101 Guide to 11 Must Have Korean Cosmetics
South Korea is known for its beauty. We’re talking known known. People from all over the world flock to Korea in an effort to achieve the flawless skin of so many K-pop stars and actors. You wanna know how it’s done? An impeccable skin care routine. Korean cosmetic stores line the streets of Seoul like no other. There are literally 4 or 5 on each block brimming with the latest skin care innovations and make up.
Look below to find top picks for Cushion Compacts, BB/CC Creams, Skin Care, Mascara, Primers, Masks and more!
These are the new contenders on the scene after the BB cream boom. Compacts are essentially foundation on the go which makes them perfect for mess-free touch ups. No need to carry a foundation brush with you, all compacts come with a sponge applicator.
The idea is to stamp the product onto your skin to give an airbrushed look and avoid the streaks that make up brushes can give. You push the sponge down into the cushion to dispense the foundation, pat onto your skin, keep patting til you’re done! No blending required! Lightly tap the sponge 2-3 times into the cushion to avoid cakey applicaiton. Apply thin layers to the skin and then build it up to desired coverage. Set with powder for added make up staying power.
Tip: products with high spf tend to look shinier on the skin, so keep that in mind if you have combination/ oily skin.
This sunblock cushion can be worn on its own to blot out redness or under foundation to give a luminous glow. Even dry skin can achieve a super glowy dewy effect with this as a base. This cushion nourishes skin with added minerals and vitamins that make skin feel soft and supple after make up removal. The coverage is enough to camouflage for everyday wear and provides light coverage. There are two shades, N21 and N23, which are comparable to MACs NW20-30. Perfect for those with very fair skin who struggle to find their shade. Comes in 3 finishes: Natural, Cover, and Shimmer.
This 6-in-1 foundation counts as a moisturizer, sunscreen, oil controller, skin cooler, and brightening. This compact has a liquidy texture that absorbs quickly with a slight dewy finish. You can see the luminosity right after application. Ideal for combination/ oily skin types since it moisturizes without building oil. This light weight and refreshing compact provides a sheer look and is buildable to medium coverage. Also, it wont settle into fine lines or wrinkles and lasts about 4-5 hours without touch ups. Available in two shades.
This compact provides brightening, sunscreen, water resistant, soothing, and boosts make up effects. Provides good coverage that’s buildable to medium and even full coverage without caking. Comes with a special dual structure type puff meant to absorb moisture and give supple and glossy skin. This foundation has a cool and refreshing sensation when applying, so it’s great for those hot and humid Summer days. Long lasting formula leaves skin clean and radiant all day. This product gives your skin a velvety dewy finish without settling into fine lines or accentuate pores. Ideal for dry/normal skin types looking for a dewy finish. Combination/ oily skin may see oil build up with this compact. Available in four shades: #13 true beige, #21 natural beige, #23 sand beige, and #31 brown beige.
This multi-award winning cushion is known for it’s longevity. You can expect a good 6-7 hours of staying power before needing touch ups. This compact also offers brightening, sebum control, cools the skin, and hydrates with mineral clay water. Don’t forget the SPF 50+/PA+++! There are two shades (21 & 23) available with two levels of coverage, but may not match the fairest of skin tones. 21 is for those with pale skin and salmon undertones with 23 is for those with a slight tan or olive undertone. The two coverage levels are C (for more coverage) and N (for a natural look with less coverage). This mist cushion glides on like a dream and very blend-able. It goes on light and build-able to medium coverage to give a nice glow and a dewy finish. It may be pricey, but includes the compact plus a refill. Recommended for normal and combination skin types.
If you haven’t heard about the buzz yet, BB (beauty balms) and CC (Color Correctors) have been widely popular in Asia for years and entered the Western market in 2012. These are all-in-one products meant to moisturize and care for the skin while also providing make up coverage. Essentially, a foundation and moisturizer all in one! They are notorious for their skin care benefits and for the naturally beautiful look they give the skin. Here are our picks for Korea’s must try BB creams.
