Korean women are renowned for their flawless skin. But rather than being born that way, they invest both time and money into their skincare, adopting an intricate 10-step cleansing and moisturising routine (known to us as the Korean 10-step) that is designed to banish lines and wrinkles, rid the skin of imperfections and give a hauntingly beautiful skin. Receiving an inordinate amount of attention of late, the Korean skincare regimen is considered by many Westerners as 'high-maintenance' and time consuming. However, caring for your complexion is the ultimate investment, and one that will pay off both now, with dewy to die for skin, and in the future.
As a skin care junkie, I knew I had to try this immediately.
STEP 1 & 2: TWO-STEP CLEANSE
I have a confession to make: I love facial wipes. I love the ease of removing my makeup with a wipe. I love how quick the process is. I love how I can carry my wipes in my bag whenever I go and remove my makeup whenever I want. Wipes are, in general, excellent. What I did not know, in all my wipe fan mania, is that my skin was never thoroughly cleaned using a little wipe alone. That the lumps and bumps I felt and saw under the skin were caused by old makeup and the residue of a day living in the city.
Korean women take cleansing their skin very seriously and would never aggressively attack their faces with a wipe in such a primaeval manner. The cleansing process is considered one of the most important and so it comes in two steps:
Step 1: The Oil Cleanse
The idea is that when applied to dry skin, an oil cleanser will remove make-up, both foundation and waterproof mascara, while also effortlessly relieving the skin of all other oil-based debris. If I am honest, I was slightly apprehensive about this step. Past experiences with oil had not been good and I had found that this sort of cleanser irritated my sensitive eyes (I am looking at you, Shu Uemura).
But for the sake of beauty and in the name of science I decided to give it a go`. Nightly, using Shiseido's Perfect Cleansing Oil, I gently removed my makeup using my fingertips and gentle, circular motions. This massaging technique helps melt away the day's debris from the skin surface but also increases circulation giving the skin a brighter, more radiant appearance.
Step 2: The Foam Cleanse
You may want to take a seat, but believe it or not, your skin will not be clean after an oil cleanse alone. There I said it. Are you feeling ok and still with us? The fact is, there will still be remnants of dirt and grime left on the skin after an oil cleanse that will only be removed by using a mild foam or cream cleanser. Korean women believe that the key to a radiant and acne-free complexion lies in thorough cleansing. Using Dior's
STEP 3: EXFOLIATION
I rolled this step in with the next as I choose to use an exfoliating toner. For times when I felt that my skin needed something a little more, I used my Clarisonic. Overall, when it comes to exfoliation, Korean women believe that less is more, and I tend to agree. Exfoliate more vigorously once or twice a month at most but do not strip the skin regularly.
STEP 4: TONER
Most Western women, including myself, may think that toner is, in fact, another cleansing step. This idea is entirely incorrect (I hit the floor when I heard this) and toner should be used each and every time we wash our face to balance the skin and return the surface to the optimal pH. The use of a toner will allow skin to absorb better the treatments that are to follow. I like to alternate between Clarins Gentle Exfoliating Toner and Clarins Toning Lotion With Chamomile. The exfoliating toner contains AHAs that will brighten, smoother and help remove dead cells and encourage new cell growth while the gentle toner instantly alleviates any tightness felt after cleansing.
STEP 5: ESSENCE
I don't understand Essence, but since using it, I think I might be in love. Don't ask me why as it is all very confusing for me, I still don't really *get* what an Essence is, but I do know one thing, I love splashing it all over my face! Every Korean beauty expert claims that the Essence is at the heart of Korean skincare and is the most important aspect of the whole routine. Similar to a serum or booster, an essence is a nourishing liquid that enhances cellular renewal processes and has a watery (almost toner like) consistency.
