The Modern Girl’s Guide To Korean Skin Care

I talk about Korean skin care all the time.
I just taught another Beauty 101 class, and all the ladies were asking me about K-Beauty and which products I used and what all these things men, so in their honor, here is a blogpost dedicated to breaking down the parts of Korean Skin Care.


Korean women are considered to have the best skin in the world, and obsess over which products they use.
Making the change to Korean products has been the best thing I have ever done for my skin and it has never looked better.

South Korea is not only the mecca of skin care it is actually the world leader in research and development of skin care products. Korean skin care utilizes technologies we don’t have yet in America, so these products are really high performance and give you absolutely amazing results.

The Korean skin care system is based on layering products and targeting very specific skin concerns. I added each category of product in one at a time so that I could see if they made a difference, and if layering them was worth it. It was.

The following post is a break down of each of the main components that make up the Korean skin care regimen. You can use them all, or if that is too overwhelming just pick and choose the parts that work for you.

You can find Korean skin care in various stores (such as Sephora), or you can order them online. I buy online from Memebox, the largest purveyor of Korean skin care products. They are based in the San Francisco area so everything ships out quickly and arrives in 3 – 5 days.

I write about Korean skin care and Memebox often, and normally post about my orders when they arrive. If you go to the search bar and type in either Memebox or Korean skin care you will get a list of them all.

West Face East, How To Layer Your Skin Care Korean-Style

Korean Skin Care – Where Do You Begin??

Disclaimer: Memebox does not sponsor this blog and does not give me free product. I buy every product I talk about, show you, or use. 
I do have affiliate marketing with Memebox through a third party. This means that if you order from any of the links in this post my blog may earn a few cents.

One of my recent Memebox orders. All these amazing products for around $100!


1. The Cleanse

The Korean skin cleanse is actually a two step process. One cleanse to dissolve makeup, the second to clean the skin.
Personally I just do a single step cleanse, using a cleansing oil. I use I’m Cleansing Oil from Memebox. It dissolves makeup (even waterproof mascara!) and leaves my skin feeling super soft and supple.
You should cleanse your skin with a product designed for your skin type. If you have oily skin or get breakouts you need cleansing products designed to lift away excess sebum and help deep cleanse the complexion.
If you have dry, irritated or sensitive skin you need very gentle cleansing products.
Find Korean cleaning products here.

2. The Exfoliation

The next step in the Korean skin care system is the exfoliation.
From scrubs to enzyme masks to peels, the pathway to smooth, glowing skin is exfoliation. Be careful not to exfoliate too frequently or too aggressively, and choose the formulation you need to meet your skin type.
Sensitive and irritated skins need to be especially careful because aggressive or abrasive exfoliators can make skin even more sensitive and irritated. Exfoliating every couple of weeks is ideal for most skins.
Explore Korean exfoliators here

3. The Refresher

After cleansing your skin the next daily step is a refresher. That can be a facial mist (my favorite) or a softening toner. The refresher softens and prepares the skin for the treatment and moisturizing products that follow.
See Korean refreshers here

4. The Essence

Korean women consider this to be the most important step in their skin care regime. Essences combine multiple intensive ingredients into a super concentrated form (you really only need one drop) and then transports them deep into the skin. They are lightweight in texture, so the surface of your skin doesn’t feel slimy or oily, and they are skin concern specific, so you target the issues that you want to work on. Aging/dehydration/acne/excess oil/lightening and brightening – you name it there’s an essence for it. You can also layer essences and tackle multiple skin issues at the same time.
Find essences here

5. The Ampoule

An ampoule is a super-charged, highly concentrated serum that again you only need a tiny amount of and that go super deep into the skin (much deeper than the average serum or moisturizer).
Again this product is skin concern specific. You look at what you want to fix about your skin, whether its smoothing the texture, brightening, super hydrating, anti aging – you name it there’s an ampoule for it.
The results are sensational and your skin will love you for adding ampoule into daily routine! If you are using both an essence and an ampoule the essence goes on first.


6. The Emulsion

So far if you are doing all the steps in the Korean system you have been targeting skin concerns and deep treating them. Now it’s time to start moisturizing the skin. Emulsions are lightweight moisturizers. You can use them alone, or as the next step after your ampoule. They give you all the moisturizing that you need without being really heavy on the skin.
During the day you would follow this with an SPF product and then put on your makeup. (but when your skin gets all glowy and healthy from using this skin system you will find that you both want and need much less makeup than you currently wear!)

