We have learned about skin types and how the Koreans achieve their glass skin, now it’s time to help you build your own skincare routine! When done the right way, a good routine will provide your skin with all the nourishment it needs, so your face will stay happy and healthy. For me, this only takes me 5 minutes morning and night, provided I’m not wearing make-up.

Five minutes twice daily is all it takes. I think a lot of people out there are scared of building a proper routine based on the fact they don’t have the time. This disproves that. Even if I get home at 2 a.m., or wake up around noon after a lie in, I will religiously do my routine and it has paid off. My skin is softer, calmer and my breakouts are almost completely gone. (Almost, because hello hormones!)

Let’s break it all down into easy and accessible steps, so you can build a routine that will help you achieve your goals.

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The Basics of a Routine

Cleansing

Why?

Cleansing removes dirt, sweat, pollution, and other icky substances that can clog your pores and cause irritation, inflammation or sensitivities. In the morning, this will remove the buildup of sweat and sebum that you produced overnight, and in the evening this will remove make-up and pollution you picked up during the day.

When?

Twice daily, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, PLUS after exercise. If you decide to have a shower, you can choose to bring your face wash into the shower with you or wash your face afterwards.

How?

Double cleanse! Use your hands or a cleansing brush, either a manual or electric one will do. I prefer using a brush because it really gets into my pores to get all the gunk out of it. Be careful to rinse it out thoroughly though, as a facial brush might provide a breeding place for bacteria. Use circular motions and stay clear of your eyes!

Which products should I use?

Depending on the skin type, you’re going to want to use specific types of products. For oily skin, I would recommend something based on tea tree oil, as it is great against excess sebum. Combination skin types benefit from product like seaweed, but be wary of this product if you have sensitive skin, as it’s likely to irritate your face. Sensitive, dry or dehydrated skin types might benefit from hydrating face washes or cleansing milks.

Toning

Why?

Toners remove the last little flecks of dirt from your face and will lay the base for hydration, helping the serum work its magic. After wearing make-up, toner helps you get any make-up your cleanser might have missed off your face.

When?

Twice daily after your cleansers and before any serums.

How?

Use a cotton pad or ball and apply toner on it, then apply on a dry face. Using this cotton pad will help get any of the leftover dirt off, as it will get trapped on the pad instead of your face. Use gentle, circular motions and allow toner to dry out completely before adding serum.

Which products should I use?

For any skin type, gentle, low PH or PH balancing toners are the way to go. You just stripped your skin of its dirt and gunk while cleansing, so using another harsh product on it will dry it out or irritate it. I prefer to use a toner made for sensitive skin, even though I am a combination type. Again, I recommend tea tree for oily types, seaweed for combination types but not for sensitive. For dry, sensitive or dehydrated skin, find a toner that will add hydration to your face and stay away from alcohol or parabens.

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Why?

Serums are often forgotten but do seem to be making their way to everyones vanity. They are the key ingredient to soft, supple, hydrated skin. They penetrate into the deeper layers of your skin much more than the other products in your routine and are truly meant for next level hydration.

When?

Twice daily after a toner or face mask but before your moisturizer.

How?

Every serum is different, but most serums will advise you to take some drops onto your hand, and then distribute evenly on your face. Tap it in for the best results while giving your face a nice little massage, or rub in gently in circular motions. You don’t want to rub too hard here, or you will only end up irritating your face.

Some people will prefer to use a jade roller during this step to stimulate absorption even more, but your fingers will work fine too.

Which products should I use?

Serums should be runny and almost look like water in terms of consistency. You need this runny aspect to improve absorption into the skin, instead of it caking up on your face because it’s too thick. For dry skin, choose a serum with lots of hyaluronic acid, which will intensely hydrate. For oily or combination skin, try a serum with salicylic acid or anti-inflammatory properties as it will aid the prevention of breakouts. For sensitive skin, incorporate a soothing and hydrating serum with natural ingredients, specifically designed for your skin type.

Eye Cream

Why?

The eyes are the windows to the soul, and tiredness or lack of hydration will make them look like you haven’t slept in years. Eye cream gets rid of dark circles and puffiness by bringing the moisture back to your eyes and calming down your skin. Your eyes have no sebaceous glands, so they need a little help from you to help keep that moisture in. Plus, they are the first area of the face where you will spot wrinkles, so take care of your eye area!

When?

Twice daily after your serum and before your moisturizer.

How?

