Being an English teacher in Korea, a question that I often get asked is, “What’s your favourite thing about living in Korea.” I usually mumble something about spicy food, mountains and 4 seasons. But actually, the things I love most about Korea is something that I never really admit out loud, in fear of looking vein. Yes, I do love my kimchi and the mountains, of course, are lovely. But what I really love is all the innovative Korean beauty products that help me look like the best version of myself, without draining my bank account.
I’ve talked a bit before about how I used to be a bit of a shopaholic before I started really trying to save money for travel. In Scotland, you would find me at the Clinique or Mac counter every month without fail. I loved testing out all the latest skincare and make-up, trying to find products that would agree with my oily, acne prone skin. Needless to say, my bank balance was not so thrilled by this passion of mine.
When I first arrived in Korea, one of the first things I did was ask my Korean co-worker to take me out for a Korean beauty haul! I piled my basket high with a whole variety of sheet masks, primers, toners, BB Creams and candy coloured nail polishes. This was a habit in my first year- rather spending a lot of money on one or two high end products a month, I would buy a million and one cheap face masks and miracle potions. Most of these got slowly demoted from the top shelf of my bathroom cabinet to a pile of outcasts under my bed.
I feel as though I’ve found the perfect balance now. I recently went a lot more minimal with my skincare and make up routine and, honestly, my skin has thanked me. I stick to only buying products that I need and that fill a purpose. Is it just me, or does anyone else hate it when a new beauty product comes out that solves a problem they didn’t even know was there?! There are a lot of things like that in Korea so these days I just stick to the essential Korean beauty products that I actually need.
Choosing 10 products that I would recommend to my friends and readers was actually surprisingly easy! I rave about a lot of these products to my friends at home and use them all myself on a regular basis. My readers living outside of Korea will be glad to hear that a lot of these products are available on amazon, so there is no need to jump on a plane to Seoul for your beauty fix… Although I would totally take you for a Korean beauty haul if you did!
Disclaimer: This post contains some links to products that I love. If you do make a purchase, I will get a small amount of commission that will help me continue to run this website. As always, all opinions are my own!
This is an absolute godsend for me through the humid Korean summers! I’m always on the market for a product that will make my face a little bit less reflective, and this does exactly that. I often wear this alone or over concealer during the day. It’s great at night for setting a heavier make up look too. Wherever I go, it’s always in my bag to help me cover up unwanted shine.
When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes when magazines blabbed on about the importance of wearing an SPF. I lived in one of the least sunny places on the planet- there was no chance I was going to worry about sun cream! Since then, I’ve learned that wearing an SPF has a lot more benefits than just sun protection. I wear this one from The Face Shop everyday (even in winter!) to help protect my skin against the harsh pollution in Korea. My favourite thing about it is that it doesn’t clog my pores or make my skin even more oily, yayy!
15,000 KRW for 50ml.
The Korean beauty routine is all about face masks, and I love them! My friends and family who receive them for every birthday and Christmas can definitely attest to that! This one is my absolute favourite though. I use it once a week to tighten up my pores and control excess oil in my skin. This is probably the most famous of all the products on this list. It’s won a lot of awards for it’s wizardly work of making pores disappear, and it gets my vote too!
13,000 KRW for 100ml.
You know how everyone has one essential make up item? This is mine. I recently stopped wearing base make up on weekdays to let my skin breathe. To avoid scaring my students too much, a bit of eyeliner is essential. I’ve tried a lot of pen eyeliners over the years- both cheap ones and not so cheap ones. This is one of the best. It’s highly pigmented, stays on all day and is easy to apply, too. A good eyeliner isn’t easy to find, so it’s great to find such a cheap one!
You might be noticing a bit of a trend here. Almost all of the skincare that I use is Innisfree because they use really nice natural ingredients without charging a fortune. It’s my favourite Korean beauty brand. I use this sleeping pack as a night cream every night. It’s really moisturising without being too heavy on my skin and smells amazing. I used to steer clear of scented skincare products, but I started making an exception for this one!
13,000 KRW for 80ml
This product is a bit of a dark horse- don’t let the basic packaging and low price tag fool you though. I had been splashing out on Moroccan oil every few months before I came to Korea but as soon as I discovered this product I switched. I used it daily after getting magic straight and it pretty much eliminated my damaged ends. If you bleach or chemically treat your hair, this is a must buy product. They also have a great intensive conditioner in the same range which i would also recommend.
9,800 KRW for 70ml.
As soon as I heard about these patches, the first thing I said was, “Where the hell were these when I was a spotty hormonal teenager?!” Basically, if you get a spot you just pop one of these clear patches over it. At the end of the day, you take it off and your spot has been healed and is usually gone! They protect your spot from any make up or dirt which can make it even worse. Most cosmetic stores carry their own versions of these but I’ve found that Missha’s are the strongest and most effective.
3,500 KRW for 80 patches.
Now that I’m trying to save money for travel, there’s absolutely no way that I can justify spending 60 quid on a bottle of Chanel… That’s 6 days in India- no way! Since I ran out of my last perfume, I’ve been testing these little “handbag perfumes” that are all over Korea. I’ve tried quite a few now but this one has the nicest scent and the longest staying power. While it’s not really heavy enough for the evening, it’s perfect for during the day. It’s great for taking on your holidays too since you don’t need to worry about putting it in a liquid’s bag!
Ever since I started cutting down on the amount of make up that I wear, this product has been getting used less and less. However, I’m going to include it anyway because I think that it’s a really great primer! I absolutely LOVE Benefit’s Porefessionaland I think that this is a fantastic budget alternative. Banila Co is a little bit more expensive than other Korean make up brands, but I don’t mind paying the extra from time to time since the quality is so good. Banila Co is also my go-to shop for make up brushes!
22,000 KRW for 30ml
I probably sound a bit square saying this, as this is considered a bit of an ajjuma (older Korean lady) product by most younger Koreans. But do I care?? Not at all! Those ajjumas know their shit- this is the best shampoo that I have ever used! When I accidentally dyed my hair jet black (lest we forget..) this stuff stopped my hair falling out in clumps. It makes my hair so soft and shiny without weighing it down. It has quite a strong ginseng smell but don’t let that put you off- release your inner ajjuma, girls!
15,000 KRW each. (Since this product is so popular, it’s usually on 1+1 or half price somewhere- keep your eyes peeled!)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and will love these products as much as I do! I will honestly never go back to frittering money away on department store make-up and skincare. Girls, there’s no need- try out a few Korean beauty products and see what you think! Trust me, your purse will thank you 🙂
Let me know, are you a K-Beauty convert?
The beautiful graphic above was courtesy of Roxy Hutton from City Girl Searching. If you’re looking for the prettiest stock photos and graphics then definitely check out her FREE resource library!