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Korean skincare is having a moment right now, and it’s easy to see why! They have unique, effective ingredients that oftentimes cannot be found in skincare here in the US. (Although if you watch carefully you can see that American companies are starting to utilize some of these star ingredients as well.) Korean skincare is innovative and fun, and the massive range of textures and forms that it can take is astonishing to behold.
If you are at all like me (i.e. easily scared off by a product that costs over $30), then you will definitely have an appreciation for the following recommendations. I think it is somewhat ingrained in our minds that something has to be expensive to be of good quality. Not so! There are plenty of Korean skincare products out there that are affordable for those of us on a budget, yet don’t fall short in performance.
The following 5 products are ones that I use every day, with the exception of the COSRX pimple patches (thank goodness). I have oily/combo skin with some hormonal/stress breakouts here and there. Personally, I gravitate towards lighter products that soak into my skin quickly and won’t clog my pores. I prefer light, soothing layers that provide my skin with optimal moisturization.
1. Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence- $19
I just started using this product a couple of months ago after I saw it mentioned by Renée (aka Gothamista) on her wonderfully informative YouTube channel. This particular video was highlighting (you guessed it!) budget skincare options. She discusses the rose edition, which has the additional ingredient of rose water. I use the original version, but I’ve been able to find both for under $20. This is currently my favorite step in my skincare routine, mainly because of the delightful hydrating sensation that this product imparts. My skin immediately looks plumped, brightened, and calm after I apply this essence.
You’ll find that many Korean skincare products contain fermented ingredients, which are great for our skin! This essence contains 94% galactomyces ferment filtrate, a yeast that is a byproduct of alcohol production. If you want to learn more about the benefits of fermented ingredients, check out this article on The Klog!
2. Mizon Collagen Power Lifting Cream- $15
Back in the day, when I first started using Korean products in my skincare routine, this was one of the first that I tried. The word “cream” in the name is a little confusing, as this is actually a moisturizing gel. It can be used as the last step before SPF, or to seal in your other products at night. Sometimes I apply two layers to completely cover any dry spots. The collagen in this product won’t be going into your skin, because collagen molecules are actually too large to be absorbed. Since the collagen stays on the surface, it acts mainly as a protective layer. This product doesn’t make my skin oily, and I think it is a solid option for the last moisturizing step in a routine, especially in the summer!
3. Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream- $9
I am an eye cream fiend. I’ve found that keeping my under-eye area properly moisturized helps keep me looking energized. (Or at least as awake as I can look during the week when I’m running on 6-7 hours of sleep.) It also aids in hiding fine lines that are beginning to appear! I’ve tried eye creams in the past that have actually dried out my under eyes and pronounced said wrinkles, which is a massive no-no in my book. This one actually plumps the skin and makes it feel great! It features 80% snail mucin, which helps moisturize the skin and prevent wrinkles. It also claims to help brighten dark circles with niacinamide, though I don’t have that problem so I can’t comment on that personally. (Bahahahaha if only… I actually do have ragingly obvious dark circles that practically define my face. I’ve written about them in this post.) In truth, I don’t think this drastically brightens my dark circles, but it does make the skin in that area look healthier.
4. iUNIK Centella Calming Gel Cream- $13
This product has made a significant impact on the quality of my skin, and I will be continuing to purchase it indefinitely! As you would expect from the name, it contains 70% centella asiatica leaf water, as well as 10% tea tree leaf water. Both of these ingredients are fantastic at soothing the skin and eliminating blemishes. I bought this because I had seen people say in reviews that it had cleared congestion in their skin. I had some annoying hormonal forehead congestion happening, so I hoped that this product would clear it. And boy, did it ever! I use it every night, and my skin has been amazingly smooth. It has that wonderful, non-oily gel texture that I prefer, and it is just moisturizing enough for my combo skin.
5. COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch- $5
I’ve found that these do an amazing job of helping popped zits heal faster. The company suggests using these once a pimple has developed a head, but honestly, I almost never have that kind of patience. I’m too busy zapping newly formed zits with pimple gel to even begin to let that happen. I like to put these on pimples that I have squeezed just a little (yep, we’re getting into all the fun, gory details here), and if I leave the patch on overnight, I can see all of the oil that it has pulled out by the morning! The pimple will have gone down almost entirely, and I’m impressed by how quickly the spot will begin to fade. It is my new go-to pimple removal system!
All of these products can be purchased through YesStyle or Amazon (with the exception of the Mizon Collagen Power Lifting Cream which is not on YesStyle). I hope that you can go forward with some new ideas as to how you can include Korean products into your skincare routine without having to throw away your budget!
To shop these products at YesStyle, you can use my affiliate link. You can also use my code INTROVERT6 at checkout to get 2-5% off your purchase!
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