You Don’t Really Need 10 Steps — Here’s How to Curate Your Own K-Beauty Routine
Who says you have to do a full 10 steps in your skincare routine? Korean beauty is all about layering, yes, but it’s about layering to fit your individual skin’s needs. So whether you’re five, 10, or even 15 steps, here’s how to curate your own K-beauty routine that’s right for you.
When K-beauty started to go mainstream in the U.S. market, the big talking point was how K-beauty was all about the HOLY 10 STEPS. At the time, the American market was very basic in its approach to skincare — most people were cleansing, toning, and moisturizing. When it came to beauty in the U.S., it was all about makeup. (Watch YouTube videos from around 2012 to 2014 and you’ll see what I mean.) I’m pretty sure the media tried to focus on the whole 10-step thing in a bid to discredit K-beauty, but that’s another story for another day.
At any rate, the 10-step K-beauty skincare routine IS a thing, and lots of people have seen tremendous success using it. What are the 10 steps, you ask? Well, it can vary (if you’re interested, you can read more details on each step here), but typically it goes a bit something like this:
- Oil cleanse (to remove oil-based makeup and sunscreen)
- Foaming cleanser (to remove water-based dirt and debris)
- Exfoliator (to smooth rough skin or to fight acne)
- Hydrating toner (to prep skin for following treatments)
- Essence/serum (for more potent skincare actives)
- Ampoule or treatment (to target specific skin concerns)
- Sheet mask (for a boost of hydration and treatment)
- Eye cream (for fine lines around the eyes)
- Moisturizer (to seal in the previous treatments)
- SUNSCREEEEEN (to prevent UV damage)
The answer to all of these questions: no. Nothing is mandatory. You do not need to do an entire 10-step routine to make your K-beauty skincare journey successful. I’ve been a Korean skincare blogger and writer for six years now, and I don’t use 10 steps. So, yeah. It’s definitely not necessary — unless you really enjoy it and want to!
To really dial your skincare routine in, think about the following:
1. What is your skin type?
2. What goals do you want to achieve?
Do you have oily skin and want to balance it? Do you suffer from hormonal breakouts and want to calm your skin? Do you have dry skin and you want to focus on getting that coveted K-beauty glow? If you need to, write down your goals in a journal or your phone.
After you’ve done this, think about what steps of the K-beauty routine would benefit you the most. If you have dry, sensitive skin, then maybe you don’t need to exfoliate but you definitely need a super-hydrating essence. If you have acne-prone skin, maybe you don’t need to use an essence and an ampoule. And as beneficial as sheet masks are, you don’t need to use them every day. Three times a week is more than ideal!
Here are the steps that I personally feel are non-negotiable in my routine:
1. I must remove my makeup with some type of makeup remover. I like cleansing oils and balms.
2. I also must use some sort of gentle foaming cleanser to help remove makeup, extra debris, and any leftover dirt and grime from my oil cleanser.
3. I love hydrating toners and feel that they’ve made a tremendous difference in my skin. A hydrating toner will work wonders for all skin types. If you’re dry, HOORAY for extra moisture. If you’re oily, then HOORAY you’re helping to balance out your skin.
4. A good moisturizer is necessary. I cannot believe I used to be one of those people who wouldn’t use a moisturizer because my skin is oily. I cringe at the thought!
5. SUNSCREEN. I’ve talked about how necessary sunscreen is. You have to wear it. No ifs, ands, or buts.
So boom. That’s five steps. I have acne-prone skin, so I throw in an exfoliator, and I sheet mask whenever I feel like it for my nighttime routine. In the morning, I use only four steps: cleanser, hydrating toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen. It’s all up to you! Your routine is YOURS.
If you want to learn more about the typical 10-step routine and what goes where and when, check out our multi-step guide here.
To see how some of our K-beauty Squad take care of their skin, look for your skin twin below to check out their routine:
How do you curate your own K-beauty routine? How many steps do you use and what’s a non-negotiable in your routine? Let me know in the comments!