From our K-beauty columnists, Glow Recipe’s Sarah Lee and Christine Chang.
The approach to beauty is very holistic in Korea and natural ingredients have had a longstanding heritage in women’s beauty routines. Splashing skin with rice or botanical infused waters is a practice that dates back to ancient palace literature and are still done in the bathhouses of today. Using ingredients that are fermented, or pure, locally sourced oils are also enjoying a resurgence as women look for pristine, natural formulas to help with skincare.
Curious about the absolute best in natural K-Beauty brands? Our top picks with clean ingredient lists and no compromises in efficacy are below:
The creators of one of the most HG-worthy cleansers in the K-beauty world, Sum:37 is all about luxe fermented formulations free from harsh ingredients or chemicals. Chances are you’ve seen their magical Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick around the internet- it’s a low pH, solid stick cleanser that gives just a bit of scrubbing action from the rose petals studded into it. Because it’s coconut oil based, the Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick can also be relied on to remove foundation in a pinch, simply melting it away with a few swipes and a splash of water. Another standout from this gentle brand includes the bubbling, skin energizing Detox Mask that oxygenates and deeply purifies dull skin for an instantly more radiant complexion.
Focused on clean and super effective formulations, Blithe’s goal is to treat and address skin concerns and visible signs of aging caused by pollutants. Their ‘anti-polluaging’ line includes two jaw-droppingly innovative formulas meant to save you tons of time. Their Pressed Serums are advanced serum and moisturizer hybrids that can be also be used as intensive sleeping masks to firm and hydrate the skin. Even cooler are their 15-second Splash Masks, which you use in the shower to instantly retexturize and soften the skin in a fraction of the time it takes to even slather on a traditional mask!
Beloved for its two skin-changing moisturizers, Belif focuses on formulations bolstered with medicinal herbs and is inspired by old school apothecary techniques. The gel type Aqua Bomb and cream weight Moisture Bomb are both perfect all-weather hydrators with super clean ingredient lists that have been vetted by dermatologists to increase moisture in the skin and to soothe irritation. Belif’s line also hosts purifying masks, super-hydrating serums, and skin-calming toners to suit all skin types – all clad in the brand’s minimalist, results-forward packaging.
Whamisa utilizes ingredients that are fermented, which helps to micronize and distill ingredients for better absorption and extra potency. Fermentation also creates an environment where less preservatives are required. Whamisa is an Eco-cert and BDIH standard certified organic brand and cult favorites include their literal ocean-to-face sea kelp sheet mask that instantly smoothes and brightens the skin, their organic aloe vera hydrogel masks, and their dew-creating Olive Leaf mist (with an actual olive leaf swirling inside) that instantly imparts a snap-worthy glow over makeup or on bare skin.
Blossom Jeju’s offerings are formulated with pure camellia oil from the pristine island of Jeju- aka the Hawaii of Korea. Jeju is a volcanic island, meaning that all the botanicals harvested there have been fortified by mineral rich soil. This antioxidant-rich label boasts two main collections: the Gold Soombi products are doubly enriched with free radical fighters that help with anti-aging concerns, while the Pink line offers lighter weight formulas suitable for all skin types. The best part? Each and every Blossom Jeju product smells intoxicatingly of fresh cut, grassy Jasmine. We especially love their Petal Masks, which are an innovative two step masking treatment and the first we’ve seen that has you apply a skin-plumping dose of Camellia oil before your sheet mask. It’s no wonder Blossom Jeju has earned cult status on the K-Beauty obsessed Asian Beauty subreddit– everything from their ingredient lists to their packaging is drool-worthy.
Innisfree takes pride in sourcing efficacious natural ingredients from the pristine volcanic island of Jeju. Each of their formulations feature at minimum 70% natural ingredients, such as Jeju sea water and lava extracts or ginger root for a self-heating masking treatment to cleanse impurities from the skin and improve cell renewal and blood flow. These high concentrations of natural ingredients mean their treatments are super potent and harness some rarely-seen botanicals to jazz up your skincare stash!
A sister brand of Whamisa, Yuri Pibu’s veggie based skincare is surging in popularity for its low-key vibe and super visible results. Recent vegetables include a pore-shrinking Artichoke essence, Black Diamond truffle for anti-aging, and parsley. High in natural stores of Vitamin C, parsley visibly treats dark spots and troubled skin with no harsh chemicals for dramatically smoother skin. All of their veggie-full creations feature unprecedented concentrations (think upwards of 50%) that pack a powerful punch.
Bridging the gap between cool-girl minimalism and elegance is Primary Raw! Front and center for this fond-of-upcycling brand is fermented soybean, a star ingredient that helps to soften the skin by increasing cell turnover whilst deeply hydrating and infusing it with antioxidant power. Their Azulene Gel Cream includes tiny capsules of its namesake azulene, a compound distilled from the steaming of chamomile flowers. The two-step Milk Peeling kit condenses the pore-purifying Aqua Peel into an at home treatment that simultaneously dissolves deep-seated blackheads and impurities while brightening and hydrating the skin with an oversized q-tip soaked in a lactic acid blend that’s followed up with one of the softest sheet masks ever. It’s the weekly treatment to end all weekly treatments, keeping skin bright and clear!