I personally use the 12 step Korean skin care routine as it treats the variety of problems my skin deals with, depending on the season.
Here is a list of what I do and why:
Oil cleanser – yes oil cleans oil because like substances can dissolve each other, or in other words, oils can help to dissolve other oils/waxy materials. It is the best thing to thoroughly and nourishingly take off all types of makeup, unclog pores and to massage the face, which improves circulation, increasing the healing of scars and tightening muscles. I use extra virgin olive oil as it is full of nutrients and moisturises as it cleans.
Foam cleanser – the popular double cleansing method is complete with a foam cleanser to wash off the remaining gunk from our face that the oil dissolved but didn’t rinse. It is a good time to expand and retract the size of our pores with the 4-2-4 method: 4 minutes massaging oil, 2 minutes lathering up with foam; 4 minutes rinsing with warm water, gradually getting colder. End by icing for really closed pores and a good wake up call. This is especially good for the morning as it reduces the swelling in our eyes, cheeks and lips from sleeping.
Toner – I would suggest using rice water or a sensitive skin toner with aloe vera, as by now your face has been stripped of its protective oils and is volatile to aggressive toners and becoming flushed/reddened. Rice water is more of a softener, but both help to purify the closing pores and diminish them. This evaporates quite quickly so be ready with the next stage, lest you dry out your face.***
Serum – use for any reason/problem, this is your call and the first stage of moisturising. I use a variety for different seasons. They should be a bit thicker than a gel or gel-like.
Essence – again, for any reason. Essence, serums and ampoules are all different concentrations of creams/gels with specific jobs.
Emulsion*** – this preps the skin for your thicker creams and starts really moisturising the skin. I use Benefit B.right Emulsion as it’s full of goodness and smells great. It tastes awful so don’t get it on your lips.
Sheet Mask (optional) – this is really nice before your hardest day of work or when getting ready for a party. Korean models go through 600 a year – that’s almost twice a day, every day! Others do one a month, some do two a week, I prefer once a week maximum. They are lovely, soothing and have a variety of flavours for a variety of needs, but are an expensive habit and should be saved to be savoured on special days. Put on, go and watch HBO’s ‘Girls’ (I heard that somewhere and it made me laugh), take off and pat. You can reuse them if you save the serum from the pack and boil the mask. This will give you an instant wet or – as they call it in Korea – dewy look so adjust your make up accordingly if that’s not your style.
Treatment – spot creams and other treatments go here. Don’t overdo it, rub them in properly or prepare for burned, dry patches.
Eye cream – they say start early! For me this translates as early in the morning, as I get awful puffy eyes. Put the cream under, over and around your eyes by patting gently with your ring finger (the weakest) as pulling on your skin around there invites puffy skin from bringing blood to the dermis and epidermis*****, and fine lines from stretching. Whether you do this to prevent aging or treat puffiness, it is quite restful and enjoyable to pamper your eyes like this.
Face cream – day or night, do it. My face always looks fresh from this, even after a long day with make up (though a few go’s with tissue or blotching paper might take place).
SPF up (optional) – I say this is optional because I am part Italian but live in the UK which means my skin begs for sun and looks better tanned. However, I don’t overdo it, so on hot hot hot days, I SPF up and protect myself from being the comical tomato in the family.
You may have counted only 11 in this list, but I do mean 12. There are a number of extra things you can do each day (I find that switching it up can make a routine feel more like a one off pampering session) that can boost certain treatments for you skin. You can:
Exfoliate gently every other day (or adjust frequency) between the foam cleanser and toner.
Use a clay mask between the foam cleanser and toner up to twice a week. Don’t put too much, you should still be able to see the skin underneath.
Face sauna’s are great for opening up pores, and also clearing your sinuses when you’re ill. You can really feel the difference after you’ve sweated out all the deep seated gunk.
Sauna cream/heating scrub – these are quite good for getting the pores open, but I find the exfoliating pieces to be generally too big, so I don’t often use them.
Peeling mask: these are nice, but mainly for removing a small layer of dull dead skin cells. For a deeper cleanse, you need to be looking at clay peeling masks, like the Dead Sea salts clay which is great but hella expensive.
For combination skin, yes that does just mean a combination of skin issues you may have, I would try all of these above. I used to get flaky between the eyebrows, oily on the forehead and redness on my cheeks and chin, but I’ve found that regular and appropriate washing, exfoliating, treatment and moisturising can really make a difference. Many skin problems have the same cause but present themselves with different symptoms, like dehydration can cause both oily and flaky skin, you just have to work out what works for you.
These 11 steps do seem quite intense in number, but by skipping some of the non-essentials, it is possible to do this every morning and night without hurting your skin or losing any sleep.
*oil’s ‘virginity’ is based on whether it is from the first press (squeeze) of an olive or its last. The first presses are the best (extra virgin) and the last presses have less colour, taste and nutrients.
**it is what it is: soak rice in water. Drain. Eat rice and enjoy fresh rice water.
*** For a science presentation once, I didn’t prepare at all, and five minutes before I had to go on I developed a short experiment in my head to show that when water evaporates off a solid, it decreases the temperature of the object this is on. Using this information, I always cool off and close pores by letting my toner dry while I walk about slowly (i.e. going to get my serum ready).
****Emulsion means mixture of oil and water (not displaced like in fancy cocktails.
*****The epidermis is outer layer of skin containing tan. Everyones epidermis is a different colour. The dermis is the pinky bit underneath – everyone’s is the same colour.