Korean skincare: Your guide to the 13+ step routine that we’re obsessed with

korean skincare steps
Photography by Peter Stigter

Saying we’re infatuated by all things Korean beauty-related right now is probably an understatement. We’ve swooned over the killer street style and we’ve named our current beauty obsessions (weird ones included), but if there’s one thing we’re mesmerized by, it’s the complicated 10-step (or more!) skincare routine that essentially put Korean beauty on the map.

Though we may have only started to employ the much-talked-about skincare regimen recently, Koreans actually have been embracing this skin care culture at a very young age. “In Korea, smooth and translucent-looking skin is a measure of beauty and therefore takes priority in Korean women’s time, effort and budget allocation,” says AmorePacific’s Director of Marketing PR Nathalie Paiva. With the Korean beauty market slowly but surely becoming one of the major players in the industry, we’re not surprised.

But what exactly helped Korean skincare gain so much buzz and skyrocket it to the top in these past few years? Aside from introducing new beauty terms and ingredients into our vocab (double-cleanse, essence, snail cream, pig collagen – just to name a few), it’s the art of layering products that’s got everyone ooh-ing and ahh-ing. “This Korean beauty philosophy of ‘layering’ is an essential part of the beauty regimen,” explains Paiva. “It allows one to enhance the results of skincare one is already using allowing for maximum benefits.”

However, the multi-step routine baffles many.  Seen as superfluous (oh, how our wallets miss the days when our regimen consisted of only a handful of skincare products), it does beg the question, do we really need that extra step? “If we were in Korea conducting this interview that question wouldn’t even come up,” says Paiva. In other words, utilizing this concept of layering is just all part of Korean culture. And with SoKa celebrities and beauty bloggers taking pride in their always glowing, flawless skin, who are we to question?

To help us better understand this well-acclaimed beauty routine, we tapped Paiva to get the scoop on the importance and reasoning behind each step. We’ve rounded up the top cleansing oils, mists, masks and more in a range of prices, so if you do end up restocking your beauty cabinet with some new goodies, your wallet won’t be weeping so hard.