NOW READING Trend Report: Is Your Multi-Step Routine a Thing of the Past?
June 29, 2018

Trend Report: Is Your Multi-Step Routine a Thing of the Past?

If Korean beauty talk shows are any indication, a less-is-more or “minimalism” movement is about to invade your K-beauty routine. That means ingredient lists are about to get leaner and skincare routines less regimented. But don’t throw out your multi-step regimen just yet. It’s not about lesser so much as it is about smarter, better, and more customized.


 

Hey everyone! If we haven’t met already through the comments or the Beauty Wall here at Beautytap, I’m Leo! I am, just like many of you, totally obsessed with all things beauty, especially skincare, and all things Korean (not much of a choice there — it’s where I was born lol). After falling down the K-beauty/skincare rabbit hole four-ish years ago, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

I’m sure you know what I mean, though, when I say that it’s easy to get swept up in the tide of new releases from Korea — it may be the biggest non-issue possible next to Sailor Moon Crystal Season 4 being made into two movies instead of actual episodes (whyyyyy). But it can get overwhelming trying to choose what products are right for you when it seems like there are four options for every step of your routine and they all sound amazing. So in this series, I’m going to be focusing on the most recent trends coming out of Korea to help provide a little guidance. There is no “right” or “wrong” choice here; skincare is supposed be fun, not stressful!

 

Less-is-more
istock/Tomwang112

 

Less is now more

 

If I were to sum up in a word a lot of what I saw in the first half of the year in Korea in terms of skincare, I would say that it would be — get ready for this — SIMPLICITY. I know, I know: We’re all clutching our multi-step routines in shock and covering our ears so we don’t hear that dreaded word. I made my way through this entire past winter alternating the Klairs Supple Preparation Toner and Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner for my seven layers of toner, so this did come as a bit of an initial shock. But it’s not as bad as it sounds, I promise.

 

I’m not saying at all that you need to throw everything out the window and revert to the very “standard” routine that gets handed out mindlessly by dermatologists everywhere in the U.S. I’m sorry, but just a gentle face wash and simple moisturizer will do even less for my skin than a single glass of wine will do for my mood. #TeamHalfBottle (please drink responsibly lol).

 

Rather, what this approach indicates is that Koreans aren’t all running out to buy the next new thing from the most expensive brand they can budget for just because the jar is pretty and it smells nice. They’re asking for a lot more, or in this case, a lot less from their products. Apps like 화해 (HwaHae) that give ingredient lists and more detailed information about how safe or unsafe those ingredients might be are more and more commonplace. The days of buying products packed with artificial fragrance and harsh, cheap ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate and isopropyl or denatured alcohol are definitely coming to an end.

 

Even dermatologists are leading the charge towards a minimalist, “less is more” approach; 한수민 (Han Su Min) is a notable dermatologist who appears frequently on Korea’s top beauty show Get It Beauty, and she spoke recently about this idea of simplicity on the show with K-pop idol Kim Doyeon of I.O.I. and WekiMeki.

 

Less-is-more

 

Less-is-more

 

Minimizing or eliminating the use of products containing artificial fragrances, artificial colorants, and other unnecessary ingredients were the entire focus of this segment, and it’s something I’ve focused on myself. Removing harsh surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and minimizing the amount of products that contain high levels (or any) alcohol has helped immensely with my dehydrated skin. (Oh, by the way, Han Su Min is 40 years old. That’s not even fair. If she told me that using hot sauce as toner was her secret I can’t say I wouldn’t try it.)

 

Less-is-more

 

I think that we’ve seen brands that focus on this type of simplicity grow very quickly as well in recent months. COSRX just released their Two In One Poreless Power Liquid just months after their Low ph PHA Barrier Mist and PHA Moisture Renewal Power Cream and already have a new product launch with their Hydrogel Very Simple Pack, large hydrogel patches that you use as a targeted mask to cool, hydrate, and soothe. These recent COSRX launches are awesome examples of this concept of simplicity with their total lack of the less-than-awesome ingredients we’ve been talking about throughout.

 

Less-is-more

 

The Korean beauty brand Purito came out of nowhere and exploded onto the scene just in the last month or two. Both brands are focused on the exact philosophy of less is more and containing fewer ingredients that aren’t necessary, like perfumes, dyes, and excessive amounts of preservatives.

 

Less-is-more

 

Even large road shop brands are taking note and releasing products that focus on this type of simple, “cleaner” approach to their products, like Etude House and its Soon Jung line (Soon Jung literally means “pure” in Korean), which boasts an ingredient list that is EWG rated green for low irritation potential and free of animal and potentially harmful ingredients.

