For decades, South Korea has been famous for innovative beauty exports like cushion-compact foundation, BB cream, and sheet masks. Known for their “skin first” approach, K-beauty brands like Belif, Peach & Lily, and Glow Recipe have become staples for skincare obsessives who want quality ingredients and packaging at an affordable price point.
From cleansing micellar water to hydrating essence, here are the best K-beauty products to try now.
Everyday Essence Face Serum
Packed with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and minerals, this gel-like essence quickly absorbs into skin to deliver deep hydration.
What’s better than a little sticker that helps heal your zit while you sleep? (Nothing, that’s what.)
Now that everyone and their grandmother is obsessed with sheet masks, another K-beauty innovation is popping up everywhere: acne patches. Instead of popping and picking your blemishes, slap a pimple patch on top of it.
Unlike some spot treatments, the sticker won’t leave your skin dry and flaky. Most are small, circular hydrocolloid bandages, meaning they absorb fluid from the pimple, explains Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. You’ll know it’s working because you can see the process happening: The clear patch turns white and expands, and the skin (where your zit once was) flattens out and becomes redness-free. After a couple of hours (or a good night’s sleep), peel it off to see your results.
Acne stickers also have the added benefit of blocking you from aggravating skin by picking at pimples, says Elizabeth Tanzi, the founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and associate clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center. This is key as “picking a pimple increases the inflammation and can slow the healing process down,” Tanzi adds. The chances of scarring and getting an infection rise, too. With all this in mind, I rounded up some of my favorite tried-and-true acne patches.
ZitSticka Killa Pimple Patch
New to the states, Australian-based skin-care brand ZitSticka’s first product is a pimple patch covered with dissolving microneedles filled with blemish-busting ingredients, like salicylic acid, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid.
To use, first wipe the inflamed area with the accompanying cleansing cloth to clean it, then gently place the patch on your skin. Leave it on for at least two hours (or overnight) to bring down blemish swelling, redness, and size. Need proof? One commerce editor Lauren Swanson swears by them: “The cleansing swabs helped get rid of whiteheads for me almost immediately,” she says. “With the one-two punch of the patch, my enormous zits were gone in just one day.”
This K-beauty favorite has become one of the most popular acne patch picks, and its acclaim is rightly deserved. The hydrocolloid circles cling to skin no matter where you end up wearing them. Despite their staying power, they’re still easy and pain-free to peel off. They also come in three different sizes depending on what kind of coverage you need.
Although most acne patches themselves provide the mechanism that helps draw out the icky stuff in zits, some — like Peter Thomas Roth’s Acne-Clear Invisible Dots — are also infused with additional blemish-busting ingredients. In these, you’ll find salicylic acid and tea tree oil, both of which are known to help clear acne, so you’re getting multiple layers of benefits.
Because the Skyn Iceland Blemish Dots aren’t made with hydrocolloid technology, they won’t puff up or change colors. Instead, the paper-thin, transparent stickers adhere to skin with gel that’s infused with blemish-banishing tea tree oil and salicylic acid. They’re like a spot treatment that won’t rub away onto your pillow as you toss and turn at night.
Some of us want pimple patches that are indetectable; some of us want pimple patches that are adorably obvious. These are the latter. And not only are they super-cute, they’re also ideal for sensitive skin because, under their flowery facade, they provide a non-irritating way to help clear up the zits that you may not find quite as cute.
It’s a little tongue-in-cheek to camouflage your zit with a literal camouflage pattern. Should you want to save the colorful patches for private time, the package includes invisible patches as well. That way, you can wear these gunk-sucking hydrocolloid wonders any time you’d like.
Salicylic acid isn’t the only ingredient you might find in acne patches. It’s in these Truly patches, yes, but so is hemp seed oil. So while the patch helps draw out fluid and the salicylic acid helps exfoliate away the blemish, the cannabis helps fight the inflammation that’s making your zit redder and angrier.
These are truly some of the most advanced, ambitious acne patches on the market. More than just a little zit cover, the Focuspot Blemish Micro Tip Patch is made with 65-percent hyaluronic acid “micro tips” that are infused with vitamin B3 and peptides to not only speed up the acne cycle but also help prevent scarring.
