Korean skincare is becoming increasingly popular as 2019 progresses. The benefits of the 10-step program and its products packed with natural ingredients are quickly becoming cult favourites worldwide. If you’ve read my earlier post on this subject, you’ll know I am a huge fan of everything K-beauty.
However, which brands are worth investing in? Let’s face it, Korean skincare products are usually not cheap by any means, and chances are that there are quite a few brands out there you’ve never heard of. Today, we’ll be listing our personal recommendations for Korean skincare brands, as well as including their best-selling products, to help you make the best choice for your skin.
What To Look For In K-Beauty
Korean skincare is all about achieving ‘glass skin’. If you want to read more about that, I suggest you check out my full post on everything K-beauty. To achieve this glass skin, Korean skincare brands focus heavily on natural ingredients and will often contain tons of botanicals.
Hydration is key in achieving healthy, glowing, glass-like skin. Any skin type needs hydration, and K-beauty does this very well. However, this is still skincare, so expect a bit of a trial and error process before finding things that actually work for you. Remember to give any product you try a two-week period to start showing its full effects on your face.
So how do you choose Korean skincare products for your specific skin type? Well, Sokoglam, the leading online retailer in K-beauty, offers handy 5 and 10 step kits for every skin type out there, so that is definitely worth checking out! It’s a great way of getting everything you need for your routine in one set, whilst making sure that everything you’ll be using is suitable for your skin.
If you are just getting started in K-beauty, I would recommend only choosing 1 or 2 products and seeing if they work, and then expanding your routine. You might even choose to just start with a 5 step program if 10 steps is too daunting for you.
If you would like to choose your products yourself instead of buying an entire routine in one go, here’s the breakdown of important product properties per skin type:
- Oily skin: Use light (gel-like) textures and look for green tea in products
- Combination skin: Use sebum-balancing and hydrating products, seaweed is always great here
- Dry skin: Use intensely hydrating and gentle products, hyaluronic acid is the way to go
- Sensitive skin: Use gentle and free-from products (no parabens, alcohol, etc.)
Keeping that in mind, read reviews! The best way to measure the suitability of anything for your face is to read what other people with similar issues to yours have to say about products. Remember, skincare is not an exact science, but we can always help things along a bit!
When it comes to skincare brands, we focused on looking at the philosophy of the brand, and we checked out ingredient lists to see if they really adhere to the classic standard of K-beauty products.
Here are a couple of our favourites, and cult favourites too for that matter, since all of these brands are best-sellers when it comes to Korean skincare. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order, because there’s no best brand out there, it’s all about catering to your individual needs.
Acwell is a brand that focuses mainly on tailoring to sensitive skin. They are not extremely well-known in the West, but in Korea, Acwell is a household name and available everywhere. Their products are based on an old Korean medical book. This book contains 400 years of Korean medical secrets, and tells us that herbs like ginseng and liquorice are greatly beneficial in keeping your skin condition optimal.
They took the information from this book, subjected it to modern scientific research and built a range that is free from parabens and mineral oil and will help improve the fundamental health of your skin. They use plenty of natural ingredients and herbs and all of their products will be gentle and kind to your skin.
Acwell offers lots of pH-balancing products and hydrating botanicals. Their best selling product is their Liquorice Toner. Liquorice is the holy grail of many a skincare fanatic, since it’s so great at balancing and has lots of anti-inflammatory properties. This product also contains lots of antioxidants and brightening ingredients to help fight ageing and dark spots.
I highly recommend this brand for the sensitive skin type among us, as well as for anyone looking to give their skin a natural boost! Try it, you won’t be disappointed!
This brand is a bit more well known, and it’s all down to one product: Their Clean It Zero cleanser. Banila Co. believe that gorgeous skin is the first step to flawless make-up, and thus are big on putting your skin first, make-up second. The brand itself was founded in 2006 and has quickly become a cult favourite in the beauty community.
Banila Co. offer a range of make-up like eye shadows and lipsticks, but their main focus in skincare. Within their skincare line, they offer three ranges: Clean It Zero, Dear Hydration and Hi Bye.
Dear Hydration is all about, you guessed it, hydrating. As well as intensely hydrating your skin, I also spotted some great anti-ageing ingredients like niacinamide in their products. Hi Bye is a peeling range, designed to give you a non-irritant peeling experience. It’s packed with vitamins and is gentle enough to be used by any skin type.
Then there’s the best-seller: The Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm. This product is so much of a cult favourite, Banila Co. sells one every 3.1 seconds. It’s an oil-based cleanser that will help with make-up removal and thorough cleanses your skin. It’s all mineral based, infused with vitamins and botanicals, and suitable for any skin type. Banila Co. offer 4 types of this product, depending on your individual needs.
I definitely recommend you give this cleansing balm a try! It’s so good, and a great oil cleanser to include into your daily routine!
Another one of the better known K-beauty brands, CosRX is focused on providing the best solutions to your skincare problems, whilst being kind to skin and cruelty-free. This brand was founded in 2015 and its founder claims to have spent over 10 years analyzing skin types and skin issues.
