When it comes to skin care products, going the Korean route is always a good idea. K-beauty products remain so revered because of their innovative formulas that combine unique ingredients with inventive application methods (e.g., pearl-infused sheet masks, sunscreen-in-oil drops, red wine-soaked peel pads, to name a few). In the case of cleansers, there are so much more to choose from than just the basic gels and scrubs you've always used. The best Korean cleansers comprise sherbet-textured balms that remove waterproof makeup with ease, exfoliators that leave your skin baby-soft, and solid cleansing sticks flecked with real green tea leaves.
Cleansers are the backbone of a healthy skin care regimen, so you want to make sure you choose one that best suits your personal needs. If you have dry skin or wear a lot of makeup, consider a cleansing balm or cleansing oil, which not only adeptly remove even the most stubborn foundation and waterproof mascara, but also leave your skin smooth and soft. If flaky skin is an issue for you, go with a hydrating scrub, or, if you're dealing with a dull complexion, try a brightening formula instead.
Below, you'll find six great K-beauty cleansers for every skin type and concern, from solid sticks and skin-softening scrubs to detoxifying foams and more.
1. Best Korean Cleansing Foam
Perhaps one of my favorite cleansers of all time, The Face Shop's Rice Water Bright Foaming Cleanser does more than just deeply clean your face. Sure, it detoxifies skin and removes makeup, but it's also one of the few beauty products I've found that actually deliver on its promise of a radiant glow. This face wash helps brighten your complexion and even out skin tone, and it also leaves your skin feeling squeaky clean, but not tight. Though it foams up into a nice lather, it doesn't contain any skin-drying sulfates, which is always a major bonus in my book. Last, it smells absolutely delicious — very fresh and clean. And though my skin errs on the sensitive side, the light dose of fragrance has never caused any redness or irritation.
2. Best Korean Cleansing Balm
According to Glamour, this supremely popular cleansing balm sells every three seconds. Beauty experts, bloggers, and Asian beauty fanatics are obsessed with it because of how well it removes makeup and leaves your skin soft. The other great thing about Banila Co's cleansing balm is that it comes in four different versions for more specific skin needs: nourishing (for extra moisture and hydration), purifying (for irritated or blemish-prone skin), revitalizing (to help keep skin protected from environmental aggressors), and original (for an overall healthy, moisturized complexion). All of the formulas are free of sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, and other harsh irritants, like artificial colorants, and have a gorgeous, balm-to-oil consistency reminiscent of sherbet.
3. Best Korean Cleansing Oil
Cleansing oils are another excellent choice for removing stubborn makeup, and they're also used as the first step in a double cleansing routine (which starts with an oil-based cleanser, followed by one that's water-based, like a gel). There are tons of great Korean cleansing oils out there, but Innisfree's Olive Real Cleansing Oil is particularly effective, and it also happens to be on the more soothing side.
Reviewers say they prefer this cleansing oil over others because its slightly thicker consistency doesn't require using as much product. "A little goes a long way and it removes every stitch of makeup from my face," one fan writes. Another shares, "I initially bought this to use it as a pre-cleanser, but I haven't found a need to use a cleanser afterwards. I like the moisturized feeling my face has after washing it."
4. Best Korean Cleansing Gel
For a basic, everyday cleanser that won't irritate your skin, try Cosrx's Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. Often, foaming cleansers tend to mess with your skin's pH levels, which is what makes this one unique. It's free of sulfates, which tend to be drying, and contains both tea tree and a BHA called betaine salicylate to cleanse skin of pore-clogging impurities and excess oil, making it an excellent choice for acne-prone skin. You could also use this face wash after using a cleansing balm or oil for a double-cleanse, and its gentleness also makes it a fantastic morning cleanser.
"I haven't had any new breakouts since switching to this cleanser," shares one reviewer, while another says, "I feel squeaky clean without that apparent tightness you get from those ‘exfoliating’ cleansers."
5. Best Korean Exfoliating Scrub
Another highly popular Korean cleanser is this face scrub from Skinfood. While most exfoliating scrubs dry your skin out, or can be overly aggressive, this one actually leaves your face smooth and soft. That's because it uses moisturizing black sugar granules to exfoliate instead of harsh acids or gritty shell powders. The other cool thing about this scrub is that it doubles as a face mask — just leave it on for 10-15 minutes before washing it off. Skin will be soft, bright, and refreshed.
6. Best Korean Cleanser For Travel
Korean beauty brands were the first to bring cleansing sticks into the mainstream — and this one from Neogen is more than just convenient for travel. In fact, it's so effective that it might actually replace your go-to cleanser you use at home. The Real Fresh Cleansing Stick is infused with green tea leaves to cleanse and gently exfoliate your skin, while a host of plant based-oils provide moisture and hydration.
Because it's quite gentle compared to other exfoliating cleansers and uses mostly naturally-derived ingredients, folks with sensitive and/or acne-prone skin have had particular luck with it. One Amazon reviewer writes, "I love the little pieces of green tea in the stick and I feel like I'm giving my face a little massage every time I use it. It leaves my skin SO soft and bright." Another says, "Even using it just once, I can tell my skin is softer and smoother afterwards. But long-term, it has basically eliminated the acne on my face."
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