Take a pea sized dot onto the back of your hand and distribute the product evenly to both under eye areas and eyelids. Use your ring finger (the finger that applies the least pressure to avoid wrinkles) and pat the product into your skin until it has disappeared completely.

Which products should I use?

It goes without saying you should use a specific eye cream and not just another moisturizer. Even oily skin types have sensitive eye areas and normal day cream has a high chance of irritating your eyes. Vitamin C, retinol, Aloe Vera and other natural, soothing ingredients will reduce puffiness and make all skin types look more alert and awake. If your skin is dry or flaky, consider switching to a richer eye cream.

Moisturizer

Why?

Moisturizers are meant to lock the moisture into your skin and create a protective barrier against pollution and harmful substances. Out of all the steps in your routine, this is the most important one, because if you use all the products above and leave it like that without a seal, it’s going to go to waste. Think of it as treating a painting. You need to apply a layer of varnish at the end, or the work is not going to last. Your skin is exactly the same

When?

Twice daily as the last step before you apply make-up.

How?

There are two ways I’ve known people to apply moisturizer. One way is to apply some product directly to your face and then rubbing it out, or you could distribute it between your hands before applying to your face. Use circular motions and again, don’t rub too hard or those wrinkles might show up sooner than you want! Always wait until it has sunken in before applying make up.

Which products should I use?

Consider using a day cream with SPF and a separate night cream that’s a bit richer to help nourish your face even more at night. Dry, sensitive skin will benefit from a creamy, rich texture and added vitamins to help boost your skin. Use products with natural ingredients and stay away from alcohols and parabens which may irritate your skin. Oily and combination types will benefit from more of a gel based moisturizer as they are less likely to make you oily as the day goes on. Dehydrated skin types will need all the hydration they can get, so they should use products with hyaluronic acid or products specifically designed to boost moisture levels even more.

Sunscreen

Why?

You should know why to use sunscreen, because I’ve told you before. Sun damage is the number one cause of early aging, dark spots and skin cancer. Even on cloudy days and in winter, the sun will be shining behind those clouds and sending harmful UV rays your way. You need to start protecting your skin as early on as you can and keep protecting it daily to keep your face looking youthful.

When?

In the morning after your moisturizer, if this is not already included in your day cream. On sunny days, reapply every two hours at least.

How?

Just like your day cream, apply some to the back of your hand or apply directly to the face. Rub in circular motions until it’s all worked into your skin.

Which products should I use?

The biggest rule is use SPF 30 at least. Choose a sunscreen that is formulated specifically for the face and proven to be non comedogenic (i.e. it won’t clog your pores). Consider a sunscreen with the added benefits of antioxidants or anti-pollution proportions if you live in an urban area.

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Other Things to Keep in Mind

So, we’ve now established a routine for you, but there are a couple more points I want to discuss with you. These don’t necessarily need to be in your daily routine, but skincare is more than these 5 minutes a day.

Removing Make-up

Imagine this, you’ve been out clubbing, get home at 5 a.m. and you’ve had a few drinks. You want to roll right into bed right? Don’t. Have you ever gone to bed without removing your make-up and woke up the next day covered in breakouts? Make-up clogs pores immensely, so you need to take it off. Even if you don’t want to, force yourself to stay awake for five more minutes. Even if you only wash your face and nothing else, please, please take the make up off.

Face Masks

Face masks are a great addition to any skincare routine because they can give your face a real boost. From cleansing to hydrating, I absolutely cannot live without my masks. Try using a cleansing mask for oily and combination skin, after your face wash and before your toner. A hydrating or soothing mask can be used by any skin type after your toner and before your serum. Aim to use one at least twice a week, or as much as you’d like.

Exfoliating

Removing the dead skin cells from your face will help brighten a dull and dry complexion. Use twice weekly or more if needed. Oily and combination types may benefit from scrubbing more often. I talked a bit more about exfoliators in my Korean skincare article.

Bringing It All Together

There you have it. A simple, easy guide to basic skincare routines as I see it. This is the formula that helped get my sensitive, dehydrated combination skin under control and I hope it will help you too. The rule of thumb to remember is that skincare is incredibly individual, but if you find the right products for you, five minutes a day is all you need.

To recap:

  • A five-minute routine twice a day is all you need
  • Find products that are tailored to your skin needs, based on your skin type
  • Trial and error: not everything will be beneficial to you
  • Don’t forget SPF!
  • Take off the make-up

Have I helped you gain more insight into the process of building up a skincare routine? Are there steps you would do differently or things I missed? Let me know down below!

Keep glowing!

Melanie