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Best Korean Moisturizers Guide

Latest posts by Clare Holden (see all)

If you have been having trouble finding your perfect match when it comes to a moisturizer, it might be time to look into K-Beauty. I first discovered Korean skincare while working as a makeup artist.

Back then, it was an open secret in the industry that some of the best moisturizers in the business were Korean. At the time, they weren’t as readily available, so whenever I or anyone else made a trip to Asia, we made sure to load up on as many skincare goodies as possible.

The last few years have seen an overwhelming increased interest in skincare – with everyone from Gen Zers, and millennials to boomers preferring to invest in eye creams, moisturizers, and face masks over traditional makeup products.

After spending my twenties obsessed with makeup, I, too, found myself beginning to shift towards a more minimalist approach to beauty, preferring to focus more on taking care of my skin first and foremost while pairing back how much makeup I wore.

I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to test out hundreds if not thousands of different makeup and skincare brands on both my own skin and my clients, and there is just something so special about how easily Korean moisturizers melt into the skin that makes them a universal winner for all skin types.

I have quite a dry complexion, and while I tend to eat healthily the majority of the time, whenever I overindulge in sugar my skin breaks out almost immediately.

My biggest skin concern is trying to keep it hydrated. Before I discovered Korean moisturizers it felt like my skin was constantly parched no matter how much water I drank or moisturizer I slathered on it.

korean moisturizers

My Top Picks at a Glance

These three products have earned a permanent place on my bathroom shelf.

The Top Korean Moisturizers for Every Skin Type

Best Overall: Etude House SoonJung 2x Barrier Intensive Cream

etude house soonjung 2x barrier intensive сream Best Korean Moisturizer overallImage by Clare Holden

This, for me, is the best all-round K Beauty moisturizer. It works with every skin type, and the silky texture instantly makes your complexion look and feel better.

I use it for both day and night and especially love how well it sits under makeup. Despite being extremely hydrating it never feels heavy on the skin due to how it melts seamlessly into the skin.

I wear contact lenses, and while I don’t have particularly sensitive skin, any scented cream makes my eyes burn, so the fact that this moisturizer is fragrance-free is another massive bonus.

It also contains panthenol, which is a key ingredient for not only strengthening the skin barrier but also calming and cooling irritated skin. One of the major selling points for me about this cream is that it has a low PH formula, meaning it doesn’t upset your skin’s natural balance.

While the original tube is slightly smaller they have recently brought out a bigger size, due to demand. Although the packaging is pretty basic, this moisturizer is definitely a skincare staple.

Personally, when it comes to beauty essentials I have no interest in paying extra for fancy boxes or huge marketing overheads, especially for products that I go through quite quickly, so the fact that this cream delivers results and comes in at just over $10 makes it ideal for constant repurchasing.

etude soonjung hydro barrier cream big size

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Affordable
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons

  • Might not work as a day cream for those with oily skin
  • Slightly smaller tube

Best for Dry Skin: Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

Best Korean Moisturizer for dry skin cosrx advanced snail 96 mucin power essenceImage by Clare Holden

While this isn’t technically a moisturizer, its ability to lock in hydration makes it a go-to for anyone who struggles to keep their skin soft. Teaming this Snail Mucin with a moisturizer was a game changer for my skin. In the past, whenever I struggled with dryness, especially in the Winter, I just piled more and more cream on my skin, but after hearing so much hype about this wonder ingredient, I was curious, if not slightly hesitant, to test it out.

The texture is more serum-like than slimy, and it absorbs so quickly into the skin you barely feel it once it has been applied. The snail essence works by helping to retain moisture, which is why it amplifies the effectiveness of any cream applied after it.

The biggest difference it made to my skin was on my forehead, which tends to be where my skin often goes flaky, and lines are the most obvious. While I was a little skeptical about how effective snail mucin could actually be, my skin overall just looks more plumped and smoother.

I find it most effective when applied at night with a moisturizer, as it gives it time to get to work while you sleep. I didn’t have any irritation from it, but those with delicate complexions may need to test it out first. I also find due to how much it evens out the texture of the skin; my foundation looks so much better when I apply it the following day.

