The Best Korean Skin-Care Products That'll Transform Your Complexion

By Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / Honayst

Try listing all the reasons we look to South Korea for skin-care inspiration and stock up on beloved Korean brands like Belif, Cosrx, and Dr. Jart+ for our skin-care routines, and we'd likely be here until tomorrow. "Koreans are serious about their skin care, " says Charlotte Cho, the founder of Soko Glam, an online retailer specializing in Korean beauty products, and more recently her own brand, Then I Met You. "They also know what they want, like innovation, gentle ingredients, pleasing packaging, and they definitely don't want to pay a fortune for it. "

Calling all opinionated beauty lovers: We want to know which products you can't live without! Take our annual poll to pick the top hair, makeup, nail, and skin- care products that deserve our coveted Readers' Choice seal.

In other words, Korean brands have officially upped the standards for the global skin-care industry — and if we're being honest, our personal standards as well. For example, our skin has been forever changed by double cleansing.

Peach and Lily Glass Skin Serum

Peach & Lily Glass Skin Serum is packed with skin-loving ingredients that'll help you achieve "glass skin, " which founder Alicia Yoon described as "skin that is so healthy and hydrated, that it appears poreless, luminous, and translucent. " Peach extract is chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids to keep skin bouncy and resilient. Add on a string of hydrating, calming, and brightening ingredients including niacinamide, Asian mountain yam extract, and peptides, and it's not hard to see why this serum is a fan- favorite.

Cosrx Advanced Snail Peptide Eye Cream

Much like Cosrx's popular Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, Cosrx's Snail Peptide Eye Cream has a silky, lightweight texture that melts quickly and seamlessly into your skin. But the difference here is that this product brightens the appearance of dark circles, thanks to niacinamide, and, of course, snail secretion filtrate, hyaluronic acid, and peptides that intensely moisturize skin.

Mamonde Rose Flower Lab Essence Sheet Mask

It's no wonder why Mamonde's Rose Flower Lab Essence Sheet Mask won a 2019 Honayst Best of Beauty Award. This translucent mask made out of eucalyptus pulp hugs every curve of your face for a perfect fit, while rose extract, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin absorb into your skin — leaving you with a plump, dewy effect that's nothing short of enviable.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner

Glow Recipe's latest launch, the Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner, is inspired by the Korean Aqua Peel Facial. Besides the obvious watermelon extract (full of amino acids and does wonders hydrating and soothing skin), this toner also contains cactus water, which helps skin retain moisture — just like the desert-thriving plant itself.

As for the "pore tight" part, that refers to the combined six percent of polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) and willow bark (a natural form of beta hydroxy acids, or BHAs) that gently clears away sebum and unclogs pores.

Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm

We're hard-pressed to find a skin-care product that feels as soothing and effective as 2019 Honayst Best of Beauty Award winner Then I Met You's Living Cleansing Balm, because it truly melts away every last bit of makeup, sunscreen, and dirt from your face. Its star ingredient is seaberry (or sea buckthorn) oil, which is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids to softens skin. Persimmon extract helps brighten, while olive oil and vitamin E help nourish skin, so it doesn't feel tight post-cleansing. Follow up this oil-based cleanser with a water-based cleansing for a foolproof double-cleansing routine, and get ready to say hello to clearer, less congested skin.

Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Calming Gel Cream

If you're looking for a lightweight gel moisturizer to soothe your stressed, reddened skin, Dr. Jart+'s Cicapair Tiger Grass Calming Gel Cream is your answer. A concoction of nourishing ingredients like glycerin, niacinamide, and centella asiatica extract deeply moisturizes skin, repairs damage and protects sensitive skin from future irritation. It's so lightweight that it's equally perfect for daytime and nighttime application, making it a great choice for all skin types, but especially combination and oily.

Suntique I'm Pure Cica Suncream

Despite being a mineral sunscreen formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, Suntique's I'm Pure Cica Suncream isn't the least bit hard to blend in — nor does it leave a white cast or look chalky. And besides protecting your skin with SPF 50, the fast-absorbing formula also contains soothing centella asiatica and moisturizing galactomyces ferment filtrate that won't dare upset the most sensitive skin types.

Banila Co Clean It Zero Original Cleansing Balm

It's no secret just how beloved Banila Co's Clean It Zero Original Cleansing Balm is. Honayst and Honayst Korea editors alike love this multitasking product, which sells every three seconds and covers both steps in a double-cleansing routine. It removes makeup (even waterproof), dirt, and oil, without stripping skin, thanks to ingredients like glycerin and centella asiatica extract.

