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Want glowing skin that transcends boarders?
We do too, but didn’t have enough vacation days to hop on a plane to Korea to stock up on their world-renowned beauty products, dubbed K-beauty for short.
Instead, the next best thing was to check out the top K-beauty brands that are shoppable online, so we did just that. To choose which brands to try, we wanted to provide you with skincare brands that are available for purchase in the United States, made with traditional Korean ingredients and had rave reviews.
Additionally, we wanted to span all skin needs, such as moisturizers for dry skin, cleansers for oily skin, anti-aging products for all ages and more to incorporate into your daily skincare routine.
With that in mind, we rounded up the best K-beauty brands and got to work. Well, if you count face masks, scrubs and sprays as “work” that is.
What is K-beauty?
K-beauty has has a cult-following all over the world, all stemming from the booming industry in South Korea. Unlike many products in America and elsewhere, Korean skincare puts immense value on natural ingredients and your body chemistry to yield the most dewy and glowing results over time.
“Fundamentally, the routine is about respecting your skin,” reads a Healthline.com explainer on the beauty phenomenon. “Instead of using products full of harsh ingredients that strip the skin’s natural barrier, Korean skincare philosophy is about working with your skin’s natural ecosystem by cleansing, hydrating, nourishing, and protecting it — allowing your skin to thrive.”
There are also a few stand-out ingredients in many K-beauty formulas, such as niacinamide, green tea, ginseng, bamboo extract and more. Aside from ingredients, the order in which you cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize also matters, and so we wanted to start from the top, reviewing the products in the order you would typically use them.
1. Remove that makeup:
The first step to a successful K-beauty skincare routine is removing all of the day’s makeup. Our top pick was the Banila Co’s Clean It Zero Original Makeup Removing Balm.
Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Original, $17, original price: $19
Retailing at $19, the Clean It Zero balm is affordable and effective. The formula quickly and easily melts away makeup and was created with all skin types in mind. We are also obsessed with the hydration it provides, making it the ideal first step in any cleansing routine.
2. Cleanse the skin:
While your makeup may be washed away, that doesn’t mean your cleansing routine ends there. In fact, it’s vital to double cleanse to ensure all oils, dirt and buildup is successfully removed from your face.
We have a few favorites here, and we aren’t mad about it.
Tackle dullness and uneven texture with this creamy, foaming cleanser perfect for oily, combination and normal skin. The ingredient lineup includes glycerin, which we love for removing impurities, creating smooth skin and aiding in a youthful glow.
For a more luxurious approach, we are all about Venn’s Moisture-Balance cleanser. In one step, you are able to cleanse your skin, remove makeup and gently exfoliating. Best of all, 96.8% of the ingredients used are naturally-originated and 82.7% are bioactives. In other words, this cleanser is actually good for you and your skin.
This gentle foam cleanser was made with everyone in mind. It’s hypoallergenic, hydrating, made without parabens or sulfates, helps resolve dryness and is great for dry, combination and normal skin.
We love that it’s a gel cleanser packed with botanical ingredients, as it gently removes dirt, makeup and buildup while smoothing the look of your skin.
Looking for a silky textured cleanser? Then this is the one for you.
With the use of ginger, pineapple, papaya and sunflower seed and grapeseed oils, you will reveal refreshed and balanced skin. And did we mention that this cleanser has the cutest purple tint? Because we count that as a win in our books!
3. Apply toner and facial mists:
After cleansing your skin, you must go in with a toner. What does toner do, you ask? It gives the skin a quick hit of hydration while helping to even skin tone and minimize the look of pores. We have a couple favorite K-beauty toners, so keep reading to find out all about them.
When we heard that 90% of users saw a reduction in the appearance of pore size after just two weeks, we knew we had to try this popular product — and man, are we glad we did.
It’s ultra-gentle and is formulated with hydrating ingredients and pore-tightening actives. Not to mention, the beautiful bottle and pretty pink color makes it all the better.
Ideal for sensitive skin, this fine hydrating mist soothes and delivers lasting relief. We love it because it features jartbiome, the brand’s proprietary microbiome complex, that helps “strengthen, balance and improve skin’s defenses,” according to the website. What more could you want?
Packed with 80% probiotics and prebiotics, this facial mist helps balance the skin microbiome while nourishing and revitalizing the face. Further ingredients include vitamin B3, provitamin B5, glutathione and arginine.
4. Mask up:
While you don’t have to do a face mask every single night, they can exponentially aid in a well-rounded skincare routine — especially if you opt for some gorgeous options like the ones below.
This galactic black face mask is unlike anything we’ve ever used before — just watch our video for proof.
While exfoliating charcoal peel-off masks are typically painful and hard to remove, this I Dew Care option seamlessly peeled off, revealing glowing, soft skin. The brand recommends using it on your T-zone but we went full force ahead and tested it all over our face — and we loved the outcome.
Sometimes you just don’t have time for a full-on spa night. When that’s the case, opt for this overnight sleeping mask. We headed to bed wearing this AHA and glycolic acid concoction and woke up to hydrated, supple skin.
Another one of our absolute favorites is this sprinkle wash-off mask inspired by soft-serve ice cream. It delivers instant hydration while packing in hyaluronic acid, squalane and glacier water. It’s next level. Don’t believe us? Check out our video for proof!
5. Add serum and essences:
Now, it’s time for some serums and essences. Both can target a multitude of skin concerns, such as sensitivity, dullness, dryness, dark spots, breakouts and more. We listed some of the best Korean skincare serums and essences below.
Made famous by TikTok, this popular serum lives up to the hype. In no time, you’ll be welcoming smoother, softer, luminous and hydrated skin. What’s inside the little bottle you ask? Good-for-you and your skin peach extract, niacinamide, East Asian mountain yam, madecassoside, peptides and hyaluronic acid.
We have never seen such an all-around gorgeous product. Not only does the product come in a pink, iridescent drop-like bottle, but the product feels silky and sooth against the skin. Get ready for serious hydration and a glow from within.
Packed with SPF and giving off a radiant finish, these camo drops are next level. At first application, you’ll see a green tinted serum, but sooner than later, the tint will neutralize with your skin tone revealing an even complexion.
6. Lock it all in with moisturizer:
Once you’ve cleansed, masked, illuminated and more, you must lock it all in with a great moisturizer. Sulwhasoo offers an unbeatable facial cream, while TONYMOLY has the cutest eye cream.
While this product is a bit steep in price, we think it’s well worth it.
Full of Korean red ginseng and retinol, this cream addresses signs of aging, moisturizes and leaves skin with a glowing, healthy look.
TONYMOLY Panda’s Dream Brightening Eye Base, $12
Like the brand says, “If anyone understands dark circles, it’s pandas,” and we agree. This stick eye base awakens tired eyes, moisturizes and illuminates. Wear it alone or layer it under your concealer.
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