TheKoreanGuide is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

Is Korean Skincare Good for Sensitive Skin?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Are you getting started with Korean skincare?

And don’t know if it works for sensitive skin, well many people had the same thoughts before like you. 

Fast forward a few months later, they can’t live without Korean skincare anymore. I don’t want to oversell it to you, but based on many experts investing in your own skincare routine is one of the best decisions you can make in your early years.

If you don’t. Five years later, your skin will most certainly get saggy, rough and dry.

Let’s look at why Korean skincare can be good for sensitive skin.

How Can Korean Skincare Be Good for Sensitive Skin?

Korean skincare products can be the best thing for sensitive skin. But, like with any cosmetics, you will still have to be careful about which ones you use and how you apply them. Therefore, some components about Korean skincare may not be good for sensitive skin.

Regardless, many K-Beauty brands go through painstaking research to formulate products that are excellent for those who suffer with skin sensitivity.

What Makes Korean Skincare Good for Sensitive Skin?

There are several aspects to Korean skincare that’s excellent for sensitive skin. Because many Koreans suffer with this condition, there are plentitudes of products available.

Most do not contain fragrances, perfumes, essential oils or other scented additives. Likewise, there aren’t any harsh preservatives, dyes, alcohols, silicone, parabens or other such things. The formulations are light with simple and pure ingredients.

Ingredients to Avoid

However, when looking at Korean skincare products, you have to ensure the following ingredients aren’t in the product. These can still cause irritation, redness and worsen sensitivity issues: [1]

  • Alcohol Denat
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
  • Eucalyptus
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Menthol
  • Peppermint
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Tea Lauryl Sulphate
  • Witch Hazel

Western versus Korean Ingredients

Unfortunately, many North American and European cosmetics do contain these things and it wreaks havoc on delicate skin. Therefore, it becomes difficult for someone to avoid the ingredients that bother them most. In many cases, people with sensitive skin believe they have to trade off one ingredient for another.

Why Do People Have Sensitive Skin?

There are two main reasons why people have sensitive skin: genetics and/or harsh treatment. While we can’t do much about genetics, we can be mindful about what we put on our faces. Things like over exfoliation, applying poor formulations, using water too hot and not using sunscreen are some of the causes.

However, skin can become sensitive due to environmental exposures or work around harsh chemicals all day. There are times where people will develop dermatitis after prolonged contact with chemicals, detergents or other toxic elements. In an effort to repair and protect itself, the skin will become sensitive.

What Aspects about Korean Skincare Are Bad for Sensitive Skin?

In regards to Korean skincare, the 10-step cleansing and moisturizing process may be far too much for someone with sensitive skin. In fact, it can make situations worse. This is because of the constant cleansing, exfoliating and layering application of products on the skin.

Plus, the recommendation for this involved ritual is twice each day. This can translate to a horrible experience for those with sensitive skin, especially if it’s severe. Therefore, the steps will require massive modification with specially selected products appropriate to the concerns.

What Ingredients in Korean Skincare Are Good for Sensitive Skin?

The key to Korean skincare being good for sensitive skin are the ingredients. When hunting around for appropriate products, look for the following components:

  • Chamomile – chamomile flowers have a cooling, calming effect on the skin. This can reduce redness and decrease inflammation. Plus, it’s soothing and emollient.
  • Calendula – one of the gentlest ingredients found in nature, it has the ability to soften skin while reducing dryness without causing irritation.
  • Allantoin – this is an extract from comfrey. It stimulates cell regeneration, heals irritation and protects skin while also soothing and softening.
  • Aloe – since ancient times, specifically in Egypt, aloe has been a cosmetic and skincare mainstay. It alleviates redness, reduces burns, heals skin, regenerates cells and moisturizes.
  • Bamboo – this is a miracle tree found throughout Asia. It’s famous for its anti-aging ability and for healing wounds. But, it’s very gentle and excellent for sensitive skin.
  • Burdock root – burdock root is notorious for its antioxidant properties and its ability to fight off free radicals. It’s soothing and softening too.
  • Centella asiatica – this is a popular plant found all throughout Asia. It can treat wounds, heal incisions, soothe burns, promote collagen and inhibit inflammation.
  • Green tea – green tea is famous for its skin-healing abilities. It contains constituents called polyphenols, which are highly soothing and antioxidant. It’s powerful and effective yet gentle enough for delicate, sensitive skin. [2]
  • Honey – this immediately recognizable bee byproduct is perfect for sensitive skin. Honey is a natural humectants, moisturizer and wound healer. In fact, before band aids, people put honey over cuts, scrapes and burns to protect them.
  • Licorice root – an ancient remedy for skin, licorice root has a high concentration of glabridin, which protects the skin. It guards against environmental stressors and creates a barrier to fight off damage.
  • Madecassoside – this is a constituent found in Centella asiatica but K-beauty skincare companies extract it for specific formulations. It’s antioxidant, revitalizes skin and has proven effects in being non-sensitizing.
  • Roses – roses have had longtime use in cosmetics all over the world. It’s moisturizing, cleansing and nonirritating. Plus, the smell is heavenly.
  • Royal Jelly – like honey, royal jelly is a bee byproduct that works wonders for the skin. It has anti-aging properties while also providing moisture to the skin and giving it a protective barrier.
  • Snail Secretions – the mucin produced from snails is rather effective on sensitive skin in miniscule amounts. Be careful though.

Which Korean Skincare Brands Have Products Specifically for Sensitive Skin?

There are a host of companies out there that have wonderful formulations for sensitive skin. However, you should consider your position on vegan-friendly and cruelty free formulations. Understand that if you prefer these kinds of products, your search will become narrower.

This is because they do contain things like honey, royal jelly and snail secretions. Also, depending on where the product comes from, may have undergone animal testing. The following list contains some of the best brands on the market that have perfect products for sensitive skin. [3]

  • Belif
  • Benton
  • Dear, Klairs
  • Dermology
  • Etude House
  • Hanskin
  • I Dew Care
  • I’m From
  • Innisfree
  • iUNIK
  • Laneige
  • Mamonde
  • Manyo
  • Missha
  • Neogen
  • Nooni
  • Primera
  • Pyunkang Yul
  • SeoulCeuticals
  • Some Bi Me
  • Son & Park
  • Sulwhasoo
  • TheFaceShop
  • Then I Met You

What Is an Ideal Skincare Regimen for Those with Sensitivity?

There are two typical Korean-style regimens for sensitive skin. The first is going with the full 10 steps and the other is cutting it down to five steps. Regardless of which one you choose, it’s important to understand that sensitive skin requires a ginger approach.

Therefore, it’s going to come down to how sensitive your skin is. If it’s very severe and you get a reaction from the slightest provocation, then do five steps. But, if you already have something of an involved skincare regimen, then you can attempt the 10 steps.

Compare the two below to see which one will be best for you and your purposes. For instance, severe sensitive skin should never use face masks or exfoliants on a regular basis. These should be rare, such as once every six months or so.

10 Steps5 Steps
Dual Cleanse (oil then foaming or cream cleansers)Dual Cleanse (oil then foaming or cream cleansers)
EssenceSerum and/or Eye Cream
Serum, Ampoules and other treatmentsMoisturizer with Sunscreen in it
Sheet Mask 
Eye Cream 
Sunscreen (daytime only) 

Final Thoughts

Korean skincare works for all skin types, including sensitive skin. Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone will achieve the same results. Some people with acne-prone skin or oily skin might get faster results. This varies from person to person.

Enjoy the article?

You'll love my daily email! Learn something new about South Korea every single day. It's completely free. <3

    About The Author

    Photo of author

    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.

    You May Also Like