Over the last five years, we’ve watched skincare trends go from overly complicated to extremely simple. Gone are the days of slathering on an excess of active products every morning and night; now, we’ve seen the pendulum swing the other way, with a focus on a more curated skincare routine with products that work. For that reason, it makes sense that we’ve seen a rise in the popularity of Korean skincare (or K-Beauty, as it’s affectionately known) in the U.S.
I first became familiar with Korean skincare because of TikTok. Everyone was obsessed with sheet masks, and from there, my curiosity grew. I explored the Korean Skincare aisle of Ulta on the regular, and the variety of products (and their affordable price point) continued to impress me. Now, they’re a staple in my daily routine—and should be in yours, too.
What Is Korean Skincare?
Korean skincare has been up and coming for years, as Charlotte Cho, the founder of Soko Glam. She explained that Korean skincare focuses less on covering up issues, and more on addressing them at the root of the cause. “Korean skincare products are incredibly innovative, gentle, and effective,” Cho said. “There are entirely new categories, consistencies, formats, and ingredients that were created in Korea.”
Korean skincare’s ingredients are much gentler than ones found in the U.S., with less of a focus on acids and scrubs than we often see on the shelves of Sephora. From snail mucin to fermented rice water to bee pollen, Korean skincare embraces simple-yet-effective ingredients that still deliver visible results.
“When you’re educated about skincare and you stay committed to a routine, you’ll see results,” Cho said. “Korean skincare is not about the number of products or steps you have, it’s about having the knowledge that will help you achieve only good (skin) days ahead.”
Korean Skincare Products I Love
After years of testing out Korean skincare products, these are the ones that have a permanent spot in my routine:
PEACH & LILY
Cho said that double-cleansing is her top skincare tip, and this oil cleanser is the perfect first cleanse in my routine. It dissolves makeup (including waterproof makeup), skincare, and dirt and oil while keeping my skin hydrated (and without leaving a residue). Its gentle, fragrance-free formula is suitable for all skin types—including sensitive skin.
With the help of 95% snail mucin, birch juice, and licorice, this mask targets darks spots, blemishes, dullness, and leaves my skin ultra-hydrated. Its jelly-like texture also gives a cooling effect, which is a welcome treat in the summer months.
This viral product was completely sold-out earlier this year, and the results it delivers make it easy to see why. This essence targets dryness and aging, and leaves you with nourished, plump, moisturized skin. It completely improved my texture and dark spots, and it’s become a must in my daily routine.
The name might be a mouthful, but this affordable sunscreen is the best I’ve tried in a very long time. It boasts UVA/UVB protection of SPF 50+, and blends in flawlessly to be worn alone or under makeup. If you’re in need of motivation to apply SPF every day, the gorgeous glow this sunscreen gives will provide it for you.
This lightweight moisturizer is my go-to in the summer months. Its fast-absorbing gel texture is ultra-hydrating for the skin, but soaks in quickly, which ensures you aren’t left feeling sticky after applying it. It’s a total game-changer for dull, dry skin.
I’ve struggled with dark spots for as long as I can remember. If you’re Black or Brown and acne-prone, you probably feel my pain. It wasn’t until I started adding the right ingredients to my skincare routine that I started to notice a significant and lasting improvement. I learned that there’s one key product that can make or break your routine—your moisturizer. If it doesn’t have the right ingredients for melanated skin—well, let’s just say you could be hurting rather than helping your skin goals. Luckily though, I have estheticians on speed dial who are willing to give some sound advice on the matter. Below, I’m breaking down what to look for in a moisturizer if you have Black or Brown skin and the best ones to buy. Keep on scrolling.
“Black and Brown skin can be more prone to certain skin concerns, such as hyperpigmentation or uneven skin tone,” says esthetician and Klur founder Lesley Thornton. “Look for ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin C, or licorice extract, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, and non-aggressive acids that can exfoliate the skin without stripping or irritating.”
“Moisturizers should contain ingredients that provide and retain hydration in the skin with emollients and occlusives to help create a barrier on the skin’s surface, preventing moisture loss. Look for non-comedogenic formulas to avoid clogged pores and breakouts—these formulations are less likely to cause acne or worsen existing skin issues. Sun protection against harmful UV rays is also crucial for maintaining healthy skin. Look for moisturizers that contain broad-spectrum SPF to shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Aim for SPF 30 or higher.”
Thornton’s top moisturizer pick for Black and Brown skin is below, along with a few of our favorites.
