Japanese vs Korean Skincare: What's the Difference?
Many people may think that Asian skincare is very similar to each other, but it is actually in a way different from each other. Each skincare has a different goal when it comes to what is achieved in the end results. In the J-beauty skincare routine and the products used for the routine, there are steps that help lead to achieving a “mochi skin,” whereas in a K-beauty skincare routine and the products used for the routine, the steps help lead to achieving a “glass-skin.” Both of these routines are unique in their own ways and it serves different purposes for various skin types.
J-beauty Skincare: “Mochi Skin”
J-beauty skincare routine focuses on achieving a “mochi skin” when it comes to the kind of skin that they want to achieve. For skincare, J-beauty’s core value is to nourish the skin with gentle and nutritious products, so that one can achieve “mochi skin.” If you are unfamiliar with mochi, mochi is a glutinous rice snack that is very soft and plump. A “mochi skin” is almost like baby skin, as it is very soft, hydrated, and does not have any fine lines.
Japanese Skincare Routine
Simply said, the Japanese skincare routine has five steps, which is very short compared to many skincare routines. According to a Japanese beauty article, the steps in a Japanese skincare routine are in this order: Cleansing, Lotion/Essence, Beauty Serum, Emulsion/Cream, and Sunscreen.
Step 1: Cleansing
For cleansing, Japanese people often double cleanse their face, especially at night after a full day of wearing makeup. They would use gentle oil cleansers (or sometimes cleansing balms) and a foam face wash to remove any impurities that may be visible both on the surface and deep in the pores.
Step 2: Lotion (Essence)
Toner is called lotion (or essence) in Japan. Although they may serve similar purposes, such as regulating the secretion of the sebum, Japanese lotions and essences tend to be much more moisturizing and gentle to the skin and are lower in acidity. You can also use a sheet mask for this step, but you don’t need to use it every time–just one or two times a week!
Step 3: Beauty Serum
This step is the step that would help make this Japanese skincare routine more personalized. The products used in this step can vary from person to person, depending on the type of skin concerns they may have. Some people may lack moisture in certain areas, while others may be concerned about the spots and scars that resulted from the acne.
Step 4: Emulsion/Cream
Using emulsion (milky lotion) and cream is key to achieving the “mochi-like” skin. Without a moisturizer, you wouldn’t be able to replenish the oil necessary for your skin and it would prevent the evaporation of the moisture of the lotion, from a previous step. A simple analogy for the purpose of these two products is that it acts like “a lid.” If you have oilier skin, it’s important to use emulsion (milky lotion) and if you have drier skin you should use a cream moisturizer.
Step 5: Sunscreen (For morning routines)
Japanese people are very particular about the sunlight wherever they are. Without sunscreen, it would be very difficult to achieve healthy skin and skin with a clear complexion, so wearing a sunscreen is a must!
If you want to read more about a Japanese skincare routine, read our previous article where we mention all the details of what a perfect Japanese skincare routine looks like!
How about other types of products in a Japanese Skincare Routine?
Obviously, there is absolutely no problem in using other products that are not listed above, such as eye creams, exfoliators, and night creams. However, oftentimes, J-beauty focuses on limiting the number of other products that they may use on their skin.
Again, J-beauty is all about being gentle to your skin, which also means that it’s important to give your skin some rest in between using other kinds of products. But it’s also important to use other products depending on what your skin needs. Think of the Japanese skincare routine as a basic framework rather than a fixed routine and remember to incorporate other products according to your needs.
When it comes to exfoliating in a Japanese skincare routine, don’t over-exfoliate your skin–try exfoliating one or two times per week.
Remember, gentleness is key!
Key Points of the Japanese Skincare Routine
- Simple five steps routine–great for those who are limited on time and want to keep things simple
- A gentle routine that is perfect for those who have sensitive and dry skin
- Achieve plump, soft, and healthy skin
K-beauty Skincare: “Glass Skin”
While J-beauty focuses on achieving “mochi skin,” K-beauty focuses on achieving “glass skin.” Glass skin is very similar to the “dewy skin,” as glass skin is known to be very transparent, clear, and luminous. This kind of skin does have some similar characteristics to “mochi skin” in terms of keeping your skin moist and hydrated. However, rather than making the skin look matte and soft like mochi, the main focus of a “glass skin” is to achieve a luminous and clear complexion like a glass.
Korean Skincare Routine
As you may have already been aware, the Korean skincare routine has many more steps compared to the Japanese skincare routine. The number of steps used in a Korean skincare routine can range from 7 to 12, but the most common number of steps in a Korean skincare routine is about 10 steps. There are a lot of steps, but every step in a Korean Skincare routine is crucial in achieving a “glass skin.” The steps are as follows: balm/oil cleanser, foaming cleanser, exfoliator, toner, essence, ampoule/serum, sheet mask, eye cream, moisturizer, and lastly, thicker night cream/sleeping mask/sunscreen.
