skin, so I’m really pleased that this skin regimen takes into consideration us people who have a problem with dry skin.

I find that toning the skin immediately cools my face down, a sort of preparation for the next steps in the routine.

My secret ingredient:

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Laneige Essential Power Skin Refiner Moisture

Because this is a moisturizing toner, I don’t feel any dryness at all on days when I have to skip the other steps in my routine. This toner alone makes my skin feels refreshed and clean, and even moisturized throughout the day.

5. Essence

They say that if sheet masks are the soul of Korean skincare, then the essence is the heart. Personally, I think of this as the catalyst of the routine. Essences are packed with all the chemical compounds that you need such as hyaluronic acid that helps prepare your skin for absorbing all of the nutrients in the products that you’re using. It helps make sure that all your hard-earned cash spent on beauty products do not go to waste and that your skin eats these nutrients well.

My secret ingredient:

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Nature Republic Shea Butter Essence

I bought this after reading reviews that it’s perfect for dry skin since it contains jojoba oil and almond oil. I feel like this has made my skin firm and silky to the touch. It also smells like baby powder which is very relaxing especially if you’re putting it on at night before sleeping.

6. Serum

If you’re nearing your thirties like me and those laugh lines are starting to show up and say “hi!”, a serum could help. Serums are often referred to as the elixir of the routine, and used to address specific skin care issues. I found out that there are serums especially dedicated to slow down skin aging, and lessen dark spots on the face. In summer (like, right now?) when my face is prone to dryness, I find that a serum is really helpful in deeply moisturizing my skin and address dry spots that occur mostly at the sides of my lips and nose.

My secret ingredient:

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Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum

As it’s summertime here in the Philippines, I find this serum very cooling, and just because I like everything that smells like green tea! Green tea is a natural antibiotic and disinfectant so this helps lessen the size and tone down the appearance of pores. I’m keen into making my pores appear smaller (Just an FYI, you can’t actually shrink pores but you can make them appear smaller through proper hydration) so I purchased this little guy right away.

7. Emulsion / Sheet Masks 

After everything has been set up, I use a light moisturizer called the emulsion. The emulsion is actually the agent that balances the oil on your skin. I use this mostly during the day to prevent oil from building up on my nose especially on hot days.

If you have dry skin like me, your skin might be dry most of the time, but there will be times when your T-zone gets a bit oily and shiny as your pores tend to overproduce oil to make up for the need to hydrate your skin.

An emulsion is just as effective as the deep moisturizer that you use during nighttime, so when I’m on a rush and need to skip some steps, I usually stick to just cleansing, toning, and an emulsion.

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Laneige White Plus Renew Emulsion

My face is dry most of the time, but in very hot days, my T-Zone can get oily (and you know when your skin is oily, the blackheads are coming next) and shiny. Using this emulsion keeps my face hydrated throughout the day, and keeps the oil on my face balanced at the same time.

Sokoglam.com refers to the sheet mask as the soul of 10-step routine as this requires stepping away for a bit just to relax and meditate while you let all those healthy essences and oils on the mask get absorbed by your skin. Sheet masks are fun to use especially if you have an all-girls sleepover  slash spa party. Each mask has a character–there are masks created to address your acne issues, improve your complexion, or minimize the size of your pores and they are not pricey so you can stack up for the long-term. 🙂

In hot seasons, it’s a good idea to refrigerate your sheet masks for some time before putting it on just to help you cool down and relax while listening to your favorite K-pop music or K-Drama OST.

My secret ingredient:

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The Face Shop Green Tea Real Nature Mask

I put this in the freezer for about 10 minutes before putting it on my face once or twice a week.

Just a tip you can use too: When I’m out of of sheet mask supply, I get my Innisfree green tea serum then pump it several times on some cotton pads then put it on my face.

8. Lip Sleeping Pack 

Step 8 usually involves an eye cream, but I find that my moisturizer (Step 9) is already doing its job very well so I just traded the eye cream for a lip sleeping pack. This is Joan’s secret 10-step skincare routine after all. 🙂

Ever since I was young I have a perpetual problem with dry lips. Sometimes, especially during summer, my lips become so flaky that I can’t help but to pick on the dry skin, resulting to chapping and bleeding.

