Best Korean Skincare

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

52 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
176 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best Korean skincare

Korean beauty practices and products have taken the world by storm. Also known as K-Beauty, Korean skincare products are known for their thoroughness — you may or may not be familiar with the famous ten-step routine — practicality, and the scientific research that makes these products the best of the best.

Before you dive into the vast world of Korean skincare, there are some factors you should keep in mind. Consider whether your skin is oily, dry, or a little bit of both. You’ll also want to think about skin sensitivity, scent, and hydrating properties. A number of Korean skincare products contain anti-aging ingredients, another feature that may be of interest to you.

We’re pleased to help you settle on a final decision. Below, you can read our product guide to learn more about the ins and outs of Korean skincare. We’ve included some of our favorites, too. We’re positive that you can find a product that will suit your skin and lifestyle needs. In no time, your skin will have that trademark healthy, dewy glow. 

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One benefit to sticking with natural beauty products is that it’s easier to mix, match, and layer without worrying about the effects on your skin.

Key considerations

If you’re unfamiliar with K-Beauty, you may be scratching your head at its sudden rise to fame. Korean skincare is top-notch for one reason: the demands of the Korean consumer. Korean shoppers place a high value on cosmetics and quality skincare, favoring a moisturized, translucent appearance over a cakey-foundation one. The high demands of Korean consumers requires Korean skincare and beauty manufacturers to stay at the top of their game.

Luckily, you can find quality Korean skincare at a variety of price points. That’s because skincare isn’t a luxury. Since Koreans value quality skincare so much, you can easily improve your skin without breaking the bank. Besides, if you’re a regular makeup user, there’s a decent chance you already use a K-Beauty product. BB creams, cushion compacts, and sheet masks all originated in Korea.

Skin type

Sensitive: Your skin may be sensitive for a multitude of reasons. It could be due to a medical condition like eczema, side effects from medication, or genetics. You’ll want to avoid harsh products with artificial perfumes and alcohol. Search for UV protection (a must, even at nighttime) and hydrating ingredients like aloe vera, green tea, shea butter, and ceramide. Ceramides are lipids that penetrate the skin to lock in moisture. With consistent use, you should notice plumper, better-moisturized skin. 

Oily: Unlike people with dry skin, if you have oily skin it means you’ve got an excess of sebum production. You’ll want to be on the lookout for ingredients that will help control and contain the sebum. Quite a few of these ingredients are found naturally as well as in K-Beauty products. Common ingredients include green tea, egg white, and volcanic clay. Volcanic clay in particular is an organic exfoliant. In addition to treating oiliness, it can also clear up blackheads and remove dead skin cells.

Dry: Those with dry skin should keep an eye out for K-Beauty products with extra hydration. There are a few key ingredients you should know about. Hyaluronic acid, a sugar that naturally occurs in skin, acts as a humectant to draw in moisture. B-complex vitamins provide a moisturizing boost as well. Along with promoting collagen production, they also soothe skin and brighten uneven spots. 

Combination: Like people with dry skin, those with combination skin may find relief in the ten-step skincare routine, or at the very least focus on a few of the steps. A gentle toner is a must-have. Find one that can control oiliness while leaving skin refreshed. Peppermint oil is quite effective at balancing the two. Also, keep an eye out for a light moisturizer and a natural sunscreen.

It’s always a fine idea to check the labels of any ingredient you put on your face. Note that quite a few K-Beauty products are mainly labeled in Korean. Take a closer peek at online product reviews and consumer questions to inform your purchase.

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Features

Scent

Beauty products in general, especially those geared toward women, are often scented with fruity or floral notes. Sometimes the scent comes from the ingredients themselves. Green tea, for example, has a distinct scent. Otherwise, these scents may be manufactured. Those with sensitive skin (or noses, for that matter) may wish to avoid scented Korean skincare entirely. You can search for a product labeled “scent-free” or “fragrance-free.” If you don’t mind a subtle scent, you can also search for products that are primarily sourced from natural ingredients.

