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Dispatch from Seoul: The Korean Shortcut to Radiant Skin

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 talks about her latest skincare obsession.


No Korean drugstore would be complete without an aisle full of cleansing oils.

Every time I step out of my apartment here in Seoul, I see women with the kind of skin that almost defies description: radiant, dewy, and seemingly immune to blemishes. Of course, maintaining a perfect complexion requires ongoing discipline. As my Korean friend joked to me while we were standing in a bustling drugstore, “the girls in this country start taking care of their skin when they’re ten years old.” When I pressed her to reveal the details of her countrywomen’s routines, she kept returning to one subject: cleansing oils.

Though cleansing oils are still an unfamiliar concept in the US, they’re as widespread in Korea as kimchi. At first, they baffled me—how can an oil cleanse your skin?—but then I decided to give them a try, and now I’m hooked. Read on to learn which cleansing oil is so popular in Asia!

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Currently Obsessed With…Oils!

You may have noticed lots of your favorite brands coming out with oil-based products in the last year, and for good reason. These products are a far cry from the greasy, dirty kind of oil that clogs your pores and weighs down your hair. In fact, these oils are all about working with your skin and hair type to either cleanse or hydrate. My favorite cleansing oils fit the old adage “like attracts like” by pulling out the bad oils and leaving skin with plenty of moisture, not stripped. My must-have hydrating oils sink in immediately and are much longer-lasting than moisturizers. Check out a few of my all-time faves below.

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