Korean Beauty Experts Shower Differently: Inside Their Routines

Updated 10/06/17
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By now, you might know how to shower like a beauty editor—but do you know how to shower like a Korean beauty expert? Didn’t think so. Your shower time is a tranquil time to unwind and cleanse…but it can also be so much more. We interviewed four Korean beauty experts Christine Chang and Sarah Lee of Glow Recipe, Jane Park of Julep, and Alicia Yoon of Peach and Lily (and Byrdie’s resident Korean beauty expert) and asked them to divulge what some might say is the most intimate part of their beauty routines. Suffice it to say, we’ve armed ourselves with lots of information to help us in the never-ending quest to soft, poreless skin à la our sisters in Korea. And yes, we are buying all the Italy towels (which aren’t really Italian at all—more on that ahead) and konjac sponges.

korean shower routine
Courtesy of Christine Chang

The experts: Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, co-founders of Korean beauty e-tailer Glow Recipe

Average shower time: ~10 minutes

Step One: Hair Repair

“The first thing I do in the shower is to start shampooing so that I can then apply a hair mask for as long as possible throughout the rest of the shower. The heat helps to seal in the mask into the hair shaft, so I find this particularly effective. A tip that I've religiously followed since high school is to tilt your head back when washing away the shampoo so that the suds don't touch your face—you'd want to reserve that for a facial cleanser. The second step would be to immediately follow with a hair mask, which I generously coat onto the ends of my hair. I love experimenting from high-end to low-end, but right now I'm simply loving L'Oréal's Damage Erasing Balm ($7). If I'm in a hurry, I also love these ponytail sheet masks. Since they are leave-on, they allow me to wash my hair quickly and jump out of the shower right away. I wrap the sheet mask around a loose ponytail and let it sit while I get dressed." 

Step Two: Body Cleansing

“I've started to use more organic body products, since your skin is your largest organ and I want to be mindful of what goes on it. I love Whamisa's Body Cleanser, which is sulfate-free and smells heavenly.”

Step Three: Splashing Away

“My favorite sulfate-free cleanser is LJH Tea Tree 30 Cleanser ($33)—it's the perfect whipped, foamy texture for summer and has 30% tea-tree extract to keep skin summer ready. I start from my forehead and nose, which tend to gear toward combination in the summer, then move on to my cheeks and finish at the neck in gentle circular motions. I'm not a huge fan of cleansing devices for day or night and prefer to stick to my hands. 

“Then, I try to bring a little bit of the Korean bathhouse mentality into my skincare routine. Korean women love dipping in various pools—bicarbonated water, mineral water, water infused with a wide array of botanicals and teas, the list goes on. I love keeping a small tin bowl in the shower, where I can sprinkle a packet of Innisfree Sparkling Powder mixed in with water, or a new gentle, lactic acid 'splash mask' we've been testing. I splash that all over my face and body. The effects of both are immediate: my skin is velvety smooth and soft afterwards.”

Whamisa Body Cleanser
Whamisa Body Cleanser $35
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Exfoliating washcloth
Italy Towel Asian Exfoliating Bath Washcloth $5
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Jane Park
Courtesy of Jane Park

The expert: Jane Park, founder of beauty company Julep

Average shower time: ~5 minutes

Step Zero: Pre-Shower Prep

“Some of the most important steps of my shower happen before I ever turn the water on. Once a week, I exfoliate deeply by slathering my arms, legs and décolleté with our Julep Brilliance Glycolic Scrub [no longer available]—it’s gentle enough even for the décolleté! It works best if you massage it right onto dry skin. Then, I slather the ends of my hair with rosehip seed oil, which is so light it washes away easily. Again, I work this in while my hair is dry so that the oil can penetrate deeply. This is my magic trick for shiny hair. To give these treatments more time, I brush my teeth and floss before I turn on the water.”

Step One: Rinsing—but Not Repeating

“When I finally get under the shower, I rinse off the glycolic scrub in warm water to open my pores and prep my skin. Then, I cool down the water a bit and wet my hair before applying shampoo—just to my scalp so that I can protect my hair against split ends. I use Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo ($7) because I have black hair, so even a little dandruff is hugely noticeable. T-Gel is the only shampoo I’ve ever used that actually eliminates all dandruff with just one use. I only shampoo once—I don’t rinse and repeat.”

Step Two: Making Exfoliating Fun

“I use my It’s Fun to Exfoliate Body Konjac Sponge ($20) and my Rethink Your Shower Body Cleansing Oil ($38) to cleanse, hydrate, and exfoliate in one easy step. I named my body konjac “It’s Fun to Exfoliate” because it really is! We took our cult-favorite Konjac Cleansing Sponge and made it big enough to use for the whole body. I can’t live without it. Rethink Your Shower is SLS-free and has urea that smooths. We were really careful in selecting the oils for it. For example, I wanted grapefruit peel because the AHA helps to brighten and even skintone—who wouldn’t want a dose of that from their shower? The coconut and kukui nut seed oils helps keep the skin moist, and grape seed soothes. It’s a perfect cocktail.”

Konjac sponge
Julep It’s Fun to Exfoliate Body Konjac Sponge $20
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Alicia Yoon
Hye-Ryoung Min

The expert: Alicia Yoon, founder of Korean beauty e-tailer Peach and Lily

Average shower time: 5-7 minutes

Step One: Scalp Massage

“My shower routine is pretty simple when it comes to hair and body, but gets a little extensive for the face. I start with my hair—these days, I'm using the Aromatica Tea Tree Purifying Shampoo ($24). It’s amazing for those with oilier hair or during the summer; I have dry skin problems and can have a dry scalp as well, but for the summer when things can get sweaty, I love that this keeps my hair light and clean without stripping it dry. Plus, it smells amazing! I have a little ritual of kneading my scalp and massaging it when I wash my hair—it’s relaxing, and Koreans are big on circulation, which helps keep scalp healthy and hair from thinning! After sudsing up, I wash it out and follow up with the Aromatica Tea Tree Purifying Conditioner ($24).”

Step Two: DIY Steam Facial

“As I wait before rinsing out the conditioner, I wash my face with a very gentle non-foaming cleanser since I'm usually showering in the mornings and don't have makeup on, and all the steam helps to cleanse more easily. I then quickly pat my face dry—or rather, damp—with a nearby clean small towelette. Then, I pat in toner and an essence. I actually keep both in my shower stall because I do this every time I shower! I'm currently using Bitgoa Hue Essence Toner ($57) and Cremorlab Aqua Essence Water Fluid ($45). My face is super dry, so this is my homemade version of a steam facial. I swear by it.”

Step Three: Exfoliating the Body (Gently)

“For the body, I use this little towel scrub that my mom used on me since I was a little girl. Every Korean bathhouse uses this, and a shower doesn't feel like a shower without it. It can be a bit harsh on the skin, and I like it best when it's a little bit more worn down, so I actually don't use mine until I first sand it down a bit on a pumice. I'm on an Aromatica streak and using the brand’s Lavender Soothing Body Wash ($21) because it's great for my dry, eczema-prone skin. I love that it's natural, organic, and so soothing with the subtle, natural lavender scent. Then, I rinse off my conditioner, and then I'm done!”

Aromatica Tea Tree Shampoo
Aromatica Tea Tree Purifying Shampoo $24
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