Tag Archives: korean skin care

Korean Skin Care Project- Toner Step

Korean Skin Care Project- Toner Step

A brief recap for those of you who are new to this project or blog. My daughter Piper and I are exploring Korean Skin Care and documenting it here. If you are interested in how we got to this point, I recommend checking out these posts. Korean Skin Care Project, Korean Multi-Step Routine and Where to Buy K-beauty Products In this installment we are going to cover another basic tenet of K-beauty, preparing the skin for treatment.

The second step of the Korean skin care routine is toner, you know the step we all skip to save time and money in the US.  However, there are no stinging astringent toners in this routine (I’m looking at you Seabreeze). These toners are designed primarily to balance the pH level of the skin to prepare it to accept the hydrating products yet to come.


Some Very Basic Information About pH Levels

Like many others, I have viewed toner as either the throw away step of the skin care routine, or the fast and way to wash my face.  Both views are wrong.  The primary purpose of toning in the Korean view is to bring the pH level of the skin into balance after cleansing, before adding other treatment products.  The term pH stands for potential Hydrogen, which I cannot even begin to explain so for a more complete explanation of pH levels, check out this great post on SoKo Glam’s blog Why the ph of Your Skincare Products Matter

Remember back in the day when all doctors recommended a cleanser call pHisoderm?  It came in an acid green bottle, smelled terrible, but worked on the principle of controlling the pH level of your skin.  It also contained some chemical that was banned by the FDA and had to be pulled from drugstore shelves and reformulated, but that’s a story for another day.

The very basics of pH are, low pH equals acidic skin which is often oily and blemish prone; and, high pH equals alkaline skin which is often dry and also, sadly, blemish prone.  The sweet spot, around 5.5, is where the acid mantle of the skin is adequate to resist bacterial invasion, but neither overly oily, causing blemishes, or overly dry causing inflammation and redness.


After cleansing, the skin’s pH is usually more alkaline (dry) because you have stripped some of the acid mantle when you cleansed away the day’s makeup, dirt and sweat.  The right toner will slightly increase the acid level, and should also include ingredients which will nourish the skin.

Toners I Have Known and Loved

The first toner we used in this project was Botanical Nutrition Toner from Be the Skin.  This toner has all natural ingredients like Laurus Nobilis Leaf Extract (bay leaf) and thyme, it has a light herbal scent and worked pretty well.  It was as advertised, a no frills, all natural toner and I would recommend it for any one starting out.

The price was around $25 which is pretty close to what you will spend for toner, maybe a little high, but not excessively.  It is available on Peach & Lilly and Amazon.







Getting a little more adventurous, we next decided to try something with a little more kick.  Adding some AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid) is generally recommended for acne prone skin, so we chose this Cosrx product which was less expensive and Piper really likes.  The spray bottle is a much easier and more efficient way to apply the product.  So far her skin has responded well to this toner.

The cost was around $12 and it is available at Yesstyle and Amazon.




In my research I kept hearing about the Son & Park Beauty Water.  So I got myself an bottle and gave it a try.

I can attest it is a really nice product.  It has a light scent and leaves your skin feeling soft and supple. It also has gentle exfoliating agents and hydrating properties so can be used as multi-purpose product.  My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that while the packaging is sleek and modern, it pours out awkwardly and often ends up running down the back of my hand.  First world problems, I know.

This one is a little more expensive, running $30 on Soko Glam and about $25 on what seems to be a never ending sale on Yesstyle



What Have We Learned?

In summary, the toner step is not one to skip.  Nor is it a replacement for cleansing when it’s either too late, or too cold to wash your face.  Korean toners are not the drying, astringent toners we are used to in the US, they are designed to bring the pH levels of the skin in balance to prime the skin for other products.   These toners often have other benefits as well, such as exfoliants or humectants for hydration.

