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.




I have oily skin.
People with oily skin try to use oil-free products as much as possible.
But you should know that using only light products can make your skin dry.
The way I use K-beauty is as follows.
I usually use less cosmetics in the morning because I am active during the day.
First, I wash my face with a foam cleaner (Steambase Roseherb Build Up Cleansing Foam), apply skin and emulsion, apply essence (Hanyul Artemisia Miracle Relief Essence 150ml), and apply moisture cream.(COSRX Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream 50ml). And finally, apply 50 ml of Earth's Recipe Waterful Sun Gel SPF 50+ PA++.
But... Read more


sometimes less is more! I love trying and testing new products, but if I needed only cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen me and my wallet would be very content lol however, I feel like a princess when I get to do multiple steps in a day.


I am 17 and I have begun to worry about the care of my skin and my only fear for me is if I do not use makeup I can follow the same routine? I would be very helpful your opinion, thank you :)


Whether you wear makeup or not, you definitely want to double cleanse, hydrate with a toner, moisturize with an emulsion/lotion/cream, and wear sunscreen! That's what I recommend for my teen nieces!

What do you do in your routine now?


hello first of all thank you for your answer.

 hello first of all thank you for your answer. :)
 For now I'm just using a cleanser and a moisturizer, since my skin is always dry for more than drink water or use non-abrasive products tend to be and with a little fat and a little acne that is only detectable to the touch, so I thought maybe I should let her rest but I do not notice much change :(


HI @teresaromero! It'd be great if you can contact our skincare specialist here: If you select as the subject "Product/Beauty Related Questions," we can answer more specific questions about your routine. Hope that helps!


Help! Please! xD I'm so confused with all these wonderful products K-beauty has to offer. My skin is sensitive (gets upset from the weirdest and too harsh things), combination (a little t zone oiliness and rough texture, scars) AND hormonal acne prone AND surface dry/dehydrated. I need hydration and care, balancing, preventing and treating.


If you're sensitive, you definitely want to start slow, especially so you can monitor what your skin reacts to well and badly. I always try to incorporate centella into my routine to help with any redness, irritation, and hormonal acne flareups. I've been liking Purito's Centella serum (and the price is not bad either!). And definitely get a nice hydrating toner into your routine. Maybe try applying it 3 times for deeper hydration. I love Earth's Recipe's toner. It's so bouncy and hydrating yet light.

I'd love to know what you're using and how it's working for you.


First of all, thanks for your reply!
I’ve gone through a lot of different brands and their products within the years but I've been using the Biotherm Biosource 24h Soothing toner quite some time now. It's been the best / safest so far but it's not amazing. It sometimes irritates my skin (I guess it's the denaturated alcohol in it or something else). It doesn't do much for the texture of my skin either, which is kind of rough on the forehead (I've these small flesh-colored pimple/bumps that come and go and sometimes flare up to whiteheads on the sides of... Read more


ironhorse I know what you mean about those little skin-colored bumps on the forehead. I get those too.

I think the first thing you have to do is get rid of that toner! I avoid denatured alcohol like the plague. I ruined my skin with so much alcohol when I was younger and now that I avoid any product with alcohol (especially my toner), my surface dehydration has disappeared. Definitely switch over to a toner — any toner! Especially if you\'re doing 7-skin — that has no alcohol.

I love Earth\'s Recipe toner because it just feels so... Read more


Hi! Thanks for your tips! I definitely consider the Earth's Recipe toner and the Purito serums in my next order. What AHA product would you recommend for winter use? Btw, I switched the Biotherm toner as an "emergency" to Payot's Lotion Tonique Reveil toner and started using Payot's cleansing micellar milk. So far, they've been surpisingly good. And what's more miraculous is that the sample I got in my last order from Eclado, the Cell magic skin lotion, it has cleared and smoothed my forehead. It hasn't looked this good in years... It's super pricey, though, and it leaves the... Read more


I\'m so glad the Eclado Cell Magic Skin Lotion worked for you ironhorse! There are sales on it occasionally so keep an eye out for that. For AHA I love Biologique Recherche P50W (for sensitive skin). The So Natural Shining Face Peeling Pads are pretty good, and the COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid was great as a starter for AHA.


