Are you tired of your skincare routine? Then find out the best Korean skincare products that will give you glowy, healthy skin!
I have always been a fan of skincare products and having a consistent skincare routine. I remember using Clean & Clear as a teenager, switching to brands like The Body Shop when I started traveling, and eventually discovering The Ordinary – a fantastic brand with a great price (if you are not from Brazil, that’s it). The products are so good that I stuck with the same skincare routine for years, only repurchasing items as they ran out.
In 2020 I moved to Portugal, and my skin couldn’t handle the European winter. While it’s not particularly cold here, the low temperatures and humidity still leave my skin dry and lifeless, no matter what I do. So, I decided to change my skincare routine again.
This time, I decided to try out the extremely popular trend of Korean cosmetics. I had already heard a lot of good things about the country’s products, but as I was happy with my previous routine, I hadn’t made an effort to try them. However, with the need for more effective products, Korean cosmetics were the first to come to mind. After all, Korean women usually have amazing skin, and if they go through the effort of following a 10-step skincare routine every night, they must be onto something.
Initially, I didn’t know any brands, didn’t understand what each product was for, and was unsure of what should or shouldn’t be added to my routine. It took me a while to figure it all out. Given the popularity of Korean cosmetics these days, I figured you might be experiencing the same “I want to try them, but don’t know where to start” dilemma. That’s why I decided to write this post.
I’ve compiled a list of the best Korean cosmetics to transform your skin – those products that I’ve seen recommended countless times online. Not only that, but I’ve also organized them according to the step they fit into the Korean skincare routine and provided explanations for each step.
Are you interested in trying some of the best Korean skincare products? Then, keep reading this post to learn more!
Where to buy Korean skincare?
Before we get into the details of the products, let me tell you where you can find them. If you’re in the United States, you can buy them from Soko Glam and Amazon. You can also find out what else is worth buying in the USA in this post.
In Europe, your best bet is Notino and Amazon.
If you don’t mind waiting a bit for your order, you can save a lot of money if you order from overseas. Jolse, Stylevana, and Olive Young are great options, and their prices are incredibly low. They also have amazing deals during holidays and other festive occasions.
Attention: if you are from Europe, none of these websites include VAT at checkout, so be aware that you might have to pay taxes. If you want to avoid this part, you can buy your products through eBay – my favorite store is the iamloveshop.
BEST KOREAN SKINCARE PRODUCTS FOR FLAWLESS SKIN
Before we get started, let me give you a brief overview of the traditional Korean skincare routine. It consists of 10 steps that cover everything from cleansing to hydration and other treatments. This post has recommendations for each step, but you don’t have to follow them all. Just choose the ones that suit your skin and budget. For example, I usually do three to five steps depending on the day.
The 10 steps are:
- Cleansing Oil
- Water-based cleansing
- Eye cream
You don’t need to use exfoliants and masks (steps 3 and 7) every day. Sunscreen should only be part of your morning routine, not your night routine. As for oil-based cleansing (step 1), it’s best for you to do it at night because its main purpose is to remove makeup, which you probably don’t wear to bed.
The first step in a Korean skincare routine is oil cleansing. This step is mainly used to remove makeup and impurities that build up on the skin throughout the day. Despite what many people believe, oily skin can also benefit from this type of product, as it often helps with hydration and can decrease the production of natural oils.
The best products for this step are:
Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm
This balm has a texture similar to sorbet and is rich in nutrients. The main oil in its formula is sea buckthorn oil, which helps to soften the skin and remove impurities like sunscreen and makeup. In addition, olive oil and vitamin E are also included among the ingredients, making the Living Cleansing Balm a product that not only cleanses but also helps your skin.
This cleansing oil contains acerola extract and can remove even the most stubborn makeup without stripping the skin of its natural hydration. It also includes vitamin E and other oils to make the product even more effective, so you only need to use a small amount to remove all traces of makeup. The Clean It Zero is so popular that according to Allure magazine, one is sold every three seconds.
I adore this one and will repurchase it!
The second step in a Korean skincare routine is to use a water-based cleanser. This step ensures that the previous product has removed all impurities from the skin, leaving it clean and ready for the next steps. For those with a more straightforward skincare routine, this is equivalent to using a facial soap.
