Korean Cosmetics: A Beginner’s Guide

Korean Cosmetics: A Beginner’s Guide

Daegu City at Night

If there’s one thing I’ve been turned onto in Korea (besides blunt bangs) that I’m positively obsessed with it’s beauty products and beauty chains. They’re absolutely amazing – which is hardly a surprise considering Korean women and men have envious perfect porcelain complexions. For the longest time I’d thought their smooth skin was a matter of genes, and I sulked that I hadn’t won the gene lottery.

Make UpI was so dead wrong. After moving to Korea and discovering the love that is Korean beauty chains, I’m going to have a hard time leaving all the beauty behind when my time is up! The beauty scene in Korea can be a bit overwhelming when you’re trying to decide where to start making your first purchases to have that gorgeous Korean glow. I’ll give you a beginner’s break down of the most popular places to shop in Korea.


The FaceShop

Think green tea scented products, lemon grass infused serums, and the latest in moisturizers to keep you young looking forever, which at the moment is snail slime. Seriously, people have bottled up snail slime for women and men to rub onto their faces to keep wrinkles and fine lines at bay. I can’t vouch for it since I haven’t tried it, but it’s currently all the rage in Korea. Any lotions and potions you’re looking for to keep your mug radiant can be found at The Face Shop.


Another Korean establishment that boasts natural products that are better for you. I only ever go to Innisfree for my favorite green tea shampoo and rinse. Other than that, I rarely get make-up here. Innisfree make-up sort of reminds me of the products my older aunts (the kind that wear too much perfume and lipstick) would buy and even gift me on Christmas.

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Nature Republic

More natural lotions, potions, creams, and powders. This is the store I pop into when I need a few more make-up sponges and brushes. I’d never spend an afternoon squealing over the different make-up products here though.

Etude House

Imagine if Barbie were a real person, and she grew up to become addicted to drugs and alcohol and was bf’s with Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton. After too many run-ins with the law and DUIs, Barbie decided to settle down and create a business. Etude House would be that business. It’s covered in way too much pink and lace, forever smells of sticky sweet perfume, and the highlight of the store is the lipgloss case. Personally, I love it. Sure, it looks like Hello Kitty threw up all over the damn place, but it’s got a great variety of young colors and products. This is the place you’ll go to buy your “Friday Night Girls’ Night On The Town” make-up.

Skin Food

I always think of Bath&Body Works when I go into Skin Food. Everything is fruit and vegetable scented and mostly focuses on shower gels, shampoos, and moisturizers. I find it absolutely impossible to walk into a Skin Food without walking out with some sort of unintentional splurge. Grape Seed oil to work out the lines under my eyes, avocado hair masks, honey antibacterial hand sanitizer. Skin Food products must contain small doses of crack in them because I swear they truly are addicting.

Things To Be Wary Of When Shopping In Korean Beauty Chains:

Bleaching Agents

Given that Koreans find light skin to be highly attractive, it isn’t uncommon to find make-up, face washes, and moisturizers that claim to be “whitening.” Be wary of anything that says it whitens because it has a bleaching effect. Oh, and don’t get offended if the saleswomen is persistent that you should buy something to whiten your skin. They don’t mean to be rude; they genuinely think they’re being helpful.

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A Lack Of Variety For Darker Skin Tones

This pretty much goes hand in hand with the fact that light skin means beautiful. Darker skin tones will have to find their make up online.

No Bronzers

If you’re like me and love to be gold shimmery cheek bones during the summer season you might be outta luck in Korea. Korea loves shimmery cupcake pink cheeks year round. So, stock up on those compacts before coming to Korea!

I hope this guide was helpful, but all this talk about make up and products has got my skin itching for something new and pretty. I’m off to the shops, lovely traveler! I hope to see you soon decked out in all your Korean beauty products! 



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