When we hear the term “K-Beauty”, we automatically associate with Koreans’ (both women AND men) clear, poreless, dewy complexion that have become the ultimate skin goals for all beauty aficionados. Yet, what exactly is K-Beauty, and can its skin care products really help you get that flawless-looking complexion after consistent use?
What Makes Korean Skin Care Different from Western Skin Care?
Korean skincare is uniquely different from Western skin care as the former focuses largely on hydration and prevention care to bring out your best complexion without relying too much on makeup. Conversely, Western skincare emphasizes more on using mattifying, multi-functional products which may not necessarily treat skincare concerns, thereby resulting in a heavier reliance on cosmetics to cover up one’s flaws like blemishes and fine lines.
Koreans believe that the key to healthy, youthful skin is as simple as keeping it well-moisturized and nourished as well as investing in prevention care. In fact, if you look closely at the famous 10-step Korean skin care routine, you will notice that besides double cleansing and exfoliation, a majority of the steps is dedicated to a legion of hydrating products (think essences, serums, ampoules and creams) that are jam-packed with skin-beneficial ingredients to plump up the skin’s moisture levels while fixing any underlying skin issues that you might have. Given that the ideal body water percentage hovers between 60 to 65%, and that the skin is the body’s largest organ, it makes scientific sense for us to keep our skin hydrated in order to maintain its healthy state.
Most Western skin care products are geared towards giving the user cleansed skin with a matte finish which means that they often contain cleansing agents like alcohols and astringents which can be too harsh for your skin. So your skin may feel tight and dry after prolonged usage, which could be a sign of an compromised skin barrier resulting in a greater risk of skin irritation and other associated problems like acne.
On the other hand, Korean skincare often utilizes skin-nourishing ingredients that target a variety of skin concerns such as acne, blemishes, fine lines and dryness. This is also another key reason why consistent use of Korean skin products gives you dramatically positive results as these skin-beneficial ingredients not only treat your skin troubles but also help to replenish the skin’s inner moisture and strengthen its protective barriers to give you healthier-looking skin.
Whether you are new to the K-Beauty game or are looking to overhaul your entire routine to get that much-coveted translucent, glowy complexion, we list out the best-selling Korean skincare products (according to the sequence in the 10-step beauty regime) to help you get started.
The Best Selling Korean Skincare Products
Banila Co Clean It Zero Original Cleansing Balm
One of the best-selling cleansing balms in the beauty sphere, Banila Co has in fact come up with four variants to accommodate different skin types and concerns. Despite that, the Original version still remains a cult favourite for advocates of the double-cleansing routine due to its ingredient list that contains Acerola Extract (to brighten skin), Papaya Extract (to exfoliate), and Bamboo Extract (to moisturize). The brand has also revamped its formulation to make it more skin-friendly by replacing mineral oil with natural ester oil which helps in skin hydration. This high-performing cleansing balm has a sherbet-like texture that melts easily to form an oil consistency which removes all traces of makeup effortlessly without drying out your skin. It is no wonder that one balm is sold every 4.8 seconds according to the brand!
Heimish All Clean Balm
This is another highly-raved cleansing balm that is enriched with skin-moisturizing ingredients like Shea Butter and Coconut Fruit Extract to get rid of heavy makeup without leaving your skin stripped of its natural oils. Users also vouched for its hypoallergenic formulation as they experienced no irritations or breakouts when using the product, making it ideal to double up as an eye makeup remover for wiping away stubborn waterproof mascara without causing burning to the eyes. The balm-like texture also makes removing makeup a hassle-free experience compared to traditional oil cleanser which may slip and slide a little. You can now enjoy grit-free, fully cleansed skin with this cleansing wonder.
