Korea as a skin care utopia came to my attention nearly a decade ago, somewhat by accident. You can read more about it in this 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).

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?

First of all, 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. 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 take that long.

Lastly, 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 $20 or sheet masks for under $2.

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

Starting 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. 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.

korean beauty sheet masks kbeauty

Sheet Masks from Tony Moly

Sheet Masks are these little wonders that can do a lot for your skin.  They are made from fibers, paper or gels and are loaded with serums.  They are not expensive – not even close!  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).

snail korean beauty post sheet mask

We will do anything for great skin, right?

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!

So 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.

Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Skin Energy Hydration System Kbeauty Korean beauty face mist facial

One of my favs, made by Amore Pacific.

Oh 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.

Last 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!