Whether you're a skincare fan or a makeup addict, these cult Korean beauty brands should be on your radar
It’s official: the K-wave has swept through the city. And nope, it ain’t just the TV shows, catchy pop music and hearty Korean food that’ve garnered a rabid following. Even non-fans of mainstream K-pop culture can agree on this: South Korea has taken the beauty world by storm. BB creams, sheet masks and cushion compacts? You’ve got K-beauty to thank for those. From innovative skincare to cute cosmetics, we bring you the ultimate guide to Korean cult beauty brands.
The History of Whoo
The History of WHOO is basically skincare fit for royalty – the luxe skincare brand’s formulations are re-interpreted from traditional beauty formulas used by Empresses from the Eastern Royal Courts. The premium line caters to a more mature crowd, with its powerful, anti-aging properties.
Must-haves: The Gongjinhyang range is for women above 25, while the Jinhyulyang is best suited for women above 45. It’s best known for its Bichup Ja Saeng essence, which promises self-generation, wrinkle improvement and moisture with its lightweight formula.
Available via: TANGS at Tang Plaza or Tangs.com.
Chances are that even the most uninitiated of K-beauty fans have heard of Laneige (pictured in lead image). The popular brand earned cult status thanks to its key use of water science for better hydrated and supple skin.
Must-haves: The Water Sleeping Mask (FYI: one gets sold every 12 seconds) gives skin a boost overnight, regenerating and moisturising cells to give you a well-rested appearance the next day. Tired of always caking on foundation? Your skin will thank you for using the BB compact cushion; it’s brightening, moisturising and gives skin a natural finish. Also look out for The Clear C Peeling Line available from 10 April – it contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) fruit acid extracted from sugar maple, sugarcane, orange, lemon and bilberry, to speed up the shedding of dead skin cells.
Available via: Laneige stores are located at multiple locations including Bugis Junction and ION Orchard.
Sulwhasoo‘s magic lies in its staunch philosophy of combining medicinal herbs with time-honoured preparation methods to form healing remedies to nourish complexions. Oh, and did we mention that all of its products are 100% paraben-free?
Must-haves: The First Care Activating Serum Ex boosts your skincare routine, as it improves skin circulation, restores your natural radiance and replenishes your skin’s moisture. Tip: Massage your skin with the recommended techniques and the product will absorb better. We recommend layering this under your makeup as a primer.
Available via: Sulwhasoo boutiques at Capitol Piazza or TANGS at Tang Plaza and Vivocity.
3 Concept Eyes
From the same founders of hip fashion brand, Stylenanda, 3 Concept Eyes (3CE) is loved by all the cool kids. We’re smitten with its matte black packaging stamped with its iconic, seemingly hand-drawn logo and the face of its brand: painfully hip model, Park Sora.
Must-haves: The Powdery Lip and Cheek is exactly the kind of double-duty product we love – its creamy texture works well as a brightening blush or a lip stain. Lippie fans also need to stock up on the Matte Lip Crayon and Lip Marker for that covetable Korean gradient lip.
Available via: 3 Concept Eyes is available at Sephora stores islandwide.
Son & Park
Founded by celeb makeup artists, Son Dae Sik and Park Tae Hyun, Son & Park spearheaded the no-makeup makeup look in Korea – think glowing, dewy skin and a natural-looking visage. The secret? Good skin prep for a flawless base.
Must-haves: Both skincare and makeup aficionados alike swear by the Beauty Water – it’s a toner and cleansing water rolled into one powerful bottle. Use it in the morning to hydrate skin prior to applying makeup, midday to refresh, and at night to remove remaining impurities.
Available via: Son & Park is available on Qoo10 and Hermo.
Despite its youthful appearance and celeb endorsers, Etude House earned its cult following with its innovative and affordable products.
Must-haves: Its Wonder Pore Freshener is a Holy Grail toner for many – its 7-in-one solution reaps many benefits including deep cleansing, sebum control, and pore tightening. We’re also digging the Eye’s Cream Mint Cooling as a daytime cream to combat dark eye circles and swelling.
Available via: Etude House is located at various locations around Singapore including Plaza Singapura and Wisma Atria.
Natural best describes Innisfree; the brand uses pure ingredients, eco-friendly containers and is dedicated to multiple green campaigns, including its annual mission to preserve Jeju’s natural landscape.
Must-haves: Its award-winning products include the Green Tea Seed Serum, which promises to deeply hydrate skin, and the Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask – it’s won a whopping total of 22 global beauty awards for its ability to strongly remove sebum and contract pores.
Available via: Innisfree is located at various outlets island-wide, including Plaza Singapura and Bugis Junction.