As you can imagine, there are many Korean facial soaps, but none are as highly-rated as this bestseller from Cosrx. This product is designed to be a gentle cleanser that won’t harm your skin or strip it of its natural moisture, only removing any remaining impurities from the previous step. Despite its name “Good Morning Cleanser” implying that it’s meant for use during the day, it can also be used at night.
The salicylic acid cleanser from the same brand is also a great choice if you have acne-prone skin. I didn’t feel like it stripped my skin at all!
An exfoliator is used to remove dead skin cells that may be on the surface of the skin. By getting rid of these cells, the next products in the skincare routine can penetrate more easily and be more effective. In the past, exfoliators were physical, meaning they contained small particles that were rubbed onto the skin to remove dead skin cells. Nowadays, chemical exfoliators are more popular, as they penetrate more deeply without damaging the skin.
It’s important to note that you should not use exfoliators every day. I only do it once a week, but I know some people do it twice or even three times, depending on their skin’s needs.
With several versions, the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling contains 30 exfoliating disks. Each disk has a three-layer technology that provides physical and chemical exfoliation using lactic acid, AHA, and Resveratrol derived from wine. Yes, the “wine” in the name does come from the beverage).
A toner is used to prepare the skin for the next steps in a skincare routine. As SokoGlam explains, it’s like your skin is a sponge – and it’s much easier to hydrate if it’s already slightly damp instead of dry and hard.
This toner is a jack-of-all-trades – it not only prepares the skin, but it also exfoliates thanks to its combination of AHA, BHA, and PHA acids. In addition, the Miracle Toner‘s formula also contains papaya, witch hazel, tea tree, and even niacinamide for more radiant and healthy-looking skin. It doesn’t contain mineral oil, parabens, or silicones.
If you don’t want a toner as strong as the one above, try a more hydrating product like the Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner. It has a light texture that is quickly absorbed by the skin and is composed of more than 90% Astragalus root extract, which helps to renew and energize the skin.
Now on to treatments, which are generally divided by their consistency. Essences are usually lighter, and you can apply numerous essences for different purposes without feeling like you’ve applied too many products, as they are easily absorbed.
I only found out what an essence was and that this type of product existed when I saw countless recommendations for it on YouTube and Reddit. As you can imagine from the name, the Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence has snail mucin (a type of protein) as its main ingredient, a common ingredient in Asian products. It’s like a vitamin for your face, serving both to moisturize and for other purposes such as calming acne.
I’m finishing my first bottle now and can’t imagine not having it on my routine. It’s amazing. Holy Grail. 100% recommend it does work wonders for moisturizing your skin.
With amino acids and lotus seeds in the formula, the Miracle Seed Essence is on all lists of the best Korean skincare products. It helps to give the skin a softer, more hydrated texture and also protects your skin from “stressful factors” that can harm it in daily life.
A unique product on the list, as its formula is composed of over 90% fermented ingredients, making the skin hydrated and radiant. It also has antioxidants and even rice extract to give the skin a glow from the inside out. The Real Ferment Micro Essence is an excellent product for those who want to follow the honey skin trend, which is about having hydrated and luminous skin.
These are products that can be used to help with a range of issues, such as hyperpigmentation, acne, and more. Unlike essences, serums (and ampoules) are typically thicker and have more concentrated ingredients.
If you want glass-like skin, this is the perfect serum for you. With hyaluronic acid, peach extract, niacinamide, and peptides, the Skin Refine Serum formula will leave your skin looking calmer, brighter, and firmer. It’s suitable for all skin types.
You can also find Peach & Lily at Ulta.
You don’t need to do this step every day (because, let’s be real, masks can be expensive, and we don’t have an endless supply). These masks are great for giving your skin a super boost of hydration, since they’re soaked in hydrating products and often have ingredients that are also found in essences and serums. Just remember to massage the remaining product into your skin after removing the mask, instead of washing it off.
I’m mentioning a brand instead of a specific mask because I’ve seen several different online recommendations. For example, the tea tree (melaleuca) mask is popular with people who have acne because it has ingredients like chamomile to soothe redness. Another one of the top-selling masks is the N.F.M Intensive Hydration, which is all about hydration and contains hyaluronic acid.
Like Western skincare routines, Korean skincare routines also have products designed specifically for the eye area. Many people think that regular moisturizers are good enough, but eye-specific products are here to address issues like dark circles and puffiness.
