Review: My 5 Favorite Hidden K-Beauty Gems


With all of the hype surrounding the Korean beauty scene it easy to overlook great products mixed in the thousands available.

When I first came to Korea, the number of cosmetic shops was overwhelming. Main streets are dotted with individual brand shops and larger drugstores (ex. Olive Young).  In Myeongdong, you can visit four different locations of Etude House alone. After living in Korea for a few years now, I’ve been able to test many of the hyped products with some mixed results. People often ask me to send goodies back to the US and over time I’ve discovered some of the hidden gems in the K-Beauty world. Here are a few items I always recommend:


3CE cream blusher review style nanda

3CE Cream Blusher

3CE (3 Concept Eyes) has a good reputation thanks to trendy ads, Park Sora, and the forethought to have an international online shop before some of the larger companies got into the game. After a lot of swatching, I would say their products are hit or miss depending on what kind of finishes and textures you prefer. One the shining stars for me is their Cream Blusher. The textures of these blushers are very creamy and blend smoothly with minimal effort (making them great for quick application!) and the colors are a little bit different then you would usually find in the Western market. Available in four colors: #New pink (top swatch) a lilac toned baby pink, #Baby Peach a light pastel peach, #Coral Coral (bottom swatch) a light coral that packs a punch, and #Soft Orange a yellow heavy light orange. The product to price ratio is one of the better deals in their line at $13 for 20g and the tube packaging keeps the product free of germs. However with the introduction of their new cheek sticks these might be on the way out so grab them while you can!

Available at en.stylenanda.com


Skinfood sweet almond eyeliner in black review

SKINFOOD Sweet Almond Eyeliner

Skinfood is known for their skincare line that uses natural ingredients, which often ends up with their makeup line being overlooked. When I was determined to find my perfect eyeliner their Sweet Almond Eyeliner was a clear winner (that I have repurchased again and again). The color is a nice deep black with a minimal shine. Generally the most talked about eyeliners are popular for the reason that they last all day and don’t budge, but when it comes to removal you end up rubbing your eyes raw even with makeup remover. This eyeliner wins me over due to it’s easy removal, just add water! With a light rub the eyeliner peels right off. Despite the easy removal, it lasts through rain and crying (as long as you pat dry).

Available at eng.theskinfood.com


Etude House auto lip liner review

Etude House Soft Touch Auto Lip Liner

I wouldn’t necessarily say Etude House’s Soft touch auto lip liners are something particularly special but somehow they have made their way into my daily routine. These pencils provide all day full coverage that are great on their own or layered with lipstick. The price point is a steal at around $2 each and the compact size makes them great for traveling with limited space. I find the color examples on Etude’s website quite deceiving, as they show some very yellow based nude-pink tones when in reality these are beautiful rosy and brown colors. Swatched above from left to right #02 a light brown toned beige, #01 medium rose, and #04 a darker burgundy rose.  #02 worn here, #01 worn here, and #04 worn here.

Available at etudehouse.com


Too Cool for School 1 day tattoo eyebrow ash brown review

too cool for school 1 Day Tattoo Eyebrow in Ash Brown

When it comes to Korean eyebrow products, the colors are pretty limited. Add to the fact that unless you are purchasing grey, the colors are usually warm toned browns. Too Cool for School’s 1 Day Tattoo Eyebrow is in this list because their ash brown is actually ash brown! Their popular products feature fun packaging (like dinosaurs) so the simple pen with polka dots gets easily passed by. But this simple pen has a nice brush thin enough to apply individual hair strokes, the color is light but build able, and there is enough product to last me 6-9 months of daily wear. The only draw back is in hot weather it can disappear on you, so best to set it with some translucent powder.

Available at toocoolforschool.us


Etude House baby choux cream in mint review

Etude House Baby Choux Base in Mint

When it first came out, there was a lot of hype surrounding Etude House’s Baby Choux bases. They came in cute jars, had a fun advertising campaign and continued to sell well enough for a repackage to be added to their regular line. Nevertheless, the hype has died down. On it’s own the baby choux base is a bit fickle because it can give the skin a rough texture so it’s best to apply with a sponge. I’d recommend it for another reason: to adjust the color of your foundation or bb cream. If your foundation/bb cream is a little too dark or too orange, the mint choux will help lighten and desaturate the incorrect tones. When mixed, the texture issues are non-existent and you can apply it with your hands/brush/sponge. If you have foundation that matches your summer skin and don’t want to get a new shade for winter this is a mixer. Swatched below is a mix of mint choux and NARS Siberia in a 1:2 ratio (left) and NARS Siberia (right), first swatched thick and second blended out.

Available at etudehouse.com



Hype usually happens for a reason: Part advertising and part merit. If you see a product recommended over and over again, there is a very good chance it will be pretty good. But up until recently, selection was quite limited so the product recommendations remained the same items again and again. Now that more companies have international online shops people are able purchase anything in their range, but you still aren’t able to test beforehand. Hopefully more brands will have brick and mortar shops abroad so you can test products in store, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to more reviews of lesser-known products.

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