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beauty on a budget — the korean skincare routine

July 25, 2018

we all know that koreans have some of the best skin in the world — i don’t mean that to sound as creepy as it does — and it’s so good that jealous westerners will criticize the men for “looking like girls”. and it’s also universally known that some of the people with the worst skin are teenagers. so how do they do it?

if you’ve never heard of it, the korean skincare routine is a 10-12 step process that many koreans go through every day in order to keep their skin healthy and glowing. it’s a routine that many westerners have adopted because of its amazing results, but if you’re anything like me, the prices are enough to make you say “no, nope, i love my pimples perfectly fine, thanks”. there are products that cost hundreds of dollars, and each step requires a new product! 

some of my regular & favorite products! 

so if you’re on a budget but would still like amazing skin, i’m here to tell you what’s worked for me and what steps are ABSOLUTELY necessary vs. nice to have. some info on my skin: i have really, really dry skin & have struggled with eczema all my life. i’ve never had any serious acne issues thanks to genetics, but since starting this routine a year ago, i’ve had few to no breakouts at all. ALSO I’M NOT A DERMATOLOGIST TAKE ALL THIS INFO WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. 🙂 

01. oil-based cleanser

this step is important for removing makeup, grease, and other oil-based impurities. in my honest opinion, drugstore cleanser is good enough for this step. i used to avoid overly-drying cleansers, but that was before i started moisturizing. cleansing isn’t as important for acne as some people might think — as long as you’re clean, you’re clean!

02. water-based cleanser 

double-cleansing is one of the iconic characteristics of korean skincare, and it’s believed that water-based cleansers are supposed to remove sweat, dirt, and anything else your first cleanser might have missed. i’m sure there are great benefits, but i usually just splash water on my face instead of this step . . . i just haven’t felt like investing in a water-based cleanser and do not feel as though i’m majorly missing out!

03. exfoliate 

around $10 and has salicylic acid which is great for fighting acne!

exfoliating is always important in order to slough off dead skin cells or anything else that might be clogging your pores. i also believe for this step that it’s not totally important to have the most expensive product. i reeeeeeeeeallly want to try the neogen exfoliating pads, but like i said, i’m on a budget! IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND: only do this once or twice a week because over-doing it can really agitate your skin! i use the st. ives grean tea scrub pictured on the left. 

04. toner

OKOK SO THIS IS WHERE IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT. the internet says that toner balances out the pH levels on your face and prepares it to absorb your next products better. i figured this product would just make a slight and unnoticeable difference, until i actually tried it. like i said earlier, i have really dry skin and some days, my moisturizer will wear off and i can find peeling skin on some parts on my face. but with toner, the moisturizer lasts ALL DAY! so i highly recommend toner, especially if you have dry skin. 

the missha time revolution clear toner which i got for $28 at sokoglam!

05. essence

You’ll see more results from essence than any other product because it treats skin on a cellular level. Essence is a concentrated formula that specifically targets wrinkles, fine lines, and dull and uneven skin tones. Korean essences typically contain an active ingredient that optimizes your skin’s natural cell turnover rate (think skin regeneration) and with regular use you will notice that your skin is more smoother and brighter. — Charlotte Cho for Sokoglam

the essence i’ve been using lately . . . very pricey at $76

i usually use essence as a base of moisture so that i don’t apply too much moisturizer. i’m not sure i see the results that charlotte cho claims, but that’s also because i use my mom’s essence, which is a western brand. my DREAM essence is the sk-ii essence, but that’s like $200. my ultimate goal in life is to have them sponsor me but in the meantime, i’ve been studying really hard to get a good job and buy their essence (LOL NOT REALLY BUT ALSO KINDA REALLY). necessary? it’s pretty pricey, so it’s ultimately up to you if you want to make the splurge. this is probably the biggest investment in the entire routine. 

06. ampoules + serums

ok so i don’t really get what these are, but from my understanding, they are really concentrated products that target specific concerns? the reason why i haven’t done much research into them is because they are typically very expensive, and i don’t feel like i’m missing much by not using any. of course, if i won the lottery i would go out and buy a whole bunch to try, but for now, it’s no ampoules + serums for me. 

07. sheet mask

this is probably everyone’s favorite step, including mine. kicking back in a bubble bath, with a sheet mask on and some food? best feeling in the world. but if you’re really trying to save up, i have to break it to you — sheet masks aren’t really necessary. i masked a lot during winter time, when my skin was especially dry, but most of the year, i don’t and haven’t noticed a difference. of course, it’s always a great stress-reliever but i don’t recommend that you make this a daily or even weekly habit if you wanna cut down on spending. 

my go-to sunscreens!

08. eye cream

as a young person, i don’t really have eyebags. is there a noticeable difference when i apply eye cream? i honestly don’t know if it’s placebo or not, but i notice a very very slight difference, which probably means no. that being said, i haven’t done my research to see which works the best and just mooch off of my mom’s. it does always feel nice to put on eye cream, though, so if you have some extra money sitting around or have a serious eyebag problem, it might be worth trying.

09. moisturizer 

the laneige water sleeping mask which i use for hydration at night . . . $25 that lasts 6 months

THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP. do you hear me? if you had to choose ONE thing on this list, moisturizer should be your choice. i don’t care if you wash your face with water or have dry/oily/combination skin — you need moisturizer. most people think that if they have acne, moisturizing would only further clog their pores or make them oilier. it actually works in the opposite way! if you have oily skin, moisturizing will tell your glands to produce less oil, leading to less clogged pores and pimples. you know those annoying forehead bumps that you can’t pop? mine went away after moisturizing, and so did my friends’ after i forced them to. 

10. spf + sunscreen 

and spf is of course important because the sun can cause major damage to your skin, especially as you age. it doesn’t matter if it’s not summer or you’re only going to be inside all day. uv rays can penetrate clouds or windows, and cause wrinkles and pre-mature aging. spf is definitely a must!

i have a lot more i’d love to say about this topic, but this post is already getting to be reaaallly long! this post was so much fun to write and i’d love to make a youtube video esp about what products i use if anyone’s interested! good luck and hope this helps!

so what about you? what are your favorite skincare products?

and would you like to see more posts like this? let me know in the comments! <3


Haley Chung

haley is a seventeen-year-old slytherin who loves musical theatre, 80's shorts, and dreamy walks in the suburbs with her baby kitten avignon. find/follow/stalk her on instagram @haleyogurt.