It's fair to say that when Charlotte Cho launched Soko Glam (her e-commerce site for Korean beauty products) in 2012, she was far ahead of the curve. "The term 'K-Beauty' wasn't even that well known," she says.
In the years since, her startup has grown into a successful business, and Korea's "skin-first philosophy" has been embraced as an American ritual, too. "Koreans believe that skincare should be enjoyable and that it's an investment in their overall well-being," she continues. "This translates to the game-changing ingredients that produce results, which gained the world's attention."
But even if the mindsets between American and Korean skincare have become more similar, there still can be one key difference: the actual products on our shelves. So we asked Cho to provide insight into the best Korean skincare products we can buy to truly practice the routine. Cho gave us every possible product we'd need, from a cleanser and toner to an eye cream and moisturizer, so that we'll never be behind the curve again.
"Clean It Zero is a classic for a reason," Charlotte says. "This cult favorite melts off stubborn makeup seamlessly without stripping your skin of its natural oils, naturally exfoliates it with papaya extract, and brightens it with vitamin C–rich acerola extract."
"This is a cooling cleansing water that will balance and remove impurities, including makeup, dirt, and oil," she says. "It contains water infused with Iceland moss extract, which is full of nutrients to soothe, nourish, and moisturize skin. Witch hazel works to deep clean pores and help prevent breakouts while a blend of fruit extracts fortifies skin."
"The Dr. Oracle A-Thera Tea Tree Peeling Stick is a powerful and gentler blend of acids to effectively treat acne," Charlotte notes. "It contains lactic acid, glycolic acid, tea tree extract, wintergreen leaf extract, and bamboo extract to exfoliate and treat without irritation."
"In warmer weather, people tend to produce more sebum, and this toner helps reset and brighten the skin since it's highly concentrated in pearl extract," she says. "It's also great for acne-prone skin because it contains BHA to gently exfoliate and deep clean pores to prevent blemishes."
"This contains 84% fermented rice water, a secret that Korean women have been using for centuries to get brighter and more hydrated skin," Charlotte says. "This lightweight essence immediately seeps into skin and mildly exfoliates it with lactic acid, while peony extract helps improve circulation. Licorice root extract adds an extra dose of brightening power."
"I cannot stop raving about Time Stop Collagen Ampoule! It's formulated with 77% mushroom extract to stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of wrinkles," she says. "This special formula also contains a patented ingredient that is a blend of licorice, persimmon leaf, and other botanical extracts rich in antioxidants to brighten, soothe, and strengthen skin."
"This is a multifunctional gel mask that I like to wear as an overnight treatment because it calms, repairs, and protects my skin with pomegranate, cica, and licorice extract," she says. "I've been flying internationally a lot the past couple of months and this helps revitalize my skin."
"This contains a blend of effective fermented ingredients such as bifida ferment lysate and galactomyces ferment filtrate, which are well known in Korean skincare to help repair skin damage and deeply hydrate the skin," she says. "Also included in the formula are beta-glucans and adenosine to plump and smooth the eye area for brighter, more younger-looking eyes."
"This contains a patented, medical grade EGF that targets fine lines on the cellular level by promoting cell regeneration," Charlotte notes. "It also repairs, moisturizes, and brightens skin, making it an all-in-one solution for sensitive skin. Easydew Ex used to only be available through medical clinics in South Korea, but now Soko Glam is the first to carry the brand in the U.S."
"This is a great, lightweight sunscreen that layers well with makeup and contains rose and raspberry extracts for an extra boost of hydration," she says.
Up next: These 10 lotions with glycolic acid will reveal your glowiest skin yet.