Often tagged as miraculous and life-changing, Korean skincare has been steadily revolutionising the beauty industry. It promises ‘glass skin’: an irresistible combination of hydrated and evenly textured skin. The world has adopted many a K-beauty trend – from multi-balm sticks to BB creams – and all for a good reason.
We spoke to a K-beauty insider to break down the hype for you. Anuradha Dhawan, general manager at Al Ghurair Retail, which oversees the Korean one-stop beauty store The Face Shop in the UAE, tells us it's all in the ingredients.
"The simplest way to describe Korean beauty is that it's clean, natural and easier on the skin. The natural ingredients deliver expected results with added benefits, minus the irritation that usually comes with chemical-heavy products," said Dhawan.
K-beauty’s gentle products often feature naturally soothing ingredients, such as centella asiatica extract, snail mucin, green tea and ginseng. The focus on anti-inflammatory formulas helps Korean skincare stand out from the rest. For instance, ginseng is rich in antioxidants and helps with anti-ageing, and fermented rice water, present in many K-beauty products, controls sebum production.
"Korean skincare focuses on preventing and protecting the skin, as opposed to damage control," she added. Thousands of serious skincare aficionados swear by the ‘switch’ to a Korean skincare routine, under its growing 1.2-billion-view hashtag on TikTok. "This is because once the damage is inflicted, it can be difficult to recover the skin's original state."
If you’ve been meaning to try viral products circling the internet, we've got you covered. Our list highlights trending serums, cleansers, toners and sunscreens by tried-and-tested Korean beauty brands, including the internet’s favourites, like Cosrx, Innisfree and Beauty of Joseon. Dhawan highlights popular lines over at The Face Shop, such as Belif and Dr. Belmeur.
You can pick them up from Amazon and have them delivered to you the same or the next day via Prime.
1. Best Snail Mucin Set: Cosrx All About Snail Kit
Curious about all the snail mucin rage? Try Cosrx's introductory kit for beginners, which will help you narrow down the products that end up working for you the best. Essentially a type of snail secretion, snail mucin has a gloopy texture that hydrates and repairs a damaged skin barrier. With the addition of peptides, this four-step kit also tackles fine lines and wrinkles. It consists of four of Cosrx's most-loved snail products, to be used in this order: the gel cleanser, power essence, peptide eye cream and an all-in-one cream. Reviewers with sensitive skin and eczema report back with reduced texture, their skin free of bumps, and say how it's improved makeup application, too.
2. Best Toner and Serum Set: Some By Mi AHA BHA PHA Miracle Toner + Miracle Serum
Some By Mi's 30 Days Miracle Toner has changed the game for acne-prone skin types. This 150ml bottle contains AHA, BHA and PHA, the three hydroxy acids that exfoliate the skin and speed up the cell turnover process. It also carries 2 per cent concentration of niacinamide for brightening the skin, and tea tree extract. Paired with the toner is the 30 Days Miracle Serum, which has 14.5 per cent of centella asiatica extract to calm and strengthen the skin barrier. Reviews say both products work well together to clear bumps and prevent breakouts, not only over a period of 30 days, but just within the first week.
3. Best Soothing Serum: Skin1004 Madagascar Centella Ampoule, 100ml
This Skin1004 ampoule is an all-rounder essential you need in your skincare kit. Use it on its own or add a few drops to your moisturiser - the ampoule is a daily calming serum that hydrates the skin. It's great to have on hand when your skin barrier needs repairing, since its only active ingredient is centella asiatica extract, sourced from Madagascar. You can store it in the fridge for an additional cooling effect, use it as a mask or layer the skin with the product. Reviewers apply the ampoule after exfoliating to calm any irritation and say it's so lightweight that it disappears into the skin.
4. Best Rice Toner: Haruharu Wonder Black Rice Hyaluronic Toner, 150ml
Another product that the internet can't get enough of is this Haruharu Wonder Black Rice Hyaluronic toner. Vegan and paraben-free, the bottle's main ingredient is fermented black rice extract that protects the skin from free radicals, like pollution and ultraviolet rays, and restores its elasticity. You'll also find deep nourishment from hyaluronic acid and gain anti-ageing benefits from Wonder's six-year ginseng concentrate. Reviews say it's helped their skin to bounce back to its original state and keeps sebum production under control.
