Our favorite K-pop idols and K-drama stars always seem to have flawless skin, so it’s no surprise how Korean skincare has been steadily rising in popularity through the years. This can be attributed to the natural and gentle ingredients used in Korean skincare to nourish and maintain your skin from within.
With the many Korean skincare products available, it can be a bit daunting to start a routine, especially since it’s known to have many steps. This is where we come in to help you with our top 10 list and a buying guide with comments from board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Meg Sison! Read through as we give you the lowdown and how to choose the best Korean skincare products.
Maria Elinor Grace "Meg" Sison, MD, MPM, FPDS, is a board-certified dermatologist who practices in the Philippines and sees both medical and cosmetic dermatological cases on the skin, hair, and nails.
Want to achieve the Korean "glass skin"? You've come to the right place! Below, we have a list of the best Korean skincare products that you can get to start or add to your skincare routine. Since everyone has different skin types, we recommend doing some trial and error to find the perfect products.
Disclaimer: These products are recommendations made by our team at mybest Philippines. Our expert, Dr. Maria Elinor Grace Sison, MD, MPM, FPDS, is not affiliated with, nor is she endorsing any of the brands we mention below.
**Prices may vary depending on the website and their campaign period**
|Product Type||Facial Cleanser|
|Best For||All Skin Types|
|Notable Ingredients||Glycerin, Tea Tree Oil|
|Best For||Oily Skin|
|Notable Ingredients||AHA and BHA, Willow Bark Water, Glycolic Acid|
SPF 50 PA+++
|Best For||All Skin Types|
|Best For||All Skin Types|
|Notable Ingredients||Snail Mucin, Black Plant Extract|
|Best For||Oily and Sensitive Skin|
|Notable Ingredients||Centella Asiatica, She Butter, Camomile Oil Extract|
|Best For||Dry Skin|
|Notable Ingredients||Propolis, Royal Jelly, Honey|
|Best For||Scars and Hyperpigmentation|
|Notable Ingredients||Vitamin C, Sea Buckthorn Extract|
|Best For||Dry and Sensitive Skin|
|Notable Ingredients||Centella Asiatica|
|Best For||Oily and Sensitive Skin|
|Notable Ingredients||Fermented Coconut Juice|
|Best For||Dry Skin|
|Notable Ingredients||Apricot Extract, Chestnut Extract|
Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser
AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner
Aloe Soothing Sun Cream
Black Snail All in One Cream
Midnight Blue Calming Cream
Miss Flower & Mr. Honey Propolis Rejuvenating Essence Toner
Pure Vitamin C 21.5 Advanced Serum
AC-Dressing Skin Clinic Mask
Water Sleeping Mask
Crowd-Favorite Cleanser for All Skin Types
Exfoliating Toner That Will Keep Your Skin Clear
Hydrating and Soothing Sunscreen for Dry Skin
An All-In-One Moisturizer for Different Skin Concerns
Calming Moisturizer to Help Repair Your Skin
Nourishing Toner to Give You a Glowing Look
Brightening Serum to Give Life to Your Skin
Soothing Serum That Provides Protection to Your Skin
Well-Loved Mask to Control Oil and Acne
Overnight Mask for Radiant Skin the Morning After
|Price Starts at||₱829||₱499||₱531||₱622||₱1,280||₱1,895||₱1,295||₱1,250||₱139||₱1,550|
|Product Type||Facial Cleanser||Toner||Sunscreen||Moisturizer||Moisturizer||Toner||Serum||Serum||Mask||Mask|
|Size||100 mL||150 mL||50 mL||75 mL||30 mL||190 mL||30 mL||30 mL||Not Specified||70 mL|
|Best For||All Skin Types||Oily Skin||All Skin Types||All Skin Types||Oily and Sensitive Skin||Dry Skin||Scars and Hyperpigmentation||Dry and Sensitive Skin||Oily and Sensitive Skin||Dry Skin|
|Notable Ingredients||Glycerin, Tea Tree Oil||AHA and BHA, Willow Bark Water, Glycolic Acid||Aloe||Snail Mucin, Black Plant Extract||Centella Asiatica, She Butter, Camomile Oil Extract||Propolis, Royal Jelly, Honey||Vitamin C, Sea Buckthorn Extract||Centella Asiatica||Fermented Coconut Juice||Apricot Extract, Chestnut Extract|
We're sure that there's already a product you are or you have been eyeing on. But are you sure that it's a good match for your skin? To give a clearer idea of what product will be best for your skin, we laid down what you should know first. Scroll down to get started!
