2018 was the inaugural year for our Best of K-beauty Awards, and we had so much fun curating this list. Before we dive in, here are the four criteria we used when selecting these products:
- Your reviews — we looked at your reviews, comments and DMs on social media, and emails to see what you were loving.
- Formulas and ingredient lists — we wanted products that were innovative and packed with beneficial ingredients that would have a positive effect on skin.
- Feedback from the greater beauty community — we listened to what estheticians, people at skincare companies, and international influencers and beauty gurus were saying.
- That special X-factor — we thought about that indefinable special quality that would make you purchase your second, third, tenth bottle of a product because it was just that special.
And, so, without further ado, here are our 17 award-winners!
When you pull open the tab for one of Ariul’s Stress-relieving Purefull Cleansing Tissues, the natural citrus scent starts melting away any tension you might be carrying. It’s not an overwhelming or cloying scent, but one that’s bright and lemony and fresh, lifting your mood as you get ready to cleanse your skin. The tissues themselves are made of a soft material that doesn’t drag on your skin or pull at it, and they’re soaked in a gentle formula that melts makeup off, leaving no residue. After you’ve used the tissue to remove makeup and grime and oil (and one tissue goes a long way!), your face will feel like you just washed it, your skin feeling hydrated, supple, and clean. Peach & Lily tip: we personally love using this on flights, when our skin needs some refreshing, but we don’t want to try cleansing our face in those tiny airplane sinks.
You know we’re huge proponents of the double cleansing technique — using an oil-based cleanser first, followed by a water-based cleanser. Oil-based cleansers dissolve away impurities gently, but it’s surprisingly hard for us to find an oil-based cleanser we truly love and enjoy using! Many oil-based cleansers leave a film of residue behind, or they’re too cleansing, stripping skin dry of its natural oils and leaving it feeling tight.
This Natural Coconut Cleansing Oil from Aromatica does everything you want an oil-based cleanser to do — and more. It’s 100% cold-pressed coconut oil, and it’s been fortified with omega-3s (helps fight visible signs of aging), lavender oil (calms), and sunflower and almond oils (fortifies and delivers nutrition), which means the oil completely dissolves away even the most stubborn, waterproof makeup and helps balance, soothe, and hydrate your skin at the same time!
Be the Skin’s Botanical Toner has been on our site since day one — and, six years later, it’s still a fan-favorite. This toner is great for all skin types, and especially for oily or acne-prone skin, with so many of you writing in to share your incredible results. What this toner does is really help mattify skin, but not in a tight, flaky way. With ingredients like witch hazel extract (helps tighten pores and has antimicrobial properties) and betaine (holds onto moisture and soothes skin), Be the Skin’s Botanical Toner gets your skin that perfect matte texture where skin is hydrated but not shiny.
So many of you have written in to rave about May Coop’s Raw sauce, telling us that this is the product that has helped balance, soothe, and nourish your skin when nothing else would work, especially when it comes to acne! This waterless toner/essence has hit true cult status, and that doesn’t surprise us, really, given its truly unique ingredient list. The Raw Sauce starts with 93% mono acer sap, which is this incredible source of potent antioxidants, and fortifies that with rice extract (brightens) and birch extract (helps heal and soothe). It’s no wonder so many of you love this so much — you’ve told us over and over again how the Raw Sauce has completely transformed your skin, making it supple and bright.
You may already know about Jeju Island in Korea. It’s a UNESCO heritage site, and it’s known for its culture, pristine beauty, and lush ingredients. In an attempt to keep any brand from claiming to use ingredients from Jeju Island when their products contain less than 1% of ingredients from Jeju, the government of the island certifies brands if they truly source from Jeju Island. The surprising thing? Only about eight brands have received that certification! And one of those eight is The Pure Lotus!
This Essence with Lotus Leaf is a waterless essence that is 89% lotus leaf extract, sourced directly from Jeju Island. It’s an incredible ingredient, too, with natural antibiotics and flavonoids that have anti-aging effects, as well as potent antioxidative properties that combat free radical damage. That’s not all, either — this essence is fortified with green tea (helps soothe and fight free radical damage) and sea buckthorn oil (heals and rejuvenates skin), along with other beneficial botanical extracts. It truly does justice to the beauty and power that thrives on Jeju Island.
This Dream Age Radiance Powder Essence is like dynamite. As its name says, it is a powder, but it turns into a liquid upon contact with skin. Dr. Dream, which originated from one of the top plastic surgery clinics in Korea, formulated this essence as a powder because these powder beads form a capsule that protects vitamin C. The powder keeps vitamin C, which is susceptible to oxidation, really, really fresh, so the vitamin C can’t be released — and, consequently, can’t start losing its potent antioxidative, brightening qualities — until the powder comes into contact with skin. Truly innovative, isn’t it?
We sold out of Eco Your Skin’s Volufiline15 Eye Essence in one day; that’s how much you loved it. It’s important to note that this unique eye produce is an eye essence, not a cream, so the formula really sinks right into your eye area and transforms everything from the inside out. Volufiline and polylactic acid fill in fine lines instantly, and the essence soaks into skin, leaving a smooth, dewy finish that works as a great base for makeup.
Shangpree is Korea’s top spa, with a loyal A-list clientele. Their products are luxurious and highly effective, and, before you ask, yes, the products they release to the public for at-home use are the exact same products they use in their spas, no watering-down, no altering. This S-Energy Long Lasting Concentrated Serum starts with a botanical, herbal complex that’s proprietary to Shangpree, and it has a silky texture that just sinks into skin and gives you immediate visible results. Skin is more hydrated, and not only that — it’s also bouncier and plumper, so you look like you just came back from a super restful vacation even if you’ve been running around in different meetings all day.