Pros

  • Smoothes skin
  • Reduces dark spots
  • Rehydrating

Cons

  • Not cruelty-free
  • Those with sensitive skin may need to do a patch test

Best for Oily Skin: Iunik Beta-Glucan Power Deep Moisture

Best Korean Moisturizer for oily skin iunik beta-glucan power deep moistureImage by Clare Holden

Skincare ingredients can be a bit of a minefield, and I am sure you are thinking, what the hell is beta-glucan and do I really need to add it into my skincare routine?

Beta-glucan is extracted from mushrooms and is 20% better at retaining moisture than hyaluronic acid. It works not only to deeply hydrate skin but also to reduce redness and rosacea.

I mentioned above that I alternate between this and the snail mucin for my nightly skincare routine before my moisturizer, but if you’re not keen on using snail essence, this transparent vegan-friendly moisture serum is a powerhouse when it comes to pumping skin with hydration.

I especially like how it firms my skin and improves its elasticity. Unlike most Western serums, this one is free from fragrance, alcohol, and oils, making it perfect for those with acne-prone or sensitive skin. The non-comedogenic formula is suitable for all skin types, and because you only need a tiny amount, one bottle goes a long way.

It has multiple benefits throughout the year, as the calming ingredients effectively cool both wind and sunburn. My nose is constantly red from the cold, so I love to put a tiny dot on my nose in Winter before I apply my foundation to keep my skin tone even throughout the day.

Pros

  • Cruelty-free
  • Can be used day or night

Cons

  • Packaging could be more durable
  • Not everyone may like the droplet bottle

Best for Hydration: Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Cream Moisturizer

Best Korean Moisturizer for hydration laneige water bank blue hyaluronic cream moisturizerImage by Clare Holden

Laneige is one of the better-known K Beauty brands due to their campaign with Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney. While their overnight lip mask may have gone viral on social media, for me, the standout product in their collection is the Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Moisturizer. It comes in a very cool and unique blue cube and is loaded with a powerful combo of squalane, ceramides, and glycerin.

laneige lip sleeping mask

In addition to this trio, is the specially developed blue hyaluronic acid, which is a step up from the standard HA found in regular creams. It is extra effective as it has been doubly fermented to make it easier for your skin to absorb and, therefore, provides extended hydration.

One of the things I love about this cream is that it comes with a spatula for a mess-free and hygienic application. Dipping your hands in and out of products isn’t the cleanest, so having a tool to use prevents any unnecessary bacteria ending up in your moisturizer and, later, on your face.

This is a great daytime moisturizer as the non-sticky texture keeps your skin from looking shiny. I particularly like it for days when I am not wearing makeup and want to give my skin a break from heavy products. Even though it’s a cream it feels breathable while wearing it.

Pros

  • More widely available
  • Can be used day and night
  • Comes in a variety of sizes

Cons

  • Not everyone may like the scent
  • Slightly more expensive

Best for Sensitive Skin: Erborian – Bamboo Creme Frappee Facial Moisturizer

Best Korean Moisturizer for sensitive skin erborian - bamboo creme frappee facial moisturizerImage by Clare Holden

I first discovered the brand Erborian on the recommendation of a makeup artist friend. My skin was going through a difficult patch, and I really needed to give it a break from makeup, but didn’t want to have to go to work completely bare-faced. She suggested their BB Cream, which hits the sweet spot between skincare and foundation.

erborian bb cream with ginseng

It proved the perfect solution, and although once my skin cleared up I went straight back to my favorite foundation, I still keep a tube of it on hand in case of any skin emergencies. It is also my go-to whenever I am flying, as it prevents my complexion from drying out on the plane while still providing a sheer veil of coverage.

I loved so much how the BB cream left my skin looking and feeling that I was dying to try out more of the brand’s skincare offerings, and was intrigued by their Bamboo Creme Frappee.

The formula sits somewhere between a gel and a cream, making it a great choice for those with oily skin or for anyone looking for a lighter moisturizing option in the summer months.

