You don’t have to spend a fortune on skincare products for them to work. Here are the best affordable Korean skincare products that work infinitely better on my skin than the expensive brands I’ve tried.
Before I started my KBeauty routine, I used simple, natural products, and that worked well. My skin was glowing and flawless using an all natural soap homemade by Mind Over Lather (see photo below). I’d wash with her charcoal soap and then tone using an apple cider vinegar, tea tree, and water mix. I finished with Neutrogena retinol lotion with SPF.
As I was starting to see fine lines, I opted to try a friend’s skincare suggestion. The skincare regimen was expensive--more than any skincare product I had ever tried in the past--but many of my friends swore by the results. After almost two months of using the products religiously, my skin was badly breaking out and my fine lines were not improved.
I went back to my tried and true (and significantly cheaper) skincare routine, but the homemade soap and toner no longer worked their magic. It was an improvement over the expensive skincare regimen, but during the hormonal stages of my cycle, my skin still looked like a teenager’s.
My friend Mary recommended Korean Beauty skincare routine, or KBeauty, which is a multi-step approach to skincare using affordable products. All of the items I buy are around $10, so even though there are more steps, it’s still significantly cheaper than many of the other skincare regimens out there.
Numerous blogs cover the detailed information and benefits of KBeauty, but this one here gives the breakdown of the 10 step process. Yes, I know, it’s 10 steps, but it truly doesn’t take that long, and you can slowly add steps instead of taking them on all at once. You also only need to do this routine at night; in the morning, it’s simply a gentle cleanse--I usually use micellular water--followed by lotion and sunscreen.
You have many options for each step, so if you find one product doesn’t work for you, try another brand. I’m in the process of swapping out brands that I don’t particularly love, but here are the best skincare products I've found and can’t live without:
1. Oil-based cleanser: CLEAN IT ZERO
Clean It Zero oil cleanser: ($19). This is the best oil cleanser I have tried so far, and the double cleansing method works wonders on my skin. The idea is that oil attracts oil, so using an oil-based cleanser gets rid of oil-based dirt, and the water-based cleanser gets rid of the rest. I started cleansing using organic coconut oil, so if you want to start double cleansing without spending money, that’s an affordable and easy way to go. I just ordered a cheaper oil cleanser, Kose Softymo ($8), as the Clean It Zero is the most expensive KBeauty item I use, so I’ll let you know how that measures up. (Update: Did NOT like the Kose Softymo--my tiny little whiteheads came back, so I went back to the Clean It Zero and they're improving.
2. Water-based cleansers: COSRX LOW-PH GOOD MORNING CLEANSER
I’ve tried low-pH cleansers Neogen ($14), Cosrx ($9), and CeraVe ($8). The best cleanser, in my opinion, is the Cosrx, but Neogen comes in at a close second. CeraVe is a great drugstore cleanser option.
3. Exfoliator: TINKLE RAZORS
I’ve used a few drugstore scrubs, such as the Aveeno shower mask ($10), and they all do the job. My favorite new way to exfoliate is to shave my face. Yep, it’s basically microdermabrasion but for the low cost of less than a $1/razor! I do this every 1-2 weeks, and my skin feel baby soft.
4. Toner: MIZON AHA/BHA TONER
The Mizon AHA BHA Toner ($11) seems to be a fan favorite, but my vinegar, water, tea tree oil works just as well, so I alternate between the two.
5. Actives: MIZON AHA PEELING SERUM
In the morning, I use the Mizon AHA Peeling Serum ($11), and it has removed almost all of the tiny bumps and whiteheads hiding under my skin. Get this if you have those issues. At night, I use a retinol cream such a Paula’s Choice or ROC retinol night cream, but I don’t love either enough to say one is better than the other.
6. Essence: COSRX SNAIL 96 MUCIN ESSENCE
The Cosrx Snail Essence ($14) is, hands down, one of my favorite products and the best essence out there for me. My face feels moisturized but not greasy, and some people with oily skin use it as their only daytime moisturizer.
7. Ampoules, Serums and Eye Creams: COSMEDICA PURE HYALURANOIC ACID SERUM
There are so many products to choose from here that it can be a bit overwhelming! The only one I know I love is this hyaluronic acid serum ($13). If you have any ampoules or eye creams you loves, please write them in the comments for me and my readers.
8. Face oil: BOSCIA TSUBAKI OIL
I’m currently using and love the Boscia tsubaki oil ($36), but it’s expensive, so when it finally runs out, I will try the Argan oil ($10) that everyone raves about. However, this face oil literally lasts me a year, so I suppose the cost is worth it.
9. Moisturizer: COSRX ULTIMATE NOURISHING RICE OVERNIGHT SPA MASK
I received a sample of the Cosrx moisturizer in one of my orders from Soko Glam, and after using it for just one night, I woke up with such baby-soft skin that I immediately ordered more. I have also been using a thin layer in the morning as the last step of my morning routine. This stuff is just the best. I don't think I have every loved a skincare product from the very first use--that's how good this moisturizer is.
For the day, Mizon all-in-one repair ($16) is the best lightweight but moisturizing skincare option (especially for those humid summer days). For night, I use the Mizon Sleeping Pack ($14) a couple times a week to lock in the moisture all night. It’s a jar of long-lasting gooey goodness. I love those snails.
10. SUNSCREEN: BIORE WATERY ESSENCE
If only 37-year-old Erin could tell teenage Erin about the importance of sunscreen. When I was a kid, I used to think, “By the time I get wrinkles, I won’t care because I’ll be old.” Um, no. That’s not how it works. I care. So now it’s sunscreen everyday all day, and the Biore sunscreen ($11) is the best lightweight, non-greasy sunscreen I’ve found.
This is a current picture of me after using KBeauty skincare products for several months. I'm wearing L'Oreal tube mascara (the only mascara I've found that doesn't immediately smudge under my little eyes), IT Cosmetics CC cream, and LipSense lipstick (I forget which color...maybe Sassy Z?).
I just turned 37, and my forehead fine-lines are creeping into the wrinkle category, but at least I've finally figured out the best skincare products and routine for my skin!
If you have products that you love that I didn't mention here, please list them in the comments for me and my readers. Thank you!