Asian Skincare Routine – The What, the Why and the When

The Asian skincare routine is like a legendary creature. 

There are many myths out there and confusion rules the newbie, and even experienced AB lover, world.

The myth that you have to have 10 steps leads to people being scared of where to begin.

 

Are all these products necessary?

It doesn’t help that different brands and countries have different names for the same step. A Japanese lotion could well be the same step as a Korean toner, Mizon Snail Recovery Cream is more like an essence than the creaminess of Joseon Beauty Dynasty Cream.To help wade through all this confusion I’ve created a list of the order products should go in, as well as links to where you can purchase some of the products which fit that step. 

The list is in no way exhaustive, I’ve picked the more well-known and my own favourites. With some commentary as a starting step. My advice is to research the product and read more reviews before you make an investment though!

Hope you find this useful, and let me know if you think I’ve missed out your Holy Grail!
 
First things first, and that’s what do you need?
If you’re starting out from scratch there are 4 key steps I’d buy first.
 
·         1st and 2nd Cleansers: to ensure all the make up, grime and sunscreen is off your face and unable to clog pores.

·         Moisturiser: keeping your skin hydrated is one of the best ways to take care of it. You can do this by drinking water, the best and cheapest way, as well as applying a cream/gel onto clean skin.

·         Sunscreen! I cannot emphasise enough how important this is to maintaining healthy skin!!
 
Everything else is an auxiliary product. Think of the above as your T-Shirt and jeans, with all other products as accessories which can enhance your skin! People purchase different products to target different needs. Some brands create an entire line which hits all the steps. I prefer to avoid these as I have multiple skin goals, so a bespoke routine suits  me better. This is where you get varieties in how many products people have in their routines. Those fortunate beings whose genetics and environment have afforded them beautiful skin will probably have less steps then people like myself, whose hormones seem to be waging a very open war against my skin.
 
The next problem arises when you’ve purchased all the products, all the goodies which promise to put you on the pathway to skincare heaven. And you have no idea what to do next. When do you put the snail goo on? When is vitamin C to be added. Why do people cry when you put your sleeping pack  on first and your toner last.
What do I do with all these products??
Order
 
This can be one of the most confusing aspects of an Asian skincare routine. Beauty brands with their suggested order for their line only add to the confusion when they don’t match up.
Two popular brands, Mizon and Innisfree, below as an example of this.
 

Mizon Snail Line Tea Tree Line

 
There’s no definitive order, and there are many very useful resources out there in terms of what order to put your skincare routine in, (I’ve linked to a few of my favourites below). A good rule of thumb is thinner to thicker. Build up the hydration and goodness in your skin and finally seal it in with the occlusive at the end. There’s limited benefit to your skin if your essence can’t make it through your sleeping pack!
Now the exceptions to this rule are actives. These go after you’ve cleansed your skin but before you start layering on the goodness. These are the heavy duty skin uncloggers such as AHA’s and BHA’s which work to get all the gunk out of your pores. (Read more in my spot treatment masterpost: Read Here). The exception, there are always exceptions, is that you can use a pH correcting toner before your actives to help boost their efficiency.
 
To help sort your routine keep 3 broad things in mind.

Overall Routine: Cleanse your skin, Declog your skin, Hydrate your skin.
Actives (Reverse Alphabet): Vitamin C, BHA’s, AHA’s (lowest pH dependent product first)
General Product Rule: Thinner to Thicker.
 
The Product List
Now onto the fun part, the products!
It’s important to keep in mind that you should always introduce new products to your skin slowly. Especially actives, as using these immediately daily can lead to over exfoliation and damaged skin.
I usually patch test a product for at least two weeks before making it a permanent member of my skincare troop. This way I can identify if a product is breaking me out and remove it swiftly from the routine. (Here’s my guide on what to do with products that don’t work out: Read Here)
Now there looks to be a lot of steps here, but remember my advice from before. Start with the basics, then add according to your goals! You do not need to buy all the things.I’ve linked to a store which carries the product, just click on the name to get to the product page, but you can pick your own store! See if there’s a store which might be more economical/convenient.
I’ve done a post on the online stores I like here:
Online Stores Review

 
1st Cleanser: Oil/Balm
The Ground Troops. Designed to remove the grime, make up and sunscreen of the day.
·         Banila Co Clean it Zero – $13
A balm cleanser, which makes for easier travelling. Fan favourite.
Rose Rose
·         DHC Cleansing Oil (Mini Set) – $15.50, £9 
My personal favourite, olive oil based and a popular product in Asia. Soothing and highly effective.
Amazon US | Amazon UK
·         Kose Softymo Speedy Cleanser – £6.85, $9.90
Popular out in Asia and feels silky on the skin.
Amazon
·         The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil – $10
I dislike the scent on this which is slightly floral, but it is a popular light oil choice.
Jolse
 
2nd Cleansers: Foam/Gel/Milk (pH friendly ones)
The Sweeper Crew. These products ensure that there’s no remnants left behind from your oil/balm cleansers. It’s important to remember that a low pH cleanser is going to be better for your skin, as a higher pH can damage your skin barrier. Keep in mind that the pH of tap water is about 7, so will increase the pH of your cleansers when mixed.
 
