Have you ever wished you could reverse the effects of environmental damage, hormonal fluctuations, or just plain old aging skin? Sometimes, my skincare routine is examining my skin, staring down those imperfections – as it doesn't look as fresh as it once used to! Are you tired of trying products with all the expectation that they will make a difference – and they don't?
As a fair-skinned redhead who is just a little bit north of 30, I am definitely a bit obsessed with my skin right now. I’m on the hunt for something new. Something to really rejuvenate and hydrate my skin. The big beauty retailers are always on the lookout for innovative brands and technologies -- and they’ve been particularly excited about Korean skincare lately. Recently, the rise in Korean beauty and skincare brands has grown exponentially into a global sensation. Many of the brands and products on the market today were not even sold in the United States a few years ago. It made me wonder what the K-Beauty phenomena was all about! Plus, with so many brands and products on the market, how could I decide which ones to try?
In this blog post, I'm taking a deep dive into the world of Korean skincare. Breaking down everything you need to know about the steps, the products, and how Korean skincare products and K-Beauty experts are transforming skin.
My initial interest in Korean skincare happened after seeing my friend, who is a fellow blogger at New York Fashion Week. She had recently researched and tested various Korean beauty products and brands. She was amazed at the results after only a few weeks. She had been on a K-Beauty regimen for roughly four months when she and I met up. I have to say that her skin was positively glowing. The next week she sent me links to some of her favorite Korean Beauty Face Product brands Instagram pages, and I was off and running. I had to try it for myself!
What is K-Beauty?
K-Beauty begins with the skin – and finding balanced skincare is a process. The main focus is on the skin itself, with the intended goal to showcase healthy glowing hydrated skin –not hiding it behind lots of makeup. I like this idea. So much of our beauty industry is obsessed with makeup looks and tricks. But if you just focus on improving the surface of your skin – you might not need all that makeup magic!
Along the way, as I discovered Korean skincare products, I was lucky to get the chance to interview Ann Son, founder and creator of Kosmetic Immunity by Jkosmmune. This fast-growing Korean skincare company’s products intrigued me, and I wanted to learn more! Not to mention, Ann looks so young, I wanted to know her secrets! One of the most interesting things that she shared with me was how she learned about skincare at an early age. “Koreans are really knowledgeable about skincare,” she explained. “The first skincare I used was when I was a teenager . My mom bought me a skincare product and taught me the importance of taking care of my skin.”
Another aspect of Korean skincare that I wanted to understand better and frequently comes up in discussions – is the number of steps involved in a daily skincare routine. A traditional Korean skincare regimen can have 8 to 10 steps involved. For many people (me included!), the idea of 8 or 10 steps in a daily skin routine is overwhelming!
A Typical 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine
Let's take a look at the steps and Korean face products used to understand their purpose better.
- Step 1: Water-based cleanser
Some devotees only use water. But many adhere to a foaming cleanser, a powder that turns to foam with the addition of water. The main idea here is to get a deep cleanse, gently removing impurities without being abrasive or tearing the skin. The water hydrates the skin, leaving it soft, not dried out.
- Step 2: Toner
Korean face toners are different than other toners I have used in the past. They are incredibly gentle, hydrating and do not usually contain harsh chemicals that strip the skin. K-Beauty toners are designed to balance the skin’s pH and help prepare the skin for the next step in the skincare routine.
- Step 3: Exfoliate
One of the most important pillars to healthy skin and any Korean skincare routine –exfoliation gently removes dead skin cells to encourage fresh new cells. It also keeps the surface of the skin from getting clogged with bacteria. There are different types of Korean exfoliating products, but I find that I like the idea of combining this with cleansing step to help me cut down the routine a little bit! The good news is that this step isn't necessary to do each and every day. The recommendation is to exfoliate with a K-Beauty exfoliant 2 to 3x per week.