STEP 6: SERUM/AMPOULE AND BOOSTERS
Ampoules/Serums: These are super-concentrated versions of essences and are often solely referred to as serums out West. Applied morning and evening, they have a thick and almost sticky consistency and are applied by patting into clean, dry skin before a moisturiser. Supercharging your skincare in 3-5 drops, they pack a potent punch and are the best, and most efficient way to address skin concerns. For the greatest effect, combine serums for an ultimate skin treatment. Pick two or three serums that will treat different skin problems, for example; formulas with peptides for wrinkles, salicylic acid for oily skin, and liquorice or aloe to calm redness. My personal favourite is Philosophy's When Hope is not Enough, a lightweight, oil-free antioxidant serum with toning, firming, and anti-wrinkle properties. It smells delightful and sinks into the skin without leave an oily or greasy film. Unfortunately, Philosophy is not longer available in Ireland so to get your hands on this you can this beauty you need to order online.
Boosters: I love a booster; it makes me feel all scientific as I mix it i
n with my regular moisturiser for homemade, targeted skincare. These work in a similar manner to a serum in that they target specific skin concerns; however, they are not as potent. For more on Beauty Boosters see my previous rantings.
STEP 7: SHEET MASK
I have been a massive fan of the sheet mask for many years. In fact, I vividly remember my mother waltzing about the house with one of these on in the 90s. Always ahead of the curve, sheet masks will transform your skin in 15 minutes. Not an every-night step, you only need to do it twice a week, if you can afford that and they can be swapped out for a serum or essence. The sheet mask is chockablock full of all the most potent ingredients so using a separate serum is essentially doubling up.
STEP 8: THE EYE CREAM
My mother always told me to use an eye cream and while I always bought them, I didn't always finish them. Shame on me. The fact is, my 30-year-old self now desperately wants to undo all the damage I accrued over the last 30 years and now use one or two religiously (I wouldn't be in such a panic had I just listened to my Mother. There is a lesson in that I am sure). For a daytime pick-me-up, I use Clinique's Pep-Start as it hydrates, brightens and perks me up. And with its unique applicator, it is cool to the touch and de-puffs eyes for a fresh and wide awake look. For the night, I indulge in Chanel's LE LIFT CRÈME YEUX as it delivers targeted anti-aging benefits to the total eye area: This I need. My eyelids are visibly lifted and look firmer. The trick, no matter your choice of eye cream, is not to pull or drag the delicate skin but to pat the product gently into the skin around the entire eye.
STEP 9: DAY MOISTURISER
If you are feeling weary, I do not blame you. The Korean skincare routine is nothing if not thorough and we are now nearing the end. Your moisturiser is your personal choice and should be chosen based on your skin type, e.g., combination, dry, sensitive, etc. Mine is sensitive and thirsty and so I love using Clarins HydraQuench for Dry to Normal skin. Whatever one you choose, massage it into your face and don't forget the neck!
STEP 10: SPF
Nobody should every step foot outside the house without an SPF. The number one way to prevent premature aging is to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun. My advice, never go below a factor 50 and apply once after moisturiser and topping up throughout the day. I once again choose a Clarins SPF and topped up using my fabulous IOPE Air Cushion Compact. An SPF and BB cream in one, it gives an ultra-light and natural finish with buildable coverage. I purchased this from Sokoglam.com (N23 is the darkest shade they do in this product, and it is pretty light. I would say it is equivalent to an Armani 5) but Lancôme has also launched a version (see here) that is pretty similar.
At night, your skin replenishes itself, so before you sleep is the perfect time to apply a cream that will hydrate and transform your complexion. I alternate between a general night cream, an overnight mask and a treatment. What night cream you use is your personal choice but should be based on your skin type and your complexion goals. You want to wake up with dewy, hydrated and plump skin that isn't clogged or irritated. Keep this in mind when shopping around.
Overwhelmed, much? This routine isn't as time consuming as it appears and in reality takes no more than 15 minutes to complete. (Remember exfoliation and masks are only once or twice monthly and should be viewed as a treat/luxury) If anything, I find the ritual very relaxing, it is some much needed 'me-time' in my busy schedule. The ultimate idea is that daily prevention and care will eliminate the need for expensive facials and dramatic intervention. Sure, if you are pushed for time, skip a few steps, but get back on track as soon as possible and you will see your skin transform in time for your wedding. This is a routine to live and die by, the results are that good.
-- Dani Farrell // Instagram: @deviliciousdani