Korean Skincare is something that I’ve been interested in for a long time but found very complex and somewhat challenging for me to understand with the numerous steps and options. My friends have been raving about skincare items such as essences, pore packs, watery creams, overnight masks and sheer coverage balms and creams for a long time. Right now, Korean Skincare is trending now at Sephora and thanks to articles and shopping guides, they’ve now made the 10-step Korean Beauty routine easier to understand. As a beauty blogger I find it easy to navigate through cosmetic options, but for skincare, understanding the uses and benefits of creams, solid oils and masks are foreign to me. Sephora has an easy-to-follow Korean Beauty Guide with recommendations that I’ve found incredibly helpful. It’s helped me figure out when and how to incorporate new items into my skincare routine. I’ve teamed up with them to share my thoughts on 10 Korean skincare items I’ve been testing.
I’ve split the items I’ve tested into category type. As always I would love to hear about your recommendations and loves. I purchased the Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Oil Free Essentials Set based on your recs and have been really loving it so far (review to follow once I’ve used it up).
Double Cleansing is a something standard in Korean beauty rituals. I usually double cleanse with a wide variety of cleansing oils, makeup removers or cleansing waters as the first step before using a traditional gel, liquid or cream cleanser because it is really the best way to remove all traces of makeup from my skin. I tried the Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil ($39) which is a solid balm cleanser that transforms into a oil when it comes in contact with your face. It comes with a small spatula to remove product. You massage it all over the face and then rinse with water and it turns into a milky lotion. It has a fresh almost green tea spa scent but isn’t too strong. It does a pretty good job at removing makeup but I still think a follow up with regular cleanser is necessary. This leaves the skin feeling moisturized and clean. There’s no film residue.
Another cleanser I tested was the Too Cool For School Egg Mousse Soap Facial Cleanser ($20). This is a whipped egg white mousse cleaner with egg yolk extract. It’s a super gentle cleaner and the way it foams up makes it super fun to clean the face. The egg yolk combines milk proteins and amino acids to cleanse skin. It’s supposed to dissolve oil while leaving the skin smooth and moisturized. I found it to be a really good gentle cleaner suitable for my sensitive skin. I like using it in the morning – it leaves the skin clean without stripping the skin and it also makes the face glow without looking greasy. I’ve found the way it cleanses my skin is really nice – skin feels more balanced throughout the day.
Next up is the May Coop Raw Sauce ($14-$43) which is an essence. This is similar in concept to the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. You use this on the skin applied with fingers or a cotton pad after cleansing and toning. I always feel this is an unnecessary step in the skincare routine but I am really impressed every time I am disciplined enough to use an essence. It adds moisture and glow to the skin and is supposed to prep the face better for skincare serum and moisturizer absorption. This is made of maple tree sap and cruelty-free. After testing this for a few weeks I have to say I am impressed. This far exceeded my expectations in terms of how it has transformed my skin. I don’t use it everyday but it’s made the skin feel more hydrated. Dry patches have disappeared. Skin does indeed absorb moisturizer better. A little goes a long way. I think it will be a staple for winter.
Another line I just started testing is belif. The True Cream Aqua Bomb ($22 – $38)is a lightweight gel cream moisturizer that is oil-free. It has a bounce to it. In general I really do not like gel moisturizers (I have made a few exceptions) because I feel they end up feeling sticky and too dewy. The belif True Cream Aqua Bomb has made it into the exception category. It’s supposed to be designed for all skin types. For my normal, sensitive combo skin, this is a really nice lightweight moisturizer. I like that it really feels weightless. Skin feels smooth and there is no stinging sensation (I get that with a lot of gels).
Masks are a big deal with Korean Skincare. I tested three. First is the Dr. Jart+ Water-Max Sleeping Mask ($48). I prefer night creams to night masks because I usually don’t like the feel of product on my face when I sleep. The Dr. Jart+ however is a super lightweight mask. It is a gel formula but doesn’t feel sticky or leave any residue. It feels more like a lightweight lotion. I tested this on 1/2 of my face for a week to see if I could notice a difference between use and non-use. I can. You apply it at night and leave it on then rinse in the morning. The side I used it on looks more refreshed, smoother, plumper and more glowing.
The Erborian Waterlock Mask ($43) is another hydrating mask treatment. This also is a gel formula that feels like a thick jelly. There are a few ways you can use this. I used it as a 10-minute mask then rinsed off. This is one of the most gentle feeling face masks I’ve used that gives instant hydration. The moisturized feeling lasts after it washes off but there is no residue. It has bamboo sap and fibers designed to lock in hydration. There is a slight cooling feel that is very relaxing and soothing. It’s a refreshing moisture mask that I have fallen head over heels in love with.
