Oct 25, 2019
You may already be a fan of the 7-skin method, but for the colder temps fast approaching, get ready to jump on Korea’s latest skincare trend: serum layering.
If I could pick one feature that is the biggest pillar in the institution that Korean beauty has grown into, I would have to say layering your products is what sets this approach to skincare apart from its counterparts. I don’t think it’s possible to avoid this whole layering system when you start exploring Korean skincare, and it definitely can turn into a double-edged sword of so many possible skin benefits on the one hand and pure confusion on the other. Even names of things start losing meaning for me when I fall too far down the rabbit hole: It seems like an essence or toner but isn’t, and ampoules are the same thing as serums except when they’re not, and so on.
The potential “what am I doing with all these bottles” scenario is what I feel, in part, gave the 7-skin method its boost into center stage of K-beauty. It made it so easy to just slap on a few layers of the same toner/essence to hydrate the skin and then move on. I’m not saying that the 7-skin method isn’t popular anymore; during humid/hot summers and/or for those with skin more on the dehydrated but oily side, I think it is definitely a trick to keep up your sleeve. But I would say that 7-skin is going to have to share the stage because serum layering is definitely making a strong case in Korea this season.
Why serum layering
When looking at any new trends in Korea, I think many people fail to keep the weather conditions in mind. We’re a peninsula that’s jutting out into the ocean and subject to extremely hot, humid summers that feels like a perpetual shower the entire time and literal blizzards during the winter. That’s going to wreak havoc on anyone’s skin, period. That’s why when you look at fall/winter skincare in Korea, it’s focused on protecting the skin as much as possible from pretty extreme weather conditions. Seriously y’all, it’s freakin’ cold, and it does a number on everyone’s skin.
With changes in season, skin concerns that are more of a primary concern in one season can become more secondary in a different one or vice versa. And to combat the increased need for hydration and protection during the coming season, a lot of Korean brands and people are shifting from keeping skin plump with watery toners to keeping skin protected with concentrated serums. The layers of toner get scaled back and instead are followed by two or even three serums to pack that extra punch that may have been too heavy or sticky in the summer but are desperately needed in the winter.
Just so you guys can see where I’m coming from, the way I think of serums and toners in my head are that serums tend to have a bit more viscosity to them overall compared to toners, and they also tend to have more targeted ingredient lists that are focused on specific concerns you may want to tackle. Not that toners don’t, but the way that I like to think about it is that toners are about addressing more“secondary” skin concerns, which for me is dehydration and redness, while serums are focused on “primary” skin concerns, which are large/clogged pores and hyperpigmentation in my case.
How I’ll be layering my serums
The weather where I live doesn’t change as drastically as Korea, but with the holiday season comes travel, and last Christmas I had some of the most dehydrated skin of my life due to living in front of the heater while being stuck in a blizzard in another state. Let me tell you, the 7-skin method was not cutting it. I was patting away, sealing everything in with my usual face oil/moisturizer combo, and started feeling that tight, pulling dry feeling a few hours into the day. It was like how my skin felt before I started getting more into K-beauty, and the literal minute I got home, I slapped on a hyaluronic acid serum, and I could feel my skin breathing a sigh of relief. Obviously I was back in my own state that, while cold, was not experiencing ice-slicked roads, but the difference I felt was profound when using a more concentrated hydrating serum versus the light, refreshing type of toner we’ve all grown fond of.
I learned my lesson last year, so the way that I’m going about adopting serum layering for the coming season is to keep my trusty toner to start my routine, but I’m going to be incorporating a targeted hydrating serum to stave off that dreaded water loss from my skin. Then I’ll be following that up with a centella serum to fight my increased redness I get from the rapid temperature changes I know I’ll be experiencing from running in and out of warm houses into cold air, and my seasonal fall allergies I’ve seemed to develop from either moving to a new area or what little foliage there is slowly dying in my area.
I’ll be talking a bit more in-depth about my dynamic duo that’s been keeping my skin in good condition in a separate review, and I can say that I’m a full-on believer now in layering up my serums. If you’ve got some weather changes coming your way or have a slew of holiday travel plans (serums are so much easier to travel with than toners, to be honest), I definitely think selecting some targeted serums to layer up is worth a shot.
Are there any serums you’ve been curious about or want to try layering? Hope y’all are having a great week!
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.