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NOW READING You Don’t Really Need 10 Steps — Here’s How to Curate Your Own K-Beauty Routine
April 12, 2018

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:


1. Oil cleanse (to remove oil-based makeup and sunscreen)


2. Foaming cleanser (to remove water-based dirt and debris)


3. Exfoliator (to smooth rough skin or to fight acne)


4. Hydrating toner (to prep skin for following treatments)


5. Essence/serum (for more potent skincare actives)


6. Ampoule or treatment (to target specific skin concerns)


7. Sheet mask (for a boost of hydration and treatment)


8. Eye cream (for fine lines around the eyes)


9. Moisturizer (to seal in the previous treatments)


10. SUNSCREEEEEN (to prevent UV damage)



To a newcomer to the K-beauty scene, all of these steps can seem a bit overwhelming. Do you really need an essence and an ampoule? Do you have to sheet mask every day? Is an eye cream that necessary?


own k-beauty routine


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!


So how do I curate my own routine?


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!


own k-beauty routine


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.


own k-beauty routine


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:


Dry and sensitive


Normal leaning dry


Combination leaning dry and sensitive


Combination and sensitive


Combination and acne-prone


Oily and acne-prone


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!



Sheryll Donerson got her start as a beauty writer by writing K-beauty reviews for her blog, The Wanderlust Project. These days, she's lifting heavy weights, eating tacos, drinking (too much) coffee and is 1/4 of the beauty podcast, Beauty Beyond Basics (or Triple Bees for short). You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @sheryllrenata.



Love this article Sheryll! As a busy solopreneur there are days when I get three solid steps in (cleansing, toning, moisturizing) and times when I pull all the stops at home (cleansing, toning, sheet mask, exfoliant, deep moisturizer, hair conditioner, mani/pedi) and its SPA DAY!

This very informative, everyone has a different skin type and skin concern, Hence, its best to diagnose and prognose what work for you and your skin.


I am new to the ten steps and Korean skincare. While I agree with doing what works best for your face and schedule, I do think it's important to point out (regardless of the number of steps one completes) that one of the primary personal benefits of the ten step routine is making consistent and habitual time for self care. So often women focus their time and attention on everyone else from morning until night. Add to that cooking and cleaning and working and laundry and children and pets and husbands and parents and, and, and - I think... Read more

Well said, Angela! Self care is SO important, and as women, we do tend to put our own needs last (or we ignore them altogether). You may appreciate this article I wrote in early 2019.

Super helpful article! Finding what routine is best for you and your skin type is the most important!

This article here is everything that the girls, and the guys NEEDED!! Ok that was strong but seriously, Sheryll this article is great! I have a sometimes complicated skin type - dry/oily T zone. On top of that, I'm usually on the go for work and now we're all wearing masks. No matter the matter, I follow the same five steps of your skincare regimen morning and night - I used a repairing cream without SPF at night.

Two points that you made that I hope people take away from this are a) multi-step skincare does not have to be overwhelming,... Read more

What great article! Skincare does not have to be daunting or overwhelming. Consistency is key! Find what works and keep at it. Your skin will love you for it!

Very informative!! Love this article. Clients can easily identify and take their own steps to a simplified daily routine with focus on the extra needed areas for each individual:)

First, thank you for simplifying the steps for a good skincare routine so it feels easier to accomplish! But also, this article contains to the point and sage advice for success in skincare for anyone. I would recommend this as a read for beginners and people with more knowledge of skincare alike, and I will most definitely be saving this article for future reference!

Luv this article. Your non-negotiable are my exact same steps for my skincare routine except for I do use an eye cream and serum to help rid of my dark circles and hyperpigmentation.  


This breaks it down so eloquently. Not everyone needs a long routine everyday or has the time for a long treatment in the morning. Clients can take this information and find a routine that works best for them and their lifestyle without overwhelming them with information. I love this article!

Personally, taking care of my skin every night is the way I pamper myself and it's me time. Kids are asleep, hubby is in bed. It's the 30 minutes that is all about ME! And also super beneficial to keeping healthy beautiful skin in the long run. In the morning I have a very basic "american style" skincare (cleanse, tone, moisturizer with spf) but at night I am currently working my way up to a long luxurious routine! It is so true though, gotta do what works for everybody's skin type and concerns!