My sister strikes again: First she turned me on to Korean foot peels, then she got me doing a 10-step Korean skin care routine daily. Yes, I said 10 steps. Yes, this is excessive. Yes, this is time consuming. But it's the best thing I've ever done for my skin. Not to brag or anything, but I get a lot of compliments on my skin, and I don't wear makeup. My goal is to not need makeup.
So how does this work? For starters I don't actually use any Korean skincare products. I have a Mediterranean background and I don't really feel like Korean products are well suited for my skin tone. Instead I use American and European products. Secondly, I try to do this at least once a day, usually after my morning shower. The night time routine is a bit modified. Third, not every day requires 10 steps. I vary my usage based on how my skin is looking and feeling that day.
Step 1: Makeup Removal
After a terrible breakout over the summer due to leftover makeup, sweat and sunscreen on my face, my sister pushed me to try micellar water as a makeup remover prior to cleansing my skin. My usual gentle cleanser just wasn't cutting it and she got me a bottle of Bioderma Micellar Water. This stuff is magic. It cleanses, hydrates and gently removes all traces of makeup, including stubborn eye makeup. I use this in the evening before bed to get my skin ready. Just a small amount on a cotton pad and I'm done.
This is a French product and since our family is made up of skin-obsessed French women, we can usually get them to send it to us. If you don't have a French connection, you can order it from Amazon, though American brands are also starting to produce micellar water as well.
Step 2: Cleanser
Like probably 90 percent of women in America, I wash my face with Philosophy's Purity Made Simple daily cleanser. I take my time massaging this stuff in to make sure my skin is really clean. Massaging also has the added benefit of increasing circulation in the skin.
Step 3: Exfoliator
American women use exfoliators for sure, but the prevailing standard is a face scrub, which can be harsh and cause micro tears in the skin. Korean women prefer a chemical exfoliator and this has been the biggest change in my routine. I started using St. Ives Exfoliating Pads, which contain fruit extracts and vitamin E. You can't find these in stores so I stock up on them from Amazon.
Step 4: Toning
This is another new-to-me step in my facial routine. Toners are supposed to balance the pH of the skin to help prepare it for the coming steps. The toner allows the other products to absorb better into the skin. Mine is from Paula's Choice.
Step 5: Ampoule
An ampoule is like a super-concentrated serum full of active ingredients. I use a booster serum from Eminence Organics. This product was actually my gateway into the world of serums and multi-step skin care routines. It comes in a small glass bottle and is dispensed using a tiny dropper. I feel like a mad scientist every time I use it.
Step 6: Serums
Serums are my second-favorite step in this whole process. I have a number I use depending on the time of day and how my skin is looking. I layer them on, one-by-one and let them absorb into my skin before adding the next. I like using Vitamin C for brightening, and a serum containing a small amount of retinol for its anti-aging benefits.
Step 7: Sheet Mask
This is my favorite step in the routine. I LOVE sheet masks. I don't do these every day or I'll be there all day. But I like pampering myself with these once a week. If you're my friend, you've gotten a selfie of me in a sheet mask. They look like paper Jason masks and are soaked in ingredients to do any number of things—hydrate, brighten, clear, plump, anything! The paper prevents the ingredients from evaporating and forces them into the skin. You don't wash this stuff off when time is up and you end up looking dewy and pretty.
Step 8: Eye Cream
We're not done yet! This is a pretty self-explanatory step. I use an anti-aging eye cream from Dermatologica. The trick is to gently tap the cream into the sensitive area around the eyes.
Step 9: Moisturizer
We're almost done. Only two more layers of product before we're finished. Like the eye cream, you will want to use gentle strokes to put moisturizer in your skin. I use another Eminence moisturizing product for calm skin.
Step 10: Sunscreen
You can't spend all this time and money layering on a multitude of products without protecting your skin from the sun at the end. My favorite sunscreen is another one of my sister's recommendations—Biore's Aqua Rich Watery Essence in SPF 50. This stuff is amazing. It doesn't leave a white residue, and it goes on like a light lotion. It is made in Japan but has a cult following in the US. I order mine from Amazon.
Phew! I know it's a lot of work and I'm sure any dermatologist will tell you I'm overdoing it. But the truth is, I enjoy this routine and my skin has never looked better. I don't get breakouts anymore and thankfully, I don't have any wrinkles—though that may be due to good genetics. You should see the ladies in my family.