K-beauty is the umbrella term for skin care products from South Korea, where healthy, dewy complexions are what women opt for over makeup. The products, which are praised for their gentle nature, often contain out-there ingredients like bee venom and starfish extract, and the skin care regimen women follow—with steps focused on promoting maximum cell rejuvenation—is exhaustive. It starts with dual cleansing (first with an oil, then a water-based product). Next they exfoliate, tone and add what is called an “essence,” or a light booster. After that comes a richer serum, followed by a mask, a face cream and, finally, a creamy “sleep mask” at night to nourish. (During the day, protective SPF 35 sunscreen ends the process.) Whew. Who has time for all that? Not us. So we worked out five of the most beneficial ways to join the K-beauty club.
Our experts agree: This two-step cleansing method is the most important part of your routine. In the evening, wash away makeup with an oil cleanser, then follow with a foaming cleanser to remove excess oil, dirt and pollution.
→ Try Julep Love Your Bare Face Hydrating Cleansing Oil, ulta.com, $28, and Innisfree Clarifying Facial Foam with Bija Seed Oil, , $9.
Masks for Everything
From sheet masks to seaweed masks to bubble masks and more, there are treatments for every skin concern. For the time-crunched, Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, founders of Glow Recipe, recommend applying a lightweight sleep mask before bed— you’ll absorb the plumping benefits overnight.
Acne Spot Dots
Banish breakouts and prevent inflammation with targeted treatments. The precise placement of stickers allows for minimal irritation and dryness, says Alicia Yoon, founder of K-beauty retailer Peach & Lily.
→ Try Peach Slices Acne Patches, cvs.com, $4.50 for 30 patches.
The cushion craze started with foundation but has expanded into blushes, lip colors, concealers and even highlighters. Sunny Choi, founder of Jini Beauty, says cushions work well on everyone thanks to their light, buildable coverage.
Multi-textured formulas are fan favorites for good reason: Everyone loves the sensory experience, says Dino Ha, CEO and cofounder of Memebox. Products start out as one type—e.g., jelly or balm—but after application they transform into something completely different, like a cream or oil.
→ Try Too Cool for School Egg Mousse Body Oil, sephora.com, $25.
You may not realize it, but you’ve probably been using a few K-beauty products. Mark Choo, director of research and innovation at Amorepacific US, gives us a time line of when some Korean beauty staples arrived
in the U.S.
2011 BB Creams (Beauty Balm)
2012 CC Creams (Color Correcting)
2017 Pollution-Fighting Skin Care
K-Beauty Queens (Influencers to follow on social media)
Photo courtesy of Morgan Stewart
Photo courtesy of Renée Chow
Photo courtesy of Renée Chow