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**


  1. Claire Talks Beauty
    January 22, 2017 / 2:54 pm

    Love this ! very informative and helpful . i love korean skincare and i am experimenting with some of them lately! very happy with the results !


    • Wan
      January 24, 2017 / 12:49 pm

      Thanks for reading. Glad you found it helpful. 🙂

  2. January 23, 2017 / 7:47 am

    Lovely post! Do you recommend the hera cell essence? I see a lot of commercials around it 🙂

    • Wan
      January 24, 2017 / 12:48 pm

      I havent tried it for long enough to see results but im really liking it so far.

  3. January 26, 2017 / 2:31 pm

    Thank you for this! I really needed to read something like this because I’m just starting out with the 10-step korean skincare routine. I’ll wait for the 3rd part 🙂

    • Wan
      January 27, 2017 / 7:20 am

      Thanks for reading! Hope you’re seeing the great benefits of incorporating the 10 step routine 🙂

  4. Geraldine Grace Chao
    August 15, 2017 / 1:16 pm

    Hi! Can i use klairs toner – missha fte – klairs vit c?

    • August 15, 2017 / 5:46 pm

      Yep that’s fine to use in the same routine

  5. Christa
    December 29, 2017 / 1:25 pm

    Hi! Can I skip the first essence and just jump to the essence/emulsion part? Thank you, appreciate it

    • Wan
      December 30, 2017 / 8:47 am

      Yes of course, you don’t necessarily have to include the first essence you can just do toner then essence/emulsion.

  6. Humaira Safitri Andari
    December 30, 2017 / 2:47 am

    Hi.. do you recommend primera miracle essence? I really curious about that product

    • Wan
      December 30, 2017 / 8:46 am

      I would recommend it yes, a bottle lasts for ages. And it’s very moisturizing and soothing for my skin.

  7. Sam
    May 3, 2019 / 5:37 am

    Hello for step 3 exfoliate, to be clear we just do this 1-2x for the PM routine only right? or also the AM routine too?

    Same with step 6 the sheet mask step just with PM routine 1-2x a week? Or also with AM routine? thank you!

    • Wan
      May 3, 2019 / 5:09 pm

      Hi Sam. Yes I would only exfoliate for PM routine as your dead skin cells are being scrubbed off which can make your skin more sensitive when exposed to UV Rays. Sheet masks can be done either AM or PM. I wouldn’t advise doing it every day but you can use it more than 1-2x a week if your skin can handle it.

  8. Willow
    May 23, 2019 / 11:48 pm

    Hello! Would I be able to follow using the 7 Skins method with toner & essence, with actives (direct acids, retinol, vitamin c)? And on the days I use a glycolic acid toner, would I skip toner and essence and just use HA and moisturizer? Thanks!

    • Wan
      May 30, 2019 / 3:42 pm

      Yes you can still use the 7 skin method with actives. If you use glycolic toner skip the regular toner but you can continue with the essence and the following steps after.

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