The Best Korean Skincare Guide


Trends, routines, and the best products from South Korea


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Introduction to the Korean skincare ideals and Korean skincare routine 

This post took a very long time for me to put together. I have worked alongside all the other guides which are still in preparation. I also was thinking to post this in different posts, but then changed my mind as these ultimately belong together. I would like to talk about all the Korean skincare ideals, then I will share the perfect skincare routine according to Korans, and then last but not least, I will include product information too.

The links I use are affiliate links which help me to keep on with this blog. I will be thankful if you use my links for shopping.

Korean imagery completely copied the Japanese format

All you need to know about Korean Glass skin, Honey skin, Chok-Chok skin 

Honey skin /dewy skin –꿀피부”   

“Honey skin” is an older term that’s been used to describe hydrated, dewy skin that’s deeply plumped with nourishment. In South Korea, Honey skin is a more frequently used skincare goal than Glass skin that’s more popular in the West.

The ideal skin in Korea is dewy, glass-like skin and that is achieved with extreme and constant moisturization. All skin products are designed to achieve this super moisturized effect. “Honey skin” can become yours through using oils and emollient creams which offer instant and lasting hydration that give the skin a gorgeous, glowy sheen similar to that of honey itself. There are tons of spas next to plastic surgeries to help one achieve the perfect complexion. Many times the dewy skin is thanked good makeup.

When it comes down to it, you can actually achieve both “glass skin” and “honey skin” in similar ways: by layering brightening and hydrating products to ensure your complexion is moist, supple, and soft to the touch.

Korean women are very beauty conscious

Glass skin – Yuri Pibu

“Glass skin”, a buzzy new Korean skin-care term used to describe complexions that boast an otherworldly, almost translucent glow that mimics the appearance of glass. Glass skin,” on the other hand, focuses more on radiance and texture. The West seems to love this expression and image the most. I see most beauty vloggers releasing videos on Glass skin. It’s not magic to achieve glass skin but you will need time and the best suitable products for your skin type to achieve a perfect complexion.

Glass skin with a hint of oil/vaseline

 Chok-Chok skin

Chok-Chok skin basically stands for clear skin that’s also pure. I know these words can use instead of each other, but if I want to explain the true concept this is where this leads me. To look chok-chok one has to look incredibly blemish-free, acne-free, large pore-free, hyperpigmentation-free with white skin. This is among the highest Korean skincare ideals ever. Most women can only perfectly achieve this goal with the help of the so popular cushion foundation that’s to hide the smaller imperfections.

images (2)

The „Dong Ahn” ideal

The Dong Ahn is a craze in Korea, one of the few which is not yet well-known around the world. The verse means that somebody looks many years younger than their actual age. While in Japan this is an ideal which is considered natural if somebody takes care of their complexion, in Korea, it’s another obsession similar to that of the Honey Skin or Glass Skin. Of course, skincare and lifestyle trends aside, in reality, the Dong Ahn can be the best achieved through the use of plastic surgery and or through the use of non-invasive cosmetic treatments.

How did all the skincare obsession get started in South Korea?

Korean make-up ad

To explain all of today’s obsession for perfection let me highlight some interesting historical reasons. in Korea, the use of make- up was banned in the Joseon period (1392-1897) as it is still banned in North Korea. After WW2 and the Korean wars in the period of rebuilding and development Korea got flooded by non-Korean beauty brands, mainly Japanese and decided to use them, study them then cut them out and starting to develop their own. So, from the Sixties, the Korean government consciously forbade the selling of imported beauty products and started to develop their own skincare brands with great plans to conquer the US beauty market. To date, the Korean government supports the local beauty industry (hence lower prices) and studies on skincare research. To this day the use of national cosmetics is strongly encouraged in South Korea. However, the beauty standards still see Japan as the culprit, the example to follow, and to outshine.

Skincare goals vs skin problems

In South Korea, tons of girls and women suffer from acne-prone skin, hereditary dark undereye areas, and hyperpigmentation. This is why the Korean skincare industry has  the following goals in mind:

  • To create skincare primarily to target acne-prone, problematic skin (also targeting the younger audience which represents the largest target group)
  • To use traditional methods and ingredients paired up with new scientific researches to make its products work
  • To create as many skincare products as possible for a larger profit. (thanks to the popularity of Japanese multitasking products however South Korean skincare brands have now also started to produce multi-use products
  • To be up to date with Western, particularly US beauty trends. This is why the South Korean beauty industry is now also pushing the vegan, organic, cruelty-free products as all these labels would further help their products being sold on the US market.
  • Products that lighten the skin and products which target to lighten all hyperpigmentation.