·         Cerave Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser (pH 5.5) – £11.50, $16.50
Gentle cleanser which is fragrance free so great for people with sensitive skin.
Amazon
·         CosRX Good Morning Cleanser – $10
Cheap cleanser with a low pH.
Jolse
·         Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Foaming Wash (pH 5.5) – £8.99, $12.85
My favourite, gentle cleanser with easy to use pump action.
Amazon
·         Innisfree Jeju Bija Cleansing Gel – $15.20
Gentle cleanser which is good for sensitive skin. Pine tree scent.
Jolse
·         LJH Tea Tree 30 Foaming Cleanser (pH 5.5) – $23.71
Moisturising and gentle on the skin.
Korea Depart
·         Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick (pH 5.5) – £20, $28.54
This is a firm fan favourite in the AB world. It’s scent is like bathing in rose petals and it’s perfect for travelling with.
Amazon
 
Wash off Masks
The Emergency Crew. I only really use these 2-3 times a week. Particularly clay masks which can be drying if used too frequently. Perfect though for when I can feel my skin about to erupt. When I do use these my skin feels softer and I have to resist the temptation to stroke it.
Clay Masks

·         Baviphat Strawberry Clay Mask – $20.99
Love this clay mask, smells like strawberry fields.
Beauteque
·         Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Clay Mask -$8.28
Classic clay mask, and fan favourite. Not too drying and leaves the skin feeling soft and clean.
Rose Rose
Exfoliating Masks
·         Skinfood Black Sugar Mask – $9.25
Popular scrub which makes my skin feel soft and bright.
Jolse
·         Skingood Black Sugar Strawberry Mask – $11
Gentler version of the above. Don’t eat even though it smells delicious.
Jolse
 
Chemical Exfoliants, Actives: AHA’s, BHA’s, Vitamin C
The Artillery of the skincare routine. These are there to search and destroy all types of acne and prevent their return. Be careful when introducing these to your routine, they’re likely to lead to purging and can be drying if over-used. A note on Vitamin C, it can oxidise once opened so has a limited shelf life. Don’t mix Vitamin C with products that contain niacanimide.
·         CosRX BHA Power Liquid – $17.85
This is my favourite, be warned though has a pungent scent.
Jolse
·         Melano CC Spot Treatment – £9.97, £14.28
More a spot treatment than an all-face Vit C serum. Is fantastic at reducing hyperpigmentation.
Amazon
·         Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum – £13.90, $19
My favourite AHA, is gentler than some others out there and the dropper helps me apply the right amount.
Amazon
·         OST C20 Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum – $20
Brightening effects and helps reduce hyperpigmentation. Known to lead to purging.
Tester Korea
·         CIRACLE OST Pure Vitamin C21.5 Advanced Serum – $25
The reformulation of the above. Has no niacinamide and less alcohol, so better for those with more sensitive skin. Reviews mention that this is stickier than the older formulation.
Tester Korea
 
Physical Exfoliants
In addition to chemical exfoliants you have your physical ones. I tend to only do this once per week, as with regular chemical exfoliation there’s a risk that you can end up over-exfoliating your skin and causing more damage.
See wash off masks above.
 
Toner/Boosters
The Prep Team. These are not like Western toners, which are designed as an additional cleansing step, Asian toners are the first step in beginning the rehydration of the skin post-cleansing. 
·         Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner – $13.60
As with all CosRX products, basic but does it’s job!
Jolse
·         Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion – £9.50, $14
This Japanese toner is known to super hydrating, so perfect for those with dry skin.
Amazon
·         Mizon AHA BHA Daily Clean Toner – $12.60
Fan HG, there was pandemonium and there are frequent rumors that this is being discontinued. It’s not and is one of the popular toners out there for good reason.
Rose Rose
·         Secret Key Milk Toner – $3
My current favourite, lightly hydrating which is great for my oily skin and contains glactomyces filtrates.

