24 European Beauty Products Korean Girls Love

The French have their “effortless” beauty, and the Americans have “woke up like this.” Among the countries that wield cosmetic influence, South Korea has had a pretty significant impact. This is due in large part to the discerning tastes and demands of Korean women. To say they are receptive when it comes to trying new things is putting it mildly. There is a palpable hunger in the way many Korean women seek out beauty treatments and products.

I wrote about the most popular products Korean women crave from the States, and in this follow-up, I’m upgrading from country to continent and calling out the European products Korean women can’t get enough of. There is a certain cachet about Europe — the packaging, the scents, the foreign languages. I fall for it. There will be some usual suspects — Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, Clarins — but there will be some eyebrow-raisers as well. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it’s intriguing to see the kinds of products Korean women choose to stock their vanities with.

Click through to see the European products Korean girls go crazy for. Who knows? You might find a few new favorites for yourself.
1 of 25
Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Vernis À Lèvres Glossy Stain In Coril Fauve
Though the Touche Éclat is a YSL favorite globally speaking, the brand's Glossy Stain is Korea’s must-have item. With over 12,000 reviews on Naver Shopping (Korean Amazon) and beauty awards from just about every major Korean magazine, it seems that every woman here owns this lip stain-lip gloss hybrid — in at least a few shades.

Part of this gloss’ popularity is due to what it means to own the coveted product. Because it wasn’t sold domestically until the past few years, having one of these in your cosmetics pouch was a sign of being well-traveled. It's also painfully easy to apply, and doesn’t mandate precise application to impart a natural stain of color to the lips.

The most popular shade is Coril Fauve because when it comes to which shade lipstick you should wear, Korean women believe that you’re either a “pink” or an “orange” based on your skin tone. Coril Fauve is a safe and versatile blend of the two hues.
2 of 25
Dior Addict Lip Glow
When Dior Addict Lip Glow first arrived in Korea in 2009, it sold out within a week, leaving a trail of over 100 people on the waiting list for the next shipment. According to Dior Korea, it now sells about 1,000 Lip Glows a day.

The lip balm-like product is a sheer, lip-moisturizing stick that adapts to its wearer’s natural lip color with a subtle blushed, healthy glow. The original was loved for its natural pink shade, while the newest hue to arrive in Korea is a coral with a bit more pigment.
3 of 25
Bioderma Sébium Micelle Solution
Swiping down your face with a cleansing water instead of washing it is a very French thing, and leading the hugely popular movement is Bioderma Sébium Micelle Solution. Since it launched three years ago in Korea, over a million bottles have been sold.

One of the main reasons Bioderma’s cleansing water has become so popular is because Korean women are all about eliminating unnecessary tugging or friction on the face. I learned this from impatiently watching my mom carefully pat 45 minutes of products into her face at night (wait your turn, field trip permission slip).

This solution skips over the harsh, stripping, drying effects of a cleanser to effectively cleanse skin with a few cotton-soaked laps around the face. It's gentle enough to get right up in your eyes and effective enough to remove the most stubborn of mascaras (Bioderma Korea recommends soaking a cotton pad and gently patting/massaging it over the lids for seven seconds).

Effective yet gentle, pH-balanced, and doubles as a makeup remover and cleanser — I can’t see how this wouldn’t be a hit.
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Giorgio Armani Maestro Fusion Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15
When it comes to coverage products, Korean women tend to favor BB and CC creams and tinted moisturizers over foundation. But for special occasions, there’s usually something splurge-worthy with a bit more coverage on reserve, and that is often Giorgio Armani foundation.

Korean women love Giorgio Armani foundation because of its lightweight, natural coverage. The Maestro makeup is a unique emulsion of dry oil and superfine pigment, delivering coverage that allows skin to still look like skin. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this foundation’s success can be measured in the number of copycats it’s inspired.
5 of 25
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970
P50 is one product I love so much that it makes me nervous to even write about it. Kind of like the time I had to write about my favorite moisturizer and ended up writing a book of a slide, and was told to maybe calm down a bit. P50 is like a toner, and it smells absolutely terrible — like tank-of-gas, “no sex for me, please” terrible. The container is also zero sexy, covered in font last seen on a floppy disk. But everything it lacks in beauty, it transfers to your face.

Beauty editors have referred to it as "Jesus in a bottle," but I think “Benjamin Button in a bottle” is more accurate. On a vaguely related note, Brad Pitt reportedly uses P50 — and so does a cohort of equally beautiful and famous people. In Korea, P50 is just as hyped up and difficult to find as elsewhere. Only very fancy spas have the privilege to sell it: The new Four Seasons Seoul (opening October 1!) will exclusively carry Biologique Recherche in its spa.
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Bio-Oil Multiuse Skincare Oil
Korean women love to doctor makeup products and find new, inventive ways of using them outside of their prescribed roles. This is why Bio-Oil is a must-have for so many. It’s a multi-purpose blend of plant oils that helps improve skin tone, and you can use it as a straight-up face moisturizer or as a serum for hair ends.