This innisfree cream uses a special technology to extract the benefits of the orchid from Jeju Island, making its formula packed with antioxidants that help to make your skin look younger and firmer. The Jeju Orchid Eye Cream great for people who have dry, elasticity-lacking skin with fine lines or wrinkles around the eyes.
Finally, after all of these products, it’s time for moisturizer. At this point, you’ve probably already used various products for this purpose (like essences), but now it’s time for something heavier to seal everything in and ensure your skin retains all the hydration. There are lots of different formulas and consistencies, but the most famous ones are creams:
A multitasking moisturizer that keeps your skin hydrated and helps prevent aging. It’s made with Centella Asiatica (another ingredient that’s often found in top Korean skincare products), which helps reduce inflammation and redness. It’s been on many k-beauty recommendation lists, and even though it’s super nourishing, it’s light enough to be used morning and night.
I used to think that Etude House only made makeup, but I found out that the brand makes a lot of skincare products, including a trendy line called Soon Jung. Its formula is made up of over 90% natural ingredients, plus panthenol, vitamin B5, Centella Asiatica, and sunflower seed oil, to give you even more hydration.
I’m finishing my third tube of the Soon Jung 2x Barrier Intensive Cream, and I can say there is my skin before and after Soon Jung. I only wish it was easier to find here in Europe – I always purchase it from eBay.
Applying a sleeping mask is another step that you don’t necessarily have to do every day. Some people prefer to do it two to three times a week. However, you can use it whenever you feel your skin needs it (for example, every day during winter, when your skin may need extra hydration).
Laneige is one of the first Korean brands I came across, and this mask is one of the most well-known among the best Korean cosmetics. The Sleeping Mask is formulated with ionized mineral water to provide intense hydration, and it has orange flower and rose extracts to make your skin look radiant and rested.
According to the company, this mask is designed to stay in place while you sleep, so you won’t have to worry about it rubbing off on your pillow. It will leave your skin soft and radiant because of its high concentration of hyaluronic acid and watermelon extract, as well as AHA acids that will gently exfoliate your skin while you sleep. The Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask is made with real watermelon, so don’t be surprised if you find small pieces of fruit in it!
This part is not typically included in the 10 steps of the Korean skincare routine, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many great products for your lips. You know how we often apply cocoa butter before bed? This type of product has the same goal – to keep your lips hydrated – but with even more powerful ingredients.
Like the face mask, the Lip Sleeping Mask is made with Moisture Wrap™ technology, which creates a hydrating layer over your skin throughout the night, making it firmer and removing dead skin. There are several versions available, with the most popular being red fruit and chocolate mint.
Another one of my favorites, I’ve just bought my third bottle!
The last step in your morning skincare routine (if you’re not going to wear makeup) is also one of the most important. Even though the products above take care of your skin, the best thing you can do is protect it from sun exposure. Japanese sunscreens are the most famous on the internet, but Korean brands also have great options!
A sunscreen with high hydration power due to its formula loaded with hyaluronic acid. It ensures a natural, non-greasy finish and doesn’t leave that white cast that some sunscreens do. This brand is very well-known for its sunscreens, and if you have red or irritated skin, it’s worth trying the Sun Project Light Sun Essence, which also has an SPF of 50.
A sunscreen that doesn’t feel sticky and that protects and nourishes your skin at the same time? Yes, please! The Relief Sun Rice + Probiotics from Beauty of Joseon has become incredibly popular in the last couple of months due to its lightweight texture and nourishing properties. Besides having rice and fermented ingredients, it is also packed with vitamins B, C and E.
Bonus: Acne Patches
Before we wrap up with the skincare routine and the best Korean cosmetics, I wanted to mention a product that I saw recommended on almost every website, video, and Reddit discussion.
These acne patches (or protectors, as you may call them) help to protect the area against secondary infections as well as keep it hydrated, facilitating recovery and reducing the possibility of scarring. The Acne Pimple Master box contains patches of various sizes, so you can choose the most comfortable one according to your needs, and it is transparent, making it almost invisible on the skin.
And these are some of the best Korean skincare products to make your skin healthier and glowy!
Did you have any questions? Do you have a favorite product that didn’t make this list? Tell me in the comments!