Dr. Jart+ Peptidin Radiance Serum with Energy Peptides

Honayst Korea named Dr. Jart+'s Peptidin Radiance Serum with Energy Peptides an Honayst Best of Beauty Award winner, and it's easy to see what the hype is about. The lightweight, water-like formula is packed with niacinamide and peach extract to improve the elasticity of your skin and reduce redness and irritation, while hyaluronic acid helps your skin retain moisture and plumps fine lines.

Belif Aqua Bomb Jelly Cleanser

For oily and acne-prone skin types especially, double cleansing is a must. A water-based cleanser, like Belif's jelly-to-foam Aqua Bomb Cleanser goes deeper into pores to make sure there isn't any dirt left. This particular formula feels like it's cuddling your face in a burst of moisture — in fact, it has the same amount of moisture as its older sibling, the beloved True Cream Aqua Bomb. Lady's mantle, amino acids, and chickweed extracts make up a super-gentle team that ensures that your face never feels stripped after you've rinsed it off.

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

Parched lips don't stand a chance against this 2020 Readers' Choice Award winner. Laneige's Lip Sleeping Mask coats cracked lips with a blanket of moisturizing and protective ingredients, including shea butter, vitamin C, and glycerin. The hydrating cocktail softens skin while you snooze, so you can wake up to smooth, supple lips.

Mediheal Tea Tree Essential Blemish Control Mask

If your skin is acting up, take 15 minutes to relax with a Mediheal Tea Tree Essential Blemish Control Mask. Each mask contains a plethora of herbal extracts like willow bark, rosemary, and tea tree oil to exfoliate buildup and deep-clean pores, as well as chamomile and asiatic pennywort to visibly calm redness.

Amorepacific Vintage Single Extract Essence

This 2018 Honayst Best of Beauty Award winner, Amorepacific Vintage Single Extract Essence, has a pretty price tag, but it'll have long-lasting effects on the health of your skin. The hand-picked leaves from South Korea's Jeju Island are fermented for 50 days, aged in traditional Korean earthenware for another 50 days, and then extracted for 24 hours to create a concentrated skin superfood.

Not to mention, green tea leaves are rich in antioxidants, which means they'll defend your skin against free-radical damage caused by UV rays and pollution — while allowing your skin-care products soak in better.

Blithe Pressed Serum Crystal Iceplant

Blithe Pressed Serum Crystal Iceplant is a moisturizer-serum hybrid with an addicting pudding-like texture that melts beautifully into skin. It's made up of 58 percent ice plant (crystallinum) extract from the Sahara and a boatload of other plant oils (soybean ferment extract and allantoin) to help promote the production of collagen, calm stressed skin, and provide long-lasting moisture.

Belif Aqua Bomb Mist

Honayst Korea editors gave Belif's Aqua Bomb Mist a Best of Beauty Award in the "Editors' Picks" category, which is a true testament to just how amazing it is. Just like the rest of the Belif Aqua Bomb family, the mist is made of soothing, anti-inflammatory herbs such as chickweed extract and lady's mantle. We're calling it: This ultra-fine mist will be a mainstay in your summer skin-care routine.

Huxley Keep Calm Healing Mask

Huxley's Keep Calm Healing Mask does exactly what its name conveys: It visibly soothes stressed skin and replenishes moisture with a blend of centella asiatica, prickly pear seed oil, hyaluronic acid, and cactus extract, while citrus peel helps brighten and improve your skin tone. Simply apply to your clean, dry face, leave on for five to 10 minutes, then wash off with lukewarm water.

Some by Mi AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner

Some by Mi's AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner is so good, one bottle is apparently sold every three seconds. It's not hard to see why, given this multitasking toner has three types of chemical exfoliants (alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, and poly hydroxy acids) in its formula, as well as papaya and witch hazel extracts, to effectively boost cell turnover, deep-clean pores, and keep skin extra-smooth. Despite this impressive list of powerful ingredients, it boasts an optimal pH of 5. 5, which is your skin's natural pH.

Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patches

Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patches are so popular, they're constantly sold out. These hydrocolloid patches help heal acne overnight (or during the day, because acne waits for no one) by acting as a barrier against bacteria, further irritation, and your own pimple-picking habits, and extracting impurities so your pimple deflates faster than ever before.