 
Essence, Serums and Ampoules
The Snipers. These are where most people start to diversify and there are multiple Holy Grails. And that’s because these are the products you can use to directly target a specific skin need. They can range from targeting acne and redness, to dullness and hyperpigmentation. You get hydrating ones and stickier ones. The terms are used interchangeable, and this is where the thinner to thicker rule really helps in terms of which products to use in which order. Many people add a drop or two of their ampoules to their moisturiser to make it last longer and prevent over-stickiness.
·         Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence – $16
No preservatives so store in the fridge. Helps reduce redness and irritation.
Jolse
·         Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum – $16
Antioxidents reign in this product, and adds light hydration. Plenty of product to last forever.
Rose Rose
·         Leejiham (LJH) Tea Tree 90 Essence – $25.70
Targets redness, blemishes and helps prevent the recurrence of acne. Love this, firm favourite.
Korea Depart
·         Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule, AKA Missha Long Name Serum – $31
Hydrating to the skin, this contains fermented ingredients and niacinamide (good for brightening). Also contains retinol and is much loved.
Jolse
·         Shara Shara Honey Bomb All in One Ampoule – $24
Lightweight, non-sticky, hydrating and brightening. This will last you till judgement day.
Tester Korea
·         Scinic Honey All in One Ampoule (they also do a Propolis version) – $18
Large bottle so you’ll never run out! Calms redness and hydrating.
Jolse
·         Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule – $29
Propolis is great for brightening and is anti-inflammatory. This is one of the fan favourite propolis products out there, due to the 80% propolis contained inside.
Korea Depart
 
Sheet Masks
The specialists. My personal favourite step as you can customise this easily on a day to day basis depending on how your skin feels. There’s a huge variety available, and for me they are a luxury pampering treat. I am in the one a day club, but others aren’t a fan. A highly optional step which can be used daily, weekly or even just for special occasions! I’ve linked to some of the most popular sets, and a review of two subscription services.
·         My Beauty Diary – (Set) $14, £10
Yes Style
·         Innisfree – (Set), $4.24
Jolse
·         Leaders
Tester Korea
·         Subscription Bags (Mask Genie v Mask Maven)
Comparison Here
 
Eye Creams
The eye specialists. For those who want extra pampering of the eye area.
·         CosRX Honey Ceramide Eye Cream – $22.10
Dream team of Honey and Ceramides.
Jolse
·         Innisfree White Tone Up Eye Cream – $22
Gentle with a light floral fragrance
Jolse
 
Moisturizers
The healers. This is the product which soothes and moisturises your skin. One of the common steps between a Western and Asian routine and an absolute necessity.
 
Emulsions
·         A’pieu Nonco Tea Tree Emulsion – $3.10
Mildly moitsurising, contains tea tree which is good for tackling blemishes. Good for oily skin.
Rose Rose
·         Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel – $8.85
Soothing and good for calming down irritated skin.
Rose Rose
·         Skinfood Peach Sake Emulsion – $6.30
Light and moisturising with a yummy scent.
Rose Rose
Creams
·         Banila Co Miss Flower and Mr Honey Cream – $50
Creamy texture better suited for dry skin. Jam packed with honey and royal jelly.
Korea Depart
·         Beauty of Joseon Dynasty/Joseon Woman Cream – $12.81
New fan discovery much loved in the community. Hydrating, though others found it difficult to absorb.
Korea Depart
·         Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream -$15.78
Firm fan favourite here, though I’ve yet to try. Known to be good at calming redness, inflammation and accelerating healing. All the benefits of bee and snail in one!
Jolse
·         CosRX Honey Cermaide Full Moisture Cream – $20.38
Honey and Ceramide is a dehydrated/dry skin dream team. Non greasy and sinks in quickly.
Jolse
·         Holika Holika Skin & Good Cera Super Cream – $16.78
Heavier cream so better suited for the dry-skinned among us.
Jolse
·         Mizon Black Snail All-in-One Cream – $13.75
Contains niacinamide which is great for brightening and also moisturising. Light moisturiser, more like an essence.
Rose Rose
·         Mizon Snail Recovery Gel – $4.09
Nice light moisturiser, perfect for humid weather and oily skin.
Rose Rose
 
Spot Treatments
These are the special forces, only deployed to deal with direct threats which have surfaced. They range from healing to drawing things to a hear. (Masterpost on spot treatment here)
·         Ciracle Red Spot Cream – $13.10
Contains zinc oxide, centella and tea tree. Helps to heal and reduce the appearance of blemishes.
Rose Rose
·         CosRX Master Blemish Patches (last step) – $5
HG. These are amazing and I love them. You apply to a popped blemish and it really draws up the entire remaining gunk and flattens the appearance of the spot.
Jolse
·         Mizon Acence Blemish Out Pink Spot – $20, £14
This is what I use when I need to get a pimple to come to a head quicker.
Cult Beauty
·         Mizon Acence Mark-X After Blemish Cream – $15.20
Soothing and helps accelerating healing of acne.
Jolse
 
Sleeping Pack
The shield. This is the last step in the skincare routine and locks in all the steps of the previous products to ensure you get their full benefit. Sleeping packs provide moisturising benefits while you sleep. Usually the advice is to wash this off in the morning.
 
