Is A Korean Skincare Routine Right For Your Skin?

Since Korean beauty products came on the scene, we've been treated to a host of new products (essences, ampoules, and sheet masks), ingredients (snail slime?), and beauty regimens that involve more process steps than a high school or college chemistry experiment. And while we'd be lying if we said we're not sold on the idea of looking good, the thought of undertaking a complicated beauty regimen when we've got children to chase, errands to run, and Netflix programs to binge watch is more than enough to give us pause for thought. If you've determined that Korean skincare could possibly work for you, you might still be intimidated. Where do you even begin?

Korean lifestyle blogger Vicky Lee tells Cosmopolitan that a Korean beauty (or K-beauty) regimen may sound a bit complicated, but each step plays a role in keeping her (and countless other Korean women) looking young and ageless. Lee begins her day with an eight-step beauty regimen that includes a splash of water on her face, followed by a toner, essence, ampoule, serum, eye cream, moisturizer, and SPF cream. At night Lee cleanses her face in two steps (oil cleanser and water-based face wash), before exfoliating, toning, adding more essence, adding another layer of ampoule, then serum, before topping all that with a sheet mask and eye cream, and wrapping up with a moisturizer.

Getting into a basic Korean skincare routine

If you don't have the time (or the budget) to go through the eight or 10 steps needed to look like your favorite K-pop star, Vicky Lee says you can always trim the number of steps — and products — to four essentials: a toner, serum, eye cream, and a moisturizer that protects you from sun damage. Don't forget to begin your abbreviated K-beauty routine by washing your face with water. Just make sure you're buying quality products that are the real deal — fake Korean beauty products are out there, and they can wreck your skin. 

But there are things you can do to keep your skin looking fresh and young, and the same rules apply no matter what beauty routine you decide to undertake. Vicky Lee tells Cosmpolitan that it is important to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized, to exfoliate properly (which means opening your skin's pores by using hot towels or steam before using any exfoliating product, and applying a cold towel or cool water after) and do it on a regular basis. 

She stresses the importance of using SPF products, because protection against sun damage is the best way to keep your skin healthy. Lastly, Lee encourages the practice of holistic skincare by eating and sleeping properly — which is a step which we could all definitely buy into.

A K-beauty routine may not be right for you

But if you thought getting into an eight or 10 step K-beauty program might get you to look like a K-pop star, it may not be quite that easy. The Cut points out that the way our skin changes as we get older has little to nothing to do with our skincare routines, and more to do with science and genetics. For instance, Asian people have higher levels of fat in their skin, and in South Korea, the bar for beauty is set at "chok chok" which means "plump and moist." Asians also generally have more melanin-rich skin, which means their wrinkles don't show up as clearly.

Dermatologist Dara Liotta says, "Nutrition, skincare, exercise, all still play a huge part — these are all things that help keep your skin and body from showing signs of molecular damage and being reparative to your DNA... It's significant, but aging is a combination of nature (genetics) and nurture (how we treat our bodies and faces)."