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  • Writer's picturejanaejean

One Year of 10-Step Korean Facial Routine

Do 10-steps twice per day for younger, smoother, clearer skin. That sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Overwhelming? Who has time for that? Can it possibly make a difference? I followed the internet famous 10-Step Korean Facial Routine every day for a year. Did it live up to the hype? Did I magically become younger in some "Benjamin Button" fashion? Did the "moon-time" acne clear up? I tried it, so you don't have to jump in without realistic expectations.

Leah Kelley, CC License,

Asian beauty products are everywhere across the USA these days. Just a year ago a friend of mine introduced me to sheet masks and oil cleansers. The impressive before and after shots found on Amazon and other popular sites lead us to small Asian grocers and online retailers searching to find unfamiliar products with unusual ingredients. (Snail serum?) I tracked down potions, lotions, creams and masks for the system and have refined what I do over the past year. These are some of the best products I’ve found.

Step One:​​

Cleanse with an oil-based cleanser. Why use an oil cleanser? The theory is that oil will draw out oil. Moreover when washed with oil-based cleanser skin is left feeling moist and supple, versus over-dried. Your skin will rebel after a harsh detergent you scrub with a harsh detergent and begin producing oil in overdrive to compensate for the moisture lost.

You don’t have to spend the big bucks to find a great oil cleanser. You can use the ubiquitous coconut oil to do the job, but I found I felt too greasy. Interestingly, coconut oil has antibiotic properties and may be beneficial for acne prone skin. I tried various brands of cleansers, but my favorite is Burt’s Oil Cleanser ($15.27), which contains coconut and argan oils. Another affordable option is Shea Moisture’s Daily Hydration Face Milk Cleanser ($12.99.)

Step Two:

Wash again with a water-based cleanser. I love the dermatologist’s choice, Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($15.18.)

Step Three:

I like to combine steps one and three by using my Mia 2 ($169.00, Amazon) to exfoliate by using the sonic brush while I do my oil cleanse. The Mia 2 does an amazing job keeping skin young and fresh, by massaging the surface while it sloughs off dead skin cells. I do this in the shower in the morning.

Of the many exfoliating cleansers out there, I have found many of them too harsh for my sensitive skin. If you want a less abrasive version of the classic St. Ives Apricot Scrub ($12.85 for a three-pack), go for her sister scrub, St. Ives Apricot Oil Scrub ($7.99) instead. Honey is a natural humectant and is anti-bacterial. Studies have shown honey kills both Staph and MRSA, and in some cases, even better than antibiotics.

Step Four:

​​​​Apply toner. Toner removes further impurities, such as oil and environmental pollutants from the skin. I recommend using a rosewater toner, such as Thayers Witch Hazel, Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Aloe Vera Formula ($16.98 for two-pack of 12 oz. bottles.) Rose water has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, and it is hydrates, clarifies and energizes skin.

Apple Cider Vinegar works as a great DIY solution. Straight ACV is too strong for delicate facial skin. Mix two parts distilled or filtered water with one part ACV. Use a cotton ball to apply a small amount of toner all over the face, avoiding the eye area. Make sure your ACV is raw, unfiltered and contains “the mother,” the beneficial probiotics; a great brand is Bragg Organic ($5.42.)

Step Five:

Apply a serum to repair your skin. I don’t do this every time. I experimented with snail repair serums over the past year. The one that gave me the best results was Mizon Snail 80 Intensive Repairing Serum ($13.48, Amazon.) You tap the serum over the entire face. I have also used Nourish Antioxidant Facial Serum from Trader Joe’s ($21.77 for two-pack.)

Snail slime is one of those intimidating ingredients to most Westerners, but its been used since Ancient Greece. The research is not definitive that it does in fact have miraculous anti-aging properties. According to Colin Sanders, cosmetic scientist and beauty blogger, “It worked pretty well, actually. Basically, it’s the oldest trick in the book. Most water-soluble biopolymers tend to shrink on drying, and in doing so they tighten up the skin. Egg white would probably work as well as snail slime.” There you have it, you may be able to use your grandmother’s folk serum of egg white and get similar, if not equivalent, results. Vegan? Look no further than Pacifica Sea Change Future Youth Serum ($11.58) contains kelp, aloe and germanium extract to tighten up your skin with a 100% vegan and cruelty free guarantee.

