• Caitlin Steiner

My K-Beauty Inspired Step By Step Skincare Routine

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

From my time in Seoul, South Korea, I have been influenced to perfect my skincare routine on levels I never thought imaginable. For the first time in my life I have actually seen real results I have had the opportunity to try out all different kinds of skincare after being a member of the Soak Lifestyle & Influencer Group in Korea run by a dear friend Judy Kim as well as trial and error from purchasing K-Beauty items on my own.

To see what's up in Korean K-Beauty Skincare you can follow them on Instagram at Soak Lifestyle.

Due to this newfound but deep-rooted skincare passion, I have gotten tons of questions over my time here on what works and what I recommend. From mostly K-Beauty - Korean skincare to some of my classic US and Australian favorites. Here are my tops!! If you currently live in Korea you can get a lot of these products for even less. I just posted where to get them online for most of the US and around the world.

For Wishtrend and Klairs products, I have an amazing discount code you can use! "37F5B97C" for 10% off your first purchase at Wishtrend.com


Option 1:


Black Suger Face Scrub

$10.00 USD- $20.00 USD (Depending on which country you're in)

I use this scrub twice a week and it lasts an incredibly long time. There are two ways of using this product. One is after cleansing, I massage it gently into damp skin, or mix it with water/micellar water and apply. Avoid skin around the eyes and lips. Leave on for 10-15 minutes and rinse with lukewarm water the other is putting it on the skin and massaging it in letting it sit for 1-2 minutes and then washing it off. The second would be to use it solely to exfoliate. Both ways work to get the skin nice and smooth. Then I would start with the morning routine below. Exfoliating your skin is extremely important to healthy skin and regular practice has made a massive difference in the overall look of my skin.

Exfoliation promotes cell turnover, allowing old dead keratinocytes to shed to allow new healthy skin to come toward the surface. It is key to exfoliate on a regular basis to keep skin as smooth, bright and healthy-looking as possible.” - Glamor Magazine

Option 2:



$27.00 USD

I use NEOGEN pads every one to two weeks or whenever I am just feeling super oily or in need of a good exfoliation. Because these pads have AHA and antioxidants in them it can make things a little tricky. I would use it on a day you're not wearing make up mid-day for a refreshing and exfoliating experience and then wait to do your night routine hours later. Because of the AHA you don't want to combine it with Vitamin C and because of the strong antioxidants you don't want to combine it with the ordinary buffet serum listed below. It is best to exfoliate with these pads in between your routines. I personally just do it when I am not doing a full skincare routine and I just want to feel fresh.

Also, if you're also using the sugar scrub or another exfoliant you should remember to only be exfoliating your skin 2-3 times per week, so maybe once or twice with the sugar scrub and once with this. NEOGEN pads leave my face feeling so refreshed. I absolutely love the feeling right after I use it.

From Soko Glam's Website:

"This is the perfect exfoliator whether you prefer chemical or manual exfoliation. With 30 single-use exfoliating pads, this product provides gentle yet effective exfoliation of dead skin cells and impurities, leaving skin smoother and clear. Dead skin cells are sloughed off the surface of the skin using the unique 3 layer pad technology, as lactic acid penetrates deep into your pores to clean out pore-clogging debris.

Its star ingredient, Resveratrol, comes from red wine and is naturally fermented, with naturally occurring AHAs that also help with the exfoliation process. Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent free radicals from pigmenting or forming wrinkles on your skin. This is a Soko Glam favorite and a 2015 Soko Glam Best of K-Beauty™ Winner."

Info On Exfoliation:

How often should you exfoliate your face? Well, the absolute maximum you should be exfoliating is three times a week. "Over-exfoliate and you're likely to create tiny cracks in the skin barrier that lead to more loss of hydration and inflammation," says Zeichner

Morning Routine

1: Facewash

Option 1:

Keep Cool

Cleansing Water

$10.00 USD-$20.00 USD depending on what country you're in.

I use this after waking up in the morning or after the gym. Basically when I don't have makeup on my face and need a good cleanse. Most importantly it is very light and refreshing and doesn't strip my face of the products from the night before. It also has a calming/cooling effect and a great way to feel fresh. Another great product off this line is the Keep Cool Toner with Bamboo water.