Natural active ingredients are one the most important things that make Korean skincare products effective in giving you radiant, glowing skin. Here are some of the most popular ingredients that Korean brands use that make their products a hit.
Snail mucin is one of the most well-known ingredients in Korean skincare. It is used from moisturizers to sheet masks. It is mucus that snails produce when they move, so when harvested, no snails are harmed in the process. It’s great for moisturizing and promoting collagen production.
This is because it has hyaluronic acid that supports the skin barrier to lock in moisture. This ingredient also promotes skin healing and cell regeneration, having zinc as an anti-inflammatory and vitamins A and E as antioxidants.
Snail mucin is also referred to as snail slime or snail secretion filtrate. It comes from the excretion of the African giant land snail and Cornu aspersum (common brown garden snail). It contains glycoproteins, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, mucopolysaccharides, growth factors, allantoin, collagen, elastin, and glycerin which all have benefits in the skin.
Furthermore, it has anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties, plus benefits in wound healing, collagen production, and acne, but further studies are still needed to back up their claims.
Centella Asiatica is an ancient herb that grows here in Asia and is traditionally used in Chinese medicine. It’s incorporated in many skincare products to soothe and hydrate the skin. It has antioxidants and is rich in amino acids that help repair the skin’s protective barrier.
This makes it a good ingredient to help heal your skin from the sun’s rays and is very useful in anti-aging. This is thanks to having madecassoside as one of its active key compounds that reduce free radicals, inhibit inflammation, and hydrate the skin to reverse different signs of aging.
Centella asiatica or cica is known for its anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. The main components responsible for its benefits are the triterpenes which are asiaticoside, asiatic acid, madecassoside, and madecassic acid. It was shown to have benefits in acne in in vitro studies but more human clinical trials are still needed.
Since it is a natural and nutrient-rich ingredient, green tea is included in a lot of Korean skincare products. It contains polyphenols, which protect the skin from free radicals, and has numerous anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. This means that it reduces redness and can help treat blemishes.
It’s great for acne-prone and oily skin since it’s effective in reducing sebum excretions. It’s a gentle ingredient that calms and hydrates the skin while effectively removing excess dirt and oil from your skin.
Green tea extract is derived from the leaves and buds of Camellia sinensis. The main active ingredients are polyphenols or catechins. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the largest catechin and most active antioxidant. It has anti-inflammatory and photoprotective properties as well. Green tea extract was shown to have benefits in sebum control because it contains tannins that function as an astringent.
Propolis is a multifunctional ingredient in Korean skincare, and it has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a gummy mixture produced by bees to protect their hives, and when used in skincare, it protects your skin, too.
It is known to heal acne and is used to keep the skin clear against powerful bacteria. Aside from this, it also softens your skin since it hydrates it and helps increase collagen production. This ensures that your skin stays soft and smooth, giving you the flawless complexion of your dreams.
Propolis is the resinous substance accumulated by bees from different types of plants. This is also known as "bee glue." The most biologically active compounds in propolis are benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, and flavonoids. Propolis also contains vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and it is used to treat bacterial and fungal skin infections, burns, cold sores, bedsores, and acne. It also has anti-aging benefits.
In order to get the best results, make sure that the formulas of the products you choose match your skin type. If not, it may do more harm than good in the long run.
Oily skin is characterized by shiny and greasy skin caused by the excess production of sebum. In order to address it properly without drying your skin out, you should get products with light, water-based formulas.
Look for oil-free and non-comedogenic options as well since these products will not clog your pores. Ingredients that are great for oily skin include hyaluronic acid, which is hydrating but non-comedogenic, and salicylic acid, which effectively treats blackheads and whiteheads.
For those with oily skin, look for gel-based cleansers that are gentle and non-drying. Salicylic acid of 2% or less concentration can help unclog pores and keep oiliness at bay. Look for lightweight moisturizers and sunscreens with more humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
If you have dry and dull skin, products with hydrating formulas are essential. This is because you need moisture to keep your skin soft and supple, which you can get by opting for “heavier” products such as creams or lotions.
Some ingredients that will be beneficial for your skin type include glycerin, a humectant that locks in moisture in your skin, and aloe vera, which has moisturizing and healing properties. Other natural oils will also help your skin stay hydrated.
Dry skin types will benefit from cleansers formulated as cream or milk type with non-ionic surfactants such as lauryl glucoside. Look also for moisturizers and sunscreens with occlusives like petrolatum to seal in the skin's moisture.
