Korean Skincare Regimen Recommendations: by skin type
We love receiving feedback from our community of customers, readers, Korean beauty users (beginners to mavens, all are welcome here!) as our passion and mission is to be there for you all with helpful information, the best products and guidance in your journey towards more radiant skin.
One of the most frequently asked requests is for us to recommend a Korean skincare regimen by skin type.
So! We’ve hunkered down to:
- Focus-group test by skin type
- Ask our customers for in-depth feedback
- Talk to the brand R&D teams
- Test on our team here to pick the best products for each skin type
After all our research, we’re excited to deliver a highly curated set of products for an ideal Korean skincare regimen by skin type!
How many steps is the Korean skincare routine? Are all the steps necessary?
Korean women have skincare routines that can be anywhere from 4-15 (even 20) steps long.
For those who are committed to getting a Korean skincare routine down pat, we explain each step below with recommendations for your skin type based on all the feedback we’ve received from folks with your skin type!
(We know that this can be daunting, so we also discuss how to edit down steps, if you’d like a bare-bone Korean skincare regimen.)
What is my skin type?
First things first. Let’s make sure you’re able to identify your skin type. Your skin type reflects the level of oils on your skin (not how hydrated/dehydrated your skin is), and here are the four types of skin we have curated the Korean skincare regimen for:
- Dry skin: your skin feels parched/tight/itchy/flaky/lacks radiance. If you have dry skin, you lack sufficient oils on the skin’s barrier. Additionally, you may be lacking hydration (moisture, not oils).
- Oily / acne-prone skin: you struggle with combatting shine/prone to breakouts, blackheads and blemishes/likely to have enlarged pores/skin tends to be thicker/typical T-zone issues. If you have oily skin, your sebaceous glands over-produce oils on the skin’s barrier.
- Combination skin: you have typical T-zone issues/much more enlarged pores in some areas of the face/skin feels dry in some places only/challenging to manage very different skin needs in various areas of the face. If you have combination skin, which is sometimes even considered normal skin, you struggle with some shine, especially around your T-zone, but also deal with dry skin. Your sebaceous glands are over-productive in some parts of the face, and potentially under-productive in other parts. You can have oily and dry patches, and either well hydrated or dehydrated skin underneath.
- Normal skin: your pores are minimal/your skin isn’t too dry or too oily (maybe minimally so, here and there)/your skin feels comfortable without too much tightness or itchiness/you typically receive compliments on your skin/you do not break out too easily. If you have normal skin, you’re blessed with sebaceous glands that don’t go into under-drive or over-drive. Taking care of your skin is usually easy. Note: you can have normal and well balanced skin, which is also dehydrated. “Normal” is your skin type, but hydrated/dehydrated is your skin circumstance that even those with normal skin type will need to work on.
Do the routines target various skincare concerns like improving firmness, texture and fine lines?
There are hyper-targeted skincare products that actively address very specific skincare concerns. We’ll have a post on this soon. These can always be added to the core Korean skincare routine that we’ll build out for you by skin type.
Having said that, the best place to start is having a solid skincare routine that keeps skin properly cleansed, toned, hydrated and healthy overall. This then creates an optimal environment to address a multitude of skincare concerns. So, once you get your skincare routine down pat, sometimes you’ll notice that that alone can improve your skin in all the ways that you’ve wanted.
Can the products selected for each skin type only be used by that skin type?
Absolutely not. Many of the products below can be used across all skin types, and actually address many skincare concerns like lack of firmness, uneven skin tone and wrinkles. While these products can be used by most people, we selected products that people with a specific skin type seemed to love the most. So, feel free to use this as a guide based on expert and peer recommendations of those who have your skin type – but don’t hesitate to mix and match the products that stand out to you across skin types as we selected products that are all layer-able and great to use together.
OK! So what are your top picks for a complete skincare routine by skin type?
We’ll explain each step and then include a product that we think works exceptionally well for each skin type.
The 2-Step Cleanse
In Korea, using an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser is very common. The idea is that the oil-based cleanser will dissolve and remove oil-based impurities without much tug-of-war with your skin. Then the water-based cleanser removes some of the residue of the first step and also gently casts away the water-based impurities like sweat. Two key principles are: 1) be gentle on the skin, so it’s better to use 2-steps that gently coax than 1 step that tries to do it all, and 2) be sure to get your skin thoroughly cleansed down to the pores as that’s often half the battle in skincare (the other half is keeping your skin well hydrated). And of course, use products that will do all this without drying or irritating the skin.
Our top oil-based cleanser for each skin type:
- Dry Skin – Cremorlab Gel Cleansing Oil
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Mizon King’s Berry Cleansing Oil
- Combination Skin – Aromatica Orange Cleansing Sherbet
- Normal Skin – Aromatica Coconut Cleansing Oil
Our top water-based cleanser for each skin type:
- Dry Skin – Mizon Snail Cushion Foam Cleanser
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Aromatica Tea Tree Cleanser
- Combination Skin – Aromatica Sea Daffodil Cleansing Mousse
- Normal Skin – Mizon Egg White Bubble Cleanser
The main purpose is to rebalance your pH level after using face washes that are slightly more alkaline to remove oils that are slightly more acidic. Your skin can rebalance its own pH level, but to ensure it happens right after washing your face and before applying serums, a toner is a quick easy solution. And an optimal pH level (4.5-5.5) is important because studies have shown that that’s the sweet spot for skin to effectively fight off bacteria (acne) and rejuvenate itself. To boot, toners can also get remaining residue off the face. So tone up, and prep your skin for the next step in your Korean skincare regimen.