Pros: Relatively inexpensive, contains skin barrier-supporting ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, suitable for sensitive skin.
Cons: Contains silicones.
“This moisturizer contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid which help to hydrate and strengthen the skin barrier. It is suitable for sensitive skin, very affordable and it has multiple formulations, a day version with SPF and a standard without SPF is often recommended by skin health professionals.” —Thornton
Customer Review: “This is my favorite moisturizer with SPF. I discovered this brand in a pharmacy store in Paris a few years ago and use their other products too. Hope to get to their spa one day!”
Pros: Contains retinol to help speed up skin cell turnover, has 19 anti-inflammatory plant ingredients, firming peptides tighten aging skin.
This moisturizer from Thornton’s skincare brand Klur is great for those who may struggle with acne and dark spots. It’s an overnight retinol cream that’s gentle (yet powerful) while lifting pigment and speeding up skin cell turnover. In addition to retinol, it also contains 19 anti-inflammatory plant ingredients along with peptides to firm the skin and calm redness.
Customer Review: “OBSESSED with Klur’s Sculpture + A… I use this a few nights a week, and it is truly magic in a jar. I have two young toddlers that exhaust me 24/7 and have added at least 10 years to my face in the last year. Whenever I use this product, I wake up the next morning looking a little more youthful around the eyes, and my skin looks healthier with a nice subtle glow. Grateful this product exists as it has become a new staple in my routine!”
Pros: Contains SPF 30, niacinamide in the formula helps fade dark spots and provides excess oil control, hyaluronic acid deeply hydrates the skin.
Cons: Contains chemical sunscreen filters.
Fenty’s invisible SPF 30 moisturizer locks in hydration, helps fade dark spots, and smooths out enlarged pores with ingredients like niacinamide, Kalahari melon, hyaluronic acid, and aloe.
Pros: Budget-friendly, contains 5% niacinamide to provide oil control and fade dark spots, ceramosides and a betaine complex reduce moisture loss and hydrate the skin.
Cons: May not be hydrating enough for extra dry skin.
This lightweight water-based gel moisturizer from the Inkey List stops moisture loss in the skin with ceramosides and a betaine complex while simultaneously reducing excess oil production and fading dark spots with 5% niacinamide.
Customer Review: “This is very light and watery, a gel-like texture that feels cool and comfortable. Great for quick and simple moisturizing, but even better if you like to layer heavier creams on top of lightweight moisturizers!”
Pros: Hyaluronic acid complex in the formula hydrates the skin, pineapple enzymes smooth out skin texture and fade dark spots, amino acids provide antioxidant protection.
Cons: May not be suitable for hypersensitive or extra dry skin.
Featuring a hyaluronic acid complex, amino acids, and pineapple enzymes, this formula from Summer Fridays aims to provide antioxidant protection to skin, deeply hydrates, and gently smooths out skin texture and dark spots.
Customer Review: “I was so excited to [try] this and it did not disappoint. It gives my skin such a glowy look. I have fairly sensitive skin and it worked great for me. A little goes a long way and there’s a good amount of product in the jar. Will definitely buy again.”
Pros: Fragrance-free, balances oil production in the skin, provides long-lasting hydration with hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid, moringa and papaya help remove impurities from the skin.
Cons: May not be hydrating enough for extra dry skin.
If you’re acne-prone this moisturizer is an absolute lifesaver. It provides just the right amount of hydration your skin needs with hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid while moringa and papaya help remove impurities from the skin and calm redness.
Customer Review: “I stumbled upon it on accident and have been so surprised by how much my skin enjoys it. My skin has been chronically dry and sensitive, and I’m amazed this doesn’t break me out. It feels greasy going on but in a light refreshing way. It is so moisturizing. New staple!”
Pros: Peptides firm skin and support healthy collagen production, squalane repairs the moisture barrier, hydrosella provides up to 72 hours of hydration.
Dry skin will greatly benefit from this moisture-rich cream from Shani Darden. It’s also great if you use any brightening acids in your skincare routine to lighten dark spots or even out your skin tone. Peptides support healthy collagen production in the skin while hydrosella provides up to 72 hours of hydration and squalane replenishes the skin’s moisture barrier.
Customer Review: “Very hydrating and soothing to my skin. Rich enough but not greasy. I noticed a difference even after the second day. I have sensitive normal to dry skin, 58 years old, and I’m not expecting a miracle out of any product. Although this peptide cream made a difference. My skin looks more glowing and rejuvenated.”