To start off our list is Holika Holika’s #1 smash hit product. Contains 80% Aqua Mint Water, this water based BB cream is a cult favorite among beauty enthusiasts. This light weight BB cream is great for those with normal to combination skin. The mousse texture provides a natural finish with light coverage that’s biddable to medium. Comes in a beautiful frosted bottle that’s shaped like a jelly cup. Includes a spatula cap and free cotton puffs. The peppermint ingredient gives a cooling sensation and dries quickly without clinging to dry patches. Available in 2 shades: 01 Aqua Beige and 02 Aqua Natural.
This is Missha’s best selling product with 30 million sold world wide. One of Missha’s most higly raved and reviewed about products. Provides a moderate to full coverage that lasts about four to six hours before needing a touch up. One pump is enough for the whole face. The texture is a bit thicker, so blend quickly! Natural finish to cover up all your blemishes. Available in 5 shades from fair to tan.
Another hit from Missha, here comes a lightweight BB cream that provides the coveted dewy finish. This cake free formula provides full coverage and works well with concealer. Dry skin have no fear! This wont accentuate your dry patches. Be wary if you have oily skin, you might have to blot down your T-zone. Photographs beautifully.
This moisturizing BB cream leaves a natural finish with good coverage. It’s creamy, smooth texture glides on the skin and makes blending a breeze. This is the smooth flawless skin finish you’ve been looking for. Feels natural on the skin and lasts all day. Try doubling it up as a concealer!
One of the best selling BB creams on the market. This is suitable for normal to oily skin types to keep shininess at bay. This gives excellent coverage for a BB cream, comparable to the full coverage of liquid foundation. However, it can also be sheered out for a lighter look. Due to this good coverage, the formula creamy and on the thicker side.This BB creams makes achieving a natural glow effortless. Blend-ability is a dream and is biddable to full coverage without getting cakey. Comes in just one shade which is comparable to MAC’s NC15 shade. Also check out Skin 79’s widely popular Super Plus Beblesh Balm Triple Functions Whitening UV Protection SPF25 PA++ in hot pink packaging!
The lonely one in the category, but only because of its awesomeness. This is one of SkinFood’s best seller and for good reason. This goes on creamy and blends effortlessly. Feel free to use it as a concealer or as a highlight to get a fresh dew finish. Apply it under the eyes to make yourself look awake and glowing. Nicely scented and known to be long lasting. Available in 2 shades. Shade #1 Salmon Blooming is comparable to Mac’s NC 25 while Shade #2 Salmon Beige matches NC 30 or NW 25.
This top selling product is an all over moisturizer made from 92% aloe vera. It’s cool and refreshing which is perfect for calming irritated skin from acne or sun exposure. Use it from head to toe to condition your hair or moisturize those dry feet! You can also layer it over clay masks to combine the firming of the mask with the high moisture. Also an excellent last step to your skin care routine to seal in your eye and night creams. Apply it as an after shave sooth any cuts or razor burn.
This knock out punch has been a long standing favorite. In fact, the entire collagen line is a cult favorite among beauty fanatics. The sweet citrus scent alone is enough to love it! The Moistful Collagen Cream gives skin elasticity and fights wrinkles with anti-aging ingredients. Good for low-maintenance skin care that won’t turn your face into an oil slick. The cream is gel textured and rich, meaning you only need very little. Great for dry skin to achieve a radiant glow and to keep skin feeling light and pretty. Say goodbye to those dry patches!
Another top seller from Skin Food. It gets it’s name from the 10 “miracle” food ingrediants it has (Ganoderma, Raspberry Wine, Dark Green Tea, Macchie, Artemisia Capillaris, Spinach, White Ginseng, Quinoa, Honey, and Carrot) which promise to improve you skin in 10 days. This rich cream lovingly nourishes the face for healthy moisturized skin. The perfect pick-me-up for dry dull skin to boost vitality and elasticity. This also offers sebum control to control oil production throughout the day. Not to mention it will help out with those dark circles!
