Korean Beauty Products Are Here, And It's Time To Slather

by Sara Farrell Baker
Originally Published: 
A two-part collage with the Banila co Clean It Zero cleansing balm and Face masks with animal charac...

Skin care is a huge facet of Korean culture. From the communal experience of a Korean day spa to 10-step routines, taking care of your skin is viewed as an investment. Because of this, K-beauty, an all-encompassing term for both Korean beauty products and this intensive skin care routine, is seeing a surge in popularity here in the states.

Korean beauty products are known for being innovative, using high-quality ingredients, and their attractive packaging. And luckily for you, they’re making their way onto shelves here.


Now that K-beauty has been making a splash for a while, stores are finally starting to carry products with all the snail slime and ginseng our hearts desire. Target, Sephora, and CVS, just to name a few, are pushing K-beauty lines hard, and I am walking into their stores with arms wide open and face ready for all the good things.

But K-beauty isn’t just about the products. It has become synonymous with self-care in some circles, and this is largely because of the affordability of these products that makes them accessible to a wide range of people, but also because of the aforementioned 10-step (at least) skin care routines. These routines focus on the fact that makeup looks better on your skin if your skin is already in good condition. It becomes a complement instead of a heavy mask.

If you’re raising your eyebrows at 10 steps for washing your face, I have some Botox that can fix that.

I kid! But take it from someone who used to raise my eyebrows at it. The 10 steps actually don’t take as long as you would think, and the process has become a relaxing part of my day that I look forward to.


The core of this skin care routine is right at the beginning: the double cleanse. Cleansing your skin two times in order to remove makeup and the day’s grime without stripping it of its natural oils is crucial to a healthy complexion. Use of cleansing balms, creams, milks, and oils replaces harsh soaps that foam up and leave dehydrated. This cleansing sherbet smells amazing and is great for removing makeup.

Exfoliation is the third step and key for both radiant skin and product absorption. Slothing off dead skin cells will make your skin appear brighter and prevents product from being wasted on skin that is ready to part ways with the rest of your face. After exfoliating, applying a toner balances the skin’s pH while dampening it to get it ready for your next products.

The fifth step in the routine is super important: applying an essence. An essence is kind of a serum and a toner at the same time. It hydrates and aids in cell turnover and skin repair. Applying an essence is the bridge between cleansing and hydrating.

And if the double cleanse is one pillar of K-beauty, hydration is the other. Your sixth step is going to be serums. Serums are concentrated liquids that target specific skin concerns. Some are great for dry or dull skin. There are serums for everything from fine lines and wrinkles to large pores to pigmentation and loads of skin issues in between.

When you’re dealing with a myriad of serums, oils, and essences, layering them on makes up a good chunk of this routine. I wasn’t kidding about the emphasis on hydration, folks.


And a super-popular method of delivery for some of these products is sheet masking, which is the seventh step. You’ve probably seen an uptick in recent years of women wearing gooey paper masks on their faces that make them look like gorgeous serial killers. Those creepy sheets are slathered in vitamins and serums, and while they may look scary, they’re also scary-effective at delivering the goods straight to your dermis. I like these because they make me look like a serial killer who loves animals instead of your run-of-the-mill serial killer.

After your serums and masks and essences and all that good stuff have done their things, applying an eye cream helps you pay special attention to a delicate area that could always benefit from a little extra care. Eye creams hydrate and protect the thin and easily damaged skin around your eyes. Be sure to tap them on with your ring finger since it’s the most gentle digit.

Step 9 is your moisturizer. Hydration, hydration, hydration! I like something light during the day and a heavier cream at night. But if your skin could use even more plumping occasionally, swap your night cream for a sleeping mask.

The final step is often neglected or people think they’ve covered it with their ninth step. SPF is not optional. Your skin needs protecting during the day from the sun’s UV rays. Even if you’re spending your time indoors. Even if it’s cloudy or the middle of winter. SPF. Is. Not. Optional. You will thank me later. I await your handwritten notes.


Hydrated skin is smoother, brighter, and clearer, providing an ideal surface for foundation and other makeup to glide on. Another popular trend to come out of Korea is cushion makeup. Using cotton cushions as the delivery system for things like BB cream and blush, cushion makeup makes lightweight application a breeze.

At the end of the day, K-beauty is really about taking care of yourself. As someone who would never have described washing my face as anything other than annoying and “yaaaawn, probably not happening tonight,” I have to say that I now enjoy starting my day with this routine, and I look forward to taking my makeup off at the end of the day. Not just because of the amazing difference it has made to my skin. My mood is so much better if I take a few minutes in the morning to do something just for me, and at the end of my day to get comfy in my pajamas, turn on some music, and focus on myself.

K-beauty sometimes gets described as radical self-care. How little do we do for ourselves if washing our face twice is radical? We all deserve to feel good. Nothing radical about that.

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