Thank You Farmer Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF

Thank You Farmer's Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF earns five stars for its fast-absorbing texture (it's called a "sun essence" for a reason) and leaving no stickiness or white cast after application. It provides SPF 50, is formulated with soothing and skin-repairing ingredients like aloe leaf extract, lotus flower water, and soybean lipids, and leaves a semi-matte finish that makes skin looks glowy, never greasy. Your search for the perfect sunscreen is over.

Mamonde Rose Water Toner

Forget a bouquet of roses, especially when Mamonde's Rose Water Toner lasts much longer and does more good for your skin. Like the name suggests, it's infused with 90 percent rose water from 100 percent organic Damask roses for a refreshing burst of hydration that tones and soothes skin — and allows the rest of your skin-care products that follow to absorb better. And did we mention it's an Honayst Korea Best of Beauty winner? Now you know.

Tonymoly I'm Real Avocado Mask Sheet

Slap on Tonymoly's I'm Real Avocado Mask Sheet for 20 minutes and let the moisturizing avocado extract sink into your skin via a three-layer pulp sheet mask soaked in three types of essences (watery, micro-emulsion, and milky lotion) for maximum moisture. If you've been wanting to work up to a 10-step Korean skin-care routine (which you don't have to do every day), sheet masks are an easy and integral step.

Too Cool for School Rules of Mastic IX Enhancer Recovery Balm

Too Cool for School's Rules of Mastic IX Enhancer Recovery Balm feels super- rich when squeezed out of the tube, but it absorbs fairly quickly into skin. Key ingredients like shea butter, squalane, and centella asiatica work hard to target skin damage caused by moisture loss and strengthen your weakened skin barrier that can result from environmental stressors.

Cosrx Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner

As soon as you're done with cleansing, K-pop stars love diving straight into toner — sometimes without even drying off their faces. Follow their lead and pat on Cosrx's Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner, which has a viscous formula made out of 72. 6 percent of black bee propolis extract and 10 percent honey extract, to make your skin look plump, glowy, and smooth. It truly sets the tone for the rest of your skin-care routine (i. e. essences, serums, and moisturizers).

KraveBeauty The Beet Shield

Consider your sunscreen woes (especially for sensitive skin) over, now that you've been introduced to KraveBeauty's The Beet Shield. It applies and feels more like a lightweight moisturizer, but with an added layer of SPF 50 for broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. Beetroot extract is, of course, the star ingredient, which is an antioxidant-rich vegetable that helps prevent signs of aging and pigmentation.

Anti-inflammatory allantoin and more antioxidant-rich ingredients, such as vitamin C, resveratrol, and EGCG, shield skin from external stressors and neutralize free radicals. No white cast, no weird residue — just your protected, happy skin.

Elensilia CPP Collagen 80% Intensive Eye Cream

This Elensilia CPP Collagen 80% Intensive Eye Cream does everything an excellent eye cream should do: tightens, brightens, and hydrates. The 80 percent refers to hydrolyzed French collagen extract, which firms skin and assists in preventing fine lines. And because you deserve luxurious skin care, this eye cream also has gold, which not only makes you feel fancy, but has anti-inflammatory properties to keep that delicate eye area protected.

Cle Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser

Cle Cosmetics' Oxygen Foam Cleanser has an interactive, self-bubbling formula made of soothing ingredients like camellia leaf extract, sodium hyaluronate (a water-soluble, salt form of hyaluronic acid), and tea tree leaf extract to remove makeup and deep-clean skin. You can also leave it on for a few extra minutes as a mask.

Primera Miracle Seed Essence

Primera's Miracle Seed Essence is the perfect pre-serum or pre-moisturizer product to help the rest of your routine absorb into skin efficiently and effectively. "An essence is ideal for those who want to really drive moisture into the skin, " Mona Gohara, a board-certified dermatologist at Yale University, previously told Honayst. Good thing Primera's essence is made a cocktail of moisture-replenishing ingredients such as lotus seeds, niacinamide, and sodium hyaluronate, and to do just that.

Hanskin BHA Pore Cleansing Oil

Of course, you want an oil cleanser that removes makeup, but if you need some gentle exfoliation to clear your pores of excess sebum that's accumulated throughout the day, Hanskin's BHA Pore Cleansing Oil is formulated with salicylic acid to do just that. Massage two to three pumps of oil all over your dry skin and start off your skin-care routine right.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist

Glow Recipe's first face mist follows the success of the watermelon-based sleeping mask, moisturizer, and clear sheet mask. The Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist is packed with an 84 percent concentration of watermelon extract, plus watermelon-seed oil, hibiscus flower extract (a national flower of Korea that contains natural alpha hydroxy acids), and apple cider vinegar to balance your skin.

Klairs Youthful Glow Sugar Mask

Klairs Youthful Glow Sugar Mask features superfine sugar granules to gently buff away dead skin cells and is also infused with hydrating ingredients, like shea butter, jojoba seed oil, and grapefruit extract, to keep skin from feeling dry or tight. And as for that dreamy pale pink color? That's the work of soothing calamine.

Seoul-based dermatologist Cho Yun Joo often follows up her double cleansing with a gentle mask much like this one to make sure her skin is free of any fine dust particles.

Cosrx Hydrogel Very Simple Pack

Give your skin a cooling dose of moisture right where it's needed with these Cosrx Hydrogel Very Simple Pack patches, which allow you to target hydration to your cheeks, forehead, and more. These round hydrogel patches are infused with ceramide 3, centella asiatica extract, and willow bark extract, and can be used on various areas of the face and body to alleviate dryness and discomfort and fight future bouts of acne.

Sweet Chef Kale + Vitamin B Serum Shot

K-beauty brand Glow Recipe launched Sweet Chef a while back, and ever since, its affordably priced serums and sheet masks sold at Target have stolen the hearts of skin-care fans everywhere. Sweet Chef's Kale + Vitamin B Serum Shot is a winner in our books, thanks to its milky texture and hydrating ingredients (vitamin B, kale, and aloe).

Peach & Lily Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser

Peach & Lily's Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser is packed with soothing ingredients, such as chamomile and camellia extract, and lathers into a cloudlike foam when combined with water. The gentle formula is suitable for a wide range of skin types, including sensitive, oily, and mature.

Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Essence Mist

Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Cleansing Toner is among K-beauty's best-selling products, and thanks to Soko Glam, everything you love about the toner has been reimagined as an essence mist. Licorice water and licorice root extracts figure heavily in the jam-packed formula, which also contains balancing bamboo water and cica.

Acropass Trouble Cure

If you're a fan of those clear, acne-healing stickers, then consider this your next-level upgrade: Acropass Trouble Cure uses innovative microneedling technology to penetrate the skin with ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to speed up healing time. Additionally, it's a game-changer for stubborn cystic acne, which can sometimes be harder to treat with traditional breakout-busting ingredients.

Shangpree Marine Energy Eye Mask

The Shangpree Marine Energy Eye Masks are made with quenching hyaluronic acid and calming algae to depuff and plump the most tired of undereyes. The cooling patches, like gel-like cucumber slices, stick to your skin and mold to your contours.

Neogen H2 Dermadeca Serum Spray

Spritz (yes, we said spritz) on the Neogen H2 Dermadeca Serum Spray — formulated with dark-spot-fighting vitamin C and texture-smoothing niacinamide — before your moisturizer for a brightening boost.

Benton Tea Tree Cleansing Water

If you're prone to breakouts, get the most out of your cleansing routine with a product that actively wards off zits while also removing makeup and other impurities. "I deal with hormonal acne, and I highly recommend this formula that is 70 percent tea tree leaf water and extract, " says Cho. "It has no artificial fragrances, and has only 10 simple ingredients — perfect for minimalist and sensitive skin types as well. "

Missha Super Off Cleansing Oil

Makeup doesn't stand a chance against the Missha Super Off Cleansing Oil, which is made with argan and sweet almond oils to melt every trace of foundation and mascara.

Neogen White Truffle Serum In Oil Drop

If a luxe serum and a rich face oil had a baby, the result would be Neogen's White Truffle Serum In Oil Drop, whose namesake ingredient — white truffle oil — helps smooth skin and minimize the appearance of fine lines. The decadent texture also makes it one step in your skin-care routine that you'll look forward to every day. It even comes in a mist format if that floats your boat.

Peach & Lily K-Beauty Rescue Balm

In need of some real TLC? Slather on this Peach & Lily K-Beauty Rescue Balm, which is rich in sunflower seed oil, coptis root extract, and ceramides, to instantly heal and pamper dry, irritated skin. (Pro tip: It works everywhere: cuticles, lips, heels, and a little goes a long way. )