K-Beauty includes skin care and makeup brands, products and trends from South Korea. Korean skin care is well-known for its effectiveness in solving various skin problems and creating glass skin – pore-less, baby-soft skin that just glows even without heavy base makeup. It is also recognized for unique and innovative products, techniques and ingredients like green tea, snail mucin and ginseng. Korean beauty has also been a trailblazer in the world of cosmetics, creating and popularizing beauty products like Korean BB creams, cushion pacts and lip tints. With straight brows, puppy eyeliner and gradient lips being some of the most recognizable elements to a Korean makeup look, the overall desired effect is to look youthful and natural.
With the growing popularity of Korean entertainment around the world, namely K-Pop and K-Dramas, many fans have become interested in recreating looks seen on their favorite idols and actresses by investing in the same products and implementing the same techniques. Korean beauty has become widespread, giving birth to countless YouTube channels, blogs and online shops that focus on reviewing products, sharing info about the latest K-Beauty trends and bringing products straight to consumers. If you’re new to all of this, you might be confused by the plethora of buzzwords surrounding K-Beauty, but fear not – we’re here to break all of that down.
The world of K-Beauty is full of unique trends, and one of its most Googled topics is the ten-step Korean skin care routine. Koreans are known for their dedication to maintaining their flawless skin with regular trips to the dermatologist and carefully curated skin care regimens. This is most exemplified through the comprehensive ten-step K-Beauty routine that experts swear by. The ten steps are as follows: oil-based cleanser, water-based cleanser, exfoliator, toner, essence, serum or ampoule, sheet mask, eye cream, moisturizer and sunscreen. Double cleansing by using an oil-based cleanser before a water-based cleanser might seem redundant, but it’s actually very important. The first step cleanses oil-based impurities such as sebum and pollutants, while the second step cleanses water-based impurities such as sweat and dirt. Some of these products might already be familiar to you, while others, such as the essence (a concentrated formula that drenches the skin with moisture and provides firming, brightening and lifting effects) were created in Korea.
Another popular trend is the 12 Korean beauty hacks for perfect skin. In terms of Korean skin care, this list advises giving your face a steam massage in the shower, exfoliating with a washcloth soaked in hot water, using charcoal sheet masks and overnight sleeping masks, turning to potent ampoules for a quick fix, and applying an essence between two layers of moisturizer to seal in goodness. On the makeup front, hacks include using an air-cushion foundation to “blur” imperfections and create flawless skin, as well as using nutrient-rich lip tints and oils for smooth application, sheer color and a non-sticky finish.
Some of K-Beauty’s biggest skin care brands include cult fave COSRX, known for its efficacy in tackling acne and its smash hit pimple patches; Dear, Klairs which caters to sensitive skin by striving for simplicity; and Sulwhasoo whose skin care products are enriched with Korean herbal medicine ingredients. Makeup brand 3CE is easily recognizable by its sleek, modern packaging and primary palette of pink, orange and beige. What about brands that offer both high-quality skin care and makeup products? ETUDE and TONYMOLY align with a younger audience through cute packaging and plenty of fun collabs, while innisfree famously incorporates natural ingredients from Jeju Island. Of course, no list of K-Beauty brands would be complete without LANEIGE. The household name combines modern technology with high-quality ingredients to create beauty staples.
If you’re looking to order K-Beauty products but aren’t sure where to start, here is a breakdown of some must-have items for your shopping cart! Some of the most popular skin care categories include face washes, toners, serums, eye creams, moisturizers and masks. Face washes remove dirt and makeup residue, and come in many different forms, including gel cleansers, foam cleansers, milk oil cleansers and even cleansing balms. Some bestsellers include COSRX’s Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, innisfree’s Green Tea Foam Cleanser and BANILA CO’s Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Original. Toners balance skin’s oil-water levels and restore pH levels, with some favorites being Mamonde’s Rose Water Toner, Dear, Klairs’ Supple Preparation Facial Toner and innisfree’s Green Tea Balancing Skin. Multifunctional serums can offer a range of effects, and much-loved options such as TONYMOLY’s The Black Tea London Classic Serum, Dear, Klairs’ Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop and Sulwhasoo’s First Care Activating Serum offer anti-aging, whitening, brightening, moisturizing and nourishing effects and also create soft, smooth and supple skin. Eye creams such as innisfree’s Jeju Orchid Eye Cream, MIZON’s Snail Repair Eye Cream and Sulwhasoo’s Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream nourish, moisturize and rejuvenate the delicate skin around eyes, minimizing fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, dullness and dark circles to maintain a youthful look. Face creams and moisturizers are an important final step for skin care routines, recharging skin with instant hydration and soothing effects to leave it soft, supple and plump. Some creams also work to delay skin aging, control excess sebum secretion, and minimize fine lines, blemishes and scars. Belif’s Aqua Bomb, Dr. Jart+’s Ceramidin Cream, Mizon’s All In One Snail Repair Cream and LANEIGE’s Water Bank Moisture Cream are some of K-Beauty’s biggest hits.
