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Anyone who has ever tried Korean Beauty—a.k.a. K-Beauty—knows that its maximalist, ten-step approach is much different compared to Western skincare. Sure, ten steps may seem strenuous to some, but to others, it’s a self-care ritual that nourishes the mind as much as it does the skin. Unsurprisingly, the number of K-Beauty brands available to Western consumers seems endless now, with more and more people recognizing just how beneficial the lofty K-Beauty-based skincare ritual is. But aside from the multi-step routine, Korean beauty products also offer a slew of unusual (by U.S. standards, that is) and effective actives, including laxity-boosting snail mucin and redness-reducing cica. The beauty industry is massive in South Korea, with 112 beauty stores spanning just eight street blocks in Seoul, according to K-Beauty brand (and one of our top K-beauty brand picks) Peach & Lily.
For those who haven’t plunged into this market just yet, the differences between choosing a K-Beauty anti-aging (or any skincare concern) versus a Korean anti-aging product may seem tricky, but we’re here to help guide you.
We’re not here to judge whether you adopt a Korean or Western-inspired beauty routine, but the benefits of using a K-Beauty line are clear–especially if you’re seeking clean ingredients. K-Beauty lines “concentrate on maintaining a healthy, well hydrated, and nourished skin environment for results that last a lifetime,” according to top-rated Korean brand Peach & Lily.
K-Beauty products continue to soar above others on the market because of their efficacious products formulated with wallet-friendly and gentle active ingredients that seem to suit all skin types (including sensitive) but actually keep their promises of ironing out fine lines, erasing acne scars, and retaining hydration for more than sixty seconds. Plus, most K-beauty products are super affordable without the ubiquitous ‘clean beauty’ price tag. Scroll through below to check out some of my favorite Korean beauty brands disrupting the skincare space right now.
TONYMOLY is one of the cutest makeup brands I have ever seen–period. Just look at its packaging! (TONYMOLY means “putting style into packaging,” so I suppose maybe that’s why it’s so spectacular.) Anyway, this brand’s sheet mask is the sheet mask and my favorites include the moisturizing aloe (especially as someone who sunburns easily!), pore care red wine, and the clear skin rice options. This whale cooling algae eye serum is also insanely adorable and works insanely well to deeply moisturize and de-puff skin.
Laneige is unquestionably one of the most prominent K-Beauty brands in the U.S. and beyond, and there’s good reason for it. For starters, this antioxidant-rich lip sleeping mask is a TikTok famous product that continues to sweep creators and viewers alike away. Many users wear it every day and for its overnight use; either way, it deeply hydrates my lips and comes with yummy scents, like berry, gummy bear, vanilla, and limited edition scents like mango and berry ‘n choco kisses. I’m also in love with Laneige’s Cica Sleeping Mask free of parabens and full of hydrating and redness-reducing benefits. The brand’s Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Hydration Set is also a summer staple and perfect for your next getaway.
My skin felt so tired and dull, and then I met you, Then I Met You. And I thank you for it. Then I Met You is sold at Soko Glam, my personal favorite hub for K-Beauty products, and this best-selling brand offers a Holy Grail Hydration Set filled with luxurious and antioxidant-rich products for the ultimate K-Beauty skin ritual takeover. If you’re serious about indulging in K-Beauty and kissing your other skincare routine goodbye to say hello to more natural ingredients, look no further than this set bound to meet you there, too. The Cleansing Duo is also a great place to start if you aren’t ready to commit to the full bit just yet.
Dr. Jart is one of the most famed and recognized skincare brands out there, and this high-performance skincare is available at fairly r4easonable prices. One of the brand’s coolest products would have to be its Cryo Rubber™ Masks that emulate the effects of cryotherapy (cold therapy used to treat skin) as an at-home treatment. Four different masks are offered here–one with Soothing Allantoin to protect the skin from environmental factors and for redness and irritation, one with Hyaluronic Acid for hydrating the skin, another with Vitamin C for brightening and lifting away dead skin cells, and one with Firming Collagen for soothing the skin and smoothing fine line and wrinkles.
I Dew Care is another brand that wants you to know they absolutely do care about making your skincare ritual as fun and effective as possible. I Dew Care creates products that are safe for you and the planet, all while playing around with unique textures and tasty scents. This vegan and cruelty-free brand has a super fun array of products, like its Scoop Party Wash-Off Masks and Headband Set, which includes an adorable pink tiara headband that’s giving a Princess Peach moment, and three of the brand’s best-selling masks: a soothing matcha green tea mask to calm skin, a berry mask infused with glycolic acid for revitalizing skin, and a cake-themed, sprinkle wash-off mask that deeply moisturizes skin.
Let me tell you about arguably the best cleansing balm out there–Banila Co’s Clean It Zero cleansing balm that takes off your makeup without irritating your skin. Instead, this product melts off your makeup and naturally exfoliates your skin, while also brightening with vitamin C-rich acerola extract. This product is also naturally derived from green tea, giving it a fresh rose scent and even more reason to add it to cart. This powerful cleansing balm comes in other powerful packages, including ones for purifying, revitalizing, and brightening. This cult favorite brand is a classic pick to kickstart your skin’s inevitable love for K-Beauty.
Peach & Lily’s Glass Skin Discovery Set is determined to help you achieve your healthiest skin yet. The brand’s brightening, hydrating, firming, and calming Glass Skin Serum itself has 4.5 stars and over 3,200 reviews and it’s included in this essential discovery set that’s vegan, clean, cruelty-free and sold with sustainable packaging. Peach & Lily created this daily use set to give you luminous skin on an everyday basis. The brand is also passionate about excluding potentially harmful ingredients, like fragrance, parabens, sulfates, and more.
Newly launched, Daybird is a BIPOC and AAPI-owned brand that dubs themselves “The Anti-Beauty Beauty Club,” and we’re all here for the brand’s philosophy behind its so forward slogan. Daybird is “redefining the B word”–a.k.a. Beauty–and encourage its consumers to do the same in encouraging positive relationships with themselves and their images. Instead of using more products and taking so many steps to attempt to achieve society’s impossible standards, Daybird’s first product–its Tinted Skincare–is a wonderful 4-in-1 multitasker that’s a vegan serum, moisturizer, sheer foundation and mineral SPF 50 sunscreen all in one. The product already has rave reviews, and you can take the brand’s Skin Quiz to find which shade would work best for you (because skincare should work for you–not the other way around).
This best-selling Glow Serum from beloved brand Beauty of Joseon has lasted me months and has given months of life back to my skin. Created for acne-prone skin, this serum is formulated with propolis, which is one of the best ingredients out there to help calm and heal troubled skin. My roommate swears by the brand’s Revive Serum formulated with ginseng and snail mucin, which helps with hyperpigmentation and scarring and gives your skin a healthy and natural glow. You could also give the brand’s green tea-infused Calming Serum a whirl. Take your pick–I bet you’ll love any of them.
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