·         CosRX Ultimate Moisturising Honey Overnight Mask – $20.38
Hydrating and propolis (anti-everything <3) is the key ingredient, not honey, here. Light mask and cooling.
Jolse
·         COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask – $13.60
Moisturising and brightening, contains niacinamide.
Jolse
·         Holika Holika Honey Sleeping Pack – $10.20
Full review here. Moisturising and lovely scent
Jolse
·         Laneige Water Sleeping Pack – $23.50
Cooling with a strong scent. Gel texture and highly moisturising, fan favourite.
Tester Korea
·         Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Pack – $9.16
Light floral fragrance, very moisturising. Faithful staple in most beauty routines.
Rose Rose
·          Too Cool For School Pumpkin Sleeping Pack – (Mini) $4.14
Classic favourite but sadly doesn’t have a pumpkin scent. Lighter than other sleeping packs, but can be slightly sticky.
Rose Rose
 
 Sunscreens
Vital to any good skincare routine. The best way to look after your skin is to prevent damage happening in the first place! Sun protection is taking seriously in Asia, think sun parasols out in the streets as the norm, so there’s a great collection of sunscreens out there.
·         Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun SPF45 PA+++ $14 – $6.07
Rose Rose
·         Biore UV Rich Aqua Watery Essence SPF 50/PA +++ – $14.27, £10, $15
Amazon
·         Mentholatum Sunplay Skin Aqua UV Moisture Milk SPF50+ PA+++ -£15, $21
Amazon
Phew that’s a long list.
Hope that you found it useful and are less confused about the Asian Skincare Routine.
 
Favourite blog posts on a similar topic:
Snow White and the Asian Pear: she goes into detail on actives and why they’re in that order: Read Here
Pico Prince’s Graphic: I need a print out of this for my wall: Read Here
Fanserviced-B Visual Guide: Read Here and her routine Read Here
Skin and Tonics Asia Skin Care Guide: Read Here
Fifty Shades of Snail: Skincare order and her routine: Read Here
 
Love Sophie
xxx

 

 

16 Comments

  1. I think the myths about Asian skin care can definitely put some people off as it may seem like you couldn't possibly use 2 or 3 products alone, but need to invest money immedialely in 10 step skin care routine. The 4 key-step routine you suggested is definitely more newbie friendly. 🙂

    yukitty.net

  2. Thank you for the comment. Definitely agree that people can rush in and buy all the products, when it's probably better to buy one or two new things and try them out first 🙂

  3. Very comprehensive list! I have never heard of an asian skincare routine before, but I do like it! Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is such a wonderfully comprehensive post. I follow a Korean skincare routine for the most part but I'm out of a couple of things at the moment so this was a great read for new product ideas and little extras like a sleeping pack. It might be dorky but skincare makes me so excited! Thank you so much for posting 🙂

    Elese | elesedowden.com

  5. Glad you liked it! Hope you learnt something interesting today 🙂

  6. It's not dorky at all! Skincare gets me really excited as well, nothing beats the rush of waking up to a glowing face 🙂

    Thank you for the kind compliment, hope it did help!

  7. OMG!! Delighted I stumbled upon this (my purse isn't though). Thanks for such a detailed post 😉

  8. Wow! A very thorough post on Asian skincare! Will definitely be trying some of these products. Thanks so much for sharing! Xo, Suz | http://www.suzannespiegoski.com

  9. This is super interesting to me! I've been intrigued by Asian skin care for awhile and this was super thorough!

  10. Hope this helps you get started in your AB journey 😀

  11. Hehehe sorry about that 😛

    Your skin will love it though!

  12. Pingback: [Shiseido] - Senka Perfect Whip Cleansing Foam Review - Maple Tree

  13. Great post! Reading this, I just realized what I may have been sheet masking at the wrong time. I’ve sheet masking after using my Mizon Snail Recovery Gel per someone’s recommendation. I may try to switch the two and see if it helps with the stickiness I’ve been experiencing post sheet masking.

  14. Pingback: Asian Beauty Skincare Routine for Beginners - Maple Tree

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