In Korea, things get a little bit more creative. One to three drops of the oil mixed with foundation allows for light, glowy coverage, and a few drops added to a heavy face cream makes for an ultra-moisturizing mask. Model Haena Song likes to mix hand cream with a few drops of Bio-Oil, and wear plastic lunch-lady gloves for five to 10 minutes for super-soft hands and moisturized cuticles.

Bio-Oil Multiuse Skincare Oil, $19.99, available at Ulta.
7 of 25
Omorovicza Queen Of Hungary Mist
If the popularity of Belif Hungarian Water Essence and the Korean launch of Hungarian brand Omorovicza are any indication, Hungary is having a power moment in the Eastern beauty world. I personally imagine it to be a land of thermal spas and Barbara Palvin.

Omorovicza (pronounced Oh-more-o-veet-za) is a luxe beauty brand powered by the spa culture and mineral-rich waters of Hungary, and its Queen of Hungary mist is amazing. Spraying this on gets me heady, as in, I actually feel like a queen. First off, the smell is beautifully herbal and transportive — but the mist is more than just great-smelling water.

Unlike the many toners out there that tend to be astringent, the Queen of Hungary mist works more like toners or treatment essences do in Korea. This means that as it refreshes and moisturizes, it also tones and deposits minerals deep into skin.
8 of 25
Rene Furterer Karité Intense Overnight Nourishing Treatment Leave-In
I’ve mentioned that Korea’s domestic hair-care industry is pretty lackluster, especially when compared to all the rock-star skin-care products the country produces. Rene Furterer is one of the most popular hair-care brands, and interestingly enough, the focus is more on treatment than shampooing. Only three of Rene Furterer’s top 10 best sellers in Korea are shampoos. The rest are hair-treatment products, many from the popular Karité line, which centers on shea butter.

The Intense Overnight Nourishing Treatment is my everything. I love the idea of running this through my hair and waking up to a healthier mane. And thankfully, it’s super fast-absorbing so there are no issues with marking up the sheets. It also doesn’t need to be washed out in the morning, so you can just get on with your life.

But the real secret here is that the gel-like mask needn’t be confined to the graveyard shift. Because it absorbs quickly into hair with zero residue, I find myself reaching for it at all hours of the day — it also works wonders as an anti-frizz serum to quickly plump up dried-out, straw-like hair.
9 of 25
Guerlain Abeille Royale Face Treatment Oil
Taking cues from the iPhone and indicative of China’s growing influence, gold is having a moment over here in East Asia, and that’s most evident in the Midas touch in skin-care products, cosmetics, and even packaging. Guerlain’s golden Abeille Royale line has done massively well in Korea.

Korean women typically purchase the Daily Repair Serum, which looks like little gold balls suspended in gel, and the Face Treatment Oil, a honey-toned serum, as a highly Instagrammed pair. The Serum contains microbeads filled with anti-aging and skin-smoothing ingredients that burst on contact with skin to absorb and firm up the dermis.

The Treatment Oil has a cooling effect and treats skin to a dewy, honeyed glow. This year, it was the number-one best seller in Korean department stores among facial oils. When the product first launched in Korea in 2013, it sold out within two months, and in 2014, sales increased 144% — prompting the release of an even bigger, 50-ml limited-edition vial (the original is 28 ml).
10 of 25
Clarins Instant Light Lip Comfort Oil
Lip treatments speak to the Korean trend of healthy skin before anything else. Rumor has it that this little lip product became popular among beauty editors and social media influencers, and through the power of hashtag, three months of stock sold out in two weeks when it launched in Korea, leaving a one-month wait time for the unlucky.

The lip oil comes in two gorgeous, yet subtle tints: honey and raspberry, and the formula of mirabelle plum, jojoba, and hazelnut oils does an amazing job of moisturizing and plumping up the lips to a ridiculously healthy pout.

But the most innovative thing about it is its generously large, plush, padded cushion-tip applicator, which mimics a fingertip and glides on as easily and comfortably. It’s like rubbing your lips with a kitten (please don't do that). Though it seems like just an adaptation of the narrower lip gloss applicator, I would see this same wider applicator again and again in Korean product launches to follow. Unfortunately, this product is limited-edition, so get your hands on it while you can.
11 of 25
Geomar Thalasso Scrub
This scrub is apparently one product Italian women cannot live without, and I guess now that’s true of Korean women, too. I had never heard of it until I noticed it being sold everywhere. For four years, it's been the number-one best-selling scrub in Olive Young (Korean Sephora), and even on the late-night GS home-shopping network, there were 10 sold per second resulting in it being sold out 20 minutes into the show.

