A Korean Skin Routine You'll Be Able To Follow

You’ve probably read enough about the K-beauty game by now to know that this industry isn't playing when it comes to skin care. Its devotees are somewhat fanatical; not only would they never dare to sleep in their makeup, they follow, at minimum, a 12-step regimen to prep for bedtime. And their a.m. routines — with a separate lineup of products — are just as involved.

Props to these dedicated women, but we’re lucky to get a glob of moisturizer fully rubbed in before it’s time to fly out the door in the morning. Still, we wish we could commit to blocking off that kind of time, if for no other reason than to pamper our sleepy faces just a little bit more.

So with some help from our friends at AMOREPACIFIC, we set out to find the happy medium: a six-step routine that satisfies the key aspects of the famed Korean regimen, without requiring an earlier wake-up call. Ahead, discover the essentials worth incorporating and, more importantly, the most effective ways to apply each one. But be advised: All this extra slathering can cause feelings of damn-my-skin-looks-amazing obsessiveness. Don't say we didn't warn you.
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Step 1: Double-Cleanse
We’re not trying to pull one over on you and cram two steps into one — there is a legitimate case for double-cleansing. Think about it: When you wash your face with a typical foamy cleanser, you're likely just pushing around foundation and debris. What makes the double-cleanse so efficient is first using an oil-based cleanser (or a straight oil) to remove makeup and wipe away impurities. Following up with a water-based cleanser rinses away lingering residue for a squeaky-clean finish.

Start by massaging oil gently over dry skin, and rinse thoroughly with warm water. While skin is still wet, apply your preferred foam or cream cleanser, and wash as usual. Gently blot dry with a towel.

Blumarine coat, Catbird and Ariel Gordon rings.
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Step 2: Prep
In the U.S., we're familiar with tingly or astringent toners post-cleanse, but the Korean regimen is all about infusing moisture. Damp skin is more permeable than dry skin, so a splash of hydrating mist replenishes what was lost while washing and primes your skin to better absorb the products that follow. (Besides, does that not look refreshing?) Simply spritz all over, moving back and forth across your face in a windshield-wiper motion. You don’t want to soak the skin — just lightly sprinkle it.

COS coat, Catbird and Ariel Gordon rings.
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Step 3: Treat
Here’s where the heavy lifting begins. A serum features a more concentrated dose of skin-nourishing ingredients than your average moisturizer, and its unique, lightweight texture enables it to penetrate deeper into the skin. There's a spectrum of serums out there to suit any concern, from age-fighting to brightening. Whatever you choose, start applying it from the center of your face outward — this allows for the most even coating. Also, whatever you do to your face, you should do to your neck. Glide any remaining serum left on your hands up toward your jawline — this motion helps to fight gravity, keeping skin taut.

Kaelen coat, Catbird and Ariel Gordon rings.
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Step 4: Moisturize
This is one step you’re likely already familiar with, so stick with it! Because a serum is not enough to effectively moisturize your skin — it’s really more of a treatment product — it's essential to keep a hydrating moisturizer in your routine. If you’re worried about overloading your skin with too much product, start with just a dab on each area of your face — forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin. You can always go back and add more.

Blumarine coat, Catbird and Ariel Gordon rings.
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Step 5: Eye Care
Being all about efficiency around here, it’s easy to scoff at the need for eye cream — why not just add some extra face moisturizer and call it a day? But actually, the skin around your eyes is thinner than the rest of the face, making it more vulnerable to wear and tear. Eye creams are typically richer than facial moisturizers and are formulated without some of the active ingredients that risk irritating eyes.

This means you should be delicate with application, too. You don’t want to rub it in the same way you would with any old cream, which lends itself to pulling and tugging at the skin. Instead, dot on eye cream at your orbital bone (a.k.a. the crescent-shaped bone below each eye), and lightly tap back and forth to work it in.

Milly coat, Catbird and Ariel Gordon rings.
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Step 6: Finish
Since skin care is high-priority for many Korean women, they're reluctant to use heavy makeup that has the potential to be drying or pore-clogging. That's why this region has become such a beacon of innovation for foundation-like products, such as the BB and CC creams we’ve come to know and love. They help you still look like you but just add a little polish.

You might have heard about the next wave of invention, the cushion compact: It’s a light-as-air foundation that blends both skin care and color in a pre-soaked sponge, making it less like makeup and more like an extension of your skin-care regimen. Just pat the applicator on your skin to build to your desired level of coverage, and use a rolling motion to blend. Because you're forever looking for ways to save time, this formula also includes broad-spectrum SPF 50, meaning that's one less step you’ll need to worry about in your morning routine.

Maje coat, Catbird and Ariel Gordon rings.