Whether you’re a K-beauty aficionado or not, you’ll know of big brands such as Laneige, Sulwhasoo, The Face Shop and Innisfree. After all, many of them are permanent fixtures in our shopping malls. You’ll also have heard of skincare trends such as “glass skin” and makeup looks such as “gradient lips” which are synonymous with the K-beauty wave, since they have become mainstay terms in beauty speak.
And we think you’ll agree when we say all the credit’s due to the South Koreans for inventing sleeping masks (one of the best skincare products ever invented, if we may say so), which help us wake up to soft and smooth skin. So to celebrate all things South Korean on the National Liberation Day of Korea, which falls on August 15, we’re compiling a select list of under-the-radar, must-know K-beauty brands you should add to your skincare shelves here.
Fast gaining popularity, but still considered under the radar, Huxley is the go-to K-beauty brand for Korean air crew because the products really help skin retain moisture in the dry cabin air. It made its entry into the Singapore market a year ago, and has expanded from its showroom at 42A Club Street and beauty counter at Metro Centrepoint to Jewel Changi’s Naiise Iconic store recently. The brand’s key ingredient is the prickly pear cactus extract, that is known for its ability to hold water without leaving a sticky afterfeel. While skincare occupies a bulk of its menu, Huxley has cushion foundations and body products too.
Founded by a group of plastic surgeons, dermatologists and cosmetics researchers, Jayjuncosmetics (better known as Jayjun, as reflected by its double J logo) is an anti-ageing skincare line that aims to help tighten and firm up skin. Its multi-step sheet masks – which comprise a mix of cleansers, essences, eye cream, and of course, the sheet masks themselves, in various sealed pockets – are raved about on the Internet. Even though it is considered under-the-radar in Singapore, the brand has collaborated with Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore on a set of face masks, and engaged Chinese actress Fan Bing Bing (who’s known for her love of face sheet masks) to be its ambassador in 2018.
Developed by medical group Banobagi (which does plastic surgery, dermatology and dentistry), this brand is a cosmeceutical beauty brand that carries a wide range of skincare products, from face masks to sunscreens. The products are formulated to specifically target skin concerns that the doctors from the medical group have identified (dehydrated skin, skin inflammation, saggy skin and more) — rather than reflect the skincare trends — to ensure their relevance and efficacy. While you may not have heard of the brand unless you’re a huge K-beauty fan, the medical group Banobagi has been featured in reality show Let Me In (where contestants compete to get plastic surgery) which is broadcast in both Thailand and South Korea – making the name a well-known one in the beauty circles in these two regions.
Medius focuses on only face masks for different needs – hydrating, brightening, oil-controlling and saggy skin, among others. The material used for the masks is made of soft, natural fibres that promise to adhere closely to skin to deliver the nutrients from the active ingredients to skin. While it has flown under the radar in Singapore, the brand’s masks are carried by prominent retailers such as UK drugstore Boots and department store Selfridges.
AHC started as a skincare line sold at private aesthetic spas and dermatological clinics, and is known for using premium ingredients and advanced technologies to formulate its products. The brand stands at the periphery of the spotlight of K-beauty brands that are popular in Singapore, but is considered pretty well known globally (Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway reportedly swears by its best-selling eye cream, the Perfecting Eye Cream for Face). The range is quite wide, with a hydrating line, a preventive anti-ageing line, a line suitable for the most sensitive skin, and a collection of face masks.
While the rest of the brands on this list are skincare-focused, Jung Saem Mool is a makeup-centric brand. This is another brand that has a cult following in Korea, but has yet to gain overwhelming popularity in Singapore. Its founder is celebrity makeup artist Jung Saem Mool, who has her own beauty academy and luxury hair and beauty salon chain, and the brand is known for its hybrid concealer–foundation palettes.
This beauty brand uses marine plant extracts, natural pearl and essential oils in its products, which are said to help enrich, hydrate and firm up skin. The buzz on the Internet (according to reviews from beauty bloggers) is that the brand’s brightening skincare is really effective. On New York-based website Soko Glam, Klavuu’s products are consistently rated four stars (and more) out of five. It carries a wide range of skincare products – from cleansers to masks – and makeup too. While Klavuu isn’t yet available in Singapore, you can find some of its products on Althea, a multi-label K-beauty e-tailer.
Klavuu doesn’t ship internationally, so you’d have to engage a concierge service if you want to get your hands on its products.
This clean skincare brand targets sensitive skin types, so its formulations are super gentle and free of colourants, alcohol, parabens and artificial fragrances. The brand carries everything from cleansing puffs to sheet masks for your skincare needs. Its products have been featured by major publications all over the world, such as Harper’s Bazaar Romania, even though it has yet to gain the kind of top-tier status that other naturalist K-beauty brands like Belif and Innisfree enjoy.