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

10 Reasons Why Korean Skincare is So Popular

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Korean skincare’s introduction to the world was with its BB and CC creams in the early 2000s. People loved it so much it led to an explosion that spread worldwide.

Korea is the third largest global exporter of makeup, cosmetics and skincare next to Paris, France and the United States. 

It’s a booming and growing niche industry that rakes in well over five billion dollars every year. There are many reasons for this worldwide ascension.

Most is due to how the products are affordable and accessible along with comprising natural ingredients and having cute packaging. 

But the rising popularity of K-pop music along with K-dramas also coincide with Korean skincare’s growing notoriety. But there’s more to K-beauty popularity than this.

1. Skincare Personalization

In Korean skincare, there is a focus on personalization and customization, which caters specifically to individuals. This means people can locate a variety of products specific to skin type, concerns and general goals. Western cosmetics and skincare doesn’t address things in such a way unless you’re wealthy enough to pay for that.

With dermatologists, estheticians and skincare experts readily available in Korea, there are many products refined to tackle specific issues. For instance, aging skin that’s also sensitive suffering with acne can find the right combination of products to handle every issue. This simply doesn’t exist with Western skincare in the same way. [1]

2. Affordable & Accessible Products

While there are many high-end, luxury brands in K-beauty, such as The House of Whoo, a great many others are very affordable without any loss of quality. This translates into budget-friendly products comprising Mother Nature’s gifts that work quite well and effective.

You can find eye and sheet masks for as little as $1. Toners, essences and serums can cost $5 to as much as $130, depending on what you’re looking for. Many retailers offer sets, bundles and gifts that provide a huge discount had you bought each product individually.

3. Korean Skincare History

A lot of this has to do with Korea’s history in caring for skin. These people, especially the women, have long desired and aimed to achieve bright, white and glowing skin. This has been a pursuit over the centuries and, therefore, they have a lot of knowledge passed down through the ages.

When Korea had royalty and nobility, having clean and white skin was a symbol of status. It meant that a person was of a higher echelon from society. This is because people like princesses and queens wouldn’t do outdoor work like farmers or fishermen, who experienced daily exposure to the sun.

If you look at any woman living in Korea today, her skin is as perfectly close to flawless as anyone can get. This alone is a selling point for many people. It’s clear and clean with very few blemishes that gives off a gorgeous radiance and glassy glow.

4. Innovation & Research

Even with an extensive history, a lot of time and effort go into massive research efforts for ingredients and formulations with the intention of delivering the best products possible. Thus, Korean skincare brands are always coming out with innovations and developments unlike any other place in the world.

5. Gentle, Natural Yet Exotic Ingredients

K-beauty ingredients are wonderful on the skin, comprising things like licorice root, vitamin C, niacinamide, ceramide, mugwort, chamomile, hibiscus, lavender, gotu kola and tea tree, to name a scant few. There are rarely any harsh ingredients and most companies boast their cruelty-free and vegan friendly products. [2]

What makes Korean skincare so unusual, however, is the novel ingredients you won’t find in Western formulations. These include things like snail secretions, donkey milk, gold dust, pearl powder and diamond powder.

6. A Wide Variety of Products

Because of the plethora of various ingredients used in formulations, there is a huge variety of products available. There are oil cleansers, foaming face washes, toners, essences, serums, ampoules and zit patches. These can tackle anything from hyperpigmentation and scarring to fighting the signs of aging and handling combination skin.

They have different types of masks, ranging from sheet masks chock full of additional ampoules and serums to sleeping masks for putting on right before bedtime. There are masks you leave on, ones you wash off and even ones for under eye care.

Moisturizers are off the charts. Because most Koreans have sensitive skin, many moisturizers are not heavy creams or lotions. They are often in gel form, which are light, non-greasy and aren’t sticky feeling. There are humectants for summer and emollients for winter.

7. The 10-Step Regimen

Another part of why Korean skincare is so popular is due to their famous 10-step routine. It starts with a dual cleanse that begins with oil and finishes with foaming cleanser. The next step is exfoliation, ensuring dirt and debris are clear deep beneath the skin’s surface.

Toner, essences and treatments follow this, which ends with a sheet mask. Afterwards, there’s an application of eye cream, then moisturizer and finally a good SPF with a rating of 30 or higher. While it is an involved and time-consuming process, the results speak for themselves and you can see it for yourself.

8. Reliable Results

If you do a search online for “Korean skincare routine review,” you will see how so many people have saved their skin using it. For those who faithfully adhere to the K-beauty 10-step regimen, some people report getting results they have never been able to achieve in their lifetimes.

People with severe acne and oily skin swear by the results and they love it. The effect K-beauty products have on fine lines and wrinkles is practically a magical transformation. Those with extremely sensitive skin are in tears at how they finally found something they can use without sustaining irritation and redness.

9. Korean Skincare Philosophy

All of these reasons come down to the main purpose for Korean skincare, which is the philosophy of having healthy, beautiful skin that lasts throughout one’s lifetime. From a young age, both boys and girls in Korea take care of their skin. It’s not just a family teaching but something that’s very much a part of Korean social fabric.

This focus intends to restore, heal and treat skin issues with the goal of preventing problems before they have a chance to begin. Therefore, many products will cater specifically to individuals rather than promote a catchall product, as they do with Western skincare.

10. K-Beauty Brands beyond Korea

Another testament to the popularity of Korean skincare is the fact that there are many manufacturers now in the West producing K-beauty products. This, in turn, is causing influence into mainstream skincare, which is resulting in a mishmash between Korea and the West.

For instance, Naisha and Erborian are strictly French brands that solely produce Korean skincare products. There are American companies as well such as Peach & Lily in New York City or Glow Recipe out of California.

But, it doesn’t stop there, American hotel heiress Paris Hilton just opened up her own K-beauty line in South Korea. She calls her collection Pro D.N.A. and released it back in July of 2019. [3]

Final Thoughts

After all, Korean skincare will continue to grow like any other market. Over time it’ll have its up and downs, but skincare will always be popular. As long as people have skincare problems, it’ll continue to stay.

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