Under-The-Radar Korean Beauty Products People in Seoul are Obsessed With

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Although I live in New York City, many of my friends call Seoul, South Korea, home. Through our many FaceTimes, KakaoTalk messages, and visits, they've introduced me to trendy Korean beauty brands that haven't made their way to America yet, like Hince, Sioris, and Nonfiction. They also share their picks from K-beauty brands we know and love in the U.S., such as Sulwhasoo, Dr. Jart, and Nature Republic. Every time I hear about their favorite products, I'm fascinated by how different they are from our stateside K-beauty offerings.

We're only exposed to a fraction of what is available on the other side of the world, and we are missing out on dreamy lip tints, barely-there cushion foundations, and magical moisturizers. With this in mind, I put my friends' makeup, hair, and skin-care selections in one place.

Some background on the names I'm about to mention: Daniella is my clean beauty expert. Whenever I see her, she always gives me a bag full of goodies made with natural, cruelty-free ingredients. When I want to know about the hottest brands at the moment, I go to Haylie. Joyce, founder of consulting agency Talk to Her, always has her eye out for the latest K-beauty innovations. Tattoo artist Young, on the other hand, mixes classic imports, like SK-II and Urban Decay, with unexpected K-beauty finds.

Consider this a list of K-beauty products Koreans actually use.

Mediheal N.M.F Intensive Hydrating Mask

The Mediheal N.M.F Intensive Hydrating Mask is a ubiquitous pick in Seoul. You can find it at almost every store that sells sheet masks. Joyce reaches for one most mornings because she can tell the difference its urea-and-hyaluronic-acid- soaked cloth makes for her skin.

Sioris Time is Running Out Mist

The powers of toner, serum, and mist combine with the Sioris Time is Running Out Mist, making it an essential in Joyce's routine. "It's moisturizing and softens my skin without leaving me feeling greasy," she says.

If you're rushing out of the house and don't have time for your full skin- care routine, just spritz on the dual-phase formula after washing your face. A nourishing medley of macadamia, jojoba, and sunflower oils floats in a fruit water base of either yuzu or plum, depending on the season the bottle was made in.

Nature Republic Soothing & Moisture Aloe Vera 92% Soothing Gel

The Nature Republic Soothing & Moisture Aloe Vera 92% Soothing Gel was the first of its kind in Korea and inspired dozens of brands to follow suit. Haylie says the original is the best one of the bunch, though. It slicks on with a non- sticky finish to heal and hydrate skin on your face and body.

Dr. Jart+ Shake & Shot Rubber Firming Mask

If you get a facial in Seoul, a layer of rubber is sure to completely cover your face – eyes and lips included – as a mask at some point. No matter where Daniella is, she can mimic this treatment herself (and you can, too) with the Dr. Jart+ Shake & Shot Rubber Firming Mask. The slightly creepy, face-topped cup contains two packages of ingredients (containing nourishing ceramides and fine line-smoothing retinol) you mix together to create the peel-off face mask.

VT Cosmetics White Glow CC Cushion

Although cushion compacts aren't as popular in America these days, they're a beloved staple in my friends' makeup routines. Haylie, in particular, is constantly trying out new ones, but the VT Cosmetics White Glow CC Cushion has become her favorite. "It gives me the best glow and natural look," she tells me. Plus, it acts as another layer of sun protection with SPF 50.

Gesgep One Drop Perfection

A little goes a long way is the ethos behind the Gesgep One Drop Perfection. The lightweight foundation Joyce swears by only requires a thin layer for full coverage. "I'd expect nothing less from a brand created by Korea’s top celebrity makeup artists, Son Dae Sik and Park Tae Yoon," she says. (They're also the masterminds behind the beloved Son & Park Beauty Water.)

9wishes Rice Foaming Cleanser

Just as its name suggests, rice is the star ingredient inDaniella's go-to face wash, the 9wishes Rice Foaming Cleanser. The grain – in water, extract, and powdered form – gently brightens, moisturizes, and exfoliates skin, so you can skip a scrub and not worry about your face feeling tight and dry after rinsing it off.

d'Alba Piedmont Peptide No-Sebum Balancing Toner

Toner is a non-negotiable step in many people's skin-care routines. After Korean dermatologists wash their faces, they grab their toner and pat it on within three seconds for immediate hydration. When Joyce does so, she goes for the d'Alba Piedmont Peptide No-Sebum Balancing Toner. It helps balance skin's pH levels while brightening with niacinamide and exfoliating with BHA. Joyce also points out vitamin C-rich white truffle extract is in the mix, too, for evening out skin tone.

Eclado Cell Memory Cream

The ingredient list for the Eclado Cell Memory Cream reads like a Sweetgreen order with its tomato, cabbage, celery, carrot, broccoli, and turnip extract. Stem cells were extracted from each to stimulate collagen product for plumper, smoother skin. Papaya extract also makes an appearance for brightening. No wonder Young says this is the best cream she's ever used.

