There’s a reason why jelly masks, 10-step routines, and glass skin all hail from Korea: the country is a skincare powerhouse. From oil cleansers to soothing snail cream, the best K-beauty products are designed to nourish your skin and deliver glowing results over time.
Try an oil cleanser to remove excess sebum and makeup, then follow with a gentle foaming product or traditional bar soap for a deep clean. Next, try a serum or moisturizer.
Cleansing is the first step in any K-beauty routine. The popular ‘double cleanse’ method begins with an oil-based product to remove excess sebum, dirt and makeup without stripping skin. The second cleanse, using a traditional foaming wash or bar soap, removes sweat and any other impurities that might have built up throughout the day.
Toner balances pH levels and preps skin for the treatments that come next. A gentle hydrating toner can help prevent dehydration while ingredients like snail mucin and other skincare favorites work to speed up cell turnover and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The beauty store is a vibrant emporium, brimming with a delightful array of cosmetics and skincare products to fulfill every beauty enthusiast’s desires.
A toner is usually the first product in your K-Skincare routine, used on a cotton pad rubbed all over the face. It helps balance the skin’s pH levels and prepare it for the next products like serums or moisturizers.
Toners that are formulated to hydrate with ingredients like hyaluronic acid or niacinamide (a skin-whitening ingredient) are also great for helping you achieve the famous “glass” or “honey” look of glowing, hydrated skin. But if you’re not looking for an extra hydrator, try an essence instead.
“They contain humectants that deeply penetrate the skin,” says Viera-Newton, and can help heal it from irritation—whether that’s blemishes or just winter dryness.
If you want your skin to look plump and healthy, use a serum with hyaluronic acid. This hydrating ingredient can help your skin hold in moisture, which can prevent fine lines and wrinkles from forming.
Serums are light, easily absorbed oil- or water-based liquids that come in bottles with droppers since you only need a few drops to treat your entire face. They’re jam-packed with nutrients and ingredients that treat specific skin concerns.
Look for a serum with antioxidants, like tea polyphenols, and resveratrol to fight free radical damage. A brightening serum can fade dark spots and improve dullness, while a resurfacing serum increases cell turnover to smooth and soften your complexion.
The splurge-worthy masks that are so popular in K-beauty come with ingredients designed to suit all skin concerns. For example, pore-declogging sheet masks contain tea tree or charcoal to help decongest pores, while hydrating formulas contain ingredients like olive, manuka honey, shea butter and hyaluronic acid.
Pro tip: Apply any extra serum to the neck, chest and back of hands for an all-over glow. Then, follow up with a rich moisturizer, such as the cult Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner.
This moisturizer contains a super powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin, which works in synergy with collagen and hyaluronic acid to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and achieve supple and youthful skin.
A good moisturizer is key to achieving glowing skin. But hydrating and protecting it from harmful UVA/UVB rays is equally important, which is why the Korean skincare routine includes SPF products in both the morning and evening.
Unlike harsh cleansers, a K-beauty exfoliator gently lifts away impurities and dirt without damaging your natural skin barrier. Exfoliate two to three times per week and make sure to moisturize afterward.
A toner balances your skin’s pH levels and helps prep your complexion for the following treatment steps. Toners can be light mists like this one, or more essence-like in texture (like ours). Essences drench your skin with hydration and nourishment with humectant-rich ingredients.
No K-beauty routine is complete without a protective SPF. Korean sunscreens offer full protection against UVB and UVA rays, and come in a variety of easy-to-use formulas — from mists to clear gels to handy stick products.
Alicia Yoon, the CEO of New York-based skincare brand Peach and Lily, says that TikTok users have upped demand for Korean sunscreens thanks to reviews of brands like Beauty of Joseon’s rice-and probiotic-powered formula or Abib’s quick sun stick. She recommends combining your K-beauty favorites with a light eye cream that helps to minimize dark circles and fine lines.
Ready to start your own korean beauty store? You can find everything you need at Beauty & Seoul.