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There's been a lot of hype about the "10 step k-beauty skincare routine" in the past couple years. Does it really take 10 products to get flawless glowing skin? What if I use them in the wrong order? What's the difference between a serum and an essence? It can be incredibly overwhelming before you even start so we're here to break it down for you. When you simplify the k-beauty routine, the steps boil down to cleansing, exfoliating, treating, moisturizing and applying sunscreen during the day. A full routine looks a little like this:



Remove your eye makeup gently with good makeup remover or makeup wipes such as Goodal Waterest Lotus Water Cleansing Tissues, because eye makeup is often the hardest to get off (leaving you with embarrassing raccoon eyes post-cleansing). We like to soak a cotton pad in the makeup remover and hold it over our eyes for 15 or so seconds before wiping gently. This will help the solution break down your long-wearing eye makeup and get you ready for the next step.


The general rule of thumb is, if you’re going to spend 20 minutes putting on your face, you should spend the same amount of time and care when removing it. In Asian skincare, there's a popular method of cleansing called the double cleansing method where you use an oil-based cleanser first and follow it up with a water-based (usually foaming) type cleanser. The oil cleanser is used to break down oil-based debris (i.e., makeup, pollution, and sunscreen). Use an oil-based cleanser like Botanic Farm Grain Fermenting Cleansing Sherbet or the Etude House Moisture Art Cleansing Oil and use gentle, circular motions with your fingers to massage and clean off the makeup. The second cleanser, a water-based cleanser, should be used to remove water-based debris (i.e. dead skin cells and dirt). Make sure to gently massage the face with your fingers to increase circulation, which results brighter skin. To learn more about the double cleansing routine, visit our blog post here.


Exfoliating with a gentle scrub like the Skinfood Black Sugar Wash Off Mask is just as important as cleansing. What's the point of investing in expensive skincare products if they can't be absorbed through a layer of dead skin cells? We like to exfoliate once a week, just to make sure we are renewing the cycle of our skin.


Toning is important not only to remove any residue from your cleansers but also to restore your skin's pH balance so it is ready to absorb other products you layer on. Don't be confused by the many names this product can take on such as softener, skin, and refresher. They're all meant to prep your skin so it's hydrated and ready to go for the rest of your skincare routine. Dispense the toner onto a cotton pad and wipe your face and neck or you can just pat the product gently into your skin. We love the Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner for oily/combination skin and the Neogence Hyaluronic Hydrating Lotion toner for dry skin.


What's the big deal about sheet masks? They allow your skin to absorb the ingredients better than if you just applied a cream—before the product has a chance to evaporate. The immediate effects are addicting and the best masks give you just that - an instant plumping and brightening effect right after using them. Our go-to favorites are Botanic Farm's Polar Energy Hydrogel Syn-Ake Mask and the Leaders 7 Wonders Amazonian Acai Anti-Pollution Mask. If you prefer cotton to gel masks, we recommend checking out It's Skin's Fresh Honey Sheet Mask.


The essence is one of the biggest mysteries of Asian skincare – what is it and why do you need it? Korean women believe the essence is one of the most essential steps in their skincare regimen. It is a concentrated formula that specifically targets wrinkles, fine lines, and dull or uneven skin tones. They typically contain an active ingredient that improves your skin’s natural cell turnover rate so over time, you’ll notice your skin is smoother and brighter. Treat your face with Secret Key First Treatment Essence, which many compare to the popular SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. It affects skin on a cellular level, speeding your cell turnover rate which makes skin smoother and brighter.


Ampoules are super-concentrated versions of essences, and are often referred to as serums in the US. They tend to be less watery compared to essences but are just as powerful - in fact you can think of them as potent potions for your skin (we love the Innisfree Green Tea Serum). Serums and Ampoules penetrate into the deeper levels of your skin to hydrate from the inside out. We've seen a big difference in our skin texture when we introduced serums into our routine.



The thin, delicate skin around your eyes needs special treatment. Dark circles, puffiness, crow’s feet, we’ve all got issues we’re trying to solve when it comes to eye care. Asian eye creams are extremely gentle and specifically formulated for that fragile area. We love using Cosrx's Honey Ceramide Eye Cream around the eye area (be sure to gently tap the product in). As a rule of thumb, if you’re over 20 years old, it’s time to start thinking about investing in an eye cream you love.


For an added layer of moisture, especially during the colder months, it's smart to invest in a good cream moisturizer. A great moisturizer creates a barrier that will lock in all the beneficial ingredients you’ve just applied instead of letting them evaporate off your skin while you sleep or go about your day. Products for moisturizing can often be called an emulsion or cream in Asia. We recommend using an emulsion for oily/combination skin such as the Etude House Moistfull Collagen Emulsion (which smells heavenly!) and a heavier cream such as the Innisfree Olive Real Power Cream if your skin is dry or dehydrated. 


The sunscreen step is pretty self explanatory. In an Asian skincare routine, sunscreen isn’t optional – it’s absolutely essential. Before heading out each morning, make sure to apply a sunscreen to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays. This makes the biggest difference when it comes to keeping aging at bay so make sure you stay protected by using a sunscreen with a high SPF and PA rating. A fan favorite that we've featured in a previous 3B box is 3WClinic's Intensive UV Sunblock Cream SPF 50+++.

For an added boost of moisture, we like to end the routine with a sleeping pack. This isn't something we do everyday but once a week as a nice facial treat. The point is, your skin needs to stay hydrated as you recharge and it regenerates itself overnight. We recommend Etude House Moistfull Collagen Sleeping Pack and Botanic Farm's Black Soybean Milk Pudding Sleeping Pack night treatments so you wake up with healthy, glowing, and soft skin. 

All in all, this might sound intimidating and we know you're thinking how in the world does anyone do this. Hear us out for a little longer will you? Keep in mind you can always substitute or skip certain steps. You can do a 6-step routine consisting of double cleansing, toning, using an essence, a serum, and a moisturizer. It's about finding what works best for your skin. There is no magic 10 step process that will give you a flawless airbrushed complexion but we're here to tell you to give it a try. For us, this full routine only takes about 15 minutes (especially because you don't have to mask or exfoliate daily) and becomes something we look forward to at the end of the day. Give it a shot and watch what can happen when you put your skin first.


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