how to layer korean skincare products

Korean Skincare 101: How to Layer Skincare Products

Here’s something that makes the difference between an effective Korean skincare routine and a subpar Korean skincare routine… and that would be the order in which you layer your skincare products. So for today’s post, I’m going to discuss how to properly layer skincare products! So let’s go ahead and breakdown how to create your own skincare regiment 🙂

First of all, let’s talk about why Korean skincare is so notorious. Have you ever noticed that Koreans have amazing skin? It’s because most Koreans religiously follow a multi-step regiment complete with cleansing, massaging, exfoliating, moisturizing etc. It may sound like a lot of honestly, it seems very intimidating. When I first starting reading up on Korean skincare, I was extremely overwhelmed. That’s why I would like to try to simplify the process for you 🙂 If you’re curious as to which products I use, be sure to check out my posts on my Nighttime Korean Skincare Routine!

When creating a skincare routine for your skin, the cardinal rule for layering skincare products is you must apply products from the thinnest to the thickest.  The typical order of application is as follows:

1) Cleansing (i.e. the “Double Cleansing Method” + Exfoliating)
2) Toner
3) Booster
4) Essence or Serum
5) Ampoule
6) Emulsion
7) Eye Cream
8) Night Cream
9) Sleeping Pack/Sheet Mask (Optional)

Cleansing: In order to prep the skin for your skincare products, you MUST make sure your skin is properly cleaned. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important steps because you must start off with a good “foundation” for your skincare so it can be properly absorbed. This is where the double cleansing method comes into play…
Double Cleansing: This refers to using a cleansing balm or oil cleanser to remove your makeup first. Typically, you massage your skin with the balm or oil to work the makeup, oil and dirt out of your skin and rinse this off. Massaging is important because it increases blood flow to your skin, allowing your body to bring nutrients and oxygen to your skin. Next, using a foam, milk, or gel cleanser to remove the excess makeup, oil and dirt. This is important because your skin should be squeaky clean after washing it! I also take this opportunity to remove my eye makeup with a q-tip and makeup remover. I love Skinfood’s Milk Shake Point Makeup Remover.
Exfoliating: To remove dead skin cells, exfoliate your face 1-2 times a week. One of my favorite exfoliators of all time is Skinfood’s Black Sugar Wash Off Mask. It’s great for sloughing off dead cells! Exfoliating is important because it encourages cell turnover and collagen production. However, don’t overdo it! You don’t want to scrub your face raw..
Some of my faves:
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil , Etude House Real Art Cleansing Oil, Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam , Skinfood Milkshake Point Remover

Toner: Next, you need to tone the skin. This means prepping it for skincare. Since toner is very watery, this step is first. Unlike Western skincare toners, Korean toners do not contain alcohol or other ingredients that dry or strip the skin of oil. Instead, Korean toners further purify the skin of pollutants, add a very light layer of moisture, and prep the skin for absorbing more skincare products! I recommend Etude House’s Wonder Pore Freshener! This toner is very popular!
Some of my faves:
Etude House Wonder Pore Freshner and Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence

Booster: Technically, boosters and toners are very similar. Some people differ than me and feel that boosters should go before toners, but I personally like to apply my booster RIGHT AFTER my toner. Literally, I try to not waste anytime between the two because they’re more effective this way. Just like the name implies, boosters are intended to boost the effects of any serums, ampoules, and essences you apply. A skin booster I really enjoy is Holika Holika’s 3 Second Starter.
Some of my faves:
Holika Holika 3 Seconds Starter Hyaluronic Acid and Nature Republic Collagen Dream 90 Skin Booster

Essence or Serums: Essence and serums are very similar, in my opinion, and interchangeable. The only difference is essences contain essential nutrients and vitamins and serums are a concentrated version and they are slightly thicker than essences. I personally use either an essence or serum, not both. I only want to give my skin what it needs and I feel that using both is a little excessive. If you do choose to, however, more power to you! Koreans add this step to their skincare routine because this is the most direct way to supply your skin with the vitamins and nutrients it needs. It’s also important because you can find targeted essences and serums for whatever you feel like your skin needs (for example, you can find brightening, anti-aging, etc essences or serums).
Some of my faves:
Etude House Pearl Aura Brightening Essence and Skin Food Peach Sake Pore Serum

Ampoules: This is the most concentrating version of an essence or serum. This should also serve as the most targeted version of your skincare routine meaning if you have issues with hyperpigmentation, sunspots, wrinkles, etc. this should be the product that is intended to correct this. My favorite ampoule is Missha’s Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule. This is a very famous ampoule because it’s a dupe for Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair serum, which is almost 3-4 times the price!
Some of my faves:
Mizon Snail Intensive Repair Ampoule and Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule

Emulsion: I consider emulsion a light moisturizer. I love emulsion because since I have dry skin, I can periodically apply emulsion throughout the day whenever I feel like my skin need a pick-me-up and it will absorb quickly and freshen my face. My favorite emulsion it Etude House’s Collagen Moistfull Emulsion.
Some of my faves: Etude House Moistfull Collagen Lotion

Eye Cream: You can’t neglect the delicate skin around your eyes. It’s important to make sure you take care of this area because it’s the first place on your face to show signs of aging and wrinkling. I always applying my eye cream by tapping the product on with my ring finger. I like Elizabeth Arden’s Perpetual Moisture 24 Eye Cream.
Some of my faves: Elizabeth Arden Perpetual Moisture 24 Eye Cream

Night Cream: It may seem excessive to apply another layer of moisture but this step seals in all your skincare and makes sure your skin is nice and supple. To me, I am a firm believer that keeping your skin moisturized is the most important part of skincare and preventing signs of aging. My favorite night cream is SkinFood’s Gold Caviar Collagen Cream.
Some of my faves: Elizabeth Arden Good Night’s Sleep Restoring Cream and Skinfood Gold Caviar Collagen Cream

Sleeping Packs/Sheet Masks: If you feel your skin is in need of more treatments, a sleeping pack or sheet mask is an optional tool that can give your skin what it needs. Sleeping packs are great for another step of moisture, brightening, etc. My favorite sleeping pack is the famous Laneige Water Sleeping Pack EX. Sheet masks can serve all different kinds of purposes for your skin. There are anti-trouble (i.e. acne prone skin), anti-aging, brightening, whitening, firming, collagen boosting, etc. sheet masks so you can always find a sheet mask to suit the needs of your skin. Koreans firmly believe in the use of sheet masks, and typically use them 1-3 times a week. Some Koreans even sleep with the sheet mask on their face (I’m sure you’ve seen this in K-Dramas)!
Some of my faves: Laneige Water Sleeping Pack

Overall, this is just a guide as to what a typical Korean skincare routine would be like. Feel free to alter the steps or products to the needs of your skin and let me know what your favorite Korean skincare products are! I’m always on the lookout for new additions 🙂 Thanks for reading and I hope this helped! Please let me know if you have any questions 🙂

xoxo, Morgan