So I did a post yonks ago about Korean brands I class as 'bubblegum' - cutesy, with a target audience of teens/fans of all things adorbs, generally really quite affordable - and I had all the intentions in the world to follow it up... but life got in the way. Oops. So instead I thought I'd do a little roundup of my top 5 Korean Cosmetic / Beauty brands - the ones I buy from regularly, since they're becoming increasingly known in the West (yay!).
There are loads of Korean Cosmetic brands around, so this is by no means a list that is going to get chipped into slabs of stone and propped up as an 'unchanging order of things' or written in blood, signed and sealed as trufax 4 lyf.
Sorry for that last one.
Have some brands.
I absolutely adore (and swear by, like, legitimately swear by) The Face Shop's rice water cleanser. It has sorted my skin out so freaking much since I've started using it. So. Much. I'm also probably a little more partial to their sheetmasks - especially honey and rice - over other brands at the minute. They've brought out a new 'point makeup' line recently that I'm sort of itching to try... I got through quite a few of their lip tint balms in Korea.
The home of the natural ingredients. SkinFood has a massive range of products that feature extracts ranging from egg whites to gold caviar, black raspberry, peach sake... the idea is to pack as much goodness into products that cover the skin - because makeup isn't exactly the best thing for your pores. I especially love their honey range of skincare.- Royal Honey Essential - and their sugar pot scrubs have got me through more than a couple of rough-skin days. In my opinion, they're the brand that does the most comprehensive list of product sets, so you can get your 5-step-routine in multiple different 'food' types. Out of all the brands I think I prefer their packaging designs most, because they look like things you'll find in kitchen cabinets.
The home of Princess Products. Etude House is probably one of the more widely known Korean brands (despite TonyMoly's efforts right now), and is easily identifiable by its plethora of pink-toned products. Although I think the brand has made a concerted effort to make the packaging a little sleeker and mildly less ~princess tacky~. They make a fab set of nail polishes, and I do quite like their lip and eye products. The gel or liquid eyeliner doesn't budge at all. The pencil liners smudge a tad after a couple of hours but the range of colours is really nice.
Oh it's also pronounced 'eh-tude' or 'eh-ddui-du' ... yeah.
My go-to for base products at the minute: since both my much loved face2change cushion and my old favourite, aqua petit bb cream, are Holika Holika creations. Their 'magic pole' mascara is fab, by far my favourite out of all the Korean brands/Korean formulas I tried before Maybelline's Rocket Lash hit the shelves, and their collection of eyeliners is something I am starting to hoard. The shops concept is 'magic girl' so... what do you expect. The packaging for some of the 'cake' products (eyeshadows and single blushers) can look a little flimsy, but it's not an indication of the actual product quality at all - as in, the product is far better than the slightly plastic-y packaging makes out to be. And it really is just the 'cake' products that got the short end of the stick, most of the other products look really cool.
Another brand that particularly focuses on using natural ingredients in their products, 'journey to nature' is their tagline, preferring to 'find the clean energy in nature' rather than synthesising chemicals. Very similar to other brands like The Face Shop and Innisfree - the drive to be more natural is something that I really appreciate. In Nature Republics arsenal of products, they do a brilliant argan oil hair pack - that I need to repurchase stat tbh - and some very pretty eyeshadows. The packaging is pretty unassuming, lots of pale, natural colours and clean designs that stay true to the idea of the brand.
Other places I buy frequently from are: innisfree, tonymoly, missha, club clio, aridaum, banilla.co, Laneige or Sulwhasoo if I'm feeling particularly spendy, which isn't often. These aren't all, but there are so many, whether it be well established, brand new, high end or super-budget-only-stocked-in-olive-young-kinda-2kwon-price-points. I'm trying to tackle it all.
If I don't buy directly through the websites, I'll use places like roseroseshop (also the ebay seller rubyruby76), kococolor.com, q-depot.com, wishtrend. I absolutely will not buy and will never recommend buying through cult beauty or Sephora, because the price hike is absolutely fucking ridiculous. These aren't cult brands, they're meant to be affordable.
Also! If you fancy reading a bit about why South Korean cosmetics are kinda... everywhere right now, then I wrote a piece on 'the rise of Korean beauty' for Bloggeration mag! Super happy to be involved in that, it lets me write a little more academically than I do here, so I can sort of separate the wordy mind-dump that this space is and information that I want to get across about the blogging scene in South Korea. Exciting things!
I hope this was sort of informative at least - and gives you a few options other than TonyMoly if you're looking to start building a Korean beauty/cosmetic collection. Let me know your favourite stores if you have any already, and if you want me to give you any recommendations please ask!