Korean Skincare and Acne

If you’ve done any research at all into the best skincare routines for acne, you’ve probably stumbled across the concept of Korean skincare.

In this post I want to briefly cover what Korean skincare is, but also how it can be helpful for those of us with acne-prone skin.

If you’re struggling with acne and have never given Korean skincare a serious thought, this post is for you.

What is a Korean Skincare Routine?

Essentially, a Korean skincare regimen is different from most Western skincare routines because Korean skincare focuses on following a regular, multi-step routine, usually consisting of about 5 – 10 skincare steps.

So, in the U.S., many people wash their face in the morning and dig right into applying moisturize or makeup, if that.

If you’re following a Korean skincare plan, your morning routine would look a little more like this:

  1. Wash your face with a gentle oil cleanser to remove any dirt or bacteria that accumulated while you were asleep.
  2. Wash your face with a second, gentle foaming cleanser or other gentle face wash to make sure your skin is clean.
  3. Use a gentle toner all over your face and neck.
  4. Pat an essence all over your face and neck. In Korean skincare, essences are a core part of beauty routines. They’re a watery solution meant to provide vitamins and nutrients to your skin.
  5. Apply a serum all over your face and neck. Serums are kind of like a more concentrated version of essences common to Korean skincare routines.
  6. Apply a lightweight moisturizer to your face and neck. Even if you have oily skin, this step is incredibly important for ensuring your oil glands don’t produce more oil than necessary, and also keeps your skin healthy and plump.
  7. Apply SPF. In Korean skincare, protecting your skin from the sun is extremely important. In Western countries, we tend to favor tanned skin and often don’t put sunscreen on everyday. However, especially if you have acne-prone skin, applying SPF each day is one of the best things you can do for your skin.

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Why so many steps? Korean skincare tends to promote the idea that thoroughly (yet gently!) cleansing the skin is the best way to ensure a healthy complexion and prevent signs of aging.

But, for those of us with acne, a healthy complexion and wrinkles are the least of our concerns. Most of the time, we just want to find a way to stop pimples from happening.

Korean skincare routines have the potential to help with that, too.

Using a Korean Skincare Routine with Acne

If you aren’t already familiar with my cystic acne history, I encourage you to read this post to get a better understanding of my acne journey to this point.

I started following a Korean skincare routine about three months ago. My hope was that, by taking better care of my skin in general, I would be able to cure some of my acne.

I religiously watch The Beauty Breakdown on YouTube, which is an excellent channel for anyone interested in Korean skincare or skin health in general.

I purchased a gentle oil cleanser, toner and essence from Amazon after watching some of The Beauty Breakdown videos about each kind of product and started my Korean skincare journey.

I was surprised to find that following a 6ish-step skincare routine really wasn’t inconvenient at all. I expected applying all these products to take forever, but the entire process actually goes pretty quickly. It only takes me about 15 minutes or so from start to finish to follow this routine.

In the evenings especially, I find the double-cleansing step particularly necessary for removing all of my makeup from the day.

Using the oil-based cleanser, I remove my makeup. Then, I use a gentle foaming cleanser to clean my bare skin, as well as make sure my makeup has actually been removed.

I’ve also really come to love using Korean sheet masks. These lightweight masks come soaked in essences that target everything from inflammation to dryness to dull skin. I find that the green tea and aloe masks are great for calming my acne if it’s feeling especially inflamed.

It feels really good to know that, even if you have acne, you’re taking good care of the rest of your skin. For some reason I never really tried that before. My concept of skincare only involved targeting my acne. I never gave a second thought to the rest of my skin.

However, I’ve come to view skincare kind of like taking care of a garden, for lack of a better analogy. Here’s what I mean by that:

If you have a plot of soil and it’s covered in weeds, you’ll want to get rid of the weeds, sure. But you also need to be taking care of the soil in order to have a healthy garden.

Following a Korean skincare routine helped me to see that taking care of acne-prone skin is kind of the same: We have to treat our acne if we want it to clear up, but we also have to be taking good care of the rest of our skin, too.

Will a Korean Skincare Routine Cure Your Acne?

In short, probably not.

For some people, following a more comprehensive cleansing routine such as a Korean skincare regimen may clear up their acne but, for most acne sufferers, it seems unlikely that Korean skincare alone will cure their acne.

However, I strongly encourage anyone with acne to consider practicing a Korean skincare routine in addition to using products specifically designed to treat acne.

Korean cleansing products are often fragrance free and much gentler than Western skincare products, making them a good choice for those of us with already agitated skin.

What’s your favorite Korean skincare product? Share it with me in the comments section below!

Also published on Medium.

3 thoughts on “Korean Skincare and Acne”

  1. Uhh I don’t know that Youtuber, I’m gonna check her out 🙂 My introducing Korean skincare to my routine really helps me maintain a (most of the time) clear skin. I think what really has helped me is Glycolic Acid and making sure to double cleanser.

    1. You definitely should — she’s great! And yeah, double cleansing is the best. ^_^

      How do you use glycolic acid? Is it a topical treatment you put on your skin? I’d love to know more!

      1. I use a 10% Glycolic Acid Serum that I love 🙂 I just apply it, and then wait 30 min before I continue with the rest of my routine. I’ve als bought the Glycolic Acid toner from The Ordinary, but haven’t opened that yet.

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