5. Best Moisturiser: Etude House Soon Jung 2X Barrier Intensive Cream, 60ml
If you've recently added actives to your skincare routine and need a repairing moisturiser, check out Etude House's Soon Jung intensive cream. It's formulated for dry, stressed and sensitive skin, using panthenol to retain moisture and madecassoside to calm any irritation. The cream is non-comedogenic, so it does not clog pores, nor does it cause allergic reactions. Use this as the last step of your routine, whenever you're in need of relief care - reviews attest to the soothing effects.
6. Best Cleansing Balm: Beauty Of Joseon Radiance Cleansing Balm, 100ml
Consider using a cleansing balm to remove your makeup, instead of harsh wipes. The Beauty of Joseon Radiance cleansing balm has a buttery texture that melts between your fingers and gently rubs off eye, lip and base makeup. It contains rice bran oil, rice bran water, rice extract, oat flour extract, yulmu seed extract and other grains for maximum soothing and hydration. Since it's an oil-based remover, it tackles mascara and eyeliner, too. Rave reviews love the no-fragrance formula that takes off even the most waterproof beauty products, without causing any irritation. It comes with a spatula inside.
7. Best Lightweight Moisturiser: Dr. Ceuracle Vegan Kombucha Tea Gel Cream, 75g
Achieve glass skin with a moisturiser that doesn't coat the skin with a thick layer. The Dr. Ceuracle Kombucha Tea gel cream detoxifies the skin using a watery formula. The fermented kombucha tea extract has probiotics and vitamin B, while the camellia sinensis leaf water delivers proteins for detoxification. If you're not a fan of thick, creamy moisturisers, this could be a great lightweight alternative. Skincare enthusiasts on TikTok also rave about Dr Ceuracle's essence toner to be used alongside.
8. Best Sheet Mask Set: Innisfree My Real Squeeze Sheet Mask, 12-Pack
Our skin's needs can differ from day to day, and sheet masks are an affordable way to quickly diversify our skincare regime. Whatever it is that you're dealing with - an unexpected breakout, a dry spell or a damaged barrier - this Innisfree pack of 12 sheet masks addresses the problem. Each mask is doused in different natural ingredients, with the package specifying the purpose, whether it's to brighten, hydrate or soothe the skin.
9. Best Water-Based Cleanser: Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, 150ml, 3-Pack
Use the Low PH Good Morning gel cleanser by Cosrx, as your second cleanser. Korean skincare firmly believes in the power of an acne-preventing double cleanse - starting with an oil-based cleanser that removes makeup, like our Beauty of Joseon cleansing balm pick, followed by a water-based cleanser to wash off any residue. This viral Cosrx product is a mildly acidic water-based cleanser, formulated with tea-tree oil and BHA (beta hydroxy acid) for unclogging pores. In this pack, there are three 150ml squeeze bottles.
10. Best Sunscreen: Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun Rice + Probiotics, 2-Pack
A lightweight sunscreen that leaves no white cast and is unscented? Meet Beauty of Joseon's TikTok-favourite SPF: Relief Sun. It feels like a moisturiser and rubs in with a moist, non-greasy finish. This light texture helps with repeated applications throughout the day. The SPF 50+ cream is infused with rice bran water and grain fermented extracts to keep the skin looking bright and plump. Reviewers say it leaves them with a nice glow and works well for sensitive skin.
11. Best Anti-Ageing Serum: Belif Youth Creator-Age Knockdown Bomb
If you're looking for a concentrated anti-ageing serum, this bottle is it. Belif Youth Creator Age-Knockdown Bomb is a gel-type serum that targets fine lines, enlarged pores, loss of elasticity and dark spots. The formula is rich in antioxidants, soothing herbs and ceramides, excluding sulphates and mineral oils. Reviewers who've had chemical peels okay this serum. Most report back with improved texture, reduced pores and glass finish.
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