My intro into acne patches came in the form of the Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers. Because they are made by a bandage brand, they’re as heavy duty and clinical as they come. If you want to cover a lot of surface area, this pack comes with the biggest circular stickers I’ve ever used.
Popular K-beauty retailer Peach & Lily has its very own acne patch product, called Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots. I believe they provide the fastest results by helping to flatten even the most bulbous of spots. The dots are also on thinner side for a hydrocolloid bandage, so you can wear them all day undetected. You can choose from a trio of sizes, including one of the smallest selections on this list.
If size doesn’t matter to you — for acne stickers, that is — the Mighty Patch effectively keeps you from picking at your face and helps absorb oils and pus with 36 stickers that are all the same circumference. They have a matte finish, too, so they look less obvious if you wear them with matte foundation.
Unlike the rest of the hydrocolloid bandages on this list, the Peace Out Acne Healing Dots are flecked with salicylic acid, for a one-two punch. While they treat skin with the classic acne-fighting ingredient, they also protect the blemish from bacteria and irritation.
These little patches powerfully draw out fluids and oils from stubborn zits, not only helping to expedite the healing process by keeping skin moist but by also keeping out bacteria — including the kind on your fingers from when you’re tempted to pick.
Fans of the classic Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patches will love the Cosrx Clear Fit Master Patch as an alternative. The South Korean brand created a slimmer, clearer option for wear during daylight hours. They are also easy to cover up with makeup, if needed.
Sometimes, a patch just doesn’t quite cut it. That’s why Hero Cosmetics crafted a larger version of its hydrocolloid-based Mighty Patch. Dubbed the Surface strip, this new treatment covers entire sections of your face (i.e. cheek, forehead, chin, etc.) to speed up the lifespan of your breakout(s).
Dermatologists explain why you should be adding this skin barrier-boosting ingredient to your skincare routine.
As far as skincare ingredients are concerned, ceramides are among the most worthy of opponents when it comes to battling dry skin — which, with winter rearing its head, may be something that you’re all too familiar with. Thankfully, ceramide-based products are not only a favorite among dermatologists, but are widely available at every price point.
“Ceramides are fatty acids in the skin that help to maintain the skin barrier and retain moisture and hydration,” Shereene Idriss, dermatologist of Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, tells Allure. “Extreme cold-weather temperatures, exposure to hot water, and dry heat can all deplete the ceramide stored in your skin,” Idriss explains. “Using products that are fortified with ceramides help to restore your skin’s barrier function and lock in moisture.”
It helps to think of ceramides as the building blocks in your skin; in addition to possessing hydration-boosting properties, they’re especially key for maintaining long-term hydration and strengthening the skin’s surface against environmental stressors. “Ceramides are found in high concentrations within cell membranes,” New York City-based dermatologist Ellen Marmur says. “They hold skin cells together on the top layer of the skin, forming a protective layer that plumps the skin and retains moisture.” With that being said, here are 13 ceramide-infused skincare products — rich moisturizers, whipped body creams, and even a hydrating toner — to treat your skin this season.
Cosrx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream
A one-two punch of manuka honey and ceramides make Cosrx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream a game-changer for boosting skin elasticity and protecting against irritation.
Slather the emollient, rich Ceramedx Ultra Moisturizing Cream all over your body if you deal with chronic dryness. The plant-based ceramides, essential fatty acids, and hyaluronic acid instantly soothe and relieve everything from chapped elbows to cracked heels.
A moisturizing toner? It almost sounds too good to be true — but leave it to Dr. Jart to gift us with this lightweight, fast-absorbing fluid that balances skin and leaves your complexion feeling supple and hydrated.
Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum
Reduce the appearance of fine lines while treating your skin to ultimate moisture, courtesy of Elizabeth Arden’s Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum. Each ampoule features retinol and ceramides as the two hero ingredients.