- Step 4: Essence
The Essence step is often compared to a serum, but it is different. It is more fluid with a water-like texture. I have heard it described as a hybrid of a toner and serum – which I think is a terrific way of describing it! Many Asian women swear by a Korean essence for how effective it is for promoting cellular turnover and helping brighten the complexion. You are supposed to simply pat an essence into the skin.
- Step 5: Ampoule
The ampoule or emulsion step is a bit thicker and more concentrated than an essence, yet lighter than a serum. It often involves some active ingredients to boost or target specific skin concerns. Some Korean skincare enthusiasts consider this step the same as a serum.
- Step 6: Serum
The serum step is where the treatment happens! Potent Korean Serum formulas with active ingredients target acne, signs of aging such as wrinkles, dark spots or loss of elasticity.
- Step 7: Sheet Mask
Korean sheet masks are an extremely popular trend. This type of Korean face mask is packed with exotic ingredients found in nature mixed with highly effective ingredients like hyaluronic acid. The goal is to lock in all of the steps in a layered process. Many Korean women use a sheet mask 2 to 7 times per week!
- Step 8: Eye Cream
The eye cream step is similar to what I’ve always done with eye creams. Around the eye is the thinnest skin on your face so it requires special attention. Smooth the cream across the brow and socket bone as well as under the eye from the inner to the outer part of the eye. It is usually performed before the moisturizer step.
- Step 9: Moisturize
From my research, it seems the moisturizing step is one of the most essential steps in the entire Korean skincare routine. The K-Beauty moisturizer is very hydrating and long lasting. This is how Korean women maintain their dewy complexions and "glass-like " skin. The Korean moisturizer used in this step is a thicker and creamier consistency to form a barrier and really seal in the moisture – so it lasts.
- Step: 10 Sunscreen
The last step in the process is to apply sunscreen. Korean women often reapply sunscreen 3 to 4x throughout the day. Korean women and men understand environmental factors and the damage it can cause to the skin. Clearly, a step that is not appreciated nearly enough in western beauty and skincare. We talk about it, but we don’t always do it.
Do you really need 10 steps to your skincare routine?
Well, my personal foray into the world of Korean skincare began slowly. I started incorporating some K-Beauty brands into my daily skin routine. I started with a K-Beauty serum or essence that I had received in a monthly subscription beauty box, and eventually, I added add sheet masks and ampules to my routine. I noticed a difference in my skin almost immediately. I was hooked and looking for more products to try. A few hashtag searches later– I found Kosmetic Immunity by JKosmmune. What really caught my attention was how they had simplified the Korean skincare regimen! I didn’t need all 10 steps to have healthier, younger looking skin. That really caught my attention. The principles of K-Beauty are there, just combined with the convenience and ease of use that many Westerners (like me!) prefer.
This was one of my first questions to the founder, Ann Son! Could I still achieve that infamous Korean complexion without all 10 steps? According to Ann, “you can absolutely achieve healthier, more youthful-looking skin without 10 steps. That’s what Kosmetic Immunity is all about! Of course, this detailed 10-step skincare regimen may work for some Koreans, but it is not for everyone,” Ann explained. “K-Beauty consumers are not just educated about skincare; they also know their skin very well. This makes them experts at customizing their own skincare routine and making it fit to their specific skin needs. At times, depending on what may be going on with a Korean woman’s skin, she may have 12 steps in her routine – but it may only be for a period of time as well.”
Ann went on to explain how there is a basic regimen at the heart of Korean skincare which is only four steps. “The most typical Korean beauty routine is built on Cleansing, Toner, Essence or Serum and Moisturizer. I have built the Kosmetic Immunity product line on this basic approach to skincare.”
What about exfoliating?
I was really surprised that exfoliating wasn’t one of the steps mentioned, so I had to ask Ann about this! “We love foaming cleansers in Korea because they combine water with exfoliation that is gentle but effective. I have noticed that many exfoliating products here in the U.S. use harsh chemical exfoliants or very high percentage of AHA or BHA. These can damage your skin. Strong exfoliation or chemical peeling should really be done in a spa with a professional esthetician.”