Founded by celeb makeup artist Pony (CL’s former makeup artist), Pony Effect‘s (pictured in lead image) boasts sleek black and gold packaging and intense pigmentation (this makeup artist clearly knows her stuff!).
Must-haves: We’ve gone gaga for Pony Effect’s eye makeup products. The Conceptual Eyes Quad are extremely pigmented ,while the Eye Sticks are creamy, blendable and budge-proof, perfect to take you from day to night.
Available via: Lazada
Many have cited Banila Co‘s resemblance to Benefit Cosmetics, but we think this cult K-beauty brand is in a league of its own with its creative, adorable girly packaging and innovative formulas.
Must-haves: No exaggerations – The Clean It Zero Balm is life-changing. Its lightweight, sorbet-like texture is non-sticky and makes cleansing a breeze; it also doesn’t only remove makeup, but tightens pores, rehydrates and softens fatigued skin.
Available via: Lazada and I Shop Changi.
Touch in SOL
Bright colours, kitschy packaging and an affordable price-tag: magic words for any makeup fan. We’re also loving that Touch in SOL’s products are multi-functional – perfect for busy bees.
Must-haves: Our money’s on the makeup primers here. Set a long-lasting base for your facepaint with the firming and revitalising Feel Like Honeymoon Skin Base, or moisturise and brighten skin with the Toc Toc Toning Makeup Base.
Available via: Qoo10
This popular brand sealed its good rep amongst beauty fanatics with its sumptuous (and powerful) skincare treats, wrapped in the sweetest of packaging.
Must-haves: The Panda’s Dream White Magic Cream promises to hydrate and brighten dull skin, while the Egg Pore Blackhead Steam Balm effectively removes blackheads and dirt from open pores and dead skin cells.
Available via: Tony Moly is located at Bugis Junction.
With 25 years of experience under her belt, Jungsaemmool is a beauty legend. Her boasting rights include working as makeup artist for major K-Pop starlets like Kara and BoA. Her eponymous brand aims to inspire natural beauty with the help of seven philosophies; these include layering several textures for long-lasting makeup and combining trends to suit one’s personal style.
Must-haves: We recommend the Artist Concealer Palette to troubleshoot all types of skin imperfections, as well as the Refining Color-Bony Brow Mascara for brows on fleek.
Available via: Qoo10.
Too Cool for School
Despite its teeny-bopper name, Too Cool for School is a major player in the K-beauty world thanks to its unique products, designed in partnership with experimental artists. Expect playful packaging, peppered with cute illustrations, containing potent formulations to target different skin problems.
Must-haves: Be impressed – the Dinoplatz Escalator Mascara lengthens and voluminises lashes with an adjustable brush to fit the contours of your eyelids. The five-in-one Egg Mellow Cream is also a winner for those with dry skin, as it’s collagen-infused and highly enriched for intensive nourishment.
Available via: Too Cool for School is located at Far East Plaza.
Violet Dream Luminous (VDL) takes cues from the latest celeb and runway beauty trends to offer colourful product ranges – not to worry, these are still kept sheer for a natural, luminescent appearance.
Must-haves: The Tint Bar Triple Shot creates a petal gradient-like effect with its three colours, while the Beauty Finisher is coveted by many for its natural gloss and long-lasting base for makeup when applied at the end of your skincare routine.
Available via: Its stores are located at Suntec City Mall, ION Orchard and Bugis Junction.
As a first-generation makeup artist, Chosungah‘s set some major makeup milestones, including collaborating with major international cosmetic stores and being at the forefront of the K-wave era. Look this way if you’re in need of makeup multi-taskers – say goodbye to cake face!
Must-haves: The iconic C&T Blender Fresh Mix isn’t your average foundation; it’s multi-functioning properties include seamless coverage, line-filling agent to camouflage lines and bumps, as well as a 3-D mesh structure to amplify staying power..
Available via: Chosungah 22 is available at selected Sasa stores including ones in Bugis Junction, Holland Village and Wisma Atria.
Okay, so technically HERA hasn’t officially opened its doors here, but hype is seriously building. Opening in April, the beauty behemoth embodies the jet-setting, glamourous and modern Korean woman.
Must-haves: The UV Mist cushion SPF50+ PA+++ plumps skin and gives it an enviable, dewy glow with flawless coverage. Also well-loved is the CellEssence, which doubles up as a toner and serum.
Available via: Takashimaya Department store, come April 2018.
Like this story? Here’s more you should check out:
Love the effortless hair of K-beauty celebs? Here’s where you can replicate it
Cushion compacts: What the heck are they and what’s the best one?
No K-beauty routine is complete without a powerful sunscreen
Serums vs Essences, for in case you’re trying out that 10-step K-beauty routine