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Do Korean Skincare Products Work?

Jason Park
Published by: Chung-Ae
Last updated:

Korean skincare, you’ve probably heard about it but does it actually work?

I’ve spent more than $10,000 on skincare products over the last couple of years and here are the products I tested:

  • Oil Cleanser
  • Water-based Cleanser
  • Exfoliator
  • Toner
  • Essence
  • Treatment
  • Face Mask
  • Eye Cream
  • Moisturizer
  • SPF/Sunscreen

Enjoying it so far? Please keep reading on where I dive deep into each and every product. The drawbacks, benefits, and if it’s ACTUALLY worth it.

In short: Yes, Korean skincare products can give amazing results BUT it’ll depend on your skin type and what works for you. The only way to know that is to try it.

Do All Korean Skincare Products Work?

Let’s start with the Oil Cleanser. The Oil Cleanser for this given test is the Sioris Fresh Moment Cleansing Oil.

The first time I used this cleanser, I was disappointed. It didn’t leave my skin feeling that smooth or clean.

I thought it wasn’t working for me until…

After a month of using the oil cleanser, I was shocked at how clear my skin looked! My pores were visibly smaller and it even made my acne scars a lot less noticeable.

SIORIS - Fresh Moment Cleansing Oil 200ml

Keep in mind that it took a MONTH before I saw any results, which is quite frankly, very slow.

So it can take time to see results with this type of cleanser but constantly using the oil cleanser is what made my skin clearer. [1]

What was interesting is that I didn’t notice any changes in the effectiveness of the oil cleanser the first 2 weeks.

So yes, some Korean skincare products work for some people but not everyone. Even if the product is from Korea, that doesn’t guarantee it’ll work for you.

With that said, the oil cleanser is a good cleanser and probably worth a try.

The 2nd product: Water-Based Cleanser. I bought the Rovectin Skin Essentials Conditioning Cleanser.

To keep it short: this product was a huge WASTE OF MONEY. For me personally, it did nothing for my skin.

The exfoliator/toner that I used was the Some by Mi AHA, BHA, PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner.

This product was AMAZING. It seriously did wonders for my skin.

The essence I used was the COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

The effects were starting to show after a week of using it and I definitely saw more drastic changes in my skin than with any other product I’ve ever used. My scars, dark spots, and pores all noticeably got better over time.

If your skin is very sensitive like mine, I recommend using the essence because it is a lot more gentle than other products out there.

This product is ACTUALLY pretty great at fighting acne but not perfect. Use it with caution if you have sensitive skin and keep in mind that it doesn’t work on hormonal acne so don’t expect any magic from this

The face mask I used was Real Nature Face Mask

It’s a decent face mask but it didn’t have any dramatic changes to my skin so I’d say skip this one unless you want a basic moisturizing mask.

I think that this is a very mediocre product and not really worth your time or money sadly.

The eye cream I used was the MIZON Snail Repair Eye Cream

I personally didn’t have any issues with dark circles or wrinkles so I can’t say much about this product. [2]

It’s a good basic eye cream but it doesn’t do anything special. Even though it’s Korean, I wouldn’t say that it’s normal to get amazing results from an eye cream

MIZON - Snail Repair Eye Cream 25ml  25ml

The last one, the SPF/Sunscreen I used was the Biore UV Aqua Rich Light Up Essence

This sunscreen is pretty watery and doesn’t stay on for a long time. I tried to combine it with another sunscreen and my face still felt sticky after a few hours.

It’s not a bad sunscreen but I personally don’t recommend it.

Should You Use Korean Skincare?

Yes, you should definitely try out Korean skincare products.

As long as you know your skin type and what’s going to work for you, I think it’s a good idea to at least try out these types of products.

It took me a long time to find the skincare routine that worked for me but now my skin looks perfect.

How Often To Use

Korean skincare products should be used daily. Some you use at night and some you use in the morning.

So if your skin is sensitive, it’s a good idea to limit the number of products you use each day and maybe split the products for the morning and night.

This is what most people do and I think it’s the best thing to do if you are concerned about having too many products on your skin.

How Much To Spent

Probably about $100,- in total for the products if you want to get the same ones that I used.

It was pretty easy to find the information online because it’s well known which skincare brands are best in Korea.

I don’t mind spending money on skincare since it usually lasts me a long time, but for some people $100,- might be too much.

Which Products To use

The products that I used are here below

  • Oil Cleanser
  • Exfoliator
  • Essence

There are many more products you can use, but more products doesn’t mean better skin.

Just start with one product like the toner and if that proves to be effective, then you can move on to the next one.

If you have sensitive skin, I definitely recommend using the toner because it is the least harsh out of all the products.

Works for Some and Not for Others

Korean skincare works for some people while others say it doesn’t improve anything. Therefore, it’s going to come down to you, how you care for your skin, how involved you like to get about daily skincare and the way in which your skin reacts to certain ingredients.

Having said all that, many North American and European women who try K-beauty skincare fall away and don’t stick with it. This is because the routine ritual twice per day is daunting. It involves 10 steps and most people don’t have that kind of time, especially in the morning.

The 10-Step Routine

The 10-step routine begins with a cleansing oil that you either wipe off or wash away. This follows with a foaming cleanser and thorough rinsing. Exfoliating occurs next, ridding the skin of any dead skin cells. Once rinsed and dried, then there’s toner, essence, sheet masks, eye cream, moisturizer and sunscreen.

Because of this, Western women who try it say this doesn’t work or make any improvement to their skin condition. Therefore, many people drop the routine before seeing it through and others cherry pick products they like.

What Skincare Professionals Say

According to estheticians and dermatologists, the K-beauty industry has many great products that can be helpful to some. But, as with any skincare product, everyone should be a smart consumer and do a bit of research before jumping in headfirst.

