If you’re a beauty buff like we pride ourselves on being, then you’re most likely familiar with the “Korean skincare routine.” The meticulous 10+ step regimen is very involved, to say the least! And if you’re not sure what this multi-step process is like, let us clue you in. Two cleansers are applied first (an oil-based cleanser then a water-based one), followed by various toners and essences — which are less concentrated than serums — followed by thicker, more viscous serums and ampoules, and then eye cream, moisturizer, and sunscreen, with the occasional sheet or sleep mask thrown in. Intense!
These aren’t your basic products, either. No no, K-Beauty prods are known for having some of the most science-backed, rare ingredient-driven, anti-aging, and youth-boosting formulas around. And brainiac, inspiring founders as well. #NBD
Get to know five of our fave K-beauty brands, then shop their cult status goods:
Peach & Lily is the brainchild of Alicia Yoon, who at the age of 18 was approached on the streets of Seoul, Korea by a woman who told her she should consider beauty school for her flawless makeup application. Having suffered from eczema her whole life, she was a) flattered and b) all for learning the professional art of cosmetology and sharing that knowledge (and skincare confidence) with others. That motivated her to later attend Harvard Business School and launch her own company based on the principles of educating and empowering women through skincare.
This incredible, new K-beauty brand now ranks among some of the best K-beauty brands on the market and constantly sells out of its pro-level masks, like the Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask, $43, which is a mild chemical peel that’s safe enough for eczema-prone and sensitive skin and one of our fave peels ever. Other toxin and irritant‑free winners include the Glass Skin Refining Serum, $39, Matcha Pudding Antioxidant Cream, $40, Original Glow Sheet Mask Set, $79, and Peach Slices, a more affordable, whimsically-packaged sister line that starts at $2.50, that is curated for CVS.
This leading South Korean staple has quite the intriguing background. Six decades ago, AMOREPACIFIC’s founder Suh Sung-whan began harvesting sacred green tea leaves from South Korea’s Jeju Island, given the mineral-rich volcanic soil they stem from. The super ingredient is also praised for containing one of the most potent antioxidants in the world (polyphenol EGCG), so no wonder Asian princesses would rub its potent extracts onto their skin to maintain their youth…or so the legend goes.
They’re even OCD about the exact time of day the plants can be picked — when the tree sprouts its first leaf of the year in early spring — to maintain peak efficacy in their high-tech skincare products. And because of this, they’ve built a cult following around bestsellers like their TIME RESPONSE Skin Reserve Serum, $525, Vintage Single Extract Essence, $145, Botanical Radiance Oil, $105, and Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder, $60. Be forewarned though: These K-beauty must-haves are a bit of a splurge (many in the $200-500 range), but there is a ton of science behind each high-performance product.
Created by Dr. Sanghoon Park, head of Korea’s premier dermatology clinic, ID Hospital, this K-beauty Rx centers around one breakthrough product: the Private Doctor Minus Serum, $49. The silky skin-smoothing serum does it all and we mean ALL: improves fine lines and wrinkles, resurfaces dullness and uneven texture, plumps up saggy or shapeless skin, and over time it will even make your facial contours more defined thanks to ID.SCULPT technology. Which is essentially a patented blend of Sodium Deoxycholate complex and micro-tingling spicules (microscopic needles from a hydrolyzed sponge) that penetrate the skin and carry the actives as deep as a topical treatment can possibly go. That’s some fancy medical speak for “a J.Lo-level glow comes next.” And considering the success they’ve had with this gem, we can’t wait to see what’s ahead from Private Doctor.
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You may have heard us wax poetic about our love affair of K-Beauty brand Glow Recipe before, but seriously we are ride or die for them and that’s because founders Christine Chang and Sarah Lee spend every waking moment researching ingredients that have glow-boosting benefits.
Okay maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but they are total enzyme experts and have created some of the skincare must-haves crowding our shelfies right now: Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask, $39, Pineapple-C Bright Serum, $49, Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer, $39, and Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser, $34.
These beauty babies work wonders for us (day and night) in terms of soothing, hydrating, clarifying, and giving us #glassskingoals, so we’re always on the lookout for their next launch. It also helps that they smell super delish and look polished on a vanity counter too, just sayin’.
The Insta sensation (that you’ve probably seen all over your feed) is a big deal among those in the know, skincare wise. And that’s probably because of entrepreneur slash esthetician Charlotte Cho. Cho’s entry in the K-Beauty world was a bit unconventional in the sense that she didn’t grow up in Korea, but instead moved there post-college from California. Nonetheless, she, like a majority of women all over the world, became obsessed with the pursuit of flawless skin and the philosophy behind the Korean skincare routine. That’s why she created a community to learn, try, and have fun with it — Soko Glam.
We also love that each product featured on their site has been tested and hand-picked by Cho herself, like these K-goodies we’re loving at the moment: Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Essence Mist, $24, Mamonde Petal Spa Oil To Foam Cleanser, $21, The Plant Base Time Stop Collagen Ampoule, $29, and Enature Birch Juice Hydro Sleeping Pack, $28.
Have you guys tried any of these brands before? Let us know in the comments below.