6 ways Korean women hydrate their skin

Koreans are fervent about hydrating their skin. They’ll do anything to achieve that chok chok, dewy looking skin. Alright, maybe not anything but certainly some essential things. And exactly what do they do? Well, that’s what we’re gonna discuss here today.

But before I go into the specifics, let’s establish once again what is hydrating because many people equate hydrating with moisturizing, thinking they are both similar. Well no.

Hydrating is not the same as moisturizing
The act of hydrating replenishes moisture or water to skin cells. So products in this category are formulated to increase water content to plump up the skin. Moisturizing on the other hand aims to keep the skin soft and pliable by preventing water content in the skin from evaporating.

And contrary to what you may have been told, it is the lack of hydrating your skin properly, not the lack of moisturizing, that leads to dry skin and in turn causes oiliness.

Think about this: since your skin consist of 64 percent water, then it makes perfect sense to maintain that amount by drinking sufficient water and applying suitable products. Otherwise your skin will go into an overdrive mode to compensate for the dryness. When the skin feels dry, it will start to produce more oil to cover up.

This is the reason why a good skin care routine involves replenishing moisture to your skin before applying moisturizing products. By doing so, the moisturizing products will form a protective barrier film on the skin’s surface to prevent moisture loss.

Okay, now that we’ve made the distinction between hydrating and moisturizing, let’s find out how Korean women hydrate their skin. What do they do and in how many ways? Well, here are 6 that I know of:

1. Using sheet masks
Try asking a Korean about her skin care routine and I bet it’ll involve using sheet masks. Using sheet masks is so ingrained in the Korean skin care routine the way kimchi is a constant in the Korean diet.

Am I exaggerating if I suggest that using sheet mask is a Korean culture? I mean we have an entire nation that is fanatic about that dripping wet cotton sheet with four holes! For it’s not just women, but men use them diligently and regularly as well. So why the fervent love for sheet mask?

Well, it is the easiest and quickest way to keep the entire face moist and hydrated. While the sheet masks may be formulated to address a specific skin care need, they are all hydrating to varying degrees with humectants like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, honey, and of course water.

Demand for sheet masks is so insatiable that more and more brands are offering sheet masks in their product slate. Now even Korean natural brands like Whamisa have jumped into the bandwagon and created their own line of sheet masks.

If you haven’t been using sheet masks you might want to give it a try. You will be surprised at how much more hydrated the skin feels after using one.

2. Applying toner, essence, serum, ampoule
On top of masking, Korean women also use an arsenal of hydrating toners, serums, essence, and ampoules containing hydrating ingredients in their daily skin care routine.

Applying these concentrates is not an option. It is an absolute necessity before moisturizing or applying sunscreen. I can attest that this is an important step that you really don’t want to miss. My skin definitely feels more hydrated after months of using an enriching toner.

3. Hydrating dry spots with cotton pads
Dry cheeks? Just squirt some hydrating lotion on cotton pads and slap them on the dry spots. Remove after 10 minutes and your face is better hydrated and ready for that flawless makeup.

You are probably thinking that masking prior to applying makeup is impractical. Well I can understand the issue of time crunch but Korean women never view skin care as a chore. They are always diligent about priming their skin and keeping them in optimal condition. That’s why their skin, not ours, is always in an enviable condition.

4. Sleeping with an overnight face pack
As if sheet mask is not hydrating enough, Koreans have no qualms slapping on more face mask or face pack that’ll hydrate their skin as they sleep through the night. These are usually in the form of gel or a thick lotion.

The idea behind applying a mask or a pack while you sleep makes plenty of sense if you consider that our skin loses more water at night (source). Given this fact, it makes sense to ensure your skin is well hydrated while you sleep.

5. Preventing dryness with a humidifier
To counter the dryness from cold season or air conditioner, Korean women use a humidifier. I read that when they travel and can’t get access to a humidifier, they’ll hang a wet towel next to them to counter the dryness when they sleep.

I don’t think humidifiers are as popular here. At least I haven’t seen a rising demand. Also, I’ve never heard about using a wet towel but I’ve heard about leaving a glass or container of water in the room.

So how many of you sleep in an aircon room? Do you use a humidifier, a wet towel or a glass of water?

6. Eating foods that increase hydration
Topical application may increase hydration somewhat but what you eat matters too. That’s why Korean women advocate drinking lots of water and eating plenty of fruits. Also drinking boricha–roasted barley tea–is hydrating. So is seaweed soup and ginseng soup that are popular Korean dishes.

I’ve just shown you the six ways that Korean women hydrate their skin. By now, you’ve probably figured out that hydrating is very important. Just look at the state of their skin! So if the Koreans take so much effort to get this down pat, then we better up our diligence in this area too. Anyway, it isn’t all that difficult to follow.

How are you currently hydrating your skin? Do you follow a certain routine? Care to share the details?


  1. Annie says:

    Thanks for mentioning the difference between hydrating and moisturizing! Some days, specially in the mornings, I’m in a rush and wouldn’t think about using a serum or hydrating product. Sesame, as a user of facial oils, do you think ladies in their 20s should use facial oils day and night for skin hydration?


  2. Sesame says:

    Facial oil doesn’t really provide as much hydration as serum. I would say facial oil is suitable for any age but just need to pick the right one to suit your skin type. I would encourage you to use a hydrating serum and a facial oil to seal in the hydration.

  3. Annie says:

    i see, thanks Sesame! ?

  4. Lily Ann says:

    Hi Sesame,

    Wonderful article on Hydration. The difference between moisturization and hydration are pointed out well.

    It is fascinating to know about the skincare regimens of other countries.

    Using packs and sheet masks are a great idea!

    Would try ampoules and see how it goes.

    Lily Ann last post is: DIY Cellulite Rub for Toned Skin

  5. Sesame says:

    Ampoules are very targeted treatments but yields great results.

  6. theia says:

    thanks sesame , can you help me . I had acne and after treatment my skin dehydrated and alot of fine lines have formed in my forhead it deepen with days how can I remove them naturally I am 25 thanks

  7. Sesame says:

    Are you still using any acne treatment products? Best to stop using them if you have no more issues. Do you have any lotions containing Hyaluronic acid? Or look for a hydrating lotion and load up your forehead with that and moisturize over. Use a mask every alternate day especially on forehead area.

    I don’t know if your forehead is prone to acne but if not, you can use a richer oil or moisturizer over the hydrating lotion. If it’s acne prone, then use a normal moisturizer.

  8. Josephine S Chavez says:

    Have been watching Korean movies on Net Flix, and see that Korean women have beautiful complexions…Would like information on what they use as I would like to order…

  9. Amanda George says:

    I was having very bad oily skin. After started using face humidifier I got clear and healthy skin.

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