The 5-Step Asian Skincare Routine

Ever wondered why most Asian women have flawless skin that never seems to age? Besides our *awesome* good genes and a different diet, we practice a skincare regimen, known as the 5-step skincare regimen, religiously. Basically it consists of the following 5 steps:

Step 1: Double Cleansing
Double cleansing is crucial in maintaining great skin because makeup can clog your pores and lead to breakouts. This step consists of removing your makeup with a cleansing oil followed by a gentle cleanser (usually a foam wash or creamy cleanser) to remove any residue. Check this out to find out more about cleansing oils.

What I Use: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil and Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser

Step 2: Massage/Facial Mask
Massages help improve blood circulation, relieve stress and maintain elasticity and can be done every day. When you massage your skin, the temperature from your hands will help open up your pores and remove the dirt embedded within. Be extremely gentle with you massage your face though.

Facial masks should be used 1 – 2 times a week after cleansing and preferably at night. They usually come in many different forms – sheets, clay, gel and cream. You should choose one depending on your skin type. Those with dry skin will benefit from hydrating sheet masks while those with oily skin should use a clay mask to draw out impurities and unclog pores. Gel and cream masks are for those with mature skin.

What I Use: Kose/Kanebo/Shiseido sheet masks

Step 3: Hydrating Toner
Toners remove dead skin cells and residue from cleansers, replenish your skin with moisture after cleansing and make the absorption of any subsequently applied products easier and faster. When picking a toner, stay away from products with high levels of alcohol because it will only dry out your skin, causing your skin to secrete more sebum and making it oilier.

What I use: DHC Water Base Moisture

Step 4: Essence/Serums
Essence/Serums are basically light yet concentrated liquid form treatments to correct skin problems. They penetrate deep into your skin and work a lot better than regular moisturizers. What you do is apply this after toner, then wait 5 to 10 minutes before applying moisturizer for maximum absorption.

What I use: Kanebo Freshel C Serum

Step 5: Moisturizer
It is a common misconception that people with oily skin do not have to use a moisturizer. The truth is, oily skin can get dehydrated skin too. If your skin is oily, try a oil-free or water-based moisturizer. If your skin is on the dry skin, go with a thicker cream.

What I use: DHC Easy Care Milky Lotion for Dry Skin and DHC Q10 Eye Cream

*Note: I have dehydrated, sensitive combination skin with freckles around my cheeks and I normally get a zit or two occasionally.

Phyllis Li is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Makeup For Life, one of the top 50 beauty blogs that focuses on celebrity makeup breakdowns, product reviews, makeup tutorials and all things beauty. Having lived and traveled in North America, Europe and Asia, she was exposed to different techniques and products at an early age and hopes to put a global perspective towards beauty. Phyllis won the Best Content Award by Total Beauty in 2008 and has been featured in various publications and websites including ELLE, Glamour.com, Yahoo Shine!, AOL Stylelist, Nylon Korea, VOGUE China, Ming Pao Daily (Canada) and Shanghai Weekly. In 2010, she was appointed one of the nine Real Women Ambassadors in the United States to take part in the Latisse® Wishes Challenge, working with Hollywood celebrity Kathy Ireland and raised over $400,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for approximately 54 children. In 2012, she teamed up with luxury skincare brand TATCHA and released a limited-edition 3-Piece Set of her favorite beauty products. Phyllis currently lives in Chicago, US. She is the beauty editor for Shanghai Daily's StyleHai Magazine and a member of the Glam Beauty Network.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for posting about the 5-step cleansing regime! Yayness.

    One quick question: how do you put on sunblock with tinted moisturizer? Do you usually put the moisturizer on before sunblock or the other way around? I’m a bit confused because I’m thinking if I put the moisturizer first, then the sunblock might mask the color of the moisturizer.

    Ok did that make any sense at all? Anyway, I look forward to your answer! Geez, you should put up a Q&A column on your blog. Hehe.

  2. mmM. DHC is good and nice, but I didn’t like the Oil makeup cleanser as much — it felt too oily. But their other products (from their samples) seem good. =]]

  3. well most tinted moisturizers usually come with SPF but if yours doesn’t, I would do sunblock first. If you do sunblock afterwards, you would risk rubbing the color off.

  4. I ended up getting an trio of facial cleansing products at Missha when they were having a special holiday “Buy One get One 50% off” thing… and I got: Toner, Emulsion, and Essence. And I’m supposed to put them on in that order. What is “emulsion,” would you know? I’ve ran searches for it (and they just tell me that it’s a blend of oil and water, and I’m like “… I know. that doesn’t help.” I figured out the essence (and the toner, obviously)… but I use the emulsion. It’s like a cross between a lotion and toner. It’s like a liquid-y toner. If that makes sense. But it’s nice… and I do like it. I just wonder what it’s for. Maybe it’s a ‘massage’ cream for your skin…

  5. Ngong, emulsion is like an Asian version of a very light moisturizer and yes you are supposed to use it in the order you’re told (toner –> elmusion –> essence).

