All the questions you have about K-beauty, answered


Words: Kelly Fung

What is K-beauty and how does it differ from other beauty routines?

Korean Beauty, aka K-beauty, has been swirling around beauty circles for a few years now. It’s been a true innovator and driver of cute-yet-practical makeup and a total pioneer in skincare. While just-bitten lips and baby-doll cheeks are high up on the trend list, it is the intricate skincare routines that many now swear by. Based on a collection of 10 to 15 products to combat just about any skin concern, one may think getting onboard the glass-skin train is complex. Quite the contrary, the philosophy is about personalisation, creating a skincare wardrobe and doing what’s right for your unique skin needs, rather than following a prescribed set of rules that beauty houses traditionally insist on.

Do I have to complete the full 10 to 12 step routine every day or is a couple of times a week enough?

It might sound overwhelming (and time consuming) to commit to the 10-step routine morning and night. While it is advisable to get into the habit of taking care of your skin as consistently as every day, think of the 10 products as your arsenal of essentials to address your skin’s daily needs and concerns. Not every product is used both morning and night, and some, like sheet masks and exfoliators, won’t be used every day, either. Sunscreen is only used in the morning and perhaps you’ll find that the serum you choose works best for your skin while you are asleep. It’s really about getting to know your own skin and listening to its needs.

Will layering products clog my pores?

One thing is for sure – each step in the K-beauty routine is considered and each product plays its own role in to ensure happy and healthy skin. The purpose of each step is not to slap on many products for the sake of it. While 10 steps may sound like a fast track to jam-packed pores, remember that cleansing, toning and exfoliating are there to do just the opposite. Their main purpose is to remove excess sebum buildup that eventually leads to breakouts and unhappy skin.

What is the difference between an essence and serum and which is applied first?

Learning to correctly layer skin treatments is an important part of understanding the K-beauty ritual. Some swear by using both an essence and serum for maximum benefits. An essence, a uniquely Asian beauty concept, is thinner in consistency (almost watery) than your regular serums. They’re helpful in prepping your skin for maximum delivery of ingredients to the dermis and are best applied by gently patting into the skin with your hands.

Serums are more widely known. They’re thicker in texture and highly concentrated, which means you really only need one or two drops per application. Choose your serum based on your individual skin concerns – hyaluronic acid is a wonder for dehydrated skin while vitamin C is the answer to brightening.

Can you layer your essences and serums?

100% yes – always after cleansing and toning and before moisturising, starting with your lightweight essences first.

How long should I wait between layering products?

There are several schools of thought here. Some experts swear by waiting a good few minutes after applying the products, which contain strong ingredients to allow them to absorb correctly and work their magic. This also helps prevent a mix of too many together, which could lead to skin irritation. Others insist that you can apply products back to back immediately, preferably working them into damp skin. This allows the ingredients to absorb more easily. (The exception here, of course, is sunscreen, which should be applied to dry skin.) The best thing to do is to test and try to see what works best for you. No skin or skin ritual is the same.

What is double cleansing and is it really necessary?

It may seem a bit obsessive to cleanse twice, but hear us out. The first cleanser, an oil-based one, breaks down makeup, airborne pollutants and excess oil that builds up during the day or while sleeping. A water-based cleanser, your second step, is a deep cleanse for sweat, skin cells and bacteria. Both have different tasks and both wash away things that cause pigmentation, premature ageing and, heaven forbid, breakouts. In short, yes, both are quite necessary.