Korean beauty items that circle in and out of our local stores are, in fact, not the same as in South Korea. You might be familiar with Peripera and Etude House, two makeup brands that dominated the Hallyu wave in the early 2010s, thanks to global endorsements by K-pop stars. But, what do your favourite artists and actors actually wear?
Like skincare, Korean makeup is all about soft, dewy glam, preferring lip tints over lipsticks and cushion foundation over liquid base makeup. The country’s booming pop culture scene and rigorous skincare principles are mirrored in the country’s minimal, clean style of makeup. Multi balm sticks are a good case in point.
We scoured online communities, like the Korean beauty review app GlowPick, and major drug store retailers, namely Olive Young, to draw up a list of makeup products most favoured by the Korean public. Turns out, Too Cool For School, Hince, Banila Co and more brands below deserve to be on your K-beauty radar. Shop for these trending products on Amazon, and take advantage of a Prime membership to score free, fast delivery.
1. Best Primer: Banila Co Prime Primer, 30ml
Famously endorsed by Korean actress Shin Se Kyung, Banila Co is best known for its Clean It Zero cleansing balm. In South Korea, though, the brand’s hottest product is the Prime Primer. Our pick is the hydrating version, which is formulated for dry skin types. It’s a water-based lightweight primer that goes on moisturised skin and controls excess sebum throughout the day. Bid adieu to flaky patches and say hello to a smooth dewy makeup look. The scent-free formula features hyaluronic acid, tea tree extract and rosemary extract. Reviewers with eczema say their makeup goes on smoothly and doesn’t crack.
2. Best Cushion Foundation: JungSaemMool Essential Skin Nuder Cushion, Fair Pink
JungSaemMool is nearly synonymous with cushion foundations. Founded by the titular celebrity makeup artist, the beauty brand sells its Essential Skin Nuder Cushion with a refill kit. It boasts 24-hour wear and promises a smudge-free face mask, if ever worn. The skin-like coverage is perfect for a no-makeup makeup base. More good news is that it has an SPF (sun protection factor) of 50+. Our only qualm is the lack of shades – reviews say the deepest medium colour is still quite fair. Those who’ve found their shade match, though, love the buildable coverage they get.
3. Best Concealer: The Saem Cover Perfection Tip Concealer, 6.5g
With a slightly wider shade range, The Saem’s SPF 28 concealer is worth considering. This concealer is ideal for normal to oily skin types, since it gives off a matte finish. Like the Banila Co primer, the concealer controls sebum production and soothes using aloe vera leaf extract, calamine and centella asiatica extract. Users in the reviews say it doesn’t settle into and cake their fine lines. They also add that it has no fragrance.
4. Best Highlighter: Hince True Dimension Radiance Balm, 10g, Dawn Ray
We’re used to sheer powdery highlighters. Now, meet Hince’s multi-purpose balm, a trending highlighter in Korea that adds a naturally dewy finish to the cheeks using a creamy texture. Coming in three other shades, the True Dimension Radiance Balm offers a glow-from-within effect, and works as a lip balm, eyeshadow and blush, as well. Rub the product on the pads of your fingers and dab it across the highest points of your face. Reviewers like how it draws the perfect amount of subtle glam without overdoing it.
5. Best Blush: 3CE Mood Recipe Face Blush, Rose Beige
If you prefer a traditional blush, check out Style Nanda 3CE’s Mood Recipe powder blush. Our choice of colour is a deep rose beige, which complements both warm- and cool-tone makeup looks. The silky powder also absorbs sweat and sebum as it’s applied. Five-star reviews attest to the long-lasting performance, and users say they love the colour since it mimics a natural flush of the cheeks.
6. Best Lip Tint: 3CE Blur Water Tint, 4.6g, Casual Affair
Ever wondered how K-pop stars perfect a gradient lip? 3CE’s Blur Water Tint might be the answer. This soft water-gel tint ranks quite high in K-beauty circles, more so for scoring K-pop star Minnie from the girl group (G)I-DLE as its face (pictured). The lip stain dries as soon as it goes onto the pout and creates a blurring effect at the edges for a natural tint. It’s just the lip product you need in the purse for on-the-go application. Reviews note that it doesn’t last long but neither does it transfer.
7. Best Lipstick: Rom&nd Zero Matte Lipstick, 3g, No. 01
Look no further for the best Korean matte lipstick. Rom&nd’s Zero Matte lip has a fluffy, lightweight texture that builds the more you swipe across the pout. We’ve picked the range’s bestselling colour, Dusty Pink, for a flattering shade for all. The brand suggests applying the lipstick to the insides of the lips to nail the gradient look. Buyers find the texture just right for a matte lip product, without being too creamy or pigmented.
8. Best Mascara: Clio Kill Lash Superproof Mascara
Clio’s viral mascara uses a soft gel formula with waxy ingredients to curl and enhance eyelashes. The finer brush bristles on the wand prevent lash clumping. It’s also resistant to water, sweat and oil, so you don’t have to worry about ruining your mascara. Do note that it might take a strong oil-based makeup remover to melt away the product. Some reviewers have fallen asleep with this on and woken up to no smudging under the eyes. If you have straight lashes, buyers say the mascara holds a curl all day long. Apply two coats for noticeable volume or just one to keep it subtle.
9. Best Eyeliner: Wakemake Any Proof Brush Eyeliner, 02 Brown
Draw on your boldest to finest wings, with the Wakemake Any-Proof eyeliner. Coming in black, brown and dark brown, the pen eyeliner has a fine brush tip, which paints waterproof colour onto the lids evenly. Your best work is going last for 24 hours straight, without smudging or losing pigment. Go ahead and add shades black and dark brown to the cart, too.
10. Best Eyeshadow: Dasique 10 Autumn Breeze Shadow Palette
Dasique’s bestselling nine-colour palette is a must-have for daily makeup. The autumn-inspired shades offer muted pinks and mauve as base colours, with four shimmery accents. The smooth texture applies easily onto the lids with excellent hold, and pairs beautifully with eyeliner. Reviewers attest to the pigmented colours and recommend the palette for minimal looks.
11. Best Contour: Too Cool For School Art Class by Rodin Shading
Touch up your contour wherever you are, when you have Too Cool For School’s Art Class by Rodin Shading. The compact product slips into any bag and offers three-dimensional sculpting with three classic shades: Nudy Beige, Peanut Brown and Cinnamon Brown. Reviewers love this kit for the natural shading it achieves, highlighting how blendable the soft powder is. Most use it to contour their nose and eyebrows with a light hand. Do keep an eye out for the complementary brush, although some buyers report it missing from their package.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.