The beauty-focused mindset however has grown so bad, that it literally makes millions of Korean women literally obsessed with achieving the beauty standard, the perfection that’s also called Dong Ahn in South Korea. Honey skin, dewy skin, or Chok Chok skin are ideals nearly impossible to reach without the use of makeup. But still, a huge number of girls and young women spend lots of time and money on skincare products. They represent the key buying force for Korean skincare products and surgical procedures. Due to this quest for perfection, the number of women undergoing plastic surgery is still very high.

The pros and cons of Korean skincare products 

Koreans have so many brands they’re very hard to choose from

Korean skincare products are generally for the younger generation and for those with oily and acne-prone skin. If you have dry skin, dehydrated, or mature skin you have to stick with high profile products like Sulwhasoo. To be honest, this is why most mature skinned Korean women would rather use Japanese skincare products such as Shiseido which is an expert in terms of mature skincare.

Lots of Korean skincare products are packed with essential oils, colorants, and perfume. There are way too many products and brands to choose from without proper information on how all brands’ products differ.

The real Korean secret to perfect skin  

Korean skin standards are perfectly in line with Japanese skin standards

The Ultimate Korean skincare routine

VOlcanic clay masks of Innisfree are extremely popular

No matter it’s called Honey skin, Chok-Chok skin, or Glass skin, the skincare regimen is the same.  

Step 1-2: Double Cleanse

According to the Korean beauty standard, the key to perfect skin starts with the perfect cleansing regime. For a truly poreless complexion, one has to dissolve every trace of makeup, oil, sweat, dirt, and pollutants before calling it a night. Koreans adopted the use of cleansing oil from Japan to remove makeup before actual facewash with a foaming or creme cleanser.  Apply cleansing oil on dry skin first with hands or with a pad applying no pressure. Wait for a few minutes then rinse with lukewarm water.  Then do your second cleanse with a foaming or creme formula then wash it off.  When you’re done, let your face air dry without the use of a towel apply gentle pushing motions with your fingers to push water inside the skin.  Double cleansing is not necessary if you don’t have actual makeup to remove.

For all links I will include page links, to let you take a look at the rest of the brands’ products they offer. As Korean brands particularly are made for US market, many of them are sold exclusively on US sites. Page links will let you see all the alternates also depending on skin types and also products from other Korean brands too.

Popular Products:

Illi deep cleansing oil

Isntree cleansing oil

Mamonde Petal Spa Oil To Foam Cleanser  – Mamonde is among the best quality brands especially for dryer and mature skin.

Face washes:

Banila Co. Clean it Zero  UK link   US Link

The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Foaming Cleanser   UK Link   US Link

COSRX Low PH Good Morning cleanser   US Link

Step 3: Exfoliate

Skin exfoliation helps skin to get back its shine as it removes the dead skin cells with much care. Some prefer to use lighter chemical exfoliants such as glycolic acid, while others, especially those with problematic skin prefer to use chemical exfoliants ( AHA/BHA) or gentle scrubs ( gel peel exfoliants are really in at the moment). Exfoliation cannot be done every day however, do it 1 to max 2 times a week.

Popular Products:

Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel:  UK Link   US Link

NEOGEN – Dermalogy Bio Peel US

Skinfood Black Sugar Scrub: UK link   US Link

Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask for oily, combo skin  UK Link   US Link

I’m from Rice Mask UK link

Step 4: Toner 

Whamisa as the organic co-brand of Glow Recipe is largely marketed for US audience only. It’s not really popular in South Korea. But nevertheless, it’s said to be great with fermented rice as its Nr.1 component.

The secret to getting glass skin at home is a hydrating toner—and lots of it. Toner is also great for clearing impurities.

Popular Products:

Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner: UK link 

AHC Toner for Face Aqualauronic Hydrating Skin for Dehydrated Skin  US link

The Face Shop Pomegranate and collagen volume lifting toner  US Link

Step 5: Apply an Essence

It’s no surprise that the glass skin routine requires a hydrating essence. After all, it’s the signature move of every Korean woman’s beauty ritual. Look for glycerin and squalane-laced formula. The former ingredient pulls water from the atmosphere into your skin, while the latter helps strengthen barrier function so it looks more even over time. Pat—don’t rub—it in to prevent tugging, which can stretch out the skin and cause wrinkles. You can use toner and essence interchangeably. The essence however does not make up for cream if you have dry skin. Korean women are so crazy for Essence they often use them instead of creams and serums, especially in the summer.

