It used to be that America was simply intrigued by Korean beauty. The introduction of sheet masks and oil cleansing a few years ago gave beauty junkies something new and exciting to incorporate into their tired skin-care routines. But now, Korean skin care and makeup have become staples of the beauty landscape in the U.S.
As the market for Korean-sourced products keeps growing, new brands are popping up on the shelves of popular mass retailers, like Sephora and Target. And since it's a field that moves quickly (and always seems to be ahead of the game), it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, we've compiled a roundup of the most exciting new — to the U.S., at least — brands and products you're going to want to check out ASAP.
Make.Prem's packaging looks like the Drunk Elephant of Korean skin care: It's super clean-looking with minimal text and soothing colors, like lavender and baby blue. This brand has become a favorite amongst K-beauty junkies due in part to its unique take on masks; its offerings go beyond sheet masks, with foil masks, in-shower masks and double-layer masks (two sheet masks that you wear at the same time to target separate issues), all of which have become cult favorites.
TRY: Make.Prem Soothing Layering Double Mask, $9, available at Glow Recipe. "I joke that this is a K-beauty routine condensed into sheet mask form," says Christine Chang, the co-founder of Glow Recipe. "It's genius to take the concept of layering skin care for longer, deeper hydration and infuse it into a sheet mask. The inner layer of the sheet is drenched in a hydrating essence, while the outer sheet layer has flaps which can hook securely around the ear. The mask stays on through any physical activity and because of the dual layers, stays moist for hours."
Make.Prem In Shower Mask, $36, available at Glow Recipe. "I love that the gel formula of the Make.Prem In-shower Mask hugs your face in the shower so that you can slather it on cleansed skin, then go about with the rest of your usual in-shower business," says Chang. "By the time I've washed and conditioned my hair, I've already gotten a good 10-plus minutes of masking in, with minimal effort."
"We launched this brand right around the holidays, but it's a classic brand that has been extremely well loved in Korea for a long time," says Alicia Yoon, the founder of Peach & Lily. "Over the last 10 years, this brand ranks as the number-one skin-care brand for those with sensitive skin by the Korea Power Brand Index." That fact could be due to the brand's patented ingredient, called MLE, which aims to mimic skin's natural moisture barrier as closely as possible. "Dermatologists recommend this product for those with skin issues like rosacea, eczema, dermatitis and redness," says Yoon.
TRY: Atopalm Moisturizing Facial Cleansing Foam, $23, available at Peach & Lily. Usually foaming washes are a huge disappointment, because the pH level is way too high and it leaves your skin feeling tight, dry and itchy. But Atopalm's foaming wash has a surprisingly low pH level — just enough to cleanse skin sufficiently and leave it soft and plump, rather than raisin-like.
Etude House is basically the MAC of K-beauty. As one of the most recognizable makeup brands in Korea, people flock to it for staples like CC cushions, lip glosses and mascara. But it's the brand's innovations that prompted Charlotte Cho, the co-founder of Soko Glam, to bring it to the U.S. market on her site. "It's a part of the AmorePacific group, one of Korea's largest global beauty companies, and a cult-favorite brand for many women around the world," says Cho.
TRY: Etude House Tint My Brows Gel, $11, available at Soko Glam. "You may have seen this product go viral online, but this peel-off gel brow tint is a painless way to naturally shade in your brows if you're not quite ready for microblading," says Cho. "Instead of filling in brows with wax or powder, Koreans love to temporarily tattoo their brows with with this gel."
This is a skin-care brand that's made for women who are all about a no-fuss lifestyle. J.One was founded by a popular Korean actress, Ha Ji-Won, and the whole idea is to provide products that give you real results with fast-acting methods of application. Take, for example, the brand's J. One Hana Cream, an antiaging moisturizer that comes in portioned capsules, allowing you to take one out every day and easily spread it across your face.
TRY: J.One Black Jelly Pack, $47, available at Glow Recipe. "Overnight masks are a great way to get a little extra skin TLC in, and I love waking up to glowing, hydrated skin," says Chang. "What I don't love is the richer overnight masks that leave formula all over my pillow. The J.One Black Jelly Pack is a new overnight mask that soaks right into skin without any heaviness or residue. The dark blue hue of the synthetic-dye-free formula is from a plethora of antioxidant rich ingredients, including blackberries and black cumin extract."
