Considering Korean Skincare to Achieve Clear Skin?

Considering switching to the Korean 10-step skincare regimen?

There's a lot of hype around Korean skincare and consumers’ ability to obtain glass-like skin (poreless, dewy, clear skin). However, I often question whether all ten products contribute to their skincare results.

Like do you really need 10 products to achieve clear skin?

So far, I haven't found anything conclusive suggesting Korean skincare is the best and only way to go, but with so many suggestions on how to achieve clear skin it can get hard deciding what you need and don't need. That's why I suggest starting with cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. Yes, these THREE skincare products/steps may be enough to address your skincare concerns! If not, add/adjust as you notice your skin's results and reactions to your products. But don't go out and buy loads of products you don't know you need yet (don't be like me and my experience with youtube equipment, lol).

If you have trouble deciding on the right cleanser, moisturizer and/or sunscreen for you, here’s a few tips on how to choose the right products for your first three steps towards clear skin.

Step #1: Cleansing

Hopefully most of you don’t need explanation on why this step should be in everyone’s skincare regimen, but here’s a few cleansing benefits. Proper cleansing helps to remove dirt, oils, residual makeup, and dead skin cells. A buildup of any of these can cause acne and acne can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. An appropriate cleanser can also prevent excess drying of the skin.

“Your choice in skin cleanser can either make or break your skin care routine,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D.,
Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.”

Here’s a few tips on how to find the ideal cleanser for you:

  1. Ensure it’s appropriate for your skin type. Traditionally foamy cleansers are geared toward oily skin type while milky and cream cleansers are geared towards dry and sensitive skin types.

  2. Avoid ingredients that irritate your skin or clog your pores. If you have a sensitive skin type, avoid fragrances, dyes or ingredients you and your dermatologist/esthetician have identified as irritants. Watch out for alcohols like acetone, isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol because these can be drying, especially if you already have dry skin (fatty alcohols are okay).

  3. Find a cleanser with a pH between 5-6. The average pH of skin is about 5.5-6.0 and some dermatologist suggest using products with a similar pH to avoid disrupting the chemistry of your skin’s acid mantle. I know this can be a dozy, who has pH strips at home right?! Here’s a list of cleansers that have a pH similar to that of skin.


Moisturizer acts as an oil barrier to reduce transepidermal water loss (~skin water loss due to evaporation).

Moisturizing prevents and alleviates skin irritation, soothing the skin by slowing the evaporation of water. Your skin needs adequate moisture (~water) to avoid disrupting you skin barrier which helps fight against acne-causing bacteria, protects your skin from tears/breakage, and prevents excess transepidermal water loss.

The keys to choosing a great moisturizer are basically the same as cleansers:

  1. Ensure it is appropriate for your skin type. This is crucial. Your moisturizer is a way to maintain your skin’s moisture balance. For oiler skin types you may want to get a moisturizer that is water-based or has more humectants. For drier skin types you may want to get a moisturizer that is oil-based or has more occlusives.

  2. Avoid irritants like alcohols, fragrances sometimes even silicones. Again ladies and gents, these things are not black and white, silicones may work for you. You must listen to your skin and do your research. Nothing good comes easy.


Protection from sun and environmental damage is important for everyone. UV radiation can cause pigmentation and sunburn. Sunburn is the most commonly encountered skin damage caused by natural light, which disproportionately affects people with fairer skin tones. UV radiation can also damage skin by penetrating into the layers of skin and producing reactive oxygen resulting in the damage of skin structures, pigmentation and/or signs of aging; which can elongate treatment of pigmentation issues such as post-acne scarring and hyperpigmentation, which disproportionately affects darker skin tones. Photo-aging affects us all.

Moral: a really long way to say we all need sunscreen.

A broad-spectrum sunscreen can be used as the first line of defense for anti-aging, fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. By preventing dark spots from darkening as they heal and fade on their own you could potentially only use sunscreen and acne prevention (cleansing and moisturizing properly) to get rid of them.

Believe it or not PIH can fade on its own; however the rate at which our body does so depends on a variety of factors like age and health (keep in mind our body isn’t perfect so some won’t fade on their own, no false hopes given here).

While sunscreen is important it is true some sunscreen ingredients can be irritants. A dermatologist could help you to choose one that will suit your needs. You can also find a moisturizer that has SPF in it. It could be as simple as two steps as a foundation and then exfoliators, serums, toners as you observe your skin’s progress. You could think of these (exfoliator, serums and toners) as ‘boosters’ that help your body do what it naturally does or provides antioxidants/natural moisturizing factors that optimizes your body’s natural processes.


This is a three step skincare regimen that can addresses some of the most common skincare concerns: mild to moderate acne, anti-aging, and dark spot prevention or reduction in appearance. Of course I’ll caveat, all manifestations of these skin concerns are not created equal, meaning if the cause of your skin care concern is not addressed in these three steps, these three steps alone will not rid you of your skin concern. Ex. If you have hormonal acne (ex. cystic acne) or hormonal pigmentation (ex. melasma), these three steps do not adjust your hormones, so they may not be enough for you but starting here could help you save money on products you don’t necessarily need, time on skincare steps that may not be needed and ultimately help you figure out your skin and seek professional help, if needed.

Always remember, I am not a healthcare professional and I am not your esthetician. I am not providing medical advice or advising you to do anything.

With love,



Goodman G. Cleansing and moisturizing in acne patients. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2009;10:1–6

Mukhopadhyay, Partha. “Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders” Indian journal of dermatology vol. 56,1 (2011): 2-6.

Latha, M S et al. “Sunscreening agents: a review” Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 6,1 (2013): 16-26.