When in Korea, do as the Koreans do: Skincare Edition

Programs for this blog post

Arts + Sciences

Authored By:

Ekram B.

A few weeks after I got here and splurged some $$$ at Olive Young (most popular drugstore here), I thought to myself...

"these people are onto something!"

No, because I mean it when I say you genuinely see results? I say this as if I have been nothing but scammed all my life with regards to skin products but please let me elaborate. Thankfully, I have never struggled with any serious skin concerns - my skin is on the drier end but that's about it for me. Sure, as a POC i do struggle with small degrees of hyperpigmentation and discoloration but then again who doesn't. I've bought multiple products from time to time, all promising results after X number of weeks or after you finish 20 bottles (can't we be a little more efficient?) but none of which worked. I guess moisturizers always do their job (literally the bare minimum) but I was always frustrated with discoloration.

Coming here, one thing I knew I HAD to do was slowly ditch everything I had been using and include K-beauty products in my daily routine. Keep in mind that you have to do this slowly, or else your skin will have a hard time adapting to all those new products you'll be using and it would be exceptionally hard to figure out what irritated your skin if that were to happen. Over the span of a month or so would be best I say since that worked for me and time is a precious resource here as well.

There's nothing more direct and real as describing my reaction after those few weeks as saying that I was outright surperised. Pure shock. Those magical potions actually worked. Boom. Science.

Now I don't know who (made this work), how (it works) or why (it works), but I do know what (works) and where (to get it from). Which is what this blog will be on!

P.S: I do have a "why" question that I can answer, and that is "why should I try this?", and my answer's simple. When in Korea, do as the Koreans do. I just think that the avialabiity of such good products here is something to be taken advantage of. I confidently say you'd be missing out if you were to completely ignore the existence of such effective products that do not falsely advertise (as commonly as they do in the West). It could be just me, but I find it nice not to be scammed...

K-beauty: Where?

Now because I will be talking about specific products that I was/am most satisfied with, I would best recommend going to a larger Olive Young somewhere in Korea (especially when it's sales season) or simply heading online (G-market, SSG...etc) and getting them cheaper (relative to all-year round prices). Something I find unique to Korea is how common 1+1 offers are, which is really beneficial to this purpose as you get more bang for your buck, and we're talking about products that actually work.

Of course, you can always feel free to go to to the actual stores of some brands like Innisfree, Banila Co., Skinfood, and Nature republic...etc and more often than not, you'll find that they're also running their own sales in parallel. It's just a little more inconvenient to do this as I'm a strong believer that not every product under the same brand is equally effective, and in fact there are very specific "holy grail" products that are popular for that very reason.

K-beauty: What?

I would like to open this section with a heads up that I have not yet tried any moisturizers from here whatsoever. This is not because they do not work or because there are no good ones, but mainly due to the fact that all I need my moisturizer to do is simply just moisturize and I find that the one I brought from back home does the job pretty well (and probably will last me quite a while). What I did try and absolutely adore is Illiyoon's Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream which is a moisturizer for the body and I literally feel velvety even hours after applying it.

I should mention that There are a few moisturizers I am keeping my eyes on and plan to take with me back home and that is Aestura's Atobarrier 365 cream, The Klairs' Rich moist soothing cream, and The true cream by Belif. I have also not tried any face masks just because I find them the least effective when it comes to skincare. The only times I would put one on was when I mentally needed one (to induce the feeling or relaxation? self-care?)

What I have, in fact, tried were sunscreens, toners, exfoliators, and ampoules. I will first start with ones that I am planning to buy after having tried samples that were given to me. I haven't had enough experience with the products to full-out recommend them, but I really liked using them those few times that I was able to. Also! The reason I haven't gotten my hands on them yet is because they're sold out from all the Olive Youngs close to me... Surprisingly, all the products are from Ma:nyo (I guess what I said earlier about only a few products being effective doesn't stand here ><), but the ones I NEED are the Blackhead Kill Pad, Blackhead & Pore Toner (those two are in the same line) as well as the Bifida Biome Ampoule Toner. There's also a few sunscreens I'm planning to take back home, some of which are the Klair's, P:rem, Etude House's Soon Jung, and AHC's Sun Stick.

There's also quite a few products which I bought but haven't gotten to integrate into my skincare routine yet. I bought them due to overwhelmingly good reviews along with the fact that Olive Young had their largest annual sale a week after I arrived and thought "why not". Round Lab's Birch Juice Sunscreen, COSRX's Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, Ma:nyo's Galactomy Peeling Gel, Dr.G's Green Mild Up Sunscreen

Now onto the ones I have tried and liked most:

  • Mamonde's Retinol Ampoule Toner: I use this after washing my face at night and makes my face feel like a baby's butt. 10/10
  • COSRX's Original Clear Pad: Multiple times a week as I have dry skin. There's no specific time of the day (night or morning) as long as it's right after washing my face. The thing aout this product is that it doesn't have any particular effect right upon aplication, but I find that when using it, my skin has not flaked even once. I don't feel as strongly about it but it's definitely effective 9/10 ?
  • Banila Co's Original Clean It Zero: No complainets whatsoever. I haven't worn a full face of makeup since buying this, but boy does it get eye makeup off. I've had the urge (and gave in) to use it even when my face just felt grimy and had no makeup on. You can also get it all in your eyes and it won't even sting or irritate them. 10/10, a product that overperforms.
  • Beauty of Joseon's Relief Sun Rice + Probiotics: I'm starting this off by saying that this product is very lowkey here in Korea. Most people barely heard of the brand and it has much more presence in the international market. I'm very on the fence of this being the "holy grail" product it is known for being. It has a tone-up effect which leaves a minimal white cast (still somewhat visible) and it can feel irritating at times. I still haven't figured out when or why it can irritate me (I really wouldn't call my skin sensitive) so I would beware with this one if skin sensitivity is a concern of yours. 6/10, I'm not very motivated to use a product that has consequences...
  • Ma:nyo's Pure & Deep Cleansing Foam: There's nothing to say about this beside the fact that I really like it. One of the few foaming cleansers that has not left my skin feeling stripped and dry. I wouldn't use it more than once a day, but I've never had the need to. 10/10
  • Sioris' Day by Day Cleansing Gel: Very gentle on my skin, I use this in alternation with the cleansing foam. If you're someone that needs to see foam when washing your face, I would stay away from this product. This is not to say it doesn't work - I find that it cleanses pretty well for something that does not foam almost whatsoever. 9/10
  • Nature Republic's Green Derma Mild Cica Serum: I ought this on sale and use it for convenience. I'm quite sure what it does and remain uneducaed about this product although I use it daily. I wouldn't buy this product again though as there's probably a whole load of other serums that probably do something more than just add moisture (?) which I feel is the only thing is product does for me. 5/10, very average.
  • Dr.G Brightening Peeling Gel: This does its job? I've used this a few times by now and I guess it does exfoliate but... it feels fake? I'm not so sure about it... Maybe it's just really gentle for an exfoliator? 7/10?
  • Cell Fusion C's Laser Sunscreen: A sunscreen that did not leave a white cast or irritate my skin! 10/10


It's safe to say I'm still on my journey of exploring all the options here and trying different things out. My purpose of this blog was to encourage you to do the same when coming to Korea! I don't know about where you're from, but the markup prices for K-beauty products where I'm from are crazy. It's also worth it afterall seeing as most products actually do what they claim to do :)