4 Minute Morning: My Quick 6-Step K-Beauty Routine

How long does it take to do a multi-step Korean beauty product routine? A lot less time than I thought, as it turns out. Gone are the old days of lazy 20+ minute AM routines, where I could leisurely apply layers of products between answering emails and sipping my coffee.

My AM routine now consists of potty dancing in front of my mirror as I slap on products while my puppy chirps and whines to be let out of her crate. It's easy to slap on a bunch of products as fast as possible, but it's trickier to have them absorb in time for your sunscreen to safely adhere to your face.

Fast K-Beauty morning routine
It's fast, it's fervent, it's done on a full bladder: it's my 3 minute and 47 second K-Beauty morning routine

It's also as hot and humid AF right now, which means my sunscreen wants to slide into my eyes as soon as I step out the door, resulting in me staggering around my yard trying to wipe my burning, streaming eyes like a freshly maced frat boy. I need my products in place and locked down against the summer heat, and that's a lot harder to do in the time it takes for the puppy to lose patience and start chewing her bed.

In this post:

  • It's all in the timing; a simple change made a big difference
  • Which 6 steps are necessities
  • A full face with +2 minutes extra

Trying to get all this stuff done in stages, in between her AM potty break and AM playtime, just wasn't working for me. Instead of popping outside in a hat, doing the thing, and zipping back indoors for my next step, anything less than a fully ready face resulted in me chasing her around the yard trying to dig rocks, sticks, and occasionally my shoe out of her mouth, without sun protection. Hat + chasing down a speedy tinydog = unplanned sun exposure.

Necessity was the mother of inventing a workable AM routine so fast I decided to time it to see just how long it took for me to roll out the door, ready for puppy potty & playtime in the summer sun.

Just as a quick reminder: this blog uses both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and if you choose to click the former before you shop, your purchase may contribute a tiny amount to the maintenance of this blog. See full details at the end of this post! #receipts

Fast K-Beauty morning routine
This basket arrangement is a lie: my products live in a thriving clutter colony on my counter, this basket was just for transport outside without smashing anything by accident.

It's all in the timing; a simple change made a big difference

It sounds ridiculous, but what made it possible to get everything done in time was to do all my pre-sunscreen skincare steps before my morning pee. (Hence the potty dancing.)

Mostly this is to give my skincare time to absorb, but nothing makes you wash, pat, and layer faster than an angrily protesting bladder. By the time I've done my business, washed my hands, and brushed my teeth, my skin has soaked up my skincare and is dry enough for my sunscreen to get good adhesion.

I apply a lot of sunscreen (I actually measure all my sunscreens to determine how much is 1/4 tsp) so I need time to work it into my skin, and then set it. I also prefer mineral (aka physical, aka inorganic) sunscreens, which can have a hellish white cast if you don't blend them in properly.

Which 6 steps are necessities

What steps make the cut? Well, since it's summer and as hot as the inside of Satan's lunchbox, so it's all about hydration and oil/sweat control right now. Goals are limited to my sunscreen not melting right back off my face as soon as I go outside to play with the dog.

1. Low pH cleanser

Low pH Korean cleansers
Not sure why pH is a big deal? Check out Why the pH of Your Cleanser Matters

I use either the Make P:rem Safe Me Relief Moisture Cleansing Foam if my skin feels dry or sensitive, or the Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser if I wake up in a puddle of sweat and need something stronger. I also rinse my face a lot, which adds time.

2. First essence as a mist

Holysnails' Snowbang essence
It's hanbangin' without overloading my skin, and I ♥ it forever

Fast, soothing, and ultra lightweight first layer. I've lost count of how many bottles of Holysnails' Snowbang essence I've bought (she did make the formula for me, but I buy it myself because it's worth it) because my skin barrier needs ceramides with no richness or heaviness.

Decanting your first essences into a mist bottle is both refreshing and makes for super-fast application; also products tend to absorb more easily into damp skin.

3. Essence

Sulwhasoo Balancing Water, Holysnails Shark Sauce
I suppose the Holysnails Shark Sauce is technically a serum, but I use it as a hydrator sooo ... just roll with it.

I use either the Sulwhasoo Balancing Water (or the Concentrated Ginseng version), or Holysnails' Shark Sauce. (Ditto to above: I buy dis, I don't get it for free nor am I promoting this because Chel is a snailbro.) The former is more watery and sinks in quickly, the latter is more like a serum and gives me a bigger hydration boost.

4. Serum

So pretty, such lovely heavy glass waiting for me to drop it after my dog body checks my knees.

I snagged the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum Ex (aka one of my Bucket List products) during a Beautytap flash sale, so naturally I've been exploiting every chance I have to smear my face with sexy ginseng fanciness.

It also leaves my skin with an almost satin finish, rather than a sticky or moist one, so applying it as a final step actually helps my sunscreen sit better on my skin.

<Insert-potty-and-teeth-brushing-intermission here>

5. Sunscreen

Make P:rem Blue Ray Sun Cream
Capsule Sun Gel left, Blue Ray Sun Cream right.

It's now too hot for my former go-to sunscreen choice, the Make P:rem UV Defense Me Capsule Sun Gel , because it's fairly moisturizing and thus failed miserably as soon as my face started to melt.