COSRX Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
To follow up with the second step during a double-cleanse, a good foam cleanser is a must. This low-PH cleanser by COSRX helps to restore your skin’s optimal pH balance which is slightly acidic (4 to 5), thereby preventing that tight, awkward feeling caused by most Western cleansers which are normally alkaline in nature and are more prone to stripping away your skin’s natural lipids. Keeping your skin slightly acidic is vital to preventing bacteria from breeding which diminishes the risk of acne outbreaks as well as maintaining a healthy lipid barrier to keep skin well-hydrated and supple. As such, low-pH cleansers have become an essential in Korean skincare to help you achieve healthy, clear skin.
Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Lemon
This innovative product mildly exfoliates your skin both chemically and manually. The pad is uniquely designed with a triple-layer gauze technology in which there is a criss-cross texture on one side to aid in sloughing off dead skin cells while the other side is of a soft, quilted texture to pick up any remaining debris for a brighter, more purified complexion. In addition, the pads are infused with AHAs (glycolic acid and lactic acid) which penetrate deeply to clean out dead skin cells and other pore-clogging impurities, thereby reducing the risk of acne breakouts. Moreover, the Lemon Fruit Extract helps in lightening hyperpigmentation and acne scars to reveal a clarified complexion. With its numerous multi-tasking abilities, it comes as no surprise that this exfoliator has become one of the brand’s top-sellers. Tip - remember to use a sunscreen after using the exfoliator to protect your skin from being too sensitized.
Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner
Touted as a life-changing toner that does more than just prepping the skin for the next step in your skincare routine, this product has converted skeptics that once viewed toners as fancy waters that do nothing much for the skin into loyal users. It contains skin-beneficial ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract and Centella Asiatica Extract to hydrate and soothe your skin while reducing inflammation. Users loved the product for its fast absorption and claimed that the consistent use of this toner has resulted in smoother, clearer skin while aiding in the absorption of other skincare products. It is also great for those with sensitive skin due to its gentle formulation.
COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
Fans of snail-based products have highly recommended this essence due to its excellent ability in resolving acne concerns while keeping your skin smooth and supple. The essence has a thick, viscous consistency that contains humectants such as Sodium Hyaluronate and Panthenol to keep dry skin well-moisturized. At the same time, the water-based gel absorbs fast without leaving behind a greasy residue, making it suitable for oily skin users too. The ingredient list is kept minimal with Snail Secretion Filtrate listed right at the top and is formulated without fragrances so that your skin receives the full benefits of the essence. Its pump-like dispenser helps to release the right amount for application and is capped with a plastic cover to keep things hygienic. Topped off with an affordable price tag, what’s not to love about this high-performing snail essence?
MISSHA Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive Moist
The brand’s best-selling essence has recently gotten an upgrade with the addition of Purple Barley that undergoes ion fermentation to infuse the new formula with more than 90% Fermented Yeast Extract. This holy grail ingredient is renowned for repairing damaged and rough skin to reveal a smoother, clearer complexion. The ion fermentation method utilized in its production ensures that moisture is rapidly absorbed and retained within the skin layers to restore your skin’s natural elasticity and suppleness. Users were happy with the positive effects from using this essence as they observed reduced acne breakouts, fading of hyperpigmentation and a more even skin tone as the product is also infused with skin-brightening Niacinamide. Its lightweight, watery texture makes it easy for you to layer on other emulsions and ampoules.
Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C has been in the ingredient spotlight when it comes to fighting against pigmentation like dark spots and acne scars. It is exactly why this serum from Klairs has become one of the most widely-bought products by users who are looking to fade discolorations and scars. With a Vitamin C concentration of 5%, this serum is perfect for beginners and gentle enough for sensitive skin individuals without causing irritation or a stinging sensation. With consistent use, you can look forward to a more even and brighter-looking complexion. Tip - use this at night and apply a sunscreen the next day for best results.
MIZON Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule
Another snail-based product that is worth its hype. This ampoule is intensely rich in Snail Mucin packaged in a concentrated serum to deliver fabulous results for your skin. Fans of this product vouched for its effectiveness in clearing up skin troubles such as reducing acne breakouts and preventing new ones from forming, while its regenerative ingredients like anti-aging peptides and five kinds of vitamins makes it a formidable opponent in fighting off wrinkles and fine lines. In fact, one user observed dramatic results in diminishing her heavy forehead wrinkles and acne within just one week of using this ampoule!
Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask
If you are looking for a heavy-duty clay mask to suck out all the gunk and dirt from your pores, this one is right up your alley. Formulated with Volcanic Extract and Super Volcanic Capsules, users swear by this beauty in deeply cleansing and minimizing their pores as well as removing blackheads and whiteheads. It also multitasks as an exfoliator to detoxify your skin for a clearer, healthier complexion. Without making your skin feel overly dry, this mask is also great at reducing sebum and oil production to prevent clogged pores that lead to acne flare-ups.
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
If your skin has been acting up recently and require some extra TLC, look no further than the overnight Sleeping Mask from Laneige. A mask that helps your skin recover while you sleep, thereby saving you time in your hectic lifestyle? Yes, please. This legendary mask, which is sold once every 12 seconds as reported by the brand, utilizes SLEEP-TOX™ technology to purify and rejuvenate tired-looking skin. Further infused with skin-soothing ingredients, it helps to restore fatigued skin back to its healthy, well-rested state. It also has MOISTURE WRAP™ that consists of Hydro Ion Mineral Water and Evening Primrose Root extract to keep your skin well-moisturized throughout the night so that you can wake up to smooth and supple baby-soft skin. Furthermore, its patented SLEEPSCENT™ ensures the user remains relaxed during sleep to provide maximum rest for your skin. This has become a must-have in the beauty arsenal of modern working women.
Dermal Korea Collagen Essence Full Face Facial Mask Sheet (16 Combo Pack)
This top-selling sheet mask on Amazon is ridiculously cheap when you work out its individual price tag. Yet, do not assume that the low cost translates into low quality. These masks are fully drenched in essence that contains different skin-boosting ingredients which ranges from Cucumber to Green Tea to Royal Jelly to target different skin concerns. This makes it great for alternating between different masks depending on what your skin requires at the moment. Moreover, the material of the mask is thick and strong to prevent tearing during application. It also adheres well to ensure that your skin receive the full benefits of the essence.
Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream
A good eye cream is essential for keeping the delicate skin around your peepers healthy and free from fine lines. This is where Innisfree’s Eye Cream comes in as its star ingredient, Orchid Extract, is jam-packed with antioxidants to keep your skin bright and youthful-looking. It is also enriched with anti-ageing Adenosine and Arbutin to keep the areas around your eyes wrinkle-free. With a lightweight texture, the cream goes on smoothly to keep the skin well-moisturized for hours on end, making it a favourite among users.
MISSHA All Around Safe Block Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF50+/PA+++
Sunscreens are a definite must in any Korean skincare routine as they protect you from dark spots and damage caused by sun exposure. This sunscreen from MISSHA gives your skin maximum sun protection with its new Double Layer UV Blocking System that is also water- and sweat-resistant. Just like its name, the sunscreen is infused with Silky Porous Powder to give a velvety-soft finish that provides a smooth and matte base so that makeup goes on well without any pilling. With added beneficial skin ingredients like Aloe Vera and Cinchona to hydrate and nourish the skin, it comes as no surprise that this product has remained a long-time favourite among users.
Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+/PA+++
This mineral-based sunscreen is a thin and milky liquid that packs a punch when it comes to equipping your skin with high sun protection. Containing only physical UV blockers which do not cause skin sensitivity, it dries down to a matte finish without leaving a noticeable white cast, making it suitable as a makeup base for those with oily skin. Formulated with 20 kinds of botanical ingredients, reviewers reported that this sunscreen is gentle and moisturizing enough for everyday use without giving you clogged pores. Do note that a dime-sized amount of this is sufficient to cover the entire face to give you all-day sun protection.
With glowing reviews and positive results experienced by users, it is unsurprising that these products have become best-sellers in their own category. You can also get K-beauty-worthy skin with some of these products.
