It’s Time You Get in on the Korean Skincare Game
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When it comes to taking care of your handsome mug, there’s no method more intense (and worthwhile) than the 10-step Korean skincare routine. What makes the Korean skincare routine different is the sheer amount of steps involved as well as the philosophy associated with it, according to New York-based Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr. Michele Green.
“Korean skincare focuses on cleansing, treating, and protecting the skin with products that use well-researched and specially targeted ingredients for specific needs of an individual’s skin,” says Dr. Green. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and retinol are fairly common to address aging, brightening and moisturising, but there are uncommon ingredients for more targeted care like green tea for redness or marine collagen for elasticity.
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Sure, switching to a Korean skincare routine is a leap from using bar soap in the shower, but there are ways to ease into it. One of the best ways to do that is to understand what the steps are, how they help, and if you have time to fit it into your routine.
There’s no silver bullet for perfect skincare, so don’t be afraid to mix it up and try a few different things to optimize your routine. If all else fails, Dr. Green recommends visiting a board-certified dermatologist to help you achieve your goals.
“It’s important to consider that though amazing results can be achieved by using a Korean skincare routine, some stubborn skin issues may require additional treatment. Identifying and treating the underlying cause of your skin concerns is essential in preventing frustration in the future and protecting your skin so that it can look and feel younger, healthier, and more radiant,” Dr. Green says.
If you’re ready to take the jump, here are the steps of a 10-Step Korean skincare routine and a few product recommendations to get you started.
The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine
1. Remove Makeup
Starting with a makeup remover is essential in Korean skincare because it allows you to get out hard-to-remove makeup, dirt and debris that a facial cleanser will sometimes leave behind. An oil-based cleanser is a great choice because it will help remove any oil-based products that you’re using on your skin.
2. Cleanse Face
Korean skincare has a concept called double cleansing. After removing debris from your face with an oil-based makeup remover, you’ll want to use a water-based facial cleanser to wash off everything else.
Exfoliating your face helps remove dead skin cells that may build up over time. If you’re not sure how sensitive your skin is, start with a gentle scrub.
After giving your face a deep clean, the next step is to restore the pH balance of your skin. A good toner will also help remove any debris that is still left behind after cleansing. You can apply a toner with cotton balls. However, if the formula is thick enough, you can use your hands.
Think of an essence as a lightweight serum that you use to address specific issues like dry skin or fine lines. The purpose of an essence is to give your skin a boost of hydration, as essences are more watery than serums. You can apply with a cotton ball or your hands in an upward massaging motion.
There are tons of different types of serums for a variety of skincare needs. Pick a serum that addresses your needs. For example, you may want a serum with hyaluronic acid for extra moisture or green tea for redness. Massage into your skin in an upward motion.
7. Sheet Mask
Sheet masks are typically single-use fabric face masks packed with nutrients for your skin. It’s a relaxing way to apply active ingredients to your face. Pick a mask that addresses problems with your skin that you didn’t address with your essence or serum. You can also use this as an opportunity to get more of those nourishing ingredients absorbed into your skin. Incorporate a sheet mask into your routine once or twice a week.
8. Eye Cream
The skin around your eyes are delicate and can show early signs of aging or stress. A good eye cream adds moisture to that area and can address problems like dark circles or puffiness. Make sure you dab lightly when applying an eye cream.
A good moisturizer is essential to all skincare routines because it will seal in moisture and any of the other nourishing ingredients you’ve applied previously.
Protecting your skin from sun damage is essential for slowing the signs of aging and preventing skin cancer. Make sure you pick a sunscreen that matches your skincare needs, whether it’s something more lightweight or with a higher SPF level.
What Men Should Do Differently
First of all, don’t be intimidated. Dr. Green recommends easing into a new skincare routine by picking a few essential steps to start with like cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing and using sun block.
“If you’ve been using your body wash as your facial cleanser for your entire life, and suddenly incorporate a 10-step regimen into your morning and evening routines, you’re going to overwhelm yourself,” she says.
Although a Korean skincare routine is designed to be universal, Dr. Green says that facial hair is an added consideration for men when embarking on a new skincare routine, adding that it’s important to follow a careful pre- and post-shave regimen to protect against ingrown hairs that can lead to infection.