The result of all of this research is a concept they call Clean Beauty. This means that they are hypoallergenic tested, and do not contain any ingredients that might upset your skin. This include SLS, mineral oil and parabens. What they do include in their products are ingredients like snail mucin and yeast ferment, which are both great anti-ageing components.
CosRX offers a multitude of ranges, from an AC range, which is their own solution to acne issues, to Hydrium, which will intensely hydrate and soothe your skin. Their most famous products are their acne pimple patches, which will even flatten and heal cystic acne!
Their best-selling product, however, is a serum. The Triple C Lightning Liquid is a collaboration between CosRX and Charlotte Cho, the founder of Sokoglam. It contains 20% pure vitamin C, which is brightening, anti-ageing and hydrating. It also has a bit of that Liquorice extract in it we talked about earlier.
If you are looking for a serum for any skin type, this one should be one of your top picks! It’s full of goodness and natural ingredients, and is shipped out directly from Korea to make sure it’s as fresh as possible.
The first fully vegan brand on the list! Dear, Klairs is another one of those lesser known brands, but is big on being eco-friendly and vegan. Their philosophy is to never include any unnecessary ingredients in their products and to keep it simple. They also pride themselves on being high quality, but reasonable priced.
This brand is another one that is big on sensitive skin. They do not use parabens, alcohol or fragrance. Dear, Klairs prefer to keep their products simple but effective and suitable for everyone. They offer ranges in pretty much anything, from anti-ageing to brightening to acne control and deeply moisturizing.
I love the philosophy of this brand to keep things simple. In a world where lots of things are overly complicated, your skincare shouldn’t be. They offer fantastic products with lots of natural ingredients and vitamins, and will not irritate even the most sensitive skin types.
Their bestseller is the Dear, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum. It offers lots of botanicals, antioxidants and vitamin C, which will all aid in fighting dark spots and wrinkles, as well as brightening your skin. It also has a very low pH value of 3,81, making it suitable for every single skin type out there.
If you find you have sensitive skin, I would definitely take a look at this brand, it’s so simple but so good!
Perhaps the most known brand on this list, Dr. Jart+ has been making it’s way onto the global market for a while! Founded in 2005, by a dermatologist and an architect, this brand is most well known for its vibrant and loud packaging. Remember those rubber masks from a while back, or the weird shake masks that looked like milkshakes? Those were Dr. Jart+.
The focus of this brand is all about providing the best products for every skin type, but delivering it in a fun and exciting way. They have won countless awards and are available worldwide. Dr. Jart+ products work on improving your skin condition by simply boosting what is already there.
To achieve this boost, they have added lots of ingredients like vitamins, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid. Their products also do not contain any parabens or other harmful substances.
This brand offers multiple ranges, from hydrating to plumping to anti acne. Speaking of acne, Dr. Jart+ claims that their acne fighting products are the best ones on the market right now. Whatever skin concern you have, you’ll find a suitable product range from this brand.
Their best selling product is the Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream, which is formulated with lots of natural ingredients and moisturizing components. It plumps the skin and helps in maintaining its natural strength and function. This is all thanks to their 5-Cera Complex.
If you like fun packaging and exciting products, but still want to take care of your skin properly, this is the brand for you!
Founded on Jeju Island, Korea, Innisfree is all about the ecosystem of this island and how to translate it to skincare. Due to its volcanic origins, Jeju Island has a unique ecosystem, and Innisfree wants to bring this to you through their products. They focus heavily on being an eco-friendly brand and use natural ingredients.
Innisfree claims to be the number 1 skincare brand in Korea, and uses 80% naturally derived ingredients like green tea, volcanic clusters, camellia and tangerine. They also claim you just need their 5 step system to beat signs of aging and other skin issues.
This brand sells everything from skincare to haircare and make-up. They also offer products for every type of skin concern from acne to ageing to dullness and dryness. Every product they sell has a key natural ingredient from Jeju Island that will target your specific skin issues.
Their best selling product is their Green Tea Seed Serum, of which they sell 8 every minute. Yes, you read that right, they sell 8 in a minute. Green tea is a great hydrating ingredient, and this one features a variant specific to Jeju Island. It’s a light, watery serum, and it’s free from anything that might upset your skin, making it suitable for all skin types!
Innisfree is a fantastic brand with lots of history to it, and their products are packed with natural ingredients!
It’s Skin was the first truly budget-proof scientifically proven brand on the Korean market, and it’s become a favourite of many ever since. Founded in 1989, it’s been taking over the global market and is now available in drugstores and online.
The concept of this brand relies on combining your skin with scientific research in order to create a solution for your concerns. To do this, they focus heavily on natural ingredients and non-irritant components to make their products suitable for any skin type.
The product ranges of this brand will work a bit differently than you might expect. Instead of offering products for your skin issues, they offer them for skin solutions. It’s Skin offers ranges called the Power 10 Formula. Within these ranges, different colour and letter codes stand for different properties.
