Koreans never tire in their pursuit for beauty, which is often either made possible by a strictly regimented and vast arsenal of beauty products or plastic surgery. While they’re most famous for the latter, there are quite a few less permanent ways to get glowy, K-pop-music-video-ready skin. With the help of a few Korean beauty imports, it’s never been easier to do so — especially since they’ve gone mainstream (there’s a Missha located at the mall close by me!). The following is a list of my five favorite Korean beauty stores (in no particular order), plus one product I absolutely can’t live without from each company. Get your beauty on!
1) Club Clio
This brand’s specialty is colorful, funky and youthful makeup in a myriad of colors. Think of Club Clio as the MAC of Korea — like MAC, they have their own celeb spokespeople. Clio’s current model and spokesperson is none other than Dara of 2NE1, who appears in all their current ad campaigns and commercials.
Gelpresso Waterproof Pastel Upper Liner -
Koreans chicks love intensely lined eyes, so it’s no surprise that Club Clio’s bestselling item is their Gelpresso Waterproof Pastel Upper Liner. It is applied with a creamy twist-up soft plastic pencil and acts like regular pencil eyeliner. However, it’s different from regular pencil eyeliners due to being completely waterproof and therefore smudge proof, which comes in handy in the hot, humid summer heat.
2) Nature Republic
Beloved by both Koreans and beauty junkies alike, Nature Republic’s hallmark is a green, natural and youthfully fresh image, most recently embodied by SNSD’s Taeyeon as well as EXO and G-Dragon in past campaigns. However, some do complain that the brand is not 100% natural, as many products contain synthetic ingredients like propylene glycol, alcohol, mineral oil and parabens. Still, for items that are adorably packaged and pleasantly scented, this place isn’t half bad!
SoothingMoisture Aloe Vera 92% Gel -
It’s no contest here — everyone seems to love NR’s bestselling SoothingMoisture Aloe Vera 92% Gel. The fast-absorbing, clear gel is multipurpose, making it a great investment at only around $6 for over a cup of product. Use it as an all-body moisturizer, hair styler, aftershave, or sunburn soother. No wonder it regularly sells out!
If you’re looking for affordable, no-nonsense products that work, Missha has a simple answer for you. The company has been around since 2000, and just three years later, it has already built a solid fan following of over 10 million. Though there are only two stores in the U.S. (NY and HI), Missha does offer an awesome “Missha VIP” loyalty program that gives you preferential pricing, birthday rewards and 10 percent Missha cashback after spending only $200 in a calendar year.
M Perfect BB Deep Cleansing Oil -
BB cream lovers, take note: at the end of the day, all you really want is to take it all off and have a smooth, clean face, no? This top-rated cleanser does all that and even removes the waterproof kind, so you don’t have to sweat over getting all that gunk off before bed. In general, oil-based cleansers work well on makeup by breaking it down through emulsification. Plus, it leaves your skin soft and moisturized!
Food shouldn’t just be nourishment for your body, but also your skin. That seems to be the guiding principle behind SK’s ever-popular cosmetics and skincare line Skinfood. Inspiration for both ingredients and packaging for every item in their line come from actual food products, like honey, tomatoes, sake and even muffins. The owner of the company has been in the cosmetics industry since 1957, so I’m guessing they know what they’re doing!
Red Orange Sun Pact SPF 50 -
Applying sunscreen can be a total pain — not only does it stain your clothes if you accidentally smear some on, but it takes a bit of rubbing into the skin for it to absorb and not leave a white residue. Enter the Red Orange Sun Pact SPF 50, which comes in a convenient powder compact for a mess-free application. It protects with a high SPF while banishing oily summer skin at the same time. Talk about handy!
5) The Face Shop
In Korea, The Face Shop is akin to Duane Reade in the USthey’re everywhere and their products are super affordable. Products are similarly based on a natural, green and holistic theme, which seems to be a common thread when it comes to Korean beauty products. After being bought by LG in 2009, The Face Shop continues to thrive with over 900 stores in multiple major cities.
Blackhead EX Charcoal Pore Strip –
Blackheads, Beware: one of my favorite products from The Face Shop is their Blackhead EX Charcoal Pore Strip, which has top reviews for effectiveness and value at $5.00 for a pack of seven strips. Reviewers agree that a veritable “blackhead forest” can be extracted after one use, and I have to warn you, it’s incredibly addictive (and extremely stress-relieving). Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy!