Korean Skin Care Routine: How to Do, My Experience and Does it Really Work?

Hello everyone,

In the beauty frenzy world, over the last couple of years, there has been a hype around Korean Skincare. I heard a lot about the benefits of it, like immensely hydrated, plumped and luminous skin. It was all about “Glass Skin”, a fancy name for crystal clear, luminous skin. It intrigued me on so many different levels and I spend days and nights researching about it. But for me there had always been a little bit of intimidation factor in trying it out. Mostly because of the amount of steps and different types of products involved.

I’ll admit, I have always been blessed with a problem free skin, with just one or two period pimple attacks once a year or so. Trust me, throughout my life I have only used Besan and coconut oil as a cleansers and Boroline as a moisturizer and my skin was good to me. In skincare, I believed in “less is more”, until one fine day I bumped into an article about Korean skincare.
Before the Korean skin and beauty products actually took over other beauty products in the market, all I knew about the Korean skincare was their sheet masks. I had used them quite a few times and loved the effect. Finally after a lot of “should I go for it?” and “should I skip?”, I thought of giving the full routine a try. It was around March last year that I started to indulge and pamper myself the Korean way- the latest beauty trend then. Beauty enthusiasts from around the world were raving about its effectiveness and I had to try it.

Before I start on how Madhubani worked herself into the frenzy of Korean Skincare rage, I would like to talk a little about which skincare steps I followed and what were the products. Attaining clear, glass like skin isn’t easy and involves a laborious process which you hve to follow religiously. The procedure mainly consists of 10 steps. Not all the steps need to be done on a daily basis. You can twist and tweak as per your convenience. 

Good oil cleansers help in loosening and melting away makeup, sunscreen, dirt and grime. Take few pumps and massage gently on face. Add few drops of water to emulsify the oil and then wash off. You should use cleansing oil as per your skin type. The cleansing oil method has become a mainstay in my skincare routine.
Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Cleansing Oil
Face Shop Bright Cleansing Oil
Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil
Etude House Real Art Cleansing Oil
Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil
Clean it Zero by Banila Co

These are generally foam cleansers and helps in removing impurities and excess oil. Apply and combine with water to lather up a nice foam. You can substitute foam with gel or cream cleansers.
The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Foam Cleanser
Tony Moly Floria Brightening Foam Cleanser
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cleanser

Get rid of dead skin cells, blackheads and whiteheads with mild exfoliators. Exfoliating once a week is crutial. Only by removing dead skin cells can the rest of your skincare products be absorbed properly by the skin. You can use a physical or chemical exfoliator, but the Korean beauty experts always recommend chemical exfoliators over physical as chemical exfoliators are supposed to be milder. Beauty gurus say that you should exfoliate at least twice a week. There are products such as BHA liquid which ca be used on every alternate days. Physical scrubs and peels can be used twice a week.

COSRX Bha Power Liquid. (Read review HERE)
SkinFood Rice Wash Off Mask

Innisfree Wine Peeling Jelly Softener

Toners supposedly balance skin’s pH level and prep the skin for later steps, it adds hydration and helps in better absorption of products. They are generally light fluids. Use your hand or a cotton pad and gently apply on your skin. I just poured on my palm and patted it on my face gently.
Klairs Supple Preparation Toner
Son and Park Beauty Water
Innisfree Jeju sparkling water
The Face Shop Chis Seed Toner

The heart of Korean skincare, essence is watery solution full of beneficial ingredients. Thicker than toner and thinner than serums, essence is basically what you’ll get if toner and serum have a child. Pump some product and apply evenly on skin. Pat till fully absorbedMISSHA Time Revolution First Treatment Essence IntensiveCOSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
A silkier and more concentrated version of toner and essence, serum targets difference skin concerns and is an essential step. Ampule on the other hand is the highest- concentration formula, thicker than serum and can be used if you have major problems to tackle, something that essence, serums can’t do.

KLAIRS Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop
Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum
(Read review HERE)

Elizavecca Witch Piggy Hell-Pore Bifida Premium Ample (Read review HERE)

The fun part. Sheets masks are cotton, collagen or gel masks that are soaked in essence and caters to various skin needs. This is the step I thoroughly enjoy and love to use them twice a week, sometimes even thrice. Sheet masks are so relaxing, soothing and gives skin an instant moisture boost.
Too many to list…
Tony Moly
Pure Derm

Moisturizer is very essential, for every skin. They look in moisture and the products used before. Choose your favorite moisturizer as per your skin type and pat gently over face and neck.

