The Best Korean Cosmetics Brands- According to Some Female Expats in Korea


First of all, I’m no make-up expert. I just buy stuff that’s cheap, smells good, and looks okay on my skin. Usually I value my friends’ opinions about what they recommend and go with that. So why not share that knowledge with others?

I’ve taken some statistics classes, so I understand that I need a bigger pool and a better survey sheet for accurate results, but since I’m not a researcher and I’m too lazy for that, I just asked 21 of my friends, who are not Korean, but have lived in Korea for about a year or more.

After I made my friends give me their top 3 favorite Korean cosmetics brands, I assigned three points to #1, two points to #2 and one point for #3. Some said that they like them equally, but when I insisted, they were able to give an order to them. But one friend insisted it to be equal, so I just gave two points for all the brands she chose. Here are the results.


#1. Etude House

31 points = (3 points x 7) + (2 points x 4) + (1 point x 2)

Why I like Etude House:

  • They are relatively cheap and they have a wide variety.
  • They send text messages to remind members about an upcoming sale.
  • Their theme is cute. (Pink/princess/doll)
  • My favorite k-pop star is advertising it.

shinee animated GIF

Product Recommendations:

  • Precious Mineral Any Cushion
  • Precious Mineral BB Cream
  • Dr Mascara Fixer
  • Pore Ever Primer
  • Concealer
  • Green Tea Nose Strips
  • face masks (I like Honey and Collagen.)
  • body lotion (My favorite fragrance is Belle Dress Pretty Look.)
  • tint
  • nail polish
  • eyeliner

Why I don’t like Etude House:

  • The workers follow me around too much.
  • Everything is too sparkly.
  • It’s hard to find something that matches my skin tone.
  • The BB Creams separated in the bottle.

#2. Innisfree

21 points = (3 points x 5) + (2 points x 3)

Why I like Innisfree:

  • They use natural ingredients that are good for skin care.
  • It fit my skin type.

Product Recommendations:

  • Toner
  • Moisture Spray
  • Face Masks
  • Face wash
  • BB Cream
  • Make-up remover


#3. The Face Shopszfc

 18 points = (3 points x 3) + (2 points x 3) + (1 point x 3)

Why I like The Face Shop:

  • Reasonable price and good reviews on the internet.
  • They give a lot of extra free stuff with each purchase.
  • Face masks that are cheaper than Etude House.
  • Good for skin care.
  • It has well-reached the U.S.
  • It matches my skin tone.

Product Recommendations:

  • Toner
  • Face wash
  • Face Mask
  • Eye make-up
  • Make-up wipes

#4. Tony Moly

15 points = (3 points x 2) + (2 points x 4) + (1 point x 1)

Why I like Tony Moly:

  • They have many sales.
  • They send text messages to remind members about sales.

Product Recommendations:

  • nail polish
  • eye lash curler
  • eyeliner

Why I don’t like Tony Moly:

  • Doesn’t fit my skin.

#5. Nature Republic

10 points = (3 points x 2) + (2 points x 1) + (1 point x 2)

Why I like Nature Republic:

  • Good for skin care.
  • Good for base make-up.

Product Recommendations:

  • Face wash
  • Lotion
  • Moisturizer
  • Concealer

#6. Missha

9 points = (3 points x 1) + (2 points x 2) + (1 point x 2)

Why I like Missha:

  • Good foundation to cover the blemishes.

Product Recommendations:

  • BB Cream
  • Make-up remover
  • Concealers

Why I don’t like Missha:

  • They don’t give many free stuff with each purchase.

Those that were mentioned 1-2 times but didn’t make it to the ranking: IOPE, Dr. Jart, Skinfood, Holika Holika, Clio (good for darker skin tones), Too Cool for School, Skin 79.

Summary: Although Etude House had both positive and negative comments, it was the most mentioned. Many people like their cute theme. Innisfree and The Face Shop were both popular for being good for skin care. Tony Moly seems to be popular for those who buy make-up on sales. Nature Republic seemed to be popular among my friends who don’t wear too much make-up (just BB cream and no eye make-up). Missha is well-known for it’s foundation.

Who were the respondents?

21 Female  expats who have lived in Korea for about 7-25 months.

Age range: 20s

Countries of Origin: USA, the UK, Canada, Japan

Occupation: English teacher or Student

When do you buy cosmetics?

  • If I consider it as affordable.
  • If I run out of my necessities.
  • If it is good for my skin. (Organic, safe chemicals)
  • If the store has many sales.
  • If the store sends text messages to remind me of sales.
  • If the design is cute.
  • If the workers are not annoying.
  • If it matches my skin tone.
  • If it smells good or feels good on my skin.


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