Move over sheet masks and dewy serums—we love you, but it’s time for Korean makeup to have a chance to shine (literally). We hear a lot about Korean skincare brands, and for good, hydrating reasons, but the K-beauty industry has even more to offer. With a focus on enhancing natural beauty, Korean makeup products like lip stains, tinted SPF and cheek stains are popular for everyday or a “no makeup-makeup” vibe. Aesthetics are important in Korean beauty, and that’s clear in both the products and their innovative packaging.
Thanks to TikTok, the magic of Korean makeup has made its way to the For You pages (mine included) of many Americans—finally! Trending videos of vanity-worthy cushion compacts and lip stains promising a transfer-proof lip color, even behind a face mask, have persuaded me to whip out my credit card far too many times, only for me to realize the products are not available in the U.S (cue internal screaming). Sometimes I drift off during meetings, thinking about all the beauty products I can’t try because they’re not available. But since it’s literally my job, I’ve hunted down the best Korean beauty brands that you can (and will!) buy from right now.
If you find yourself enamored and obsessed with Holika Holika’s entire brand, you’re supposed to—it’s literally in their name. The K-beauty brand proudly states that it’s name derives from the “English suffix ‘-holic’,” which means “addiction,” and the Korean word “holida,” which means “temptation.” We’ve been addicted to this brand since 2010 when it was created in Korea by ENPRANI Co. Ltd. Everything you see from this brand, you’ll pick it up and go, “Oh, I could use this,” since everything is made to be affordable and multi-usable.
shop Holika Holika
Holika Holika Eye Metal Glitter
In K-Beauty, the trends usually revolve around blush tones and enhancing natural beauty, but don’t worry—they didn’t miss the “need sparkles” memo. The eye metals are mini glitters that swipe on creamy with a galaxy of sparkles left behind. For a mini star-power moment, pick up a little bit of glitter with a rounded brush and gently press into the inner corners of the eyes for a frosted stare-worthy moment.
Founded on the theme of embracing your inner self, this brand was created by the multi-hyphenated businesswoman, creative, and original beauty YouTuber, Michelle Phan. In 2017 Phan relaunched her brand, featuring sleek and innovative packaging inspired by Korean beauty. Cue the compact cushions, dewy formulas, and overall excellence from Phan.
shop EM Cosmetics
EM Cosmetics MOONBEAM Cushion Highlighter
There is something so satisfying about a compact cushion for all your liquid products—highlighters, sunscreens, foundations, etc. The multiple layers separating the cushion from the product is a simple yet genius change from usual compacts. Product-wise, you could easily turn yourself into a Cullen with the shine of this highlighter that blends into the skin, sans patchiness.
Hyungseok Dino Ha set out to create a brand that could share the wonders of Korean beauty globally, and what resulted was MBX and other brands including I’M MEME, which he founded in 2014.
shop I’M MEME
I’M MEME Pep! Balm
“A little goes a long way” has never been truer than while using this cheek and lip tint. The pink and red shades come in cool and warm undertones that pair well with various skin complexions, no matter how much you layer. I’M MEME is looking out for our wallets, and provides a powerful product that will last you even longer than your favorite mascara.
Etude was founded in 1958 and acquired by the Korean Beauty conglomerate Amore Pacific in 1990. Etude House is a global phenomenon, with stores everywhere selling their bright and cutesy products. Similar to other retailers focused on K-beauty, Etude House sells other Korean brands along with their own namesake line.
shop ETUDE HOUSE
ETUDE Fixing Tint
We’re probably going to be wearing masks in some capacity for the foreseeable future, but you don’t give up completely on your love for lipstick. The viral TikTok lip stains from ETUDE HOUSE are as thin as a lip stain with the long-lasting power of a liquid lipstick. If you’re a layer queen, go ahead and pile it on, If you’re fearful, don’t worry, you can always pick up a K-beauty lip balm afterwards.
The brainchild of Sephora and Memebox, Kaja is loved for their whimsical and versatile packaging and pigmented shades. The product packaging and color schemes are reminiscent of playing dress-up as a little kid with fake makeup, but in an updated, trendy way, and of course you can actually use it. Makeup should be fun, and what’s more fun than a stamp blush that can put a heart on your cheek? It can also be blended for a just-kissed flush.
Kaja Beauty Bento Bouncy Eyeshadow Trio
When the fear of realizing you don’t have time to do your makeup hits, thank Kaja for these convenient (and cute) stacked eyeshadows that can be thrown in your bag for a quickly applied pop of color. The best part: The color varieties that allow for a transition, base, and shimmer shade.
Well-known in Korea for its innovative color cosmetics, CLIO has been a welcome addition to the beauty industry since the 2000s. Founder Helen Han is considered the brains behind trends like tattoo eyebrows and baked eyeshadows.
CLIO Sharp So Simple Waterproof Pencil Eye Liner
A good retractable eye pencil feels so simple, and yet good formulas that don’t crumble or smear can be hard to find. If you’re a fan of tight liners—using eyeliner on your upper waterline—or you just need a pigmented pencil for your everyday look, this is an easy choice for your makeup bag.
Known for their “fun ideas with effective yet affordable products,” TONYMOLY is super involved in the beauty space, selling both makeup items and skincare products. Lightweight formulas with hydrating ingredients are key, but their beauty selection offer blushes, lippies, and eyeshadows with fun packages and pigmented payoff.
TONYMOLY Panda’s Dream Smudge Out Mascara
You’ve probably felt cheated by a mascara that says it won’t cause accidental raccoon eyes, when in reality it’s smudging all over your eyelid. Let’s just say with this mascara if you decided to re-watch A Star Is Born, you’ll still look as picturesque as Lady Gaga belting out that final song.