Taking a closer look into the 10-step Korean skincare routine, you would not find a more powerful daily product than the serum. Packed with so many benefits in every drop, these miracle workers work wonders for your skin problems.
If you’re not using them yet, you’re definitely depriving your skin of one of the best sources of nourishment it can get today. To get started, here is a list of my favorite Korean serums to help you decide on one that suits you.
The 10 Best Korean Serums
Klairs Midnight Blue Youth Activating Drops
Prevention is key when it comes to skin aging, and Klairs has come up with a simple serum to help keep our skin looking young for as long as we can. I say simple because it only has 10 ingredients that are easily absorbed into the skin.
Unlike other serums that are used after applying a toner, this product is recommended immediately after cleansing. This is to prevent any barriers from the skin to allow a more efficient absorption.
The anti-aging power of this Korean serum comes from its high Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) concentration. EGF is a polypeptide that promotes cell growth and healing.
The serum contains guaiazulene, a soothing agent that calms irritated skin. This is why this serum is great to use even after exfoliating.
- Very effective in preventing fine lines and wrinkles
- Soothing to the skin
- Super watery consistency
CosRx Blemish Spot Clearing Serum
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
Having acne-prone skin does not only mean having to take care of actual acne. You’ll still have to deal with the dark spots, scars, and redness before you achieve clear skin.
That’s why I love this CosRx serum because it does all of these for you. It has CentellAC-Rx Complex, which is basically the brand’s own version of Centella Asiatica. It helps clear the skin as well as keeps the skin barrier strong.
When you look through the ingredient list, the main component of this Korean serum is Propolis, which is one of my favorites because it does a great job in protecting the skin. If you want to say goodbye to dark spots and are looking for something that would restore your skin to its original healthy glow, then this is something to look for.
This product is tested against irritation so it works well for sensitive skin.
- Has CentellAC-Rx Complex or Centella Asiatica to keep the skin barrier strong
- Has propolis that rejuvenates the skin
- Helps clear dark spots
- While it does not aggravate acne, some people find that this has no noticeable effect on their skin
Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum
Best for Dry Skin
Green tea is one of the best ingredients to look for when you have dry skin. It’s often listed with its scientific name, as Camellia Sinensis. If you find this in the ingredients list, it is likely to have a great effect on your dry skin.
This is especially true when it appears first in the list since that means it takes up most of the formula.
If you have dry skin, you will appreciate the effects immediately. However, if your skin is already properly hydrated, don’t expect any sudden dramatic changes. Don’t get me wrong. The serum is still nourishing. You just won’t feel the effects in skin texture immediately.
The Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum comes in a container with a dispenser so it’s pretty hygienic. It’s also great for travel because of its protective cap that prevents any accidental spilling.
For those with sensitive skin, this Korean serum works well since it does not contain any parabens or mineral oils.
While some serums feel tacky and heavy, the Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum is lightweight. It easily absorbs into dry skin, making it one of the best Korean serums in this list for humid conditions.
- Deeply hydrates the skin
- Paraben and mineral oil-free
- No apparent effects for those with already hydrated skin
AmorePacific Time Response Age Defense Serum
Aside from the sun, exposure to pollutants is another reason why our skin ages prematurely. This is why AmorePacific came up with a serum that protects against all environmental aggressors, including sun damage
With the help of pine mushroom, this Korean serum is rich in Vitamin D and antioxidants. Mushrooms are good ingredients that improve acne and rosacea, so this serum also works well for sensitive skin.
You’ll feel its luxurious texture once you apply it. It goes on smoothly and is easily absorbed by the skin in seconds. One of the first effects you’ll notice is how calming it is to the skin.
If you need to give your skin a bit of pampering from the stresses of daily commute, go for this serum.
The only problem I and many other users have about this is how expensive it is. It’s definitely an investment to prevent premature aging, but you’ll have to pay a good price for it.
- Contains pine mushroom that helps protect the skin from aging (fine lines) caused by environmental damage
- Has green tea extract that fights oxidative damage
- Calms the skin
- Scent may be too strong for some
MediCube Red Serum
MediCube’s Red Line is one of the most hyped Korean beauty lines in the market because of its effectiveness in clearing the skin of acne. Their serum is definitely one of the best products in the line because it easily targets the problem areas for faster results.
The serum comes in a plastic bottle with a hygienic pump dispenser. I like how the line uses a simple design. The bottle also looks like something you would find in a hospital.