Pros: Rich in vitamin C and niacinamide, adds radiance and hydration to the skin with squalane, peptides, and hyaluronic acid.
Cons: Large amount of vitamin C may not be suitable for extra sensitive skin.
OAM’s vitamin C-rich moisturizer adds so much radiance to the skin. It can also help even out your skin tone and fade dark spots in record time with niacinamide. Additional moisture also comes from peptides, squalane, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.
Customer Review: “This moisturizer is so velvety and smooth on my skin. I love the ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, resveratrol, it keeps my skin bright and hydrated. My skin feels so soft and glowy after applying the moisturizer. Gifted by OAM Skin.”
Pros: Contains 10% vitamin C and a 10% peptide complex, ceramides and squalane support hydration levels and reinforce the skin barrier.
Cons: Pills slightly under makeup.
With a 10% vitamin C complex and 10% peptide complex, this moisturizer is a master skin-firmer and brightens like no other. Ceramides and squalane also support hydration levels and reinforce the skin barrier.
Customer Review: “Really impressed! Super hydrating, I wake up with soft skin, and it’s a very light consistency, which I love. My face is noticeably more hydrated. Great $$ too.”
Pros: Contains barrier-supporting ingredients like ceramides and peptides, contains a complex to restore health to a hormonally imbalanced complexion, features bakuchiol, a retinol alternative.
This barrier-enhancing cream is great for dry or mature skin since it contains a peptide complex, vitamin E, grean tea, bakuchiol, and ceramides. Bakuchiol is a great retinol alternative and is a bit gentler on the skin so it’s also great for those who are sensitive and could use an extra dose of hydration.
Customer Review: “After using Dr. Zenovia Skincare Peptide and Ceramide repairing moisturizer over the past few weeks, I can say I have noticed a positive difference in the quality of my skin. My skin feels firmer and looks brighter. The aroma and the texture of the produce is light but very pleasant. I experienced no negatives from this product. As I’m approaching 30, I really appreciate products like this that help me keep my skin looking youthful.”
This is going to sound crazy, but a few weeks ago, I stopped washing my face with heavy cleansers first thing in the morning. I instead replaced my face wash with a heavy dousing of Sva Organics Rose Water Spray. And I’m not the only one reaching for the floral-infused water over their morning cleanser. A video of Salma Hayek is going viral on TikTok where she says her grandmother told her “never wash her face in the morning.” And instead, she uses “a lot of rosewater.” I found when I started using a rose water toner, my acne flare-ups were few and far between and my dry-leaning combination skin became hydrated and glowy.
The rose water comes in a sturdy glass bottle and is made of hydro-distilled rose petals known to be anti-inflammatory and soothing for irritable skin. It has a screw-on spray nozzle for easy application and can be used on everything from your face to your hair. It can promote hair growth and provide a multitude of remedies for all hair types, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD. Even Amazon shoppers dealing with frequent breakouts are noticing fewer “pimples or boils” with consistent use of this product.
You must be wondering how I substitute washing my face at the start of the day with this rose water toner. While I would recommend consulting your dermatologist first, I can attest did wonders for my blemish-prone, dry combination skin. I now double-cleanse my skin in the evening, and in the morning, I give my skin a quick rinse and then a generous spraying of rose water. My face no longer feels stripped and tight and, without needing additional products, feels hydrated and soft, and my breakouts and dark spots have dwindled substantially over the days of use. I reapply throughout the day (even on top of makeup) if my skin needs a pick me up. And when my scalp is feeling itchy and dry, I will apply a liberal amount to my kinky afro curly, and almost immediately, my scalp is soothed and smells amazing.
If you can’t take my word or Hayek and her grandmothers, the 2,800 five-star ratings from Amazon shoppers may change your mind. Similar to my experience, one reviewer is using the toner in place of their face wash, and they said, “It has cleared their skin so much.” They also shared that their “skin [is] visibly moisturized and [has] a nice glow.” Another shopper said after one week of use, their daughter’s “skin looks much better, and [their] acne is fading away.” A final reviewer found the rose water relieved the itching and calmed “an inflammatory response” on their scalp.
Salma Morning Skincare Routine
“I think that my beauty routine, and how I see beauty is from what I’ve learned from my grandmother. It made me realize that there are things that were not out there because [most brands] go by trends. Some things are really good that are pushed to the side just because they’re trying too hard to sell you the new thing to always create some kind of event.