Innisfree is known for being paraben free and for using very natural ingredients. It’s made from Jeju Island (an island south of the Korean peninsula) orchids that can survive the harsh winter weather of Jeju. This anti-aging cream gives dry, thirsty skin the moisture it’s looking for without being too heavy. Not to mention it also brightens the skin with a gorgeous glow the next morning. This also works well for those looking to minimize pores and tighten the skin.The gel texture hugs the skin and gives the experience of a luxurious night cream, but can feel a tad sticky. True to it’s name, this light violet cream smells like beautiful soft Orchids on a cool Summer night. This cream is great for parched skin, but may be too rich for oily or acne prone skin.
This moisturizer is the Power Room Hit Item (Korean beauty app) of 2014 and also voted best moisturizer in Get It Beauty’s (Korean TV show) blind test. It’s dermatologist tested and uses fair trade ingredients. Described as the perfect night time moisturizer, this thick cream absorbs quickly and seals in moisture. A little goes a long way with this smooth emollient texture, so it’ll last you a while. Let’s not forget it’ll leave your face smelling absolutely delicious like a mango smoothie! You’ll wake up with plump moisturized skin that won’t stop glowing. Ideal for dry and normal skin types.
This baby popped onto the scene to compete against the very high-end SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. Not only is it an affordable alternative, it actually lives up to the hype! Ideal for acne prone skin types to control break outs and prevent new ones. This essence lovingly moisturizes the skin to give a healthy natural glow. Not to mention it does wonders for brightening and provides a delicate dewy finish. The heavy luxurious bottle will remind you that you’re not sacrificing quality for its affordable price.
Formulated to improve enlarged pores, purge impurities, and aid oily t-zones. This serum goes in deep to cleanse pores of impurities and control sebum while moisturizing the skin. It’s light enough to use in your daytime routine to mattify the skin and wear under your make up. This light formulation is ideal for those with combination to oily skin. This may not be moisturizing enough for those with dry skin. The air pump packaging helps keep the ingredients fresh by keeping it from the air which could oxidize and spoil the product. Use this in conjunction with another pore minimizing product (check our our primer section for some ideas) and you’ll reap maximum pore tightening and mattifying benefits.
Winner of both the Get it Beauty and Allure Korea awards, here comes this ultra gentle cleanser from Innisfree. This eco-friendly cleanser is made from rich dietary fiver from Jeju Island green barely, hence it’s name. As said before, Innisfree is know for using natural ingredients and is paraben free (woo!). Wet your hands, and behold as this cleanser foams up before your eyes. This gentle foam goes into all the tricky crevices while the bubbles gently cleanse the skin without tugging on it.
This foam cleanser has an amazingly creamy texture that willl make you want to wash your face for hours. The second it hits your wet hands, it instantly turns into foam to gently cleans skin without pulling on it (don’t want wrinkles!). This cleanser comes in five different scents: Lemon, Aloe Vera, Peach, Acerola (cherry) and Mung Bean. The most popular one, acerola, smells Ah-Mazing and will leave skin soft and glowing.
This eye make up remover is both crazy effective and ridiculously affordable. This is your fancy two phase liquid formula that you need to shake up before using. This works like a charm for water proof make up, especially stubborn water proof mascara. Just apply to a cotton pad, hold over your eye for 30 seconds, then wipe away. It’s truly a one shot clean! It’s gentle on the eye plus comes in adorably cute packaging.
Rice water has long been known for it’s brightening effects. Made from rice water extract, this eye remover is gentle on skin while also brightening eyes. Great for removing makeup that regular cleansers leave behind such as eye make up and lip color, hence it’s name This is a dual phase cleanser with two layers, one emulsion based and one water based. Since it is water based and not oil based, it won’t leave skin feeling greasy after use. Make sure to shake the bottle well to mix the two layers. The remover is milky in color and has a pleasant mild rice scent. The consistency is think and watery, so be careful not to poor too much on your cotton pad.
Another hit from Laneige, make way for this oh-so-delightful peeling gel. Why is it delightful? For one it’s pink and smells of strawberry goodness! That not enough for you? It leaves you face smelling delicious too. Now let’s talk about what a peeling gel is. This is an very gentle expoliator that balls up when you rub it on your face. No abrasion, no micro tears, no fuss. Great for those who have sensitive and acne prone skin. This amazingly creamy texture will leave your skin supple and glowing from within. Just dispense a dime size amount of this fluffy pink gel onto your finger tips and watch in awe as it magically balls up as you rub it along your face. A little goes a long way and this product can last year well up to a year.