Find Creams, Emulsions and Gels here

7. The Sleeping Pack

Korean women really understand the importance of super moisturizing the skin to keep it soft, supple, glowing and healthy, so at night after all these steps they apply a sleeping pack, which seals all the prior products in for the night. A sleeping pack has a similar texture to a night cream, but is slightly more gel-like. It doesn’t leave a film on your skin, doesn’t mess up your pillow case, it just absorbs in and makes the magic happen!
Find Sleeping Packs here.


8. Sheet Masks

Every week you should do a mask, whether it’s for hydration, brightening, clearing blackheads, cleaning your skin, or whichever issue you want extra help with.
Sheet masks are great because they get a completely even coating of product and seal it into the skin. Also they’re not messy, which I love.
If you are not a sheet mask girl Korean skin care is full of regular mask options too.
See Korean skin care masks here


Find Korean skin care products for oily skin and breakouts
Find Korean skin care products for normal and dry skins

The Wonderfully Weird Makeup Trend Sweeping Korea

I’m absolutely obsessed with K-Beauty. 
I swear by Korean skin care. I can honestly say my skin has never ever looked better. It looks firm and smooth and it glows. 
In fact today a new order of skin care products arrived from Memebox. I order all my skin care products through them – they are so inexpensive especially when compared to Sephora’s pricing, and because they ship out of San Francisco they get here in about 3 days.

Learn how to layer your skin care Korean style 

Anyway when I opened the email in my inbox today there was a story about K-Beauty, which of course got my attention.

I can’t say that I will actually try this technique. Apart from the fact that I’m sure it would go hilariously wrong for me, I’m into super glowy looking skin, rather than matte. But I can imagine it going crazy on Instagram :))

The Wonderfully Weird Makeup Trick That’s Sweeping Korea

by Monica Kim for

image via

“It’s the hot tip in K-beauty right now.” This, I’m told constantly, and always take with a fat grain of salt. But at dinner in Seoul last week with a particularly plugged-in friend, I heard that a rather unorthodox trick called jamsu makeup (roughly translated to “diving” or “submerging”) had swept the city this summer, producing a perfectly matte, melt-proof face with little more than a bottle of baby powder and a basin of water. Given the thick humidity enveloping both the U.S. and Korea of late, I was at least intrigued by the wholly whimsical proposition.

It was purportedly a Japanese beauty blogger who sparked the trend on YouTube, though it quickly became a Korean sensation. The novel technique bears some similarity to “baking”—setting your makeup with powder and body heat—but feels rather next-level. First, cleanse and moisturize, then swipe on primer, foundation, and concealer, per usual. Then, shake heavy handfuls of Johnson’s Baby Powder onto your palms (though any loose powder will do) and pat it on freely, releasing clouds of it into the air until a pale kabuki-style base appears. Filling a sink with cool water, plunge your powdered complexion into the bath and hold it there for no more than 30 seconds. Finally, pat your face dry, and finish the rest of your look with a lasting, pitch-perfect canvas.

“If you have dry skin, don’t push your face in the water too long,” my friend says, adding that one might take a facial mist and spray liberally, instead. A bit reluctantly, I dunk my Ringu-esque head in the sink for some 15 seconds, feeling (frankly) ridiculous. But, I quickly find, the results are beyond. Yes, my skin is intensely matte, but also incredibly smooth and even-toned. Better yet, when shading in my arches and applying liner, there is no oil-induced glide, allowing me to craft fine, pencil-thin strokes that are the best brow-work I’ve done in ages—all thanks to a $4 tin of drugstore powder. It lasts remarkably well with no under-eye smudging and, I’m frequently told, my face looks softer and even younger—appropriately enough, like the skin on a baby’s bottom.


 Learn more about Korean skin care here and here  and here


Korean Skin Care – Where Do You Begin??

I’ve been getting tons of messages from readers telling me that they want to try Korean skin care, and that they go on the Memebox website but get totally overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin.

I hear you!

That’s how it was for me too. For me the foray into KBeauty didn’t begin with a box of freebies from any company, it started with me stumbling upon the Memebox website by chance, and then trying to figure out what to buy and where to start.

Read about Korean Skin Care here

I didn’t start with a 10 step regimen either – I just added in bits and pieces along the way. 
I’m not an easy sell with skin care, because if I don’t see a near immediate difference to my skin then I don’t want your product. And that’s where Korean skin care got me. The difference to my skin has been amazing. My skin has never, ever looked better! 

I sometimes take a side-step over to Tatcha for some high end luxury Japanese skin care, but for the most part it’s a little too pricey for me to use on a consistent basis. My everyday skin care game is K Beauty.

So for those of you who are as confused as I was in the beginning, here is a mini guide to where to start on the Memebox website, or in trying Korean skin care for the first time.