Option 2:


Acid- Duo 2% Mild Gel Cleanser

$19.00 USD

I use this WishTrend cleanser when I feel I need a bit more to rinse off the night. You can use it after the cleansing water or on its own. I tend to use it most when I feel like my skin is starting to break out. This is a low pH cleanser containing 1% LHA and low-irritation exfoliant PHA to treat pores and sebum (oil). The cleanser uses two low-irritation acids to effectively exfoliate and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects with a non-comedogenic formula for acne skin. This product is free of the most feared irritants but filled with very powerful ingredients that will help you exfoliate, eliminate bacteria and keep your face blemish-free while not strongly altering your skin barrier. This can be used at night but not on a night where you're going to use Tretinoin or Retinol.

Recommended not to use with AHA, BHA or Retinol. (This is why I use it in the morning).

If you have sensitive skin use 2-3 times per week.

When using this make sure to use SPF on your skin as this can really breakdown the first layer.

Do not use around sensitive skin, eyes or over scars.


1) After the initial cleansing, dispense an appropriate amount and form a full lather. 2) Apply over the face and cleanse in a gentle massaging motion. 3) Rinse off thoroughly with warm water.

Please feel free to use my discount code "37F5B97C" for 10% off your first purchase at Wishtrend.com

Personal update:

I usually use this gel cleanser in the morning and when I am not using vitamin c or retinol at the same time and try to keep it to 3-4 times a week and use other more gentle face wash on the other days. I usually use my peptides in the morning as they can not be combined with Vitamin C.

I use it at night when I’ve had a big night out and want to keep my skincare simple so after a cream or gel cleanser, use this and then pop on a simple serum and moisturizer or just keep with the moisturizer for a super simple routine. I try to use retinol/tretinoin every other day and vitamin C on the days in between at night. If I want to increase my retinol that week I’ll use vitamin C and switch it out with the peptides in the morning and just use a mild cleanser. I know it’s complicated but eventually, you learn what doesn’t go together and base your routine on that.

Morning With No Makeup:

(Also In my Step By Step Skincare Routine) (Scroll to bottom) 1: Micellar Water  2: Mild Acid Duo Cleanser (3-4 per week for breakout control ) (Another mild cleanser in between 3-4 times per week ex: Kora foaming cleanser) 3: Toner 4: Essence (not necessary) 5: Peptides 6: Moisturizer

Keeping with vitamin C and Retinol every other night on most nights in the serum stage (cannot combine these two).

On Big Nights Out:

(Also In my Step By Step Skincare Routine) (Scroll to bottom)

1: Cleansing Balm

2: Eye Makeup Remover 3: Mild Acid Duo Cleanser (Because I feel this gel helps with breakouts from heavy makeup) 4: Simple Vitamin Serum (no vitamin c or retinol) 5: Moisturizer  

Regular Nights- (In my Step By Step Skincare Routine) (Scroll to bottom)

2: Toner

Dr. Jart


$39.00 USD

I use this liquid toner which is super moisturizing and preps my face for the Dr. Jart Ceramidin cream to slide right on. I feel I really need this first to make the ceramidin cream spreadable. When I am in a rush I use a cleanser, this liquid, and just the ceramidin cream itself. When I have more time, I add the serums below. This liquid often also comes together with the ceramidin cream so look out for deals with them both! Sold at Olive Young, Sephora, Dr.Jart and many other sites. You can also use the same toner as in your night routine as well for this step but as this came as a set with the cream I use this here. I really like the texture and overall experience.

3: Serum

Step 1:

The Ordinary

Buffet + Copper Peptides 1%

$34.00 USD

Now you can continue to use the other serums I have listed in the night routine here but I do find them to be a bit heavier. I was given this from my girl Allie Kang to try as this is one of her favourite serums, thanks girlie! This one is blue and a bit sticky but packed with a lot of amazing ingredients and a best-seller globally. I wait for them to completely dry first along with the cream below before starting my make up routine. The Ordinary brand is one of the most popular skincare lines on the market because its ingredients are pure and most of the product line is very inexpensive. This is actually one of the more pricier items! If your not super into spending money on skincare but think its time to start paying attention to your skin this is a fantastic line to get into. This particular serum is called Buffet because it's an absolute buffet of some of the best stuff for your skin. Do not use this in combination with Vitamin C serums or strong antioxidants as you can see from the website below. Please read about Vitamin C in my nightly routine as I switch these serums out every other night with Vitamin C depending on if I am using retinol that evening.