This was news to me, I felt like everyone has been talking about at-home chemical peel products! Ann explained that the Korean approach is to use a natural exfoliant or AHA in a low percentage (such as 5%). “Fruit enzyme exfoliants are perfect for any type of skin because they are subtle and easy on the skin,” Ann explains. “I created the Kosmetic Immunity Enzyme Cleansing Powder to feature our proprietary mBeta Glucan to hydrate and protect the skin while combining it with papaya enzymes, grapefruit and prickly pear extracts to thoroughly cleanse, remove impurities without tearing or irritating the skin. Papaya enzymes are excellent for promoting cellular turnover. All of these ingredients are the mildest, safest exfoliants for skin.” I loved the sound of this and had to try it. It seemed to me, with Kosmetic Immunity’s Powder Cleanser, I could combine the Cleanse step with the Exfoliate step and kill two birds with one stone!
Another thing that really interested me about Kosmetic Immunity is their use of a new, emerging skincare ingredient, Beta Glucan. But, when Ann explained what mBeta Glucan can do for the skin and how mBeta Glucan was different, I was in! Beta Glucan from oats has been a popular health supplement and has even been looked at for potential medical treatments. Kosmetic Immunity uses a unique type of Beta Glucan derived from a rare mushroom that I can’t pronounce, let alone spell! Apparently, Beta Glucan from oats or other grains is usually extracted using chemicals. The final ingredient isn’t pure or natural. Kosmetic Immunity has developed a patented process for extracting mBeta Glucan without the use of any chemicals. It is the purest, most potent Beta Glucan available. In clinical tests, mBeta Glucan was 20% more hydrating than Hyaluronic Acid. That had my attention! I’ve been sold on Hyaluronic Acid ever since it arrived on the skincare scene, but now I was craving mBeta Glucan! mBeta Glucan is also an amazing weapon against aging and the effect it has on our skin – whether its wrinkles, age spots, loss of collagen and elasticity – this little miracle worker has you covered!
Ann was either extremely generous or saw that my skin needed a real pick me-up, but she kindly offered me the entire Kosmetic Immunity collection to try. This included the following products:
- Enzyme Cleansing Powder – one of my new faves for the deep but gentle cleansing combined with mild exfoliation. I am also a sucker for anything that foams!
- Nourishing Refining Toner – this is soothing and very hydrating, I love applying this Korean toner before the rest of the skincare routine. I really get this idea of prepping the skin. Another plus, its an Alcohol free toner.
- Beta Glucan Recovery Serum – this serum is unlike anything I’ve used before! I can see why Ann mentioned that this would be enough – I didn’t need an essence. It is very thin, watery like an essence but it packs a punch!
- Luminous Skin-Defense Moisturizer – this is a lightweight, pleasant face moisturizer to layer on top of the serum and is rich in mBeta Glucan and packed with antioxidants. Ann couldn’t emphasize the importance of antioxidants and protecting your skin enough! As she put it, “Protecting skin to prevent damage is much easier than trying to repair skin after it is already damaged.” So simple and so true!
Not only did my skin look smoother and felt more hydrated, I could also see a difference in how fresh and brighter my complexion looked after just one week of adopting this skincare regimen. I can be prone to redness since I am fair and even that seems to have diminished. Ann says using this regimen daily and applying the serum in the morning and at night can help reduce the appearance of fine lines over 6-8 weeks. I can’t wait to see the results and I love the idea that I have a four-step Korean skincare routine that is quick, effective and feels fabulous when I apply it.
I hope that you are inspired to give Korean skincare a try too. Korean women take great care and time to maintain healthy and flawless skin–a process they begin at a very early age. Ann reminded me that her products are meant to fit whatever skincare needs you have. Kosmetic Immunity really is Korean skincare simplified. So why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose but the lines!
Till next time,