The Ultimate Guide to Layering Korean skincare


The abundance of Korean essences, serums, ampoules, toners, lotions all touting a wide range of benefits that lead to healthy, radiant skin is as confusing as it is promising. With multi-step routines that can easily balloon and get out of hand, knowing how to layer products to maximize their benefits can help you find your ideal Korean beauty routine. 

Soothing + Active Acid

The easiest way to ensure success of a new routine is to balance the use of complementary soothing ingredients and active acids. In fact, common skincare trends such as skin cycling and skin sandwiching draw from these exact principles to ensure that your skin doesn't get irritated or overwhelmed by active acids by adding soothing and healing ingredients.

Green Tea + Tranexamic Acid

Green tea, rich in antioxidants, has long been prized for its calming and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin. When paired with tranexamic acid, a powerful ingredient known for brightening and evening out skin tone, it is effective for reducing hyperpigmentation and acne scars. 

Try: The Dr Ceuracle Vegan Kombucha Tea Essence with fermented green tea and the Cos de Baha Tranexamic acid and Niacinamide serum

Retinol + Peptides

Retinol, a gold standard ingredient in anti-aging skincare, can be supercharged when combined with peptides. Peptides are small chains of amino acids that help stimulate collagen production and improve skin elasticity. The peptides also reduces the irritation caused by retinol, but you should still start at low concentrations to ensure your skin isn't drying out.

Active acid + Active acid

These combinations combine 2 actives with complementary benefits to treat your skin issues. While powerful, can also backfire if you're overwhelming your skin and damaging your barrier at high concentrations.

Let's explore 2 examples below:

Niacinamide and Retinol

Niacinamide, known to be a gentle active with powerful brightening and clarifying properties, can be effectively combined with retinol to reduce hyperpigmentation, improve skin texture, and diminish signs of aging. Niacinamide helps to minimize irritation commonly associated with retinol use, and has also been found to improve the skins ability to tolerate retinol. Apply niacinamide first and allow it to fully absorb, and then follow with a thin layer of retinol or a retinoil cream. If trying this combination leads to too much irritation, you can split up your niacinamide and retinol into morning and night, or decrease the concentrations of each.

AHA and Vitamin C

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and vitamin C are both effective in similar low-pH skin environments, and the photosensitivity of AHAs can be reduced with the anti-oxidants, along with generous sunscreen application. AHAs, such as glycolic or lactic acid, gently exfoliate the skin's surface, promoting cell turnover and revealing a brighter complexion. If you're using a daily AHA toner at low concentrations, you can apply it right after cleansing, followed by a vitamin C. If your AHA is high concentration for treating whiteheads or spots, apply it at night, and use your vitamin C in the morning.

Try: Missha Vita C Plus Spot Correcting and Firming Ampoule with the CosRx AHA/BHA Clarifying toner

Soothing + Soothing

Often the best Korean skincare routines don't contain any active acids at all, and are full of soothing ingredients that prevent skin damage, repair and replenish the barrier, and work over long periods of time to strengthen your skin with consistent application.

Let's explore some examples:

Hyaluronic Acid + Propolis

If you have dull, dehydrated skin that makes you look like you aren't getting enough sleep, this hydration & brightening combination is simple, affordable, and effective. Hyaluronic acid is a hydration powerhouse, renowned for its ability to attract and retain moisture in the skin. When combined with propolis, a natural resin with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, the skin's barrier is balanced and retains its barrier throughout the day, leaving your skin plump, brightened, and resilient.

Houttuynia Cordata + Ginseng

For skin that gets red and irritated easily, this healing & revitalizing combination creates an environment that heals and nourishes the skin. Houttuynia cordata, also known as heartleaf, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb growing in popularity next to centella and mugwort. Ginseng, known for its rejuvenating properties, promotes collagen production and improves skin elasticity. Layering these ingredients soothes irritation, reduces redness, and counters signs of aging. 

Try: The Goodal Houttuynia Cordata Calming Essence with the I'm From Ginseng Serum

SKIN.TO is Canada's ultimate destination for Asian skincare and beauty enthusiastics. We are available anytime via Instagram or chat to help you build your skincare routine according to your skin's needs. 

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