From The Ordinary Website:

"The "Buffet" + Copper Peptides 1% formula differs from our original "Buffet" as this formula includes a 1% concentration of pure Copper Peptides, increasing its focus on overall skin health. The natural role of these peptides as found in human plasma includes supporting a wide range of skin health functions like maintaining normal immune function, collagen synthesis, fibroblast production, and anti-inflammatory responses. The inclusion of Copper Peptides offers a natural blue tint to the formula. The total concentration of active technologies in this formula is 26.1%."

"Instead of developing a complex guide listing the compatibility of each of our peptides with each acid and Vitamin C, we have adapted the following approach to maximize efficacy for the maximum number of people:

"It is best to not use Peptides in the same routine as the following products: Direct acids, LAA (L-Ascorbic Acid aka Vitamin C)and ELAA (Ethylated Ascorbic Acid). In addition, we would recommend avoiding the use of products containing copper peptides in the same routine as strong antioxidants as well as direct acids/LAA/ELAA."

Step 2:

The Ordinary

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1 %

(Spot Treatment) (For Acne Problem Areas)

$7:00 USD

I use this product to prevent Acne by putting it in the areas around my mouth and chin and anywhere I might break out. It is said to help reduce oil so I only use it in my oily areas. For instance, my cheeks are actually quite dry so I tend to only use this in my t-zone area. This serum does have a bit of a sticky feel to it but when then combining it with moisturizer you can still put makeup on after everything drys. Do not use this in combination with Vitamin C serums as you can see from the website below.

From The Ordinary Website:

"Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is indicated to reduce the appearance of skin blemishes and congestion. A high 10% concentration of this vitamin is supported in the formula by zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid to balance visible aspects of sebum activity."

"Contraindications: If topical Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid and/or Ethylated L-Ascorbic Acid) is used as part of skincare, it should be applied at alternate times with this formula (ideally Vitamin C in the PM and this formula in the AM). Otherwise, Niacinamide can affect the integrity of Vitamin C."

"Independent studies suggest Niacinamide is also an effective ingredient for brightening skin tone."

4: Moisturizer

Dr. Jart

Ceramidin Cream

$48.00 USD

I can not say enough good things about this cream. It is an absolute live-saver in the wintertime but great all year round. It definitely needs toner and serum to get it workable on the skin and to maximize the results but its thick balm-like texture creates a thick shield against the world. I have sensitive skin and I have been told it is because my skin barrier has weakened. One way to build up my skin barrier is with Ceramidin so I've been using it ever since and I definitely had fewer reactions.

5: Sunscreen


Soft Airy UV Essence

$23.00 USD

This has been described as a light, non-oily and white cast-free water-based sunscreen. It feels incredibly lux on the skin as well and perfect to take on the day. It is important to add this to your skincare routine if you're walking outside at all during your day. If you're using Vitamin C during your morning or night routine then it is extra important to use SPF. Sun exposure is one of the number one causes of sun damage and wrinkles and who likes that!

Off The Wishtrend Website:

"Dear Klairs is a brand targeted to those who enjoy and need simple skincare without any harsh chemicals and additives. Klairs focuses on providing simple minimalist Korean cosmetics that are green, Eco-Friendly, basic, and providing natural makeup that does not partake in any animal testing."


1) After cleansing, perform the full skincare routine from toner to moisturizer. 2) Once the moisturizer is sufficiently absorbed into the skin, apply the Soft Airy UV Essence over the face.

Please feel free to use my discount code "37F5B97C" for 10% off your first purchase at Wishtrend.com

6: Makeup


The Silk Canvas PRIMER

$52.00 USD

I personally find my skin to be a bit sticky after this skincare routine so I wait a few minutes and then apply a primer before applying makeup to my face. If I am really in need of a perfect makeup application I will wait longer to apply the primer or I will just do a more simple morning routine with face wash, toners, moisturizer and SPF. I use a few different primers that I feel can help to have a flawless makeup application. These smooth the skin and create a canvas for your foundation. They also control oil and make your make up last longer throughout the day. My absolute favorite although pricy is Tatcha The Silk Canvas Primer my second favorite is Benefit The POREfesstional Face Primer ($32.00 USD).


