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I Tried the 10-Step Korean Skin Care Routine for One Year and This Is What I Learned

Wondering whether or not following the 10-step Korean skin care routine really yields results? One writer shares hers after trying the regimen for a year.

About a year ago, spurred on by Rio Viera-Newton’s wonderfully insane Google skin care doc, I embarked on the 10-step Korean skin care routine. In the past twelve months, I’ve seemingly tried every kind of product and ingredient known to man – or at least to those who are obsessive about skin care. I’ve weathered bad reactions, breakouts, eye rolls, and, on the other side of the spectrum, enjoyed compliments, questions, and exclamations about my lack of wrinkles.

Here’s a compilation of everything I’ve learned, one year on. 

Don’t Go Too Fast, Too Furious

It’s natural to want to tear open your online shopping package like a wild animal, run to the bathroom, wash your face and apply your new skin care product right away. But the beginning of a new skin care routine can cause a momentary lapse in judgment that unfortunately your skin might not forgive you for. When introducing new products, you should always patch test and start slow. Please don’t start four new products all at once. If you’re like me, an impatient, overzealous comfort hound, and you slather Shark Sauce all over your entire face, you might just find out your skin is sensitive to niacinamide and wake up the next morning looking like Samantha Jones after a chemical peel

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The Most Common Questions About the 10-Step Korean Skin Care Routine – Answered!

Not All Skin Is Created Equal 

Everyone’s skin is different, and what works for your skin care influencer of choice may not work for you. I would love it if Cosrx’s Galactomyces Essence didn’t break me out into small, weird white dots. Luckily I can rely on my old faithful, the brand’s Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. Knowing your skin type is helpful, but even the most helpful friend or salesperson is not going to know your skin better than you. 

Layering and Timing Matters

There are lots of helpful guides online (like this one) to help you understand each step in the process and what each product is supposed to be doing for your skin. It’s especially important to educate yourself on this in regards to products that contain strong active ingredients like vitamin C and chemical exfoliants. Exfoliators, for example, need time to work—at least 20 minutes. If you find your routine isn’t working, or, even worse, it’s backfiring, it might be because you aren’t paying attention to timing and layering. 

Mix and Match the Right Way

Some products do not play well with others. Let’s say you’ve got a good retinol serum or even a prescription retinoid cream that you really love and you’ve been seeing results for months. Suddenly everyone seems to be talking about chemical exfoliators and vitamin C. Remember that Samantha Jones analogy? You will seriously offend your skin if you mix exfoliators with Retinol. Most skin does not need this kind of cell turnover. It’s just too much. Ask your dermatologist or esthetician about new products if you’re looking to mix and match. 

Change With the Seasons 

The atmosphere outside can affect your skin in major ways, and that means changing your routine up for the change in the seasons. In the winter I go whole-hog with moisturizers, even applying a moisturizer after a sheet mask. But in the summertime that same heavy cream breaks me out. If I’m looking to keep my skin hydrated in the summer months, I just use an essence and sunscreen before makeup.

Don’t Feel Bad About Being Extra

Naysayers of the 10-step routine generally balk at the idea of taking that much time to do skin care. It’s a fair criticism. But if it feels extra, that’s because it is extra. In the weeks I strayed from a full 10-step routine, my skin wasn’t as hydrated. When I look at photos while following a full routine, my skin looks plump and glowing. Other factors, like how many martinis I’d had the night before of course come into play. While the 10-step routine is extra, the results you get are extra, too. 

You Live, You Learn 

The best thing about trying out a 10-step routine is that it puts you on a path to learning more about your skin, ingredients, and self care in general. Even when I was frustrated with lack of results, it made me look at other things that have a huge influence on the quality of my skin: the environment, my diet, sleep, my (usually lack thereof) water consumption. You won’t know whether a product or ingredient will work for you unless you try. To quote the immortal words of Alanis Morissette, “you live, you learn,” baby. 

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