Korea as a skin care utopia came to my attention nearly a decade ago, somewhat by accident. You can read more about it in a future post, about how I discovered it. However, since then Korean beauty (or K-beauty) has exploded onto the cosmetics scene featuring an overwhelming amount of products sold by many brands (not all Korean, if you can believe that!)

Korean Beauty Products - BB Cream, Serum, Sheet Masks, Essence, and Tony Moly, AmorePacific, Skin70


To add to the complication, many of the products that us skin-worshiping westerners want, are described on their packages in Korean, which makes sense. But how do you figure out what is best for you then? Just assume because it is Korean, it will produce amazing results for your skin?

Why are Korean beauty products deemed to be so special? I am sure there are many explanations but I believe it is because Korean products are VERY focused on skincare, stating that the root of beauty is beautiful skin – not skin covered up with makeup. Unlike many western products that aim to produce a skin care routine of 3 minutes and 3 steps, Korean beauty regimens don’t sacrifice when it comes to skincare. Beautiful skin IS beauty. This is in line with my views on beauty too – I don’t wear a ton of makeup (which I attribute to a lifetime of good skincare) but am obsessed with finding new and effective products for beautiful skin. Back to Korea….a typical skincare routine includes at least 5 steps and some include over 10. Yikes. Sounds like a lot, but it really does not not have to take that long on a regular basis.

Additionally, you can really experiment with different products at affordable prices. Some of my favorite Korean brands offer eye creams for $25 or BB creams for $15 or sheet masks for under $2, which you can buy, yes, on Amazon.  Check out My Favorite Things for some cool (and inexpensive) K-beauty finds.

I’ve put together a quick primer on Korean beauty and where to start. I’ll dig deeper in the future, but to keep this piece short and sweet…..we’ll start with five products you should check out.

Here are my top five K-beauty picks:

  1. BB Cream
  2. Sheet Masks
  3. Double Cleansing
  4. Essences and Mists
  5. Serums

Beauty topics - Wanderglow - where beauty meets wanderlustStarting with BB cream… Nearly every cosmetic brand has something that meets this need, however it all started on the big island of Korea. But these are more than just your favorite day cream with a squirt of foundation added for color. These little guys are every multitasking maven’s dream, which seems to be a core tenet of Korean Beauty….multitasking.  They moisturize, prime and protect in one little squeeze. You can add foundation for more coverage, but for some, the BB cream is enough. Many even offer SPF or antioxidants or come in a compact form with a sponge for easier application. Nice! BB cream for the win.  Oh, and CC and DD cream are basically the same for the average consumer.  They may have slightly different coverage levels but they are more or less the same (though brands will try to tell you how incredibly different they are).

Beauty topics - Wanderglow - where beauty meets wanderlustSheet Masks are these little wonders that can do a lot for your skin and are what most people think of when they hear Korean Beauty.  They are made from fibers, paper or gels and are loaded with serums.  They are not expensive – not even close!  Some brands make really expensive ones and honestly, I haven’t seen them to be worth it.  I buy them for ~$1 each and will throw one on a few times per week while I am working or watching a movie.  As an added bonus, they definitely will scare any roommates or spouses the first few times you put them on!  Sheet masks are near the end of the skin care routine (after a serum but before a moisturizer).  Or you can finish your routine with the sheet mask and pat in the excess serum that is left.   I do think the mid-range ($5-10 each) ones are marginally better than the $1 ones due to better ingredients.  Some of my favorites are made by Dr. Jart+  and available on Amazon or at Sephora too.

They feature every type of ingredient you could think of – rose, bamboo, green tea, shea butter, goji berry, collagen, red ginseng, charcoal, snails (what the…..??).  A friend recently brought me a snail mask from Korea so I had to research this one.  Snail extract is rich in hyaluronic acid and other enzymes which are known to be anti-aging and stimulate collagen production.  All right, bring on the snails!

Beauty topics - Wanderglow - where beauty meets wanderlustSo Double Cleansing isn’t really a separate product but rather a technique but I think it is really important to highlight. Double cleansing involves cleansing with an oil-based product first and then something a bit more foamy or water-based to remove the oil. The root of many skin care problems stems from poor cleansing (or rough cleansing). Your skin needs to be super clean before going to bed, but that doesn’t mean stripping it, which is why I love this process of gentle oil cleansing and following that with something more substantial.

Beauty topics - Wanderglow - where beauty meets wanderlustOh my….essences and mists – Some of these are really pricey versions of water, but not all, so make sure you look around. The good ones are a hybrid of serum and toner made for hydrating skin and aiding in cell turnover. And they feel and smell….amazing.  I am convinced they are also instant mood-improvers, so carry a travel version with you at all times in case you need a….reset or a cooldown following a challenging travel experience.

Beauty topics - Wanderglow - where beauty meets wanderlustLast but definitely not least, serums and treatments!  I was really surprised when I learned that serums for various skin issues (acne, dry skin, aging, to name a few) should be applied before a sheet mask. The mask then nourishes your skin and helps lock in the serum.

Let me know your favorites and stay tuned for more to come on K-beauty!

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For more beauty topics, here are some other posts I think you would enjoy!

10 replies
  1. Chels
    Chels says:

    Love LOVE mists. But not big on snails….good info to have though! Do you have specific brands of snail products that you like?

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