1: FaceBALM / Make up Remover


Zero Made Green Cleansing Balm

$32.00 USD

This is one of the most kick-butt cleansing balms I have ever used. It is perfect for taking off makeup and getting a super clean face after a long day of wear. I put it on my face directly over my make up with a bit of water and the makeup melts right off. The smell is amazing and I look forward to using it every time. I have been trying to use more natural skincare and this falls right in line!

From The Commleaf Website:

"Cleanse on a greener level with this lightweight, effective oil cleanser! Formulated with natural ingredients such as vegetable oil to strengthen and protect your skin, green tea seed oil to clear up the skin and control acne, argan oil to improve skin condition and texture, sea buckthorn oil to enhance the skin barrier and assist in cell turnover, and neroli oil to soothe the skin, this soft, velvety balm removes makeup without leaving the skin feeling tight. Free or artificial pigments and fragrances, this hypoallergenic, skin-irritation tested balm is perfect for sensitive skin types, and all skin types will enjoy silky smooth skin after use.

This product is free of sulfates, parabens, animal products, alcohol, mineral oil, silicone, and is vegan and cruelty-free.

Note: Due to the formula’s high concentration of the anti-inflammatory blue tansy oil, the balm has a strong earthy, camphoraceous scent."

2: Eye Make-Up Remover


Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover

$9.00 USD

This is just a classic that I have been using for ages and nothing has really ever compared to its efficiency so far. I also get eyelash extensions so using an oil-free eye makeup remover is super key to maintaining them.

3: Facewash

Option 1:

Kora Organics

Foaming Cleanser

$30.00 USD

KORA Organics is a range of 100% Australian-made skincare products offering a blend of natural and certified organic ingredients. I personally use it for Oily/Combination skin but I would also use it for sensitive skin. I love the texture and smell of this cleanser and really look forward to using it. If your looking for an all-around great experience while it also being "Clean At Sephora" then this is one of the best ones out there.

Option 2:

Amore Pacific

Treatment Cleansing Foam

$50.00 USD

I really love the smell of this cleanser along with the overall texture. It feels moisturizing while also getting the skin nice and clean. I really like the little micro-encapsulated vitamin E beads. Amore Pacific's moisturizer and their complete skincare line are also incredible but pretty pricy, so I am just going to recommend the cleanser at this time. This is sold at Sephora or department stores in Korea.

From The Amore Pacific Website:

"A foaming cream cleanser that effectively removes makeup and impurities without stripping away moisture while helping to treat and prevent breakouts.

Perfect for normal to oily skin, this foaming cream cleanser removes impurities and makeup without stripping the skin of vital moisture while helping to treat and prevent breakouts. Olive oil, sunflower seed oil, and mango seed butter cleanse the skin thoroughly without drying it out, while natural sugars hydrate and soften. As the cleanser is massaged onto the skin, micro-encapsulated vitamin E beads deliver a burst of antioxidant protection, leaving the complexion clean and refreshed."

Option 3:

Dr. Jart


$17.00 - $22.00 USD

The texture of this cleanser is super creamy and it feels smooth on the skin. I just put a little of this directly on my face and move it around and then apply water from my hands. I then rub it in gently and take the remaining off with a face towel. This really doesn't feel like its stripping anything bad away but giving a perfect canvas for your product line up.

3.5: MASK

I typically use a mask one to two times per week after my cleanser while relaxing at night watching TV. I personally just wait till the mask is mostly dry and then take it off. When I head to bed I start the rest of my nightly skincare routine. I have compiled a list of my favorite masks in another blog post here.

4: Toner WITH HA

IsNTree Hyaluronic Acid TONER

$18.91 USD

This is my absolute favorite toner that I have ever used. It actually feels silky opposed to feeling like the old school toners I grew up with in America. When I grew up toners were alcohol-based liquids that swept unwanted dirt and gunk off your face, typically leaving a stinging sensation on the skin and leaving you scared to try it again. Korean toners are actually nothing like that, changing the whole idea of what a toner is.

These types of toners soothe rather than agitate and leave you wanting more! Rather than drying up your face these toners cleanse, moisturize and clarify your skin as well as resetting the pH balance.

This particular toner has Hyaluronic Acid in it making it super moisturizing and very unlike any toner I've ever used. There are a number of surprising benefits to HA which can be found here for more reference.

