Korean Skincare Regime

The Truth about the Popular Korean Beauty Trend

A few years ago, the “k-beauty” trend headed westward to restore milky complexions, smooth fine lines, and propose a different philosophy to westernized beauty. Having withstood both competitions with American skincare companies and the ravages of time, it seems that Korean skincare might become less of a trend and more of a fixture in the beauty industry. Its persistence may be attributed to the uniqueness of the bottles in which the products come (bubble tea sleeping packs, gummy bear hand creams, mochi BB cushions), the exotic ingredients used (snail slime, donkey milk, salmon eggs), or the simple discovery that these products actually work.


It seems to make sense--women want the youthful radiance that they see emanating from the faces of k-pop stars, and the logical way to achieve it is to use the same products as them. It makes even more sense when certain skincare brands advertise using “2,000 years of herbal medicinal wisdom” to formulate their products. And just in case anyone was still skeptical, traditional Korean medicine can be traced as far back as 3,000 B.C., and is distinct from Chinese herbology in the ingredients used. While Korea might have a rich herbological history, it’s also important to consider its surgical one. Seoul is considered the plastic surgery capital of the world. So perhaps Korean skincare products are all just a guise for the cosmetic surgery that gives k-drama performers the skin that we all want. Even so, that does not change the fact that there is a population of women who will still choose Korean products over their French and American counterparts.


Though the real role of skincare in Korea seems somewhat mysterious, for us Americans, the 10-step regimen offers a different outlook on beauty. In Korea, makeup takes the back seat. Instead of concealing, highlighting, volumizing, and contouring, Koreans emphasize the importance of a skincare routine to make the use of makeup redundant. That’s not to say that Koreans don’t use makeup or that Americans don’t value skincare, but rather to point to differing philosophies. There seems, however, to be an incongruency in the trends: if Korea prioritizes skincare over makeup, but plastic surgery over everything and America worships makeup above all, then beauty in both societies is illusory and skincare always falls at the bottom of the hierarchy.


The rise in Korean skincare sales says otherwise. To many American women, Korean skincare products make more sense, both in terms of price and composition. For example, a collagen cream from Korea’s Etude House costs $20, whereas an equivalent from Estee Lauder costs $53. La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios sunscreen feels almost identical to the Korean brand Missha’s Mild Essence Sun Milk and costs $8 more for 30% less product. Although some of the ingredients seem obscure to a Westerner, there are fewer superfluous chemicals that require a biology degree to decipher.


The Korean skincare regimen can easily be mistaken for complex because it is so extensive. It may be long, but it’s broken down into steps that enhance simplicity, making it difficult for anyone to get lost in the abyss of toners, cleansers, oils, and creams. Without dismissing the unique needs of different skin types, the formulators seem to have it down to an exact science.


The 10-step regimen goes as follows:

Step 1- use an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup/dirt and replenish dry skin.

Step 2- use a foam cleanser to ensure complete cleanliness.

Step 3- exfoliate to unclog pores, remove dead cells, and end up with an enviable glow.

Step 4- spritz some toner for extra hydration.

Step 5- pat on some essence (toner/serum mix) to aid in repair.

Step 6- apply any treatment to target problem areas.

Step 7- relax with a sheet mask to nourish and restore.

Step 8- tap some on eye cream to treat the fragile skin around the eyes.

Step 9- moisturize for a gorgeous glow.

Step 10- apply sun protection to maintain porcelain coloring and curb aging.


Soko Glam is a helpful website to uncover and purchase the products that will work best for your skin type if you decide to embark on the Eastern skincare journey. Along the way, remember that the world of beauty can be deceitful, and lends itself best to those who wish to look like better versions of themselves.