Skincare Challenge: A Complete K-Beauty Routine Using Just Three Products
How does a simplified version of the multi-step skincare routine fare in real life?
Skincare trends may come and go but it’s looking like K-beauty is forever. Steadily changing skincare regimens all over the world (beauty goods are now one of South Korea’s largest exports), the K-beauty takeover is one that wouldn’t be complete without the nitty gritty that sets the routine apart from all others: the fascinating, meticulous act of layering skincare products.
Clear, lit-from-within “glass” skin” by way of the multi-step skincare routine is the be-all and end-all in the world of K-beauty. The least complicated of which rounds up to five steps (this is basic by Korean beauty standards), while more elaborate routines can involve up to 14. That’s a lot of product, a lot of time, a lot of money.
The Real Hang-up with the Multi-Step Routine
What any beauty aficionado who has subscribed to this beauty routine for a long while will tell you is that the 14 steps are not absolutely essential. In my experience switching to Korean skincare, I did, and foolishly, permit myself to satisfy my curiosity. I dove headfirst into the 14-step bonanza everyone raved about. What I learned, though, was that my approach was all wrong: I didn’t take nearly as much time to learn about what my skin needs as I did obsess over the steps and products themselves.
“Honestly, the 10-step Korean skin-care routine is not a real thing. I’m not sure who came up with that marketing-friendly coined term. I grew up in Korea, and from a Korean person’s perspective, it’s a little bit funny. Korean women don’t think, ‘Oh, I have to do my 10-step regimen.’ Instead, what they think is that flawless, radiant skin that is very healthy is a sign of true beauty,” Alicia Yoon, founder of Peach & Lily and one of the K-beauty girls I avidly follow, told The Coveteur. “It goes back historically for centuries, where the noble class never went outside in the sun and had porcelain-like skin—healthy skin. I think it boils down first and foremost to achieving healthy skin from the inside out. It’s not about symptomatically getting rid of acne or fine lines, it’s about how your skin health is really doing—your skin’s inner environment.”
What “Simple” Looks Like
GARNIER Skin Naturals Micellar Cleansing Water, ₱249
DEAR KLAIRS Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil, ₱1,200
INNISFREE Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam, ₱720
THAYERS NATURAL REMEDIES Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner, ₱700
COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, ₱950
BARONESS Snail Mask, ₱30
COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream, ₱1,035
LANEIGE Water Sleeping Mask, ₱980
There you have it: The lit-from-within glow has a lot more to do with nourishing skin from the inside out than it does slathering copious amounts of product. Listen to your skin. Create a routine with your specific skin concerns in mind. Start small. Keep it simple. When it comes to the multi-step skincare routine anyway, the operative words are customized and personalized.
The Power of Three
Then came a new buzzy skincare line that media outlets were quick to pick up. A K-beauty brand switching up the skincare game not by adding something, but—shocker—rostering things down? Could it be that it’s possible to further simplify the multi-step routine? Condense it to just three steps? With just three products? What a promising proposition.
The line in question is Bare Essentials. As the name suggests, the brand focuses on, well, the bare essentials: supercharging the basics so beauty guys and girls don’t have to pile on any more product.
With countless variations of the same 10-step Korean skincare routine, this three-step rendition is a breath of fresh air. It debunks myths that the more steps involved, the more astounding the results and improvements on the skin.
While it may have garnered words of praise (with a 10,000-person waiting list on its launch, to boot) and turned naysayers into believers, I wanted to see what the fuss was about for myself. It may have taken me a little over a year to get the multi-step skincare routine just right, but the prospect of further condensing my routine did excite me. So, for a month, I abandoned the beloved eight-step routine I religiously followed and took Bare Essentials for a test drive.
The byproduct of taking on an elaborate skincare routine is eventually believing that great skin is something you have to work for. It was strange seeing just three products on my beauty counter for a change. Now a breakdown of the new, shorter but improved regimen:
Step 1: Contour Cleanser
Claim to fame: “This cleanser is densely filled with microcapsules that burst upon contact with water to gently cleanse, exfoliate and detoxify skin. The Contour Cleanser reduces bloating and swelling for a defined, enviably slim face shape.”
BARE ESSENTIALS Contour Cleanser, P300
Key ingredients: Ice Plant and Lemon Myrtle extract
What it does: Soothes, detoxifies, helps to promote blood circulation
The steps it replaces: The double cleanse and exfoliation
The experience: A little goes a long way, which makes this economical. At just P300 apiece, where a pea-sized amount is enough per application, this makes for a smart beauty investment. On to the application: It’s easy to work into the skin, uncomplicated and does the job. I’m reluctant to lather on anything with microbeads, but the exfoliant in this cleanser is gentle and non-irritating (the cooling effect is a great bonus). My face feels clean, supple and smooth afterwards.
Step 2: Primer Water
Claim to fame: “The Primer Water contains patented dewdrop technology (Macro Fluidic Dispersion technology) that gently fills the gaps between pores and allows hydration to penetrate deep within the layers of the skin.”
BARE ESSENTIALS Primer Water, P550
Key ingredient: Snow Lotus extract
What it does: Deeply moisturizes and enhances the skin’s natural glow
The steps it replaces: Toner, beauty water/essence and primer
The experience: Multi-step skincare routines take anywhere between 15 and 40 minutes given proper intervals are needed for the skin to absorb the good stuff from each step. This lightweight product definitely speeds up the process, so it’s perfect for people on the go. It’s easy to tell that it’s heavy-duty but fast-acting. A couple of dabs on a cotton round and application using upward motions are all it takes. With prolonged use, this helps achieve the “glass skin” effect.
Step 3: Fixer Cream
Claim to fame: “This non-oily, quick-absorbing formula leaves skin looking healthy and feeling bouncy to the touch.”
BARE ESSENTIALS Fixer Cream, P640
Key ingredients: Trehalose (an ingredient found in the cactus plant that prevents its moisture loss), Camellia Sinensis (green tea) seed oil and Baobab Tree extract
What it does: Provides skin with 24-hour hydration and helps to promote collagen regeneration
The steps it replaces: Serum and moisturizer
The experience: Don’t be fooled by the small, compact tub this product comes in; the Fixer Cream is potent and packs a punch. A word of caution though: This may be off-putting to those who, like myself, are not fond of perfumed products, but it’s a small price to pay for the results. The Fixer Cream improves the complexion of the skin, evens out skin texture and can be used to heal dry patches of skin.
Hallelujah. The multi-step skincare routine not only got a whole lot easier to follow, but just became more affordable and sustainable, too. My only qualm with the three-item regimen is that while it’s great for basic upkeep, expecting it to fix up or relieve problematic skin is asking for too much: If your only concern is dryness, this is definitely a great skincare starter set. Those with problematic skin will still have to supplement this lineup with products that proactively target their concerns. In my case, I had to follow up the Primer Water with a sheet mask (to help blur acne scars from a previous breakout) and, on extremely dry days, had to reinforce the Fixer Cream with face oil or a sleeping mask.
Overall, the Bare Essentials line serves as an excellent foundation especially for those who have just hopped on the K-beauty bandwagon and are still easing their way into this kind of routine. If you want to give this K-beauty line a go, you can get the entire set exclusively on Althea Korea for only P1,341.
Art Alexandra Lara