Day and Night Moisturizing: This Is How You Do It

Formulated moisturizers work because they hydrate the skin with ingredients that have smaller molecules to draw moisture to the skin and then retain it once it’s there. And while dousing your face with water won’t actually moisturize it, products are actually absorbed better when applied on a damp face.

Just as I explained in chapter three about the dry sponge vs. the damp sponge, it’s beneficial to start with damp skin. I’ve gotten in the habit of applying my skin-care products right when I step out of the shower (before I even blow-dry my hair), and that really enhances the absorption of everything, from my toner to my night cream.

There is also an order in which you should apply your skin-care products, starting with the lightest consistency (such as liquid toners) and then moving toward the heaviest (like a rich cream). Applying the heaviest cream first would almost create an oily barrier that would make it harder for the others to penetrate. This is why most toners are formulated to be very watery, since they’re one of the first products you apply.

Your Skin Deserves a Treat

Before you start tapping in that moisturizer, you might want to use a treatment product that’s formulated to specifically target skin issues such as dullness, brown spots, redness, or fine lines.


Essences are a popular skin care category in Korea—many Korean people believe it is the heart of their regimen! Generally, essences have a thinner and more watery consistency than serums and ampoules, but most of them contain active ingredients to help hydrate, brighten, even out skin tone, firm skin, and reduce the visibility of wrinkles. You’ll use these after toning and before moisturizing, and you’ll pat them over your entire face.

Ampoules, Serums, and Boosters

Though products may be labeled as ampoules, serums, or boosters, all are generally used the same way and for the same range of purposes. They have a thicker consistency with a more potent concentration of ingredients (think of them as an essence reduction) and are frequently used as spot treatments, such as to target brown spots on your cheeks or fine lines around your mouth. They frequently come in glass bottles with droppers, so you can squeeze out only as much as you need. If you’re adding one of these to your routine, you’ll use it after your toner or essence, wait a few minutes for it to absorb, and then follow with your moisturizers. If you’re using a treatment that increases sun sensitivity (like something with retinol), you might want to use it only as part of your nighttime routine to avoid UV exposure.

Treatments are one of the most personalized parts of a skin-care routine, so you might want to try a few different things, or get a consultation from a knowledgeable friend or esthetician, to find a product that is right for your specific needs and your skin type.

Your Personal Hydration Station

A moisturizer by any other name is still a moisturizer, but different types and formulations do different things and target different skin concerns. And while moisturizing should always be a part of your routine, you might want to use different products in the morning from those at night.


This term is used to describe a mixture of two or more liquids that are not entirely mixable—think oil and vinegar for salad dressing, or, in this case, oil and water for your skin. Most beauty lines in Korea include an emulsion, which is typically a light moisturizer formulated with tiny droplets of oil suspended in a water base. Since emulsions are so light, they are recommended for oily and combination skin types.


An in-between moisturizer, a lotion is heavier than an emulsion and lighter than a cream. Most lotions are suitable for all skin types.


A cream is usually more oil than water, which means it is very rich and emollient. Many creams are formulated with skin-repairing ingredients to lock in moisture and nourish the skin while you sleep, which is why so many creams are marketed for use at night. Creams are good for dry and aging skin types.

Gel Creams

Gel creams absorb quickly and are lightweight because they are water based, which helps minimize clogged pores. These creams are great for hydrating oilier skin that is prone to breakouts and acne.

Facial Oils

Facial oils are used after toning or exfoliating and are applied directly on the skin. You can also add a few drops to your regular face lotion to up its powers when your skin is feeling especially dry or flaky. In general, facial oils aren’t recommended for oily skin types.

Sheet Masks

Sheet masks are one of the most popular and well-known beauty products to come out of Korea, and I’ve separated sheet masks from the essences and sleeping masks because they’re a stand-alone beauty innovation.

Everyone and their mom are using sheet masks in Korea. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a household without a sheet mask handy, and they’ve quickly become one of my favorite ways to pamper myself. These face masks are not to be confused with the paper nose and mouth coverings doctors wear when seeing a patient, or that people use on days when dust levels are high. Those are precautionary hardware. Sheet masks are beauty superstars.


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