When Cuteness Goes Skin-Deep

There are very few things in life I consider and call “cute.” Among them are fat, gurgling babies, newborn animals and Hello Kitty. As a child, my ultimate dream was to collect all the Hello Kitty memorabilia in the world. (In case the universe somehow makes my childhood dreams come true, I’d still like that Hello Kitty airplane, too.)

But then I was introduced to the world of Korean beauty brands, and now I find that the word “cute” applies to more than just cuddly babies and mouthless felines with red bows. The YesStyle Beauty department is always adding more brands to its Korean beauty catalogue, and I find myself religiously checking for new names on the list. Choosing which products to review for our YesStyle Beauty Lab is proving to be more and more difficult!

Here are a few brands that not only make you look pretty but are definitely worthy of display on your vanity.

Tony Moly
This makeup and skincare brand is one of the biggest and most popular with over 400 stores in Korea alone. Tony Moly‘s one-of-a-kind packaging uses animal shapes and food themes like desserts and fruits. It also doesn’t hurt that the boxes also feature images of K-pop group JYJ and Korean actress Min Hyo Rin, making all the fangirl and fanboy hearts flutter.

Some of my favorites are the Egg Pore Silky Smooth Balm and Shiny Skin Soap, the very kissable Help Me Lip Balm and that Hello Bunny Perfume Bar that’s just begging to be whipped out for display at every opportunity.

Etude House
Etude House appeals to the younger set with its predominant use of pastels but if you’re fond of desserts like me, chances are you’ll also find this brand’s tins, tubes and boxes delicious with their dessert-inspired designs. Cheek tints echo the swirly frosting on cupcakes while nail polish bottles are shaped like upside down ice cream cones. Some masks are even ingeniously designed to look like those little butter packets served with in-flight meals. The bonus? No added calories!

Skinfood‘s philosophy is “Feed your skin, it deserves a treat!” If other Korean brands look like cake or pastry shops, then Skinfood is the kitchen, including the fridge. As they use ingredients from fruits, vegetables and plants, don’t be surprised to find hop beer shampoo and conditioner next to honey and black rice masks and creams, apple and cinnamon masks, coffee scrubs and even steamed milk-scented perfumes. Their products are housed in sensible bottles, jars and tins, most of which are transparent so they look like the real thing. Be careful with what you put in the fridge!

Holika Holika
Unlike the previous brands mentioned, Holika Holika relies more on color and shape to make its product packaging distinctive, and caters to the aesthetic of older teens and young adults. Some of its products lines use sleekly shaped containers like teardrop-shaped jars and bottles while others, like the Pig Nose Blackhead sheets and gel and their version of the Egg Soap, have a more whimsical finish.

banila co.
Rounding off this list is banila co., whose packaging leans towards a more retro and mod-inspired look. Illustrations, cursive typography, and a great mix of colors and patterns evoke a sense of fun with a more sophisticated twist. Think a more sexy kind of cute. I particularly like the use of polka dots, flower designs and a palette ranging from pastels to saturated and metallic pinks and electric blues.

What other Korean brands do you think are worth adding to this list?