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Ah, the American beauty market. It evolves at the speed of light—hurtling a slew of different trends and innovations that either leave us astounded or stumped. Everything from need-now ingredients (hello, CBD!) to beauty tech (skin-scanning apps, anyone?), the market is saturated with trends. While some of them are fleeting—we’re looking at you, vampire facials—one has stood the test of time: Korean skincare. It all started with the famed 10-step skin care regimen which left women exhausted, but their skin glowing. Everything from essences to rich balms to sheet masks, Korean women like to layer on each product on in a specific order for optimal absorption and desired results. And these products are totally taking over the American beauty market. It all started with BB cream, then CC cream, and then suddenly the need for Korean beauty products ballooned.
It’s no secret why: as innovative as these products are, they’re also very effective and feature ingredients we’d never think to slather onto our skin (things like bee venom and snail slime to name a few). Here, our top Korean beauty products for lifting, brightening, and maintaining your skin’s health.
Best Overall: Laniege Water Sleeping Mask
This hydrating overnight mask gives the term “Sleeping Beauty” a whole new meaning. Catch some zzz’s while packing on moisture with this smooth, gel mask. It absorbs into the skin almost immediately, delivering much-needed hydration with hydro ionized mineral water—a combo of six minerals, including magnesium and calcium, that are deeply penetrating and provide a long-lasting moisturization. Plus, the mask features ingredients like sandalwood and rose, that calm and soothe your face, while evening primrose softens and brightens. To use, apply this product in the evening right after your facial cream. Leave the treatment on overnight and wash it off with warm water in the morning. Then, revel in your radiant, refreshed look.
Best Budget: Skinfood Wash Off Black Sugar Mask
You can’t beat a budget facial. Made with unrefined black sugar, this naturally exfoliating mask sloughs off dead skin and promotes skin’s circulation for a healthy base. The grainy texture is infused with minerals and vitamins that penetrate the outer layer to transport moisture. A natural humectant, sugar draws wetness in and retains it for supple, soft-to-the-touch skin. The granules work together to decongest clogged pores, encourage new skin cell growth, and decrease excess sebum. You can apply the product directly to your face or you can mix it with a bit water before applying. Smooth over your skin and leave on for about 15 minutes. When removing, use warm water and wash product away in circular motions.
Best for Oily Skin: Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Purifying
We know what you’re thinking—an oil for oily skin? No, we’re not out of our minds. In fact, using an oil—specifically a non-comedogenic one — is effective is breaking up dirt and makeup, without stripping your skin. When your skin is void of any oils whatsoever, the first thing it does is to overly replenish it, resulting in—you guessed it—a total grease fest. To prevent that, this hypoallergenic purifying balm goes on like a rich cream and dissolves into a super silky oil that melts off everything from waterproof eyeliner to liquid lipstick, all while continuing to moisturize the skin. Use this product in the first of what Koreans call the “double-cleanse”, a two-step regimen where you use an oil-based product to break down debris and then top off with your usual cleanser for a squeaky clean feel.
Best for Aging Skin: Botanic Farm Rice Ferment First Essence
Essences are a must in the Asian skincare routine. Typically used right before moisturizer, the ultra-light, hydrating liquid preps your skin post-cleansing. Sound like a toner? Not necessarily. A toner removes leftover dirt and oil on the face and dries quickly, whereas an essence is creamier in comparison with a higher level of active ingredients to not just clean off the skin, but to actually penetrate it and leave skin feeling plump and hydrated. Which is actually what this particular essence does. A powerful combo of fermented rice bran, lactic acid, and licorice root moisturize, exfoliate, and brighten the skin for a beautiful, youthful canvas. Apply after cleansing or after toner with a cotton ball, then slather on your favorite moisturizer immediately after.
Best for Dry Skin: Peach & Lily KBeauty Rescue Balm
For those with flaky, patchy skin, this reparative balm is your new best friend. While the texture is rich and creamy, it is quickly absorbed when rubbed into the skin. There’s no mineral oil or petroleum here—instead, sunflower seed oil provides an incredible long-lasting hydration, especially to those with severely chapped skin. Perfect for blistery cold weather, the formula rebuilds moisture levels while ceramides strengthen your skin’s barrier.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Benton Honest TT Mist
Sometimes your skin needs an uplifting perk throughout the day. When it’s feeling particularly dull, spritz on this convenient tea-tree-infused spray. Perfect for fussy, stressed skin, tea tree is a popular ingredient to treat acne as it’s anti-inflammatory and reduces itchiness and irritation. It’s soothing properties are made to calm redness and swelling, while decreasing oiliness. Tea tree is also great for healing wounds and cuts due to its antibacterial quality. This mist is a tea tree water formula, so it’s a gentle way to battle breakouts without drying out your skin.
Best for Sensitive Skin: SKINRX LAB MadeCera Express Mask
Is your face on the fritz? Give it some much needed TLC with this sheet mask bundle. The microfiber sheets are soaked in an ingredient called madecassoside, a derivative of centella asiatica, a perennial plant that when extracted is packed with amino and fatty acids. The centella is known to quell redness, build collagen, improve circulation, and even stimulate new cell growth. Also known in Asia as gotu kola, this plant’s healing properties are known in ancient Chinese medicine as the longevity herb. But, wait—it gets even better. It also helps heal wounds by restoring antioxidants and strengthening skin. Use this skin-saving mask after cleansing and toning. Leave on for up to 25 minutes and when you remove the sheet, rub the remaining serum into the skin.
Our writers spent 7 hours researching the most popular Korean beauty products on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 7 different products overall, screened options from 7 different brands and manufacturers, read over 2 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 3 of the products themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.