Don’t worry, you don’t need a 12-step routine to do it.

By Hana Hong
November 12, 2020
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I’ve always been a devout follower of the Korean beauty philosophy. And although the famous 12-step skincare routine implies otherwise, it’s so much more than just the products (which are pretty great, too). Being a Korean-American myself and raised by a mom with ‘glass skin,’ I grew up believing that these skincare techniques were standard norms that everyone used. It wasn’t until the K-beauty wave really hit the Western world that I realized how innovative they actually were. You’re probably already familiar with things like BB creams, sheet masks, and sleeping masks—all of which stemmed from South Korea—but here are some additional, super easy ways to achieve aegi eongdongi (translation: baby butt) skin. 

Credit: Getty Images

1

Jamsu literally translates to “submerge” in Korean, which is actually what this technique entails. Masterminded by Korean beauty buffs, it involves coating your fully made-up face in powder, then submerging it briefly (15 to 30 seconds) in a bowl filled with cold water. It’s not exactly the most comfortable thing in the world, but it works similarly to baking by locking in your makeup and giving you matte skin. You can still implement the practice if you don’t wear makeup by dunking your face after your skincare routine—the cold water will help seal in your products, close the pores, and achieve a naturally rosy glow.

2

My six-year-old self watching my mom do this every night thought it was really strange, but now I also abide by the technique when applying my skincare. Instead of rubbing your products in, lightly slapping the facial skin not only prevents you from smearing the product away (letting you get the most of your product), it also improves blood flow and allows for the product to penetrate better. Similar to microneedling and dermaplaning, slapping the face is also said to help stimulate collagen over time. But don’t start beating yourself every time you do your skincare—think of it more like an aggressive tap. The process of slapping should not be painful or uncomfortable; at the most it will look slightly flushed. 

3

Lymphatic drainage massages have become more popular in spas across America, but Korean women have been practicing the technique themselves at home for years. Here’s a not-so-fun fact: As you age, not only does your skin start to wrinkle, the muscles that support your face can start to weaken and sag, making you look older. There are all sorts of rollers and high-tech devices that people use, but you can also make a difference with just your hands (think of it like Pilates for your face!). Work in upward and outward motions to help lift and sculpt—start at the base of the neck on the sides, which is where your arteries are, and continue to knead your skin in gentle circles upwards, towards the jaw, up the sides of the face, and around the eyes. 

Another famous technique to combat mouth sagging: Say your vowels out loud, “A, E, I, O, U” with exaggerated expressions, focusing on stretching your lips as wide as you can when doing so. When you say “A,” you should widen your mouth from side to side as much as you can; when you say “U,” pucker your lips out as far out as they can go. You can repeat this as often as you remember (but maybe not in public since it looks pretty silly).

4

After washing your face, leave it to air-dry instead of rubbing or patting with a towel. Not only is the friction bad for skin, there is a surprisingly large amount of bacteria and chemicals living inside those fibers, even if you’ve just washed them. Per the 10-second rule (not the food one), you should also apply your skincare products within 10 seconds of washing while your face is still damp. This sweet spot is when your pores are most receptive and can absorb the products best. 

5

Cleansing seems pretty straightforward, but the truth is that your cleanser alone might not be enough to remove all the gunk sitting on your face, especially if you wear a lot of makeup. A telling indicator is if you notice foundation on the toner pad you use to wipe your face afterwards. To ensure your face is truly clean, practice a double cleanse—which entails an oil-based cleanser (like a cleansing balm) to remove makeup, followed by a standard water-based cleanser to deeply cleanse the skin.

6

Korean spas often have something called “ban-shin-yoks” (translates loosely to “half baths”), which are hot baths with water that just reaches the belly button while the upper body stays completely dry. The temperature difference between the top and bottom halves of the body is said to help boost circulation, while the steam coming from the water hydrates your pores. Although the treatment isn’t commonly found in American spas, you can easily recreate this at home by drawing yourself a shallow bath with steamy water.