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I started exploring K-beauty skincare a little over a year ago and fell deeply in love with their toners. No, using a toner is not a necessary skincare step, but one that I enjoy for extra hydration. (More info: The difference between Toner, Tonic and Essence explained) And if you love toners and K-Beauty, it doesn’t take long until you stumble upon the Seven Skin method, allegedly the secret to glowing and bouncy skin. And who doesn’t want that?
But is the Seven Skin method really as good as they say? Or is it just clever marketing to make you use up your products quicker and fuel consumerism?
Let’s find out!
What does science say about the Seven Skin Method?
Well, a PubMed search yields exactly zero results for that topic. Patting your face repeatedly using a toner quite surprisingly does not warrant research money, we will need to stick to anecdotal evidence as in “How I feel” and some theoretical concepts here.
What is the Seven Skin Method?
Seven skin means seven layers of toner – apparently skin is another word for toner in Korea, because they are used to prep the skin for makeup. But not applied with a cotton round, no, lightly tapped in with your fingers.
If it is actually, as legend has it, a long kept secret of Korean women or the invention of a clever marketing team I can not tell, as my knowledge of actual Korean skincare traditions is non-existent. I get my information on that topic from YouTube videos and blogs here, and we all know how reliable of a source that is. And yes, I am aware of the ironic nature of that statement…
Wherever it comes from though, it works especially well with the lightweight hydrating toners K-Beauty is known for, so it makes sense they are used that way.
How do you do the Seven Skin Method?
The trick is to only use a little product, poured into the palm of your hand, and then pat that in a light layer on your face – no cotton rounds! – first in the U-Zone, which is around the cheek area, and then the T-zone, forehead, nose and chin. I take anything that is left on my neck and on the back of my hands. After that first layer, you wait a short while – the skin should still be damp – and then go back in with layer number two, number three, number four … all the way up to number seven if you like. Despite being called the Seven Skin Method, it isn’t mandatory to do exactly seven layers, depending on how your skin feels five may be fine, or two, or whatever feels right. I guess Seven Skin Method just has a better ring to it than “anything from 3 to 8 skin method”.
You can use the same toner repeatedly or pair different ones, that is completely up to you. As toners aren’t usually that different in their formulation though, I think pairing more than two different ones is overcomplicating things unnecessarily. The key is to only use hydrating toners though, not exfoliating ones, as the concept is glowing skin through optimal hydration, not over exfoliation. (More info: The 5 steps you need to take to repair a damaged skin barrier)
Is there a reason for it to work?
Now if we don’t have data on a method, we should at least take a look at the way it might work to see if it could actually potentially deliver the claimed benefits.
In case of the Seven Skin Method we do have the product used, a lightweight liquid full of humectants. (More info: What are humectants?)
Layering this on the skin repeatedly can in theory increase hydration more than using a generous amount at once. If you use a lot at once, it could take longer to be absorbed, with more being wiped off or evaporating. If you use light layers repeatedly, you give your skin the chance to absorb at a slower pace. That is a theoretical concept and probably depends on several factors like how well hydrated your skin is in the first place.
Now the way of application, the patting. It might yield results too, as gently slapping yourself will increase circulation, which in turn makes the skin look better. If that has a positive effect on the skin beyond making it look plumper is again unclear – in theory you could argue that it means better oxygenation and better nutrient deposit.
So will you see short term effects? Most likely yes, and I definitely do, my skin looks much bouncier with less dehydration lines and more glow.
Are there long term benefits to using the Seven Skin Method?
As for long term benefits though, I am not so sure. Yes, well hydrated skin has a better chance of maintaining the skin barrier function and it will feel better. But if that is enough to translate into better looking skin over the years, due to reduced inflammation for example, seems a far stretch if you ask me.
I have seen claims that it will reduce oiliness and that way help with acne, but again I wouldn’t get my hopes to high here: Your oil secretion is influenced by your genetics and your hormones, and with the exception of very dehydrated skin applying a hydrating toner repeatedly will most likely not have much effect there.
Which skin types is the Seven Skin Method best for?
While all skin types can use the Seven Skin Method, I think people with oily, yet dehydrated skin will benefit the most. Why? Because you need to get your skins hydration up, but at the same time don’t want to use heavy products, and when using the Seven Skin Method, you can usually get away with not using a heavy moisturizer afterwards. (More info: How to find out your skin type)
I can see it work very well in hot and humid countries like Korea too: You get the hydration and can skip the moisturizer to go right in with your sunscreen – the less heavy layers you have on your face, the better your skin can tolerate heat and humidity.
Easily irritated skin should not combine many different toners when doing it though – mixing different products always increases the risk of irritation – and if you have rosacea you should make sure to pat very gently, so you don’t aggravate your skin. (More info: What is Skinimalism?)
Do you need the Seven Skin Method for glowing skin?
As you have probably already picked up, I don’t think the Seven Skin Method is a must for everyone, and I definitely don’t take the time to do it morning and night. I also don’t believe it has long term benefits you are missing out on if you skip it – antioxidant, retinoid and sunscreen have a much more potent effect!
It is however really nice to do when you are not pressed for time, and great before a special occasion or if your skin is looking a little dull, as it does give a beautiful glow. For me personally it is a great trick to calm and hydrate my skin when it is off balance due to weather changes and my Tretinoin – lots of hydration without heavy layers.
My favorite toners for the Seven Skin Method
Starting with my latest acquisition, the 107 Micro Drizzle Hydro Toner (180 ml for 35 $, full review here). It is best suited for those with irritated skin, as it contains soothing Beta-Glucan, Allantoin and Betaine, but is probably not something I would reach for in the summer, as repeated layers can leave kind of a protective layer on the skin that I like in winter, but not when it is hot.
For the summer I would either reach for the Vegreen Nature Mucin Toner (200 ml for 20 $, full review here) or the Purito Centella Unscented Toner (200 ml for 23 $, full review here), as both are equally hydrating, but even after several layers absolutely lightweight.
Another great option to use are face mists – as a bonus they make the whole process a little quicker – with the Caudalie Grape Water (200 ml for 22 $, full review here) being my long-standing favorite for its fine mist and lightweight hydration. Another non K-Beauty option is the Geek and Gorgeous Liquid Hydration Toner (110 ml for 7 €, full review here) that has 5% Panthenol for an extra soothing effect that is often very welcome as my fellow Tretinoin users will know. (More info: How to reduce irritation with retinol)
Bottom line: just like toners, the Seven Skin Method is absolutely not a necessity, but a lot of fun and very rewarding in terms of glowing skin.
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