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).
Once a hard-to-find novelty, Korean beauty (or K-beauty) is now just as accessible as drugstore staples. You can thank Glow Recipe for that. While it’s currently best known for its adorable fruit-shaped skin-care products and clean ethos, the brand got its footing by creating a marketplace for Americans to shop the best products Korea had to offer. Now the company focuses solely on its own skin-care range, which takes the glow-forward philosophy of Korean skin-care routines and distills it into a smaller number of steps that are simple to follow and fun to use.
To say Glow Recipe has been a smash hit would be an understatement. It’s beloved by bloggers and editors, and one of its signature Watermelon Glow Sleeping Masks is sold every 3 minutes! In addition to having some of the best-smelling products out there, the brand also uses no parabens, SLS, SLES, phthalates, or mineral oil, among others. Add on the Instagram-bait packaging and the fact that no product tops $50, and it’s no wonder Glow Recipe is one of the brands talked about the most.
Glow Recipe Watermelon + AHA Glow Sleeping Mask
I’m not usually a huge fan of sweet-smelling beauty products, but it’s truly impossible not to love the scent of Glow Recipe’s watermelon line. And if there’s only one product you have to try, it’s this subtly plumping, gently exfoliating overnight mask—which racked up a 5,000-person wait list at Sephora after it first launched (and a Glamour Beauty Award in the Readers’ Choice category). That’s how strong the word of mouth is on this gem. Sleeping mask might make you think of a thick night cream, but the consistency is more like a gel that instantly sinks into your skin. I put it on before bed, let its combo of amino-acid rich watermelon extract, hyaluronic acid, and gentle AHAs go to work, and wake up with noticeably dewier-looking skin.
If you love bakery-style banana pudding, you will be overjoyed when you unscrew the lid of this cream and smell dessert. Even though it looks dense, it’s more bouncy gel cream than buttery lotion, which means it spreads into the thinnest of layers despite being packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients like centella asiatica and turmeric. Miraculously, it achieves the same level of hydration it usually takes several serums to accomplish, taking any dehydrated skin from parched to plump and keeping it that way. Truly, this is how the universe intended bananas to be used.
Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Face Mask
I’m always looking for that natural dewy glow, and this retinol wonder delivers. Its bouncy texture sinks right in and magically depuffs the skin overnight. It feels as if I’ve woken up from a luxurious facial.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer
It was the scent that got me—light and cool, like a summer day with no plans—but the moisturizer itself that made me a true fan. It’s so gentle on dry and irritable skin, which is harder to find than you’d think. I especially love that it actually makes my skin feel hydrated all day without the need to slather on a thick or sticky cream.
I love a good lipstick but also suffer from chronically dry lips, so wearing it becomes a whole thing. This all-in-one from Glow Recipe combines a lip scrub, lip balm, and tint to make it a little easier. The scrub gently exfoliates away flakes before dissolving away, and the balm it leaves behind keeps the lips coated in moisture all day. My favorite part (besides the watermelon scent) is the poppy-pink tint for that perfect Popsicle flush.
Vitamin C serums are notoriously hard to formulate since the ingredient is difficult to stabilize, but this serum has three different forms to maximize its stability and potency. It also has AHAs to gently exfoliate and is paired with hydrating and soothing ingredients so it’s not too drying. After a few weeks of regular use, reviewers noticed a brighter complexion, reduced hyperpigmentation, and pores that appear smaller. It’s gentle enough that it won’t triggered rosacea or cause any dry patches to crop up. Plus, the sunny golden hue and irresistible scent are half the reason why it’s so attractive to use.
This all-in-one hydrating, exfoliating, and pore-tightening toner from Glow Recipe has truly outdone itself. With a bouncy texture (thanks to the watermelon and cactus extracts), it preps your skin for the steps to come in your skin-care regimen and smells absolutely incredible. Ever since applying this toner both day and night, my skin is soft to the touch and more radiant than ever before.
If the word retinol sends you running, don’t be scared of this eye cream. The brand used encapsulated retinol here for gentler, slow-release results that minimize the risk of irritation and sensitivity. The idea is that you get the benefits of retinol (speeding up cellular turnover, smoothing your skin’s surface, and spiking collagen production) without the stronger side effects (drying, flaking, and peeling—my unholy trinity). Along with retinol, avocado provides a brilliant dose of inspiration for the packaging, while also adding antioxidants and a soothing, anti-inflammatory effect. Additionally, there is hyaluronic acid (in two forms) and squalane, which are two of the best ways to receive potent hydration. What you get in the end is a formula that balances smoothing and brightening effects with plenty of moisture, so there’s no risk of dryness or irritation, even with daily use.
