It’s been attracting a lot of hype in the western world over the past few years and for good reason!

Though the typical Korean beauty routine is not for the faint-hearted – involving as many as 10 – 14 steps – given Korean women are widely recognised as having some of the most flawless skin on the planet, they’re clearly doing something right!

So what is the Korean Beauty Routine?

STYLE STORY Australia breaks it down for you.


At the heart of the Korean beauty routine is the need to HYDRATE.

Keeping skin well nourished and moisturised makes it look and feel softer, plumper, peachier and more radiant and can take years off your face by improving the look of wrinkles and fine lines. Do not underestimate the benefit that well hydrated skin has on your appearance.


As a general outline, the Korean Beauty Routine involves the following steps (although not every night!):

1 Oil Soluble Cleanser > 2 Water Soluble Cleanser > 3 Exfoliator > 4 Toner > 5 Essence > 6 Face Mask > 7 Ampoule / Serum > 8 Emulsion, Lotion > 9 Eye Cream > 10 Night Cream > 11 Sleeping Mask  

Word of warning – don’t try to apply every step all at once for the very first time! Introduce each new product to your routine over a period of weeks, so that you can work out if a particular product agrees with your skin and whether you really need it.

Tip: It’s also unnecessary to apply each product immediately one after the other. Wait until the first product dries and then apply the next one! Besides, we’re sure you have better things to do than stand in front of the bathroom sink for 20 minutes at a time!!

Banila Clean It Zero - a great product to use as Step 1 in the Korean 2-Step Cleansing Method

Banila Clean It Zero – a great product to use as Step 1 in the Korean Double Cleanse



The idea is that even though you need to remove your makeup, you shouldn’t be harshly scrubbing your face to get it off.

Therefore, you use an an oil-based cleanser to cut through the foundation and eye makeup and break it down, followed by a gentler foam cleanser to get rid of anything leftover. If you frequently find yourself stuck with racoon eyes or blobs of foundation on your face even after washing up, the double cleanse method will be nothing short of a revelation!

STYLE STORY Australia Loves:

Cleanse 1 –  Banila Clean It Zero

Cleanse 2 – Skinfood Black Sugar Scrub Foam

STEP 3 – EXFOLIATOR (See Additional Steps, Below) 


Toner is specifically designed to work together with your face wash.

Facial cleansers are designed to be slightly more alkaline so that they can remove oil from your face. However, this means that when cleansing, your skin’s optimal pH balance (between 4.5-6.5) is thrown off balance. Maintaining the optimal pH balance in your skin allows for better bacteria-fighting (which helps prevent acne), and allows other skincare products to be absorbed better.

Korean toners are designed to moisturise and prep the skin for the next step of skincare.

Korean toners are designed to moisturise and prep the skin for the next step of skincare.

Therein lies the need for a good toner, as toner is designed to restore your skin’s pH balance to its optimal level and push the re-set button on your skin.

Korean toners are designed to moisturise and prep the skin for the next step of skincare.

STYLE STORY Australia LovesCOSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol


Essences are all the rage right now in Korea. They are packed full of goodness and are designed to enhance the skin’s cellular renewal process, increasing its firmness, elasticity, softness, tone and brightness.

STYLE STORY Australia LovesBenton Snail Bee High Content Essence

STEP 6 FACE MASK (See Additional Steps, Below) 


Essentially, these products are all variations on a theme that involves using a more highly concentrated solution to target specific skin issues like freckles, sun spots, wrinkles and acne and make your skin softer, firmer, suppler and more hydrated.

How many of these products you use is up to you.

Koreans frequently add in and swap out various serums and ampoules that target whatever skin issues they are experiencing.

One of the best-selling Korean serums of all time - Missha's Time Revolution Science Activator Ampoule

One of the best-selling Korean serums of all time – Missha’s Time Revolution  Ampoule

STYLE STORY Australia LovesMissha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule


Emulsion can either be used before serums or after them (depending on the brand and product – unfortunately the naming convention is anything but uniform, so check the instructions). Emulsions are designed to offer an extra layer of hydration to soothe dry, taut skin. Not an essential step, particularly for the time poor.

