13 Must-Try Korean Beauty Brands & Their Best-Selling Products

13 Must-Try Korean Beauty Brands & Their Best-Selling Products

Welcome to the fascinating world of K-beauty!

By now, many of us are well-aware of Korean beauty products and their infinite wonders. It has, after all, garnered a lot of buzz over the past few years. Whether it’s skincare or makeup items, they all have one thing in common: they promise to give you absolutely perfect skin! Perhaps even as perfect as that of your fave Korean celebrity? Ah, well, we can certainly dream!

But with so many beauty brands here and there, it can get dizzying especially for K-beauty newbies. While for the well-accustomed, sometimes it’s hard to decide whether you should stick with what you already use, or keep your options wide open.  And so, we’ve put together a list of the best, must-try Korean beauty brands — along with their top skincare and/or makeup items! 

1. COSRX

When one mentions ‘Korean beauty,’ COSRX is probably the first brand that comes to mind. When Korean beauty burst into the Western market, this was one of the brands that helped the movement turn mainstream. So, it’s no wonder that it seems to have garnered a global cult following at lightning speed! 

When it comes to Korean skincare for beginners, COSRX is a definite go-to! For starters, there’s the Acne Pimple Master Patch: an absolute miracle-worker that zaps zits instantly. For best overnight results, pair it with the Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol! Meanwhile, their Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser not only gets the job done, but also works well on all skin types. 

Dry skin woes? Try the Ultimate Honey Overnight Mask, which you can use as a sleeping mask, wash-off mask, or moisturiser! Though, if you’re more on the oily side, the Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion is your BFF. We love how it’s so lightweight yet super hydrating! 

Another option for the acne-prone would be the Advanced Snail 92 All in One Cream. It’s your best bet for firmer, plumper skin! And yes, it really does contain snail mucin, if we’re being upfront here. Though, in case you didn’t know yet: Snail creams are one of the top Korean skincare trends lately! 

2. innisfree

Here, we’ve got another K-beauty headliner: innisfree! We love how their products contain rare, natural ingredients sustainably sourced from Jeju Island — like volcanic clay, green tea, and other plants. It’s like a farm-to-table concept, but for skincare. 

For Innisfree’s OG holy grail items, check out their Green Tea and Super Volcanic skincare rosters. Although if we had to narrow it down, we’d pick The Green Tea Seed Serum and Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask which work well on all skin types! For anti-ageing and hydration benefits, their Perfect 9 Repair Eye Cream EX is the way to go. 

As for makeup, this Korean beauty brand also has a few tricks up its sleeve! Still on the lookout for the best face powder? Try the No Sebum Mineral Powder, which has amazing oil-control powers that also keep excess sebum formation at bay. For the eyebrow-obsessed, the Auto Eye Brow Pencil is an absolute gem for full and natural-looking brows. Don’t forget to keep ‘em in place with the Skinny Brow Mascara

3. Banila Co.

When one mentions Banila Co., the first thing that comes to many a K-beauty fan’s mind is their Clean It Zero line. Specifically, the unbeatable Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm: not only does it smell absolutely divine, but it also dissolves even the most stubborn waterproof mascara and such!  

This cult-fave Korean beauty brand focuses mostly on the essentials for both skincare and makeup. Upholding its philosophy of “Skincare for makeup,” its other top-notch products help you achieve a flawless base for that no-makeup makeup look! The Prime Primer Classic preps your skin by giving it a velvety texture by blurring fine lines and large pores. It’s also quite lightweight and helps prolong your makeup for hours on end. 

Meanwhile, the It Radiant CC Cream is the first of its kind: a colour-correcting base that both moisturises and brightens your complexion. What can we say — we love a beauty product that expertly combines skincare and makeup! 

Speaking of combos, the B. Cheer Water Cheek comes in a liquid formula that results in a powdery finish. It also comes with a cute nail polish-like applicator; paint the tint directly onto your cheeks, and no need to blend it too much. 

