The Best Korean Makeup
I wouldn’t dare challenge your familiarity with Korean skin care products (and if you don’t have a sheet mask, an essence, or a BB cream in your stash, where ya been!?). Korean makeup, however, is a story less often told in the West. But there’s really no reason for that, especially since you can get some of the best Korean makeup on Amazon.
Korean makeup trends tend to align closely with Korean skin care trends — "glassy," "dewy," and "flushed" are a few adjectives you’ll see a lot to describe both Korean beauty and skin-care standards. The overarching aesthetic leans more “natural” than “Kardashian,” but in Korean beauty in particular, a hint of playfulness still sneaks through. (For example, I’m obsessed, on several levels, with the “just-cried eyeshadow” trend.) For some more inspiration, or concrete direction about how to deploy the makeup you’re about to see, start stalking some Korean beauty influencers and experts, like Risabae, Yoo’s Beauty, and the Seoul-based salon Jennyhouse.
That said, you obviously don’t need to use Korean beauty products strictly to recreate Korean beauty trends. Use them however you want! Just know that they might be a little less pigmented or concentrated, at least upon initial application, than you might be used to with other makeup brands. But you can always build them up to your desired level of drama, of course.
From a portable highlighter stick to a cult-favorite primer to a selection of fruity lip stains, playing around with the Korean makeup ahead can help you look like whichever K-Pop star you’ve most recently followed down a YouTube rabbit hole. (Or just like yourself, with some really good-quality makeup on.)
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1. The Best Korean Primer
This Touch In Sol No Pore Blem Primer does everything a good primer should: It minimizes the appearance of large pores, blurs textural inconsistencies, wicks away excess oil, and the rosy tint gives your skin a little glow. Reviewers also love its lightweight, lotion-like consistency, which absorbs nicely into your skin. (But it’ll still form a smooth coating for your makeup to stick onto, and stay onto, all day long.) It works equally well for people with dry, oily, and combination skin types, too.
2. The Best Korean Highlighter
Reviewers love this VDL Lumilayer All Over Stick for its blendable, creamy consistency and its colorless, high-impact glow. But I think the best thing about it is the fact that it’s basically a big, beautiful crayon, so it’s the most foolproof and least messy way to highlight your skin — just throw it in your bag for midday (or midnight) touch-ups. Alternatively, you can apply this as a primer if you prefer a subtle sheen to the full-on Instagram Face effect.
3. The Best Korean Blush
Sweep this Etude House Lovely Cookie Blusher on the apples of your cheeks if you’re going for a fresh, flushed Chok Chok look. Along with Grapefruit Jelly — a coral-toned pink that one reviewer said is a good dupe for NARS Orgasm, minus the sparkle — you can also get the shades Strawberry Chou (a doll-like powdery pink) and Peach Choux Wafers (a sun-kissed, dusty peach) on Amazon.
4. The Best Korean Contour
You’ll find contour powder pop up in a fully fledged Korean makeup routine — it’ll just be applied with a much lighter touch than you’re probably used to seeing in your IGTV feed. This Too Cool For School Artclass By Rodin Shading is a popular choice. Use this matte, three-toned powder to play with the shape of your face, if you want to remain true to Korean contouring techniques.
5. The Best Korean Loose Powder
This Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Pact is beloved in Korea for many reasons. The powder feels exactly as light and soft in the pan as it does on your face (like, baby powder-soft), keeps excess oil at bay for hours, won’t clog your pores, and goes on totally translucent, so it’s gorgeous on all skin tones. Two more reasons to love it: It costs about $8 on Amazon, and you don’t need to go to Seoul to get it.
6. The Best Korean Eyeshadow Palette
As its name suggests, these Etude House Play Color Eyes palettes are all about playing with color, on your eyes. Fun! Reviewers say these shades aren’t super pigmented, so these palettes are a great choice if you want to play with color cautiously. I like this Peach Farm palette, with all its warm, summer-fruit shades that would look gorgeous on anyone. But you can get a few of the brand’s other, location-based palettes on Amazon, like Cherry Blossom, In the Cafe, and Bakehouse.
7. The Best Korean Mascara
Lots of Korean mascaras are formulated for lengthening and lifting shorter, straighter lashes, but this Peripera Ink Black Mascara is a particularly good choice if you also want to curl and volumize your lashes (so, essentially, have all your good-lash bases covered). It’s also seriously waterproof — a must if you have oily lids, or anticipate crying or sweating — so you’ll need a heavy-duty eye makeup remover on hand to take it off before bed.
8. The Best Korean Eye Pencil
Whether you’re drawing on a full-on cat eye, creating a smudgy smoky eye, or just wiggling it between your lashes for subtle definition, this Clio Sharp So Simple Waterproof Pencil Liner can help you do it. It has a super slim tip for better control and precision, and the smooth, waterproof formula won’t smudge after it sets. And since it’s a twist-up pencil, you never need to deal with accidentally breaking off the tip while you’re sharpening it. It comes in six shades, including black and all kinds of browns.
9. The Best Korean Lip Stain
Other than dewy, radiant skin, the trend that Korean beauty might be best known for is gradient lips: A concentrated wash of color in the center that diffuses out towards the edges of your mouth. It makes you look like you just ate a cherry popsicle, it’s extremely cute, and you need a lip stain, like these Tonymoly Delight Tony Tints, to do it. They’re fluid and emollient, so they’re easy to blend out; but since the formula leans more gel than water, they’ll stay on longer than a typical lip tint. This trio of tints have pretty strong cherry scents, which you’ll either love or hate, depending on your stance on artificial flavors.
10. The Best Korean Cream Lipstick
Another way to go gradient: These Moonshot Cream Paint Lightfit Air lipsticks. Since they’re lipsticks, there’s a lot more color payoff than what you get with the Tonymoly lip tints, and they’ll last a little longer, too — a good choice if you like your lip color to be more pigmented than popsicle-y. They’re feathery-light, non-drying, and feel as soft and smooth when dried as they do straight from the tube. Take your pick among five pretty shades: Sweet Muve, Almond Rose, Chilling Coral, Tangerine Breeze, and Flower Child. Or do the sensible thing and save up for all of the above.
11. The Best Korean Lip Balm
Choose among these three Tonymoly Liptone Lip Care Sticks depending on your lip-care needs: Rose Blossom for antioxidants, soothing Honey Moisture, or Mint Light for a little zing. All three variations are intensely moisturizing, thanks to their unique blends of botanical oils, butters, and ceramides. Their scents are subtle, and flavors are basically undetectable, so you can treat these as the utilitarian (but elevated) lip treatments they really are.
12. The Best Korean Brow Pencil
If the many, many Amazon reviewers are to be believed, there is nothing not to love about these Etude House Drawing Eye Brow pencils: The angled pencil makes it easy to cheat natural-looking brow strokes; you can go wispy, or build up for a more dramatic brow; and it comes in seven colors — an impressive shade range for such an affordable product. The spoolie brush on the other end is handy for blending, too. Just be sure to clean it as often as you’re cleaning your other makeup brushes. (Which you’re definitely doing often, right?)
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