For those whose skin is easily irritated or inflamed, that is a big sign that you have sensitive skin. This means that you have to be extra careful when incorporating new products into your skincare routine since there may be ingredients that may cause you to act up.
This is why we recommend that you choose products that have mild formulas or that are specially formulated for sensitive skin. You should also avoid products that contain harsh alcohols and synthetic fragrances since they might cause irritation.
Those with sensitive skin tend to experience more breakouts, dryness, burning, or stinging sensationーthat's why they have to look for products that are fragrance-free with short ingredients list to minimize irritation. Avoid ingredients like formaldehyde, propylene glycol, alcohol, palmitic, oleic acid, methylisothiazolinone, peppermint, and carmine that can cause irritation or allergic reactions.
If your skin is neither too dry nor oily, then that means you have normal skin. Having normal skin means you can use any type of skincare product that you want, but we suggest that you get one with a balanced formula.
A balanced formula is one that contains ingredients to protect your skin from acne and other blemishes while having elements that can help moisturize and nourish your face to maintain your skin’s clearness and softness.
For those with normal skin, you can use any type of cleanser, moisturizer or sunscreen formulation but it's best to look for gentle skincare products that have no harsh ingredients in order not the strip your skin barrier.
If you’re just starting out with a skincare routine, stick to the basics first and figure out what you like along the way. Here are the products that you will need to build an effective skincare regimen.
A facial cleanser is the foundation of a good skincare routine since it’s responsible for stripping away dirt and dead skin cells that have accumulated on your face throughout the day or overnight. It will provide a clean and clear base for your other skincare products.
Make sure to get one that is strong enough to effectively cleanse your face but is mild enough to not strip away the natural oils and moisture on the skin. There are many different types of facial cleansers available with different formulas, so rest assured that you will be able to find one made for your skin type.
Cleansing is the first step in our skincare routine and it aims to remove excess sebum, sweat, dirt, and skincare products at the end of the day. Cleansers can either be in bar or liquid form and they are formulated according to the type and rinsability of surfactants. Choose cleansers that are formulated as close to the skin's slightly acidic pH in order not to disrupt the skin's acid mantle.
After you wash your face, the next step is to apply toner. It’s a water-like substance usually applied with your fingers or a cotton ball, and some are meant to be sprayed on the face. It has different active ingredients because, depending on the product, it serves different purposes.
Even though the main job of a toner is to prep your skin so that products get absorbed by the skin better, it can also help in hydrating or firming up your skin. Some also have different functions, such as treating acne or soothing the skin, so when choosing one, take note of the ingredients and benefits that it provides.
Toners were originally intended to remove cleanser residue left behind on the face from the use of alkaline soaps and hard water. They used to have fragranced or isopropyl alcohol or propylene glycol to remove oil-soluble residue.
Nowadays, they are formulated with gentler ingredients and are used for hydrating, exfoliating, or brightening the skin. They are optional in one's skincare routine, and it's best to consult a board-certified dermatologist for guidance in choosing the right skincare product for you.
No matter what your skin type is, it is important to ensure that it stays moisturized. This is why you should always include a moisturizer in your skincare routine. It will keep your skin healthy and resistant to inflammation and signs of aging.
Because of its benefits, even those with oily skin should use moisturizers. There are different types available such as oil-free, non-comedogenic, and water-based, so there's bound to be a formula that will be good for your skin.
Moisturizers contain occlusives, emollients, and humectants that prevent moisture from evaporating from our skin. It's important to moisturize whether you have oily, dry, combination, or sensitive skin in order to preserve the skin barrier. It's a matter of finding the right formulation suited for your skin type with the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist.
Since it’s very hot in the Philippines, using sunscreen is important to protect you from the harmful UV rays of the sun. UV rays can burn your skin and can cause wrinkles and other signs of premature aging.
To combat this, you should purchase sunscreen with at least SPF 30 or check if your skincare products have SPF or UV protection. This will allow you to hit two birds with one stone and will let you get the best protection possible. Don’t forget to apply a generous amount for it to be effective!
Sunscreen is a definite must-have in our skincare routine. It contains UV filters that form a protective film on our skin to protect us from the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays. Choose broad-spectrum sunscreen to ensure protection against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 30. Sunscreens should also be applied liberally on all exposed skin for adequate photoprotection.
Masks are a good way to complement your skincare routine since they have different purposes. They can moisturize, protect, treat, and even exfoliate your skin on top of the skincare products that you use. They’re meant to be used twice or thrice a week for optimal results.
