The 14 Best Korean Skincare Brands to Swear By

Multi-step routines, coming right up.

korean skincare
(Image credit: Getty)

The Korean skincare movement is booming, to say the least. In 2019 alone, the industry was worth $10.2 billion. Alicia Yoon, the South Korea-born founder of Korean Skincare brand Peach & Lily, knows a thing or two about the industry: “I started Peach & Lily to make Korean beauty practices, formulas, and ingredients more accessible to everyone globally," she explains of the company she founded in 2021. "After I saw my own eczema skin transform, I began giving facials and skin consultations to those struggling with their skin."

Now, the billion-dollar industry is that for a reason. K-beauty is all about skin-loving, inflammation-reducing ingredients like snail mucin, niacinamide, ginger, matcha, and more. For Yoon, “Korean beauty goes hand in hand with skin care knowledge and empowerment," she says. "I love to see people engaging on the level of skin histology, skincare ingredients, and identifying personalized ways to care for their skin.” 

Korean skincare is here to stay—and we’re more than okay with that, because it’s not just a trend but a cherished way of caring for your skin. Even better news: K-beauty products are becoming more widely available by the day. We've tried hundreds of Korean skincare brands and products and we know there are still many more to try, but these 14 brands are the ones that make Marie Claire melt, peel, glow, and repair—in the best ways.

Laneige

The brand might have a Parisian name, but LANEIGE—which means “fresh snow” in French—was founded in Seoul, South Korea in 1994 by Amorepacific, the corporation behind several of the brands in this list. Known for their iconic sleeping lip mask, they have begun to branch into more skincare items with face moisturizers, toner, essences, and more. 

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The cult-favorite lip mask from LANEIGE is everything you could want in a lip balm, with all the sweet goodness of a lip gloss from the beauty supply store, but without the stickiness. Sweet fragrance aside, the antioxidant-rich mask can recover even the most dry and cracked lips, so you better stick up for winter now. The only struggle you'll have is deciding which flavor to buy.

Peach & Lily

Founded by Alicia Yoon in 2012, Peach & Lily not only offer their own selection of skincare items, but also sell iconic K-beauty brands like Lagom, Banila Co., and Miwaji. Yoon places a focus on education: “I wanted to pass on the joy that came with taking control of your skin.” To this end, you can find informational skincare guides on the site, with one explaining the famous multiple-step Korean skincare routine

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Yoon’s current must-have is this Vitamin C treatment: “I have persistent dark spots from being pregnant and I love that this formula is 20 percent stabilized Vitamin C that's gentle on skin. Perfect for delivering results I want to see for stubborn spots while keeping it gentle for my sensitive skin.”

AMOREPACIFIC

A luxury Korean skincare brand, AMOREPACIFIC is the namesake brand of the Amore Pacific corporation, which operates well known Korean beauty brands LANEIGE, Sulwhasoo, Innisfree, and more. With a focus on ingredients enriched with green tea, AMOREPACIFIC seeks to provide skincare that penetrates skin with natural and moisture-enhancing formulas. 

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Pro tip: Apply this cream in front of a vanity mirror while you’re wearing a silk robe and feel like a movie vixen from the '20s. The silky formula stays firm when applying and covers every inch without needing to go in for a second round for pesky dry patches. 

Soon Skincare

Friends Lisa Ballstaedt and Kayla Bertagna founded Soon Skincare in 2017 and officially launched in October 2018. What started as a goal of creating a Korean-inspired sheet mask that won’t slip off your face quickly became a leading K-beauty skincare brand.

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Lisa and Kayla were right—a flimsy and slippery sheet mask has got to be one of the biggest pet peeves in skincare (besides a broken serum pump). If you haven’t had the honor of using a gel mask over a sheet mask, pick up a few of these collagen infused masks, because you’ll never go back to the paper thin mess that you’ve probably torn in the past.

Banila Co

Founded in 2006 in South Korea, Banila Co. isn’t new to the Korean skincare game. In fact, their ever-popular cleansing balm is purchased every 3.1 seconds. With a focus on a simplified routine, this skin-first brand boasts hybrid products to cut back on the mounaint of steps in your routine. Currently, Korean actor Song Kang and actress and singer Shin Se-kyung are the models/spokespeople for the brand. 

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Hypothetically speaking, if you also found yourself insanely nostalgic after finding out that Cynthia Ervio and Ariana Grande were cast in the upcoming movie adaption of Wicked the Musical, and then you decided to paint your entire face with a lime green cream paint courtesy of Danessa Myricks, you might be wondering how to get it all off without sacrificing a layer of skin. Long-winded “hypotheticalaside, Banila’s cleansing balm will get rid of the toughest glitters, paints, and eyelash glue without clogging pores or irritating your already sensitive skin. However, it can’t keep your roommate from yelling at you about a stained green sink or hand towel.

Glow Recipe

Christine Chang and Sarah Lee founded the fruit-focused skincare brand in 2017 after working together at L’Oreal. What started as an online retailer for other Korean skincare brands turned into what we now know as Glow Recipe. Their products are known for taking a single piece of fruit and making it the star of the show.

