Good skin is not about having more products than you can count it’s about having the right products that do the right things and then using them in the right order. You need to properly cleanse, exfoliate, treat, moisturize, and protect your skin, and believe it or not, all of this should take only five to ten minutes in the morning and another five to ten at night. If you’re like me a night owl then you’ll probably want to perform the steps that you don’t do every day at night when you have the time to unwind. If the morning is when you have extra time and energy to devote to your skin-care routine, then by all means, grab your OJ and go for it.

1. Makeup Remover and Oil Cleanser

On days when I wear a lot of makeup, I start my routine with a cotton pad soaked in gentle makeup remover or an oil-based cleansing tissue. This helps remove eye makeup precisely, which may not seem like a big deal, but you want to get all your mascara off, as your eyes and eyelashes are delicate enough as it is without being caked with a week’s worth of old mascara.

After that, I use an oil cleanser on the rest of my face. Apply on dry face directly with your fingers, and use gentle, upward circular motions. Contrary to popular belief, even those with oily skin can use an oil cleanser it won’t make you oilier. What it will do is break down all the oil-based debris that’s left on your skin, such as makeup, sunscreen, and sebum, as well as smog and pollution.

2. Water-Based Cleanser

Now it’s time to wash your face again, and no, I’m not kidding. Cleansing twice is not only practiced by Koreans, but it’s actually recommended by many estheticians and dermatologists because it helps to thoroughly remove any impurities that can cause breakouts. Apply a water-based cleanser, which will usually be creamy in texture or foam up when you add water, to a wet face, and work it in circular motions with your fingers. During both cleanses, gently massage the face to help increase circulation and enhance lymphatic drainage.

3. The Exfoliator

Don’t underestimate the importance of exfoliating! It helps loosen debris in clogged pores and sloughs off dead skin cells, which can improve your skin’s texture, brighten your complexion, and help your other products absorb better. You can use a mechanical exfoliator, like a sugar scrub, or a chemical one, which uses ingredients like lactic or salicylic acid to dissolve the “glue” that binds dead skin cells to healthy ones. Exfoliate once or twice a week, and focus on your nose and the visible pores on your cheeks. Don’t forget to lightly scrub your lips, too, which keeps them soft and helps your lipstick go on smoothly.

4. The Toner

Toner is an in-between step and often the step people will tell you to skip if you’re trying to simplify your skin-care routine. But don’t listen to the naysayers! Toners are actually very important. Used after cleansing, they help remove any leftover residues from your cleanser while also prepping and repairing your skin’s barrier to effectively absorb the moisturizers that follow.

In Korea, a lot of women use hydrating toners instead of astringent ones, and you can find ones that are suitable for all skin types. They’re packed with humectants that aid in soothing and hydrating, which is why toners are often called “refreshers” by Korean brands. Use a cotton pad to swipe it all across your face and neck or you can pat in the product with your hands.

5. The Essence

Aw, the essence the heart of the Korean skin-care routine! Korean women consider essence the most important step; it’s a skin-care category that was created in Korea. Essence is still hard to find elsewhere, but I bet that won’t be the case much longer! I’ve also had the most noticeable results from adding this to my regimen, because essences help hydrate and increase cell turnover.

6. Ampoules, Boosters, and Serums

Ampoules, which are often referred to as serums and boosters in Western lines, are what you would get if you put an essence on the stove and boiled it down until it was just the good stuff. They usually have a thicker consistency and are used to target and treat very specific skin problems. They can help brighten skin, fade sunspots, and smooth fine lines.

7. The Sheet Mask

If the essence is the heart of the Korean skin-care routine, then the sheet mask is the soul. It’s the quiet, meditative ritual of relaxation. On average, you should use a sheet mask twice a week, but you can do it more often if your face is very dry. The fun of sheet masks is in the variety and the price sometimes you can even grab one for a dollar.

Place a sheet mask on your face and then lie back and chill out for twenty minutes. The secret to sheet masks is that the sheet helps keep the product from evaporating, and its prolonged contact with your face forces your skin to absorb more of the nutrients and moisture than if you just applied them via a cream or serum.

8. The Eye Cream

If the eyes are the windows to your soul, then the skin around them is the barometer of your age. Regularly using an intensive eye cream can help keep dark circles, puffiness, and crow’s-feet at bay. The skin around your eyes is the thinnest and most delicate skin on your face, and eye creams are similar to ampoules and essences, but packed with a higher concentration of beneficial ingredients and formulated to be extra gentle and nonirritating.

To apply eye cream, you want to use your pinkie to gently tap the product around the entire orbital bone, and don’t get too close to the waterlines of your eyes or you can irritate them. We’ve all seen sleepy children rub their eyes, so think of that as the exact opposite of what you want to do here. Not only does tapping your eye cream on lead to better absorption of the product, but it also eliminates the tugging and pulling that just cause more wrinkles!

9. The Moisturizer

Hydration is probably the most important part of your nighttime skin-care routine. It’s likely the thickest formula that you’ll apply to your face, which is why it goes on last, and it will make the most out of your skin’s restorative midnight hours. Once a week, sub in a sleeping pack in place of your night cream to hydrate intensely.

10. Sunscreen

The final product here could also count as steps 11, 12, and 13, since you’ll be reapplying throughout the day. Regularly wearing SPF, even if you’re just sitting near a window or stepping outside for a few minutes, is probably the number one thing you can do to maintain and protect the health and beauty of your skin.


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