U.S. vs. France vs. South Korea: How Real Girls Do Nighttime Skincare

Beauty Lookbook

Here in the U.S., we have a fairly solid sense of what constitutes a "good" nighttime skincare routine. Most of us imagineВ cleanser, toner, serum, and moisturizer from tried-and-true brands like Kiehl's, Sunday Riley, and Glossier. What more could a person need?

Sometimes, though, we forgetВ that our approach to skincare isn't the standard everywhere else in the world. After all, skincare is more than just hygiene-it has deep roots in culture, history, and beauty standards. So you can imagine how vastly it differs from country to country.

Here at Byrdie, we have a well-documented fascination with international beauty. We've dug deep into the backstory of Korean skincare,В explored what "natural beauty" looks like around the world, and more.

The next natural step was to learn how the nighttime routines from some of the world's most beautiful countriesВ compare to ours here in the U.S. To investigate, we spoke to a handful of real women fromВ France and South Korea.В Keep scrolling to discover the differences between how French women, South Korean women, and American women do nighttime skincare.

This routineВ should sound familiar. "The American girl aims for fresh, healthy, young-looking skin," says Kim Robertson, VP of customer experience and education at Kiehl's. Preventing the signs of aging is a key priority for her, as is sticking to natural ingredients whenever possible. Though the everyday American girl isn't quite as informed about the science of skincare as the average Korean, she is still concerned with avoiding harmful chemicals. And because we Americans like things to happen fast, she's driven by the promise of overnight results.

AВ gentle yet thorough cleanser and toner are essentialВ to the American girl's routine, says Robertson. After toner, her focus is anti-aging-softening fine lines and restoring that coveted youthful "glow." For this, she might reach for a concentrated serum, says Robertson, like Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing ConcentrateВ ($65), whichВ neutralizes free radicals to fight aging.

Another classic American step is to do a detoxifying mask once a week, like GlamGlow's Supermud Clearing TreatmentВ ($59) or Tata Harper's Purifying TreatmentВ ($72). And no American skincare routine is complete without a night cream. Retinol-packed moisturizers, like RoC's Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night CreamВ ($18), are always especially popular.


According to Clarins expert Christopher Truffa, "less is more" when it comes to French nighttime skincare. The goal is to use as few products as possible, that are as gentle as possible, to wake up with skin that is "clean, baby soft, hydrated, and rested."

"We are big on pharmacies and buy most of our beauty products there," adds French girl ClГ©mence PolГЁs, creator of the street style blog Passerbuys. Favorite brands include Caudalie, Nuxe, and La Roche-Posay.

The typical nighttime routine in France takes only two or three steps, though this expands with age. Twenty-somethingВ PolГЁs sticks to a gentle cleanser, like Caudalie's Instant Foaming CleanserВ ($28)В or Bioderma's CrГ©aline H2OВ ($25), followed by a moisturizer. "And when I say moisturize, I really mean moisturize," she says. "Face, body, hands-the whole deal." At night, PolГЁsВ typically opts for a face oil. Her favorite is Nuxe Huile ProdigieuseВ ($24), which she also applies to the ends of her hair.

Valerie Grandury, the founder of French skincare brand OdacitГ©, says that as French women enter their 30s, they start to add a few more products. "Night cream, eye cream, and serum when you're over 30 are all essential," she says. Try OdacitГ©'s Ac+R Youthful GlowВ ($58).


Korean women are famous for their 10-step skincare routines. But what inspires such an intensive process? Alicia Yoon, the founder of Asian beauty boutique Peach & Lily, says that Korean women know that the skin regenerates most actively while you sleep, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Their nighttime skincare routines are designed to support that process.

Korean women's nighttime routines are highly individualized, according to skin type, season, and other wellness needs. Generally speaking,В the typical routine startsВ with making sure the skin is "thoroughly and gently cleansed down to the pores." "Ensuring that all makeup and impurities are removed is a priority," Yoon says. That means double cleansing with a nourishingВ cleansing oil,В followed by a gently exfoliatingВ water-based cleanserВ to remove any residue and prep the skin for next steps.

Once the skin is clean and ready to absorb active ingredients, Korean women move onto essences, serums, and masks. Yoon recommends Shangpree's S-Energy Long Lasting Concentrated SerumВ ($120) for firming and plumping and May Coop's Raw ActivatorВ ($60) for softer, stronger skin. Sheet masks are also a staple in the Korean nighttime routine. Model Lee Sa-BiВ has used one every night for the last eight years and recommends masks byВ CremorlabВ andВ Shangpree.

For Korean women, skincare doesn't stop atВ products. "The skin can also be given a boost by doing facial massages or exercises to help stimulate circulation and release toxins," says Yoon.

Though Korean skincare routines vary widely, theВ last step is almost always aВ moisturizer. "To seal in all the action," says Yoon. Blogger Chriselle Lim recommends Sisley's Hydra-Global Intense Anti-Aging HydrationВ ($225) and Black Rose Precious Face OilВ ($235), which provide an extra dose of moisture, plus aromatherapy to put your mindВ at rest.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser $20ShopSunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner $55ShopGlossier Super Bounce Serum $28 $18ShopRoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream $25ShopGlamGlow Super-Mud Clear Treatment $69ShopCaudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser $28ShopClarins Toning Lotion $25ShopEmbryolisse Lait-CrГЁme ConcentrГ© $16ShopNuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil $29 $24ShopOdacitГ© Ac+R Youthful Glow $55ShopAromatica Natural Coconut Cleansing Oil $50ShopMizon Egg White Bubble Cleanser $16ShopSK-II Facial Treatment Essence $99ShopMay Coop Raw Activator $60ShopSisley Huile Precieuse Г La Rose Noire $140Shop

Are you fascinated by international beauty likeВ we are?В Don't miss our story on night-out makeup in NYC vs. L.A. vs. Paris.