Innisfree Orchid Enriched Cream (Read review HERE)
The Face Shop Chia Seed No Shine Intense Hydrating Cream
Innisfree Jeju Sparkling Lotion and Moisturiser

Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream

Apply a pea-sized amount of the product and use your ring finger to gently dab it on the under eye area and eyelid area.
Innisfree Orchid Enrich Eye Cream
Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream

During daytime finalize your skin care routine by protecting your skin from the harmful rays of sun. While in the night, a sleeping pack will revitalize and nourish your face while you sleep.
J.One Black Jelly Sleeping Pack (Read review HERE)
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

It has been more than a year since I have started using Korean Skin Care products and in my journey I have learned quite a few things. What works for you, might not work for me and what I swear by, might fail to impress you totally. We all have different skin types, skin issues and hence products tend to work differently on us. The place you are staying at, the air, the water, the climate, weather play crucial roles too. When I started my Korean Skincare journey, I was excited beyond words. Who doesn’t want her skin to be flawless and glowing? Isn’t?
This skin care regime is a product heavy and labor-intensive one, which needs your time and energy. Firstly, it took me quite a while to arrange my first set of products. When it comes to skin and hair care, I go slowly and just don’t blindly grab new products. So, I started researching about different stuff and finalized my first set after discussing with Korean beauty experts and going through reviews and ratings online. But sadly, those products were not easily available in India and the Instagram sellers were charging a bomb. The products were way too expensive and it was not just one or two products. The 10 steps demanded 10 different products. Luckily I got contacted by a few Korean Skincare Brands who were willing to send the products in exchange of reviews and the rest I bought through different websites.
The first two steps, called double cleansing, is what I swear by. It has been an indispensable part of my life. Even before I started using cleansing oils from Korean brands, I used to apply coconut or baby oil as first cleansers. Double cleansing has really made a difference. Removing the stubborn makeup is a breeze now.
For exfoliators I thought of shifting to chemical exfoliators. I was totally blown away by the results chemical exfoliators showed on others. I started researching and on a friend’s (who is a K-beauty guru) recommendation I went for Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. The first time I used the product I was super happy with the results. My skin felt utterly, butterly smooth and clear and looked so fresh and glowy. I used this once a week and from my second use my skin started deteriorating. My cheeks filled with pimples and hard bumps. Chemical exfoliators lead to purging; I knew it and was ready for it. But the pimple attacks never really stopped. Throughout the next few months my skin conditioned worsened. My problem free skin was filled with pimples and bumps and I started tanning crazily in spite of using sunscreens and sunblocks which work so amazing otherwise. And you know the worst part? I started getting blackheads on my cheeks and chin as well, as if the nose wasn’t enough. I really hate bashing products hence I kept at it in a hope to see some miracle.

Talking about toners, I really misunderstood this until I used real toners. No, Dabur Gulabari is not a toner. I started using Klairs toner along with the Vitamin C serum from the same brand. They worked well. Skin felt soft, fresh and bright. However I am still not sure about essences. This particular step seems obsolete to me. I didn’t see any difference on my skin when I used it. I never really understood its purpose.

Then comes my absolute favorite part, sheet masks. I love using sheet masks after those long tiring days. They feel so soothing. Love those “sit back and relax” sessions. The day I use sheet masks, I absolutely skip the next few steps. The essence in the sheet mask is enough for me.
Moisturizers, eye cream and sleeping masks. As I have normal to dry skin, I in any case love slathering my face with moisturizers. I had been using eye creams too, but I didn’t see any major change in my dark circles, my under eye area still looked tired. Sleeping masks again worked great to revitalize and replenish skin beautifully.

