When I visited Seoul, Korea earlier this year (my dream destination, thanks to my love for K-drama), I found my new obsession… K-beauty, short for Korean Beauty. I came to understand that K-beauty was not just daily skin care and beauty tips, but a skincare lifestyle. There are hundreds of companies and thousands of products to choose from in this industry. However, I am and have always been a stickler for using “clean and ethical” ingredients whether it be in my food or skin care. Could my new-found obsession and “all natural” and organic requirements co-exist? Are there any eco and green K-beauty brands out there? Here is what I found …
Check out our K-beauty inspired skincare tips – they are essential and extremely easy to practice for everyone. If you are wondering what is K-beauty and why it excites most consumers? I’ll let the experts give you the low down. You can read what Alicia from Peach and Lily and Christine and Sarah from Glow Recipe have to say about this new rage.
My Standards and the Search
Finding the Eco and Green K-beauty brands was not an easy task. They are as elusive as a leopard on a safari. You know it’s there but it’s really hard to spot. That has been my experience looking for green and eco skin care lines in Seoul that met my standard for clean skin care. Talking about standards, I was looking for products that do not use any animal byproducts, abrasive alcohols, parabens, sulphates, mineral oils, chemical fragrances, dyes and unnecessary fillers. Finding ones that use organic and/or locally sourced ingredients would have been even better!
In due course, I spotted a few products that claimed to be “all natural”, but deep within the list of ingredients, lurked some harmful ingredients. Sorry, no go! It was a little disappointing as there weren’t as many pure Korean skincare brands that were 100% true to the “Green and Natural” philosophy, as I would have liked to see.
I had to leave the beaten paths of Myeongdong (the mecca of K-beauty skincare shops) and enter the boutique malls and “Sephora” type shops like Olive and Young and LOHB’s to find a very small selection of “eco” products. Thankfully all hope was not lost. After much research, walking around, and laboring over ingredients I was able to find two 100% “Pure”, “Eco” and “Green” K-beauty brands that I would use and recommend without a doubt. I also list other brands that I came across and tried that are “greener” on the ingredients scale, but still their work cut out for them to be considered “Eco” and “Green” by my standards.
Eco and Green K-Beauty Brands – The best of the best:
I ADORE everything about this company and it’s products. The Whamisa toner is the first K-beauty product I used when in the US and I have been hooked ever since. Whamisa focuses on organic fermented skincare with the use of natural preservatives. Their products are BDIH certified and EWG VERIFIED™. They do not test on animals and many of their products are vegetarian and vegan. Sounds excellent to me!
I have used Whamisa’s toner, cleansing oil, cream cleanser and sheet masks and like them all. My husband especially likes the cream cleanser. We used a small sample size for over a month! That’s how little one needs for a scrubby “clean” experience.
Where to find this brand:
In Seoul, you can find Whamisa in Eden Plaza, Gangnam. If shopping online, Whamisa is available on Glow Recipe.
I LOVE this brand too. For me, it’s a tug of war between Aromatica and Whamisa products. Aromatica and is EWG VERIFIED™ and has several vegan and eco-cert products. They use eco-friendly, safe, natural and organic ingredients. Aromatica has earned EWG’s Safe Cosmetic Champion Status awarded to beauty brands who create toxin-free products. Their products smell divine and natural as they use essential oils and botanical extracts.
Where to find this brand:
In Seoul, you can find Aromatica at Olive and Young, LOHB’s and Shinsegae Departmental Store. You can also find them online at Peach and Lily.
Aromatica Rose Absolute Face Oil, Rose Absolute First Serum and the Rose Absolute Vital Fluid. My husband is grateful for the Aromatica Rosemary hair tonic as it helped reduce his hair fall!
Eco and Green K-beauty Brands – Special Mentions:
This is a special mention as they are not 100% pure and natural. Primera is an eco-friendly brand that uses natural ingredients in their products (no parabens, synthetic pigments, or artificial fragrances). However, they do confess to using minimal amounts of artificial chemical ingredients and I commend them for being transparent about that. The flagship store in Myeongdong carries a few different products that are very clean.
