The only thing better than cool new skincare is cool new Korean skincare. While K-beauty was the “it” new thing only about three years ago, there are so many Korean beauty products that even the category itself has its own distinct trends. Whether you’re new to K-beauty or an old hat looking for something fresh, here’s a list of some pretty cool contenders creating lots of buzz right now.
If you haven’t encountered a sleeping mask/pack yet, it’s about time you played with one. For the uninitiated, they’re a layer of occlusive cream that you add on top of your moisturizer at night and wash off the morning after, looking fresh-faced and glowy. The sleeping pack is infused with hydrating ingredients that keeps moisture sealed in, and sometimes also contains a gentle chemical peel to help resurface the skin overnight, which is a godsend for anyone who’s ever experienced a rough winter. Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask is so wildly popular that it’s currently out of stock through its parent website and a U.S.-exclusive on Sephora (and had a 5,000-person wait list), and it’s popularity is largely because of how effective its AHA-based peel is, for even the most sensitive skin types. A generous dose of hyaluronic acid keeps the skin well-hydrated, while amino acid-rich watermelon extracts soothe and promote repair within the deeper layers. Also, when was the last time you used a watermelon-scented anything on any part of your body besides your lips? Now’s the time to try.
The obsession with the revitalizing properties of ginseng isn’t exclusive to Korea; all over East Asia and Southeast Asia, ginseng root is prized for its abilities to reenergize the skin. A rich concentration of phytonutrients within the plant stimulates the skin to improve metabolism and increase collagen production. Ginseng extracts agree with most, if not all skin types, and are absorbed easily despite any preceding skin concerns; they’re lush with vitamins and minerals to nourish your skin, and one of the best right now is Erborian’s Eau Ginseng ($49). This little number works great as either a toner or essence, but either way, the point is that it works, and it’s exactly the kind of thing you need if you’ve been looking for a little extra radiance. And really, who isn’t?
Yes, it might look scary (as most of the next-gen masks inevitably are), but they’re serious business in Asia, and thank god for that. Spa facials are the height of self-care and South Korea’s Shangpree is one of the best at them, so it was only natural that the demand for spa-level facials at home would eventually lead to a wickedly cool product–enter Shangpree’s Gold Premium Modeling “Rubber” Mask ($20). It’s on you to mix the packet of collagen powder into its “gold gel,” and voila–what you get is a gooey, rubbery concoction that’s chock-full of active botanical ingredients–and once it hardens on your face, you peel off your mask to reveal incredibly plump, soothed skin. Cucumber extracts soothe, ginger draws out impurities, jojoba deeply conditions and beeswax seals in all the good stuff. That being said, this mask is also the definition of selfie-worthy because it does make your face look like it’s solidly covered with a layer of gold, and up close, it really does take the breath away (in awe, in horror, or otherwise).
Let’s talk about another mask just because the format itself is so very cool. Splash masks are intensely concentrated fluids that you quickly dilute in the shower and pat onto your skin, for what the kids are calling a 15-second facial. These elixirs are finely balanced concoctions that mix high-performing plant extracts with a gentle fruit acid or active treatment to ensure that your skin is both nourished and re-texturized in a flash–more like in a splash. It sounds far-fetched, but the respective formulations of most splash masks live up to the hype, and few are as hyped up as Blithe’s Energy Yellow Citrus & Honey Patting Water Pack ($45). A blend of vitamin-rich fruit oils including lemon, orange and grapefruit are balanced out by a calming sugar maple extract, and when working together, these ingredients help make that lit-from-within glow just that much easier to achieve, and in less than a minute.
Stick cleansers are all the rage in Korea because they travel really well, whether in gym bags on carry-on luggage. There’s an iconic cleansing stick made with a thousand fermented roses that’s been tops in the game for a couple decades now, but Soko Glam founder Charlotte Cho’s collaboration with cosmetic powerhouse Neogen has led to the first real alternative in the stick cleanser game to the 1000-rose contender this year. The Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick ($22) boasts 13 natural oils within its formulation list, is especially good at dealing with oily skin and if that weren’t enough, it also offers real crushed tea leaves as exfoliators for extra oomph. Sunflower and evening primrose oil condition the skin deeply while lime and basil extracts clarify impurities. While the idea of lathering up a deodorant-style stick might seem a little strange, a hidden bonus of this product is that when your cleanser is solid at room temperature, a teensy little bit goes an incredibly long way and melts like a dream thanks to its oil-rich formula.