My skin-care routine is something I look forward to as soon as I wake up and the second I get done with work. The first step is a great cleanser, and I love this blueberry one. The texture is on the thicker side for a gel, which is ideal for removing makeup from the day, especially stubborn mascara. I also love that it doubles as a clarifying mask when you leave it on for about five minutes. A perfect two-in-one for bouncy-smooth, hydrated skin.
The wonderful world of Korean beauty (or K-beauty as it’s known by beauty aficionados) has inspired countless beauty products in the UK and is responsible for improving how many of us approach our skincare routines. While once upon a time we simply cleansed, toned and moisturised, now we have serums, essences and a duo of cleansers to ensure our skin is spick and span – and that’s thanks to K-beauty. So what are the latest trends, tips and ingredients from our Korean counterparts that we can deploy for better skin? British Vogue spoke to Alicia Yoon, the founder of online K-beauty emporium Peach & Lily, to find out.
You may already have heard about glass skin, one of the biggest skincare trends from the past year. The term describes skin that is glossy, glassy, luminous and translucent, explains Yoon, who launched the first-to-market Glass Skin Serum on Peach & Lily. In Korea, glass skin is more about a general attitude to skin: “It’s an awareness that the skin is your largest organ and that you need to care for it from within. Through that you achieve skin that’s so healthy that ultimately it looks like glass skin,” she says.
“In Korea, people go to a dermatologist or aesthetician for facials once or twice a week – it’s like going to the gym – and now they want that facial experience from home for the days they aren’t in there,” says Yoon. For that, they rely on “home care”, which is created for them by their dermatologist and offers in-clinic results from home: cue post-facial skin literally every day of the week.
Referencing the Miwaji Hyalu Serum Veil (contains everything from copper tripeptide to brightening arbutin) as a go-to home care product, Yoon says that super-products like these offer results akin to the facials themselves: “This product in particular imparts a thin, glue-like veil over skin that feels super comfortable. It’s the result of a dermatologist trying to recreate a hydrafacial for home use so it leaves skin plumped with hydration. I love it,” she says.
We’re more than au fait with keeping our immune system in check – thank you, vitamin C – but the Koreans are also concerned with their skin’s immunity: “Our skin plays an immune function role in keeping out bad bacteria,” says Yoon. “There’s an awareness in Korea about what you need to do to keep your skin immunity up and that’s keeping your skin barrier really strong.” Look to ingredients, such as fatty acids and ceramides, to help reinforce your skin barrier, keeping the good stuff in and the bad out. Sunday Riley’s ICE Ceramide Moisturising Cream is an excellent product to consider in your routine and deeply nourishes while keeping the skin barrier healthy and strong.
Is your skin dry… on the inside? That’s one thing that our Korean counterparts make it their mission to avoid: “We know that when our skin is dehydrated, it’s not caused by our lipid levels on the skin’s surface, but rather the moisture levels inside that are lacking,” says Yoon. It doesn’t matter what your skin type is – oily, dry, or sensitive – but if it’s dry on the inside, it won’t function at its best. Yoon explains: “When you’re dehydrated your melanocytes stay more activated and thus brightening ingredients may not work as well to reduce dark spots; it can also trigger an inflammatory response during which the hormone CRH is released, triggering more sebum production and breakouts; and your fibroblasts that produce collagen and elastin may not work as well. Hydration is the foundational to skin health.”
To ensure skin is hydrated from the inside out, incorporate plenty of humectants in your skincare regime as these absorb into skin and help bind moisture in. Yoon recommends her brand’s Wild Dew Treatment Essence, which contains niacinamide, a cocktail of antioxidants, firming adenosine and three different sizes of hyaluronic acid to bind moisture into skin and give you your most hydrated and dewy-looking skin yet. Alternatively, try Tonymoly Ferment Snail Essence.
The one-minute rule
The Korean one-minute rule refers to your skincare regime and the way in which you apply your product. The idea is to take one minute to massage your oil-based cleanser into skin (we love Sisley Triple Oil Balm Make-up Remover & Cleanser), spending time on getting the surface grime and day’s make-up to dissolve, and then to remove it and spend the next minute applying a hydrating formula. “If you don’t apply the subsequent hydrating formula within that minute, your skin becomes bone dry and formulas don’t absorb as much. It’s a great tip,” says Yoon.