I mean, Korean women REALLY love this scrub. To be precise, 37,875,000 units have been sold in Korea so far. That is a lot of dead skin that’s been done away with.

It’s formulated with sea salt and essential oils, and removes dead skin cells and impurities, but its claim to fame goes beyond exfoliation. Many Korean women use this scrub to massage around their bodies as a way of body-sculpting. Though I would be skeptical if it actually possesses slimming powers, it’s favored by a culture that takes exfoliation very seriously (if you haven’t been shame-shown a mitt of your dead skin by a Korean scrub mistress, you haven’t lived).
12 of 25
Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse
When it comes to skin in Korea, moisture has never been more in. Even with makeup, the trend is to have dewy, almost wet-looking skin. This is one reason facial oils have become so big, and though the trend has been diluted to include mists, bounce creams, and more, Korean women have not strayed from their multi-purpose oils.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse is a dry-oil blend that can be used year-round all over the body, face, and hair. On top of its multitasking abilities, the reason we love it so much is that it moisturizes like a cream, makes the skin velvety-soft, and doesn’t leave behind an oily residue.
13 of 25
Uriage Stick Lèvres
It isn’t necessarily a Korea-specific trend to love French drugstore brands, but what I find interesting is that drugstores in Korea (which really only sell drugs and maybe some Band-Aids) have started carrying brands like Vichy, Avène, La Roche-Posay, and Uriage. One of the most popular items is Uriage Stick Lèvres. Yes, the French ChapStick.

On Naver Shopping, it has a near-perfect rating of 4.9 out of five stars with 15,000 reviews. If that isn’t everyone screaming, “It’s the best!” I don’t know what is. Though a bit expensive for a lip balm, this stuff is magic on the chappiest of lips.

It doesn’t just sit on top of your lips. Lip lines disappear as it penetrates the skin and gives the lips a suppleness. I’ve definitely thrown on lipstick only to silently curse the patchy mess that gives away the not-so-hydrated condition my pucker is in. It’s a waste of a Tom Ford swipe! Ensuring all the effort of over-lining isn’t for naught, Uriage’s wonder ChapStick is worth the investment.
14 of 25
Malu Wilz Camouflage Cream
Korean women are all about the lowest effective dose of coverage products, but for all the love of being barefaced, there’s a strong demand for heavy-duty cover-ups, too. Tattoos, largely associated with organized crime, are taboo in Korean culture. Though perceptions of tattoos are changing with celebrities and K-pop stars publicly sporting their ink, more conservative settings and interactions still call for concealer. For example, I have a friend who conceals the little Rihanna-esque tattoo below her ear every time she sees her parents.

To that aim, we call on the Germans. This isn’t so surprising if you consider that BB cream is actually a German innovation that the Korean cosmetic industry has improved upon and made popular. Malu Wilz Camouflage Cream is a heavily pigmented concealer; just watch how it covers a tattoo. Because it packs so much pigment into a concentrated cream, a small amount has some potent camouflaging powers.

It's so popular that it's actually sold out on Amazon in the U.S. If you've got great sleuthing skills (and friends in Europe), you might be able to track it down. Or just add it to your wish list and hope it gets a restock soon.
15 of 25
Casmara Rejuvenating Algae Peel Off Mask
Casmara is a Spanish spa brand that makes rubber masks, which are a mainstay of any Korean facial treatment. Casmara peel-off masks contain algae, so they're packed with nutrients that will leave your skin highly hydrated and healthy-looking.

Each mask revolves around a power ingredient that offers different skin-care benefits, but the most popular is Rejuvenating, which contains 24-karat gold (I did mention gold is trending hard in Korea right now), magnesium, and calcium. Spreading on this “liquid gold” results in a drippy mess and not nearly the glamorous Tutankhamun look I was hoping for, but the post-treatment benefits are apparent. The skin feels rejuvenated and hydrated — though personally, I prefer the Casmara Vitamin Vegetable Mask, which looks kind of gross but peels off to reveal fresh, glowing skin.
16 of 25
Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum
In a country always on the lookout for the newest ingredients in skin care, antioxidant-rich wine was an easy sell that has made its way into sheet masks, toning pads, and other skin-care products. At the height of the craze, LG Household & Health Care, Korea’s second-largest cosmetics conglomerate, bought licensing rights to Davi, the luxury skin-care incarnation of Robert Mondavi winery in Napa, which is maybe why the first-class cabin of Korean Air is now stocked with Davi products.

