During my last (and only) visit to Seoul, I had quite a few firsts. I traipsed around in a green tea field filled with snakes, tried actual high-quality soju, and thwarted a meerkat's persistent efforts to steal my earrings (long story). But most memorably, I wandered into dozens of beauty shops on every corner, and for the very first time, skincare left me speechless. Products with textures I'd never felt and ingredients I'd never heard of stocked the shelves, and shoppers stocked up on serums and creams at all hours of the night. I was in the beauty capital of the entire world, and I nearly shed a tear for it.
That said, you don't have to go to Seoul to discover these innovative products anymore (though I would absolutely recommend it when we can travel abroad again). Nowadays, K-beauty is a skincare staple here in the U.S., and for very, very good reason. The beauty tech in South Korea is years ahead of our country's, and that's made clear by every essence, moisturizer, and sunscreen that appears on the market. And if there's one thing Koreans know best, it's how to mask like a pro. From sheets soaked in snail mucin to jars topped off with bouncy exfoliating gels, K-beauty's got every skin care concern covered. Here, we've rounded up the most effective, innovative, and just plain playful options for your next self-care session.
This lip mask is legendary, even in Seoul, the unofficial beauty capital of the world. Slather on a thick layer before you hit the sheets and you'll wake up to bouncy, hydrated lips that are more pillow-soft than, well, your pillows.
Two steps are better than one when it comes to this funny little kit. Apply the soothing ampoule after cleansing, then lay the algae and clay mask over your face for 40 minutes to seal in its benefits. Please note: selfies are mandatory.
There are hundreds of clay masks out there, but this one beats our its competition when it comes to reducing oil and beating down acne. Its sebum-absorbing powers come from actual volcanic clay in South Korea.
Calendula is known for its intense calming powers, and there's nothing more ahhh-inducing then a sheet mask fresh out of the fridge. Stick one in there at night, and wake up to a spa-worthy treatment in a packet.
A load of moisture isn't enough for bouncy, bright skin. Luckily, this overnight formula is a one-two punch: antioxidant-rich watercress sprout extract lifts dark spots and imbues a fresh glow, while artemisia extract soothes and restores hydration.
You know those DIY hair masks that contain eggs to give strands a radiant boost? Same idea here. This lightweight sheet mask is drenched in extracts from both egg yolks and whites for a glowier, bouncier complexion.
Ooey, gooey, and fruity: the holy trinity of what defines a mask that's just plain fun to use. And don't worry, it's not just pretty. Pomegranate and fig extracts calm and hydrate even the most sensitive skin.
This mask's ingredient list has a history. It's packed with Korean herbs that have been used as homeopathic healers for thousands of years, and will restore and reinvigorate even the most tired complexion. (Added bonus: there are five masks in the pack.)
Snail mucin and bee venom are two protective skincare saviors in South Korea, and this sheet option is packed with both to strengthen the moisture barrier.
The Amazon reviews on this nighttime mask make clear that this is a workhorse when it comes to eliminating acne. It soothes existing pimples, reduces oil, and smoothes bumps so you can rid yourself of breakouts quicker.
Yuzu, an Eastern citrus fruit, is practically a vitamin C bomb. And when paired with retinol, it even better refines uneven texture and enhances radiance by morning.
You're parched. You're flaky. Your skin is crying out for hydration. Enter the N.M.F mask, your new holy grail. It imbues your moisture barrier with ingredients that your skin already recognizes within itself, like hyaluronic acid, amino acids, and water-binding sugars, so your face is instantly soothed.
More snail stuff! This overnight option will repair even the most disrupted skin, and the deep-sea water it contains helps restore moisture and firm the face.
$25 for 10 game-changing treatments? Sign us TF up. Rice extract strengthens the skin for a natural glow.
Think of this sheet as a therapist for your skin. It contains centella asiatica extract, calamine and pennywort extracts to reduce signs of stress and restore your complexion to its calm, serene self.
If the bags under your eyes are steep enough to earn you extra fees on a United flight, it's time to reach for these babies. The essence they're soaked in instantly improves elasticity and tightens the area so you look more wake fast.