I just my order today and I'm so excited to try them out. I've been using the Benton Aloe BHA along with the honey ginseng line from Nature Republic but using one product for a prolonged time makes it feel like it stops being useful.


I'm curious — what did you get in your order and how is it working for you?


Thanks for the tips. I appreciated this article.


How many steps do you do leahcolette? I\'m always curious about other people\'s routines!


Some days it feels like 20 steps with the wait times between acids and everything else I try to squeeze in but I do:
Double Cleanse
Exfoliator - P50 is my favorite acid exfoliator
Copper Peptide serum from NOID
Hydrating toner - in the winter
2 Essence/serums - Apple Stem Cell from Makeup Artist's Choice around the eyes (and eyebrows! It's helping them grow thicker!) and another usually with some sort of vitamin C
Sheet masks a few times a week - The benton snail/bee or my favorite splurges SKII and Sulwahsoo
Eye cream
Sleeping Pack at night
Sunscreen during the day!

Never typed it all... Read more


I know! When I had to type out my whole routine, I was like, I sound like a crazy person lol.
Ooo I’m so curious about that Apple stem cell serum. It actually makes your brows thicker? Do you apply it on the eyebrows or just around. I just ran out of my brow growth serum.


When I type my whole routine in my spreadsheet for the upcoming season I always feel ridiculous lol.


I'm not doing the exfoliation. I think guys need to do this more than we think....because our skin gets rough as we age. Exfoliation just seems like it takes too much time. Any quick tips?


Incorporating exfoliation into your cleanser is an easy way to exfoliate and cleanse in one step. Eclado's Enzyme Deep Cleanser Pure Powder lets you mix water with a grainy powder for an exfoliating foam cleanser! Just add less water for more exfoliation, more water for less!


Love all the links back to everyone's skincaare routines. I would love an update to see what everyone is using now! Also, I constantly get asked about this topic, and I so agree with everything you said. Korean skincare is not about a requirement of a 10 step routine morning and night, it's about customizing all these products to target your exact needs. With a "traditional" western routine of toner, serum and moisturizer I would never be able to target as many concerns as I can with my layers and all my patting away. If I did a serum, ampoule... Read more


Aren\'t our routines and products ever changing? I know I\'m constantly adjusting my routine and products based on my ever-changing skin, the seasons, and newer and better products I discover. I\'d love to know what your routine is leolouie!


I love seeing little snapshots of where people are at with their routines; I swear I've gotten all of my most important skincare steps from people just randomly trying a method or product out lol. Right now I'm sticking to an acid toner, FTE, 5 ish layers of hydrating toner, serum, a more milky serum/essence and then moisturizer. Day time is way more simple, BHA, hydrating toner and one of those all in one amouple/essence/serum things and sunscreen.


Your routine is impressive! I'm just happy I got the mister into toner, serum, and moisturizer (and sunscreen during the day), but it took years! Now if I give him a so-so serum I didn't really like, he can tell and will complain I'm giving him the cheap stuff. 😂


Lol, I also pawn my "meh" products off on to my SO. They will thank us later. I can't tell you how many people, especially men, I talk to at work that have 0 interest in beauty products across the 20-40's demo and then when the more advanced signs of aging hit they want to know if there's something that can "fix all of this" while pointing to their entire face lol. Everyone likes feeling pretty.


EXACTLY!!! When I first gave the mister a serum, after a few days, he was like, I still see my nasolabial lines. 😒 I'm like, seriously? If topicals could do that, I'd look like my 20 y.o. self!


That's hilarious lol. If they only knew the lengths people go through to test products and the weeks/months of trial and error that goes in to evaluating one product before it gets integrated in to a routine.

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