Korean Skincare 101 and 5 Game-Changing Products

Over the last couple of years beauty outlets have been obsessed with Korean skincare. 10-step routine, glass skin, cloudless skin, unusual ingredients, anti-polluaging – it is easy to get distracted. But (in our opinion) at its core the Korean approach to skincare is far simpler – it is all about having a regular routine and tweaking it accordingly to keep your skin healthy.

Korean skincare industry is fiercely competitive. Customers demand good quality products and beauty companies invest money in Research and Development. Constant innovation, new technologies, new and updated formulas and yes, exploring the benefits of what might be considered unusual ingredients – these are just some of the things that keep pushing the industry forward. Not to mention when compared to their Western counterparts, majority of Korean skincare products are insanely affordable.

5 Game-Changing Korean Skincare Products


Essences are a category in itself and a bit difficult to describe. It is not a toner, it is not a serum, but it has properties of both. Once you try one though, there is no going back. Essences have a water-like consistency and normally contain an array of skin beneficial ingredients such as ferments (fermented yeast, tea, rice, lotus for example), botanical extracts and vitamins. What do they do? Hydrate, brighten, even out skin tone, restore elasticity, clarify and plump up the skin. But if you did a survey and asked any essence enthusiast what it is that they love the most about their essence, it would probably be the glow it gives.

When to use: After your exfoliating toner and before the rest of the steps in your skincare routine.
Product examples: Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence, Cosrx Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence, Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence

Sleeping pack

Sleeping packs (also known as sleeping masks) are a hybrid between a mask and a night cream. Pick one based on what your skin needs. The formulas and ingredients vary – some promise to hydrate and soothe, others brighten, some tackle fine lines and wrinkles. Dry skin types should look for emollient formulas while oily skin types should look for gel-like formulas.

When to use: As a last step in your evening skincare routine instead of your nighttime moisturizer. Apply a thin layer onto the skin and let it soak in a bit before you go to sleep. In the morning cleanse your face as normal.
Product examples: Cosrx Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask, Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, Innisfree Green Tea Sleeping Pack


Cushions bridge the gap between makeup and skincare. Cushions give light, buildable coverage with a dewy finish. Based on the formula they will hydrate, nourish, control oil production, but one thing they all have in common is skin beneficial ingredients and high SPF.
The compact has a sponge base that is soaked with a liquid formula. The packaging is airtight so there is no risk of spillage or of the product drying out. The sponges that come with the compact are normally anti-bacterial, but can be washed too.

When to use: After you have completed your skincare routine and as a base of your makeup. Cushions can also be used for touch-ups or on their own if you don’t need a full coverage.
Product examples: Iope Air Cushion XP Natural compact, April Skin Magic Snow Cushion White, Clio Kill Cover

Hydrating toner

Remember the toners of old? Laden with alcohol and plain horrible? Hydrating toners are a complete opposite. A wide variety of toners is available on the market, but most are packed with hydrating and soothing ingredients such as Hyaluronic acid, Aloe, Rice and ferments (among other things). Their main aim is to deeply hydrate and prep your skin for the following steps in your routine.

When to use: After your exfoliating toner and before your essence (if you use one) or a serum.
Product examples: Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner, Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner, IsnTree Hyaluronic Acid Toner

Sherbet cleanser

Sherbet cleansers are oil-based cleansers that have a thinner consistency than balm cleansers. They also have a lower melting point. That means that sherbet cleansers are easier to massage into the skin and start to melt on contact. Packed with hydrating ingredients, they thoroughly cleanse, soften and soothe. Also? They absolutely destroy makeup and SPF.

When to use: As a first step in your evening routine to remove makeup, SPF and daily dirt and grime.
Product examples: Banila Co Clean It Zero, Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet, Etude House O-Le-Mong One Shot Sherbet Cleanser

Have you tried Korean skincare? Do you have a favourite product?

Roberta Striga