As well as skin cycling, adapting your products to the climate will make all the difference when it comes to getting your skin into peak condition. If you live in a hot or humid location or need a holiday moisturizer, I definitely recommend investing in a jar of this to keep your skin grease-free but fully hydrated.

Pros

  • Available in two sizes
  • Rehydrating formula
  • Dermatologically tested

Cons

  • Not everyone may like the green color
  • Slightly more expensive

Best for Face and Body: Illiyoon Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream

This cream is intensely hydrating, and while I don’t use it every day, once a week, when I am working from home I slather it on my face to give my skin a serious dose of moisture. While it may be slightly too heavy for under makeup or as a regular day cream, nothing compares to its ability to deliver rich hydration and leave the skin feeling soft and supple.

It also doubles up as a body cream, working incredibly well on knees, elbows, and any dry patches that may appear on your skin. Because of its rich texture, you only need a pea-sized amount so a tube feels like it lasts forever.

Whenever my skin is feeling tight, this is the moisturizer I reach for. I also use it on my lips overnight to prevent them from becoming chapped and broken. Overall, it’s an excellent multi-purpose moisturizer to have in your skincare collection.

Pros

  • Deeply hydrating
  • Fragrance-free
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons

  • Basic packaging
  • Not as widely available

FAQs

Question: Why is Korean Beauty so special?

Answer: First off, the approach to skincare is completely different. The products are developed to enhance the overall long-term health of your skin and work to prevent skin issues before they happen, as opposed to trying to hide or conceal them as they appear like Western skincare. The formulas are also gentler, so less likely to cause irritation while still containing complex ingredients to ensure optimum results.
Korea has incredibly advanced research and development facilities along with some of the best skincare scientists in the world, so their products contain the most innovative ingredients available and are more “cosmetically elegant” meaning they absorb better into the skin for greater effect. Best of all, K Beauty products are generally much more affordable. In a nutshell, their products are more advanced but cost less.

Question: Which is the best K Beauty brand?

Answer: One thing that puts newcomers to Korean beauty off is that they simply don’t know where to start. It is a testament to the effectiveness of K Beauty products that a lot of the best-selling creams and serum’s popularity is spread solely by word of mouth with little to no marketing or advertisements.
This however can also make it difficult to hear about new products. My personal favorite brands are Erborian, Etude House, Cosrx, and Iunik. I have had success with all the products I have purchased from these four.

Question: How to Use Korean Skincare Products?

Answer: I am a massive fan of skin cycling, and this is where I think Korean skincare becomes most effective. For anyone who doesn’t know – skin cycling is alternating your products on different days for different purposes. Our skin changes throughout the year due to the weather, diet, stress, or how much sleep we are getting. Because K Beauty products are cheaper it is easier to build a customized routine for your exact skin type.
With just three products you can tailor-make a skincare routine catered to exactly your skin’s needs. I found by doing this my complexion vastly improved. Where I live, the temperature varies from below zero in Winter to close to 100 in Summer, meaning while a thick, creamy Korean moisturizer may work wonders for my dry cracked skin in the colder months, by the time July hits, I need to switch to a lightweight serum or gel to avoid overloading my skin and looking greasy.

Korean Moisturizers Guide: Bottomline

attractive young woman applying korean moisturizer cream

All of the products in this guide to the best Korean moisturizers came recommended by beauty insiders and have been tried and tested to ensure they work effectively.

These are just a few of the gems from K Beauty. So whether you are looking to switch to a completely Korean skincare routine or just want to add in one key product to target a specific concern, every type of complexion can benefit from the high-quality formulations they provide.

Those with sensitive skin will especially love how gentle the ingredients are, and I, for one, love how they rarely add fragrance to their products, which can often cause irritation and redness to the eye area.

If you are serious about the long-term health and appearance of your skin, K Beauty proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune to take care of your skin, and even with just one good moisturizer, you can improve the texture and softness while also reducing the appearance of dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Moisturizer is probably the best place to start if you are new to Korean brands. Once you find a product you like, that’s generally a good indication that the range is suitable for your skin type.

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