However, other skincare pros say that all these steps aren’t necessary. In fact, constantly rubbing and working with your skin in this way can create problems. It can make skin more red and irritated. This is especially true for dry or sensitive skin. In other ways, it can cause premature aging, which is antithetical to using Korean skincare products.

The Korean Skincare Philosophy

Part of the disparity between Koreans skincare versus Westerners is skin philosophy. This heavily influences the way in which people believe K-beauty skincare works.

Koreans hold clean, dewy skin with the ultimate sun protection in high regard. But the perception isn’t vanity, it’s about health. Therefore, both men and women take care of their skin starting from as young as six months old. They believe that the key to great skin begins with prevention of problems before they arise.

They also recognize this isn’t a magic potion and that you have to make time for it. Therefore, in Korea, beauty is big business and much research goes into developing quality products.

Westerners Value Immediate Results

Westerners, on the other hand, value dry, matted skin with a flawless appearance for the least amount of work possible.  It’s not until skin issues pop up that Westerners begin to try and take care of the problem.

Most of these women want skincare fast and quick that gives immediate results. But prolonged use of cosmetics in this way contributes to a host of skin issues. And it’s not until they arise that people consider Korean skincare products as a way to fix it.

It’s All about How Someone Cares for Their Skin

This is a poor perception because it isn’t the products, it’s how a person cares for their skin. Plus, when such a person begins the 10-step routine, they find it’s too much work. For others, the shift in chemistry and how it reacts to the skin is overkill and the skin responds in kind.

This means boils appear along with rashes, redness, irritation, breakouts, purging, blackheads and an all around uncomfortable sensation. This can even happen to those who don’t normally experience skin problems.

Discernment beforehand Is Essential

Instead, what people should do is study the 10-step routine and compare it to the one they already do. Then, slowly work in products one by one until the skin accustoms itself. Unfortunately, many Western women jump in without considering anything about their skin and its needs beforehand.

Ergo, people who do it this extreme think Korean skincare products don’t work, which leads to believing that it can worsen problems. To some degree, this is true.

Korean Skincare Products Can Have Questionable Ingredients

Aside from the problems that come from bombarding skin with foreign elements, some Korean skincare products do contain questionable and/or harsh ingredients. If someone isn’t careful, they can run into real problems like acne.

Prescription Medications

Some comprise high levels of things like hydroquinone or retinol. While both of these are great anti-aging agents, too much can actually burn and damage the skin. This results in many skin problems with painful dryness being the least of these. The amounts contained in some of these products require a prescription too.

Toxic Heavy Metals

What’s more, American and Canadian regulatory bodies have discovered things like lead or antimony in some K-beauty products. Both of these are highly toxic heavy metals and can create health issues that go beyond the skin; cancer, heart disease and lung problems, to name a few.

Safe, Yet Exotic Ingredients

Even if ingredients contained within a Korean skincare product are safe, some of them are interesting and novel. Because Western products don’t contain exotic things like pearl dust, snail secretions and donkey milk, they can wreak havoc on skin.

The good news is that these kinds of questionable products and ingredients are rare. There are many K-beauty skincare supplies containing completely natural ingredients you can trust. [1]

Ways to Ensure Korean Skincare Will Work

The best way to ensure any K-beauty product will work is by sourcing and understanding the manufacturer and the ingredients. Be sure they come from a reputable supplier or retailer and only get those that have English writing on the packaging.

Avoid Product Promoting Medical Benefits

Avoid K-beauty products advertising medical benefits. If your skin requires medical attention, your doctor or dermatologist will prescribe what you need.

The ingredients in skincare products touting medical benefits from Korea are not under FDA approval. Even if they are, some constituents used in any given formulation can cause an allergic reaction for certain people. And there’s no way to know this beforehand.

Therefore you should only buy products that have been approved by the FDA. [2]

Be Discerning with Ingredients

As a general rule of thumb, don’t buy products that aren’t forthcoming about their ingredients. And, even if you can read the ingredients, don’t put something on your face you can’t understand. This means looking up each ingredient listed and doing your own investigations into these things.

It also translates to knowing your skin well with what it can handle. Even perfect normal skin shouldn’t jump into a full blown K-beauty regimen without gradually introducing new products to it.

Always make sure to do your due diligence, that’s the only way you can ensure yourself that you will not make a mistake. There have been many people that bought Korean skincare out of impulse and weeks later… you’ve probably guessed it. 

Their skin was red, irritated and needed immediate treatment. Now, this is a very rare case, but it’s important to keep that in mind when shopping around for Korean skincare.

Some typical ingredients to avoid are:

  • Sulfates
  • Parabens
  • Silicones

The Secret to Great Korean Skin

So, the real secret to why Korean women maintain gorgeous, supple skin well into old age is because they take care of their skin their whole lives. They don’t see the involved routine as a chore or a burden. In fact, they find it a joy and prioritize their time to do it.

In light of this, perhaps it’s better to take the philosophy away from Korean skincare rather than the actual products. Relish in skincare regimens rather than running roughshod over the skin. Find which products are appropriate for skin type, tone and concerns along with gradually adding steps that will be most beneficial.

Conclusion

The most important when using Korean skincare is to find out what works for you. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa since everyone’s skin is different.

I’ve tried many products that I don’t like or that don’t do much for me so it wasn’t until recently that I found a skincare routine that ACTUALLY WORKS.

So it might take some time before finding the best skincare products, but eventually, it’s definitely worth it.

About The Author

Photo of author

Chung-Ae

Hi, I'm Chung-Ae. I love Korean skincare products and Kpop! My favorite Korean beauty brands are Innisfree and Etude House because they offer a lot of affordable products with good quality ingredients.

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