Regardless if you’re obsessed with makeup or you consider yourself the captain of team #wakeupandgo, there’s something to love about Korean girl beauty. Skincare comes first, but it doesn’t stop at serums, creams and masks: unapologetic pigments and quirky packaging show that statement-worthy flair is also coveted. And while natural and traditional ingredients are respected, many products are innovative, driven-by-science formulas that take old school basics to the next level. It seems as if it’s the perfect storm of beauty philosophies.
Now that it’s a trend that’s here to stay — with Korean beauty-based e-commerce sites SokoGlam and Peach and Lily and subscription service Memebox, they’re more widely available than ever, not to mention that they’re stocked on the shelves at your local Target and Urban Outfitters — it’s time you get to know the brands that are the major players. We’ve rounded up 14 of the biggest names in Korean beauty below. Scroll through to find your new beauty Seoulmate (we had to).
1. Touch in SOL: The vivid color cosmetics may get you ooh-ing initially, but if the Out of Stock banners are any indication, you’ll be coming back for the selection of multi-tasking face products. We’d grab the Toc Toc Tonight Capsule Base ($20) while it’s still available: the brightening pearl-capsule moisture gel promises to define facial features with the smoothing + firming power of Fermented Yeast Extract.
2. Dr. Jart+: Dermatological research and scientific innovation drive this skin care-focused brand created by — naturally — a young doctor and an entrepreneur. Its cult Pore Medic line, which includes this botanical-rich Pore Minish Serum ($40), is formulated to de-clog pores, tighten skin and give your face an overall healthy glow.
3. TONYMOLY: It’s obvious why girls are obsessing over this brand: the packaging is freaking adorable. But what’s even better is that the products stand up to the hype, like this Panda’s Dream Hand Cream ($12), aka your new on-the-go hydrating companion.
4. The Face Shop: This brand takes its cues from nature, blending the best of what Mother Nature has to offer with scientific guidance and time-tested beauty traditions. Case in point, its Chia Seed Moisturizing Cream ($34) that harnesses the power of chia seeds to soothe your skin and leave it velvety soft.
5. Laneige: The mission of this buy-at-Target brand: clear, supple skin for all. Its secret weapon: water. Keep your skin hydrated 24/7 with its highly concentrated Water Sleeping Mask ($22) that relaxes and rejuvenates tired skin and helps put you to sleep with its calming orange flower, rose and sandalwood scent.
6. 3 Concept Eyes: The palette of high-voltage color makes this brand a must-try for girls who want to stay ahead-of-the-curve on makeup trends. Shop here for everything from statement-making cheek stains and beyond bold lip color ($20) to the next-big-things in nail art (think: next-level glitter polishes and spike studs).
7. Holika Holika: Alluring colors, playful packaging and kitschy product design make this skin care and makeup brand a total standout. We’re keen on taking its Magic Pole Waterproof Mascara ($18) for a spin — not only does it come in traditional black or bright purple, but its urchin-like wand is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
8. Mizon: And you thought using yogurt and honey in the bathroom was crazy. This brand is famous for turning offbeat natural ingredients into full-blown beauty essentials, from egg whites and seaweed to starfish and snail extract (really). Test drive the latest craze with its ultra-absorbent, one-time-use Ampoule Essential Snail Sheet Mask ($3) that promises to revitalize skin and reduce imperfections.
9. SKINFOOD: You are what you eat, so think of SKINFOOD as just that: uber-nutritious food for your skin. With world-class ingredients in its skin care and makeup lines, it’s easy (and fun) to play roulette with its products. You’ll come across everything from broccoli sunscreen (what!) to this exfoliating Steam Milk Bubble Mask ($22) that leaves your skin as silky soft as a latte.
10. Missha: For spa-quality products at an everyday price point, turn to this skin care and cosmetics brand. It’s got some of the prettiest looking buys around, including an unusually swoon-worthy selection of sunscreen. Let’s just say you’ll actually want to leave the house with All Around Safe Block Essence ($14) — both in your bag and on your skin.
11. Banila Co.: Besides launching punchy makeup collections each season, this brand was the first in Korea to launch CC cream, and the hype over its skin-focused products has not died down since. Try out the OG 5-in-1 formula ($26) to get that universally coveted glowing complexion.
12. Etude House: With a tagline like “Let Out Your Pink!” it’s safe to say this brand is all about pampering your inner princess. This one-stop shop for the modern girly girl has everything from a sea of red lipsticks to its Beauty Shot Face Blur ($15), a lightweight cream that promises to smooth and even your skin so that you’re selfie ready.
13. Iope: You have this innovative skin care and makeup brand to thank for the revolutionary air cushion, a sponge soaked in a foundation + skin protecting formula that makes applying even coverage practically foolproof. Get in on the craze with its Sunblock XP ($41) that’s vitamin packed and made with moisture-rich ingredients.
14. Clio: It’s easy to see why this brand is a Korean celebrity fave: its products are striking and incredibly user-friendly. Its Kill Black Eyeliner ($18) is a best seller worldwide thanks to its deep black hue, smudge-proof liquid formula and versatile applicator that turns razor thin lines and cat eyes into beginner beauty tricks.
What new-to-you beauty brand is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.