Some helpful tips for using toner:

  • Consider storing your toner in the fridge during the summer for a cooling treatment.
  • If you pour the toner in your palm and pat it on the face your bottle will probably last longer.  Putting it on a cotton ball usually uses more product and you have the added cost of buying cotton balls.
  • Leave your skin slightly damp from cleansing rather than thoroughly drying it before applying toner.
  • For travel, there are toner products that come as pre-moistened pads in jars, they are slightly more expensive and a bit wasteful, but convenient and less likely to make a mess in your luggage.


Essence- the quintessential Korean product.

Where to Learn about Korean Skin Care

Where to Learn about Korean Skin Care

There are a lot of information resources for Korean skin care out there. Endless YouTube videos, internet articles, blog posts and books. This post will identify some of the ones I used when researching our Korean Skin Care Project.  If you need to catch up on the origins of our Project check out these posts Korean Skin Care Project and Multi Step Skin Care Routine

First Category-Books

Yep, going old school, reading a book. Now, it’s not exactly as old school as heading to the Encyclopedia Britannica, but cracking open a book to learn something has become a bit of a novel approach (and yes, I refuse to apologize for the bad pun).

Two books that I found very helpful are Charlotte Cho’s The Little Book of Skin Care; and, Kerry Thompson and Coco Park’s Korean Beauty Secrets.

Charlotte Cho is the founder of Soko Glam, which is one of the best US sources for purchasing K-beauty products. Her parents are first generation Korean and she was born and raised in California. Cho lived in Korea for five years and got hooked on K-beauty so much that she was instrumental in it’s rising popularity in the US. You may have seen her on the Today Show during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, she is adorable and I wish she could be my best friend.

Her book is a very easy and enjoyable read. Unlike a lot of books on the topic, this one’s a cover to cover read that tells a story while it informs on the topic. I highly recommend checking it out.

The second book I picked up was Korean Beauty Secrets. This one had a less compelling narrative, but it was thorough and very informative. Put together by beauty bloggers, Kerry Thompson Skin & Tonics and Coco Park The Beauty Wolf this book has a lot of great information, especially the portion where they lay out the beauty routines of eight different beauty bloggers, all with different skin concerns.

Korean Beauty Secrets also provides more information on particular skin care concerns like dehydrated skin and acne. They identify different Korean brands, and give lots of recommendations on products. There is also a great section on makeup.

Second Category- Blogs

This may come as a shock but there is A LOT of information about makeup and skin care on the internet.  When you want to learn about something like Korean beauty culture that vast pool of information can be both a blessing and a curse.  I found a lot of blogs dedicated to the subject, but you have to be an informed consumer.  A lot of bloggers post sponsored content, which while I completely understand underlying the business reasons, the reader needs to understand that these are, at worse, ads; or, at best, personal testimonials.

Also, some of the best sources of information are the blogs attached to retail sites.  They provide a lot of information, but their ultimate goal is to get the reader to buy a product on their site.  With those things firmly in mind, the following are a few of the blogs I found helpful.

Fanserviced-B– This site has a ton of information about all things related to Korean beauty culture, including skin care, makeup, behind the scenes info on brands and much more.  The tone is informative, but really fun and I enjoy reading her posts, even if it’s not a subject I am particularly interested in, which says a lot for her writing style.  I highly recommend checking it out.

the klog– Retail site Soko Glam’s blog is the klog, which I know is a mash-up of K and Blog, but honest my first thought is clogged pores, followed immediately by ugly shoes.  So, unfortunately named, but a great source information.  They feature articles on skin care and while they absolutely promote the products they sell, they also provide a lot of helpful information.

Pibuu–  Pibuu is the Korean word for skin and frankly, it’s adorable.  I want to name my next cat Pibuu, or Jaquizz, it’s a toss-up I guess I will base it on personally.  Anyways… this site has a beautiful, clean aesthetic.  The articles are informative and interesting, maybe not super practical but a nice way to spend some time.  I think of it as the goop of Korean skin care.

And finally, YouTube

If you have a week or two to waste, go ahead and search Korean skin care on YouTube and see what happens.  Let me save you the trouble, you will be deluged with approximately 6 billion videos, talk about going down a rabbit hole, yikes.  Here are a few worth checking out.

