Korean Skin Care Routine On A Budget – Minimal and Natural Way

by Nov 25, 2018

If you have heard of Korean beauty (K-beauty) before, you may know that Korean women and even men, take skin care very seriously.

What is the secret behind the glowing skin of Korean women? Is it because of the popular K-beauty products (which have now become its own separate category in many beauty retailers)?

I don’t dispute the amazing capability of Korean skin care products, but I hardly believe that products alone are what gives Korean women the flawless, glowing skin.

This blog post offers easy to follow Korean skin care routine that is also natural and minimal. 

1. Cleanse Thoroughly, Once a Day in the Evening

Good skin is an attribute of genetics, glowing skin is not. It takes effort to have flawless, glowing skin. 

And one of the first tips I offer is to spend enough time cleansing.

Spending extra time cleansing as much as spending time on putting on make-up is the first step to having glowing skin.

I typically spend about 5 minutes to put on my make-up, but spend 10-15 minutes cleansing.

My daily cleansing routine includes:

  • Step 1 – Cleanse with an oil-based cleanser.
  • Step 2 – Cleanse again using castile soap or any other plant-based, gentle soap.
  • Step 3 – Wash off excess with hot & warm water (at least 100 splashes).
  • Step 4 (OPTIONAL) – Take 1-2 pieces of kombu (soaked in room temperature water for 20-30 mins) and gently massage the face.
  • OPTIONAL STEP – Before the Step 4, take 1-2 pieces of kombu (soaked in room temperature water for 20-30 mins) and gently massage the face.

In the morning, I don’t wash my face at all or just gently with castile soap after my morning exercise.

Washing your face several times a day removes the good, natural oil of the skin, leaving it dry and irritated.

In the past, I used to wash aggressively (as I am a bit of a germaphobe), but after I applied this technique of not washing my face in the morning, my skin has changed for the better.

Also, washing the face only at night can can save money on skincare products. smile But when I do cleanse (usually in the evening) once a day, I make sure I do a very thorough job using the above cleansing method.

2. use product that is right for your skin type

Getting better products is not the solution and sometimes, those popular products may not be suitable and even cause the skin condition to worsen.

Choosing the right products customized for your skin type is more important than choosing what is popular.

That is why many of the Korean beauty products have diverse product lines for different skin types.

3. using Less products Is Better

The multi-step Korean skin care routine is popular and may work for some, but I personally think using less products can be better.

My daily skin care routine after cleansing includes:

  • Step 1 – Apply toner.

Although I may not agree with using several beauty products at once, I agree with many K-beauty experts that using the toner is essential, as I’ve seen the dramatic difference in how the next product is absorbed in my skin if I don’t use a toner.

  • Step 2 – Gently massage your face and do face yoga.

Gently massage face with a moisturizer.

It is important to note that I never use different types of moisturizers (lotion, essense, night cream, hydrating cream) at the same time, but only use them one at a time.

Face also has muscles. Yoga for the body is healthy, so why not do the same for the face?

  • Step 3 (optional) – Apply serum after using lotion and essence.

Apply serum after using light lotion or essence. Avoid the serum if the face has been hydrated with a heavier cream or sleeping mask.

  • Step 4 – Gently press the face with your hands (palms facing the face).

The heat from the palms allows the moisturizer to become absorbed and locked into the skin, giving that radiating glow from the inside.

4. Always Keep Skin Moisturized

Oily skin and hydrated skin are very different. And surprisingly, oily skin results from poor hydration of the skin.

I have seen some people with oily skin that use one of those oil-absorbing sheets or use alcohol-based toners, but many are not aware that those methods only dry out your skin temporarily and is not the long-term solution.

When you use alcohol-based products or forcibly remove your oil using oil-absorbing sheets, you are removing the natural oil on your skin and encourage the production of more oil.

Instead of forcibly removing the good oil on your skin, it is important that you control oil production and keep your face moisturized using water based, light-weight moisturizers.

If you have dry or combination skin (I personally have dry skin), using a light-weight moisturizing is always better during the day and at night, you can use a heavier hydrating cream.

Moreover, applying my 4-step daily skincare routine will ensure that your moisturizing is deeply absorbed into the skin.

5. avoid Excessive Exfoliation

Some K-beauty experts recommend using an exfoliator 2-3 times a week is good for the skin and it may be true for some.

Personally, I don’t believe in using exfoliators that often.

My husband, who has oily skin, has used scrubs for the longest time of his life, but that did not improve his skin from breaking out or becoming less oily. Forcibly removing the natural oil of your skin will cause your skin to produce more oil.

Instead, cleanse well daily to prevent dirt and other residue from clogging up your pores and only exfoliate about once every week or 10 days (never in the morning and only in the evening after my daily deep cleanse) using Innisfree’s Volcanic Pore Clearing Clay Mask.

