Does the 10-Step Korean Skin-Care Routine Work?

I’m not big on skin-care routines and since I don’t use make-up on daily basis (yearly to be more accurate) so I always thought that I don’t need to buy expensive products or spent more time on the matter, since I am not ‘damaging’ my skin. Throughout my teenage years pimples have always been regular (unwanted) guests, and I always wondered why I had so many pimples on my face when none of them were on my body – I’ve heard about back-pimples, I know they exist! Clever as I was, it didn’t take too many brain cells to figure out that the soap I used on my body was different than the soap I used on my face. Letting myself believe that I needed a different kind of soap on my face because of what a little plastic bottle said, was the lethal mistake. The body shampoo I used was just a neutral, fragrance free and allergy friendly one (the Danish brand Neutral). As for my face, I shifted between Origins, Shiseido and plenty others – definitely not neutral, not fragrance free and NOT allergy friendly. Now, I’m not saying that these brands are bad, just because my sensitive-ass skin wasn’t fond of their products. I’m sure it works for some people out there, just not for me. Long story short, I began using 1 organic soap for body, hair AND face. Yes. I use 1 soap for everything (rasul soap from Sæbeværkstedet.) For moisturizer I use organic oils – starting with olive oil and then coconut oil until I discovered a cute little shop on Elmegade in Copenhagen – GOB SkinCare, where the Boss Lady mixed a oil with jojoba, marula and vitamin E for me. So far, my skincare routine has been: 1) wash with soap and 2) oil on face. Now, this worked for a while and was very suitable for my way of living. I still got some pimples once in a while, but then instead of stressing out I just waited out and ignored them to death. Until one day. I met a new friend. A new Chinese female friend. She pointed at my face and said:

“You should wear more make-up and cover all this up.”

My face looked dull and had red spots, not to mention all my freckles (I love my freckles btw, no way in Tartarus I’ll cover them up.) Therefore, she deemed my skin to be in-need of care. During our conversation I realized that she considered make-up as part of skincare, whilst I have always thought of make-up as something that damaged your skin. Perhaps because I never used the right products or maybe because I use so little so I lack that kind of knowledge. Our conversation made me think. What if I have been wrong? What if I have misjudged all these obsessive Asian women who wake up 2 hours before breakfast just to wash their faces with 5 kinds of face-wash and put on 10 different kinds of lotions? What if…. So I learned about…….THE 10-STEP KOREAN SKINCARE ROUTINE! After studying the routine, I decided to try it out. For 1 month! BUT instead of trying with expensive Korean products shipped from Korea, I decided to do it Scandinavian style by using organic products!

First, let’s look at the 10 steps: (found here)
  • Oil cleanser
  • Foam / Cream cleanser
  • Toner
  • Essence
  • Emulsion
  • Ampoule / Serum
  • Sheet Mask
  • Eye Cream
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen

The great challenge about these steps is that I couldn’t comprehend what the differences between essence, emulsion and ampoule was… So let’s take a look:

What is Essence?

“An essence is […] made up of a combination of power-packed ingredients like snail, collagen, and niacinamide. […] it better prepares [the skin] to absorb the following product layers.”

… Emulsion??

“[…] an emulsion is like a watered-down, lightweight facial lotion.”

“Emulsions are often the perfect product for those with oily or combination skin, as their formulas can hydrate and moisturize the complexion and allow the skin to breathe at the same time.”

… ampoule???

“An ampoule is a supercharged serum with higher concentrations of active ingredients that you’re meant to use for a finite amount of time as a booster or when you’re having a skin crisis of some sort.”


The list says “ampoule / serum” but I have an understanding that ampoule does not equal serum. So what is the difference between ampoule and serum?

“‘The difference is the amount of active ingredient and the [molecule] size of the active ingredient. An ampoule contains more condensed active ingredient, and its size is smaller than that of a serum’ [Dr. Lee Dong Won] said.”


Now, being a skincare-newbie I decided to seek ‘professional’ help. I asked my new friend Cosmopolitan and found Vicky Lee, a Korean beauty and lifestyle blogger, who introduced me to a simplified morning routine with 5 steps, which inspired me to also simplify my night routine. I decided to only use 1 cleanser, since I was concerned about how my sensitive skin would react to double soaping… As for essence, emulsion and ampoule, I asked at Matas, and if didn’t seemed like many Danish or ecological products had these variations. So I combined these steps into one step: serum.

