BB cream. CC cream. Facial mist. Snail serum.
Chances are that if you’ve been wandering the beauty aisles lately, one or two of these have probably caught your eye. Korean beauty products aren’t something new; women everywhere, regardless of country, will often prioritize healthy, clear, luminous skin.
However, the particular routine and arsenal of products that characterizes Korean skincare can be new for most of us. With up to 24 different steps in washing, prepping and treating the face — dare we say — it might even seem slightly, intimidating?
That’s why we jumped at the chance to try beginner-friendly Laneige.
Known for years in Korea, the brand recently hopped the Pacific to Target stores nationwide, giving us newbies the chance to adapt time-honored Korean traditions to our own skincare regimens in a simple, straight-forward way. Laneige offers a range of products specifically suited to different needs, from anti-aging and clearing acne to bringing a boost of moisture back to hydration-starved skin. The key is in using their products synergistically and intentionally.
Darling’s online editor, Ziza Bauer, tested out several of Laneige’s Advanced Water Science products in order to learn the basics of what a Korean-inspired skincare routine involves. Below she’s breaking down the process into six main steps so you can decide if such a skin-soothing practice is best for you.
Step 1: Wash & Remove Makeup.
At night, many Korean women use a cleansing oil to first remove their makeup, then a second cleanser, such as a foam one, to remove any last traces of oil. I simplified this process by using a cotton ball dipped in some jojoba oil to remove my eye makeup first, then employed Laneige’s Brightening Sparkling Water Foam Cleanser to clean the entire face.
Not only is a foam cleanser super fun to use (remember the days of cleaning your school desk with shaving cream?) but it smells bubbly fresh, hugging your skin to get down deep in your pores. I suggest, as does Laneige, to spray some foam in your hand first and rub it on your face while it’s still dry. Then, once you’ve painted on a mask, add warm water to dissolve and it easily washes away.
A tip: As a general rule, Koreans are very gentle when removing makeup. They delicately rub their skin with just their fingers and massage the cleanser into their skin, ensuring all makeup is removed as opposed to rushing through the process.
Step 2: Exfoliate.
While this step doesn’t have to occur every day, exfoliation is important to remove dead skin cells and other impurities that may get left behind or build up on our skin. I used Laneige’s Multi Cleanser here, which is infused with tiny granules of papaya and strikes the right balance between being too harsh (it wasn’t scratchy or painful) or too thin, rendering it under-effective.
Using this cleanser after the foam ensured a smooth, clean palette on which to add the third step.
Step 3: Toner.
Contrary to popular belief, a toner shouldn’t strip, sting or dry out your skin. It actually helps lay a foundation for a serum or a cream to hydrate the skin more effectively.
I used Laneige Power Essential Toner, which felt exactly as described: A purifying skin revitalizer containing skin-perfecting optimal mineral water. Basically, this felt like a cool drink for my face, especially after using two cleansers in a row.
A tip: Skip the cotton ball or pad and apply toner with your fingers, patting it onto the areas that you feel are the most dry or tight.
Steps 4, 5: Essence & Serum.
Essence and serum are closely related, so depending on how dry your skin is you could easily omit step 4 or step 5 if you feel both are too much.
Post toner, I first applied Laneige’s Balancing Emulsion, which was a silky smooth cream that was easy to distribute over my entire face, even when using just a dime-sized amount. It absorbed quickly and helped to visibly firm and (temporarily) plump up my skin.
Since my skin tends to dry out very quickly, I also opted to try Laneige’s Water Bank Serum. Thicker than a regular moisturizer but not as heavy as a gel or cream, this felt great on top of the essence, locking in the moisture from the toner and essence combined.
A tip: When applying the essence and/or serum, concentrate on rubbing slowly around your facial pressure points, which is a common practice among Korean women. This stimulates circulation and blood flow to the skin, helping it to heal itself from the inside out.
Step 6: Moisturizing Mask.
Our skin does a lot while we sleep, boosting collagen production and cell and tissue repair. The addition of a good nighttime moisturizer can help accelerate and reinforce this process, which is why many Korean skincare lines carry moisturizers and masks to specifically wear while sleeping.
I tried both the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and the Laneige Firming Sleeping Mask, which work to restore hydration and, in the case of the Firming Mask, boost a youthful glow. While the latter definitely felt more luxurious and “activated” (it tingled while applying), the Water Sleeping Mask was easier to apply and didn’t need to be washed off in the morning. In addition, whereas I normally need to apply moisturizer right after waking up, after using the Sleeping Mask I noticed my skin still felt soft and fresh, requiring only a little bit of moisturizer around my eyes instead of covering my entire face.
A tip: Sleeping masks make great travel and airplane companions, too!
Overall, committing to a Korean-inspired skincare routine may require more time and attention, but as result, you’ll start to realize that your skin really is worth such time and attention to begin with. Have fun building upon each of these six steps in order to discover what best suits your skin, as well as what you enjoy most. Washing my face and getting ready for bed used to seem like such a chore, but when I started prioritizing that time as time to treat myself, it became a last-minute haven from the stresses of the day.
Are you a fan of Korean skincare techniques? Which are your favorites?
Images via Morgan Ashley Photography