Number one winner in Get It Beauty’s blind test for pore balms. This balm is great if you are going after a soft look and want to achieve the perfect finish. This will reduce and blur the size of your pores wile also cutting down on oiliness through out the day. Unlike traditional primers, this is mean to go over your make up to keep your make up in place. Pat it over your make up (rubbing it will remove your make up) to estimate shine, fine lines, and pores. The clear bomb comes in a compact with a screw on lid and includes a white sponge for application. If you’re worrying about dirtying the sponge, you can also apply this on clean skin before your routine. The extremely soft and smooth texture makes it a breeze to spread onto the face. Also has a slight lemon scent.
Right next to the Face It Oil Cut Pore Balm comes another winner of the Get It Beauty Blind Test – this time in the primer category. This non-sticky formula it spreads like butter across the face and leaves skin feeling like velvet, true to it’s name! This gel-texture primer covers up pores and fine lines, creating a smooth and perfect canvas. Your face will feel silky soft to the touch and let make up glide on effortlessly. It also acts as a sebum controller and prevents sheen from popping up through out the day. This oil-free formula is great for those with oily and acne prone skin.
Brings instant life and vitality to any eye shadow! This eye primer is down right bullet proof and stands up to any challenge. Oily eyelids, rejoice! You no longer have to fear your eyes gobbling up eye shadows like dessert. This gen stands up to the oiliest of eyelids and withstands even the most humid of of hot Summer days. It goes on clear and dries to a matte finish on the lids. Just pat it on your eyes and all eye shadows and liners will stay in tact — no smudging or creasing to be seen. This is often compared to the cult favorite Urban Decay Primer Potion, but for a fraction of the price. A little bit goes a long way with this product. Just make sure to let it dry on your lids before patting on eye shadow. Comes in a cute little bottle with a sponge tip applicator.
Pro tip: Don’t throw out the bottle when you think it’s empty! The shape of the bottle means that a lot of product is unreachable and is stuck inside. To get the rest out, take a sharp knife and carefully cut off the top of the bottle horizontally over the widest part. You’ll be amazed when you see how much product is left. Scoop your newly accessible product into a small jar and you’re good to go!
The cute packaging is alone to make you fall in love. Who can resist this cute yet elegant little egg packaging? Any who, this is essentially a silicon primer in a pot, but advertised as a pore balm. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll still cover up pores and fine lines like no body’s business. A little goes a long way and it’s think texture is good for dry skin. You’ll definitely see an increase your make up’s staying power with this. Also, enjoy the lemony fresh scent!
Ceci K-Beauty award winner. Comes in adorably cute and shiny packaging. They come in eight different shades all labeled as different latte flavors such as mango-orange latte, strawberry latte, and more (yum~)! It’s get’s it’s name from the “milky” finish it has. Its more of a matte natural finish rather than a shiny or sparkly finish. Two popular colors are the Chocolate Latte and the Papaya Latte. Papaya Latte is a gorgeous coral color that is orange tinted with a pink base. ;The Chocolate Latte as the “your lips but better” Effect to it. These glosses are long lasting and won’t bleed or slide off. Welcome your lips to a comfortable and fully moisturized journey.
You can get this tint in four different colors: Cherry Peach, Milky Lavender, Cherry Coral, and Cherry Lavender. This is your go to product if you want to get that gradient lip look that’s all the rage in Korea. The creamy formula is non-drying and evens out any lip discoloration. It’s also very pigmented yet gives a natural pop of color. Best of all, it tastes like tart cherries! Comes in a small portable tube with a wand sponge applicator.
Holika Holika is known for is bewitching theme and this fiber mascara lives up to it. This unique wand has for flat sides with spikes protruding from each side. But the real joy is the spiked ball on top. It reaches the tiniest lashes in the inner corner while separating and defining lashes. This formula is both lengthens, thickens, and holds a curl – very impressive. It’s also water resistant which means no panda eyes in those hot Summer days. The flexible plastic wand means is durable and the true black color is to die for.
