In case you haven’t heard, Asian skincare products are having a serious moment in the U.S. right now—but they can be hard to come by, unless you happen to know how to read Korean or Japanese. Enter Peach and Lily: an e-tailer that curates the best in beauty from Korea and Japan—only 5% of brands make the cut—so that American women can have the crème de la crème from Asia at their fingertips.
We spoke with the e-boutique’s co-founder and trained aesthetician, Alicia Yoon, and asked her to divulge the secret to Korean women’s bright, plump, dewy complexions. Turns out, it’s their 10-step skincare regimen. Yes—10 steps. What are those steps? Where exactly do they multiply? Which steps are the most important? What products should we spend the rest of our paycheck on immediately? We asked Yoon all these pressing questions and more—lucky for us, she was happy to share her extensive skincare knowledge.
And for that, our complexions are grateful.
Click through the slideshow above to learn about double-downing, the secret to Korean womens’ flawless skin!
“While there are differences throughout the two different regimens—for example, the double cleansing method Korean women use—the biggest difference happens in the steps between toner and moisturizer,” Yoon says. “This chunk is where the steps can explode from one to as many as five!”
Unlike American women, Korean women often use multiple serums at once (even up to five at a time!) to actively target different skin conditions.
“For instance, one night you might want to target both aging and hyperpigmentation with two different serums,” Yoon explains. “And then the next day you might add a radiance-boosting serum on top of that because your skin looks and feels dull.”
“Improving your skin is most effective when key active ingredients can reach the cellular level, instead of simply sitting on top of your skin’s top layers,” Yoon says. With that belief in mind, Korean women literally view these products as food for the skin, nourishing and rejuvenating their complexions from the inside out.
“Korean beauty labs excel at churning out innovative and extremely targeted products at a dizzying rate,” Yoon explains. “So you want brighter skin? There’s a serum for that. What about firmer skin, too? Use a clinically-proven ampoule. What if you aren’t satisfied with just that and want a refined skin texture—the kind of translucent, delicate skin that small children have before age weathers and leathers the skin? Of course, there’s a buzzed-about, cult-favorite face oil for that.”
And this is exactly the reason why a Korean woman will double-down on these steps—she’ll walk through a store with rows and rows of beautifully packaged bottles that promise to meet her a la carte skincare needs and deliver results. It soon becomes clear to Korean women that just one serum won’t do. After all, who wants just plump skin when you can have plump, bright, and dewy skin?
“The moisturizer and cream step, while absolutely essential, doesn’t require the same amount of attention as serums,” Peach and Lily’s other co-founder Cindy Kim says. “The purpose of most moisturizing products is to create and maintain a healthy moisture barrier that seals in all the great ingredients that were delivered into the dermis during the serum step.”
“While each Korean brand formulates these product categories a bit differently, very simply put, they are all quite similar,” Yoon says. “They go deep in the skin, include active ingredients, and are used before moisturizers.” Having said that, she does explain their differences: essences are more watery, lightweight versions of serums, ampoules are intense, concentrated versions of serums, and face oils are lipids that can be used alone or together with the medley of serums, essences and ampoules.
“Yes, these product categories can be mixed and matched,” Yoon says. “Except in the case when they contain active ingredients that either cancel each other out (such as vitamin C and copper peptides) or the combination is too acidic and harsh (such as retinol and AHAs).”
What about when to apply what? The general rule of thumb that Korean women go by is applying products in the order of consistency. “The more watery a product, the earlier in the routine it should go on,” Yoon explains. “The more viscous a product, the later it goes on.” That said, she also says that many of these products, like face oils and serums, can even be mixed together in your hand and applied together for a smoother application. So feel free to mix and match to truly target all of your skincare needs!
“I’m so excited to make recommendations on this step because we curate so rigorously,” Yoon says when we asked her for her favorite product picks. “We do lengthy focus group tests, interviews with the brands’ R&D teams, and constant mining of reviews and formulations so that we can fully stand behind the products we picked for various skincare needs—here are some of our favorites!”
Aromatica Sea Daffodil Gel Cream ($49)
This gel-cream is naturally formulated with a unique hero ingredient, sea daffodil, to soothe irritated or sun-damaged skin and coax it back to its optimal state.
Be the Skin Purifying White Waterful Serum ($39)
Traditional Asian ingredients like green tea, sang hwang mushrooms and purified rice in conjunction with botanical ingredients powerfully and gently enhance radiance.
Dr. Myer’s Phyto-Energy Squalan Ampoule ($110)
“This 28-day, intensive program resets skin to baby-soft suppleness through dermatologist-tested formulations.”
Cremorlab Hydro Plus Snow Falls Water-Full Serum ($48)
Dry skin is quenched with this mineral-rich thermal-based formulation that nourishes and hydrates deep beneath the skin’s surface.”
May Coop Raw Activator ($60)
Vitamin-rich and antioxidant-filled, this activator is maple tree sap-based, which allows for deep penetration. Why? Maple tree sap molecules closely match the skin’s barrier size, unlike water molecules, which are larger and therefore more difficult to absorb.
Mizon Collagen 100 Serum ($42)
“90% marine collagen…enough said. This serum absorbs deep into the skin and leaves it firm and plump.”
Aromatica Rose Hip Oil ($42)
“Eco-Cert certified, Bulgarian rose oil that restores radiance, and has a delectable natural fragrance to boot.”
Do you double-down any steps in your skincare routine? Have you tried any Asian skincare products? Share with us below!