20 Mega-Popular Korean Beauty Staples

Because Korean cosmetics brands are so responsive to a finicky (and often flighty) consumer, they’re continually launching (and killing) products due to feedback and sales reports. While this model is great for getting rid of deadweight products and bolstering innovation, it also attracts some bizarre one-offs featuring outlandish ingredients. Horse oil, bird poop, pig collagen...I really think Koreans will take anything — dead or alive — and figure out if it has beautifying qualities. (Case in point: Etude House’s A to Z mask collection, offering everything from aloe to zucchini.)

Because the Korean cosmetics industry moves at such a fast pace, I’m constantly sifting through weird, desperate-for-attention ingredients and trying to determine if they’re legit. But despite all the marketing gimmicks, I’ve managed to whittle down the ever-growing list of options to a few major power players.

Ahead, I’ve compiled a glossary of the most popular ingredients in Korean cosmetics, along with a few of my favorite products that feature them. Read on to learn the power ingredients you need to know.


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