Our top picks for each skin type:
- Dry Skin – Be the Skin (Orange) Power Toner
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Be the Skin (Blue) Pore Toner
- Combination Skin – Be the Skin (Green) Nutrition Toner
- Normal Skin – Be the Skin (White) Purifying Waterful Toner
Ahh, the mysterious essence step. Let’s first talk about what it is. It’s usually more watery than serums or ampoules. The texture break is watery, which means the product will feel very damp and liquid-like on the skin versus feeling viscous and sticky. Additionally, essences are typically meant to help pack moisture into the dermis. Note: it’s not actually water itself that is infused into the skin, but it’s the specific way essences are formulated, sometimes with humectants, even, that help infuse moisture into the skin or draw moisture towards the skin. Essences will typically also have some skin-benefitting ingredients that help brighten, firm or rejuvenate skin. This is why some describe essences as “lightweight” serums. Essences prep the skin for the more concentrated serums by making the skin more supple and able to absorb serums, and also keeping skin hydrated (hydrated skin always absorbs better than dehydrated skin).
Our top picks for each skin type:
- Dry Skin – Cremorlab Aqua Essence Water Fluid
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence
- Combination Skin – Mizon Water Volume Ex First Essence
- Normal Skin – Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence (this essence is great for all skin types, and particularly loved by those with normal and/or oily skin types)
The Serums/Face Oils/Ampoules
This step is where Korean women begin to use multiple products to hyper-target skincare needs. Each product can be used together and the order doesn’t matter too much within this step. These products are formulated to be delivered into the deeper layers of your skin and help your skin do things like firm up, combat wrinkles, boost radiance, hydrate. Ampoules and serums are similar with ampoules being more concentrated. Face oils are in its own category as they’re usually natural lipids that will absorb easily into the skin.
Our top picks for each skin type:
- Dry Skin – Aromatica Organic Argan oil mixed in with the Be the Skin (Orange) Power Serum
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Mizon Mela Defense Essence Serum and the Be the Skin (Blue) Pore Serum used together
- Combination Skin – Aromatica Sea Daffodil Aqua Gel Cream and the Mizon Peptide 500 Serum used together
- Normal Skin – Cremorlab Hydro Plus Snow Falls Serum and the Aromatica Neroli Brightening Facial Oil mixed in together (you can mix the oil with the serum in your hand first, then pat in altogether)
The Eye Cream
Be sure to keep the delicate eye area well hydrated to fight fine lines, sagging and general dark tired circles.
Our top picks for each skin type:
- Dry Skin – Cremorlab Shadow Off Eye Cream
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Aromatica Rose Absolute Eye Cream
- Combination Skin – Cremorlab Wrinkle-off Eye Cream
- Normal Skin – Mizon Starfish Eye Cream
This step is about sealing in all the ingredients into your skin. These don’t need to be too fancy since you’re targeting your skincare concerns in the step above. Some creams do include skin-benefitting ingredients, and go above and beyond just simply sealing hydration into the skin.
Here are our favorite creams by skin type:
- Dry Skin – Aromatica Rose Absolute Vital Cream
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Mizon All-in-one Snail Cream
- Combination Skin – Be The Skin (Green) Nutrition Cream
- Normal Skin – Mizon Bee Venom Calming Fresh Cream
Exfoliating is one of those undercover skincare steps that can go such a long way. Skin turnover is improved, pores are less clogged, dead flakes are removed and serums are absorbed better. The important thing is not to over-exfoliate, tug at the skin, create micro-cuts or strip face dry.
Here are our top picks by skin type:
- Dry Skin - Morihata Binchotan Facial Puff
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Mizon Seaweed Jelly Scrub
- Combination Skin – Mizon Black Honey Sugar Scrub
- Normal Skin – Mizon Apple Smoothie Peeling Gel
There are a lot of extras that Korean women pamper their skin with such as overnight sleeping masks, beauty devices, steam facials. Today we’ll focus on the most ubiquitous “extra” step - the sheet mask. These sheet masks are drenched in serums and sit atop the face forcing hydration and skin-benefitting ingredients to be absorbed into the skin. To boot, this is a bring-the-spa-home type experience where you can kick off your shoes, lie on the couch, pop a mask on, and remove ~20 minutes with a new and serious glow.
And here are our favorites by skin type:
- Dry Skin - Mizon Watery Moisture Mask
- Oily/Acne-prone Skin – Cremorlab Herb Tea Blemish Minus Calming Mask
- Combination Skin – Mizon Watery Moisture Mask
- Normal Skin – Cremorlab Tripe Bright White Bloom Floral Mask
We hope this guide was helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to help.
Cheers to radiance!