STYLE STORY Australia LovesSkinfood Peach Sake Emulsion

By no means an ‘essential step’, lotion is sometimes added as an extra step before moisturiser. Lotion is essentially a slightly waterier version of a cream that is intended to provide an extra level of moisture. This is probably another one to strike off the list if you’re time-poor or not prone to excessively dry skin.

STYLE STORY Australia Loves: The Face Shop Chia Seed Watery Lotion


Eye Creams are thicker and more concentrated than regular moisturisers. They help to prevent eye bags, dark circles and puffiness by providing a hit of rich moisturisation directly to your delicate under-eye area.

STYLE STORY Australia Loves: Skinfood Platinum Grape Cell Eye Cream



Richer than a day cream, the cream you apply at night should be thicker to help lock in moisture and nutrients while you sleep.

STYLE STORY Australia Loves: Mizon All In One Repair Snail Cream


Did we mention Koreans love a good face mask?! Simply another variety of face mask, sleeping masks (also known as sleeping packs or creams) are essentially just thicker night creams that are designed to be left on while you sleep and washed off in the morning.

Waking up to beautifully soft skin? Yes, please!

STYLE STORY Australia Loves: Laneige Firming Sleeping Pack


When you wake up the next day, don’t forget to slip, slop, slap!

Given the harsh Aussie climate, sunscreen is a mustn’t-miss step for both Koreans and Aussies.

STYLE STORY Australia Loves: The Face Shop Oil Control Sun Cream

Masking is an essential part of the Korean Beauty Routine

Masking is an essential part of the Korean Beauty Routine


While not used every night, these additional steps can be incorporated regularly into your routine:


Koreans take face masking to dizzying heights. The sheer range of products alone can be quite overwhelming (for some)… or like falling down the rabbit hole for others!

The point of masking is to provide intense hydration and nourishment directly to your skin. You will notice great results on pretty much any skin condition if you regularly mask.

Freckles, wrinkles, skin tone, acne, pigmentation and fine lines can all be drastically improved through regular masking. Winter skin especially drinks up the juice in face masks like an alcoholic at a bar.

Most Korean face masks are designed to be used right after you apply your essence (Step 3). After you have finished masking, you can continue with the rest of your routine, applying any serums, lotions, emulsions and night creams you are using.

STYLE STORY Australia Loves: Benton Snail Bee High Content Mask Pack


Who doesn’t love a good scrub?!

Exfoliating is great for clearing out dead skin and promoting cell turnover. Just make sure you don’t scrub too vigorously – the aim is not to take your skin off, simply to give it a little buff and polish.

Don’t fall victim to over-exfoliating by doing it too frequently either. Less is definitely more, as you don’t want to strip your skin of essential oils. Koreans are particularly fond of fruit peels for light, but effective exfoliation.

Exfoliating should come right after you cleanse your face (Step 1). You can then continue to layer products over your newly exfoliated skin.

STYLE STORY Australia Loves: Skinfood Black Sugar Wash Off Mask

Best of Beauty -  high-end Korean beauty label Laneige's Firming Sleeping Pack

Best of Beauty – high-end Korean beauty label Laneige’s Firming Sleeping Pack

CONFUSED?! Don’t be!

If there’s one thing that IS certain about the Korean Beauty Routine it’s that there are no rules. You can add as few or as many of the steps as you like into your daily routine.

If your skin is stressed out and suffering, adding in a few extra hydrating layers will help nurture it back to life. Similarly, if your skin is aging, adding a few extra layers of moisture will help minimise and prevent new wrinkles and fine lines.

However, in summer, you may find you need far fewer products to get your skin looking good.

If you have an event coming up, you might want to throw in a few extra brightening masks and serums to really make your complexion glow.

TL;DR – If you’re new to Korean Beauty and the Korean Beauty Routine, don’t stress about doing all the steps. Pick a few few products, mix it up, have fun and figure out which combination works best for your skin.

Pamper night, anyone?!

STYLE STORY – Australia’s Korean Beauty Store