Power 10 Gf will offer hydration, Vc will offer brightening, Vb offers sebum control, and so on. This means that you can combine products from different ranges if that is what your skin needs. They also offer serums, moisturizers and face washes for every type of Power 10.
My personal favourite from this brand is the Power 10 Gf Effector. I use it as a serum; but you could consider it and essence or ampoule. The bottom line is that this thing is packed with hydrating properties and your skin will just soak this product up like a sponge. I cannot recommend this serum enough, it’s absolute magic!
Missha was founded in 2000 and has since become a worldwide cult phenomenon. It’s sold in lots of countries all over the world and has been a favourite of many Korean women since the beginning. Their mission is to make affordable yet high quality products. They also promise that if you use their products regularly, you will see a difference.
To do this, they make use of lots of fermented ingredients (like yeast) and strive to deliver products with a balanced pH to avoid irritating your skin. You’ll also find lots of botanicals and brightening ingredients like niacinamide and adenosine in their products, which is great in the fight against wrinkles and fine lines.
This brand is another one that caters to any skin type by using gentle yet effective products, and vitamins are heavily featured in any product they sell.
Missha offers skincare, haircare, bodycare and make-up ranges. Within the skincare line, you’ll find things like bee pollen (a great antioxidant); peptides (read my post about that here) and they also offer a dedicated men’s range which looks absolutely gorgeous.
Their Time Revolution range, which focuses heavily on anti-ageing, is their best selling line overall, and they also have a Line Friends range, which has the cutest packaging I have ever seen in my life.
Missha’s best selling product is the Time Revolution Essence, which contains fermented yeast, niacinamide and adenosine. The combination of these three ingredients makes for a very strong and effective solution for fine lines and wrinkles, as well as offering intense hydration. Of course, as with any of their products, this one is suitable for any skin type.
Neogen is a collection of different subsidiaries, and the one we’ll be focusing on today is Neogen Dermalogy. Founded in 2009, this brand is known for doing lots of clinical testing and are highly selective on what ingredients they put in their products. They are also cruelty-free, yay!
Neogen is focused on delivering real results, and they do this by using their patented 6-core technologies. I won’t go into the nitty gritty of this technology too much, but here’s what it comes down to: They deliver advanced and high quality formulas, with the scientific research to back it up. Seriously, have a look at their website, they have tons of patents!
They use ingredients like green tea and fermented yeast, and they strive to be as natural as possible in their ingredient choices to avoid making products that will upset your skin. Neogen offer multiple lines for different skin concerns, like a dedicated line for brightening and a whole line of products designed to help reduce pore visibility.
Neogen’s best selling product is their Green Tea Foam Cleanser, which is formulated specifically for oily or combination skin types. Green tea is known to balance oil production and hydrate at the same time. It also contains moringa, papaya, orange and a whole lot more natural ingredients. I also spotted some hyaluronic acid in there, which is another big plus for Neogen!
Perhaps the oldest company on this list, Skinfood was founded in 1957 and has been going strong ever since. Their philosophy is based on the idea that healthy skin starts with food. Literally. They pride themselves on using tons of fruit and vegetable extracts in their products.
These extracts are naturally rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, and as you might have noticed by now, those components are the basics of any good K-beauty brand. They use ingredients like cucumber, egg whites and avocado, and claim they travel all over the world in order to find the best quality ingredients for their products.
This brand is free-from, which means no parabens, alcohol or mineral oils that will upset or irritate your skin, making this another suitable brand for sensitive skin types.
Skinfood offers skincare, haircare, bodycare and make-up, all with as much natural ingredients as possible. Their skincare lines focus on the main ingredient in the product, rather than the problems they target. For example, they offer a whole egg white range that looks good enough to eat! (Don’t try to eat it though, I won’t be responsible if anything happens.)
Skinfood’s best selling product is their Black Sugar Mask, which is a combination of a mask and a scrub due to the sugar in there. This sugar will exfoliate your skin when you wash it off. It also contains shea butter and macademia oil to prevent that tight feeling you might get when a product scrubs away just a little bit too much. These ingredients will keep you hydrated and your skin feeling soft!
Bringing It All Together
If you hadn’t noticed from the brands I listed above, the key to Korean skincare brands is their use of natural ingredients and botanicals. They use as little chemicals as they can to avoid upsetting and irritating your skin. A lot of brands will be free-from, and will offer lines that are suitable for any skin type.
Hydration is key for anyone using K-beauty products, because skin issues are usually caused by a lack of this hydration, whether you have acne or dry skin. Look for hydrating properties like hyaluronic acid and other deeply moisturizing components.
It all comes down to personal choice in the end regarding the skincare brand to choose, but the ones I’ve listed here are all great options and we’ve chosen brands for any skin type, concern and price range. Remember, doing anything for your skin is better than doing nothing!
If you want a one off solution, definitely take a look at the Sokoglam sets. They will give you all the products you need for your skin type, at a discounted price!
Will you be trying any of these brands? Which one seems the most promising for your skin type? Let me know in the comments!