“Cloudless Skin” Is Your New #SkinGoals
While glass skin and honey skin are flawless complexions that most of us lust after, cloudless skin has become the latest Korean beauty buzzword as it transcends the aforementioned skin hypes. In fact, it is known to be the ultimate compliment on beautiful, healthy skin that one can receive in Korea!
So what sets cloudless skin apart from glass skin and honey skin? To clarify, glass skin refers to a smooth, clear and translucent complexion that is characteristic of a piece of glass, hence its name. Honey skin is more of a well-hydrated, luminous, dewy look that reflects good skin health. Cloudless skin, on the other hand, is used to describe completely flawless and bright complexion that is unblemished, just like a cloudless sky. But what is interesting about cloudless skin is that it goes one step further to include your emotional well-being whereas glass skin and honey skin are solely focused on the exterior.
So how do you achieve cloudless skin? First and foremost, keeping your skin free of blemishes, discolourations and scars is the start to achieving this HG-like skin complexion. This is why using products that contain anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients like Centella Asiatica and Green Tea to soothe and calm the skin while keeping acne-causing bacteria away is essential. Secondly, for a brighter and luminous complexion, you should exfoliate regularly to remove dead skin cells and impurities trapped in the pores as well as leveraging on skin-brightening ingredients like Niacinamide and Vitamin C. Lastly, amp up on the hydration by choosing products that contain humectants and moisture-boosting ingredients to help your skin retain moisture, giving it a plumped-up and dewy glow.
Oh, and don’t forget to take good care of your emotional health so that you can exude a healthy aura which is the distinctive cornerstone of cloudless skin.
The 7-Skin Method
This skincare technique originates from South Korea and is used specifically for toners during daily skincare routine to increase the amount of toning product absorbed by the skin. However, you can also choose to apply other lightweight, watery products such as essences and serums to achieve a similar effect. This method is effortlessly easy to pick up as it simply involves applying 7 layers of toner (otherwise known as ‘skin’ in Korean beauty terminology) as an innovative hydration hack. By putting on multiple layers of your toner in a continuous fashion, what you are doing is essentially adding extra moisture and nourishing ingredients to your skin rather than only absorbing one thin layer of toner. As such, your skin remains well-hydrated to give you that radiant, dewy glow. In order to get the best results with this method, do make sure that the toner (or essence) you are using does not contain skin-drying agents like alcohol and is instead chock full of hydrating, skin-soothing ingredients. This will ensure your skin receives the full hydrating benefits rather than drying out due to the excessive amount of alcohol absorbed by your skin.
How to get healthier-looking skin with the 7-skin method:
- Step 1: after double-cleansing, pat your face dry and ensure the skin is slightly damp before applying the first layer of toner with a cotton pad or your hands.
- Step 2: pour a small amount of toner on your hands, spread the product a little to disperse it before gently pressing a second layer into your face. Wait for a short while to ensure most of the toner has been absorbed into the skin.
- Step 3: repeat step 2 for five more times. Once the seventh layer has sink in, you can continue with the rest of your skincare regime. If you are of a dry skin type, you can top it off with some more serum and moisturizer. For oily skin types, seven layers of hydrating toner might be sufficient enough without adding on other products.
Given how easy and effortless this technique is, you can easily include it in your daily routine to achieve a softer, more supple skin texture with consistent use. For those who are trying out the 7-skin method for the first time, you can opt to use 3 to 5 layers first to acclimatize your skin before building up to all 7 layers for maximum results.
The multi-step Korean skincare regime might be time-intensive (you can easily expect an additional 15 to 20 minutes to your routine) and tedious, but the end results are more than worth the effort. It is important to get the basics right first - double cleansing, toning, exfoliating and moisturizing before adding in skin-boosting products like ampoules, serums and sheet masks. This prevents your skin from being overwhelmed and breaking out from using too many products at one go. In addition, gradually adding products to your routine to build up to the full 10-step regime also help to ensure the products incorporated are suitable for your skin. As such, to enjoy perfect-looking skin, let’s put in a little bit of hard work!