your ultimate guide to k-beauty
Korean skin-care has hit the states — and here’s what you need to know.
By Claire Fontanetta
Paid for by
What’s up with K-beauty?
There’s a reason it’s so popular.

K-beauty is literally everywhere you turn. But what even is it — aside from a set of products with ridiculously cute packaging? (Panda face masks, we’re looking at you.)

Well, for starters, the “K” stands for Korean, meaning that technically any beauty product originating from South Korea is included. But ever since the skin-care subcategory hit the states back in 2011 with the launch of BB creams, the term has become synonymous with products that will #bless you with glowing, hydrated, and dewy skin.

In the past, you probably had to trek to your local Koreatown (or book a flight halfway around the world) to get your fix of K-beauty essentials. But now, all the K-beauty products you could ever need (from serums to eye creams) are readily avails at Sephora. One of our faves? This Laneige Water Sleeping Mask: an overnight gel mask you apply in the p.m., leaving you with a next-level glowing complexion come morning.

“Many K-beauty products are formulated to moisturize your skin rather than strip it of its natural oils.”
Charlotte Cho, Cofounder of Soko Glam
Why should I try it?
Because it’ll give you that lit-from-within glow you’ve been longing for.
Now that you know what K-beauty is, let’s get into the philosophy.
“The overall Korean skin-care philosophy is skin first,” says Cho. “Because if you have clear, hydrated skin, your makeup will look that much better.” Easier said than done? Not according to Cho, who says that the key to achieving radiant skin is to layer on multiple products.
“It’s all about starting with a clean canvas and layering on products that will seal in your skin’s moisture.”
Charlotte Cho
Sure, this might sound like a sticky mess, but many K-beauty formulas are lightweight and absorb quickly, so you never get that greasy or heavy feeling. “When it comes to eye creams, especially, many people think the thicker the formula the better, but it’s quite the opposite,” Cho insists. Look for light, water-based creams like the belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb, which will give your undereye area 26 hours (!) of moisture, reduce the appearance of fine lines, and prep your skin for a crease-free makeup application.
What’s what?
The ingredients you should definitely check out.
When searching for your next Korean beauty buy, you might notice some interesting ingredients — from egg to tiger grass.
While these components aren’t exclusive to K-beauty, they are unique, to say the least — and definitely worth trying. Here are some of our favorite ingredients to look out for.
Tiger Grass

Known for its healing properties, this herb is the main active ingredient in Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Re.Pair Serum, which promises to soothe redness, calm irritation, and support your skin’s natural barrier. (Fun fact: Legend has it that tigers rolled around in tiger grass to heal their wounds — hence how it got its name.)

Egg White

Think of boosters as concentrated serum-like formulas of active ingredients (like vitamin C) designed to be mixed in with your existing skin-care products (like moisturizer, serum, or cleanser). These are great for those who already have a routine they love but still want to reap the benefits of active ingredients.


Made up of 92% water, it’s no wonder why this yummy ingredient will hydrate and visibly plump up skin when applied topically. Look for it in hydrating masks and face creams.


This citrus fruit used in Korean cuisine and skin care is incredibly high in vitamin C, making it the perfect active ingredient if you want to visibly brighten dark spots and stimulate collagen, says Cho.

Snail Mucus (aka Snail Secretion Filtrate)

High in protein and peptides, this natural ingredient plumps up the skin and is said to mimic the moisturizing properties of hyaluronic acid. Plus, it’s naturally antimicrobial — meaning, it’s great for those with acneic skin.

How should I use it?
No, it won’t take a million steps.
Traditionally, K-beauty is rooted in an intensive 10-step routine that involves a serum, essence, ampoule, and mask. But TBH, it can be a little too involved for the average person.
According to Cho, you don’t need 10 steps to achieve the same results. Instead, try these three tips to get you started.
Double Duty

Start your routine by double cleansing with an oil-based cleanser to remove excess oil and makeup, followed by a water-based one to draw out sweat and dirt. “These two steps will allow your skin to better absorb the rest of the products in your routine,” says Cho.

Prep & Prime

Use a primer if you want that perfect-skin filter (you know the one we’re talking about) IRL. This Touch In Sol No Poreblem Primer instantly blurs pores and uneven skin tone, leaving your skin super smooth and prepped for your makeup application.

Layer Up

The key to dewy, hydrated skin is layering up on skin-care products. To narrow down your routine to one that’s more manageable, try a toner, serum, eye cream, and moisturizer (after cleansing, of course!). They’re the four most important formulas, according to Cho.

What products should I try?
Our favorite buys that belong on your vanity.
belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb
Available at Sephora
This refreshing, water-based eye cream will boost elasticity, prep your skin for a crease-free makeup application, and give your undereye area 26 hours of moisture. So even if you’re not the greatest at drinking your daily dose of H2O, this lightweight cream will give you the oomph that you need.
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Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
Available at Sephora
Go to bed knowing that this eight-hour time-release formula will hydrate your skin while you sleep, so you’ll wake up to a glowing complexion come morning. Plus, the mineral-packed gel absorbs super quickly, so you don’t have to worry about it ruining your fancy pillowcase.
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Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Re.Pair Serum
Available at Sephora
Basically Zen in a bottle, this formula featuring herbs and minerals like tiger grass and magnesium will soothe and calm skin irritation — especially for those who struggle with redness or have super sensitive skin. Namaste.
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Touch In Sol No Poreblem Primer
Available at Sephora
A touch of this silky primer in the a.m. will not only make your makeup last, but it’ll also blur the look of your pores, smooth out your skin tone, and give you a selfie-ready complexion. It’s essentially the perfect canvas for your makeup.
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