4. Missha

With a brand motto that goes, “Be your own kind of beautiful,” Missha is all about helping you achieve beautiful glowing skin. What started out as a beauty website eventually became a global powerhouse with over 600 products in its roster. And yet, nothing can ever compare to its Time Revolution line — i.e., what helped put Missha on the K-beauty map! 

In case you still haven’t tried anything from this skincare roster, we recommend starting with the Time Revolution Clear Toner. It’s suitable for all skin types and even helps your skin absorb your other skincare products better! There’s also the Time Revolution First Treatment Essence: considered by many skincare junkies to be a holy grail. Trust us, a lot of praising superlatives have been used to describe this one! 

When it comes to Korean makeup products, Missha can definitely hold its ground. Their M Perfect Cover BB Cream is a total bang for your buck, as it functions as a primer, foundation, sunscreen, and serum altogether! Did we mention it has caviar extract too? Meanwhile, their Magic Cushion helps you achieve dewy, glass-skin complexion — quite like your fave K-drama actresses! For eyeshadow palettes, try some of the hues from Triple Shadow, all of which give a fuss-free gradient effect that doesn’t even need much blending from your end.  

5. Dear, Klairs

Originally launched simply as ‘Klairs,’ this crowd fave eventually tweaked its name to Dear, Klairs. It does, after all, envision to be a somewhat of a love letter-slash-rescuer to every girl struggling with her skin. Many of its products are ideal for sensitive skin, as this Korean beauty brand uses only natural and hypoallergenic ingredients.

First off is the all-star Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum: a pure Vitamin C extract that minimises pores, as well as brightens and evens out skin tone. (Pro tip: You can put this in the fridge to prolong its shelf life and even help you feel refreshed on hot days!). 

On the other hand, the Supple Preparation Facial Toner rapidly absorbs into your skin, while prolonging hydration more than the average toner. It also has a non-irritating formula made with various plant extracts and soothing ingredients.

Speaking of soothing, look no further than the Midnight Blue Calming Sheet Mask. It’s specially designed to help decrease skin sensitivity. It has cooling ingredients that decrease your skin’s temperature, especially after prolonged sun exposure! And then there’s the Pore Gentle Charcoal Soap, which helps purify oily, acne-prone skin. This handmade soap is gentle enough to be used daily, as it’s made with ingredients like coconut, lavender, and Moroccan organic Ghassoul. 

6. Laneige

Let’s begin with a fun fact: Laneige actually translates to ‘the snow’ in French. From there, you get a clear idea of what it aims to bring: clear, dewy, and radiant skin. Achieve and retain that youthful glow with their range of Korean beauty products. 

Their bestseller is the Water Sleeping Mask, which contains evening primrose and Hunza apricot extracts. Leave it overnight and wake up with bright and deeply nourished skin! (Yes, even if you’re running on just three hours of sleep). Oh, and did you know that this was one of the OG sleeping masks made in South Korea? Pair it with the Lip Sleeping Mask that remedies flaky lips overnight! Its sweet fruity scent is also a major plus.  

As for cosmetics, start your makeup routine with Glowy Makeup Serum: a lightweight, hydrating primer enriched with natural mineral diamond. It even has a lovely packaging in a dazzling pearl-pink shade! After that, you can get on with achieving glass skin with the BB Cushion Pore Control. Although, if you prefer full-coverage, there’s the Skin Veil Cover Foundation, which has a long-lasting matte finish that doesn’t cake or flake off even after n hours! 

7. Dr. Jart+

Although the name sounds quite Western, Dr. Jart+ was actually co-founded by Korean dermatologist, Dr. Jung Sung-jae, back in 2004. Since then, the brand has enlisted the help of other young dermatologists to put together a line that caters to all skin types. Oh, and it’s also one of the first-ever Korean beauty brands to be included in Sephora! 

A definite must-try is the Hydration Lover Rubber Mask. It’s a two-step mask that soothes and hydrates the skin for an instant pick-me-up. For another interesting Dr. Jart+ offering, get the Shake & Shot™ Rubber Masks. It’s basically a set of DIY rubbery modelling masks, where you mix up the ingredients (like you’re making a cookie batter!) to create a face mask! 