However, I am not a fan of the fact you have to guess how much product is left because of the opaque bottle. I would have wanted something translucent just to let me know if I need to repurchase.
As to the texture, this Korean serum is very lightweight. It comes out of the bottle quite blue (and sometimes green), but that’s its natural color.
The β-glucan and glycerin content helps hydrate the skin. This is a very moisturizing serum, which is why a lot of users often ditch their moisturizers for this.
This serum is also great for those with oily skin. It contains ovalicin that controls the sebum and over 28 natural plant extracts that are not irritating to the skin.
But while it’s common knowledge that strongly scented products are not recommended for sensitive skin, this one is an exception. It reeks heavily of a tea tree scent. It still works effectively though once you get past that.
- Clinically tested for sensitive skin
- Eliminates acne
- Has a strong scent
- Bottle is opaque so you can’t see how much product is left
Dear, Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum
This serum has a functional blend of natural extracts, such as carrot root, broccoli, and celery. It also contains a bunch of other useful ingredients that help with replenishing moisture and keeping your skin hydrated.
You’ll notice from the name that this product claims to be “soothing”. It does this by lowering the surface temperature of your skin while keeping it moist. This calms and cools the skin, giving your skin a radiant glow for the day.
If you’re wondering what could make this product so soothing, it’s the Centella Asiatica Extract. This ingredient helps with inflammation and has antioxidant benefits as well.
A good thing to note is that there’s also a nice subtle refreshing citrus scent. This is great for those of you who don’t like the strong aromas that some other products have.
Given all this, I would suggest this for people with normal and combination skin.
- Cruelty-free and Vegan
- Subtle scent
- Affordable price
- Soothing ingredients
- Acne-prone skin friendly
- Contains PEG
- Not as hydrating as other products
Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum
Exfoliation is a necessary process to make cell turnover more efficient, resulting in brighter and younger-looking skin. So if you have a dull complexion, this Mizon AHA serum may be your best bet.
The main ingredient responsible for exfoliation is glycolic acid (GA), which is a type of alpha hydroxyl acid (AHA). GA is the AHA with the smallest molecule, so it is easily the best exfoliating ingredient you can find.
What’s unique about this product is it comes in a bottle with a smart dropper. Every time you unscrew the cap, you’ll find it already has pipetted the right amount of serum. So all you have to do is press the cap to dispense the product. In this way, you’ll get the exact amount you need every time.
But while this Korean serum is very promising, people with sensitive skin should be cautious about purchasing this or any other peeling beauty products.
This one in particular is highly exfoliating so it may cause irritation to sensitive skin types. If you’re not used to AHA yet, start with a once a week application before you slowly move towards a more frequent usage.
- Contains glycolic acid, a powerful exfoliant
- Smart dropper dispenses the right amount of product every time
- May not work well for sensitive skin types
PURITO Snail Repair Advanced Serum
What’s usually the problem when you have overly oily skin? Lack of moisture.
Because your skin type needs a certain amount of moisture to keep its barriers strong, lack of moisture makes it produce more sebum to counteract the dryness. And when it comes to hydration, there’s not many beauty ingredients that come close to the power of snail mucin.
This Purito serum is composed of 93 percent snail mucus, making it excellent for moisturizing the skin. Snail mucin is also great for healing broken skin and acne scars.
This Korean serum is also 10-free, meaning it does not have harmful ingredients like paraben, triclosan, surfactant, artificial coloring and fragrance, phthalein, ethanol, triethanolamine, petrochemicals, and benzoyl peroxide.
- 93% snail mucus
- Highly moisturizing
- Healing and repairing properties
- Not suitable for those allergic to snail mucin
The Face Shop White Seed Brightening Serum
If your dull, tired complexion has been getting you even more down lately, then this serum is perfect for you. It has a concoction of skin-brightening ingredients to help you achieve a healthy glow.
White Lupine Seed is the star ingredient. It has the power to control the production of skin melanin to avoid uneven pigments. It also moisturizes as it lightens your complexion. White Daisy Flower extract also enhances the effect of White Lupine Seed for optimum benefits.
To top it all off, this product doesn’t contain parabens, tar colorants, mineral oils, or talc. It’s also made cruelty-free.
Those who suffer from chronic acne should probably stay away from this though. Some users have observed that the key ingredients tend to cause breakouts for them.
- Brightening properties
- Evens out skin tone
- Contains no chemicals
- Not recommended for those with acne-prone skin
Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum
This serum markets itself as an activating serum. This is since it has skin-perfecting and priming powers that activates your other skincare products when applied.