3CE Take A Layer Multi Pot

The bright tangerine hue 3CE Take A Layer Multi Pot in #Common Time may seem intimidating, but it melts into cheeks, lips, and lids with a soft coral tint. "I was drawn to the pretty packaging first then stuck around because of the all- in-one convenience," Joyce says. "How the color worked with my skin and its texture sealed the deal for me."

Beyond Phyto Aqua Cream

Not only is the Beyond Phyto Aqua Cream my friend Haylie's personal favorite water-based moisturizer, but it's also a top pick on Hwahae, a popular app South Koreans rank and research beauty products on.

The oil-free formula relies on sap from bamboo and birch to sooth and hydrate complexions. Both are rich in amino acids and antioxidants to repair damaged skin barrier.

isoi Blemish Care Serum Plus

For breakouts, isoi Blemish Care Serum Plus is a pick I've heard about from my friend Kristine. A combination of gentle pimple-extinguishing ingredients come together in a powerful fluid, including healing Bulgarian rose oil, willow bark extract (a natural form of salicylic acid), and skin-repairing cica.

Hince Mood Enhancer Matte

The lipstick I keep hearing about lately is the Hince Mood Enhancer Matte. Its "moisturizing-yet-matte" formula, as Joyce calls it, comes in 10 sophisticated soft pink, red, and orange hues, but one aptly called ishonest is a crowd favorite. The light mauve is a pink-toned MLBB shade of your dreams.

re: p Nutrinature Ultra Nourishing Cream

You might have heard of Neogen already, but are you familiar with its clean line, re: p? The re: p Nutrinature Ultra Nourishing Cream, in particular, is packed with an abundance of oils – rosehip, argan, jojoba, bergamot, to name a few. Daniella throws it into her toiletry bag whenever she goes on trips because the pump is travel friendly.

Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion

Sulwhasoo's luxe skin-care offerings are widely available in the U.S., but Joyce recommends checking out its base makeup, too. The Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion, in particular, has the complexion benefits of its Best of Beauty award-winning products with SPF 50, brightening niacinamide, and nourishing honey but the dewy, full-coverage finish of an amazing, lightweight foundation.

Nonfiction Santal Cream Perfume

My friends in Korea are serious about their fragrances. One carries a full bottle of Tom Ford Rose Prick in her bag at all times, and another's stage name is inspired by a British perfumery. As far as Korea-made fragrances go, the Nonfiction Santal Cream Perfume is preferred. Produced with clean ingredients, the spicy scent draws notes from amber, sandalwood, cardamom, and ginger.

Zeroid Intensive Oint-Cream

Several K-pop stars may or may not have also told me on the DL they're fans of Zeriod. Dermatologists often recommend it to their patients because most of its lineup is so gentle you can use it on babies. Joyce picked up samples of the Zeroid Intensive Oint-Cream from her favorite dermatology clinic (Sejin Dermatology) and has been hooked ever since. She slathers on the ceramide- infused cream all winter long and on long flights to keep her skin hydrated for hours and keep it in peak condition.

3CE Velvet Lip Tint

Almost everyone I know keeps at least one tube of the 3CE Velvet Lip Tint in their purses and constantly refill their stashes. (I now keep one in mine, too.) #Daffodil, a brick red, is a popular pick. Its mousse-like texture doesn't suck the moisture out of lips and gives them a layer of color that ages well throughout the day by fading into a subtle wash.

Beigic Damage Repair Treatment Mask

ishonest Korea editors put Beigic on my radar after picking it as the Beigic Regenerating Oil as the best facial oil. Recently, I found out the clean beauty brand also has a hair-care line from Daniella, who often uses the Beigic Damage Repair Treatment Mask to keep her highlighted hair strong and sleek.

Just like everything else from Beigic, the pretty peach mask is free of silicones and spiked with green coffee bean oil, which is chockfull of amino acids to prevent hair loss.

Illiyoon Ultra Repair Intense Lotion

A beloved body lotion in Seoul is the Illiyoon Ultra Repair Intense Lotion. The deeply moisturizing formula is in a special pouch housed inside the bottle to make sure you don't waste a single drop of it. It also features a component of cica called madecassoside, which reduces redness and flaking.

White Rabbit Premium Perforated Cotton Pads

The White Rabbit Premium Perforated Cotton Pads, which Daniella got me into, are more like gauze than the cotton pads you might be used to. A soft, thin layer of material can be unfolded into a large rectangle that doubles as a makeshift sheet mask. Just soak it in toner and press it onto your skin.

LMW Shampoo

"Dr. Moon Won Lee has spent about 18 years on hair-loss research and experiments, and when I visited his clinic for hair treatments, I walked out of there with tons of products," Joyce says. The LMW Shampoo, which has a 20 percent concentration of Korean herbal medicine like ginseng and licorice root extracts, is the most notable. She believes it helps with thinning hair and rebalancing her sensitive scalp.

I Woke Up Like This Protective Base Sun Cream

I'm not exaggerating when I say Daniella has gone through a dozen tubes of I Woke Up Like This Protective Base Sun Cream. Its silky consistency moisturizes her dry skin and gives it a radiant finish without any chalkiness.

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