Gangnam Style

April 1st, 2017

April 1st, 2017

South Korean make-up and skincare has rapidly established itself as a real trend-leading force within the industry.  From the origin of the BB Cream, cushion compacts and unusual textures or ingredients, looking East is the fastest way to stay on top of the trends here in the West.  We’ll be running through some of the top brands to keep an eye out for, along with some of our favourite trends and concepts which have filtered through to our markets.

Let’s start with South Korean brands which aren’t too difficult to get your hands on and try.  Laneige was one of the first Korean brands we became aware of a few years ago, with news of their Water Sleeping Mask and cushion BB compacts winning rave reviews and beauty awards.  Their Lip Sleeping Mask is a lifesaver in cold Seoul winters, and the hydrating yet gentle formulas are well worth a try.

Laneige mask

Turning to colour cosmetics we have TonyMoly, Holika Holika and Etude House – affordable, colourful and cute, these three brands have made some tracks in establishing themselves outside of Korea.  TonyMoly was quickly snapped up by the savvy buyers at BeautyMART and Cult Beauty, where their cult Egg Pore Primer and cute Petite Bunny Gloss Bars have become fast favourites.  Their sheet masks are also excellent – we’ve been loving the retro Pokemon collection, especially the hydrating Pikachu mask.

TonyMoly Pikachu

A couple of Holika Holika and Etude House products are also available at BeautyMART, along with Too Cool For School – we love the retro, minimalist feel of their products.  One of Holika Holika’s best-selling products are their Jewel-Light Waterproof Eyeliners which come in a range of pigmented shades and a formula that glides on, gives a bit of time for smudging before setting for the long-run.

Holika Eyeliners

Etude House is known for their innovative peel-off tints – for eyebrows, lips, you name it – and their easy-to-use creamy formulas.  Their Play 101 range  is also worth checking out as it contains cream stick formulas in various sizes, designed for use all over the face, and we have a soft spot for the Colour Lips Fit tints.  Even Lisa Eldridge is a fan!

Western brands have been tapping into the South Korean trends even before BB Creams exploded across the make-up scene.  Technologies and trends have filtered from East to West for years and this interest is greater than ever.  You can find their influences and style everywhere – the cushion compact, for example, has popped up recently from high street to high end.  We love the ease and portability of these cushion-dispensed liquid compacts, and the L’Oreal Nude Magique Cushion Foundation is an affordable place to start if you’re looking to dip your toe.  While most cushion foundations keep towards the light-medium end of the coverage spectrum, we were surprised by the pigmentation and coverage of the YSL Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation, while keeping the lightweight feel we love so much.  Cushion compacts aren’t limited to foundations either – the Lancôme Subtil Cushion Blushes deliver beautiful flushes of colour in soft liquid formulas, blending effortlessly.

loreal cushion foundation

Versatile and creamy formulas are hugely popular in Korea, keeping colour soft and skin glowing.  The Jillian Dempsey Lid Tints are so easy to use and deliver glossy translucent colour – some of which would also look beautiful when tapped onto cheekbones or lips.  She created these tints after playing around with textures to create red carpet looks for the likes of Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence.


Glowing, youthful and pigmentation-free skin is the ideal in South Korea, with the previous ‘Mul-Gwang’ trend of ultra-glossy and luminescent skin dialling back a bit for 2017 to a more naturally radiant finish.  Deeply hydrating skincare with unusual ingredients is par for the course, which is why we’re reaching for the new Clarins Hydra-Essentiel range which uses organic Leaf of Life extract to naturally stimulates our water-retaining “sponge molecules” and boosts the natural, direct synthesis of hyaluronic acid in the dermis and epidermis.  Continue prepping skin with a luminescent, pore-blurring primer such as the Pür Minerals No Filter Photography Blurring Primer to give the perfected look which is so craved.

Clarins LeafLife


The interest in sheet masks has certainly exploded in the last year, and in a rapidly crowding market there have been two new additions which have caught our attention.  The Charlotte Tilbury Instant Magic Facial mask breaks the mould in that it is a dry mask, rather than one pre-soaked in serums and essences.  It’s also re-usable for up to three times, unlike wet masks which would harbour too much bacteria.  We’re also obsessed with the new Origins Flower Fusion masks – at just £5 they’re competitively priced and perform beautifully, with a variety of effects to choose from.


Another trend lifted straight from the streets of Gangnam is that of an ombré or gradient lip.  Lip colour is where South Koreans love to experiment, often preferring to create soft hazes of colour on the eyes and face while letting the lips pop in vibrant shades.  The Benefit They’re Real! Double The Lip is almost identical to the Laneige Two Tone Lip Bar, with two shades included in one bullet for an instant graduated lip look.  We also saw L’Oreal try their hand at the trend with their Infallible Matte Max FX, which use blendable powders to blur into matte ombré looks.

Benefit double lip

If you’re intrigued and want to delve a little deeper we have a few more brands to try – these are a little harder to get hold of, although some will ship directly from South Korea or the US.  Moonshot are hugely popular, thanks to their ties to K-Pop titan YG Entertainment, but their products are also innovative and effective.  Their Jelly Pot eyeshadows have legions of fans – imagine a cream eyeshadow in a cooling gel-like formula in a wide variety of jewel-like tones.

Missha’s BB cream is one of the original BB creams and still widely considered one of the best.  As with many base products from South Korea the range of shades is cripplingly limited when it comes to deeper tones – but equally the shades work beautifully for the very pale who can struggle to match.

Missha BB

If you ever visit Seoul we recommend a trip to Aritaum which, like Sephora, stocks a carefully curated collection of brands alongside their own brand products – and luckily they do ship to the UK.  Sulwhasoo skincare is reputed for its textures and efficacy, while Iope’s Air Cushion products have won numerous awards.  As with many of brands and products which are difficult to get hold of in the UK, we recommend you do your research and enjoy a taste of the far East!

Image Source: YahooBeauty

Image Source: YahooBeauty



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By Deborah Murtha

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