So by now you’ve seen countless articles detailing the billion steps in a Korean skincare routine. You know that you gotta cleanse (or double cleanse at night), exfoliate, tone, use an essence and/or serum, then your emulsion, then an eye cream, THEN finally your cream. Then you have the extra stuff: the sheet masks and spot treatments and sleeping packs and all sorts of things. It’s exhausting just typing it out. But where to do you start? What do you buy? What are the must have essentials that you need? I’m here to help you create your own Korean skincare routine.
First things first, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to use Korean skincare products in a Korean skincare routine. If you have a ton of stuff from Sephora, you can use that. CVS? Sure! It doesn’t matter. I think the steps are what’s most important, not necessarily where the products come from. I’m going to use Korean products in my recommendations because that’s what I’ve been using exclusively for about a year now. Second, analyze what type of skin you have. Combination? Oily? Dry? Acne Prone? Dehydrated? All of these things will effect the type of products you use. I tried to pick items that would be great for a combination of skin types, as I feel like I have literally every single skin type known to man sometimes.
One of my favorite things about Korean cosmetics is that each brand has multiple skin care lines, so if you have acne prone skin, you can head to Etude and pick up the AC Clinic line, or if you like Innisfree you can pick up the entire Jejubija line. They make it super simple so you don’t even have to pick and choose different things. Each line usually comes with the basics: a cleanser, toner, essence, lotion, and cream. Some may or may not come with an eye cream, or a specialized serum.
And third, start off small. Take stock in your current skin care cabinet and see what’s missing. Don’t have an emulsion or a serum? You can start there. Or if you’re starting 100% from scratch, get the basics first. You know you need to wash your face, use a toner, and a moisturizer. Those are the most common and typically the least expensive. Serums, essences, and eye creams are the most pricey, so if you’re on a budget, you can add them in later. If that’s all you can get at first, then great! When I first started using Korean cosmetics, all I bought was a toner and an emulsion. You don’t have to spend a hundreds dollars at first. Introduce new products into your routine slowly and carefully, and before you know it, you’ll have no where to put all of your Korean goodies!
1. Cleanser A cleanser is possibly the most important thing you can buy, so make sure to buy a quality one that won’t dry out your skin. If you wear makeup, you also need to get an oil cleanser, as a good oil cleanser will break up all the makeup and dirt from your day.
Splurge: Oil Cleanser: Sulwhasoo Gentle Oil Cleanser Foaming Cleanser: su:m7 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, Cleansing Balm: su:m37 Skin Saver Melting Cleansing Balm
Save: Oil Cleanser: Innisfree Olive Oil Cleansing Oil Foaming Cleanser: Missha Super Aqua Refreshing Cleansing Foam, Cleansing Balm: Banila co. Clean it Zero cleansing balm
2. Exfoliator I’m not the biggest fan of manual exfoliators, but I do believe that everyone can use a good scrub now and then. I use my Clarisonic on days when I want to exfoliate, but I’ve used some great manual ones as well!
3. Toner When I first moved to Korea, I didn’t use a toner. I didn’t see the point. Now I have seen the light. A Korean toner isn’t a stripping one, instead, it hydrates and preps the skin for your next skin care products. It’s a necessity!
Splurge: su:m37 Time Energy Skin Resetting Refining Toner
Save: Innisfree Rose Clear Toner, Klairs Supple Preparation Toner
4. Serum/Essence If you’re going to spend a lot of money on one single skincare product, your serum or essence will probably be it. Don’t worry though, not all serums are pricey!
Splurge: su:m37 Time Energy Skin Resetting Repairing Serum, Missa First Treatment Essence, AC Care Cure Serum
Save: Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence, Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum, OST Vitamin C Serum, Missha Marine Stem Cell Intensive Serum, Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum
5. Emulsion A good emulsion should be water based, lightweight, and easily absorbed. If you have oiler skin, you can usually stop at this step. For me, it’s too hot in the day to wear a cream, but I’ll wear one at night.
Splurge: su:m37 Water-full Rebalancing Gel Lotion, su:m37 Time Energy Skin Resetting Softening Emulsion
Save: Missha Super Aqua Hydrating Emulsion, Nature Republic Argan 20 Emulsion, Innisfree Jejubija Anti-Trouble Lotion
7. Cream I think creams are my favorite thing to buy (besides sleeping packs). I love love love love love a good cream. Like I said before, if you’re more oily skinned, you may not need one during the day, but everyone could use a cream at night!
Splurge: su:m37 Secret Repair Concentrated Cream
Save: Innisfree Orchid Enriched Cream, Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Cream, Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream, Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream
Extras: sheet masks, spot treatments, eye masks, lip treatments, mists, sun creams, sleeping packs etc.
I love Primera sheet masks (a brand that’s like the high end version of Innisfree), and the awesome Too Cool for School Glam Rock eye masks. Klairs Rich Moist Soothing sheet masks are great too. To be honest, I’ve never bought many sheet masks because I always got so many for free when I went shopping in Korea.
My favorite spot treatment is the Innisfree Anti-Trouble Spot Essence W. I love it so much it’s the only one I’ve ever bought.
We all know how I feel about sleeping packs. The best one hands down is the Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask, but I also love the Laneige Water EX Sleeping Pack, the Etude House Nutrifull Sleeping Pack and the su:m37 1102 Extreme Time Control Overnight Treatment Pack.
WHEW! I think I’ve got almost everything covered. Remember, start off small! Before long, you’ll have everything you need to get awesome skin.
Do you have any other recommendations? What are your favorite products? Let me know in the comments!
This post contains affiliate links. Shopping using these links helps with the upkeep of this site. Full disclosure is here.