  6. Today is the first day that I found out about this blog and I must say so far it has help me alot. I’m an avid user of MAC Makeup, I’ve been using MAC Cosmetics for almost a year now (I refuse to use anything other than MAC) and I thought I knew everything on how to apply it. But your page has really help me, and I love your tips!! I just have a question. I just read it your 5-Step Skin Care Routine, and I am really intrigue by the products you use to take care of your skin. So where can I purchase these items, and will it make my skin flawless as yours?

    Note: I really cant say what kind of skin type I have. But if I had to say it would be oily, just because my skin tends to get a little oily throughout the day. So can I still purchase those items that you use but for oily type skin?

  7. Today is the first day that I found out about this blog and I must say so far it has help me alot. I’m an avid user of MAC Makeup, I’ve been using MAC Cosmetics for almost a year now (I refuse to use anything other than MAC) and I thought I knew everything on how to apply it. But your page has really help me, and I love your tips!! I just have a question. I just read your 5-Step Skin Care Routine, and I am really intrigue by the products you use to take care of your skin. So where can I purchase these items, and will it make my skin flawless as yours?

    Note: I guess I would have to say that my skin type would be oily, just because my skin tends to get a little oily throughout the day. So can I still purchase those items that you use but for oily type skin?

  8. Thank you! This is new for me… the double cleansing method. I went to the DHC website, and the cleansing oil’s main ingredient is olive oil. I’ve read great reviews of this product, or even just PURE olive oil. Something I read was “oil mixes with oil” and therefore goes deep down into the pores to dissolve sebum. I really want to try this! I have sensitive, combination, acneic skin. Strangely, I have dry patches but extremely oily areas too. Thanks phyllis for posting this. Good information.

  9. thx alot for the info, i thought your skin was flawless all the time! thanks for mentioning that you get the occasional zit, it helps me to know that there isnt always a PERFECT regime. ^_^

  10. excellant routine, i followed these steps thoroughly..amazinggggg i love you hueva rit this..! mwah x love frm beji keramath x

  11. hello, really loving the blog ^^ its so useful!!

    just a few questions, you said you have freckles around the cheek area and just wanted to know if you cover them up with concealer of foundation, or if you just leave them alone?
    thnkss ^^

  12. hi, i just ran into your website and really like your tips about facial cleansing however I can’t find anything about what to put on your face in the morning. I try not to wash my face in the morning so instead I just use a cotton ball soaked with peroxide or witch hazel then use a moisturizer like cetaphil or avon, does this sound good or should i be doing more?

  13. Reina,

    I think it all depends on your skin type but I highly suggest everyone do at least the following:

    1) Wash your face. You don’t necessarily have to use a cleanser but at least wash it with water to get rid of any oils/dirt.

    2) Moisturize your skin and use an eye cream.

    3) Wear at least SPF 30.

  14. kk,

    Thanks for pointing that out but I guess different people have different ways of doing things. I’ve seen people do toner –> elmusion –> essence and obviously that works or else Missha won’t be telling customers to apply the products in that order.

    This goes for makeup as well. Some people do their foundation first while some prefer to do the eyes before foundation. As long as you are not putting on moisturizer before you wash your face (which obviously doesn’t make sense), you should stick to whatever works best for you.

  15. The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. It’s a pleasure commenting here. Keep up the good work. I really admire your efforts and it gives me a pleasure reading you blog this is my first time though but its nice .

  16. Hi thanks for the info:)
    I was wondering would I only use this at night? or morning aswell? and if its only at night, what should I use in the morning?
    Thankyou

    • No prob Roxanna! The regimen is for night. For the AM, I’d suggest

      1) Cleanser or just water
      2) Toner
      3) Moisturizer
      4) Sunblock

  17. I’m surprised that you didn’t include an emulsion step following the toner. Emulsion is a light moisturizing liquid you apply before other treatments. It locks water moisture into your skin. Here in China the regimen goes:

    AM
    1-Double Cleansing (cleansing oil and foam/cream cleanser), 2-Toner or Astringent, 3-Emulsion, 4-Essence & Serum 5-Moisturizer, 6-Spot Treament (if you have acne), 7-Sunscreen, 8-BB cream

    If you find a good BB cream with SPF and moisturizer, you can skip a few steps. During the winter, however, I’d still apply moisturizer first. Facial massages are usually done with the cleansing oil in the AM because you aren’t removing makeup, so your skin should be relatively clean.

    PM
    1-Double Cleansing (cleansing oil and foam/cream cleanser), 2-Toner or Astringent, 3-Emulsion, 4-Essence & Serum, 5-Night Pack or Moisturizing Cream

    You might use both essence and serum (depending on the facial area and condition). Perhaps wrinkle serum on your eyes and AHA essence on the rest of your face. Some people (my students) swear by applying moisturizer AND a night pack but I think that’s overkill.

  18. I have heard that a combination of DHC Deep Cleansing Oil and Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser works well to deep cleanse the skin. Your 5 step plan plan is very comprehensive so thank you for your tips.

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