By Maya Allen published
The world of Korean beauty is constantly evolving, innovating, and blowing all of our minds with game-changing products. Although the U.S. caught on to the K-beauty trend a few years ago, the simple yet effective formulas rooted in Asian botanical ingredients have been responsible for glowing, damn-near-perfect skin for ages in Asian countries. Thankfully, K-beauty brands are sharing the wealth and their skin secrets with us. Bless-up, and thank the skin gods, because now so many K-beauty lines have expanded and are available in the U.S.
I have incredibly sensitive skin, so I enjoy K-beauty products' short and simple ingredient lists that target specific concerns. I swear they always leave my skin with a radiant, dewy glow. If your skin is also on the sensitive side, you'll enjoy the clean yet concentrated ingredients that deliver effective results. This list is not exclusive to makeup either. I've also included a highlighter that gives my cult favorite a run for its money and lipstick that has earned a top on my vanity—and my makeup standards are high. Here, 23 of my all-time favorite K-beauty products you will enjoy.
Glow Recipe - Watermelon Glow PHA +BHA Pore-Tight Toner
On scorching summer days, refresh your skin with this watermelon toner, full of amino acids and vitamins, to quench your pores with hydration and nourishment. This cute pink bottle also contains PHA, BHA and cactus water to gently exfoliate the skin while driving in electrolytes for extra-plumped skin.
Then I Met You - Calming Tide Gel Cream
Created by skincare expert and K-beauty connoisseur Charlotte Cho, this gel-based cream is packed with good-for-you ingredients. Made with a custom peptide complex patented by the brand, this cloud-like cream speeds up the skin's collagen production, refines texture and strengthens the skin barrier. The assistance of niacinamide acid also works to smooth fine lines.
innisfree - Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 36
No one wants to look like they're wearing sunscreen, and this feather-light formula ensures a totally transparent finish. Infused with green tea, cica and sunflower seed oil, this SPF 36 is praised by K-beauty lovers for keeping the skin strapped with moisture and protection from harmful UVA rays.
Skinfood - Black Sugar Mask Wash Off
This $10 face mask has gained a fan club. Loved for its skin-refining, 100-percent natural black sugar from Brazil, this exfoliator will make your face feel squeaky clean and baby soft. The grainy texture works hard to alleviate your skin of dirt and debris, without stripping away any moisture. Black sugar also helps treat signs of aging, so it's a win-win.
3LAB - Perfect C Eye Treatment
On those mornings when dark circles like to make their presence be known, this rich cream will give them a warm welcome with a rush of vitamin C to kick them to the curb. Praised as the most effective skin brightener in all of the land, vitamin C carries antioxidants and hydration that combats puffiness, age spots, and wrinkles when consistently applied on the eye area.
Mamonde - Micro Deep Cleansing Oil Tissue
IMO, the worst part about wearing makeup is having to take it off. These wipes make the mundane chore that much easier, thanks to the lotus flower extract, which easily removes the most stubborn remnants of mascara, long-wear lipstick and the list goes on—without an arm workout. Its vegan formula also de-clogs pores by wiping away excess sebum and grime.
COSRX - Acne Pimple Master Patch
When a pimple is brewing, you've got to act fast. One of these waterproof patches will softly extract your skin to remove impurities, reduce redness and calm inflammation. Place this right on top of your blemish during the day or overnight and watch it work its magic. What's even better is that the ingredients can even fade the look of dark spots overtime.
Neogen - Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Green Tea
Just one of these mini exfoliating pads provides the skin with the most effective exfoliation. Work this single-use pad onto your skin in circular motion to reveal a softer, smoother surface. Plus, if you want to prevent premature signs of aging the green tea will douses your skin with antioxidants for a youthful, healthy glow.
Hanskin - Hyaluron Skin Essence
No K-beauty collection is complete without an essence, which is arguably the most coveted product passed down to the U.S. from the Asian skincare market. Women in Korea swear by essences like this best-selling one, made with small molecules of hyaluronic acid, known as sodium hyaluronate to deeply penetrate the skin with hydration and allow products to absorb better. According to Hanskin, these molecules hold 1,000 times more moisture than water. It's hard to beat that.
innisfree - Orchid Youth-Enriched Gel Cream
This jar carries the secret to youth. Combining the powers of jeju orchid, beta glucan, and hyaluronic acid made from jeju green soybeans, you will will experience elasticity and firming like no other. A little goes along way with this lightweight gel cream that sinks into the skin like a tall glass of water. Use it religiously to work on smoothing over signs of aging, like fine lines, crow's feet, and wrinkles.
Saturday Skin - Rub-A-Dub Refining Peel Gel
When you're noticing things like congestion, dullness and acne it means your pores are in need of a pick-me-up. Lather this silky gel on dry, pre-cleansed skin twice per week to slough off dead skin cells for a brighter, more even complexion. In the formula, the papaya and pineapple have gentle exfoliating powers, while the aloe leaf extract soothes and nourishes the skin.
belif - Moisturizing Eye Bomb
The cooling texture of this fuffy cream will serve as a refreshing wake-up call for tired eyes in the morning. Made with hydrating herbs, like pennywort, this formula boosts elasticity to combat fine lines and sagging skin, and provides a surge of moisture for the skin. Supple, smooth under-eyes are just one application away.