Miracle Seed Essence – contains 93.1% lotus seed extract (it is the perfect toner for those hot summer days), Super Sprout Anti-aging Serum (I <3 this serum and its smells herbalicious and so natural) and the Scholar Tree Eye Cream.
Where to find this brand:
In Seoul, Myeongdong has a huge Primera store. This brand is not easily available online, however, you can check on Peach and Lily as I did see the Miracle Seed Essence on there at some point.
My second special mention is Blossom Jeju. I haven’t used any products from this brand but in reading about their company and their products I was eager to get my hands on them while in Seoul. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single shop carrying this brand. This company uses natural plant oils and botanical extracts with Camellia oil being their star ingredient. The Camellia flower is sourced locally on Jeju island (Kudos!). Blossom Jeju is committed to looking for healthier and safer ingredients to improve their products and are on the trajectory towards providing “Green”, “Eco” and “Sustainable” beauty products. I’d keep an eye on them.
None yet! I have my radars on their sheet masks, Camellia Soomni Essence Oil, night cream, eye cream and the Pink Camellia Blooming Vitamin Radiance Booster
Other Brands Researched and My Thoughts
There are several other brands and products that I researched, used and loved during my time in Seoul. I had to compromise on my need for 100% pure and clean ingredients as the products are nowhere near the standards that Whamisa or Aromatica employ, and fall somewhere in between the purist’s “green” view to those just starting to adopt some “green” philosophies. I list them separately, since it would be a stretch to call these “eco and green K-beauty brands”.
- Klairs uses very simple ingredients and avoids colorants, alcohol, parabens and artificial fragrances. It’s a very well reputed company for sensitive skin. I have their toner and sheet masks that I still need to try. You can find Klaris online at Soko Glam or at the Aland in Myeongdong, Seoul.
- Make P:rem – The brand produces the best sunscreen I have used! I stocked up on their bottles while in Seoul. It’s so light weight, non-greasy and leaves no white cast after application. This is the ONLY sunscreen I will wear and although it’s not 100% clean, this is a compromise I was willing to make until I find a cleaner brand to replace it. You can find this brand on Glow Recipe. In Seoul, you can find Make P:rem in LOHB’s.
- COSRX – focuses on maximizing the use of good ingredients and minimizing the use of harmful ingredients. It’s a brand loved by acne prone consumers. When my Whamisa Cream cleanser ran out, I bought the COSRX Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleaner and loved how gentle and fresh my skin felt after.
- Sheets masks from Polatam or Mask Package – Apart from Whamisa sheet masks I am lovingly fixated on sheet masks from both Polatam and Mask Package. You have to try it to believe how awesome they are. I shipped a boxful of sheet masks for my family. You can find Polatam online at Glow Recipe or at LOHB’s in Seoul. Mask Package is also a super clean brand and I found them only at Aland in Myeongdong, Seoul.
- Other one off products that I bought are from Blithe (Splash Mask and Crystal Iceplant Pressed Serum) and Innisfree (Orchid Eye Cream and Clay Masks). I haven’t opened them as yet and they do use a high percentage of clean and natural ingredients.
In general, what I found while shopping for skin care in Seoul was that one needs to do a little more investigation on a product by product basis, as some are a lot cleaner than others. The COSDNA site is a great resource for checking how ingredients rank on safety.
If you are looking to buy K-beauty products online, I highly recommend Glow Recipe (get 15% off your purchase using this link). To learn more about K-beauty you can follow Sarah, Christine and their company Glow Recipe on Instagram and Facebook. They both are awesome!! They are skincare fanatics and focus on natural, harsh-free beauty products. You can also try Peach and Lily and Soko Glam. I found these to be great resources that provide a wealth of information about skincare. ** Always be careful when buying K-beauty products from Amazon as there are many fakes!
I hope you found this article useful. What has been your experience with finding “green” Korean skin care brands? I would love to hear about it!
** Full Disclosure: This article contains some affiliate links. I get small incentives if you purchase using the links I provide.