Etude House is known for their cute and dirt cheap face packs. The black Charcoal chin pack removes accumulated black heads. Make your chin smooth and sebum free with the help of charcoal! The very popular Green Tea Nose Pack obliterates clogged pores and black heads from your nose. Use it once or twice a week for best results. It tightens pores and leaves skin smooth and clear. The Collagen Eye patches are great for revitalizing skin and clearing dark circles. Just gently lay them around the eye area to make skin feel smooth and elastic.
These things are so affordable, you’ll feel like you robbed the place! Not only are thy affordable, but they exceptional quality. Say farewell to blackheads! Just make sure to follow the instructions carefully for maximum effect. Thorough wet your nose and carefully pat down the mask over your nose. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes until it’s hard and then slowly peel it off. You’ll be amazed what comes out of your nose! These are comparable to The Biore strips and Origins Charcoal mask, bu far less expensive. Tip: Open your pores by with hot water or by steaming them in the shower to make the blacak heads easier to remove.
This has been a top seller for at least half a decade. A sleeping pack is used as the final step to your skin care routine and usually used in place of a night cream. You put it on right before bed and let it soak in over night. It acts like a sealant to lock in the benefits of your night time skin treatments. When you wake up, wash it off to reveal glowing, plump, and beautifully moisturized skin. It creates a smooth canvas to glide your make up upon the next morning. The Laneige water sleeping pack dries within 20 minutes, so no need to worry about getting your pillow dirty. This is perfect for all skin types, especially those craving more moisture. This light blue gel cream is delightfully floral scented and has a cooling sensation when applied.
This has been a top seller for years and possibly SkinFood’s most recognized product. This mask doubles as an expoliator with black sugar crystals embedded in the gel. For ease of application, first wet your face and slide on mask. You’ll nose will be greeted with a deep, warm, sugary smell as your spread it across your face. The mask isn’t overly abrasice and sutiable for everyone, included sensitive and mature skin. Leave the mask on for about 10 minutes and watch as the granuals melt away while washing. You’ll be treated to soft, glowing, and radiant skin. Your skin will be so smooth and touchable that you can’t keep your fingers off! Also try SkinFood’s widely popular Rice Mask for brightening. It’s just as delightful and comes with a soft, yummy rice scent.
This mask is great for those with acne prone and sensitive skin. This non-drying clay mask draws out the impurities in your pores while also tightening them. You can also use it as a great spot treatment to dry out pesky acne. To help spread the product, moisten the face to let the clay glide on easily. It’s recommended to lie on your back while the masks dries so it doesn’t dry downward, which promotes sagging. Once you wash it off, you’ll find your skin smooth and supple and will see a reduction in oil. If you have oily skin, make sure to check out the Super Volcanic version.
Now you have a full shopping list of products to try out. Great! But where to shop? If you want one stop shopping where you’ll find all these items in more, then definitely go toMyeongdong. Nearly every product mentioned on this list can for sure be found there. Brands such as Laneige and IOPE can be found in Amore Pacific Aritaum shops. Hera can be found in upscale department stores such as the Lotte Gangnam Hotel.
Feeling a tad hungry? Well Myeongdong is home to some of Seoul’s finest and oldest restaurants. First stop on your list should be Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자) which has been in business for nearly 40 years. They are best known for their knife-cut handmade ‘kalguksu’ noodles, which is their main menu item. There’s always a line, but it goes by fast!
If you’re looking for desert, then head on over to Cafe Coin (카페 코인). This is one of the oldest and most popular cafes in Myeongdong and has been around for 17 years. Come here to stretch your legs after a long day of shopping and enjoy their unique real paintings from Japan, France, and the UK. Best of all, the selection is huge with nearly 80 items on their menu! To find out more and to get an exclusive coupon, click over to Cafe Coin Trazy page.
Before leaving, make sure to swing by the Myeongdong Cathedral to snap some shots. It is the first Western-style brick building in Korea and was built in 1898. You can even attend English Mass at 9 am on Sundays.
As always, check out Trazy for more hints, tips, and tricks to find your way around Korea! :)