By Catherine Taylor
Korean skincare and makeup products (referred to under the umbrella term of ‘K-Beauty’) are having a major beauty moment. K-Beauty products are derived from the world’s ‘skincare capital’ South Korea, where procedures such as skin-whitening and plastic surgery are as common as the use of fake tan in Ireland.
So, what is K-Beauty? The phenomenon consists of products that promise to rejuvenate dull skin, eliminate pores and tackle under-eye bags with ease. Sound familiar? Sceptics of the beauty world would argue that K-Beauty is no more than the latest fad, whilst others swear by the active ingredients contained in the pretty, pretty packaging.
Speaking of packaging, it’s almost a given in K-Beauty marketing that a product’s packaging be cute and kitschy, almost as appealing to the consumer as the contents itself. Think of California-based makeup brand Benefit’s packaging, now think pinker. You get the idea.
So which K-Beauty brands are worth the hype, and where can you get your hands on them? Read on to find out, because, being a bit of a K-Beauty buff myself, I’ve tested the lot.
Innisfree – available at YesStyle.com
This skincare brand has a funny little connection to Ireland, originating in its name. Yes, Innisfree is named after that Innisfree. You know, the one from W.B. Yeats’ famed poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, which details his desire to escape urban life in favour of an idyllic island.
It’s fitting, then, that Innisfree takes pride in sourcing only all-natural ingredients from Jeju, an island off-the-coast of South Korea. According to the brand, Jeju island is a ‘unique eco-system with unparalleled resources to nurture beautiful skin,’ so, naturally, all products are green and cruelty-free.
While Innisfree has many standout products, perhaps the most popular is their Green Tea Seed Serum. As the name suggests, this dewy-look serum contains naturally sourced green tea which can help to combat breakouts and act as an effective cleanser for acne-prone skin. It’s also super hydrating, without leaving any sticky residue, so you can apply your makeup flawlessly after use. A win/win. €16.70, YesStyle.com
Tony Moly – available at BeautyBay.com
The holy-grail of kitschy K-Beauty packaging, Tony Moly cosmetics are famed for both their product design and fruity fragrances. In fact, so committed to aesthetic is the brand, that the name ‘Tony Moly’ literally means ‘putting style into packaging.’
Tony Moly was launched in 2006 in South Korea before gaining popularity further afield. Now, the company has a flagship store for the K-Beauty enthusiasts of New York City, and is sold on many European cosmetic sites such as Beauty Bay. Select products can also be found in Irish stores, so next time you feel like perusing the makeup section of your local T.K. Maxx, make sure to keep a look out.
In terms of product recommendations, Tony Moly’s Timeless Ferment Snail Toner should be the next skincare product you invest in. At over €50, it’s not the cheapest toner out there, but beauty buffs attest that you reap the benefits of its hydrating formula. It’s an anti-ageing gel that works best on drier skin. €52, BeautyBay.com
Etude House – available at KoreanKosmetics.co.uk & YesStyle.com
This next brand is very well known in the K-Beauty community. Famous for its cult product, the Wonder Pore Deep Foaming Cleanser, Etude House is an essential brand for the K-Beauty newcomer. Characterised by its hyper-girly and pretty pink packaging, the company specialises in both skincare and makeup products to suit all ages and skin types.
The abovenamed cleanser is one of South Korea’s most popular beauty exports. Wonder Pore has been around for years and with good reason: it’s a dream alcohol-infused cleanser for those with oily complexions. Alternatively, the brand’s Baking Powder Pore Cleansing Foam is just as reliable a product for removing dead skin cells and impurities.
Finally, Etude House’s famed eyeshadows are a must-have for the makeup mavens of the world. The Look At My Eyes individual shadows are specially formulated to provide pigmentation and to last all day. They are an affordable alternative to the more expensive offerings on the market: at around €5 per shadow, Etude House’s cutely packaged eye products are essential to the beauty-obsessed college student. Happy online shopping everyone!