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Hair + Beauty

Korean Skincare 101 for Redheads: Your Guide to Flawless Skin

Yes, there are Korean’s in the world with natural red hair. It’s rare, but it does happen! Just look at our Redhead of the Week’s: The current Daisy Kim, and Jennifer, from 2014.

If there is one thing Korean’s are known for, it is for their glowing, beautiful skin. They are the first to admit that it doesn’t come easy — it is a unique process. Korean skincare (or sometimes referred to as K-Beauty, short for Korean Beauty) has a 10-step regimen with different products and techniques.

In a culture where most people have dark hair and light skin, most of us do wonder: Can this work for us redheads, too?

We had a chance to sit down and chat about K-beauty with the founders of Glow Recipe, Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, an online destination for natural & cruelty-free Korean beauty products.

H2BAR: What exactly is Korean beauty/skincare?

SL & CC: In Korea, skincare and beauty are inextricably linked! There’s an emphasis on healthy, youthful skin. Korean women are at once very picky about their cosmetics and skincare, and yet very open to trying new formats and ingredients. This is probably why the creation of skincare and beauty products in Korea is so fast paced compared to what we’re used to in the West. It’s a constant drive to improve and advance technologies and formats.

While you may have heard of huge, multiple-step Korean routines, the most important thing K-Beauty emphasizes is customizing products and ingredients to your skin type to address your personal skincare concerns. Modern Korean women turn to multi-tasking formulations and continue to emphasize layers of watery hydration that work to create the ‘glowing’ skin they’re so known for.

What does the 10-step regimen entail?

SL & CC: It’s true. Korean women own a lot of product (who doesn’t)  but in Korea, there are some alternate categories that these fall into. Each is specifically targeted and serves a specific function. The true Korean skin care philosophy is very fluid and customized to how one’s skin feels on any given day. One day you may feel like you need 6 or 7 steps, the next you may only use 2, and some days you will use all 10.

1st 6 Steps in the morning: 

1st Step – Cleansing: We always recommend a thorough double cleanse with a 1. cleansing oil and 2. foam cleanser. This two-step cleansing process is a tenet of K-Beauty. Cleansing oils are specifically designed to melt makeup and impurities away from the skin, and when water is added, the cleansing oil will emulsify and turn milky so that it washes away cleanly. A foaming cleanser is then used to fully wash away all impurities and traces of makeup. Thoroughly removing your makeup each day is so important to the health of your skin. Double cleansing is seriously life changing.

‘Redhead Friendly’ Approved Product:

Erborian Black Cleansing Oil

Erborian Double Mousse Gentle Cleansing Foam 

Double cleansing is seriously life changing.

2nd Step – Hydrating/Toner: This typically involves a toner, then a combination of targeted treatment steps. Korean women have traditionally used a ‘lotion’ or ‘softener’, a milkier version of toners with more body, meant to hydrate and prep the skin for the rest of their skincare routine.  This trend has now moved to ‘essences’ (similar to SKII Treatment Essence or Shiseido’s Eudermine), which are quickly penetrating treatments with anti-aging ingredients, and also softeners in mist formats.


3rd Step – Eye Cream: While there’s a variety of opinions on this topic, our recommendation is to use an eye cream before your serum. The skin around the eye area is much thinner than the rest of your face and an eye cream will not only nourish the delicate skin but also ‘protect’ the eye area before applying your facial serum.

‘Redhead Friendly’ Approved Product:

Belif Peat Miracle Revital Eye Cream 

Sulwhasoo Essential Renewing Eye Cream 

4th Step – Serum: In K-Beauty, the idea of a ‘serum’ is broken down into three different textures: essences, ampoules, and serums. Essences tend to be lighter and more hydrating, and ampoules typically act as boosters. In practice, a good rule of thumb is to apply your hydrators from thinnest to thickest for maximum absorption.

‘Redhead Friendly’ Approved Product:

RE:P Nutrinature Ultra Moist Gel Oil 

5th Step – Moisturize: After treatments, you seal in the effects and layers with a moisturizer! In the morning, you’ll likely be good to go with just a quick cleanse or cleansing water, one hydrator, a light cream, and SPF. At night, you may want to have more moisturizer on to help the skin repair overnight.

‘Redhead Friendly Approved Product:

Botanic Farm Mineral Pop Sparkling Cream 

6th Step – Sunscreen: We always advise our friends and customers to use a daily SPF, especially redheads! Lack of UV protection is the gateway to premature aging and fine lines. Recently, we’re loving the Make P:rem UV defense me capsule sun gel with SPF 50+.

We always advise our friends and customers to use a daily SPF, especially redheads!

Remaining 4 Steps in the evening (incorporating the 6 above):

The above chart shows show you can incorporate a few add-ons to your evening routine, while already implementing the 6 step process from the morning including exfoliator, mask, oil/emulsion.

Want a complete Korean Beauty set? Try this ‘Redhead Friendly’ approved brand!

Many redheads are known to have sensitive skin. Does this regimen change for those with sensitive skin, or does it stay the same?

SL & CC: The steps likely wouldn’t change- instead, one would change the products and key ingredients you’d use, and this would be the case for any skin type! You may choose to use only one cleanser to avoid drying skin out, then moisturize with a very gentle formula. We’d suggest Make P:rem’s Safe Relief Cream. This rich cream has only 12 ingredients, so it is natural and gentle enough that even a baby’s delicate skin would love it.

What is the most important step in the regimen?

SL & CC: The most important step definitely depends on your skin type. If you have very dry skin, exfoliating or moisturizing could be the most important. Very sensitive skin might love the addition of a non-astringent, alcohol free hydrating toner.

What is your #1 skin tip for redheads?

SL & CC: Moisturize! Lighter skin tends to need more hydration. We also like Huxley Secret of Sahara Fresh and More Cream. It’s a gorgeous gel-textured hydrator that leaves skin super smooth and silky.

Are there any products one should avoid when practicing the 10-step regimen; particularly when it comes to the ingredients?

SL & CC: We suggest avoiding ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, a known skin irritant, parabens, which have been linked to illnesses and hormone issues, and synthetic fragrances, which can be chemical-laden.

What steps should you NOT skip if you’re pressed for time?

SL & CC:  If you’re pressed for time in the evening, we’d still recommend really thorough makeup removal with a cleansing oil. Even if you don’t have time for a ton of hydrators, the oil in a cleansing oil will have some time to nourish and smooth dry patches as it whisks away makeup. It’s a really skin-beneficial way to remove makeup compared to, say, a cleansing wipe that can tug and pull at the skin. You could also try using products that do ‘double duty’ like a multitasking Pressed Serum from Blithe.

READ: 9 Natural Redheads from Different Backgrounds & Ethnicities 

So, the answer is yes! Korean skincare is perfect for redheads. Since most of us have sensitive skin that changes frequently, the K-Beauty system is flexible and gives results.

Watch redhead Madi Miso talk about how Korean Skincare has changed her life:

Rock it like a Redhead!