 

As with anything, take all this with a grain of salt. If something you absolutely love has artificial fragrance that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside or has a high amount of alcohol but delivers the results you need (I feel sorry for anyone who tries to get between Jude Chao and her Sulwhasoo), then do not immediately toss it into Bad Product Purgatory because of one video you watched or one article you read. Adopt whatever routine works for you and your lifestyle, but remember: More is only more if each product and each layer has a purpose. I think taking a look at what we’re putting on our faces every day and minimizing ingredients that may not be doing us any good can benefit everyone, regardless of how many steps you’re patting on while you’re Netflixing your evening away.

 

Have you ever tried going less-is-more with your skincare routine or minimizing certain ingredients? What prompted you to do so? Let’s talk about the pros and cons!

 

Born in Korea and raised in Washington, Leo is another 20-something member of the K-Beauty Squad that is as committed to his love of skincare as he is to wine and cheese covered snack foods. After working as an educator and trainer in the beauty industry, he joined the team at Beautytap to continue sharing his knowledge and passion for skincare and all things chok-chok. During his free time, he’s been spotted in the wild bingeing Netflix shows, blasting K-pop while playing video games, or (much more rarely) leaving his hovel to venture forth in search of cocktails and Korean BBQ.

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COMMENTS 29

I've definitely fallen into the 10 plus step routine trap and have found that ~5 steps is the perfect balance for me. The seven skin method has been the real game changer for me in terms of minimizing my routine and I often find that the changes in the weather dictate how many products I feel like my skin needs. In the winter, I tend to layer on more products but in the summer I like lighter layers or fewer products.

leolouie

7 skin really was a huge game changer for me too! I don't do all 7 layers all the time (the thickness of the toner and number of layers definitely increases fall/winter) but I didn't realize how many products I was using to address my dehydration when all I needed was more hydrating toner lol

pleasesendsnow

Okay, so leolouie.... favorite hydrating toner? Also if I can't live without basically a coffee IV drip but constantly drink water...?

leolouie

Hydrating toners rotate in and out for me so I don't quite have a "favorite" I guess? It's where I sort of let myself just buy something pretty and use it without a ton of thought or research lol. I did really enjoy using the Earth's Recipe one though! Also, I've read a few studies indicating that there's actually enough water in coffee to counteract the dehydrating effect of the caffeine in coffee. It's not as "hydrating" as normal water, so still drink that, but do not fear the coffee. #DrinkTheBeanWater

pleasesendsnow

Hahaha drink the bean water I will, then! I think I saw the same article. But good to know about Earth's Recipe. I've also been looking at the Klairs supple toner and Purito's Green level toner. Just need to make a list haha!

I have the earth’s recipe toner on my list! I’ve been using the whamisa deep rich toner, may coop raw sauce and a layer of my sulwahsoo balancing water but am ready to switch it up!

pleasesendsnow

I feel like I got so lucky finding the K-beauty world as Purito and COSRX are coming out with all of these great products. It's nice to know that I can start out with both effective and affordable products immediately. I started with a 5-7 step routine and the occasional sheet mask. Based on this article and that COSRX and Purito make up most of my products, I may not ever need to change!

mariposa

Yes, it's great to be able to find so many affordable products that are higher quality than most similarly-priced products from US brands. And I love the flexibility of K-beauty products that can work in simple or complex routines. I've been gradually expanding my collection but also experimenting with varying my routine based on my skin condition, the season/weather, how much time and energy I have, etc. Somehow I never realized you could do that before! It was always cleanser, toner, moisturizer, sunscreen... or more often, no sunscreen because they all felt greasy to me.

leolouie

Honestly, they're such great brands! I love experimenting and changing things around, but if I had to, I could absolutely use just those two brands and I would have an awesome routine.

asinusadlyram

Alcohol doesn't bother me for the same reasons it doesn't bug Jude. Oftentimes extracts have their own particular chemistry, and sometimes the good stuff is extracted in alcohol. If it doesn't piss my face off, I'm good with it. And I'm also with Jude on the Sulwhasoo bent. The ladies at my Aritaum have started keeping a list of stuff for me to try and I am SO HERE FOR IT.

mariposa

Yeah, it seems like some products are well-formulated enough that the alcohol won't bother most people. I'm just paranoid after realizing that I spent years making my face worse with "acne-fighting" astringents, spot treatments, etc. that had too much alcohol, among other problems. :( So now if I'm interested in a product with alcohol in the top 5-10 ingredients and it gets good reviews, I try to buy a sample first before I invest in the full-size product.