5: RETINOL & Tretinoin

Option 1:

Prescription Tretinoin

The most common use of tretinoin is to remove acne. Tretinoin acts quickly and effectively to remove acne from the face by clearing skin pores and preventing pimples from developing as they normally would.

As well as being used to treat acne, tretinoin is used as an anti-aging product. It’s a safe, effective medication that’s been approved by the FDA and has hundreds of thousands of users every year.

Tretinoin is a stronger prescription strength cream and retinol can be bought over the counter. Both are fantastic options and results can be seen after around three to six months. I personally use Tretinoin or retinol every other night switching back and forth between this and my Vitamin C. You don't want to use Tretinoin or Retinol and Vitamin C together at the same time. On sensitive skin days, I skip the Tretinoin / Retinol step completely.

Tretinoin/ Retinol is known for being a pretty potent potion, so on the days, you apply it, swap out any acid-containing products to avoid any reactions. It can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so always apply in the evening and use SPF the next day.

Depending on your skin’s sensitivity, you may want to avoid any acids at all on the days you’re using retinol and if you’re new to it, be sure to introduce it gradually and begin with a low concentration.

Following retinol with any other topical skin care will dilute the active ingredient, vitamin A, and reduce its effectiveness.

Step 1: Wash your face and apply eye cream. An eye cream would be able to protect the delicate skin around your eyes. (But I also put a bit of cream around my eyes and I seem to be okay.

Step 2: Wait a few minutes until your skin is completely dry. This is important because if your skin is at all damp, the retinol will be able to absorb more deeply into your skin and might cause irritation. We want to apply moisturizers and serums to slightly damp skin, but never retinol.

Step 3: Take a pea-size amount of your retinol and, starting at your chin, apply with your fingertips in upward and outward motions.

Step 4: Wait 20 minutes and then start with the rest of your skincare routine. If your routine is more simple you can just finish off with a moisturizer right after instead of waiting for it to dry.

Step 5: Remember to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen the morning after.

For more info:

Tretinoin 101: How it Works, Uses, Side Effects & More

Here’s Exactly How to Use Retinol Without Killing Your Face

Options 2:

Inexpensive & Highly Efficient Option

The Ordinary

Retinol 1% Squalane

$8.00 USD

I really love this one and you can't beat the price.

From The Ordinary Website:

Retinoids reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. They also stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves skin color. Additional benefits include fading age spots and softening rough patches of skin. However, it takes three to six months of regular use before improvements in wrinkles are apparent—and the best results take six to 12 months.

Read More From Harvard Health

Caution: Retinol can cause significant irritation, redness, and peeling, especially around the eyes and mouth, in the early stages of treatment while skin builds tolerance. If you have not used high-strength retinol formulas in the past, we strongly recommend that you start your retinol regimen with our Retinol 0.2% in Squalane and adjust to higher strengths of Retinol 0.5% in Squalane and Retinol 1% in Squalane as your skin builds tolerance. You will achieve the same end results without the unpleasant redness and peeling along the way.

Option 3:

Retinol Treatment + Peptides and Vitamin C Paulas Choice

Clinical Retinol

$58.00 USD

I use one of these three depending on my mood. ( Tretinoin, Retinol from The Ordinary and Paula Choice Retinol ) this being the third option. What's great about this option is it's over the counter and it also has peptides and Vitamin C in it which is a fantastic combo and bang for your buck so great to take on vacation. I also really enjoy the texture of the cream and have not had any skin reactions to it as can sometimes be common with Retinol.

6: Essence

(After 20 Mins If Tretinoin or Retinol has been applied, can apply right away if not)

Option 1:

Urang True Rose Repair Essence

$47.00 USD

This is one of the most pleasant smelling essences ever! It feels more like a serum than an essence. It features Organic Bulgarian Rose Water, which is packed with skin-benefiting vitamin C and vitamin A, and it calms the skin with its anti-inflammatory and anti-acne properties. Rose flower oil nourishes skin while aloe and olive extracts help soothe and protect the skin. Urang True Rose Repair Essence is formulated without synthetic fragrances, additives, harmful chemicals or preservatives. They also seem to be selling it on Amazon in the states combined with a PREM product. Check online for deals!

Option 2:

Time Revolution