My most recent order from Memebox

Start by identifying your skin care concern. Is your skin oily or dry? Do you have breakouts and blackheads? Are you worried about aging?

When you click the skincare tab on the Memebox site it will offer you those options, so you can dive into products specifically to meet your skincare needs.

Korean skin care technology is vastly superior to the skin care technology here, so the products get very very specific.

Try An Essence


One place to start is by adding in an Essence. Essence is comparable to a serum, targeting specific skin care concerns, but it is much more concentrated and is delivered in a lighter, non greasy formula.

They have an Essence for every skin concern under the sun.

I start my day by rinsing or cleansing my skin, (normally just rinsing, if we are going to be completely honest). I follow that with a skin mist, which softens the skin and has some essence in it.

I have been trying out a different mist each time, and have loved them all. My latest order has the Scinic Aqua EX Jelly Essence Water. I use it after cleaning at night and after rinsing in the morning. Sometimes if my skin is feeling tired I will spritz it on during the day (it’s a great product to keep in your desk drawer!) to revive you and make you look fresh again.

I layer my Essences. I normally follow the mist with another formula, in the mornings I use a Vitamin C based Essence so that I can maximize on the antioxidant, skin protecting benefits of Vitamin C, or maybe I go for something lightening and brightening. In the evening I use an Essence that is more about anti aging and extra hydration.

These products are not at all expensive. The It’s Skin Essences that I have been using (pictured here) cost between $10 and $13 each. I have yet to see a $100 product here that gives the same kind of result!
Pictured above are It’s Skin YE Effector Essence, It’s Skin VC Effector Essence and Scinic Aqua Jelly Essence Water.
If any of them are out of stock I just get another one that deals with my specific skin concerns.

Add An Ampoule


In the Korean layering system an Ampoule is used after an essence. Ampoules are even more concentrated powerhouses that get the ingredients penetrating even deeper into the skin. Again you can get really specific to your own skin concerns, and layer things. For example if you feel like your skin is dehydrated and dull you can use an essence for lightening and brightening and an Ampoule for extra moisture.

Or maybe your concerns are blackheads and extra oil and dark spots. All you need to do is layer your concerns one over the next. I get my biggest concern in Ampoule form and the others in Essence.
I try a new Ampoule each time, and each time they have been fabulous. With this order I chose the Scinic Propolis Ampoule, because it’s full of antioxidants and nutrients. And because I liked the bottle.

Add A Sleeping Pack


This one took me a while to get on board with, largely because the crazy names they use don’t translate so well (Snail Slime and  Donkey Milk Yogurt for starters!) and in the description it sounded like a pillow case ruining step. 
But I’m so glad I did add in sleeping packs. What it is is a final step in the night time skin routine. After you have layered on your mist, your essence, your Ampoule and your emulsion (a lightweight but power packed moisturizer) you seal everything in with a sleeping pack.


The ones I have tried have a slightly gel like texture, but disappear into the skin, creating a fabulous barrier. None of it winds up on your pillowcase!

Try A Peel

I am not a fan of exfoliating scrubs. I always think they scratch up the baby skin underneath and keep you in a perpetual state of rough skin. I prefer to do enzyme peels that gently lift away the dead skin. I dont like peels that feel like fire ants are crawling over your face and I don’t want to look like I’m shedding skin either. 
They have peels for every possible skin concern, from oily skin to blackheads, to dry skin, to dull skin – you name it!

I’ve been using this SNP Peel every other week. It makes my skin look amazing (and feel super fresh), but there is no stinging involved and no flaking. It takes about 10 minutes, and I follow it with a sheet mask.

Add A Sheet Mask


I’m pretty obsessed with these! They are just so very convenient and your skin loves you for it. And they are perfect for travel! After a long flight a sheet mask restores your skin and makes you feel lovely.

My Sunday night routine when I’m not working is to use the peel if it’s the right week, and follow it with a sheet mask. I buy several different ones with each order I place, because they only cost a couple of dollars each. Sometimes I want brightening, or tightening, or collagen or anti aging – I often buy them just because I like the look of the package! Regardless, I always see a big difference to my skin.
Check out all the different sheet masks they offer here

If you want to try K Beauty, but are unsure of where to start, or if you don’t want to do a 10 step skin care routine, but still want to find out what all the hype is about, try adding in any one of these items, or more, to you daily skin regimen. You will be blown away by the results!

I haven’t looked at the K Beauty items available at Sephora, so don’t know their pricing, but one of the great things about Korean skin care is that it is so ridiculously affordable! My last entire order from Memebox, pictured at the beginning of this post, only cost $100, came with free shipping, and because it ships out of California it arrived in 3 days!