They come in different forms, such as clay, gel, cream, and sheet masks, so no matter what formulation you prefer, there’s bound to be an option for you. In Korean skincare, sheet masks are very popular because they act as mini facials, giving you many benefits such as intense hydration and brightening effects in half an hour or less.
Masks in Korean skincare can be sheet masks, wash-off masks, or sleeping masks. Sheet masks are made of cotton, hydrogel, foil, or biocellulose soaked in serum. They contain humectants, emollients, and soothing ingredients like cica, panthenol, or niacinamide. They are usually left on for 15 to 20 minutes on the face, but the plumping effects are usually temporary.
Wash-off masks can be clay masks that contain bentonite or kaolin clay to absorb excess sebum. Be careful not to leave them on for a prolonged period because they can dry out your skin. Wash-off masks can also be gel masks with aloe vera or honey or exfoliating masks with AHAs or BHAs. Sleeping masks are formulated as gels or creams with occlusives, emollients, and humectants. They are moisturizers that have a thicker texture, so they are best used at night.
Facial serums contain a concentrated amount of active ingredients, making them a good product to use when you want to address specific skin concerns such as discoloration or dullness. This is because larger amounts of active molecules can penetrate the surface of your skin for increased effectiveness.
Serums are more concentrated compared to other skincare products and you only need a few drops for your face. It can have various ingredients like antioxidants, niacinamide, AHAs, peptides, and plant extracts like Centella asiatica. It's best to look for ingredients that target your skin concerns before buying a serum and consult a board-certified dermatologist for guidance.
Conducting a patch test is very important when incorporating a new skincare product into your routine. Check out these tips from Nudie Glow on how to do a patch test to see if you're hiyang with the products that you've got.
In order to do an allergy patch test, apply a little bit of product on easily covered areas of your face such as the corner of your forehead, the underside of your jaw, or behind your ears or the side of your neck. Make sure that you don't have any other products on your skin to be able to test the product properly.
Wait for around 48 hours to see if your skin will react negatively or if you will have an allergic reaction. If you've accidentally applied the product on your whole face already, don't worry. If you feel any irritation or see any redness, simply wash it off with a gentle facial cleanser and put on moisturizer.
Repeat Open Application Test (ROAT) is useful for testing leave-on personal care products. This can be done especially if you cannot go to the clinic for actual patch testing.
If the treated skin continues to look and feel normal by the end of the week, it is unlikely that the person has a significant allergy to the product being tested. If the person develops a patch of red skin, dry skin, or rash at the site of application, there may be an allergy to the product or to one of its ingredients.
To see if a product will make you break out, apply it directly on a small easily-seen area of your face such as your cheek, chin, or anywhere where you usually get blemishes. Apply the product daily (or as recommended) to the same area for a week or so.
This will allow you to see how your skin will react. However, keep in mind that breakouts can be an intended reaction for some skincare products, especially those that contain ingredients like strong acids such as lactic acid, salicylic acid, or glycolic acids.
Suitable sites for ROAT include the hairless side of the forearm, inner bend of the elbow, behind the ear, or side of the neck. Any rash on the test side should be consulted to a board-certified dermatologist for treatment.
You are now a step closer to achieving that dewy, clear, smooth, and healthy skin! Below Dr. Meg Sison gives more tips and information on how you can give your skin more TLC!
You do not need to have several steps in your skincare routine. Using too many products at the same time can lead to irritations and increased breakouts. Every product should have a specific purpose on why you include it in your skincare routine.
Be careful not to mix or layer AHAs, BHAs, vitamin C, and retinol in a single skincare routine because these can lead to irritation.
Start first with the essentialsーcleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizer. Incorporate one product at a time every 2 weeks so that you will know whether this will work or not for your skin. Do not attempt to try several new products at once especially if you're using them for the first time.
Always consult a board-certified dermatologist for an individualized approach in your skincare routine because everyone has different skin concerns and responses to skincare products.
Because of its numerous benefits, Korean skincare can be addicting. If you want to find other skincare holy grails to help you get flawless glowing skin, check out our other articles for more Korean skincare essentials that we've found.
Because of their gentle and natural active ingredients that are able to give anyone soft radiant skin, Korean skincare products are a crowd-favorite. It can be confusing finding the perfect lineup of products, though, so we hope that our buying guide and product recommendations were able to help you build a routine.
Author: Bianca Angela Dela Cruz
Reviewed by: Dermatologist, Dr. Meg Sison
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