Korea is where it’s at in beauty right now. Previously an alluring foreign ritual, the Koreans’ fanatic devotion to skincare has made waves here on the other side of the pond. Many Western women have pondered, dabbled and come to terms with the fact that a multi-step process (we’re talking 10-17 steps) is the key to healthy, glowing skin. It may seem a little indulgent, but over in South Korea caring for your skin is the ultimate investment and it’s evident that their skincare products shine where others can’t compare.
That gleaming, porcelain-like skin doesn’t come without some serious effort. Koreans aren’t afraid to experiment and try out inventive new ingredients, which results in a continuous roll out of products in tune with how Korean women like their skin. Formulated and infused with natural ingredients, antioxidants and some seemingly questionable- but ultra beneficial additions (pig collagen, snail extract, and placenta to be exact)- K Beauty products are changing the face of skincare as we know it. And if you’re taking half an hour to apply your makeup, the reality is that it should take you the same amount of time to cleanse, tone and rejuvenate as well.
What seems revolutionary here has been commonplace in South Korea for ages. And it doesn’t take much more than a glimpse at a glowing Korean complexion to realize that they must be doing something right. From donkey milk sleep masks to placenta-based eye cream, these are 13 Korean beauty products you need to know about (and get your hands on ASAP!)
13 Klairs Gentle Black Cleansing Oil
Rather than using a makeup-removing (perhaps alcohol-infused) wipe, oil cleansers are a fantastic substitute for washing away all of the day’s dirt. Gently massage the oil cleanser all over your face and your makeup easily melts away. As well as being makeup removers, oil cleansers are specifically marketed to acne sufferers as they purify the skin and get rid of dirt and pimple-causing sebum. Try Klairs gentle black cleansing oil, mixed with black bean oil, black sesame oil and black currant seed oil for triple the skin regeneration.
12 Klairs Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser
Korean foam cleansers are used post-oil cleanser at night to wash away all the leftovers. Klairs has an awesome, hypoallergenic foam cleanser, alcohol-free and saturated with natural botanical ingredients. The cleanser removes water-based impurities such as sweat and dirt. Different types of dirt are removed with different types of cleansers, hence the need for the ceremonial double cleanse.
11 Peach & Lily Botanical Pore Toner
Refresh and moisturize your skin with a good facial toner. This step in the Korean Beauty process is quite simple, yet you reap so many benefits. In general, toners are meant to balance the pH of your skin and banish blemishes by removing any dirt and grime that your cleanser leaves behind. They prep your skin to allow it to absorb the next step in the process- the essence, and all you have to do is dispense some toner onto a cotton pad and rub it on your face and neck. Korean toners, like K Beauty brand Peach & Lily's Botanical Pore Toner, are much more gentle and moisturizing than previous ones we’ve had in the Western beauty world.
10 SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
So, what exactly is Korean Essence, you might ask. Often (and controversially) compared to serums, essences are generally more lightweight and less concentrated than their “twin” treatment; however, some have become thicker in recent years, and some serums have become thinner, blurring the line into perpetual confusion. Essences are created to enrich the skin with high doses of active ingredients and ample antioxidants. Used after a facial toner when the skin is cleanest, they treat the skin on a cellular level, revitalizing, smoothing and brightening so your face looks fresher and younger. SK-II boasts a killer Facial Treatment Essence, which enhances the skin's renewal process and is rich in vitamins, minerals and organic acids. Whether to use it without or alongside a serum is up to your discretion…all the research concurs that the jury’s still out.
9 Julep Luxe Repair Serum
Serums are definitely having a moment in the skincare world. With active ingredients used to combat issues like brightening, dark spots and wrinkles, serums are packed with natural ingredients. They soothe your skin while minimizing your pores and the active ingredients are more concentrated, giving serums a thicker consistency. They moisturize and penetrate deep into the skin, providing your skin with all the love it needs. Take Julep's Luxe Repair Serum, blended with rosehip seed oil and green coffee bean oil, and layer it on after you’ve cleaned and toned to reveal a radiant complexion.