annapark

I soooo agree with you mariposa. The occasional alcohol-included product (Swanicoco Bio Mint Sun Gel, Shiseido Ultimune) is not going to cause me to freak out, but I too spent way too many years drying out my skin with astringents laden with alcohol. I don\'t think my much-older skin can deal with anymore so I\'m very picky about using a skincare product with alcohol.

leolouie

I honestly go more off of smell than anything with alcohol products; if it smells like rubbing alcohol during application, it had better be doing amazing things for my skin and it gets pushed to the end of my routine. I totally feel you on the "i turned my skin into parchment with sea breeze" vibes because wow did I hurt my skin in the past lol.

mariposa

I definitely try to avoid alcohol, at least in the top 5-10 ingredients. However, I probably need to switch to a gel sunscreen for the summer, and most of those seem to have alcohol. (And the alcohol-free gels I've found tend to be more expensive). I'll probably start with the A'PIEU Pure Block Aqua Sun Gel -- it got good reviews and it's not too expensive, so if it doesn't work for my face I can just use it up as a body sunscreen.

I already keep a spreadsheet of my current products plus ones I'm interested in trying. I was... Read more

annapark

Actually your plan is making me droooool! I loooove organizing my skincare. I've started a million spreadsheets, but it's so hard to keep up!

I avoid alcohol too, and I really like the A'Pieu Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream. It dries down fast with no white cast. My fave is the Earth's Recipe Sun Gel, but yes, it is a bit pricier (but no alcohol — it totally feels like it has it in a good way!).

mariposa

Yeah I'm definitely going to try the A'Pieu sun cream. And yes, the Earth's Recipe was one of the nice but expensive sun gels I was thinking of. :) Maybe I'll get it next time it's on sale...

pleasesendsnow

The earth's recipe is really nice! But yes, expensive. I bought A'Pieu and waiting on it patiently hoping it will be as good!

I like both of these! The earth’s recipe is a little bit more elegant but the A’pieu is one of my favs especially using Jude’s recommendation of how to apply it with a cushion!

annapark

Isn't that trick genius? I still haven't tried it because I haaaate cleaning cushion puffs (lazy, I know), but I love watching her do it in her Instastories!

IT IS SO AMAZING! I wish I had know about it sooner. I know keep extra puffs in purses to help me reapply! I know, I am so lazy when it comes to cleaning my makeup brushes and have lost many a good brush that way! At least with the puff, it is minimal effort especially since I do it while I wait for my actives or while I get sheetfaced :)

mariposa

Yes, that technique is such a great idea! I ordered a cushion puff to try it out.

leolouie

Trust me, I've got a whole spreadsheet/chart system going as well so I feel you 100% lol. It does feel a little over zealous some times but I kinda like that I don't constantly need to be searching for new products and I have an idea of what I wanna try. And if something intriguing and new comes along, sure I might swap it in to the rotation, but my routine as a whole is pretty set since I know what kind of skincare my face likes now.

annapark

I've actually been entertaining the idea of paring down my routine a bit to see if there's a difference. I spent the last few weeks living off samples and a much more pared down routine. It might have been the change in climate (my skin loves humidity), but the pared down routine didn't seem to affect my skin in a negative way at all. In fact, my skin behaved better (no breakouts, less oil). I'm gonna have to experiment with this new "simplicity" philosophy now that I'm back in my regular climate (dry, dry, dry).

leolouie

I feel you on the dry thing, it's been so awful lol. I think we have pretty similar skin types from what I've gathered from your comments and I honestly have had a very simple routine as of late. At night, it's either FTE or acid toner, then a few layers of toner, an "emulsion" I make in my hand (water based serum plus a few drops of oil) and then just an occlusive on top.

devineth

Interesting article, I have tried to minimize my routine, mainly because of the climate in which I live (tropical-wet), I am trying to use products that are not so abrasive with the skin.A youtuber I recommend seeing is Director Pi, she in her multiple videos provides comments on the most popular products and what ingredients it contains, so that you can know which are the best according to the ingredients it contains and the needs that our skin has .

annapark

devineth do you have a link to her site? I\'d be interested in checking it out!

devineth

Of course annapark this is the link of one of her videos https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqrNqg3UgVoD3Sa-F_TxuSA she is a Korean yotuber, some of her videos have subtitles in English.

annapark

Ok ... totally addicted ...

leolouie

Yeah, I think climate plays a hugeee role in influencing both how your skin is acting and the products/steps in your routine. I doubt I'd have to do so many toner layers if I didn't live in the desert, but it's air conditioning all summer and all winter it's literally under 10% humidity every day, so I need the layers and occlusives or I feel like a raisin lol

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