From natural, stripped down ingredients to effective antioxidant rich potions and vibrant gorgeous packaging, it’s no surprise the Korean beauty market is booming. But when it comes to Western skincare aficonados like us, where do you even start when you confront the dynamic and unbelievably innovative beauty products of Asia?
The good news, you don’t have to trade-in your pared-down beauty routine for the famous 10-step Korean method, but if you take the time to figure out which beauty products will offer you something valuable, it CAN help you achieve the flawless skin of a Korean pop star.
Here are some of the beautifying breakthroughs you need to try…
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
The Laneige Water Sleeping Mask is a Korean cult beauty product that actually lives up to the hype. The formulation contains water-binding agents to help skin retain moisture revealing fresh, revitalised skin come morning. This one's ideal for the cooler months (when skin tends to be thirsty) or when your skin is acting up. The gel like consistency
cools the skin and helps with irritation and dehydration.
The instructions recommend dotting the mask around your face and breathing deeply for three seconds for instant gratification, but if we’re honest, it didn’t quite bring us zen (despite its lovely aromatic sleep scent). What it did deliver though is plumper, calmer skin after a single application. And at half the price of similar, more premium brands we literally can't shut up about it.
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, £21, available at amazon.co.uk
Green Tea Oil Free Toner
Green tea has long been touted as an antioxidant powerhouse for all things health so it wouldn’t be right if your K-beauty routine didn’t include something like this super-star. The Face Shop’s Green Tea Oil Free Toner is jam packed with moisture complex ingredients (xanthan gum, betain and glycerin) giving your skin an instant boost of moisture and plenty of prep and nourishment to help drink up all those vitamin-rich ingredients from your serum.
The toner aims to clarify and hydrate your skin and that’s exactly what we got. And the best part? The Face Shop is free from five nasty chemicals (a popular Korean beauty trend) ensuring your regimen remains as natural and nonirritating as possible. PS the fresh green tea scent is so lush that we can't stop sniffing our cotton pads!
The Face Shop Green Tea Oil Free Toner, £27, available at amazon.co.uk
Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask
Innisfree is a cult fave for their unique native ingredients from Jeju Island. As Korea’s ultimate beauty spot and home to thousands of different algae and plant species you can only imagine how much magic is in each pot. Like their best-selling Volcanic Pore Clay mask which is infused with minerals released by volcanic explosions (yeah, we know) and a sebum control guarantee.
You can even feel the tiny volcanic capsules when applying it, but don’t worry they won’t aggravate or inflame the skin like other granule masks often do. In fact when the little capsules burst they clean up dead skin cells and banish impurities. We were pleasantly surprised at how much smoother and oil-free our skin felt after. None of that can’t-talk-or-move-face type of clay mask. The fragrance free formula makes it sensitive skin’s best friend too. Ladies, you won’t regret this one.
Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, £14, available at amazon.co.uk
Chia Seed Sebum Control Moisture Cream
We’re obsessed with The Face Shop’s chia seed line. These super seeds can hold moisture ten times their own weight, helping to replenish the skin's moisture barrier while cotton seed extract works to eliminate excess sebum. The gel-like cream is made with 100% organic chia seed extract (instead of water) – a true miracle worker for any SOS skin. Like many gel creams, this one doesn't leave skin feeling tight and cling-film like. We definitely recommend this for the hot, humid months of the year when skin is more likely to get clogged. If you have combination/oily skin/sensitive or are looking for a lighter moisturiser with the bedewing benefits of a cream, this is the product to put to the test. For an extra cooling effect, refrigerate!
The Face Shop Chia Seed Sebum Control Moisture Cream, £18, available at strawberrynet.com
IOPE Air Cushion Compact
No matter the time of year, Korean women always wear SPF which explains why they insist on 50+ SPF in many of their foundations. Our favourite is the IOPE Air Cushion (also known as a BB cushion) which has become a mainstream cult classic in the Korean beauty market – FYI a compact is sold every 30 seconds. Not only does it provide you with maximum protection against premature ageing and pigmentation but it applies flawlessly. Simply press the puff onto the foundation soaked sponge and stipple onto skin. Instantly, your skin is luminous and cooled.
The foundation also comes in a range of formulas including shimmer, matte and extra cover. This particular one (C21 – C stands for 'extra cover') only comes in two shades (21 vanilla and 23 beige) which was a little concerning at first, but like most BB formulas the foundation will blend and even out your skin tone in minutes. Touching up is effortless too thanks to its nifty compact (and it comes with a refill, hello).
IOPE Air Cushion Compact, £20, available at amazon.co.uk
Donkey Milk Aqua Sheet Mask
This wouldn’t be a Korean beauty review if we didn’t include sheet masks! Sheet masks in Korea are a staple product in every girl's beauty arsenal and for good reason. The soaked sheets are basically like food for your skin and come in countless varieties, whatever your needs.
We picked up Freeset's Donkey Milk Aqua Gel Mask for extra hydration (yep, there’s actually donkey milk in it). The result? An extra punch of glow and dewiness. We were stunned to see how bright, well rested and healthy our visage looked after. For unforgettable skin use this just before a night out or an important event. It's now our pre-party go to!
Sheet masks are always a little fiddly and gelatinous when you apply them but if you chuck it in the fridge the gel will set making it less of a challenge (not to mention, wonderful and cooling as well). You can leave it on for up to 20 minutes but we like to leave it on for as long as 45 (if we can be bothered) to make sure it’s all absorbed. Ladies, you can't go wrong with these. They’re affordable and gentle enough to use every day and hands down, the holy grail of Korean masks.
Freeset Donkey Milk Gel Mask Pack, £16, available at strawberrynet.com
Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm
A perfectly kept visage is nothing without an effective skincare routine. So if there’s one thing to do differently it’s adopting the Korean ‘double cleanse’ method. Many of our cleansers just don’t cut it when it comes to washing away the day’s daily grime, which is why we're now double cleansing addicts.
Typically, Korean women use a balm followed by a lathering cleanser. Clean It Zero by Banila Co is a game-changing hero of a product. And as avid balm users, we’d say this one is just as good as the other more luxurious balms on the market, like Emma Hardie and Clinique. In fact, it’s Korea’s No. 1 cleansing cream (although we wouldn’t call it a cream as such)!
The sherbet cleanser goes on as a solid non-greasy balm and transforms into a silky light oil upon touch. Massage the cleanser in for a few minutes and wash away the excess oil and the stubbornest of lip stains. Thumbs up.
Banila Co. Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm, £18, available at strawberrynet.com
Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask
Another tried and true product from Laneige – the Lip Sleeping Mask. After one night of use we woke up with baby soft lips that looked plump and healthy. And what's more, it smells like berry bubblegum! For real – it's almost worth eating it.
The instructions recommend applying a thick layer but we found that even the tiniest amount works its magic overnight. Apply the formula just before bed. When you wake up, you’ll be surprised to find that it’s still on! The product also comes with an applicator which is pretty handy for avoiding breeding bacteria.
We’re not the biggest fans of sticky lip balms but since this one is a treatment we've made an exception, especially when it delivers such promising results. For us, this product conquers the Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask and that in itself says a lot. If you’re suffering from chronically chapped lips or are just looking for a pouty pick-me-up this one will not disappoint.
Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, £18, available at amazon.co.uk
Have you tried any of these Korean brands yet? Tweet us @sofeminineUK!
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