Troxerutin, the new ingredient to know, might be difficult to pronounce but it has sure made its mark in Korean skincare regimes. A super-antioxidant that is lauded for its ability to soothe irritation, reduce inflammation and hydrate, you can find it in Troxederm’s Repair Essence Mist where it’s blended with cica and niacinamide for an ultra calming effect. Yoon says it has gone totally viral in Korea: “All the celebrities started talking about it and Korea’s George Clooney bought $15,000 worth of this product for his fans – that’s how much he loves it.”
Seoul Fashion Week has come to a close, but given the endless stream of “chok chok”, “kkul-gwang”, and “glass” complexions that came down the runways, it’s only natural that the obsession around each model’s preternaturally luminous glow lingers. And because, in many instances, a Korean woman’s steadfast dedication to her skin-care regimen is inherited from her mother, it seemed like the right time to procure hand-me-down intel.
From Moon Kyu Lee’s pared-back approach, to Hoyeon Jung’s go-to calming treatment, here, six Korean models share the one tried-and-true skin-care secret they learned from their mother.
“My mom always told me to use as little product as possible. She only uses a hydrating cream and sun protection before going out. And I watch a Korean YouTube channel called Director Pi, which analyzes the composition of different types of cosmetics and finds ‘friendly’ products for your skin. I had to throw away some of my favorite products after discovering their strong chemical compositions. Now, I prefer natural ingredients and use a range of organic products from Sanoflore.”
“When I was 20, my mom told me, ‘Wash your face as soon as you come home; you have to keep your skin good while you’re young.’ After I cleanse with Aesop’s Fabulous Face Cleanser, I apply one of their creamy moisturizers as they’re great for my dry skin.”
“ ‘Skin first, makeup second!’ is what my mom has always told me, so I stick to basic [moisturizing] and only use a cleanser when I wear makeup, otherwise I’ll just use water. When my skin is irritated, I’ll use an aloe mask pack for its soothing effects.”
“One of the most important beauty tips my mom taught me is don’t cleanse your face too much, just at night. If you wash your face too much, it gets drier. Using just water in the morning is fine! At the end of the day, before I go to sleep, I use one of the cleansers from Innisfree, a very famous Korean brand, or Darphin’s Aromatic Care face oil with chamomile.”
“For my night routine, my mom always told me that I should only use one cream that perfectly suits my skin and then never touch my face after I put it on. So after I clean my face at night, I wipe it with toner, then moisturize, always using the same amount. And then when I wake up in the morning, I don’t wash my face with a cleanser, just water to clean off the leftover cream from the night before. It may feel like you didn’t wash, but it minimizes stimulation to the skin, so less possibility of emerging pimples. I love Neogen’s Code 9 Glacial Magic Pore Gel and always use a spoon to scoop it out, because I don’t want to infect the bottle.”
“My mom says, ‘If you want to have baby skin, you have to use baby-proof products!’ I know it sounds crazy, but I think about it whenever my skin is showing signs of stress. My skin has gotten more sensitive and weak since I started modeling, so I really prefer more pure, natural products. The most important thing is cleansing. I’ll use a cleansing milk or gel, gently using my fingertips to massage it into my face, circling at the cheeks, chin, and around the eyes.
Glass skin, defined: Evolving from K-Beauty’s dedication to a healthy, glowy, hydrated-looking complexion, “glass skin” refers to skin that looks translucent, smooth and reflective—just like a pane of glass.
High Glass Face Primer – creates a perfect base for an all-day luminous look, the formula is infused with light-reflecting pearls to create the illusion of translucent glass skin. Silky to the touch, it glides on smoothly, creating a fresh and healthy look that can be worn alone or under foundation for glowy, prolonged wear. Available in three flattering shades for a wide range of skin tones.
High Glass Finishing Powder – blurs imperfections and keeps skin glassy all-day long, this versatile formula was designed to be worn over High Glass Face Primer or the foundation of choice. Available in three light-reflecting shades which stretch across light to deep skin tones (light, medium, and deep), each shimmering setting powder sets your makeup and gives the complexion a sleek and polished glass-like glow.
High Glass Illuminating Powder – spotlights the features in a gorgeous, glass-like glow, this pressed-gel highlighting powder is packed with luminous micropearls that catch, reflect, and refract the natural light for a multidimensional, mirror-like sheen (formula similar to Colourpop’s Super Shock Cheek). Specifically designed to go with the Korean glass skincare regimen, this highlighter comes in three inclusive shades (light, medium and deep) to highlight and complement a range of skin tones.
The collection also comes with a primer brush & radiant setting spray.
Have you tried anything from this collection? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!