Hair & Beauty

What’s the Deal With Korean Beauty Products?

By Bree Nowland
29th Aug 2015

Have you ever met a Korean popstar who didn’t have flawlessly glowing skin? Okay, you got me—I’ve never met a K-pop star either. But if there is one that thing they have in common, it’s definitely an enviable complexion. Even Psy has a blemish-free face and lust-worthy glow about him—seriously, Google him.

On a more serious note, it’s undeniable that Korean beauty is having a real moment right now, sparking extensive intrigue in the world of all things beauty related. From the infamous ten-step pampering ritual of South-Korean women to (extremely) unusual yet effective products and ingredients (snail-slime face mask, anyone?).

Once you remove the “gimmicks” from the Korean beauty world, you’re left with some pretty amazing beauty innovations—it’s any wonder that juggernauts from the likes of Estee Lauder, Lancôme and MAC have been influenced by Korean beauty trends. BB Creams, cushion-compacts and facemasks that work while you sleep are all inventions straight out of Seoul.

The look we're talking about here?

Smooth, impeccably hydrated, radiant and pore-free complexions, bright doll-eyes and rosy cheeks and lips.

RACINNE’s research and development director, Sy Koh explains that “Korean women are known for their flawless skin and extensive beauty regimes. Western cultures are beginning to see the trend in Korean skincare and are following suit.” And follow suit we will—flawless skin is not something we’ll ever pass up, no matter how extensive the regime! 

But what about those of us who don’t have Asian skin? Can we still embrace the Korean beauty trend?

Without question! “Korean products are definitely okay for non-Asian skin. Regardless of culture or ethnicity, everyone’s skin has the same structure and cells… Korean beauty brands and key ingredients found within Korean beauty products pride themselves on delivering results in shorter periods of time” explains Sy. What that means for us is that we won’t necessarily need to use a skincare regime for months and months before we see results. And that gets a big gold star from us!

So, what makes Korean beauty products different to products from the rest of the world?

Well, you have extensive research and development to thank—we’re talking incorporating revolutionary ingredients and ground-breaking biotechnology to deliver products that really work. The Korean government has invested heavily into local skincare research to ensure Korea retains their position as global pioneers within the skincare and cosmetics industry.

But that flawless porcelain doll-like complexion doesn’t come without a little help from your friends (your friends; in this instance, being a plethora of products that are soon to become must-haves within your beauty arsenal). You know that infamous ten-step regime I referenced earlier, let me simplify it for you; here are the best Korean beauty trends and products that you actually need to know about—right now. 

Korean Cleansers

The Korean cleansing ritual—the secret to revealing bright, dewy skin. Why cleanse once when you can cleanse twice? Start with an oil-based cleanser and follow with a cream or foam cleanser. Korean luxury skincare brand, SU:M37, has a revolutionary cleansing stick that is made up of coconut oil, camellia oil, glycerol and rose petals and is continuously sold out everywhere. Grab one while you can at Soko Glam, who have recently started shipping Australia. 

Skincare Essences & Emulsions

Korean women never miss an opportunity to recharge their skins youthfulness or boost hydration, and neither should you. If you thought you were ready to move into your moisturiser after cleansing, you were wrong. Essences and emulsions are extremely powerful formulas that prep your skin for the products to follow. 

Estee Lauder’s Nutritious Vitality8 Radiant Dual-Phase Emulsion has been developed exclusively for Asian skin; but all skin types can reap the benefits. It infuses pomegranate complex to recharge the skin and induce a dewy, fresh complexion.


Serums help aid the skin in fighting harmful environment aggressors, helping to delay the aging process (yes, PLEASE!)—many contain extremely powerful ingredients such as RACCINE’s Ultimate Youth Power Serum which is an innovative serum that combines ginseng callus extract and adenosine (don’t worry if these ingredients actually sound Korean to you… All you need to know is that they work!)

Sleeping Masks

Sleeping masks are perhaps the holy grail of Korean skincare. Whether you’re simply strapped for time or otherwise, who doesn’t want to revitalise their skin while they sleep? Rejuvenate, moisturise and wake positively glowing, these masks pioneered in Korea take beauty sleep to a whole new level. Korean skincare giant, AMOREPACIFIC has an amazing sleeping mask with a cult-like following, it delivers next-level hydration while providing a natural protective barrier while you sleep. 

Whereas, for those extraordinarily committed to maximising their beauty sleep, try La Prairie’s Skin Caviar Luxe Sleep Mask, an incredible multi-tasking hero that will make you wonder how you ever lived without it. Fight fine lines and give your skin a serious hydration boost by applying a thin layer before bed, you’ll wake looking ten years younger; the true definition of sweet dreams.

Hydrating Moisturisers

A moisture-boosting cream is absolutely essential to any Korean beauty routine, fight dehydration and get one step closer to glowing and gorgeous. For Korean women, moisturiser is all about achieving plump, dewy skin. Try Sum37 Water-full Timeless Moisture Cream or MAC’s Lightful C Marine-Bright Moisture Cream, a gel-like formula that’s instantly absorbed and enriched with super-charged water and sea-plant extracts. 

BB Creams

The humble BB cream. Now, a worldwide phenomenon; BB cream was proudly developed in Korea. In case you’ve been living under a rock, BB Cream stands for beauty-balm; cutting-edge, super creams that act as moisturisers, lightweight foundations, concealers and primers; all in ONE! Try a Beauty Balm from Dr. Jart+, a revolutionary brand founded in Korea. They are world renowned for their miracle BB Creams and are available at SEPHORA. Alternatively, try MAC’s Prep and Prime Beauty Balm which is, a lightly tinted balm that controls oil and blurs imperfections while giving the illusion of the most luminous skin.


Fondly referred to by Korean women as magic-cushions, cushion compacts are considered the ultimate Korean makeup innovation. Cushion compacts are redefining the ways in which complexion makeup should be applied; the newly launched Miracle Cushion by Lancôme is the first cushion-compact to be released by a Western beauty brand. It’s not a foundation, nor a compact, it’s buildable, luminous coverage right at your fingertips.

(Faux) Rosy-Glow Inducing Cosmetics

Korean makeup is defined by a healthy, rosy glow or a ‘flirty flush’, as described by some of our favourite K-beauty brands. Step away from the bronzer! Think porcelain skin, highlighted with subtle candy pink cheeks, like K-fave, Peripera Ah Much Real My Blusher that neatly dispenses cream blush through a soft foam tip. Highlight cheeks and areas where ‘the sun hits’ (think subtle strobing) with a light champagne-hued highlighter, like MAC’s Mineralize Skinfinish in Soft & Gentle

Cherry Lips

Finish your K-beauty look with cherry-tinted lips; a shade that sits between scarlet red and fuchsia is the hue of choice for the most discerning beauty-obsessed Korean women. Giorgio Armani’s Lip Maestro in 506 is the favourite shade of Korean it-girls Kong Hyo Jin and Kang So-Young (AKA the Olivia Palermo’s of Korea)—it’s made with red toda pigment and is available exclusively at David Jones

Image credit: SISTAR

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