I like to keep it simple and apply Vitamin E oil in this step, Jason's Vitamin E 5,000 IU Oil, 4 oz. ($8.50.) Trader Joe’s sells a great version of Vitamin E in their stores, ($8.98). I tap a small amount of oil into delicate areas, cracks and lines.

Step Six:

Additional facial treatments are next. I have used high-end brands in the past, but I have found the creams at Aldi work just as well. Aldi’s Q-10 Lacura Face Cream comes in a day formula ($10.60, Amazon) and a night formula ($11.56, Amazon.) The active ingredient in these is Q-10, which is an antioxidant, which you lose as you age due to skin exposure. A daily application of it encourages youthful cell replication.​​

Step Seven:​​

Sheet masks are one of the steps that make Korean skincare different than other methods. I stock up on formulas such as Seaweed, Royal Jelly, Charcoal and more from Asian grocers. You can order them in bulk online. Look for a formula the suits your needs, Dermal Korea Collagen Essence is a steal on Amazon ($16.50 for 24-pack, Amazon.)

Step Eight:

The delicate skin around the eye requires special care, as normal facial products will cause irritation. I use Clinique’s All About Eyes Serum for All Skin Types for Unisex ($26.20.) Very lightly tap the product into the skin; never rub, around the orbital bone.

Step Nine:

Moisturizer is the key to keeping skin pump and clear. Skin will over-produce skin oils to replace those that are removed with cleaning. Cetaphil Fragrance Free Moisturizing Lotion ($16.79 for two-pack) lotion hydrates all-day without clogging pores or causing irritation.


Step Ten:

It is common knowledge that most skin aging is caused by daily sun exposure. In fact 90% of skin aging is caused by the sun’s ultra-violet light! Each year there are 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States alone. A regular daily use of SPF 15 or more sunscreen reduces the risk of cell carcinoma by about 40% and the risk of developing melanoma by 50%. Dermatologists recommend wearing SPF 30 on your face as it blocks 97% of harmful rays, while SPF 15 blocks 93%. Higher SPF numbers only contribute to small increases in protection.

My Verdict?

For the most part, the Korean 10-step routine has been a success for me. I have noticed a decrease in those pesky once-per-month breakouts. (The Korean Routine is not just for women. Gentleman, it will keep your skin looking clear and young too. My bf has been using it too for the last several months, and his complexion looks amazing.) My skin appears clear and smooth, and the process makes me feel physically and emotionally invigorated. It may seem overwhelming at first, but believe me, it’s really not that much more than most of us do anyway. I do not feel that every step must be done every day, but feel that it provides a structure where I can improvise what I want to do that day or evening. For example, I use the sheet mask once per week and I don’t always exfoliate with the Mia 2. On days when it feels like more steps than you can handle, I recommend wiping the day off your face with one or two Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes with White Tea for Normal Skin ($5.99) Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes with Cotton Extract for Sensitive Skin ($5.99) applying a sheet mask, and taking it easy.

Additional reading and resources:

Ahuja, Aashna. 10 Rose Water Benefits: From Antioxidants to Anti-Aging. Accessed 12/06/2017.

Sanders, Colin. Colin’s Beauty Pages. Accessed 12/06/2017.

Saner, Emine. Are Snail Slime Products Worth Shelling Out For? Accessed 12/06/2017.

SokoGlam. Korean Skincare Routine. Accessed 12/06/2017.

The Skin Cancer Foundation. Accessed 12/06/2017.


"Woman Taking A Shower,." Leah Kelley, Pexels:Best Free Stock Photos, Creative Commons License. Accessed 12/06-2017.


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