How to Manage the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine When You Travel

Korean Beauty for Travelers


After years of work travel, I can tell you there are two things that go out the window by day two abroad (I'm being generous): skincare and diet. Obviously, when you're in meetings and events all day and then late dinners, by the time you get back to your room all you want to do is kick off your shoes and fall into bed, makeup, clothes and all. But you know what happens when you don't take off your makeup: zit city!

I'm half Korean and, like all Korean women, I take care of my skin and the famous 10-step K-beauty skincare routine is my nightly ritual. Traditionally, in Korea, a woman's skin is one of her most valuable assets and even today, both in Korea and Japan, women spend more money on skincare than on any other beauty product.

Before we start streamlining the routine or discussing brands, let's see what the original 10 steps are:

1. OIL-BASED CLEANSER. This is super important because it removes all your makeup without having to violently pull/scrub your skin. It practically melts it away and you rinse it off.

2. FOAM CLEANSER. While your skin is still damp from rinsing off the oil, apply a dot of foam cleanser on forehead and cheeks and massage your face so it lathers, getting rid of any makeup residue. If you use an electric brush or a foreo, use it with this foam cleanser.

3. EXFOLIATOR. It can be either a chemical exfoliator or the more common physical kind also known as scrubs. These get rid of dead skin so products are absorbed and work more efficiently.

4. TONER. Korean toners don't cleanse or rid your skin of oil. They're made to hydrate and balance your skin's pH level, preparing it for the following steps. You can apply the toner with the tips of your fingers or with a cotton pad (you waste a lot of product when you apply it with cotton, though).

5. ESSENCE. It's less concentrated than a serum, so your skin is prepped so that your serum is absorbed more easily.

6. SERUM AND/OR AMPOULE. These are the BIG GUNS! They have a specific purpose (firming, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, dryness). You can use either or both. If you do apply both, apply the thicker one later.

7. SHEET MASK. The sheet mask is the soul of the K-beauty skincare regimen. It gives you 20 minutes to relax and let your skin absorb all the goodness of the ingredients. Most women (an in Asia, men, where masculine skin care is very common) have several types of masks and use them depending on their skin needs on any given day (is your skin feeling exceptionally dry? Then use a deep moisturizing mask. Did you see a couple of fine lines that weren't there before? An anti-age or firming mask is what you want.

8. EYE CREAM. Eye creams are formulated especially for the delicate skin around the eyes so it's not a good idea to save money on this product.

9. MOISTURIZER. Moisturizer locks in the ingredients of the products you applied before. Very young skins can get away with skipping the moisturizer.

10. SUNSCREEN. Do you want hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and cancer? No? Then don't play with this step. Get a 50+++ formulated specially for your face. We'll go into brands later.

When I go through the entire routine and do all the waiting times, it takes around 2 hours.

Do I go through the 10 steps when I'm traveling? Even on vacation? Nope! I've streamlined it so that when you get back home, your skin will be acne-free, it won't be dull or dry, you won't have more fine lines that when you left.

We're going to mention specific brands because the K-beauty market out there can be pretty overwhelming! So I'll mention my favorite, tried and true products, all of which you can order from Amazon USA or Amazon INDIA clicking through my website.

The essentials you'll need on a trip are:


  1. Wash your face with a little The Faceshop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Foam.

  2. Apply Laneige Eye Sleeping Mask with your ring finger, gently tapping under eye only. When I travel, I only use one eye cream for day and night. This is my favorite.

  3. Apply Laneige Water Bank to face and neck. A little goes a long way.

  4. Apply Missha Safe Block 50+ on face and neck. This is a light sunscreen that doesn’t pill when you apply foundation, nor does it look greasy.



  1. Apply The Faceshop Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil and emulsify with a little warm water so it creates a kind of oily lather. Rinse.

  2. Wash your face with a little The Faceshop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Foam.

  3. Now come the BIG GUNS! Be careful, because you must test and see how often you need to apply either of these, some skins are very sensitive and may need to use these every other night or even once or twice a week. The Cosrx AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid gets rid of comedones (closed, tiny little bumps that are not blackheads). It contains alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid, which exfoliate skin and promote natural moisture retention. On trips when I am super stressed, sleepless and have been eating who knows what, my skin breaks out in comedones and the only thing that prevents them is this product. I use it every night, but start with one or twice a week and see how your skin reacts. Apply with the tips of your fingers, otherwise most of it is absorbed into the cotton pad and wasted. Do not apply near the eyes!

    If you have blackheads, then what you need is the Cosrx Blackhead Power Liquid, which contains Betaine Salicylate 4%. It gets rid of the gunk in your pores and controls excess oil. However, do not be surprised if after a week or so, you get a bit of acne, that’s due to the “purging” of your pores as they are cleared of blackheads…be patient, it’s normal. Again, try it once or twice a week and see how your skin feels. Same advice, don’t waste product by applying it with a cotton pad. And keep it away from your eyes!

    Whichever of these two products you use, let them do their job around 20 minutes before applying the next product, when you’re at home. On the road, go straight to the next step.

  4. Apply Hanskin Real Complexion Hyaluron Skin Essence with the tips of your fingers to your face and neck (avoid eyes).

  5. Apply Laneige Eye Sleeping Mask.

  6. Apply Laneige Water Bank to face and neck.

Now, go to bed or you’ll feel like hell in the morning.