Unless you happen to be a multi-millionaire mogul who enjoys three-course meals everyday, a jet-setting lifestyle, and platinum spa membership, keeping up your skin care game is no small investment. Luckily K-beauty offers top-shelf beauty products for a lot less than what you'd expect from luxury beauty brands—with formulas that are just as effective.
Don’t panic if you’re at square one—it is NOT necessary to have a 10-step Korean skincare regimen to take your skin from hot mess to flawless. These are some of my favorite tried-and-true Korean skin care goodies—all less than $25—so you can have your skin care and keep your money for a day when you actually want to make it rain. I’ve listed them in the appropriate order of a Korean skincare regimen so you can easily see which steps may be missing in your own routine.
Innisfree Olive Real Cleansing Oil ($16-19)
This is my absolute favorite cleaning oil! Liquid oil cleansers can get a bit messy but I absolutely love how amazingly buttery and soft my face feels afterwards.
TonyMoly Floria Brightening Cleansing Oil ($24)
What’s not to love about a cleansing oil that brightens your skin while also removing makeup/sebum? I’m obsessed with the fact that it contains saccharomyces ferment, which is the key ingredient in the popular Missha First Treatment Essence.
Banila Co. Clean It Zero Classic Cleansing Balm ($21)
Perfect cleansing oil for travel, melts on your face and removes all your makeup. Don’t be alarmed by mineral oil being an ingredient. Kerry of Skin & Tonics ensures it’s Holy Grail worthy!
Kojie San Kojic Acid Soap ($6-8)
Don’t be alarmed by the word “acid”—this is an all-natural soap with very few ingredients and epic results for improving acne scars and hyperpigmentation. Although not technically Korean, this is a staple in my skincare regimen!
Missha Super Aqua Refreshing Cleansing Foam ($12)
Missha is another really affordable Korean skincare brand. They are sort of like the Neutrogena of K-beauty. This cleanser has willow bark extract which leaves my skin soft.
Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner ($17)
This gentle toner moisturizes while soothing the skin, treats, and even helps to regenerate new skin cells with the power of snail mucin!
Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner ($12-15)
I’m really loving this toner and excited to try some of the other toners from Cosrx after hearing such great reviews. It gently exfoliates the skin after cleansing. They even have ones with 96% snail mucin and galactomyces. Ya’ll already know how I feel about that miraculous snail goo!
Nature Republic Argan 20 Essential Toner ($17-20)
Super moisturizing thanks to Argan oil and free of harmful ingredients. The spray bottle makes it easy to use; just spritz and gently tap into skin.
The Face Shop Real Nature Mask in Kelp ($2-4)
This brand is super affordable and usually the perfect gateway for those of you who are just starting your K-beauty journey. This one uses kelp extract to help remove impurities in the skin.
Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence ($20)
Another favorite of mine from Benton Cosmetics is their essence. When used as a regimen with the Aloe toner and their steam cream you can expect amazing results for a really great price! I’ve been using it for over a year and it’s a staple in my skincare lineup.
*Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum ($22-24)
Dry, sensitive, or prone to redness? This serum is all about soothing the skin while replenishing moisture and promises to absorb quickly and leave your skin lovingly soft.
*Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop ($23-24)
If you’re looking for an ampoule/serum to help with fading those pesky acne scars this is a good but gentle one. Great for all skin types especially those with sensitive skin.
TonyMoly Pure Eco Snail Moisture Gel ($12-16)
Yup, MOAR SNAILSSSSS! I especially LOVE this gel because it’s multi-purpose, which means you can use it on your WHOLE body and not just your face. This angelic gel has 90% snail extract which is great for hydration, reducing wrinkles and healing scars/blemishes. At this great price you really get a bang for your buck!
Missha All-Around Safe Block Essence Sun ($14-18)
Protects, moisturizes, and brightens while leaving absolutely NO white cast! Kiss those ghost-like days at the beach good-bye!
*ClubClio Perfect Sun Cream ($17)
It’s perfect for wearing under makeup. It comes in two versions. The original enhances your skin tone and the other provides pore coverage and oil control.
K-beauty doesn’t have to be stressful! Finding the best products for your skin type and budget are possible with a little bit of help. What are your current K-beauty budget friendly favorites? Let me know, I’m always looking to try something new!
*These are products I haven't vetted YET but come highly recommended so they deserve a place in this beauty budget list.
Tiffany Marie is a glitter obsessed New York City native with a penchant for all things nautical! She's a freelance journalist, public speaker, and healthcare ePatient advocate with a burning passion for advocacy, Asian skin care, fashion, food, beauty & K-pop! You can find her on Twitter @TiffanyAndLupus.