Today is Korean American Day, a holiday to commemorate the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the United States. In celebration of this holiday, the Korean American community, and the incalculable impact they’ve had on the beauty industry, we thought we’d share some of our favorite Korean American beauty brands to shop from. For each brand, we chose one standout product that, in our humble opinion, is a total must-have.
But before we get into it, let’s make one thing clear. We’re not highlighting these brands for the sake of it; we’re highlighting these brands because they’re seriously good (and we mean it). Every brand and product on this list is one we beauty editors consistently use in our skincare and makeup routines. So scroll on to see all 12 Korean American brands and our favorite products to use from each. Whether you’re in need of a glow-boosting serum or a blendable blush, there’s something on this list for you.
Peach & Lily was founded by celebrity aesthetician Alicia Yoon. The brand’s products are, first and foremost, gentle on the skin so as to not cause extra irritation. They’re also full of proven active ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, and niacinamide. While the Glass Skin Refining Serum ($39) is probably its most iconic product (and for good reason), this beauty editor is obsessed with the brand’s Matcha Pudding Antioxidant Cream. With antioxidant-rich matcha, inflammation-fighting niacinamide, and firming adenosine, it makes my skin so smooth, calm, and happy.
Developed by David Yi, Good Light is a skincare brand built for anyone, regardless of gender identity. The brand’s star product (at least in our opinion) is this so-called toning lotion. It uses AHAs, meadowfoam seed oil, snow mushroom, niacinamide, and ceramides to exfoliate, hydrate, support the skin barrier, regulate oil, minimize pores, and more. It’s a do-it-all product.
The standout product from Glow Recipe has to be this unique glow-boosting serum. With ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and watermelon, it instantly hydrates the skin, reduces the look of hyperpigmentation, and adds a non-glittery sheen to the skin. It’s one of the most effortless ways to get dewy skin.
Not only does this brand have an incredibly cute name, but it has some incredibly effective products, like this cleansing balm. Designed to be used as the first step in a double cleanse, it effortlessly breaks down dirt, sunscreen, and makeup. It also benefits the skin with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E. Trust me, if you use this, you won’t believe how soft your skin feels afterward. Follow it up with the brand’s Soothing Tea Cleansing Gel ($36) for the ultimate cleansing experience.
Are Jinsoon nail polishes sleek and aesthetic? Yes. Do they come in the trendiest shades? Yes. Are they a favorite of the Who What Wear team? Also yes. Since there are so many hues to choose from, we like going with this Color Trio, which includes three shades. There’s Muse, a sheer pink, Piedra, a clay color, and Palma, a verdant green.
Krave Beauty has so many great products, but this gentle cleanser is at the top of our list. It uses coconut-based surfactants, so it effectively cleans the skin without stripping it of much-needed moisture. Plus, matcha and hemp seed oil boost hydration and provide antioxidant benefits. It’s everything you could want from a cleanser.
This brand was founded by a lawyer and a nuclear physicist (yes, really), so it combines scientific research with high-tech formulations. Take this serum, for instance. It includes the brand’s proprietary complex of probiotics and skin-soothing Centella Asiatica. It also contains 2% niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to support the skin barrier and boost hydration respectively. Overall, these ingredients have a soothing and sculpting effect on the skin.
Anyone who’s ever struggled with breakouts is likely to recognize this brand, Hero Cosmetics, founded by Ju Rhyu. It’s behind some of the most popular pimple patches in the game. Simply place one of the hydrocolloid stickers over a breakout, and it will gently remove the “gunk” from the inside. It will also visibly flatten it, which makes subsequent makeup application much easier.
This brand is inspired by the rich history of fragrance in Korea, and it marries traditional ingredients with a modern aesthetic. (How pretty is this bottle?) This fragrance, called Water, blends citrus notes with jasmine, ylang-ylang, musk, and cedar. It’s a fresh, genderless scent.
This brand is underrated. Offering products in both the skincare and makeup categories, it uses the best of Korean innovation to create effective and high-impact formulas. This lip powder, for example, transforms from a pigmented powder to a long-lasting lip tint. They can also be used on the eyes and cheeks to create a cool monochromatic look.
If you’ve ever shopped at Sephora, either in-store or online, or you’ve ever once scrolled through social media, you’ll likely recognize this brand. It’s known for its playful packaging and bright colors. And this blush is no exception. It features a fun stamp applicator. Just place it on your cheek, press down, and you’re left with a heart-shaped stamp of buildable color. Blend it out with your tool of choice, and you’re good to go.
Created by the team behind Glow Recipe, Sweet Chef is a brand that creates products designed to be mixed and matched to target specific skin concerns. This serum, which includes ginger and vitamin C, protects the skin from environmental aggressors, provides antioxidant benefits and helps correct dullness.