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Can Korean Skincare Cause Acne?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Yes, Korean skincare can cause acne but it doesn’t have to. That’s right, just because it is Korean skincare doesn’t mean that you will get acne from using it. However this does not mean that everyone who uses Korean skincare has zero chance of getting acne or breakouts.

Korean skincare is a very popular beauty trend right now. Beauty influencers and celebrities are introducing their audiences to their favorite Korean skin care products while promoting how effective these high quality products are.

However, everyone has a different experience when it comes to Korean skincare products.

Many people with acne prone skin wonder if Korean products are right for them. One of the reasons Korean skin care is making a splash is because it leaves people’s skin hydrated, clean, and well nourished. While these products have done wonders for many people, they have also caused breakouts for others.

On this page, we’re going to cover why someone with acne prone skin may not see the best results from a Korean skin care routine. Keep reading to find out why.

6 Reasons Korean Skincare Cause Acne

Oily and acne prone skin is common for youth in Korea. Over 75 percent of teens in Korea experience acne at some point in their life.

This is why K beauty has put a lot of focus on developing skin care products that are efficient at removing dead skin cells and combating acne.

Korean beauty is known for using many ingredients that leave people with a fresh and dewy face. Adding products like a tea tree oil cleanser or a snail slime sheet mask to your skincare routine can be very beneficial for breakouts or even treating cystic acne.

However, there are times when people have seen the opposite results from using K beauty products.

Some people have started seeing acne after regular use of Korean products. If your skin has started breaking out after introducing Korean products to your routine, here are some reasons why:

Too much too soon

A change in routine could lead to breakouts or even cause cystic acne to reappear. This isn’t always a sign that the product isn’t good. Even the best skincare products can cause acne if they aren’t introduced right.

Anytime you change your skincare routine, it’s important to change the products you are using gradually so your pores have a chance to get used to them.

Your skin needs to adjust from changes like a new serum being introduced or switching from a foaming cleanser to oil cleansers.


Many western skincare products are fragrance free so they don’t irritate sensitive skin. If you have acne prone skin that is sensitive to fragrance, it could be the reason why you are getting breakouts. If this is the case, make sure you take note of the ingredients that are being used.

This could help you narrow down which ingredients could be causing the irritations and breakouts so you can avoid products that use them in the future.

Ingredients your skin isn’t used to

Everyone’s skin reacts differently to ingredients. While Korean skincare products are safe to use, that doesn’t mean everyone will have the same experience with them. Every country has different regulations when it comes to what goes into skincare products.

Some of the ingredients may be more intense than what your skin is used to. This is another reason why the products should be introduced gradually. There is a chance that the product may contain ingredients that your skin has never come in contact with before and it needs a chance to adjust to them.

Oil based ingredients

Oil based products are very common in Korea. This is because hydrating the skin is just as important for a clear complexion as cleaning it. Many Western skincare products use ingredients, like alcohol, that dry out the skin.

If you have oily skin, you may find that an oil cleanser is leading to more breakouts. While the new cleanser is effective for treating acne prone skin, it could be causing acne if it’s not used correctly. Always make sure to double cleanse when using oil skin cleansers.

Not being used correctly

Sometimes it’s not the products causing the skin problems, so much as how they are being used. When using Korean products it’s important to remember that the instructions are guided towards Korean skin. In most cases, people from the US with acne prone skin don’t need to follow the exact same routine as a Korean with acne.

It’s important to use these products in a way that’s beneficial to your skin type. If you are using a Korean sheet mask and it suggests leaving it on your skin for 10 minutes, you may only need to leave it one for 5 minutes to achieve results. Leaving it for the full 10 minutes could lead to irritations.

Knock off products

While there are many great Korean brands out there with skin care products that are worth mentioning, there are also many knock off brands as well. These fake products use ingredients that are not safe for the skin. You will not achieve the results you are after using a knock-off product and your skin may breakout with more acne. 

How to Prevent Acne While Using Korean Skincare

If you use skin care products the right way, then Korean skincare could help your acne. If you want that dewy skin like your favorite influencer that promotes K products, then here are some tips to follow for using correctly:

One product at a time

While it may be tempting to use a whole line of skin care products at once, it’s important that you allow your skin the chance to get used to each product before adding a new one to your routine. You may still see a pimple from time to time as you introduce a new product to your routine, but you won’t have to deal with a face full of acne.

Double cleanse

For acne prone skin, one of the best things to do is double cleansing. This means wash your face once with a foaming cleanser or a water based cleanser then a second time with an oil face cleanser. The reason why this is recommended is because it helps cleanse stubborn pores and wash away any leftover impurities for the freshest face.

Don’t skip toner

Always use a toner after washing your face to clean up any lingering oil and impurities. This ensures your face will be as clean as possible before applying serums and moisturizers. We highly recommend using a toner with salicylic acid.

This is because salicylic acid is one of the best ingredients for reducing impurities and exfoliating your face.

Before you moisturize

After using a toner, we strongly recommend applying hyaluronic acid to your skin. This popular skincare product is very efficient at reducing the appearance of acne and creating a barrier so bacteria and other acne causing agents can’t affect your pores.

Always check the ingredients list

Since Korea and the US, each have products that use different ingredients, it’s important to fully review the ingredients list of every K skincare product you purchase. Some of the best ingredients to look out for in these products to reduce acne are:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Green tea
  • Licorice
  • Hyaluronic, glycolic, and salicylic acid
  • Niacinamide
  • Peptides
  • Amino acids

Review different brands

While some K products are known for being the holy grails of skin care, other products have less than satisfactory results. When you’re new to the world of Korea’s skin care lines, you may not know where to start.

Just because your favorite influencer is promoting a product doesn’t mean it’s that great. Always remember that influencers make money by promoting these products, so even the poorest product will get a stellar review if the pay is good enough.

If they are promoting a product you are interested in, do some research to find customer reviews. This will let you know how the product really worked for people who have tried it. You may find better advice on brands this way.


Korean skin care products are currently one of the biggest trends for achieving picture perfect skin. While many people have been able to achieve that no filter completion from these products, others have experienced a terrible case of acne from using them.

There is a chance that K products could lead to acne, but this is mainly because the skin needs a chance to adjust to them. When using these products, make sure you introduce them into your routine gradually. We recommend introducing only one product every 2 weeks to avoid triggering acne.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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