Beauty 101 – The Myth of the 10 Step Korean Beauty Routine

Today, we’re going to talk about The Mythical Korean Multi-Step Beauty Routine™.

Full disclosure guys: My nighttime skincare routine is EXTRA. If I go all-out, I gotta start by 10pm so I’m hopefully done by midnight.

Pink Panther drunk on a bench with empty bottles
Actual photo of me with my skincare bottles.

Is that crazy? Possibly.

Is it necessary? NO! Not for everyone. It isn’t. I know it isn’t. Honestly, I could (and often do) skip a few steps and be just fine.

For me, skincare is a hobby and my greatest act of self-care, so I don’t mind spending a considerable amount of time and money on it.

Honestly, I don’t blame a single one of you for clinging hard to the Clean and Clear microbead facewash and lotion combo you’ve been using since highschool. After all, the alternatives can sound kind of out there.

For most people, and beginners especially, the perception that they need a dozen products and a flowchart just to deal with their face every night is a huge turnoff. Rightfully so.

My goal for this entire blog is simply to pull back the curtain and let everyone into the Good Skin Club. For me, the South Korean philosophy of beauty and skincare is what works, but it isn’t really the complex, ancient, hours-long ritual that so many bloggers and beauty magazines make it out to be.

Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that, even if you aren’t down for snail mucin, sheet masks or products with little to no English on the packaging, you can still apply the basic principles of kbeauty to your skincare.

What the 10-Step Routine is All About

First of all, the idea of exactly 10 steps isn’t really a thing. You can have ten, fourteen or four steps and still follow the Korean beauty regimen.

At its core, the Korean beauty routine is about three things:

  1. Investing in your skin
  2. Customization
  3. Prophylaxis

And that’s it. There are no magical secrets. The culture of beauty standards is just different than it is in the Western world. Their beauty industry reflects this by offering thousands of products at all price points so that everyone can find something that works for them.

For Westerners who subscribe to the Korean approach to skincare, beauty standards do play a part in it, but much of our focus is also on skincare as an act of self-care. This is something that you will see mentioned often by Western beauty bloggers and beauty enthusiasts, but it isn’t strictly a Korean idea.

What Beginners Need to Know About the KBeauty Routine

In my opinion, there are a few things that every newbie needs to learn, embrace and live.

“Your Mileage May Vary”

Usually abbreviated to “YMMV.”

This is the mantra of every good skincare enthusiast out there. Just because something new or super popular is being hyped, doesn’t mean it will be life-changing for you. On the flipside, if you happen to find something obscure or generally unpopular is great for your skin, be thankful! Shout it from the rooftops!

Every person’s skin is unique. Even if you know someone who has the exact same skin type and troubles as you, the products that work for them might not work the same way for you, and vice versa.

That’s YMMV.

Customization is a Process

I totally get that most people don’t have the disposable income that will let them drop serious cash on a bunch of new products every time something doesn’t work out. I’m one of those people, and that leads me to being careful and doing my due diligence when it comes to picking out new products.

Unfortunately, not everything you buy is going to work out. In fact, it might take several tries to find that one product that makes a huge difference in your skin. That’s normal. Don’t get frustrated and give up after one or two tries.

There are resources like the r/SkincareAddiction and r/AsianBeauty subreddits as well as plenty of wonderful, reputable bloggers with all manner of skin types that can help you figure out why one product doesn’t work and what might work for you instead.

Layering Will Change Your Life

If I had to pick one thing that I wanted you to take away from the Korean beauty routine, it would be layering.

Sure, you can find products that perform multiple functions, but this style of skincare is much more focused on layering multiple, thin, single-function products. This gives your skin a chance to really absorb each step, which means you’re getting more beneficial ingredients and better skin.

Western beauty is very focused on “one-and-done” products that usually promise skin miracles. Korean beauty isn’t like that.

Even if you can only afford (or only have the patience for) a few products, using multiple, thin layers of a single product can still make a big difference.*

*This only goes for thin or watery products like serums or essences. Layering multiple heavy creams doesn’t tend to give the same effects because your skin doesn’t absorb them in the same way.

The Best Anti-Aging Product is Sunscreen

SPF is life.

I never leave home without it, and anyone who knows me will tell you I am Very Super Serious about sun protection (for me and, much to their dismay, also for them). I am like that mom at the beach hollering at her children about sunscreen every half hour.

woman yelling at men with megaphone
Or like this lady here. Men are equally unamused when I do this.

Why? Well besides the fact that I get a sunburn for even thinking too hard about the outdoors, SPF can take so much work out of your skincare regimen, both now and in the future. And guys, I’m lazy. I want beautiful skin with as little work as possible. If SPF can facilitate that, you bet your ass I’m gonna use it.

Koreans also take their sun protection extremely seriously. For them, and for me, it’s a preventative measure. If you don’t get sun damage in the first place, you don’t have to worry about treating the spots and wrinkles that come along with it.

In Summary

I will be spreading the gospel of the Korean beauty routine until the day I die. However, I want you guys to know that, even if you aren’t using ten products from Korea, the benefits of this style of skincare are still accessible to you.

In later posts, I’ll talk about readily available and mostly Western products that you can start off with, as well as what to buy first and how to incorporate things into your beauty routine.


  • The Mythical 10-Step Routine is just that. A myth.
  • The core tenets of the Korean beauty routine are:
    • Skincare as a long-term investment
    • Customization
    • Prophylaxis
  • You can use Western products and follow the Korean skincare philosophy.
  • And finally, remember these 3 things:
    • Finding the right products is a process.
    • Layers are the key to great skin.
    • Sunscreen = Life.

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