Although not all products from Innisfree are 100 percent vegan and technically not also 100 percent cruelty-free, they strive to use 80%  natural ingredients (Innisfree is part of the cosmetic conglomerate, AmorePacific, and AmorePacific has voluntarily stopped animal testing on their products since 2008. However, the caveat is that Innisfree does export to China, where unfortunately foreign beauty companies are still required to test on animals).

Innisfree is also one of the more eco-friendly Korean beauty brands, and offers bottle retake program, where you receive membership points for returning your empty product bottles to any of their flagship store and soon online!

For more information on vegan or cruelty-free K-beauty products, refer to this latest list of (updated September 27, 2017) kind companies by Korea Animal Rights Advocates or KARA (sorry there is no English website, but you can still see the name of the brands in English).

6. Treat your Skin Like a You Would Treat a Baby’s Skin

Treating the skin like you would a baby’s skin is another way to keep your skin clean and flawless.

This includes not touching your face with dirty hands, rubbing it too hard, using harsh chemicals for peeling, or applying excessive make-up.

Also, choose gentle, plant-based skin care and beauty products over products that use unreadable chemicals or toxins.

7. Drink Water, Eat Plenty of Plants and Fruits

Having a plant-rich diet can also help you reach the goal of having glowing skin.

As a Korean, I can attest that Korean BBQ is not your everyday meal at a typical Korean home.

The Korean diet is actually plant-rich.

A typical Korean meal at home includes a variety of plant-based side dishes, bowl of rice with beans, some sort of soup or stew that may contain small bits of meat with plenty of vegetables.

Geographically, mountains account for 70% of Korea’s land mass and the reason why  many interesting wild mountain vegetables (known in Korean as “namul”) are served in Korean meals.

Because I am vegan, my husband also follows a plant-rich diet. Although my diet was generally plant-rich even as an omnivore, my husband’s diet was close to a carnivore’s diet.

After adopting a plant-rich diet, I’ve seen a dramatic change in his skin including less breakouts.

I even see a glow once in a while, although he hardly encompasses any of the aforementioned steps to having glowing skin.

Whole foods plant-based meal for a healthy skin. Here is a typical plant-based meal I would have at home after traveling. For more details on this meal, see my Instagram Post.

8. Use the Face Mask properly

Korean beauty bloggers emphasize that using a face mask is a staple of K-beauty.

I also use a face mask once or twice a week. And I always use them after a long day on the beach or outdoors.

So why do Korean women insist on using a face mask?

Face masks give you that extra deep soothing and moisturizing effect the skin may not receive from the daily moisturizer.

Not only is it important to carefully select the face mask based on skin type, but it’s essential to follow the instructions very carefully.

For example, unless otherwise instructed, most sheet face masks instruct to leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes only. 

A recent experiment conducted in Korea showed that the moisture level of the skin was much higher when the mask was left on for 15 minutes compared to when the mask was left on for 45 minutes.

This is because our skin can only absorb a limited quantity of the good stuff of the mask. And leaving the face mask on longer than instructed may end up instead drying up the skin.

Face masks can be costly and few months ago, I moved away from one-time use sheet face masks to making my own!

For those that want to save money and be more eco-conscious (if you’ve used a face mask before, you may notice that in comes in a lot of plastic packaging), read this blog post on my favorite DIY face mask Korean women love!

9. Try “No Makeup Day” Once a week

Even though I don’t use heavy makeup, I do try to incorporate, one day each week, where I don’t wear makeup or only put on sunscreen when I leave the house.

Give the skin a break and let it rest in its natural state without any makeup.

10. Sleep Early

A good night sleep can help skin stay flawless and glowing.

Our body gets the most rejuvenating and deep sleep between 10pm-2am.

And during these hours, the body produces the largest amount of melatonin, an antioxidant that helps repair and rejuvenate your body.

It is no wonder Koreans have an adage that says, “beautiful women sleep too much.”

11. Holistic approach to skin care

My skin is not perfect, but I do often have people tell me I have great skin. And the first question they ask me is, which product I use.

Products can be helpful, but I believe products should only be complemented with a good skin care routine.  

And there have been times in my life, where I suffered from acne and dry skin. I still struggle a bit with occasional breakouts when I travel and eat too much sugar, but I do manage to get my skin back on track using the skin care tips shared in this blog post.

It is important to remember that everyone’s skin is different based on where you live, skin type you are born with, your diet, among others.

Always remember to carefully select the skin care routibe and products that are right for you and your personal skin goals. 

If you have any other on natural skin care tips, share with us in the comments.

Minnie Bio Photo

Sustainability strategy and climate policy consultant, Minnie, shares how we can together “keep it simply sustainable” and live in harmony with our natural environment. Learn more →