I followed every 10 step for around 6 months, or even more, but only during the night. I used to leave for work at 5AM and even in my wildest dream I can’t imagine myself doing all of that that early in the morning. Every night I drowned my skin in toners, essences and lotions and in the morning my skin felt amazingly plumped, moisturized and hydrated. My skin was getting used to all the products just when the BHA Powerliquid started giving me bumps and pimples. The condition worsened and the moisturizers didn’t really soak in. They sat on top of my face making me look like a shiny ball. My normal to dry skin turned into an oil factory. Over the next few months my skin felt oily throughout the day, but extremely dry when I woke up in the morning, even after using all those products before hitting the sack the night before. I changed brands and formulas to suit my then current skin type, but nothing really seemed to work. Saddest part was those pimples, bumps and blackheads on my face. My skin looked red and textured. I knew I had to let the BHA Powerliquid go. I stopped using it after about 6 months I and also went for spot treatments for the pimples. Now I use the Skin Food Rice Mask and Innisfree Wine Peeling Jelly Softener alternatively once every week. Comparatively skin is a lot better now, though few bumps are still there, but not the way it used to when using the BHA Power Liquid. My first experience with chemical exfoliator has scared and scarred me for life.
My skin after 6 months

I twisted the 10 Step Korean Skincare routine according to my needs.
I have figured out that my skin works best with lesser layers of products on my skin. Now the days I am using moisturizers, I don’t use sleeping packs, or vice versa. I have kicked out chemical exfoliators, essence and under eye cream out of my regime. From 10 Steps to 5 Steps. What I do is double cleanse my skin every night and follow up with toner, serum and moisturizer/sleeping pack. Sometimes the 5 step comes down to 3...just double cleansing and moisturizing. I use exfoliator and face pack once a week and though my skin doesn’t feel like baby buttocks, but far better than what it felt when I was into the 10 steps. Luckily I don’t get pimples pulling from my soul now.
This regime needs patience, dedication and consistency. Remember, good skin is not going to happen overnight. It is going to take time, consistent effort and products that work for your skin. If possible introduce one product at a time so if your skin reacts you know whom to blame. Now I am experimenting with different toner, serum and moisturizer brands. There are way too many Korean Skin Care brands. Don’t be afraid to do your “trial and error”.  To those who are working early just like me, doing this stuff in the morning can seem to be “out of question”, so take out time at night and create your own routine. Its better to do little than to not do anything at all. Once it gets into your system, it will no longer feel like a “task” …
So that’s it. Hope through this small” post I could help you in some way or the other. Have you tried Korean skincare routine? Share your experiences with us ..


  1. As Aesthetic Registered Nurse, my advice to my patients is to keep it simple when it comes to skincare. Most dermatologists say the same. I tried this craze years ago when it first came out (for the sake of trying) and my skin got worse.

  2. I’m so glad I found this Korean skin care routine. I will take this list into consideration!!!

  3. I do a modified Korean skincare routine to fit my skin type and issues, so I'm a fan. For me, discovering essence and layering products have been game changers for me.

  4. Ive never commited to all the steps! I simply dont have the time! haha

  5. I've read about their steps before but they are so complicated and by the time you purchase everything, very expensive. Double cleansing is excellent as are masks. I used an essence for a while but didn't see any results either. You've done a good job of explaining it all.

  6. The BHA would scare me too after the results. I feel like half the time I can't read these labels so why am I going to put that on my face?

    1. hahaha ... but they have come a long way with the packaging.. with everything mentioned in languages which are universally understood..

  7. I love a lot of K beauty products, but when it comes to skin care, less is usually more, especially in one given day.
    I'm sorry to hear the BHA didn't work for you, but given all the additional information you provided, I don't think it was a good pick for you. BHAs work best for those with oily skin as it really strips it away- this is why your skin went into oil overproduction mode. If you were wanting to try a chemical exfoliant, I would recommend sticking with an AHA as they work for at the surface level and are better for drier skin types. Cosrx actually has the AHA alternative which is quite nice if you want to stick with K beauty products. Given your experience, I could understand being lenient of all chemical exfoliants though.

    1. It has been 2 years and I still havent touched a chemical exfoliator.. Now i am thinking of giving AHA a try..

  8. I really appreciate all the information you've put forth. I feel like so many of us just rush through our skin care routine, then want to just inject Botox to smooth it all out lol!

  9. So many steps! WOuld make it hard to know what was and wasnt working!

  10. I am a fan of kbeauty! Koreans know whats good when it comes to skincare.


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