Step 1: Balm or Oil Cleanser
In a Korean skincare routine, there is a similar method to the Japanese skincare routine when it comes to cleansing. That is, “double cleansing!” For the first step of double cleansing, it’s important to use a balm or oil cleanser to get rid of any makeup and dirt that may be lying on your face!
Step 2: Water-Based Cleanser
As the second step of double cleansing, it’s important that you use a foaming cleanser to get rid of any remaining product or dirt that may be found on your skin. There are different kinds of water-based cleansers you can use: milk, foam, gel, and so on.
Step 3: Exfoliator
It’s crucial to exfoliate your face at least once or twice a week to remove dead skin cells. There are different kinds of exfoliators, such as physical or chemical exfoliants, so it’s important to choose the exfoliator depending on what kind of skin you may have. Most Korean exfoliators are cotton peeling pads that contain exfoliating properties.
Step 4: Toner
Toner is an essential step when it comes to helping the skin absorb all the hydration that is provided by moisturizers in the following steps. You can also use a face mist, which is a great alternative to a toner!
Step 5: Essence
The essence is very important when it comes to moisturizing the skin. Without essence, it would be very hard to prep your skin to use other kinds of products in the next few steps. The key tip here is to apply the essence as if you are literally soaking your skin in it.
Step 6: Ampoule/Serum
This step is the most personal to your skin. The ampoule/serum is the step that really helps characterize your routine, just like serum does for the Japanese routine. In a Korean skincare routine, there are many serums you can use that range endlessly. There are serums that contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, fatty acids, vitamin C, peptides, and minerals to help treat the skin depending on your needs.
Step 7: Sheet Mask
A sheet mask is truly crucial for the Korean skincare routine, and I bet there are a lot of people who have associated it with k-beauty, as it is one of the greatest skincare essentials in the k-beauty culture. The purpose of the sheet mask is to help moisturize the skin to the deepest layers of the skin.
Step 8: Eye Cream
Eye Cream is a step that is considered important for all ages, as it is never early to start taking care of the moisture around your eyes. It would help take care of fine wrinkles and dryness that may be visible in your eye area.
Step 9: Moisturizer
Although there were many other steps that helped hydrate the skin, this step is truly the queen of hydrating and also helps “seal” everything together. A moisturizer does not have to be in cream form, but it can be a liquid or gel-type as well, depending on your skin type and your liking.
Step 10: Thicker Night Cream/Sleeping Mask/Sunscreen (in the morning)
There are so many other steps before this, however, this step is the “cherry on top.” This step is essential to further perfect this skincare routine, but it really depends on what your skin needs. In the morning, you need sunscreen. If you came back from a really dry environment or your skin is extra dry, you may need to apply a thicker night cream or sleeping mask.
Key Points of the Korean Skincare Routine
The Looking at Both Korean and Japanese Skincare Routines
There are a number of similarities when it comes to the skincare routine as both skincare routines strive to achieve skin that is moisturized and hydrated. There are several steps in the skincare routine that are similar to each other, such as the cleansing method, as both use an oil-based and a water-based cleanser, toner, lotion/essence, moisturizer, and sunscreen. You can say that the Japanese skincare routine is the more “simplified” version of the Korean skincare routine.
There are a number of steps in the Korean skincare routine that overlap with the Japanese skincare, but of course, they are very different. While the Japanese skincare routine uses emulsion, Korean skincare routine contains other steps such as exfoliation, toner, sheet mask, eye cream, and thicker night cream incorporated in their daily routines.
Which Routine Should You Try?
Honestly, it’s really up to you and what you want to achieve. But there may be some factors that may better suit you than the other:
(Disclaimer, these are just my suggestions! The best way to know which routine suits you and your skin is to try both routines!)
If you have sensitive and dry skin, try the Japanese skincare routine as the steps are very simple and minimal which is more gentle for your skin time. On the other hand, if you have oily and acne-prone skin, try the Korean skincare routine, as the key step of toner, exfoliation and cleansing would be perfect for treating such skin.
If you are always running low on time and don’t have a whole lot of money to spend on skincare but still want to take care of your skin, the Japanese skincare routine will definitely do! But if you have time and want to give your skin an extra treat, try out the Korean skincare routine!
Lastly, it all comes down to this: what kind of skin you want to achieve. If you want to achieve shiny, luminous dewy skin, definitely try out the Korean skincare routine! However, if you want soft and matte-looking baby skin, try out the Japanese skincare routine!