Joan Kim– Joan Kim’s channel has a lot of top 10 favorites videos and product reviews.  She also teams up with Edward Avila who is one sassy bit of business and I love him for it. They seem to really know what they are talking about and give some good advice on which products work and why.

Soko Glam-Charlotte Cho– This channel has a lot of information about the skin care routine and the products available on the Soko Glam website.  Their videos are well produced and cover a wide variety of subjects.

The Beauty Breakdown Morgan Stewart’s channel is very entertaining. I’m not sure I learn anything new, but she is so cute and fun to watch that I catch myself going back for more all the time.


Where to buy Korean Skin Care Products.

Korean Multi Step Skin Care Routine

Korean Multi Step Skin Care Routine

Currently Piper and I have a little mother/daughter project exploring the world of Korean skin care.  To read more about the project’s origins, check out this previous post Our Korean Skin Care Project.

The Korean Multi-Step Skincare Routine.

The first thing you learn about Korean skin care is that there are, at least compared to Western skin care, a lot of steps. I saw routines with anywhere from 8 to 16 steps, and while the number of steps vary, there were a few constants. Here is a list of the steps you most likely find in any morning Korean skin care routine.

korean skin care routine

That sure seems like a lot of steps!

A typical morning routine would look like this:

1. Cleanse (possibly twice)
2. Toner
3. Essence
4. Treatment- Serum/Ampoule
5. Eye Cream
6. Moisturizer/Emulsion

There are more steps like exfoliate, sheet masks and sleeping packs, but you may choose to used them in the evening, a few times a week or not at all. So when someone tries to tell you Koreans have 16 steps to their morning and evening routines, they have probably misunderstood, are exaggerating to make a point or just being a drama queen.

A typical evening routine would look like this:

1. Double cleanse, oil based first, then foam
2. Toner
3. Exfoliate or Sheet Mask
4. Essence (skip if used sheet mask)
5. Treatment- Serum/Ampoule or Facial Oil
6. Eye Cream
7. Moisturize or Sleeping Pack/Overnight Mask

For instance, it would be rare (but not impossible) for someone to use a sheet mask as part of their routine twice a day. Or, you might exfoliate, then sheet mask before a big event, but not every day, twice a day. You would need to have a lot of money, a lot of down time and be pretty obsessed with your looks, so I’m thinking Kardashian possibly. For the rest of us, 7 to 8 steps would be the maximum, which is still a lot compared to what we are used to, but not unworkable.

sheet mask glam

For our project we have decided to follow the morning routine set out above. I will double cleanse in the morning because my skin is a little dry and could benefit from more hydration. Piper will only use the foam cleanser in the morning, but double cleanse in the evenings. We will use a rotation of Exfoliate, Mask and Sleeping Pack, which we have dubbed EMS (I’m pretty sure she tried to make the acronym BTS, but couldn’t figure out how), in the evenings, leaving Saturday night as a wild card to do whatever extra treatment we want, or none at all.

That’s the plan. The next step is to choose the products, there are a lot of products available, so it is going to take some research to find ones that are right for our skin types and that fit into a manageable budget.


There are lots of places to learn about Korean skin care. We will review some the best resources to help learn about the routines and products.  If you are interested you can find that post here on Dazey Mayhem.  I would love to hear your experiences and recommendations.

Korean Skin Care Project

Korean Skin Care Project

Origin Story

As we have established, I have a weakness for skin care products and routines. I spend a little time as possible doing my makeup, that is if I do anything at all. Therefore, I need the healthiest skin I can possibly have, so I have always been into skin care. I have used Murad, Principal Secret, Clarins, Clinique, Meaningful Beauty, Mario Badescu, you name it, I probably bought it.