French brand Caudalie's Vinoperfect Radiance Serum is the best-selling wine-centric product in Korea because of its reputation in minimizing hyperpigmentation and dark spots. It’s been the best-selling product for Caudalie Korea for five years running. It’s so popular that Korean Duty Free exclusively sells it in twos, perhaps a testament to its efficacy in evening out skin tone.
17 of 25
Cath Kidston Provence Rose Hand Cream Trio
I don’t really understand the Korean obsession with all things Cath Kidston, which is not a beauty brand but a British brand that carries everything. By everything, I mean totes, wallpaper, lip balm, iPhone cases, tablecloths, recipe boxes, soaps, and the list goes on.

It’s become so popular that even 7-Eleven in Korea carries its hand creams, so now I have to write about it even though the trend has me wondering if this will be like the time I watched all my friends buying Vera Bradley and wondered if that was a great idea.
18 of 25
Melvita Huile D'Argan
Anyone who’s swiped a man's razor for a little maintenance knows that sometimes, beauty is about sharing. Melvita is a natural French brand and part of the L’Occitane group, which produces family-friendly products that can be shared among the full spectrum of humans from babies, hormonal teens, stressed-out adults, to sweet, old grannies.

Melvita has become so popular in Korea that it's even opened a flagship store on the main drag of Garosu-gil. If you need a reference point to know what a big deal this is, it’s in Gangnam — yes, the very one Psy sings about. One of the brand's current best-sellers is its 200-ml container of argan oil, which is just double the price of the 50-ml — an amazing value. The oil is cold-pressed and can be used from the hair to the toes; it also contains vitamin E.
19 of 25
Kamill Classic Hand & Nail Cream
Hand lotion — so boring, I know. It’s back to the Germans on this one for a cream that gets all the attention for the right reasons. Kamill Hand & Nail Cream is the best-selling hand cream in Olive Young because it moisturizes well, doesn’t have a polarizingly annoying scent, and costs less than your average lunch.
20 of 25
Dior One Essential City Defense
Stinging eyes and navigating polluted dust clouds are things only Burning Man can glamorize — and there are drugs there. When it comes to skin, sometimes I wonder if just existing in Seoul is prematurely aging me. So it’s a commonly repeated maxim that having something, anything on your face is better than venturing out barefaced.

Dior One Essential City Defense Pollution and UV Shield is more than just a sunscreen. The formula creates an invisible “shield” (says the brand) against toxins that lasts eight hours. Because we know all that the sun, with its youth-robbing UV rays, and the environment, with its skin-destroying free radicals, do to skin, this product has become so popular in Korea — though not quite as popular as the OG, the One Essential Super Serum, which is sold here every three minutes.
21 of 25
Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne
This list can’t exist without at least one fragrance, given how trendy scents are in Korea. It has come to the point that Jo Malone, Acqua di Colonia, Byredo, and Creed are almost “basic” territory.

Of this power group, Jo Malone pulls the biggest sales numbers in Korea. Its popularity stems from simple, delicate scents that can be worn cleanly or layered. Korean women tend to buy Jo Malone like ordering tapas — mixing and layering small vials of beautifully crafted scents. That’s one way never to end up having the same signature scent as your BFF. The most popular scent is Wood Sage & Sea Salt, followed by Lime Basil & Mandarin.
22 of 25
Rap Phyto Light Legs Gel
With a slogan like “Goodbye elephant legs,” I don’t see how Rap Phyto’s gel wouldn’t have been a hit. The cooling property of a skin-care product is a common sticking point with Korean consumers, with the number of degrees a product is able to cool your skin often being a bullet point in its description.

Rap Phyto is a French brand, and its Light Legs Gel is a best seller at Olive Young. The formula contains menthol and other crazy-sounding botanicals, like horse chestnut (skin softener), butcher's broom (anti-inflammatory), and crowberry (antioxidant). This product is especially popular for pregnant women and those often on their feet for long hours, like flight attendants, sales clerks, and teachers.
23 of 25
Sisley Intensive Dark Spot Corrector
A smooth, blemish-free complexion is one of the most desirable beauty traits for Korean women, but for all the products that tout “whitening” or “brightening” powers, few produce noticeable results. We love this handy dark-spot corrector from Sisley because it’s easy to use and effective. Elle Girl Korea's beauty editor recommends using it twice a day for four weeks for noticeably brighter, more even-toned skin.
24 of 25
Biotherm Homme UV Defense High Protection Fluid SPF 50+++
So this is kind of a surprise, but Biotherm’s successes in Korea, relative to the rest of the world, are bigger among men than women. According to Biotherm Korea, men continue to pull bigger sales figures for the brand than anywhere else in the world.

One of its best sellers is this sunscreen, which is specifically designed for male faces. Weighing in as a female who’s tried it, I don’t think men should be the only ones reaping its benefits. It's lightweight and doesn’t leave the face scary-white, and I love that it comes “pocket-shaped” for easy portability.
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