Primera - Miracle Seed Essence
If you really want your skin to retain the benefits of the toner, serum and moisturizer you layer on top of it, you need an essence. This concentrated essence is made with lots of lotus seeds, which helps hydrate, brighten and prep your skin for products that follow to absorb even better. The ingredients also protect your skin from environmental stressors.
Laneige - Water Sleeping Mask
I'm just going to say it: Before trying this, I was convinced overnight masks were complete BS because they'd leave me with dry, sticky skin in the morning and flakey residue that took forever to wash off. Who has time for that in the morning when you're half asleep? Not I. This, on the other hand, has officially made me a believer because of its moisture-rich formula. It's made of pure mineral water, which feels like a cooling gel and is ideal for dry skin because it douses you with ample moisture. The moisture-sucking air in my apartment is extra brutal during my beauty sleep, but when I apply this (twice a week), I wake up with glowing, baby-soft skin.
Sweet Chef - Ginger Vitamin C Serum Shot
Dealing with dark spots? Same. I can't seem to shake post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that likes to show up uninvited. To combat that issue, I've been employing this serum shot to brighten uneven areas of my skin, and have seen a noticeable difference in weeks. It's packed with vitamin C, which is a star antioxidant for boosting radiance. There's also a hefty dose of ginger to shield your skin from environmental stressors like pollution.
Klavuu - Nourishing Care Lip Sleeping Pack
My lips are dry as hell in the winter, spring, summer, and fall. It doesn't matter the season, I've accepted that I'll always deal with dryness. But thanks to this incredibly silky, moisturizing balm that truly feels like it dropped from the heavens above, my lips feel thoroughly hydrated all the time. Although it's advertised as a lip sleeping mask, I use it whenever I want. The moisture from its nourishing avocado, sweet almond, and apricot seed oils hug my lips for hours.
Sulwhasoo - Multi Cushion Highlighter
If you usually stick with powder or liquid highlighters, you gotta get into cushion compacts. The bouncy compact makes applying highlighter a bit more fun, and it imparts a gorgeous glow onto the skin. Simply push the pad this product comes with into the compact and dab as much as you want wherever you want to glow. What I love about this highlighter is that it's made with pearl and radiance powder, which leaves a luminous finish.
Amorepacific - Treatment Cleansing Foam
Acne-prone skin is tricky because it's highly reactive and will break out from cleansers made with harsh ingredients. This foam cleanser is the perfect middle man: It works hard to completely remove makeup, but is gentle enough to not strip your skin of the natural oils and moisture it needs. The antioxidant-heavy vitamin E in this formula will reverse the look of stressed-out, dull skin. Trust, that's my skin 90-percent of the time, but this always saves the day.
joah - Brow Down To Me: Precision Brow Pencil
I devote a solid 10 minutes to my brows on days when I can spend time in the morning. But that precious time gets cut in half on most rushed mornings—so, I depend on excellent brow products to hold me down when time isn't in my favor. I'm a brow snob, and hadn't found a brow product under $10 I loved until I was introduced to this gem. Its teeny tip allows me to fill in every area of my brows with precise, hair-like strokes. Plus, it's available in six shades, which is double the usual "blonde," "brunette," and "dark" shades offered by most brow brands.
Klairs - Youthful Glow Sugar Mask
Multitasking skincare products save you so much time and counter space. This all-in-one cleanser, mask, and exfoliator works triple hard to give you the bright, glowy skin you're working towards. The fine sucrose granules inside of this product feel like little beads massaging your skin. But what they're really doing is buffing away dead skin cells and retexturizing rough, dry patches. Be sure to keep this out of your eye area, though, the natural sugar can sting sensitive eyes.
Dr. Jart+ - Firm Lover Rubber Masks
Yes, face masks are good for your skin—but they're also so fun to Instagram, especially if they make you look as ridiculously funny and cute as this one. Besides it being good for the 'Gram, this rubber mask gently adheres to your skin to provide deep penetration. This mask is made of berry extracts, salicylic acid, and red seaweed to give your skin a non-invasive face lift and a supple glow.
VDL - Expert Color Lip Cube Fluid Velvet in My Cherie
Celebrity makeup artist and beauty influencer Katie Jane Hughes introduced me to the power of this lipstick during her makeup masterclass with the brand. Since she gave her stamp of approval, I've been hooked. The bold color it dispenses onto my lips in a .5 second swipe is one thing. However, the fact that the color does not fade or crease after hours of sipping coffee and stuffing my face is another, and what sealed the deal for me.
Glow Recipe - Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Face Mask
I freak when I don't have avocado in my kitchen—and now my skin demands avocado just as much as my stomach does. I credit this god-send of a sleeping mask for that. This creamy lather is made of 74 percent avocado. The natural blend melts right onto my skin at night. The healthy fats and antioxidants from the avocado brighten my tired skin and makes me look like I got eight hours of sleep ...even when I really got about five.
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