Wondering why you should try rubber masks in the first place? Well, the brand emulates most Korean luxury spas that use this technique for maximum results! Meanwhile, the Dermaclear Micro Milk Peel helps reset your skin with its peeling effect that melts off dead skin cells. Say goodbye to dullness and uneven texture! And don’t let the ‘peel’ part daunt you — it’s gentle enough for any skin type.

Also read: From Shopping to Spas: 6 Cheaper Ways to Enjoy a Beauty Retreat in Korea

8. Etude House

For all things cute, fun, and vibrant, Etude House is the way to go! This popular Korean beauty brand is best known for its adorable packaging that caters to a younger market. Always inventive and never boring, their offerings range from juicy lip tints to vibrant eyeshadow palettes! And more often than not, these are endorsed by top Korean celebs like Red Velvet, Sandara Park, and Song Hye-Kyo. 

Before all else, don’t forget to put on some primer! The FIX&FIX Tone Up Primer comes in four different colours, each offering colour correction depending on your complexion woes. Then achieve a luscious pout like your fave K-pop girls’ with the Dear Darling Water Gel Tint. This long-lasting lippie comes in colourful popsicle-shaped bottles and several fruity flavours to choose from! 

Feeling rather extra? Put some (or a lot of) glitter on your eyelids with the Mirror Holic Liquid Eyes! It’s a liquid eyeshadow that glides seamlessly on your lids and comes in different metallic shades. For the best of both neutral and sparkly hues, Play Color Eyes is your best bet.  It has regular and mini variants, each with different colour sets to suit your fancy. Keep an eye out for their limited-edition ones — Etude House has done collabs with KitKat and Hershey’s, and it’s as fantastic as you’d imagine it to be! 

9. The Face Shop

The Face Shop is, without a doubt, one of the most prominent K-beauty brands around the globe! It’s present in more than 30 countries, with over 3,000 stores. Those who have had K-beauty on their radar since the ’00s would surely know about this and its super varied catalogue.

Speaking of the ‘00s, remember when rice water was such a hit ingredient? Well, it’s actually one of the oldest K-beauty tricks in the book — just ask any Korean auntie! And The Face Shop has played a huge role in catapulting it to mainstream consciousness. That said, we recommend their classic Rice Water Bright Cleansing Oil and Rice Water Bright Cleansing Foam. It’s the best double-cleansing duo out there, especially for Korean skincare newbies! 

Want to do the glass skin look but hesitant because of the tropical climate? The Waterproof Cushion gives natural-looking coverage that can withstand hot and humid weather! For further coverage, pair it with the Concealer Liquid Veil that’s über-blendable and easy to use. Oh, and you might also want to try the Freshian Volumizing Mascara for standout yet natural-looking lashes! Extensions, who? 

10. SkinFood

SkinFood is the first-ever beauty brand to root itself in food. With a tagline that goes, “Healthy skin starts with food,” they’re all about using top-quality food ingredients to help you achieve great skin. And since all the products are based on food, you can expect that these will be all-natural and smell (sometimes taste) good! 

From black sugar to gold caviar, the possibilities are obviously infinite, as far as their lineup is concerned. So, to start off: the Black Sugar Mask Wash Off. It has black sugar crystals that slough away dead skin cells to make way for brighter skin! You can also use this as a body scrub to exfoliate areas like your elbows and heels. On the other hand, the Egg White Pore Foam helps to deeply cleanse your pores, thanks to the amino acids in egg whites! 

As for a must-try makeup, there’s the Salmon Dark Circle Concealer. It has a peachy undertone that makes it ideal for hiding dark undereye circles! And then for hair care, we recommend the Argan Oil Repair Plus Heat Serum in Oil. Leave it on damp hair for rejuvenation — especially on hairstyles that have any chemical treatment! 

11. Nature Republic

Among all the Korean beauty brands featured here, Nature Republic is probably the most underrated. Nonetheless, it holds its ground amongst other K-beauty faves for its products that are a study in effective simplicity! Fantastic results at reasonable price tags? Don’t mind if we do.

