Ten years ago, the beauty world was all about French women. What were they wearing? How did they maintain their sex appeal? Why didn’t they ever get fat?! Now, obsessing over the luminous skin and mysterious beauty practices of Korean women is the thing.
Known for their painstaking skincare regimens—sometimes as many as twelve beauty products in a single night—Korean skincare isn’t for the lazy among us. But if you’re willing to put a little extra time into your beauty regimen, you’ll be delighted by the innovations coming from Korea: many at drugstore prices. Even better, American brands are starting to follow suit, meaning you can find Korean innovations both online at retailers like SokoGlam.com, PeachandLily.com, W2Beauty.com, and at your local CVS and Sephora.
Here are just a few of the many top Korean beauty innovations: Some are already absolutely everywhere, and others are ready to explode any minute.
The latest Korean beauty innovation to hit US shores, cushion foundations are poised to be everywhere. Just wait: In three years, it’ll rival BB cream for ubiquity. The more you press, the more coverage you’ll get; it’s the ultimate in lightweight-but-buildable foundation. The cushion sponge applicator means a flawless, airbrushed look—although you can apply with fingers and blend, too—and formulas often come with SPF and moisturizer. Bonus: You can touch it up throughout the day without looking cakey.
IOPE Air Cushion ($41) – One compact of the original Korean air cushion foundation is reportedly sold every six seconds. It’s available in 4 shades—more coverage and less coverage, and light and more olive-toned—and has SPF 50, mineral water, and vitamins B5, E , and P.
Lancôme Miracle Cushion ($47) – The first major American beauty brand air cushion offering. Editors rave about how it’s perfect for travel because of the air-tight packaging, which also helps keep it fresh. Its sponge contains 800,000 pores to help transfer product seamlessly.
You might look very Hannibal Lecter while wearing one, but sheet masks are all the rage. Apply twice a week, and you’ll have softer, smoother, more hydrated skin instantly, since the masks allow ingredients to better penetrate your skin.
Manefit Bling Bling Hydrogel Mask ($6) – Designed to pamper stressed skin, featuring brightening niacinamide, wrinkle-fighting gold (yes, gold!), plumping collagen, and soothing rose extracts.
Dr Jart+ Pore Minimalist Mask ($35) – This Korean brand is now available everywhere in the States, thanks to Sephora. Their Pore Minimalist mask features activated charcoal, spearmint extract for elasticity, and pore cleansing arginine. In only 15 minutes, you’ll feel tighter and look more glowy.
Though originally created in Germany, BB creams attracted notice when Korean women fell in love with them, and went next-level when Korean companies began innovating to make them one-stop shop, do-it-all workhorses. Moisture? Check. SPF? Of course. Skin-flattering tint? Obviously. True Korean BB Creams are all about whitening and are much thicker than American offerings, which tend to be lighter, glorified tinted moisturizers. Now, practically every brand has a BB cream—at practically every price, for practically every skin tone.
Tony Moly BCDation All Master ($17) – With SPF 30, 50% moisture serum and 20% Jeju island water, this new offering is currently the number one foundation in Korea. It combines the weightlessness of a BB cream with the hydration of a CC cream, all wrapped up in one awesome package.
Maybelline New York Dream Pure BB Cream ($6) – Available in five shades, including Deep for darker skin, it contains 2% salicylic acid to combat oiliness and breakouts, and it offers SPF 30 protection.
Facial Cleansing Oils
Thoroughly cleansing is important in Korea, so many Korean women have a two-step cleansing process, starting with oils. Not only will oils help break down makeup and entirely remove oil-based debris, massaging them into the skin will increase circulation, leaving you with that coveted glow.
Banila Co Clean It Zero Classic ($21) – It starts as a balm, but transforms into a light-as-air oil on your skin. Featuring papaya extract for exfoliation and vitamin C-packed acerola extract for luminescence, it’s step one of the cleansing process (step two is a foam or cream cleanser).
Boots No 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Oil ($12) – Designed for drier skins, this oil has a milky texture and includes vitamin E for extra hydration. Rosehip oil adds moisture, and gives the cleanser a lovely scent.
One of the most important skincare steps for Korean women is the mysterious “essence.” A cross between a serum, a mask, and a toner, it’s really an ingredient-packed treatment designed to penetrate the skin, layered under a moisturizer and cream. Yes, moisturizer and cream. Anything less than a ten-step skincare regimen is practically minimalist.
Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence ($45) – This blockbuster product promises to nourish and renew skin while improving elasticity. Ingredients include anti-aging superstar niacinamide, plumping sodium hyaluronate, and hydrating, gently exfoliating lactic acid.
Clinique Even Better Essence Lotion ($32) – Great both as a nighttime treatment or as a mask, this essence brightens and hydrates while leaving skin soft and plump.