As the popularity of Korean skincare continues to rise in the U.S. beauty realm, we decided to take a look beyond the trend’s most well known products, like B.B. creams and cushion compacts. Known for its extensive steps, a typical Korean skincare routine is all about natural, hydrating products, like serums and essences, that work to tackle any skin dilemma, from fine lines to dry patches to acne. Basically, it’s all about taking time to do good for your skin (and yourself!) with products like exfoliating scrubs, cleansers, and especially sheet masks. Although you may need to sacrifice a bit of time to complete the thorough 10-step process, Korean beauty products tend to be pretty budget-friendly without any sacrifice to quality. But before you jump face-first into this perfect mix of high-quality, heavy-duty products, you should know that some of the natural ingredients may sound a bit off-putting (like the egg whites in a face mask I tested, or snail extract in the essence I tried). Don’t be deterred by the unfamiliarity, though; these accessible products aren’t just for beauty gurus. Sephora has an entire section of its site dedicated to the trend, but other popular places to shop for Korean products include Memebox and Sokoglam. If you’re a rookie (like me!), look for editor’s picks and be sure to read customers’ reviews.
Before working on this post, I knew that the phrase “Korean skincare” basically equated to “perfect skin.” I spent about two weeks following the majority of this long routine, which was a major change from my typical two-step pattern of removing my makeup with these wipes and following it up with this cleanser. Now, I can confirm that some of the products I tried are most likely laced with magic. Here’s everything you need to know about all of the products I tried:
It all started with a cleanser:
- Clean It Zero Cleanser: I don’t think I will ever use another makeup removing scrub. This is an oil-based cleanser, so it’s thick and rich, and leaves your skin feeling very hydrated. With even just a pea-sized amount, your makeup will be gone and your skin will feel refreshed. It also smells great, but it’s still very gentle on skin. As someone with acne-prone skin that varies between oily and dry, I was worried a product like this would irritate my face, but it has actually helped reduce dry patches and keep my acne under control.
Then, once all my makeup was gone, I followed that cleanser up with this one:
- Rice Water Bright – Cleansing Light Oil: I was skeptical of this at first because it’s water-based and oil-free, so even with two pumps of the stuff in my hand, it still felt so thin. After just my first use, I discovered that one pump would have been plenty — it’s deceptively powerful in the best ways. Again, the scent is great and the soap itself is gentle. The combination of this and Clean It Zero left my skin feeling clean all the way down to my pores.
Next, I used an exfoliator:
- Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Exfoliator: Experts recommend that you only use an exfoliator a couple times per week. But if I could, I’d use this stuff every day. Of course, this product is a little bit harsher on the skin given the roughness of the sugar, but it just feels so natural and leaves skin visibly refreshed. You should know that the scent is very potent and smells almost like candy. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic product, especially for the price.
After washing my face, it was time to use a toner to do one more check-in with the pores:
- Witchhazel Pore Clear Toner: A toner like this one gets your skin ready for all the hydration it’s about to receive in the next couple steps of this routine. I applied it with cotton pads and quickly felt the effects. I liked this toner, but I didn’t find much of a difference between this one and a drugstore version that I’ve used before.
And after the skin was prepped, I began the hydration process. First, was the essence:
- Snail Bee High Content Essence: Essence is the “heart” of the Korean skincare routine. A good essence will both continue to work like a toner while also adding moisture to your skin. I used my fingers to dab this into my skin and focused especially on dry patches, which I usually get on my forehead and chin. This is yet another gentle, natural-smelling product (are you catching on to the theme yet?) that your skin will absorb quickly before the next layer of moisture.
For double the hydration, I followed the essence with a serum:
- Hyaluronic Acid Serum: Remember how I said my skincare routine was extremely minimal? This serum and the essence are what I’ve been missing all my life. Serums can address all kinds of skin issues, so I got one that focuses specifically on dryness to help repair my damaged winter skin. Coupled with the essence, I could feel and see the products working after just a few uses.
And once I was done with all of that, I tried out a few sheet masks. Sheet masks are another hallmark of Korean skincare, so I looked for ones that would tackle different issues I’ve had with my skin.
- Pore Minimalist Black Charcoal Sheet Mask: The charcoal in this mask helps remove dirt and oil from your skin, which cleans and reduces pores. I will definitely purchase this again for those times when my skin needs a quick refresh.
- When Makeup Base Sheet Mask: This mask was so soaked that it became heavy and consistently slipped down my face. Rather than massaging the soapy residue into my face when I was done using the mask, I decided to rinse it off because my skin was not absorbing it quickly enough to put makeup on right afterward. It was definitely hydrating, but it’s not feasible for a quick morning use.
- Egg Cream Mask: The scent of a product is one of the first things we notice about it, and this one definitely stands out with a strong alcohol-like component. Still, it was powerful and left my skin feeling very hydrated for a couple of days after I used it.
Have you tried any Korean skincare products? What are some of your favorites?