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Sing it with me, y’all, “I don’t know if I could ever go without watermelon sugar HIGH!” Okay, you can sing the rest on your own, but Glow Recipe has made a very valid point for watermelon products, thanks to their award-winning favorites containing a summer-favorite snack. The Vitamin A and C-enriched watermelon combined with the skin texture-improving niacinamide are no match for my enlarged pores every time I use this serum. 

Sulwhasoo

Pronounced “Suhl-ha-soo," this skincare brand was founded on the philosophy of balance and harmony. Bringing together natural ingredients and innovative skincare practices since 1966, Sulwhasoo is one of the best-selling luxury brands of Amore Pacific's roster of brands. Keeping with the founders' dedication to holistic skincare, the brand is still a favorite of many thanks to its texture-smoothing formulas and subtle fragrance. 

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Ginseng isn’t the only hero ingredient taking the reins in this cleansing formula. A light makeup remover, this oil targets all residue to gently wash away dirt and makeup without leaving skin feeling greasy. 

Soko Glam

Charlotte Cho founded Soko Glam in 2012 with her husband David to bring Korean beauty practices to the United States. Today, Soko Glam boasts a curated collection of Korean skincare brands. The couple also have a wildly successful and award-worthy Korean skincare brand Then I Met You.

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shop Then I Met You

One of the multiple steps in a K-beauty routine is the water-like elixir (an "essence"). Kind of like a refresher course before the skin-satisfying serums, this essence is a lightweight prep for your skin that also keeps your pores from getting clogged. 

The Crème Shop

If there's one thing K-beauty brands know how to do, and do well, it's give us cute packaging with magical formulas inside. The Crème Shop is a leading example of this, boasting skincare products that make you feel like a kid again, thanks in part to the collaborations with famous characters like Hello Kitty, DreamWorks Trolls, and BT21. 

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The brand is here to remind you that your inner child deserves a chance to have fun. Whether it’s genetic or you’ve just stayed up way past your bedtime, your under-eyes deserve some love, so do it while also taking Instagram-worthy pics of the adorable cow print patches.

Mediheal

One of the vital steps in a Korean skincare routine is a serum-filled sheet mask. It’s also a beloved tool for self-care nights or watching The Bachelorette. Mediheal is the place to go for all things sheet masks, and has expanded into other skincare items as well. Founded in 2009, Mediheal actively works with scientists, dermatologists and other skin experts to make sure its products have the best and most updated ingredients.

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If you’re ever not sure what type of face mask to get, just grab one from Mediheal. The trusted brand is always a safe bet. Their large inventory of sheet masks doesn't disappoint, with formulas for all skin types and ones that help with targeted concerns like acne, uneven texture, and enlarged pores. 

Sweet Chef

Sweet Chef mixes up concoctions of natural herbs, vegetables, and vitamins that our skin loves. Founded by the creators of Glow Recipe, the goal of this Korean skincare brand is to create nutrient-enriched natural formulas with ingredients like celery, turmeric, beets, kale, and more. 

If your skin is crying for a glass of water, it desperately needs the hydration abilities of hyaluronic acid. Your skin barrier will thank you, and the vitamins from the cold pressed celery will help balance skin, especially when dealing with any inflammation. 

innisfree

Inspired by the W.B. Yeats poem of the same name, innisfree is a Korean skincare brand that uses the natural ingredients found on the island of Jeju to enhance skin in the cleanest way possible. For every skin need, there's a moisturizer, sheet mask, clay mask, or serum. Hero ingredients include green tea, pomegranate, volcanic cluster, and soybean.

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One of the downfalls for oily skin is the sebum that traps pores. The Jeju volcanic cluster cleanses deep to absorb the oily sebum in pores, while lactic acid works to gently exfoliate the face. An easy two-in-one choice for a weekly treatment that keeps oiliness at bay.  

Cosrx

Having been in development since 2002, Cosrx (which stands for Cosmetics + Rx) was officially launched in 2013 by founder Jun Sang Hun. The brand keeps it to the point with simplified packaging and ingredients that get to the root of skincare concerns with reparative ingredients like cica, snail mucin, and propolis.

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Liquid toners and exfoliants can be very annoying for one reason—the application. Sometimes you use too much, sometimes not enough, but these pre-soaked cotton pads make for a quick step after cleansing and before serums. It’s a mild exfoliant, so it won’t leave your skin feeling tight or dry.    

Dr. Jart+

When you ask someone about their favorite Korean skincare brand, chances are they’ll probably mention Dr. Jart+. This brand bridges the gap between art and dermatological science—that’s where the abbreviated name comes from; it means “Doctors Joins Art." Now a part of the Estée Lauder brand, Dr. Jart+ sticks to its founders' goals of creating innovative products that have become a staple in Korean skincare.

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One of Dr. Jart+'s many cult-classic formulas, this product boasts the inflammatory ingredient centella asiatica (also known as cica). With over 187,000 "favorites" on Sephora, this is a miracle worker for those who tend to get red and don’t want to worry about finding the right foundation shade to cover it up. Also, it has SPF 30.

Alexis Gaskin is a Freelance Beauty Writer for Marie Claire who can often be found painting her nails to match every outfit. She covers beauty, skincare, and fat fashion and will get distracted by any and all Halsey-related content or anything glittery.