It has JAUM Balancing Complex which consists of a mix of 5 Korean herbs. These herbs are Lotus, Rehmannia, Peony, Solomon’s Seal, and White Lily. Together, they moisturize and nourish the skin.
Many users also like that this has firming properties that prevents their skin from sagging. It’s a great hydrating product that smooths uneven texture as well. The texture is also very lightweight so it’s easy to blend and spread onto the face.
Perhaps the only downside to this is that the price is quite expensive for the amount you get. Nonetheless, most people think that it’s still worth it. The benefits that you get from this are alright to splurge on.
- Moisturizes skin
- Improves skin texture
- Highly nourishing formula
- Improves the effects of other skincare products
The K-Beauty Influence
K-pop is not the only big influence Koreans have contributed internationally. Along with the rise of our favorite idols, we’ve also been introduced to a unique beauty standard, one that emphasizes healthy skin above all else.
As people around the world become more acquainted with Korean culture, Korean beauty companies have risen in popularity.
We’re introduced to more natural ingredients (such as green tea, Centella Asiatica, and vitamin C) that are unique to Asia. We’re now also more familiar with practices that help improve the complexion from the inside out.
Serum: The Definition
Serums are skincare products designed to deliver concentrated amounts of nutrients to the skin to target specific skin problems. These active ingredients promote easier skin absorption for much faster results.
Unlike moisturizers, serums are made up of smaller particles and are more concentrated.
In terms of volume, they give you the best bang for your buck. So don’t be surprised when you see the prices and compare it to the amount of product you get. You wouldn’t be needing much of it to see the effects.
Drawing the Line: Serums, Ampoules, Essences
The beauty industry has come up with a lot of products that have practically the same functions and formulations. When it comes to serums, for example, there are really not many differences when compared to ampoules and essences.
Sometimes, these terms are used interchangeably and are nothing more than marketing expressions. The term serum is more common in Asian countries while essence is more familiar to the Western audience.
Technically, however, serums are more concentrated and more viscous than essences. Ampoules, on the other hand, are the most concentrated among the three and are not recommended to be used daily.
How and When to Use Serums
Serums are mild enough for daily application. Twice a day is the recommended limit. After cleansing the face, apply your chosen toner to prep the skin for the serum.
Massage the serum onto the skin using your fingers. You can add the drops on your fingers first or apply them directly to the face, like how you would with an eye cream.
Allow a minute or two to let the product settle before moving on to the next step.
During the day, use sunscreen over the serum. At night, apply a moisturizer or night mask over it. While serums are able to moisturize the skin, they should not be considered substitutes for moisturizers.
Ingredients to Look for to Find the Perfect Korean Serum
Just like any other skincare product, choosing a Korean serum would depend on your skin type and needs. Even though many serums claim to be suitable for all skin types, it’s best to know the ingredients you need to really determine if the serum can potentially solve your skin problem.
Look for the best Korean serums with highly hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and snail mucin. Peptides also help in making the skin look plumper. It does this by stimulating collagen production.
Other ingredients beneficial to dry skin types include Vitamin E and niacinamide. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps the skin recover from oxidative damage. Niacinamide, on the other hand, increases ceramide levels.
Oily and Acne-Prone Skin
Tea tree is probably one of the best ingredients for acne-prone skin. It controls oiliness while preventing breakouts. This is because tea tree oil is antibacterial and is a gentle astringent.
Another good ingredient is honey, which helps keep the skin moisturized while controlling excess oil. It also has antibacterial properties.
Many makeup gurus also recommend that you use a sticky serum under makeup to blur out any scarring or active acne. For darker scarring, you can use Korean Vitamin C serums with potent brightening properties.
Even in your twenties, it wouldn’t hurt to prevent skin aging as early as possible. Look for ingredients that help boost collagen production such as aloe vera, peptides, and glycolic acid.
Go for skincare products with Vitamin E or green tea extract. These ingredients help brighten up the skin while combating free radicals.
Serums are an important addition to your skincare routine if you’re not yet using one.
Serums in your routine are very helpful in targeting specific skin problems and skin concerns without replacing other beauty products you love.
Our personal favorite is Klairs Midnight Blue Youth Activating Drops because it effectively prevents the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
We also love the CosRx Blemish Spot Clearing Serum, especially during our bad skin days. It’s especially helpful for dark marks, scars, and spots.
Happy serum shopping!
July 14, 2021 – Updated internal links, updated external links, removed author box