Olivarrier’s Fluid Oil Squalane is 100% pure squalane. Super clean, it’s great for all skin types, even oily skin, because it hydrates skin, even the most stubborn, driest patches, without making it greasy. Squalane won’t just sit on your skin, clogging pores and giving you that unwanted shine; it’ll sink right into your skin, nourishing your skin with antioxidants and anti-aging properties. It’s an incredibly great ingredient for help restoring lipids in your natural skin barrier. Squalane is also a team player, so it plays well with other products!
Also, a fact worth noting? Olivarrier as a brand is vegan and cruelty-free.
Do we really need to talk about this product? Mizon’s All-in-One Snail Repair Cream has continued to be one of our best-selling items since we launched it a few years ago. It’s 93% snail mucin, which is this ingredient that honestly sounds too good to be true. Snail mucin hydrates skin, helps fight bacteria (it’s antimicrobial), which means it also helps prevent breakouts, and helps reduce visible scarring and hyperpigmentation. It also helps firm skin and is great for all skin types, even sensitive types. Typically, even we’d think this ingredient is too good to be true, but our personal experience and your glowing reviews over the years continue to prove how truly stellar and effective this is!
An essence and moisturizer in one, the Citrus-Honey Aqua Glow from our sister collection, Peach Slices, has been collecting rave reviews since we released it. We’re particularly grateful for that because we spent a long time formulating this product, wanting to address a lot of challenging concerns that you brought up, including redness and cystic acne. We really focused on the ingredient list, packing it with so many hydrating, brightening ingredients like grapefruit, orange, and lemon peel oils, glycerin, and ceramides, all at a super affordable price point. Your reviews have made us smile, and we’re so glad you love the Citrus-Honey Aqua Glow so much!
The Cellus Sun Gel from Lagom is the only SPF our founder, Alicia, uses. That’s pretty tall praise, but we get it! This sun gel is so lightweight, it absorbs quickly and is easy to reapply throughout the day, even over makeup. With SPF 50 PA+++, it provides both UVA and UVB protection, and it leaves your skin perfectly matte but also hydrated and youthful-looking. And the best evidence that this sun gel deserves a Best of K-beauty Award? We absolutely cannot keep this sun gel in stock — we sold out 11 times in 8 weeks.
This is another product you love; we can’t seem to keep this on our shelves. Shangpree’s Gold Black Pearl Hydrogel Eye Mask is packed with incredible ingredients like glycerin, pearl extract, and sugar maple extract, and it’s a cooling gel mask you place under your eyes. The mask stays in place, too, so you can apply it, one under each eye, and go about your day — Alicia likes to keep these in her refrigerator so she can apply them after cleansing in the morning, go about her morning tasks, and take them off when she’s ready to finish her skincare routine and head out!
We know you love sheet masks. We also know that, even with all the sheet masks already in the market, you have things you want in a sheet mask, which is why why we asked you, “What would you want in your dream sheet mask?” Thousands of you responded; you wanted no harsh ingredients, no alcohol, and no mediocre results. With all your feedback, we went into our labs to create that dream sheet mask for you. No harsh ingredients. No alcohol. No mediocre results. Just goodness that you can reliably turn to when your skin is feeling tired or in need of plumping and deep nourishing and hydrating.
This is not your typical kaolin clay mask. It does all the things you want a kaolin clay mask to do, then goes beyond that — it goes deep into your pores and pulls all the oil and grime out. It helps smooth texture and manage blackheads and whiteheads. And the best part? This Gypsy Rose Calming Mask from Femmue does all that without stripping your skin dry and leaving your skin feeling tight and parched. Fortified with floral extracts and beneficial oils like squalane and jojoba, this mask is fluffy and hydrating, staying soft and not hardening into a dry, solid crust. It doesn’t just stop at clearing pores, either; this mask also has green tea to help with sebum control and rose extract to help combat visible signs of aging — and that’s on top the oils we mentioned that hydrate skin and make it supple and soft.
Our Acne Spot Dots from Peach Slices are drug-free! They contain no salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide! And they’re highly effective, and, more importantly, they work quickly to help eliminate acne! These spot dots work by creating a moist, healing environment that draws out impurities, flattens acne, and prevents you from picking (we know that temptation is real). They come in various sizes to combat different-sized breakouts, and we think these are just great to have in your beauty arsenal because we all deal with acne, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
This highly-innovative product comes from a brand created by one of Korea’s top makeup artists. She’s known for creating an incredible seamless finish on skin, setting the foundation for the rest of the makeup look, and her signature touch is completely flawless skin. Even given her skills, though, she noticed one day that, no matter how skilled she or anyone was, concealer was often obvious in photographs … which is why she came up with this product. This Essential Star Cealer Foundation from Jung Saemmool puts concealer and foundation side-by-side, giving you the freedom to mix as you need. If you combine your concealer and foundation in the beginning, your whole face will get that same ratio of concealer to foundation, instead of having that patch of more concealer under your eyes, and you’ll be able to walk out of your house into your day looking stunning and flawlessly photo-ready.
Phew, that was a lot, but we can’t stop raving about these 2018 Best of K-beauty Award Winners! And, now that we’re right at the end of 2018, we’re looking forward to the 2019 Best of K-beauty Award Winners, so let us know in the comments below — what products do you think are worthy of a 2019 Best of K-beauty Award?