“[Ideal] for those with sensitive skin, as well as dry skin, ceramides keep the skin hydrated and supple for the cold winter months,” says Marmur, who recommends Mario Badescu’s A.H.A. & Ceramide Moisturizer to patients. Its nourishing formula won’t leave you feeling greasy and doesn’t clog pores, making it ideal for those prone to breakouts, too.
Looking to brighten and revitalize a tired-looking undereye area? Try a ceramide-infused eye cream, like Orveda’s über-luxe Eye Unveiler 422, which contains a potent blend of bio-identical lipids, marine enzymes, and prebiotics to rejuvenate skin.
Vitamin C, retinol, and ceramides team up to turn up the glow in your complexion, in addition to providing long-lasting hydrating and firming benefits, with the Paula’s Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Moisturizer.
SkinCeuticals’ Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 won a coveted Breakthrough Award back in 2016, and it’s easy to see why: The nourishing cream moisturizes, repairs skin, and gives a plumping effect thanks to its formula, which includes 2 percent ceramides, 4 percent cholesterol, and 2 percent fatty acids. (2:4:2.)
The classic white tub (which took home a 2018 Best of Beauty award) is many a derm’s forever favorite for good reason. When it comes to offering lasting hydration to even the driest of skin, nothing beats the thick, hyaluronic acid-, ceramide-, and glycerin-laced cream.
“MDNA Skin’s The Finishing Cream can be used alone or under makeup to nourish, hydrate, and impart a look of flawless illumination,” says New York City dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank. “It moisturizes, firms, and tones skin.”
Blame it on Zoom or spending a significantly increased amount of time at home, 2020 saw our interest in all things skincare peak to new heights. Frantically Googling the best skincare formulas to slather on our skin, we became a nation obsessed with the hardworking ingredients that promised to boost glow, plump, firm and smooth. So, what ingredients should we be looking out for in 2021? Here, find the top five skincare buzzwords we’re touting as big news in the new year.
Forget salicylic and glycolic, there’s a new acid in town: succinic. Perfect for those with spots, it’s a gentle exfoliator that helps peel dead skin cells from pores while also preventing them from clogging again. Naturally found in amber, succinic acid has antimicrobial properties and recent studies have shown it’s also excellent at defending the skin against external aggressors, thanks to its antioxidant properties. Keep an eye out for The Inkey List’s Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment which launches in January (join the Cult Beauty waitlist here). But for now, you can also find it in Zelens’s Z Hyaluron Hyaluronic Acid Complex Serum Drops and Elemis’s Pro-Collagen Energising Marine Cleanser.
While you might occasionally enjoy a glass of milk to keep your bones strong, did you know that calcium is also important for the skin? “The skin has what we call a ‘calcium gradient’ which plays an important role in creating a strong skin barrier,” explains Dr Ellie Bradley, a senior scientist at Boots. “The calcium gradient is lost with age, meaning skin renewal becomes thinner as you get older. By adding calcium to the top outer layer of the skin, it helps support optimal skin renewal and strengthening of the skin.” Get your fill via L’Oréal Paris’s Calcium Day Cream,Vichy’s Neovadiol Rose Platinum Night Cream or Herbivore’s Orchid Youth Preserving Facial Oil.
We all know that collagen is one of the building blocks of healthy, firm skin but 2021 will see more of an onus on applying it topically. “It’s a great ingredient to incorporate into your skincare regime if you want plump, smooth skin, plus it helps reduce the appearance of lines,” explains Dr Bradley. Alexia Inge, founder of Cult Beauty, also believes that marine collagen, in particular, will be big in 2021 thanks to the beauty industry’s obsession with ingredients found in our oceans. Boots will launch its Collagen Youth Activating Day and Night Creams in January and Dr Dennis Gross’s Hyaluronic Marine Collagen Lip Cushion is the ultimate lip product, working to deeply hydrate and plump.
Bright skin is always in, and for that liquorice root can help. An extract from the root of the liquorice plant, it’s also a potent antioxidant and helps soothe the skin, making it perfect for sensitive, red or blemish-prone skin. “Due to its brightening abilities, this is the ultimate skincare ingredient for those who want glowy skin,” says Dr Bradley. Find it in No7 Laboratories Clearing Skin Paste and 111 Skin’s luxurious Celestial Black Diamond Cream.
