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Tune In: Let's Discuss This Major Korean Beauty Misconception

Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
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It's common in the beauty media to simplify concepts to the easiest-to-understand sound bites. In a lot of instances, this can be helpful—but not always. When you distill information, it often removes much of the context and nuance surrounding a topic, leaving behind valuable information and creating a breeding ground for misunderstandings.

Often I think about this when evaluating the media's approach to Korean beauty traditions. For so long, Korean beauty became synonymous with a 10-step routine—but of course, that doesn't even begin to cover the depth within the actual routines.

Well, on this episode of Clean Beauty School, I had on skin care experts and founders of Glow Recipe Sarah Lee and Christine Chang. In the episode, we cover a lot of ground—from staying on top of the beauty zeitgeist to why we should limit our exposure to “perfect, flawless” images of skin. But we also talk about a few misconceptions of Korean beauty rituals—including the often misunderstood multistep ritual. 

How you should actually approach a multistep routine. 

If you have time for a 15-step skin care ritual and you enjoy the process, then we think that's a lovely way to take care of yourself. However, following double-digit steps isn't a requirement within Korean Beauty. 

"When you only talk about a 15-step routine, it's a very dimensional view of Korean beauty. Korean women are not sitting down to do their skin care routine, counting the number of steps, and then thinking 'I achieved my goal today because I got to 10 or 15 steps,'" says Chang. "Instead, there's a fluidity and dialogue with your skin."

Lee agrees, and notes that "if you look at a lot of the Korean women's skin care collections, you see a ton of products, but that's not because they are using 15, 20 steps every morning or night." Rather, having a lot of products available allows for picking and choosing specific products based on the day's need. "They have a deeper understanding and a deeper relationship with their skin—so they're giving it what it needs based on what it's asking for," says Lee. 

"Being cognizant of this and having that dialogue with your skin is so important. And we believe in it strongly because it kind of empowers you to sit at your vanity, bathroom, or wherever you're doing your skin care and make choices that are right for you," says Chang.

"Think of your skin care wardrobe like a clothing wardrobe. You're not putting on everything at once. Like, you're not wearing all 50 of your sweaters all together. But then you are able to pick and choose what you need that day," says Chang. 

But to do this, you have to really understand the nuances of your skin and the ingredients you are putting on it. "The No. 1 thing you can do is to understand your skin and educate yourself about the key ingredients you're using," says Lee. "Then you also need to give your skin enough time to acclimate to the products you're introducing to the skin."

Want more skin care tips—and more info on the skin care ingredients that might work for you? Tune in below. 

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