My latest fascination started when I took my daughter to see her favorite band, Korean K-pop sensation, BTS. The concert was amazing and frankly we looked great thanks to Stitch Fix which you can read about here if you are interested  K-Pop Fashion Stitch Fix. I came away from the concert with a new appreciation for the band, their music and Korean culture. If you want to check out BTS’s music, here is a link to my Spotify playlist with my favorite songs. BTS Favorites Playlist

Imagine my delight when I found out that Koreans are obsessed with skin care just like me. Oh my goodness, so many, many products, brands, YouTube videos, sheet masks, ampoules, serums, books, theories, routines, did I mention the products, there are literally thousands? Heaven for a skin care addict like me. I went completely down the rabbit hole.

Piper and I decided to do a mother daughter skin care project. It was not hard to convince her since she is obsessed with all things Korean, and I was buying. Since I got no jams when it comes to crafts, I consider this my digital scrapbook, and this will the journal of our venture into the world of Korean Skin Care. The latest of our life projects here at Chez Mayhem. You are welcome to follow along if you find it helpful, informative, fascinating, inspiring, horrifying, amusing or any combination thereof.

What’s Different: Korean vs. American Approach to Skin Care

When I started hearing about Korean skin care the only thing I knew was there were a lot of steps, the packaging was cute but kind of juvenile and they use weird and exotic ingredients. Turns out all of this is true, but there is so much more to learn.  After a lot of research, the following what I discovered to be some of the primary differences between the American and Korean approach to skin care.

A Patient Approach

The Koreans are in this for the long haul. While they may want, they do not emphasis fast results.  In America, faster is better and immediate is best.  None of the products I researched, with the exception of some masks, even mentioned fast results.  They all emphasis nourishing and protecting the skin.  Clearly, they are playing the long game.

In our culture, we have a very can-do attitude.  If it’s not working right we can fix it through hard work and ingenuity.  If we have a pimple we will blast it into oblivion. If our skin is dry we will smother it in cream until it can’t drink up anymore.

The Koreans seem to approach it with more patience.  They gently cleanse, balance the ph levels and replace the oils with light layers of products. They draw pimples out with sheer patches rather than squeezing and then drying them out.  When skin is dry, they use hydrating toners and watery essence which allows the skin to slow sip up the hydration and hold onto it.  In short, they are more like the caring parent of their skin, rather than the overly enthusiastic coach.

It’s Ingrained in the Culture

korean baby face mask

Good skin care habits starts young in Korea and they are not the sole province of women.  Much like we teach our kids to brush their teeth (and floss, don’t forget to floss) twice a day, Koreans teach their kids to wash their faces, and, empathize the need to apply sunscreen everyday.

In America, skin care is by and large a female endeavor.  Oh sure you have the random male advocate for good skin care, but the average American man thinks it is perfectly acceptable to use the bar soap in the shower on his face.  Yes, the same soap that just lathered up his chest, feet and hind quarters. Guys are generally not that concerned about their skin until it is broken out or damaged from abuse, then they might take action, maybe.

More Korean men view skin care as just part of daily life.  I doubt they all participate in 10 step routines or have the flawless makeup of a K-pop idols, but they are clearly more active participants in beauty culture, which may explain why Korea has so many brands and stores.  You have to admit for a country of 51 million people they produce a huge share of the world’s skin care products.

Biology vs. Chemistry

In America we love skin care products with ingredients cooked up in a lab that are effective and efficient.  Better living through chemistry.  A striking feature of Korean products is the reliance on things found in nature like birch sap, licorice root, honey, green tea, apple juice and yes, snail muscin (aka slime).

The descriptions of these products talk about things like supporting, nourishing and brightening the skin.  There is rarely any hyperbole or sales language in the descriptions, or maybe there is but since it’s in Korean I don’t see it. One brand, COSRX replaces water in most of its products with natural liquids like willow bark water, and alcohol is used very sparingly.   Water and some form of alcohol are used in almost every product in American.

Of course there are some chemicals in Korean products, especially in the sunscreens, but they are far more reliant on natural ingredients, than their American counterparts.


In my next post I will go over the most well-known feature of Korean skin care, the multi-step approach.  If you are interested in learning more, you can check it out here on Dazey Mayhem.  I would love to hear your experiences with Korean Skin Care and recommendations.