Korean skincare products are some of the best out there, with gentle formulas that contain active ingredients that have been scientifically proven to be effective, as well as Korean medicinal herb extracts that are traditionally thought to have all kinds of soothing benefits. It’s the loveliest combination of science and tradition!
As always, we have prepared a list of the best of the best in Korean skincare products, although we’ll also recommend some products from other countries that are inspired by the K-beauty routine. From Korean face masks to moisturizers to serums, find the best Korean skincare products worth giving a try!
1. Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb
Super hydrating gels are one of the best ways to moisturize the skin for just about any skin type, which is why they’re such a staple in K-beauty. This hydrating gel is packed with an antioxidant-rich blend of herbal extracts, along with lots of humectants, and some silicones to seal it all in and to give a skin-smoothing effect. It’s particularly awesome under makeup. Buy it at Sephora!
2. Julep Boost Your Radiance Reparative Rosehip Seed Facial Oil
We’ve talked at length about the benefits of facial oils, especially with rosehip oil as the main ingredient, so no surprise that this one is a favorite. It combines rosehip seed oil with shea butter esters for a silky and light oil perfect for all skin types that works to moisturize, protect from free radical damage, brighten the skin, and even help with breakouts and scarring! Because it’s quite light you can use it before, after, or mixed in to your moisturizer. It is available at Ulta Beauty.
3. Sulwashoo First Care Activating Serum
In keeping true to the multi-step philosophy of Korean skincare products, this serum is meant to be the first thing applied to the skin after cleansing – that’s right, toner comes after! It is an extremely hydrating serum with lots of humectants, along with soothing and anti-aging Korean herbal extracts. In the long term it is meant to give the skin a glow and some firmness, and it is definitely ideal for dehydrated and maturing skin. You can get it at Nordstrom.
4. Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask
One of the most unique types of K-beauty products is the sleeping mask. Sleeping masks are applied as a final step in the evening, since they are meant to work throughout the night while we sleep. This particular mask is absolutely loaded with hyaluronic acid, to draw moisture into the skin throughout the night. It also contains glycolic acid to gently exfoliate the skin, along with some nutrient-rich plant extracts. It’s an oil-free formula that would boost the glow of any skin type. Find this mask at Sephora!
5. COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
I’ve written about this unique essence before, and I’m happy to write about it again! Snail secretions are not a fad ingredient – they’re excellent for boosting the skin’s hydration, soothing it, and improving its coloring. They’re extremely protective for human skin much like for snail skin, helping to repair it and moisturize it, especially in this formula that also contains hyaluronic acid and panthenol.
This Korean skincare product is an essence, which can mean anything between toner and gel. It has a thick, sticky texture that is non-greasy, and can work for all skin types. You can buy it at Ulta Beauty.
6. Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
This is another overnight mask with a gel texture, also reinforced with hyaluronic acid along with some other respectable humectants. You apply it at night, and in the morning wake up to smooth, hydrated skin. It is made with mineral-rich water that improves absorption, and a whole range of vitamin-rich plant extracts. It’s a great choice for all skin types. It can be purchased at Sephora.
7. Whal Myung Skin Elixir
Elixir is not an official skincare term, but one of the long-standing traditions in K-beauty is to release products with various textures and put them into a brand-new category. This is how essences and ampoules came to be!
This particular Korean skincare product sits somewhere between toner and essence, with a liquidy texture reinforced by quite a bit of argan oil. It is very moisturizing on its own, and ideal for combination and dry skin types. It has an herbal fragrance thanks to the hanbang herbal tradition that informs the formula and also leads to a significant antioxidant content. Pick it up from Nordstrom!
8. Memebox I Dew Care Disco Kitten Mask
K-beauty products can also be a lot of fun rather than strictly functional, and this mask certainly proves that. You apply this shiny mask on your skin, and give it about 20 minutes to dry. By then it hardens and takes on a slightly rubbery texture – that’s when you get to peel it off and find out what’s underneath!
The mask brightens and lightly exfoliates the skin, with many users raving about the firming effect it has as well. It should work well for most skin types, but avoid it if you’re very sensitive or experiencing active acne. It goes without saying that it shouldn’t come in contact with your hair or eyebrows. It is available at Ulta Beauty.