She won’t cleanse or exfoliate too much, embraces natural ingredients like coconut oil, and believes in the power of good old-fashioned facial massage.
Salma switches things up depending on how her skin looks and feels each day. “My routine changes, it depends on how my skin wakes up. I don’t do it like a machine. I look at it, I pay attention. I talk to it. Like, ‘What do we need today?”
Keep reading to find out how Salma takes care of her enviable complexion.
“I never cleanse my skin in the morning. My grandmother taught me that at night your skin replenishes all the things you lost during the day. Also, if I cleanse very well at night, why would it be dirty when I wake up? It’s for companies to have you use more products.”
“I spritz rose water—it’s so gentle and wakes the skin up.”
“ I use rose water to take off the residuals. You can use a hot towel with the rose water—you put a wet towel in the microwave—to do a little steam. I believe that sometimes it’s good at night to do not a lot of [skincare products]. I will tell you why: Your skin, it’s going to do an amazing job. It’s going to repair itself… the most important thing is to clean it super well.
“I use an ingredient called tepezcohuite that’s used in Mexico for burn victims because it completely regenerates the skin… This is why I have no Botox, no peels, no fillings.”
“I am completely against SPF. SPF on its own is good, but I’m sorry, SPF in creams and makeup is a big mistake. It’s a lot of chemicals that can affect the formula of the cream. Ninety percent of the time, you don’t need it because you are working in an office indoors. Or you are going out at night.”
Sisley Paris Nutritive Lip Balm: “I also… throw a Sisley lip balm in my purse.”
Her Skincare Treatments
La Mer The Hydrating Facial: “Traveling can dry out my skin. This mask is amazing for moisturizing and conditioning, especially after a night flight.”
“My grandmother was into natural ingredients. She was like a witch doctor, a cosmetologist. We’d be having breakfast and she would take the leftovers—papaya, yogurt, honey, nuts—and blend them all, then she’d start putting them on her face. I grew up like that and as I got older I realized that wasn’t normal. I thought everyone just took the leftovers and made a mask!”
Cynthia Franco Aesthetics: “[I wear an] LED face mask that my facialist Cynthia made me try. When you’re close to 50, you are open to trying sci-fi.”
“Do you know what is the best thing for your face, to keep it toned? Massage. I have a [massage therapist], but she lives in Japan. She only comes to London every once in a while. But when she comes, she’s my secret weapon. I believe in massage, and the way she does it is with two people. You have to take out your tongue and make sounds and all these crazy things. One person moves your leg while the other person is pulling your ear. I don’t know, but it’s extraordinary! Massage oxygenates, activates circulation, and keeps the muscles healthy and firm. I cannot tell you, even just for the lymphatic [system], what the massage does for the face.”
Her Diet, Exercise & Lifestyle
“I am on the limit of chubbiness because I love my food and my wine. It’s not the best for fashion, but it’s good for my mood. I am happy because I eat… I will not have Botox. Do you know why? Because I eat! I eat the fat, I eat the vegetables, I eat everything. If you exercise too much and you don’t eat enough, it takes its toll on the skin. Everything starts aging. If you don’t eat carbs, you slow your metabolism down. And you know what? You look miserable. The truth is I just don’t have the drive to be the prettiest and the thinnest. I can be happy for other people for their beauty. Learn to be happy for others and you can never run out of happiness.”
“Right now I am doing something that I’m loving. It is called bone broth! It’s full of gelatin and fat and has bone marrow and I think it is very good to keep yourself young. It helps to restructure the tissues for your skin, your hair, and your nails. It’s full of collagen.”
“Some people have the discipline to exercise in the morning, and I didn’t develop that. I work with a woman in London who taught me how to hold my body in a way where the muscles are activated all day long. So even when you brush your teeth, you’re working the muscles. It’s restorative yoga. She taught me to tone [my muscles] without clenching them. You relax them and focus on the parts that need to be used, but never with tension. If you’re aware of your body, you’d be surprised by the effect it can have.”
“When I started my career, I saw beauty more as a goal. Now I just see beauty as part of life—of everyday life. When I was younger I was always trying to figure out, ‘Oh my God, what would look good on me? Is this my best or should I be like that? What hair color I should have?’ But it’s more about finding your identity. As you get older, if you’re lucky, you can pay attention to life. You sort of settle, you’re more comfortable, and you understand much better who you are.”