Explaining the South Korean Beauty Obsession


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This is part 1 of my venture into the Korean beauty lifestyle. When I first started making notes for a post I realised there was wayyy too much content for just the one post, so I’m going to break it up into smaller segments.

We all love a bit of foreign influence in our lives. Whether that be Italian clothing, Chinese food or French style; there seems to be a culture for everything which we take cues off.

I guess it’s understandable to get a little bored with the familiar, which is why we tend to look across borders for inspiration. Having said that, there really is no holy grail of skincare and beauty and often comes down to genetics and how well you look after yourself.

Most recently, in terms of beauty products anyway, South Korea has dominated the game. And let me just say I toooootally get it! One look at their packaging and I can already understand the draw card (because I’m not a sucker AT ALL….).

Everything from honey pots to cute bears and the brightest of colours are available for packaging products with adorable names such as sherbet cleanser, honeypot lipbalm, panda’s dream hand cream and magic food banana sleeping pack. 

Packaging aside, there does seem to be some mystery surrounding the youthful appearance of Asian cultures. I often joke that you can never tell the age of an Asian woman – they could be 12 or 40. Perhaps this is why there has been such overwhelming media focused on Korean skin and beauty products recently.

As a certified “beauty junkie,” I decided to investigate what all the fuss was about through a little research. For this post I am beginning with skincare.

10 Step Beauty Routine:


No, you didn’t read that wrong. Koreans really do believe in a 10 step skincare regime! As exhausting as it sounds, it does seem to have an amazing impact on their skin. According to Charlotte Cho, founder of Sokoglam the South Korean beauty exporter online, ” it all boils down to cleansing, exfoliating, treating, intensely moisturizing and applying plenty of SPF during the day.” However, the difference being how early Koreans start looking after their skin – beginning well before puberty – as opposed to Australians who usually don’t bother till their teen years. I personally didn’t own anything till I was about 14 or 15, and even then it was just because I had started to model and felt I should get my face in some kind of order (or at least my Mum did!).

The whole process is downright confusing and one has to wonder where on Earth you could possibly find the time to incorporate this exhaustive process morning and night, but hey, I can’t work out how people find the time to style their hair every morning or shave their legs everyday, so clearly with the correct time management, this sort of thing can become legit.

So the process goes like this…

  1. Eye Makeup Removal: Remove all eye makeup gently with wipes, such as Missha Super Aqua Cleansing Wipes or MANEFIT Avocado Lip + Eye Remover. These are also used to remove any leftover lipstick. Koreans do everything smoothly and gently, making sure not to tug at the skin.
  2. Cleansing: This is a universal step, but Koreans believe you should give your face a gentle massage while cleansing to stimulate blood flow and reveal brighter skin. I’ve always done this anyway as it feels so nice! So you should definitely give it a try! I like Missha’s Super Aqua Cleansing Foam if your skin is a little on the oily side like mine.
  3. Exfoliating: Koreans exfoliate sparingly, roughly twice a month. I believe Westerners are usually taught to exfoliate around once or twice a week by comparison. Skinfood’s Black Sugar Mask is one of the more popular with South Koreans and also smells amazing.
  4. The Refresher: The “toning” process which we are already familiar with, however, Koreans often deal with dry skin, therefore, their toners are generally more gentle than ours. A toner’s job is to restore your skin’s pH balance and remove residue. It also helps prepare your skin for the next step, the “essence.” The best part about this step is you always seem to end up with excess residue on your cotton ball no matter how thoroughly you believed you cleansed.
  5. Essence: I had absolutely no idea what an “essence” was until about 6 months ago. I had read about it on many a beauty site and figured it was just another toner or mist type spray. Apparently it is THE most important step in this Pentathlon of a beauty routine and speeds up cell turnover, thus making skin smoother and clearer. I bought the Time Revolution Essence a little while ago and have mainly been using it on my Mum’s face because I’m scared mine is a little oily! It does seem to make hers radiant though. SK-II have a similar essence available also.
  6. Ampoule: Okay, so this one is a little more simple. Ampoules are basically just what we call a serum. So they often contain antioxidants and are used specifically to repair skin, fade sun spots and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Try LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule.
  7. Sheet Mask: Used once or twice per week, this is possibly the most fun step influenced by squad Korea. I’ve been using sheet masks for awhile now as there is a Korean supermarket right near my house (lucky me!). Anyway, they are super affordable and easy to apply. You literally just place the sheet over your face and it does the job for you (post cleansing). The theory behind the “sheet” is that the ingredients do not evaporate, therefore, soaking into your skin more thoroughly. I love the after effects of the masks, they seem to make you look so glowey and refreshed. Missha and Innisfree have a variety of good masks.
  8. Eye Cream: Pretty self explanatory. Koreans make sure they apply an eye cream such as Etude House Moistfull Collagen Eye Cream nightly.
  9. Moisturiser: Almost there! Yay! The second last step is another familiar one – the moisturiser. Massage in gently with long, sweeping strokes. Try Goodal Anti-Wrinke Sleep Cream Pack.
  10. Night Cream: Seriously?! MORE product? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. By now you’re as shiny as a disco ball, but Koreans believe all this layering is essential as your skin repairs over night. The difference with the last two steps for day time is swapping the moisturiser for one with SPF, or a BB cream which is well loved by Koreans. Try Etude House Precious Mineral Moist Any Cushion for day or Chia Seed Moisture-Holding Seed Cream from The Face Shop.

So there you have it. A complete 10 step exhaustive process….except, it kind of isn’t! It only takes me about 10-15 minutes and it has an almost therapeutic effect. I was surprised at how restless I wasn’t and definitely felt fresher in the morning. I have discovered 10 steps isn’t necessarily the set-in-stone standard for Koreans, it can be much more or less depending on how zealous you are.

I have noticed the main difference between Koreans and Westerners is their devotion to SPF. I have mentioned this many times before, but Australians just don’t look after their skin with sun protection and it really shows. If there is anything which separates East Asians with us it is their loathe for obtaining a tan. They also often wear an umbrella just to protect their skin from the sun in the street!

This leads me to the next post on this topic: BB Creams!

Till next time!

Mel xo


12 thoughts on “Explaining the South Korean Beauty Obsession

  1. Yes! I absolutely love Korean products and do the regimen nightly (or at least most steps). Honestly, once you get used to doing it, you don’t even think about it and it really does only take about 10-15 minutes. And your skin is amazing! Love, love, love it! 😀

      1. I regularly use the Banila Co. Clean It Zero, but I am trying new stuff all the time. Skinfood is probably a brand I use most often, though. And of course, just about any sheet masks I can get my hands on 😉

  2. I just came across your blog and I really like your posts! I totally agree in regards to the SPF, not many people in Australia seem to wear a sunscreen every day. Looking forward to your future posts 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts… really helpful and amazing. But i am really jealous to see the whole bunch of Korean cosmetics you got… i want too :(… lols. Anyway, i normally buy from http://q-depot.com/ and wonder if you suggest any other store as well. I am so far happy with them as they offer free shipping for $69 and above with a great customer service i have ever experienced. Good luck and stay beautiful!

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