8 Banila Co. Lace Hydrogel Sheet Mask
Sheet masks are seriously upping the ante in the beauty game. They’ve been popular in South Korea for a while, but have recently gained popularity in the West due to their deep hydration, skin brightening and rejuvenating effects. Most are made out of a lush microfibers and are infused with botanical ingredients and vitamins to revive the skin and reduce various skin conditions. Banila Co has a lace hydogel mask for a fun take on the face sheet look. Pop one on for 10-15 minutes before bed and your face absorbs all the skin-loving ingredients it needs. Plus, they’re super easy to cart around, packaged tightly so you can easily bring them in your travel bag. Try them once, and you’re sure to be hooked.
7 Berrisom Placenta-Based Eye Cream
When you think of a fresh face, so much of that has to do with the way a person’s eyes look. Puffy and tired? Not so fresh. Wide and bright? That’s more like it. So, a cream that improves dark circles and puffiness, while brightening and hydrating the eyes seems like it should be a given. Enter Korean eye cream. Containing ingredients such as natural extracts, radiance boosters and antioxidants, eye creams are the crème de la crème of Korean beauty products. Feeling adventurous? Try Berrisom's placenta-based hydrogel eye patch, which diminishes dark eye circles and reduces wrinkles. It may sound strange, but the placenta of pregnant mammals is rich in proteins and amino acids that help to enhance skin cell repair and hydrate your complexion.
6 Imselene Donkey Milk Sleep Mask
Sleep masks are a lazy girl’s dream, especially Imselene's donkey milk mask pack. It contains tonnes of nutrients and provides the face with ample elasticity and shine. And contrary to what you may be thinking, sleep masks aren't messy at all! All you need is a nickel-size amount to massage into your face and they will quickly absorb, ensuring that it doesn't get all over your pillowcase. They hydrate your skin all through the night, resulting in softer and brighter skin when you wake up to greet the day. So basically, your one-stop shop for your most productive beauty sleep…ever.
5 Missha BB Cream
In Western markets it’s generally referred to as beauty balm, but the ‘BB’ in BB cream actually stands for blemish balm in the Asian markets. Created with acne scarring in mind, this facial multi-tasker acts as a serum, primer, moisturizer, foundation and sunblock all in one. Missha BB cream is comprised of hyaluronic acid and antioxidants to regenerate skin, soothing and healing your blemishes along the way. In Korea, the expectation is that foundation should create a uniform complexion while also contributing to overall skin health – expectations that everyone can get behind.
4 The Face Shop CC Cream
You can think of CC cream as BB cream’s chic, younger sister. Generally standing for ‘colour correction’ it’s a primer that conceals AND corrects discolouration and redness. Similar to BB cream, it kicks butt in multiple areas such as oil control, skin brightening and SPF comprisal. While BB cream is your go-to for preventative issues, CC cream works to remedy skin concerns that are already apparent on your face. You can layer them together or use CC cream as your sole coverage. Check out The Face Shop's Aura CC cream, that's super blendable and maintains your skin's brightness throughout the day.
3 Nature Republic Daily Sunblock SPF 50
Seems obvious right? That glistening ball of fire in the sky damages the skin, leads to wrinkles and brown spots and breaks down collagen that the skin needs to survive. But it was only with the introduction of Korean beauty products that the Western world really started to press using SPF in, under, or on top of our moisturizers, tinters, foundations, etc. Nature Republic's sunblock is rich in moisture, at the same time purifying and correcting your skin tone. To Korean women it has always been a no-brainer, but making SPF a priority is the key to a healthy and young-looking complexion.
2 Ciracle Anti-Redness K Cream
If you suffer from rosacea, Ciracle's Anti-Redness K cream is the cure you’ve been searching for. Formulated to provide hydration and instant relief to irritated red skin, anti-redness creams typically contain vitamins and anti-inflammatory properties that prevent future flare-ups. They are ultra-gentle and comprised of green goddess-like ingredients (think green tea, French rose, and olive leaf extract) that work together to calm, cool and soothe redness while also fending off future breakouts. And they don’t use harmful chemicals.
1 Dr. Jart + Time Returning Cream (Snail Treatment)
Snail extract can be found in a bundle of Korean beauty products, with 77% in Dr.Jart's Time Returning Cream. Why? You may ask. Snail enzymes contain properties that fade acne scars, clear your complexion, and revitalize the skin, resulting in a healthy glow. The extract is packed with nutrients like hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein enzymes, proteoglycans and antimicrobial and copper peptides – all found to be super beneficial for the skin. They fuel the formation of collagen and elastin and restore the skin’s hydration. So, there you have it – plenty of reasons to go lather that snail slime on your face.