How to Look after Your Skin, the South Korean Way

Woman with clear skin  | © aslysun / Shutterstock
Woman with clear skin | © aslysun / Shutterstock
Photo of Mimsie Ladner
5 April 2017

At its core, Korean beauty culture is less about cosmetics and more about working skin-preservation techniques into one’s everyday skin care routine. For bright, healthy and age-defying skin, use these tried and tested K-beauty tips and tricks.

Double Cleansing

To get the same glowing skin as your favorite K-drama stars, you’ve first got to start with clean skin. The Korean double cleansing method ensures that makeup, dirt and other impurities are properly washed away to amplify the effects of other skin care products. Massage an oil-based cleanser over your dry face and neck, add a bit of lukewarm water to emulsify and massage again before rinsing. Then, use a water-based cleanser to remove any remaining residue.

Steam Massage

Say goodbye to expensive facials and instead opt to treat your skin to a steam massage in the shower. Using your fingers, combine circular motions and firm tapping, starting on your forehead and working your way down to your cheekbones, cheeks and finally the chin. This helps to improve circulation and creates a lustrous complexion.

A steam massage is a budget-friendly alternative to a facial | © Kai Miano / Pixabay


Removing dead skin cells regularly allows the rest of your skin care products to get into your pores to properly work their magic. Once or twice a week, gently massage an exfoliant into your skin using upward, circular strokes, and you will be amazed by the baby-smooth results.

Facial Essence

Essences are mild, nutrient-packed solutions that both hydrate and promote rapid cell turnover. They are applied with the hands in a gentle tapping motion, immediately after cleansing and before serums and other moisturizers. Many Korean women would agree that essences are the key to sealing in the effects of your daily cleansing, and are the hallmark of Korean skin care.

Sulwhasoo skin care products | © KoreaNet / Flickr

Sun Protection

In Korea, the sun is everyone’s worst enemy. It’s not uncommon to see women toting around parasols, donned in gigantic visors and long-sleeved shirts on sunny days. This, no doubt, is part of the reason so many Korean women are able to maintain porcelain-like, wrinkle-free skin well into old age. To prevent premature aging, be sure to generously and evenly apply sunscreen to your face and neck as the last step of your skin care routine, and reapply as needed.

Sheet Masks

The Korean sheet mask is a skin-boosting ritual that delivers maximum results (and provides a 20-minute break in your day so you can relax). There is a sheet mask for just about every kind of skin issue you could think of, from tea tree oil for acne control, charcoal for detoxifying and snail cream (yes, really!) for wrinkle improvement.

Korean Sheet Masks for every skin problem | © KoreaNet / Flickr

Sleeping Masks

Like sheet masks, sleeping masks provide all sorts of remedies for the skin. But these gel or cream-based, leave-on masks are generally a bit more intensive. It’s during sleep, after all, that your skin cells turnover, making it an optimal time to moisturize and correct skin dullness. Applying a sleeping mask at bedtime yields soft skin that glows throughout the following day.

Barley Tea

If you’ve ever dined at a Korean restaurant, you may have been served a nutty-tasting tea. This nutrient-packed roasted barley tea is consumed by Koreans on a nearly daily basis to improve skin health and general well-being. Rich in antioxidants, the tea also helps to improve blood circulation and is even believed to promote weight loss. Drink it hot or enjoy it over ice for a refreshing, skin-nourishing treat.

Grains of boricha, a Korean tisane made by boiling toasted barley | © Badagnani

Air-Cushion Blurring

Having a bad skin day? Try the Korean blurring trick! Using an air-cushion foundation, gently pat the skin to blur out unwanted imperfections. The formula of these signature Korean products can provide ultra-sheer to total coverage without looking caked on, so you can layer it as needed.

Pretty Pout

Smear a nutrient-rich lip oil treatment such as shea butter or avocado oil onto your lips to keep them moist and healthy. Once dry, lightly apply a natural-colored lip tint or balm to add a healthy glow. By simply enhancing your own lip color, your complexion will appear younger and brighter.