I still remember the very first Korean beauty product I ever bought. It was an Etude House Drawing Eyebrow #4, the gateway pencil in my quest to achieve #KilayGoals before it was even a hashtag on Instagram. At the time, the brand had just opened its first few stores in the Philippines. K-Beauty was still an acquired taste, a niche concept that had yet to transcend the initial market of hallyu fans that steadfastly supported their Korean idols.
Fast forward to today, I’ve already lost count of the many Korean brands on my vanity (as well as my stash) and the many others I’ve yet to try.
With the Korean wave introducing the OG oppas and unnies of K-Drama and K-Pop, so did it wash ashore the first traces of K-Beauty in the Philippine market. Ask those in the know a.k.a. your beauty-obsessed friends, and it’s highly likely that they have at least one holy grail product from the home of [insert favorite Korean celebrity here]. Plus, we all have that one fangirl/fanboy in our lives who we’ve asked to take home hard-to-find Korean brands from their frequent trips to Seoul.
Whether it’s the full 10-step skincare routine or just a tube of lip and cheek tint, everyone who takes skincare and makeup seriously has their own relationship with K-Beauty in one way or another.
Granted, it’s not for all skin types and colors. After all, these products are primarily targeted towards Korean women and men. What I love about it, though, is how K-Beauty perfectly positioned itself in the market that it became appealing to just about anybody.
It sells you glowing skin from ampoules and masks, complemented by makeup wrapped in cute compacts and tubes. They’re not just all style, too. Many Korean brands pride themselves in their well-researched formulas and the top-of-the-line technology used to manufacture their products.
While I don’t look like any of my favorite Korean celebrities, there’s something about the dewiness of their skin or the just-bitten flush of their cheeks that made even a lazy girl like me want to endure almost an hour’s worth of double cleansing, toning, exfoliating, applying serum and essence, masking, putting on eye cream, moisturizing, and slathering sunscreen. Why wouldn’t I want to look as flawless as Song Hye Kyo, or even Lee Dong Wook? If Korean men had even better skin than me, who could blame me for trying?
I personally couldn’t resist hoarding lines of makeup that featured my favorite cartoon characters, too. Like a kid let loose in a candy store, I fell for many a limited edition collaboration ranging from MISSHA x Line Friends to Holika Holika x Gudetama, and Peripera x Powerpuff Girls. I went nuts.
“Consumerism!” you might decry, but I really don’t mind shelling out money for things that literally clear my skin from blemishes and make it just oily enough that others would call it “dewy.” #Priorities, right?
Admittedly, it wasn’t love at first sight. I didn’t gravitate towards K-Beauty from the get-go because I thought it didn’t have anything to offer to me. I later found out, however, that there are actually a lot of products that work incredibly well on my combination skin. Of course, not all BB creams and cushion foundations had a shade “dark” enough for my cool-toned medium complexion, but ya can’t have it all, can ya?
The key, as with everything in beauty, is finding what works for you. In an attempt to help beauty-obsessed girls like me, I’m sharing my top destinations for Korean beauty here in Manila:
The brand that I consider to be the mother of all K-Beauty in the Philippines. I truly believe Etude started it all. Well, where it all started for me, at least. I’ve already tried so many of their products, from their eyebrow pencil down to the nail clippers. Out of everything, though, my all-time favorites are still the Pink Vital Water Facial Toner (₱798) and Lash Perm Curl Fix Mascara (₱690).
It’s been a long time coming, but Innisfree is finally here! A brand so popular, you can’t call yourself a respectable K-Beauty reseller if you didn’t carry this. The brand only recently opened their doors in Manila, and it’s now so easy to get my hands on my favorite Green Tea Foam Cleanser (₱590) and their No Sebum Mineral Powder (₱390).
I’ve been using Banila Co.’s So Contouring Twin Stick in Tan Brown (₱895) for about a year now. I’m a huge fan of multi-tasking makeup, and this product allows me to contour and highlight with ease. Of course, there’s the holy grail Clean It Zero Original (₱945) for removing all my makeup.
Already a wonderland for beauty junkies everywhere, they surely upped their game even further when they started carrying the coveted CosRX line – and priced it competitively! Here, you can get the amazing CosRX Acne Pimple Master Patch (₱200) for zapping zits overnight and CosRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream (₱690) for making sure you’re UV-protected.
This is where I usually shop for hard-to-find favorites, like the Petitfee Pearl & Gold Hydrogel Eye Patch (₱420) that helps me ditch dark under eyes and fake eight hours of sleep. The website carries a lot of brands from Korea; sadly, they don’t always offer the cheapest prices. The upside, though, is they often go on sale and give a lot of freebies away, so it’s still a win-win when you order.
Everyone’s favorite destination for all things beauty, this site and app makes shopping for anything easy. When I can’t make a run to the mall, I just order my favorites here – like the Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off (₱499), and Peri’s Ink The Velvet in Celeb Deep Rose (₱430). While the platform isn’t the fastest-loading on the web, I do agree with them that “beautiful things take time.” We love a self-aware brand!
Mind you, experimenting with new beauty products – K-Beauty or not – always yields a few hits and misses, so be vigilant when it comes to hype, do your own research, read reviews like you’re preparing for your finals, and swatch with abandon if you can. It’s honestly the only way you can avoid heartbreak. There’s definitely nothing to lose with K-Beauty, though!