The third mask I tried was the belif First Aid Transforming Peel Off Mask ($34). This is the first peel off mask I’ve tried that peels off with water. I really like peel off masks but often time they are messy and don’t peel off completely so I end up having to scrub residue off. This one you leave on for 15 minutes. When you rinse with warm water the dry mask turns into a peel off gel that easily peels off. It has lemon balm and white willow bark, which is a natural salicylic acid, which helps to clarify and soothe skin. After using this my pores disappear, skin feels ultra firm and smooth. I’m obsessed.
Pore Packs are new to me but I think if you try one new thing out of this roundup, pore packs should be one of them. Tony Moly Egg Pore Blackhead Steam Balm ($18) comes in an egg-shaped container. The bottom portion of the egg is filled with product. It’s a self-heating balm designed to target blackheads by opening pores with the heat and then remove dirt and oil. I think it’s a really good gentle treatment that makes a huge difference in cleaning out pores around the nose and mouth. It’s not a dramatic kind of facial treatment. I like to use this sometimes in conjunction with a clarifying mask or regular cleanser after this. The Egg Pore Balm helps open up pores. When I follow with a mask it draws out impurities even more. The heating element is noticeable but super gentle.
The Caolion Pore Pack ($30) is a stronger treatment. If you have sensitive skin you might want to try it on spots first. I used it all over the face and while it was perfectly fine and left my skin looking so much better, it does feel extra tingly. Some might find the tingle too strong. The top half is a dark mask that is the hot portion called Premium Blackhead Steam Pore Pack. This is a stronger version of the Tony Moly and cleans out pores and exfoliates dead skin. It made my nose pores disappear almost 100%. Pores along the cheeks and sides of the nose were noticeably smaller.
Step two is the cool portion which is the Premium Pore Original Pack. It has a menthol element that tightens pores even further and soothes the skin. I have extremely sensitive eyes and the first time I used it, I applied the menthol too close to my eyes which made them tear. It didn’t sting but the menthol is pretty strong. You can really feel it working on your skin and I was worried my face would be red and blotchy after I washed it off, but it left the face looking super smooth with all redness gone. If you have extra sensitive skin I would recommend using this more as a spot treatment on troubled areas.
Last but not least are two items called lightweight finishers. I’ve reviewed the AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact ($60) before and still love it. It has SPF 50 and protects against UVA and UVB. This is a very natural glowy product that melds into the skin unlike any other foundation I’ve tried. A huge bonus is that each pack comes with a refill so the price point to me is really reasonable. It’s a your-skin-but-better kind of product. I do think you need to set with a powder.
I also tried the Dr. Jart+ BB Beauty Balm ($39) which comes in two colors, 01 Medium Light and 02 Medium Deep. This is a one-step beauty balm that gives natural coverage and evens out the skin. It’s more pigmented than a lot of other beauty balms I’ve tried. I am a match to 02 Medium Deep which is on the greyish side but adjusts to my skintone right now. I think the downside to this product is the two colors make it hard to find a color match. If you can find a match, it’s a nice smoothing product. It makes my face and skin look more youthful without being overly dewy.
I hope you found this roundup helpful! There’s a lot I’ve tested and covered so I hope the categories helped break down the options by product type. My top three favorite items I tested in this round include the Dr. Jart+ Water-Max Sleeping Mask, Tony Moly Egg Pore Blackhead Steamer Balm and Erborian Bamboo Waterlock Mask although I did discover a lot of new things to love.
The Sephora Korean Beauty Guide and Posts on their blog The Glossy have helped me understand all the options better. Once I started to look at each product individually and incorporate them one at a time into my skincare routine it’s all started to make more sense. The process of using Korean skincare still contains a number of steps, some of which are more complex than my basic routine right now, but I can see a difference in clarity, texture and overall glow.
Sephora has been kind enough to give me extras of some items to giveaway. You can enter via the widget below. Due to liquid restrictions, this is open to US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. Items in the giveaway to 1 lucky winner will include the following:
Eborian Solid Cleansing Oil, Eborian Bamboo Waterlock Mask, Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Water-Max Sleeping Mask, Dr. Jart+ BB Beauty Balm, Amore Pacific Color Control Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50+, May Coop Raw Sauce, Too Cool For School Egg Mousse Soap Cleanser, Tony Moly Egg Pore, Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb, Caolion Premium Hot & Cool Pore Pack Duo, Shiseido Facial Cotton (selected winner will be able to select the colors for the foundation and bb beauty balm)
Enter via the widget below:
You can find a wide selection of Korean beauty products online and in stores at Sephora. I’m really thrilled with the selection and hope they continue to expand the brand offerings. Right now for a limited time you can get 1 of 4 K-Beauty Minis at checkout with code KBEAUTY with orders of $25 or more. In case you’re hesitant to splurge on the full size, there are a number of value sets available with trial sizes you might want to look into.
If you have any Korean Beauty favorites, please let me know!
Many thanks to Sephora for teaming up to sponsor this post. As always, all opinions my own.