The K-beauty boom is nothing new per se, and you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s somewhat style over substance, with kitsch packaging, kiddy concepts and million step skincare routines. Not so according to Anna-Marie Solowij , co-founder of the iconic and meticulously edited BeautyMart , which has championed the K-beauty trend since it launched in 2012 and now stocks more than 10 South Korean brands:
“K-beauty represents a perfect combination of impeccable research and development and high-quality results wrapped in kawaii cute packaging to deliver both visually exciting and effective products. It all started with BB cream but now the country has earned a global reputation for expertise and creativity in the beauty arena. SoKo is considered to be seven years ahead of Western product development, which is why the world has its eyes on South Korea and its influence is gaining universal attention for everything from unusual ingredients (snail slime and donkey milk), to its famed ten step skincare regime, sheet masks and other innovative product formats.”
Basically, beauty products and brainwaves from South Korean ends tend to fuse fun for your face with forward thinking skincare technology, or at the very least comforting formulas that will encourage you to take five for the sake of both skin and mind. Here are seven South Korean brands that you can hold of on these shores, or will soon be able to, and what they’re bringing to the crowded modern beauty table…
Too Cool For School
Aesthetically this brand lives up to its name- think playful illustrations and artist designed packaging that’ll look particularly hip in any shelfie. As for formulas, you’ll notice that they’re predominantly food based- think pumpkin based masks for enzymatic exfoliation, an ‘Eggsential’ fluid toning essence with egg protein for post-cleansing hydration and coconut water infused gels and ‘milky mists’ to soothe dry and inflamed skin.
The supreme Seoul skincare goal of optimum ‘glow’ is also catered for in the omega oil and vitamin infused Dionoplatz Pearl Bay Invasion Highlighter , £24. The ‘Baby Pink Clam’ shade only makes the name weirder, but the shell like lustre and moisture-boosting formulation is worth the slight confusion (common feels in the realms of SoKo beauty, but go with it).
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Ready for packaging to get even more strange yet wonderful? Get your mitts on Tony Moly. From the brightening Panda Sleeping Pack , £14.50, to the ketchup bottle imitating Tomatox Magic Massage Pack , £15, houseguests will assume that these are toys rather treatments, but the fruit extract and antioxidant rich masks, lotions and pore potions follow through on quality and results (you’ll notice that pores are quite the preoccupation in the South Korean beauty market).
The Aloe Face Mask Sheet , £5, receives especially rave reviews for its softening and plumping powders, while BeautyMart co-founder Millie Kendall has a particular Tony Moly tip-off for UK consumers:
“Tony Moly are just launching Megatox here. I hear that the brand launch 35 new products a month, so that’s innovation for you. The Megatox collection , £7.50 each, are giant syringe ampule masks- they’re so clever and there are different options available to lift, brighten or add moisture.”
You’ll never fear jabs again after these moisture injections.
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Thank You Farmer
With an earnest name and farm-grown ingredient claim, this simple yet effective brand is less about the charming bottles and more about bigging up natural skincare solutions. Refreshing hyaluronic acid loaded ‘jelly’ formulas give skin the moist bounce that South Koreans so love, while light as air SPF 50s prove that modern day sun protection is anything but sticky. Mistletoe leaf extract features highly which seems seasonally appropriate, and cooling, calming formulas are high on the agenda in general.
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Blemish and blackhead busting is a key skincare aim for many South Koreans, and they don’t mess about with wishy washy formulas in their pursuit for a clear complexion. Enter CosRx. I originally discovered this brand by way of its odd silk finger ball blackhead squashers, but if that’s a step too far for you, consider the BHA and AHA based liquid exfoliators. BHA Blackhead Power Liquid , £22, sweeps pores of grime by way of salicylic acid, with added niacinamide to soothe reactive T-zones and strengthen the skin barrier. For a spot minimising spritz, AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner , £17, also keeps acne causing bacteria at bay.
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An entire brand dedicated to purging pores and minimising their appearance seems very SoKo style, and as such Caolin specialises in pore tightening masks and lotions. One particular product is going down well in Anna-Marie’s household:
“The Pore O2 Sparkling Blackhead Soap is like LUSH gone all Korean with accompanying superb skincare benefits. I have young people in my house that at times need products for slightly oilier skin, and this seems to be a hit.”
The fact that the brand presents a ‘pore ritual’ goes on to prove just how dedicated these guys are to delivering on the pore-unclogging mission.
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With a straightforward brand name, packaging that alternates between sweet and functional and serums that sound almost robotically efficient (Power 10 Effector Serum anyone?), It’s Skin straddles the best of SoKo skincare in terms of affordability, results and a shot of frivolity. Anna-Marie sings the company’s praises:
“It's Skin delivers on every level - from outer to inner packaging right down to the product itself. Who wouldn't want angel wings on their blusher or hand cream that looks like a tub of ice-cream?”
Cookies n Cream as skincare was always going to win us over, plus the brand’s Super Serums have found favour with the likes of Lisa Eldridge and have currently shot It’s Skin to the status of ASOS’ bestselling skincare brand. Millie has a beauty dupe theory for why that might be:
“The brand offer six serums and the Power 10 YE Effector is a dead ringer for the much-loved Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. This elixir is a real treat for dry skin and at just £12 a pop it’s a total steal.”
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A US brand with Korean heritage (CEO Jane Park is all about addressing American beauty blunders such as using too much soap and scrubby exfoliation), Julep has a trend-led approach to makeup and skincare, and you’ll be able to buy it in the UK from January on QVC. As a taster to whet your appetite, the Love Your Bare Face Detoxifying Cleansing Stick is particularly popular and suitably zany for those accustomed to cleansing gel only, while the Deep Sleep Facial Mask makes the South Korean dedication to face masks appropriate for a time pressed, less dermatologically conscientious Western market- just smooth on at the peptide-heavy treatment at bedtime and wake to brighter and more supple skin. In short, Julep offers the best of both worlds.
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