KOREAN SKINCARE ROUTINE 101: Part 2: Toner & First Treatment Essence

**Previously: Part 1: Double-cleansing and exfoliating**


In part 2 of this series, we will look at steps 4 and 5 steps of the skincare routine:


  1. Oil Cleanser (Makeup remover)
  2. Facial Cleanser
  3. Exfoliator/Wash Off Mask*
  4. TONER
  6. Sheet Mask*
  7. Essences/Serums/Ampoules
  8. Eye Cream
  9. Moisturiser
  10. Sunscreen (Daytime)
  11. Sleeping Mask/Pack* (Nighttime)

(*Doesn’t need to be used everyday; usually a 1-2x weekly treatment)



This is the immediate step after you’ve done your double-cleansing (or after your weekly exfoliating treatment).

Using a toner has a few skincare benefits. This includes re-balancing the pH level of your skin. Cleansing soaps and water can be too alkaline which raises the pH level of our skin too high and thus leaving it dry and sensitive, and prone to producing more oil. Using a toner can bring our skin back to its natural, slightly acidic state of pH5.5. This is particularly important to note if you wash your face with a high pH cleanser. In addition, your toner is designed to soothe and add moisture and hydration back to the skin, which might have been stripped away during cleansing.

Toners can also help wipe away any remaining traces of dirt/makeup that your cleanser failed to pick up, create a clean canvas and prep the skin for absorbing the rest of your skincare products.

In Korea, toners are also known as ‘skin’, ‘refiner’ or ‘booster’ so look out for those key words if you’re on the hunt for a toner. They are also noticeably different from the Western-style toner which are more astringent, contain more alcohol and are focused towards being an additional cleansing step. This means they make your face feel more constricted and taut rather than the more hydrating and moisturising Korean toners which leave your skin soft and smooth.

Note: I always use toner with a cotton pad, partially out of habit, but also it feels soothing and more effective to pick up any leftover residue on my skin. Some people just use their hands to rub and pat it in so its entirely personal preference.

Product recommendation: Son & Park Beauty Water, Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner, Mamonde Rose Water Toner, Hanyul Pure Artemesia Watery Calming Toner



This is the step after toner when we really start to move away from the typical Western-style skincare. The first essence is a very unique Korean skincare step; similar to a toner in function but is more concentrated with beneficial ingredients to supply your skin with nutrients, antioxidants, hydration and moisturisation.

One of the main features of a first essence, and what usually differentiates itself from a regular essence that comes after this step, is that it usually is fermented and contains an active yeast ferment ingredient.

The fermentation process involving yeast, basically breaks down compounds into smaller particles using the chemical reaction of enzymes. This makes the active ingredients more effective and potent as it enhances the product absorption into the skin. Yeast fermentation also naturally creates vitamins, antioxidants and amino acids which have great benefits for your skin as well as overall health. As for the active yeast ferment – ‘galactomyces ferment filtrate’ is the most recognisable fermented yeast on the market and claims to promote cell turnover rate for brighter, smoother, clearer and more radiant skin. It is also touted as the ‘miracle ingredient’ that can improve a range of skin issues from lack of skin elasticity, wrinkles, pigmentation, acne and large visible pores.

They vary in texture from watery to slightly thicker and more viscous so its again, personal preference to use a cotton pad or not. I personally love having this step in my skincare routine and it has helped me achieve smoother and brighter looking skin, eliminating the dullness my skin is prone to having.

Note: If you have a pH balanced cleanser, some people tend to ditch the toner step and go straight in with a first treatment essence because they work like a more powerful hydrating toner. Others will apply a FTE before the toner.

Product recommendation: IOPE Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning, Hanyul Rice Essential Skin Softner, Innisfree Soybean Energy Essence, Hera Cell Essence, Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence

**Next: Part 3: Sheet Mask, Essence/Serum/Ampoule & Eye Cream**

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