PEACH & LILY
Sure, we've been talking about the Korean brands Peach & Lily curates for years, but at the end of 2016, Yoon took it upon herself to actually create her very own sheet masks under the brand. And she did her research. "The first thing we did was to understand what people wanted in their dream sheet mask," says Yoon. "We received thousands of detailed comments, combed through it for themes that came up, and went straight to the labs with very specific feedback on what we wanted to deliver. Many top labs said that they wouldn't be able to develop a customized sheet mask like the ones we wanted to make, and wanted us to take base formulas that were off-the-shelf. Eventually, I found a couple of super-amazing labs that would work with me — they were extremely innovative and willing to truly collaborate to deliver exactly what people said that they wanted." After 18 months and 500 test formulas, Yoon perfected three sheet masks that sold out within a week of launching them.
TRY: Peach & Lily Reset Button Soothe + Restore Sheet Mask, $6, available at Peach & Lily. This is a favorite of the three masks because of its intense calming properties; it's spiked with lavender extract, chamomile and aloe to help put inflamed skin at ease.
If you're looking for the next legit Korean brand with a buzzworthy ingredient, Klavuu will be your new favorite line. "All of their products contain pearl, which is a time-tested skin care ingredient that has been used for centuries to brighten and hydrate the skin," says Cho. "They also stepped it up a notch by adding the latest skin-care trends and technology, such as the brightening effects of fermented yeast and the latest cleansing water formulations."
TRY: Klavuu Pure Pearlsation Revitalizing Facial Cleansing Foam, $30, available at Soko Glam. A recurring theme with many of the new Korean offerings this year is that of foaming cleansers that don't strip skin of moisture. The Klavuu cleanser has a low pH level and more than 30 natural plant extracts to help loosen any impurities on your skin that an oil cleanser may have missed. And, of course, it includes its unique pearl extract to leave skin bright.
Yoon first came across this brand when she was visiting Chaum, a futuristic wellness center in Korea that creates holistic programs and provides participants with personalized workout plans, meals and facials. Sure, that kind of sounds like a somewhat frightening spa you'd see in an episode of Black Mirror, but Yoon quickly became a fan of Saturday Skin while she was there. "They created a patented ingredient called Cha-7 es Complex," she says. "This innovative ingredient breakthrough uses a fermentation technology from seven recombinant peptides that powerfully combat aging not by fighting the aging process, but by focusing on your body's optimal biorhythm where cell regeneration is at its best." Also: Look how pretty it is.
TRY: Saturday Skin Daily Dew Hydrating Essence Mist, $34, available at Peach & Lily. This is your standard face mist, amped up for optimal hydration. Instead of just a infusing your skin with moisture, this mist contains both a toner and an essence in one.
Yes, we mentioned Neogen in our last article about new Korean brands you need to try, but the brand keeps coming out with more exciting things every year, specifically its collaboration with Cho. "Neogen is a leading brand when it comes to the latest trends, technology and developing advanced, high performance and cruelty-free formulas," says Cho. In December 2016, Neogen and the Soko Glam co-founder teamed up to create a solid cleansing stick that's bound to be one of the year's most popular K-beauty trends.
TRY: Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick, $22, available at Soko Glam. This stick will replace the bulky cleanser you take with you when you travel. Just rub the solid cleanser all over a damp face, create a lather with your fingers and then rinse it off. The formula, which is infused with coconut, olive and sunflower seed oil, is also filled with green tea leaves to provide gentle exfoliation.
Missha isn't a new Korean brand, but it's been gaining popularity in the American market lately. The makeup and skin-care powerhouse is often compared to stateside department store staples, like Estée Lauder and Lancôme. The difference is that Missha is on the forefront of makeup trends that American women haven't even thought of yet, like the concept of "base makeup" (the idea of using a product that preps your skin for a light coverage product, like a BB cream). "Korean women use base makeup products everyday as a way to even out their skin tones before they start applying makeup," says Cho. "Base makeup products have ingredients in them to help enhance a dewy and natural look." Target recently began stocking the brand in its stores and on its website as part of a new initiative to bring K-beauty to consumers.
TRY: Missha M BB Boomer Primer, $15, available at Soko Glam. "This primer contains pink pearl particles for a brighter complexion and ingredients like squalene, adenosine, moringa and arbutin that are anti-inflammatory and moisturizing," says Cho.
Homepage photo: @Saturday_Skin/Instagram
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