As the Korean Wave (Hallyu) continues to sweep across Asia, the beauty industry is booming. According to the the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita of any country in the world (America ranked 4th, Britain ranked 20th, Ireland did not feature). The happy by-product of such an insatiable desire to improve one’s physical features is an unparalleled range of domestic beauty products that are as effective as they are affordable. On a recent trip I tried and tested a trolley-load and found the following five to be the most impressive:
1. Laniege Water Sleeping Pack
Soon after turning 21, I developed a problem with oily skin and, subsequently, acne, particularly on my cheeks. A swift course of Roaccuntane ensued and although it largely dealt with the issue, my skin has needed what I term as ‘management’ ever since. The main struggle is finding moisturising products that don’t propel my skin back into that excessively oily hell. The beauty of this water-based mask is that it hydrates without causing that slick, shiny film that comes from facial oils and rich moisturisers to form on the surface of the skin.
For U.K. orders via Amazon click here.
2. Etude House BeBe Peeling Foot Mask
Similar to the famed Japanese foot peel Baby Foot, this product consists of plastic galoshes filled with a hard skin eroding acid. With high-hopes I placed my feet in the galoshes, waited an hour (I couldn’t read the instructions so estimated this time), had a shower and waited for my feet to transform. After three days of fretting about whether or not I had taken the socks off too soon, my feet started to peel (yuwk) and became the softest they have ever been. I have never had a professional pedicure that achieved what these corrosive little foot-shaped shower hats were able to achieve. I also bought Baby Foot and truthfully have yet to try it but at double the price of this product I think that it will have to reinvent the wheel in order to impress me more.
For U.K. orders via Amazon click here.
3. Black Head O2 Bubble Pore Pack
This mask visibly shrunk my pores and while it didn’t totally eradicate all blemishes (as some reviews suggested it would) there was a dramatic improvement. Harping back to my oily skin issue, this mask also made my skin felt smooth and dry but (crucially) not tight, making it ideal to use before applying foundation.
For U.K. orders via Peach and Lily click here (Note: this supplier is based in the US so delivery charges will apply).
4. Mizon Hyaluronic Sheet Masks
The Mizon company is famous for it’s anti-ageing Snail Repair cream but I chose to try out the sheet masks, one of the most popular beauty products in South Korea. I used the sheet the day after I flew home (flying makes my skin particularly volatile) and immediately regretted not having bought them in bulk to take home with me. My skin, particularly the thinner skin on my forehead, looked visibly plumper and I felt like my moisturiser absorbed much more easily into my skin.
Available for U.K. delivery via Amazon here.
5. Missha M Perfect Cover BB Cream
BB Creams are one of the most famous K-Beauty exports and account for 13 percent of the nation’s cosmetic market. The shelves were stacked with countless options and I chose this one on a whim, mainly because I like products with pump-action dispensers (they’re just cleaner). This approach to product buying usually fails spectacularly but this time I struck gold. It can look slightly ashy when first applied (this is cause for many base products as Asian products tend to include ‘whitening and brightening’ agents) but evens out once blended and a quick sweep of bronzer over the top negates this further. This cream is long-lasting, gives good coverage, contains SPF42 and is leaps and bounds better than some of the brands more widely available in the U.K. that I have tried (Garnier BB SPF15 – I’m looking at you).
Note: There are many more effective and affordable products (The Faceshop My Lovely Eyebrows, Binchotan Facial Puff charcoal sponge, Holika Holika Egg Soap, Tony Moly Back Stage Eye Liner to name just a few) that I could have included but chose not to because once the import costs etc. were incorporated I no longer felt that they merited their price tag. Admittedly all of the products listed here are considerably cheaper to buy in South Korea but once the cost of U.K. delivery is calculated I still feel that these items are a worthwhile purchase.