With K-Beauty on the rise, are you ready to return to the 10-step skincare routine?

By Josefin Forsberg

Photo: Song Zia (@dear.zia)

Skin-streaming and minimal routines have ruled supreme for the past couple of years. But as K-beauty becomes more popular than ever, is it time to expand our daily beauty ritual? We speak to the experts to find out

In the early 2010s, a new term entered our beauty vocabulary: K-Beauty. This umbrella term refers to skincare products from South Korea, focusing on achieving flawless skin with potent – and sometimes quirky – ingredients. Take snail mucin, for example; this anti-inflammatory and collagen-boosting component in South Korean beauty products is said to rejuvenate the skin.


Europe may not have been ready for K-Beauty when Elisa Ahonpää-Kim started importing snail mucin-based products to Finland in 2013. “We were ahead of the trend, and nobody understood us,” says Ahonpää-Kim. “There was literally no demand.” However, fast forward to 2018, when Ahonpää-Kim launched the online K-beauty multi-brand store Yeppo & Soonsoo out of Helsinki. With better timing, the popular shop expanded into physical stores, taking Yeppo & Soonsoo beyond Finnish borders to the Swedish capital.

The recent K-beauty boom has also been felt by major Swedish beauty retailers. "The K-beauty category on Lyko has been around for years but hasn't been as prominent in the main menu as it is today," says Bella Säfvenberg, team lead of content at Lyko. Noticing a significant increase in sales and interest in K-beauty products in 2023, the category was elevated to the top of the website's menu to make it easier for customers to find. For Cecilia Ortmark Söder, founder of the online K-beauty retailer GlowID, the interest was strong enough to warrant a physical store in Stockholm's NK department store.

This second wave of K-Beauty seemed inevitable to Ahonpää-Kim. "There are many reasons; one of them is TikTok," she says. She also credits companies like Yeppo, which helped introduce Korean beauty brands to Western consumers. Finally, she adds, "Korea is one of the most active countries in promoting their culture. Consider the popularity of K-pop, K-dramas, and Korean food, just to start."

But are we really ready to commit to another 10-step skincare routine? Not necessarily.

Photo: Song Zia (@dear.zia)

Everybody who watches K-dramas has seen a girl studying and doing a sheet mask simultaneously.

Elisa Ahonpää-Kim, founder of Yeppo & Soonsoo

"10 steps was never a Korean invention," says Ahonpää-Kim. "Koreans have always had many options for their routines, but it is more about being consistent and using effective products. After all, Korea is a fast 'bballi bballi' culture," she says, referencing the notoriously busy schedules of Korean students and the country's demanding work hours. "Everybody who watches K-dramas has seen a girl studying and doing a sheet mask simultaneously."

Ortmark Söder agrees, noting that the Korean routine is about finding what works for each skin type. "Some want and need more steps and love to use all the different categories offered by K-beauty, whereas some do not have the skin type or interest in that many steps," she says. Take the 10-step routine, for example. "It is more to show the different categories and when to use them in the routine – when to add the toner, essence, and serum for optimal results and absorption," Ortmark Söder continues. "That does not mean that each person should always use every step. Instead, always listen to your skin and choose the steps suitable for the day, week, month, and season. My summer routine is usually only three or four steps, but my winter routine is usually at least six steps and sometimes more."

So, what ingredients should we look for when crafting our 2024 K-beauty routines? According to experts, Centella Asiatica is the trending skincare ingredient to try now. "2024 is all about the skin barrier, so ingredients like Centella, Ceramides, and Panthenol," says Ahonpää-Kim. "It has been popular for a long time in Korea," adds Ortmark Söder. "So many people here [in the Nordics] have it as their favourite ingredient since it is so calming for sensitive skin."

For Ortmark Söder, it's all about rice extract and snail mucin. "They have been trending ingredients thanks to social media lately," she says. "Rice extract is hydrating and evens the skin tone while making the skin super soft and supple – dry skin will love rice. And snail mucin is glow-giving, hydrating, and speeds up the skin's healing process, making it an ingredient to count on if you have combination or acne-prone skin, or if you're sensitive, for example."

When asked which specific products to memorise for our next K-beauty shopping spree, Säfvenberg exclaims: "There are so many good ones to mention! Cosrx is probably the biggest right now [the brand that made snail mucin popular in the Nordic market], and their new Ultra-Light Invisible Sunscreen SPF 50 is a favourite and best seller," she says. Torriden will be huge, and you should check out Beauty of Joseon, Anua, Round Lab, and Purito. All of these brands boast solid ingredient lists, including the likes of cica, mugwort, and panthenol.