Although sheet masks might be K-Beauty’s most well-known export, there are plenty of other kinds of masks, including overnight masks, eye masks, lip masks and foot masks. Coming in distinctive cup-and-straw packaging, Dr. Jart+’s Shake & Shot modeling mask is available in four different types for hydration, brightening, calming and firming effects, while innisfree’s Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask draws out toxins, impurities and excess sebum to minimize pores, tighten skin and refine texture. LANEIGE’s Lip Sleeping Mask helps dissolve dead skin cells to make lips firmer, plumper and more moisturized, while the brand’s Eye Sleeping Mask increases blood circulation to decrease puffiness around the eyes. TONYMOLY’s sheet masks feature unique ingredients like rice and snail secretion filtrate, but its foot peeling mask is the most innovative.
Korean makeup looks are usually natural and minimal. Because skin care is taken very seriously in Korea, it’s no surprise that BB cream, K-Beauty’s base makeup staple, combines coverage, skin care properties and SPF. It offers a lightweight finish as well as a plethora of other features: moisturizing skin, evening out complexion, improving texture, and protecting skin from free radicals and damage from pollution. For on-the-go touch-ups, the portable and sleek cushion compact houses a sponge soaked with foundation, as well as a sponge applicator and mirror for application. The cushion transforms foundation into a lighter emulsion to maintain a long-lasting, non-cakey finish and also offers plenty of benefits such as sun protection, hydration, radiance and firmness, as well as reducing oil, smoothing pores and minimizing appearance of wrinkles. Many brands also sell compact refills, so you won’t have to waste the packaging after you run out of product. Look to Missha and Dr. Jart+ for two of the most popular BB cream options. For cushion foundations, consider Sulwhasoo’s Perfecting Cushion, IOPE’s Air Cushion Cover and LANEIGE’s range of BB cushions, which include pore control, anti-aging and whitening versions.
Apart from feeling lightweight, Korean makeup also places great emphasis on looking youthful. This is achieved through a number of strategies, such as forgoing intensely arched brows for a straighter shape, applying teardrop glitter in the corner of eyes for a subtle shine, drawing puppy eyeliner that’s curved slightly downwards, and applying fruit-colored blush (pink, peach, orange or coral) on the apples of cheeks for a refreshing flush, a look commonly referred to as fruit juice makeup. Korean lip tints (versatile liquid lip products that offer long-lasting yet lightweight color payoff) are used to create gradient lips. Also referred to as popsicle-stained lips or just-bitten lips, gradient lips mean that color is concentrated in the center of the lips and gradually fades towards the edge. Some of K-Beauty’s trendiest lip tints include TONYMOLY’s Liptone Tint, ETUDE’s Dear Darling Tint and peripera’s Ink Velvet Tint.
K-Beauty caters to many different skin types. Whether you have dry, oily or combination skin, suffer from acne, blackheads or large pores, or want to tackle highly sensitive or aging skin, there are products that will suit your skin type and target your skin problems. Those with dry skin can replenish moisture during the day with facial mists, while those with oily skin should incorporate an oil-based cleanser to remove excess oil without stripping skin of natural oils. People suffering from acne will benefit from pimple patches and spot treatments, while products consisting of charcoal powder and clay are effective at removing blackheads and minimizing pores. For those with sensitive skin, plenty of K-Beauty brands offer products with gentle, chemical-free formulas enriched with natural ingredients, while those who want to combat signs of aging (such as loss of elasticity) can invest in facial oils and essences that create firmer and more supple skin with renewed vitality. As you can probably tell by now, Korean beauty spans a large range of products and methods, meaning you can definitely create a personalized skin care routine that’s right for you. After all, regardless of what’s trending, what’s most important is figuring out what you need and what works for you! At its core, K-Beauty is not about concealing flaws or creating dramatic transformations – it’s simply about enhancing existing beauty.