One of K-beauty’s most beloved ingredients isn’t going anywhere for 2021. In fact, it’s getting a luxe makeover in the form of Dior’s must-try Cica Recovery Balm, which promises to soothe, soften and revitalise skin for up to 72 hours. Meanwhile, Dr Jart+ is relaunching in the UK in the new year, with its bestselling and ultra-effective Cicapair Tiger Grass range in tow.
Toners are an important part of the skin-care equation, especially if your end goal is dewy, luminous skin. However, a lot of people still don’t know what exactly toners are or what they do. Board-certified dermatologist Tiffany Libby explains that a toner is designed to help remove the debris your cleanser might have missed and to prep your skin for the next step in your routine. “I think of them more as an adjunct or add-on to your skin-care routine,” Libby tells Allure.
Toners of the past were known for their astringent properties, which often dried skin out. Today, however, toner formulations have been improved to target an array of skin concerns, such as the loss of collagen or excess oiliness that can lead to breakouts — all made with varying ingredients, depending on your skin-care goals.
Board-certified dermatologist Sapna Palep tells Allure toners that hydrate and smooth out fine lines often contain antioxidants, amino acids, and hyaluronic acid. While toners that treat acne often include salicylic or glycolic acid.
Just as there are different ingredients for you to choose from, there is more than one way to put product on. Application is very easy and Libby says it’s really up to an individual’s preference: you can use your hands or cotton pads (Palep’s preference). And beyond the traditional bottled liquid, toners can also come in other delivery systems, such as gel sticks and face mists. (Libby particularly loves the spray formulations.)
But with so many toners out there in the market, it can be difficult to know what to pick for your specific skin needs. Scroll down to find the right toner to add to your skin-care routine.
Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate
If adding a toner to your mix feels like an unnecessary middle step, the Best of Beauty-winning Liquid Exfolikate by Kate Somerville may change your mind. Think of this toner, packed with alpha hydroxy acids and fruit enzymes, as a multi-purpose treatment that helps get rid of dead skin buildup so that your products absorb better. Spritz it on a night right before your moisturizer and sunscreen.
Some facial toners use alcohol to clear away dirt and oil, but it can seriously dry skin out. Clean & Clear’s Lemon Juice Toner does the exact same thing, sans the stripping alcohol. There’s also vitamin C in this Allure Best of Beauty 2020 winner to help brighten and even dullness and dark spots.
Mamonde Rose Water Toner is made with 90 percent rose water to give skin an intense boost of hydration. Not only will your skin will feel soft after using it, you’ll also get that dewy look that so many of us are constantly chasing.
If you’ve been using and loving the Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic for as long as I have, you know it’s basically magic in a bottle. It’s made with hero ingredients — such as glycolic acid, aloe vera, and witch hazel — recommended for clearer, softer skin.
Those who are blemish-prone will want to pay special attention to the Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner. It contains alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (like glycolic and salicylic acid) to gently remove dead skin cells and clear pores of dirt and grime — both of which will prevent breakouts in the long run.
Can a toner really be moisturizing? The 2019 Best of Beauty winner Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid answers that question and more. Thanks to a formula full of ceramides, an ingredient that helps restore any lost moisture, skin is left feeling soft and supple after every use.
Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner is made with a powerful blend of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids to control excess oil production without stripping away too much moisture. Plus, the 2019 Best of Beauty winner has a refreshing eucalyptus and peppermint scent that makes it a joy to use.
As the only mist on this list, Too Cool For School Rules of Mastic Facial Tonic doubles as a toner and hydrating spray you can use in the morning and then throughout the day. It contains ceramides and mastic oil, which strengthens the skin’s resiliency and helps heal damaged skin.
I came to the Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner because I have an unhealthy obsession with all things rose, but I stayed because it’s just that damn good. The 2017 Best of Beauty winner contains rose fruit extract, rosewater, and angelica leaf extract — all known for their nourishing and soothing properties. Plus, it’s alcohol-free, so it won’t dry your skin out.