The 5-step morning routine:
  1. Wash With Water (I really loved this part, it was very meditative and calming to start your morning this way)
  2. Skin tonic from Matas Natur. (Refreshing but I could live without)
  3. Serum from Mellisa (I didn’t like the smell, but the the pores around the nose did become less ‘visible’ as the bottle promised)
  4. Eye cream from Ecooking (I dont really see any difference, if it’s supposed to be seen by the human eye… But it was quite nice giving myself a little massage around my eyes)
  5. Sun lotion from Rudolph Care and then later I switched to änglamark, because the latter is more affordable.
The 7-step night routine:
  1. Cleansing milk from Matas Natur (it didn’t do much but it was very soft on the skin)
  2. Face scrub from Avène, but only twice a week! (this one is NOT organic, but I had it at home so I wouldn’t buy a new one before it’s used up, which it still isn’t.. It softened my face, but if I used it while having red spots, they would turn into fully grown pimples next morning…so I was a little careful with the scrub and maybe only once a week)
  3. Skin tonic from Matas Natur
  4. Serum from Mellissa
  5. Face mask (I used both sheets and the Moisturizing Mask (Fugtmaske – green tube on picture above) from Matas, because sheet masks are quite expensive in Denmark and the Moisturizing Mask is a lotion that you put on, which means you can still move your face and drink water while you wait for your skin to absorb the moist….I think)
  6. Eye cream from Ecooking (massage massage massage)
  7. My special oil-blend from GOB SkinCare. On the picture to the right you can see the oils that you can purchase at GOB. The one that I used in this routine was without baobab oil, but the first one I brought from there was with all three, which also worked like magic.

First time I tried coconut oil, my face was so oily that people thought I was sweating constantly… So I thought maybe it would be the same when I got handed a sample of GOB’s blend. Luckily I was wrong! It was oily the first 5 minutes – maybe less, depends on how much you put on – and then my face was just soft and squeezable (imagine the cheeks of the cutest pokémon: Pikachu.)

Adding The Ordinary

I definitely like their products, because they’re fragrance free and very simple! I especially like the idea of a pure product, so I know exactly what I am putting on my body. I forgot to mention, that after the very (rare) sunny days where I’d spent hours in the sun in Copenhagen, I used an Aloe Vera Gel from Avivir to soothe my skin. Plus it’s nice and chilly when you return to a non-airconditioned home.

When I first began the project, it was bothersome, because I wasn’t used to spending that much time on skincare… After doing it everyday, the time spent on washing, moisturizing and waiting to sleep, became a daily meditation for me. I forced myself to follow these steps and when I stopped needing my notebook (yes I made note with the steps and no I couldn’t remember it all,) I started to slow down and focus on my breath (very yoga much zen). It’s a great way to wake up and start with something calming before stressing out the door (or maybe calmly walk out the door) and likewise before sleep. I started noticing my face instead of just looking at it. I noticed every bit of it and when it started to change – when a red spot was on its way and when it’s leaving. Suddenly I understood why people liked doing this. Forcing myself to take extra time to take care of myself, made me realize that I prioritize many things, like education or work, but I didn’t prioritize to take care of myself very often. As I started out trying out this Korean style inspired skincare routine, I also began to care about what I eat for every meal and how I live in general. Like, changing bed sheets, which is actually a very important thing to do, because when I neglect that and use the same bed sheets for two weeks and not changing it, my face will complain and imbalance will occur! So, does the 10-step Korean skincare routine work? Yes and no. If you choose products that work for you and you don’t overuse them (or over-wash or over-scrub,) then there might be a good chance you’ll get good results. But you don’t have to do all 10-steps, you can reduce, like what I did. Though I’m even sure if the Koreans would approve of my method…

The bottom line is that you do what works for you. You do you!

As for myself, I did enjoy all these steps but I still find the many steps bothersome and I don’t think all the steps are necessary. So I think I will leave out the steps I find unnecessary and only use the products I really liked. Such as GOB Skincare and The Ordinary, and sun lotion from Rudolph Care and änglamark – depending on my economic situation 😉 I will also continue using the eye cream from Ecooking. I love their climate-awared concept about producing everything in Denmark and not using plastic bottles!

As for skincare in general, I think this whole project has shown me that something I’ve always found shallow and superficial can be meditative.

So, in general I think any kind of skincare routine will work just fine and it’s not about which brand or product, it’s about you. Are you stressed out because of work, school or simply life? The stress may cause massive explosion of… I mean, small red spots and cute little pimples on your face (or even your back, if you have those.) Have you been neglecting your personal hygiene? Or putting junk in your body (food, I’m talking about food)? If you want your face to present the best of you, YOU have to give the best to you – ok, that might sound a little weird, but what I mean is that you have to treat yourself better, both mentally and physically, if you want people to see the best of you. I did take care of myself before my friend started questioning my face. I just didn’t do it mindfully, which I think does have an effect. Even though I still get unwanted visitors (pimples, oh the pimples,) instead of ignoring them, I try to listen to my body and figure out what I have been doing or eating to cause this imbalance. Honestly, there isn’t much difference, and my skin wasn’t really in a bad state before starting this project. So, I guess my point is, as mentioned, do what works for you and that will be just fine. If the 10-step Korean skincare routine is what works for you, then do it. If it’s something else, then do that. Just do you! I had a clear face during my skincare project and almost right after something very stressful happened to me (read about it in upcoming post about Identity Switch: Cultural Appropriation?) so my face acted out… Read about how I’m tackling this imbalance in my next blog post about skincare! Spoiler alert: OIL !

The Products:

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