9. My Skin Mentor Dr. G Daily Safe BB SPF 30 PA++
We’ve done a whole write-up on BB creams, but this Korean option is newer and absolutely deserves a mention. This BB cream is light-medium coverage, dewy, ultra-gentle, rich in skin-restoring ingredients, and it’s got some serious sun protection power. The shade itself is light with a yellow undertone, which is the only drawback – we’d rather see more shade options. Order it online from Dermstore!
10. Saturday Skin Waterfall Glacier Water Cream
The name of this Korean skincare product instantly brings to mind luxurious locales and a fresh, cool feeling, which is fitting for an ultra-hydrating, skin-restoring moisturizer. It is made with a powerful anti-aging peptide complex that boosts cell renewal, as well as soothing ferments and protective plant extracts. While the formula is clearly geared towards maturing skin, it’s actually a gel cream so it can work for all skin types without feeling greasy. It is sold at Sephora.
11. Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum
Glass skin is a phrase that quickly caught on in South Korea since it refers to skin that is smooth and glowy, just like glass. This makes sense since K-beauty focuses on giving the skin nourishing ingredients that work harmoniously with the skin to hydrate and nourish it.
This serum aims to give glass skin by reducing the appearance of pores, hydrating the skin with a hyaluronic acid complex, and fighting premature aging with a blend of peptides and niacinamide. As with many K-beauty routine inspired products, this serum is excellent for all skin types. Find it at Ulta Beauty!
12. Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream
This is one of the few Korean skincare products you’ll find with a thicker texture, and yet it is one of the most popular. It’s a thick cream with a blend of cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids that are known to be optimal for keeping the skin barrier functioning properly, though it also contains some natural extracts and fancy humectants that are well loved in K-beauty.
It is best applied as a final layer, after all those serums and essences. While it is recommended for normal and dry skin types, even those with combination-oily skin seem to like it, and it does not cause breakouts for most. You can get it at Sephora.
13. Too Cool For School Egg Mellow Cream
If all the gel moisturizers on this list are making you yawn, you’ll be happy to know that K-beauty products also include richer moisturizers for dry skin! It contains some tried and true anti-aging ingredients like niacinamide and licorice root extract, but what it really boasts is the firming effects of egg extracts. In practice, these ingredients may be buzz, but the fact of the matter is that this is one of the most nourishing creams around. It’s not recommended for oily or acne-prone skin. Buy it at Nordstrom!
14. Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Sheet Mask
Sheet masks might be one of the funnest of the K-beauty products, but they are also highly effective for soothing, hydrating, and nourishing the skin. This mask gives us a take on sheet masks made particularly for acne-prone skin.
It contains anti-inflammatory willow bark extract and antibacterial tea tree oil for quick relief from breakouts. Despite the anti-acne ingredients, it also contains lots of hydrators because even acne-prone skin can get super dehydrated. It’d be fabulous for anyone experiencing breakouts, no matter the skin type. Order it online from Dermstore!
15. Skinfood Peach Sake Pore Serum
Despite its name, this serum is actually more of a primer with some additional skin benefits. Made with rice ferment filtrate and peach extract, it is a formula with all kinds of brightening and protecting effect, but that’s not what makes it special!
It is made with a special blend of silicones that do a remarkable job of controlling oil production in the skin in a gentle manner that doesn’t strip the skin of oils or dry it out. It is a dream under makeup, but just remember to apply it quickly and let it set! It comes in the form of a milky serum that dries down quickly, smells amazing, and is made particularly for those with oily skin. It is sold via Ulta Beauty.
16. Leaders Aquaringer Treatment Mask
Those with dry skin are absolutely obsessed with this hydrating, anti-aging sheet mask. It hydrates like no other with an extremely robust collection of different humectants that are perfectly sealed in with the help of the cotton sheet it is made of. It also contains collagen-boosting peptides to help improve skin cell regeneration and keep the skin looking youthful. Despite all the powerful ingredients, the mask is still quite light and gentle, so you cannot go wrong with it. Pick it up at Ulta Beauty!
17. PureHeals Centella 65 Green Tea Pack
Pack is really just another word for mask, but boy is it a great one. If you have sensitive skin, including skin sensitized by inflamed acne breakouts, then this mask is for you. It’s a quick soothing solution that eliminates redness and gives the skin a boost.