Among its many naturalist products, the standout is — without a doubt — the Aloe Vera Soothing Gel! It’s apparently the OG aloe vera gel in South Korea and the one that paved the way for this skincare trend. And don’t even get us started on the many, many ways you can use this; from soothing puffy eye bags, moisturising your skin overnight, to soothing itchy skin and even burns. 

For makeup fans: mix the gel with your foundation and you won’t even need setting powder anymore! It comes in a 300ml jar if you’re planning to fully maximise this ‘miracle-worker.’ But if you prefer something that can easily fit in your purse, there’s a tube version as well. 

12. Club Clio

Club Clio is a multi-brand store with a variety of products that cater to different tastes, needs, and styles. If you’re looking to expand your Korean makeup collection — without having to browse from one store to another — then you’ve come to the right place (or site, if you’re doing it online)! 

Let’s start with the Peripera Ink Airy Velvet: a lip and cheek tint with a moisturising matte finish. Its adorable yet minimalist packaging is like the cherry on top! Still searching for the perfect matte lipstick? The Clio Professional Rouge Heel Velvet, with its variety of nude, pink, and red shades, is your best bet. 

Meanwhile, the Clio Pro Blusher & Contour Palettes basically combine a contour kit, eyeshadow, blush, and highlighter. It’s about as versatile as you can get, really! The shades are especially stunning on Asian skin tones, too. For the perfect cat eye, get the Waterproof Pen Liner. It features a sponge-tip applicator that easily glides on your lids and helps create precise flicks. And yes, it can withstand even the oiliest lids! 

13. Mediheal

Rumour has it that Mediheal sells about five sheet masks… for every second! Although it’s yet to be confirmed, we certainly wouldn’t find that hard to believe. Many people of different skin types swear by their sheet masks, despite the highly saturated market for it. For one, it was founded from the prestigious medical beauty school at Seoul University. So, you can be sure that its in-house team of skin experts and dermatologists truly know what works best for Asian skin! 

This Korean beauty brand is all about at-home skin care — without the need for surgical treatment — thanks to its mask packs! The most popular one would be the N.M.F Aquaring Ampoule Mask, which hydrates your skin while also controlling sebum. (Pro tip: This is perfect for those long-haul flights. You’d rather not step off the plane looking dull). There’s also the Collagen Impact Essential Mask, which helps ward off wrinkles and other ageing skin problems. 

Bonus: Krave Beauty

This one is not exactly a Korean beauty brand in the traditional sense: mainly because it’s based in the United States. However, Krave Beauty products are manufactured in Seoul. Despite being a relative newcomer (it was launched late in 2017), it has been the talk of the town, especially on Instagram. Although, the fact that it’s founded by beauty vlogger Liah Yoo could also be part of it. 

Unlike most Korean beauty brands, Krave Beauty is all about minimalism and using only what your skin needs. In fact, its current lineup only has five products! Nonetheless, each product has garnered a lot of positive reviews everywhere — making them all bestsellers in their own way. But perhaps the most popular one would be the Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser. (Come on, doesn’t the name alone get you curious?) 

Also read: Japanese Vs Korean Skincare — Which One Should You Try?

At the end of the day — whether it’s skincare or makeup — it’s never one-size-fits-all! Every now and then, you’ll probably have to do some trial-and-error to figure out what truly works best for you. But hey, don’t let that stop you from diving into (or going deeper) the fascinating world of K-beauty! You never know what wonderful items you might be missing out on.  


Featured image is credited to Aiony Haust. | Facebook images are credited to the official website of each brand.

About Author

Marcy Miniano
Marcy Miniano

A fast-talking caffeine-dependent wordsmith, Marcy has never been one to shy away from sharing a good story or two. If she’s not in a quiet coffee shop somewhere, she enjoys spending afternoons in a museum or art gallery — whether it’s around Metro Manila or a foreign city she’s visiting. She wishes to retire in a winter village someday, so she can fulfil her lifelong dream of wearing turtlenecks all year round and owning a pet penguin.

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