Instead, I'm using (and loving) the Blue Ray Sun Cream, which possibly due to some crackdowns by Amazon on foreign sunscreens, I'm buying off eBay for now. It's a mineral sunscreen, but it blends down to having no visible white cast (albeit on my NC10 skintone), has a hefty SPF and PA rating, and sticks around much better than the orange cap version.

6. Setting powder

I can't remember the name of this decant, but any setting powder would do. Also, I use this brush because the rest of mine are still packed away in moving boxes.

Totally optional, but the heat sends my glasses careening down my nose almost immediately, so I'm using a random setting powder (a decant, so I don't remember what it is) to help my sunscreen stay in place in my t-zone.

I also powder all around my eyes, because they're watery as hell in bright light, and thus baste my eyeballs in a burning slurry of sunscreen.

A full face with +2 minutes extra

I've been rocking a "minimal makeup with a bold lip" look for my daily dog walking and other activities that might expose me to the public. So if I have the time, I'll finish off with a bit of concealer or cushion on any breakouts, and swipe on a strong plum or red lip.

L-R: JSM colour correcting palette, Sulwhasoo Cushion, MAC NC10 concealer

I definitely don't do heavy skin perfecting in these fast routines (my dog hardly cares) but if I have an egregious breakout, I'll either dab some green colour corrector or concealer on it. If I can't find either, a cushion will do.

A bold lip in a hurry is a bad idea, but thankfully the Korean "blurred lip" has come into fashion. If I manage to screw up my application, I just blur the edges with a fingertip for a super-subtle gradient effect. The fact is, with the season, weather, and amount of activity I'm doing (read: sweating) trying to do anything more than just a strong lip is going to end up a melted mess.

My go-to lip choices lately have been these three:

L-R: Clio, Colourpop, JSM

Clio Silkuid Virgin Kiss #6 Insane Red is one of the prettiest reds I've ever used. Like many Clio lip products (like my beloved Tension Lip in Some, which looks great on a range of skin tones) it's highly pigmented lipstick with a stain as a base, which is a nice perk as it wears off. #6 Insane Red, though, is a very strange colour; the liquid lipstick portion is an almost orangey-red, but then the stain base is a blue-red. The net result on my NC10 skin tone is an intense true red works as either a light stain or a full lip. I bought mine from the official US site Club Clio US, and you can find it on eBay and Amazon

Colourpop Lippie Stix in Backup, which is a beautiful purple-plum and now discontinued because apparently they hate joy and happiness.

Jung Saem Mool High Color Lipstick (also known as High Chroma and High Matt[e] depending on the translation) in High Plum (at least there's a consistent theme ... ?) which is the only lipstick I've managed to almost use up in recent memory. Don't let the promotional images fool you, this is in no way a cool purple, it's a gorgeous purple-plum that is a very wearable everyday colour.

I bought it directly from Korea in a buying service haul, so it's tricky to get a hold of. You can find it on JSM's official site (linked above) or BeautyBoxKorea.

Here are some quick swatches:

Clio #6 Insane Red, Colourpop Back Up, Jung Saem Mool High Plum

Mmm, plums. I'm obsessed with purple-y lip products and I need moooore. If you have any recommendations for K-Beauty plum or purple lip products, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know!

Have something you'd like to share with me in general?  Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram at @snowwhiteandtheasianpear because I'd love to see it!

All the best,

**Disclaimer: All products I review on my blog are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever. Personal gifts from friends & family will also be identified.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.


  1. @Cat Cactus You can buy the Make P:rem Relief Moisture Cleansing Foam and Blue Ray Sun Cream from Sweetcorea. Just type Make P:rem into the website's search bar and you will find them listed. If would provide a link but I don't know if that will work.

    1. Oooo, thanks for the tip! I actually have a few things from Sweet Corea that I want to get, but was having trouble figuring out what else I wanted to haul from them. Awesome!

  2. Yay new post!
    I have pale skin like yours, MAC NW10 or less, and on certain mineral sunscreens I find I like the whitecast. It seems to blur my pores and reduce my redness. This is good because I am currently discovering that I too am very sensitive to certain organic sunscreen filters. I don't know which ones yet but ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate looks like the main culprit.
    Luckily, the Secret Key Thanakha Mild Sun Cream that I bought on a whim (100g for $11, yes please) works really well on my skin. Sadly, I've run out and am anxiously watching(stalking) my mailbox for more.
    Thanks for the morning routine post, it's good to see something fast but still effective!

    1. Oh man, I confess I sometimes use white cast sunscreens as a correcting base for base makeup that's too dark for me. >_>

      Also ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate can get bent; it's in everything. EVERYTHING! Argh!

  3. Hi there..may i know what is the difference between "First Essence, Essence and Serum"? Currently i am apply Mamonde Rose Toner as 1st essence and followed by COSRX 96 Snail Mucin..Is my sequence right? Thanks in advance! :)

    1. No worries, I have a post that covers exactly that, and how to figure out which one is which! :) http://www.snowwhiteandtheasianpear.com/2015/01/skincare-discovery-putting-your.html#basics