Lumene Glow Lumenessence Brightening Beauty Lotion contains only the best ingredients to get you glowy skin. Yes, it has vitamin C, but it also has wild arctic cloudberry, which helps fight off oxidative damage and strengthen your skin’s natural defense barrier.
Milk’s Matcha Toner is truly unique for many reasons, but the obvious? It’s a solid, gel-stick toner, made with anti-inflammatory matcha green tea and oil-wicking kombucha, to soothe skin and prep it for its next skin-care product.
Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: Boscia Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturizer
“Less moisture in the air causes skin dryness,” says Dr. Nussbaum. “If your skin’s natural moisture barrier isn’t properly hydrated, it’s not as equipped to fight off acne-causing bacteria.” If you deal with constant blemishes, look for an oil-free, water-based lotion or gel that will moisture skin without clogging pores. This Boscia gel offers a soothing formula, rich with calming tea tree extract that will minimize breakout-induced redness.
Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin: Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizer SPF 15
If your skin leans on the sensitive side, Dr. Nussbaum recommends avoiding moisturizers with “irritants such as fragrances, dyes, lanolin, parabens and formaldehyde.” This drugstore staple checks off all the boxes. Aveeno’s moisturizer is light, fast-absorbing, and is formulated with skin-calming botanicals. Bonus: It also serves as a second layer of SPF protection.
Best Moisturizer for Hyperpigmentation: Murad Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 PA+++
Whether your uneven skin tone is the result of a bad breakout or caused by sun damage, a vitamin C-infused moisturizer will help brighten dark spots while simultaneously hydrating skin. But don’t forget the sunscreen. “Moisturizers containing SPF will reduce the oxidative damage of the sun,” explains Dr. Nussbaum. That’s exactly what this Murad tube is made to do.
Best Moisturizer for Oily Skin: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
Fun fact: Hyaluronic acid is an all-star moisturizing ingredient, because it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. That’s what makes Neutrogena’s gel-based, HA-packed moisturizer ideal for oily skin types. Instead of a heavy cream, this lightweight water-based product pulls in moisture without clogging already congested pores.
Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
The Gemini of skin types, finding the right moisturizer for combination skin can be tough because it has to jive with both oilyness and dryness. That’s where The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors comes in. The lightweight, non-greasy cream includes dermal lipids to protect the outer skin layer, hyaluronic acid to draw in moisture, and amino acids to hydrate. It’ll moisturize the right areas of the face without making oily spots shinier.
Best Moisturizer for Aging Skin: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer
Important PSA: The sun can still cause oxidative damage in the winter, which can lead to photoaging. That said, Dr. Nussbaum suggests looking for a moisturizer that’s packed with antioxidants to counteract the harmful effects of UV/UVA rays. What else should an anti-aging moisturizer include? Retinol, along with skin-plumping hyaluronic acid and moisture-sealing ceramides. “Certain moisturizers will contain a form of retinol that increases skin cell turnover,” she says. “The shedding of the dead skin cell layers also enables increased absorption of moisturizers.” Look no futher than this Dr. Dennis Gross jar, which is formulated with both retinol and ferulic acid, a powerful antioxdant.
Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream
“Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin’s natural moisture barrier,” explains Dr. Nussbaum. “In dry, cold weather, your skin’s ability to naturally produce ceramides may be compromised, leading to dry, dull skin.” If your skin is extremely dry year-round, go with a ceramide-rich moisturizer for winter, like Dr. Jart+’s cult-favorite cream. The lipids will strengthen the skin barrier so less moisture gets out.
Best Moisturizer for All Skin Types: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Face Moisturizer
If your skin doesn’t fall into one particular category, Dr. Nussbaum is a fan of Olay’s Sculpting Cream because it’s a rich, nourishing cream that works well for balanced skin, but also targets dryness and aging. “It contains niacinamide (vitamin B3), a hard-working ingredient which regenerates surface cells and strengthens skin’s natural moisture barrier,” she says. “It also contains amino-peptides, known to boost collagen production and improve skin’s elasticity, smoothness and firmness as well as hyaluronic acid & glycerin.”