Paraben-free

More and more consumers care about the organic integrity of what they buy. Over recent years, they have started questioning the use of parabens. Parabens refer to a type of preservative common in household and beauty products. Parabens extend an item’s shelf life by preventing the growth of mold and bacteria. Studies have shown that parabens can penetrate the skin, possibly disrupting normal hormonal functions by mimicking estrogen. While there are no conclusive studies, you may wish to search for a “paraben-free” label on the packaging. Even so, the amount of parabens used in typical cosmetic products is relatively small.

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DID YOU KNOW?
The best recipe for a healthy skin is a healthy diet. All the skincare in the world won’t do much if you don’t drink water regularly and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
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Korean skincare prices

As mentioned earlier, you can find Korean skin care products at a range of prices. Pricing largely depends on the type of item, ingredients, and quantity. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. You can expect to pay between $15 and $60 for an item.

Inexpensive: Korean skincare products in the $15 to $25 range are often masks of some kind. It’s possible to find paraben-free, natural products in this price range. They may include ingredients such as volcanic clusters, green tea, or fruit essence. You can also find things like a light face mist. While the face mist may be packaged in an 8-ounce bottle, a jar of clay will be closer to 4 ounces.

Mid-range: Spending $25 to $35 widens your options, particularly if you’re seeking a serum. Since serums include more expensive ingredients — hyaluronic acid, for example — they cost more than other Korean skincare items. This is also the price range in which you can find under-eye creams and essences, both key components of the ten-step skincare routine.

Expensive: A number of products in the $35 to $50 range focus on anti-aging ingredients. In addition to any of the ingredients mentioned above, these items may contain ceramides and less common ingredients like fermented soybean essence. 

Premium: There’s no need to spend more than $50 for a Korean skincare product, but your skin is worth the splurge. These luxurious skincare products are almost certainly a serum or essence of some kind, with even more exclusive ingredients to set them above the rest.

Unsure of your skin type? If your skin tends to feel itchy and tight, you likely have dry skin. If you have slick, shiny skin at the end of the day, it’s on the oily side. Of course, it’s possible to have oily and dry patches, and that’s combination skin.

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Tips

  • Refrigerate your K-Beauty products. Masks and even some under-eye creams can stay fresher when kept in the fridge
  • Don’t forget the SPF. No K-Beauty routine is complete without some sun protection. SPF protects your skin from too much sun exposure, which, over time, may accelerate the aging of skin and exacerbate fine lines, not to mention increasing one’s risk for skin cancer.
  • Stretch your mouth. Want to keep your face youthful? Some Korean women are fond of doing mouth stretches. You can repeat A-E-I-O-U in an exaggerated manner three times a day, which is thought to improve skin circulation and brighten skin. 
  • Try a ten-step K-Beauty routine. There are quite a few variations on the exact steps. Here’s one nighttime routine:
  1. Cleanse
  2. Double-cleanse
  3. Exfoliate
  4. Tone
  5. Essence
  6. Ampoule (similar to a very concentrated serum)
  7. Serum
  8. Sheet mask
  9. Eye cream
  10. Moisturize
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Some people find that the ten-step K-Beauty routine works wonders to relieve dry skin.

FAQ

Q. Are Korean skincare products cruelty-free?

A. As with beauty products manufactured anywhere in the world, it depends. There are several K-Beauty manufacturers that do not test on animals. Be sure to do your research on K-Beauty manufacturers that sell products you like. 

Q. What’s the main difference between American and Korean skincare items?

A. A few differences to note are that K-Beauty has a greater emphasis on cleansing the skin, along with keeping skin hydrated and moisturized. The K-Beauty way is to layer multiple products over another (hence the ten-step routine) to achieve maximum results. 

Q. Is Korean skincare safe for people with skin allergies?

A. It depends on what your allergies are. Regardless, you should have no trouble coming across items that are gentle enough for your skin. Because of K-Beauty’s emphasis on hydration and moisturization, quite a few products already use gentle and natural ingredients.

 

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