The main ingredient here is centella asiatica extract, an extract from a little green plant that has robust skin-healing and soothing properties. It’s a great mask for all skin types except the extremely dry, since it contains a touch of deep-cleaning and mattifying kaolin clay. Once you rinse it off, don’t forget to moisturize! Get a jar of it from Ulta Beauty!
18. Amorepacific Vintage Single Extract Essence
Single ingredient products are not rare in Korean skin care because the idea of layering actives one after the other goes hand in hand with multi-step routines. This particular essence is made of fermented green tea extract, so it possesses all of the anti-aging and skin-soothing properties of green tea, along with all of the skin-restoring and hydrating properties of probiotic ferments. While those with fungal acne should avoid it, anyone who deals with sensitivity could greatly benefit from adding this essence to their routine. It is available at Nordstrom.
19. OH K! Chok Chok Glowing Moisturiser
This simple moisturizer for dry skin will certainly help keep your skin feeling moist, since it contains a lovely blend of natural oils and humectants that will work for anyone with combination to dry skin. The name, however, is all about the “chok chok” effect that it gives.
Chok chok refers to that ideal glowy, bouncy dewy look that healthy, well-hydrated skin can have. Well, this moisturizer cheats a little, by adding some glowy minerals to the formula that gives the skin a shimmer, almost like a strobe cream. Apply it before your BB cream for that luminized look. You can order it from Ulta Beauty.
20. Skin & Lab Dr. Pore Tightening Glacial Clay Facial Mask
Clay masks do occasionally show up in Korean skin care, although they’re not very common. As this clay mask exemplifies, even Korean clay masks will still contain lots of hydrating and soothing ingredients.
This one boasts calming oat flour and purslane extract, while the deep cleansing clay in here is a mixture of kaolin, bentonite, and Canadian colloidal clay. It’s meant for oily skin and clogged pores, of course, and should always be followed up with some hydrating treatments – maybe even a sheet mask! Buy it at Ulta Beauty!
21. Thank You Farmer True Water Light Gel Cream
This light, gel-based moisturizer is made specifically with oily skin in mind, although based on the ingredients we don’t think anyone could go wrong with it. It contains our favorite gentle anti-aging ingredients, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid along with just a touch of squalane. It’d be easy to layer over an essence or serum, and those with dry skin could follow it up with a face oil or a heavier cream. Pick up this moisturizer at Ulta Beauty!
22. Mamonde Rose Water Toner
The Korean skincare routine is all about having a wonderful experience, and few things can ensure that as well as the beautiful smell of roses. This toner is made with a hefty amount of rose extract, which boosts hydration and puts you in a really good mood instantly. It also contains butylene glycol to hydrate. Otherwise, it is quite simple – you can apply as many layers of it as you like, and it pairs well with essences and serums from all brands. It would work well for anyone. Find it at Ulta Beauty!
23. Amorepacific Natural Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Sunscreen
A good sunscreen with an SPF over 35 is an important part of a Korean skincare routine. It’s the preventative treatment against premature aging and pigmentation, and it’s also critical for overall skin health. However, with K-beauty products the expectation is that they also make the skin look and feel beautiful right after they’re applied, so sunscreens have to be non-greasy yet moisturizing.
This one definitely fits the bill, with a light yet nourishing formula that protects and also has lovely botanicals like lotus and bamboo to enrich the skin with nutrients. Order this sunscreen from Sephora!
24. Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam EX
A foaming cleanser with low pH (meaning slight acidity that is optimized for the skin) is a holy grail in a Korean skincare routine, as it ensures complete cleansing without stripping the skin or throwing it off balance. Foaming cleansers (especially in the West) are harsh and drying on the skin, but that is not the case with this gorgeous, sulfate-free cleanser! Made for all skin types, it is perfect when used alone or as the second part of a double cleanse. You can find it at Nordstrom.
25. TonyMoly Vital Vita 12 Firming Ampoule
Historically known for having simple, low-end products in cute packaging, TonyMoly has recently seriously stepped things up, with this ampoule being a prime example. Ampoules are extremely active serums, loaded with powerful ingredients.
The list here is particularly long, with niacinamide at the top along with different peptides, adenosine, and many different vitamins. It’s anti-aging skincare at its best, and represents a more recent shift towards high-powered ingredients in K-beauty. You can buy it at Ulta Beauty.
Photos via @aimeesong, Sephora, Ulta