“If you do maintain a beard or other facial hair, there may be benefit in primarily using a physical exfoliator versus the gentle chemical exfoliators that many women without facial hair would use. Men also tend to be generally oilier than women and the products incorporated into their skincare routines should reflect that,” Dr. Green says.
Products to Consider
Dr. Green says that some of the best Korean skincare products incorporate ingredients like kale, Vitamin B and C, hyaluronic acid, watermelon, and hibiscus flower extracts (a natural flower of Korea that has skin exfoliating properties). She adds that it’s important to start with a good face cleanser, exfoliant or toner, followed by rejuvenating serums, retinoids and moisturizers. Here are some products to consider to add to your skincare routine.
Best Gentle Facial Cleanser
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
This creamy foaming cleanser is great for daily use, especially if you aren’t sure what your skin type is or if you have sensitive skin. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser’s formula is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.
Promising Review: After years of white heads, ginormous enlarged pores, mild acne turned to a cystic mess, I’ve found a product that has worked wonders for my skin. My dermatologist asked me to switch to this (I was earlier using Neutrogena’s Oil Free salicylic face wash that she thought was extra harsh on my skin, and she was right!) This Cetaphil cleanser does not lather but that does not mean it’s not doing its job. It’s mild, fragrance-free, clears out your skin in a matter of weeks – and all I’ve been doing is washing my face with this twice a day and dabbing on moisturizer. This stuff works!
Best Moisturizing Exfoliator
Sugar Face Polish Exfoliator
This gentle exfoliant made with brown sugar and strawberry seeds helps revive your skin by buffing away debris. The plum seed oil and grapeseed oil aid in hydration and leave your face feeling silky smooth. It’s also got vitamin C for brightening.
Promising Review: In love with this exfoliant!!! Most exfoliants leave my skin dry and stretched afterwards, but this sugar polish feels so good during and after. The best part is the real sugar grains that melts during massage. Be sure to leave on your skin for at least five minutes after the sugar melts to let the nutrients soak in. And the smell is so yummy! I look forward to exfoliating.
Best Mask for Manly Men
Jaxon Lane’s Bro Mask
This mask for “bros” isn’t just good marketing. It’s also packed with nutrients that are great for your skin like collagen, hyaluronic acid, peptides, green tea, licorice and ginger. It’s got niacinamide in it as well, which is an ingredient that may help with eczema. This is a great mask for men with beards, as it comes in two pieces that can go on separately.
Promising Review: I’ve been seeing these everywhere and actually received one for Valentine’s day from my fiancee. She thought it was going to be funny to get me to do one but when I used it, it was actually better than her mask ha! Felt nice and hydrated and made my face less red and chapped from winter.
Best Daily Moisturizer
Mizon Collagen Power Lifting Cream
Mizon’s Collagen Power Lifting Cream is a great daily moisturizer to incorporate into your Korean skincare routine. It features marine collagen for aiding in skin elasticity. This cream targets fine lines and early signs of aging, as well.
Promising Review: I received this item pretty quick in the mail so I was excited to start using it! My skin is on the dry side so I was looking for something hydrating that would keep my skin wrinkle free. Over the course of using this product morning/night, I noticed great hydration and my skin was soooo smooth. However, I began to break out and had quite a few pimples on my cheeks that I normally do not get.
I decided to start using it on my stretch marks on my stomach because I read that the collagen could help them fade. I noticed immediately in the same day after applying it to my stomach that the stretch marks had indeed faded a little. So now I make sure to use this product on my stretch marks morning/night and have seen great improvement.
This product is great, I just wouldn’t recommend it for your face if your skin is sensitive or prone to breakout.
Best Daily Sunscreen
innisfree Minimum Sun Cream SPF25
innisfree’s Minimum Sun Cream is great for daily use. Most daily moisturizers have SPF 15, so this should be fine for basic protection from the sun. It’s lightweight, so won’t go on as thick sunscreen with higher SPF. However, if you have fair skin and are spending the day in sweltering hot weather, you may want to increase your SPF level and reapply through the day.
Promising Review: I feel like most sunscreens slightly irritate my skin so I decided to try this one out. It is a physical sunscreen so there is a bit of a white cast and the texture of it is not as light/weightless as some chemical sunscreens, but it does not irritate my skin at all which is great. It also slightly brightens the skin, so I find that I don’t use as much foundation when I use this sunscreen.
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