South Korea has become ground zero for beauty innovation in the last few years (BB creams, anyone?). Lucky for us, former Birchbox copywriter Mai, is teaching English in Seoul this summer—and sending us weekly updates about her finds in beauty, food, and beyond. Here, she rounds up the coolest beauty products she’s spotted in her short time on the ground.
Sheet and clay masks come in a jaw-dropping array of varieties here in Seoul.
I didn’t realize how truly prevalent beauty culture was in Korea until a recent trip through a subway station in Gangnam, the trendy neighborhood south of the river that bisects Seoul. Wedged in between a coffee stand and a convenience store, a popular beauty boutique called Nature Republic was advertising a sale—and it was packed with groups of women silently elbowing each other as they rifled through nail polishes and BB creams. The way they were clamoring for products reminded me of how New Yorkers fight over designer jeans at the legendary Barney’s Warehouse Sale.
Though I avoided the underground shopping spree, my curiosity was piqued, and in the course of a single day I visited a slew of beauty stores. Korean outposts feature a wider range of products than I ever could have imagined. Even after years of testing products for Birchbox, I was blown away by the selection. Here are some of the products that caught my eye.
You can find a million different kinds of single-use sheet masks in any Korean drugstore, but this one contains bird’s nest. It’s made from the saliva of swiftlets, which hardens when exposed to air to create their actual nests. It’s a culinary delicacy in Asia, and also said to improve skin tone.
If you’re not afraid to do a little digging, these slip-on finger gloves can help you get rid of blackheads.
This hand-held face massager claims to help relax your muscles and your mind.
I’ve always associated bee venom with extremely painful stings, but this spray-on mist claims that it can actually help calm red, inflamed skin.
The saleslady told me that BB cream made with snail extract can help brighten skin and soften wrinkles.
Slip on this foot mask just like a regular pair of socks to soften rough callouses.
Given the popularity of double-eyelid surgeries in Seoul (many girls get their eyes done as a high school graduation present), it’s no surprise that eyelid tape is the budget-friendly alternative. These stickers create a temporary crease and can be worn with makeup.
Would you want to try any of these Korean beauty products?
P.S. If there’s one Korean brand with universal appeal, it’s Dr. Jart.