During my free time, I always browse the internet in search of the latest in skincare, and I came across the benefits of a lip sleeping pack. I wondered, why not? If sleeping packs works wonders on my face then why not try this one?

It is suggested that this is only done at night, but in place of my lip balms, I use this throughout the day. After a week or two of using this, I felt that my lipstick glides on easier and I’m no longer picking on flakes as a pastime.

My secret ingredient:

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Laneige Special Care Lip Sleeping Mask

I like Laneige products especially the way they smell. This lip sleeping mask smells like berries and citrus and feels cold to the touch so when I apply this I feel like giving my lips a spa treatment. When I wash my face the next day, I notice tiny flakes of dry skin being removed and after that, my lips feel supple to the touch, so I think that the product really works!

9. Moisturizing

Looking back, I’m thinking that I should have listened to my mom when I was younger. She used to tell me (and remind me) to find the best moisturizer I can get. I used to avoid this because I didn’t like the feeling of having gooey and heavy stuff on my face especially at daytime. Now, I realized that if I started moisturizing in my younger years then a lot of my skin woes would have been addressed right away and I could have said bye-bye to dry skin earlier than I did. Moisturizing at night ensures skin repair especially during your REM sleep hours, and trust me, when your skin is properly hydrated, you won’t wake up with an oily face.

Once or twice a week (sometimes three, if you like 🙂 ), you can squeeze in a sleeping pack in pace of your moisturizer for deep hydration. When you have a problem with waking up with a puffy face, you can benefit a lot from a sleeping pack as it will make your skin feels supple and firm to the touch the next day.

My secret ingredients:

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Laneige Water Bank Gel Cream

I started my skincare adventure with Laneige and the brand has been my best friend and go-to partner in my battle against dry skin. I mentioned earlier that I don’t like heavy and gooey stuff on my skin, so if you’re like me, you can try this out. It has a gel-like consistency and it’s very light so you’ll have fun applying and using it even during daytime. It also has a slight tinge of floral scent that’s so good it grows on you.

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Laneige Water Sleeping Pack EX

If you’re a K-drama addict like me and you go through a lot of sleepless nights marathoning the latest and trending series, then this sleeping pack will be your best friend. Sometimes, I go through two or three episodes in row while massaging this baby on my skin and just let it sit until the next morning. Intense hydration to the max!

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Nature Republic Aqua Super Aqua Max Deep Moisture Sleeping Pack

Laneige’s Water Sleeping Pack is a bestseller and sometimes, even Laneige’s stores run out of stock! During a time when I ran out of it, I turned to Lazada to find an alternative. I came across this sleeping back from Nature Republic and I was enticed to buy because it’s a cheaper alternative offering the same benefits. No regrets, at the price it does its job very well and I wake up with moist and supple skin. The scent is also good it grows on you. 🙂

10. Sunscreen BB Cushion / Face Mist 

We’re almost at the end! 🙂 Step 10 usually involves a sunscreen but since I work from home, I don’t feel the need the apply sunscreen everyday. If I’m not outdoors, I trade sunscreen for a hydrating spray.

They say that aside from a bad diet, the sun’s harmful rays are the skin’s number one enemy. Using a sunscreen keeps your skin safe from hyperpigmentation and damage so this helps slow down the aging process of your skin.

My secret ingredients:

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Laneige BB Cushion SPF 50+ PA+++ No. 21

Since I’m a hands-on mom with a lot of things to do, I’m a fan of merging several steps into on one. I like products that do a couple of things like makeup and sunscreen in one. When I have to go out and expose myself to Mr. Sun’s angry rays, I use a BB cream that has SPF at the same time. This BB Cushion from Laneige might look a bit dark but when you apply it on your skin, it glides on smoothly and mixes so well with your skin tone that it looks like you don’t have any makeup at all. You don’t even have to use a lot, just press on your T-zone and you’re all set!

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Mumuso Rose Brightening Spray

I’m mostly indoors since I work from home, so when I don’t think  SPF is necessary, I use a hydrating spray instead. Sometimes, when I’m tied down with work and the stress is causing my skin to dry up, this acts like an instant hydrant–just a few spritz and I instantly feel refreshed and moisturized. I also like that it smells like a bouquet of roses and has a brightening compound, so I can look glowy even if I’m under a lot of pressure. 🙂

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