Popular Products:

Missha time revolution is by far the most popular essence

Seoul Ceuticals Marine Mineral Plump & Glow Essence   US Link   (this brand is not available on European Amazon sites just yet)

Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence/Misshe Artemisia Essence for sensitive skin    UK Link     US link

COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence     US Link        UK link

I’m From Mugwort Essence    US link

Step 6: Serum + Moisturize ( many include the use of skin serums and eye creams as a separate step)

The key to skin perfection is proper hydration for all skin types. Start with a serum, especially if you are over 25. Serums carry tons of extra vitamins, active and beneficial ingredients to support the effect of the cream. What you need is something containing serious skin-plumping and moisture-trapping oils. Korean girls just like Japanese girls prefer to use the lighter gel substances during summertime and the heavier hydrating cremes during wintertime. Many Korean women like to cut out the use of cream and stick with an essence and serum combination instead.

Popular Products: URLs are for Amazon UK or for Amazon US depending on availability. 

Make P:rem – Safe me       UK Link      US Link

belif The True Cream — Moisturizing Bomb     UK link belif    US link belif

Dr. Jart – Vital Hydra Solutions (UK)

Nature Republic Super Aqua Max (US)

Mamonde Ceramide cream UK  + US link – good for dehydrated and combo skin types

SeoulCeuticals Korean Skin Care Snail Repair Cream US/ Mizon’s All In One Snail Repair Cream UK


Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX:  Sulwhasoo UK link     Sulwhasoo US Link

Klairs Freshly Juiced vitamin drop   UK link (Dear) Klairs  , US Link (Dear) Klairs

Goodal – Green Tangerine Vita C Dark Spot Serum : Goodal UK    Goodal US

Cosrx Centella Blemish Ampule Serum:  COSRX US

Step 7: Apply a face mask

I just love how Goodal products look

Sheet masks can help in adding extra hydration for a limited period of time.   But masks cannot be used every day. Use 2 to 3 times a week. If it doesn’t fit in your beauty routine in the morning, use it at night. Nowadays, wash-off masks are getting back but they are also used as exfoliants. In the evening the application of sleeping masks is really in now.

Popular Products:  any mask with “Cica” in its name is for irritated skin

COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask – UK Link   US Link

Iunik Propolis Sleeping Mask – for dry and normal skin    get this from yesstyle

Klairs Youthful Glow Sugar Mask   – Klairs is the cheapest on Wishtrend but beware of shipping charges.             Klairs Mask US link

Step 8: Protect with SPF

You’ve made an investment in your skin, so don’t blow it on UV damage. During the day—rain or shine—use 30-50++ sunscreen to protect against fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots/hyperpigmentation

Popular Products:

Purito Comfy Water Sunblock and all other Purito sunblocks. Purito is expensive but it makes the best sunscreens.  UK Purito    US Purito

The coming of the multipurpose products: the end of the 12-15 step skincare routine 

The 12-15 step beauty routines are soon to end also in South Korea following the Japanese example. This year marks the real entrance of multi-purpose products which simply close out the necessity to buy so many different products.  Multi-purpose products would provide a handy solution for cleansing, exfoliating, and makeup removal, essence, moisturizing and sunscreen products to be applied all together.  Also, skin mists which have also been regarded as an additional step in skincare are proving to be quite useless.

The problem with overusing skincare products

Innisfree is one of the first vegan and cruelty-free brands which is also marketed as organic

Many people’s skin is simply not suitable to absorb this large number of products and even if it does, it may cause pimples, skin rashes, and irritation. You need to make sure your skin can breathe. Make sure you only use products that do good for your skin and do not overuse on products. It’s better to stick with a maximum of 3 different products you use on your skin and this includes SPF.

If you want to learn more about Korean products and where to buy them:

Check out my post on the Best Youtube Channels on K-Beauty products

Check out the following websites:


Yesstyle  – also sells clothing, makeup, etc.

Peach and lily – may have limited shipping

Soko Glam – ships from US

All these links are non-referral links.

Remember that you don’t have to use country-specific products to achieve brilliant results. Work only with what’s most suitable for your own skin type and age.


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