Skip To Content

    I'm Korean And Living In The UK – Here's The Korean And European Skincare I Swear By

    Let me take you through my holy grail products.

    We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    Hi, I'm Lana. I'm 33 years old, I'm Korean-American, and I've been living in the UK for the past seven years.

    Lana Huh

    I'm wearing makeup here, including concealer under my eyes and to cover up some hyperpigmentation from old spots, as well as a light coverage powder foundation, but this is pretty indicative of what my skin looks like on a regular day when I'm not breaking out.

    I especially wanted to share my routine because it demonstrates how you can incorporate serums, acids, and Korean beauty products into a routine that mixes the best of both Korean and European skincare.

    When I first moved from New York to London, adjusting to the hard water and a different climate did a real number on my dry, sensitive skin. In the process of trying to calm it, I got into skincare in a big way. Having tried and tested various combinations and routines, I can genuinely vouch for the effectiveness of the products in this post. Here's the rundown on my personal skin concerns: I have extremely sensitive combination skin that's prone to dry patches, hormonal acne, and I'm just starting to think about preventing fine lines and wrinkles. I've settled on a routine that addresses those concerns and keeps my skin mostly clear.

    Let's start with my morning routine, from washing my face up until I start doing my makeup.

    COSRX AC Collection Calming Foam Cleanser

    Melon & Starfish / Via

    I currently use this COSRX foam cleanser because it contains both salicylic acid to target breakouts and a centella asiatica complex with calming and healing properties. A small amount of product foams up impressively, especially considering that it's SLS-free, so a 150ml tube should last you a while. In my opinion, it's much gentler than most salicylic acid formulas but it is still a little bit drying, so as we go into colder weather here in the UK, I'll probably start alternating between this cleanser and a milder, non-foaming formula.

    Price: £13.00 at Melon & Starfish.

    LookFantastic / Via, Lana Huh

    I used a silicone sonic face brush for a while and loved it, but it became temperamental after the first time I replaced the batteries inside it, so for an affordable, low-tech option, this is what I currently use: a silicone exfoliating pad. Once I've applied cleanser to my wet skin, I rub the pad around in circles, going over my whole face both clockwise and anti-clockwise. The bristles are tiny and soft, encouraging gentle exfoliation, and I use the bumpier part of the pad on areas where my pores tend to get more clogged, like my hairline and chin.

    Price: £6.95 for a pack of three at LookFantastic.

    Little Bamboo Muslin Washcloths

    Amazon / Via, Lana Huh

    A game changer for my skin was when I started setting aside a separate towel for drying my face – using the same towel that you use for your hands, body, and/or hair absolutely does contribute to breakouts. I love these incredibly soft muslin cloths, which are a little bit more eco-friendly because they're made with bamboo fibre. The bamboo content also makes them naturally antibacterial, and they dry really quickly, so you can wash and wring them out in the evening and they'll be ready to go again in the morning. Even so, I tend to swap them out at least every other day, just in case.

    Price: £6.95 for a pack of six on Amazon.

    Holika Holika Good Cera Super Ceramide Toner

    LookFantastic / Via

    Full disclosure: my actual favourite ceramide toner is the Tony Moly Wonder Ceramide Mocchi Toner, which is basically impossible to get in the UK unless you order it from Korea on eBay/YesStyle. This Holika Holika version is similar and widely available, so it's the one I plan to get after my big bottle of Tony Moly runs out. Ceramides are great for dry, sensitive skin, and using a toner ensures that your skin is optimally prepped for the other products you apply afterwards. I like to decant my toner into a small spray bottle and mist my face with it but some toners are best applied with a cotton round, so choose your fighter, you do you, etc.

    Price: £15.96 at LookFantastic.

    COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence

    Lana Huh

    In my quest for hydrated skin, I've tried several hyaluronic acid serums at different price points, and this version hits the sweet spot between effectiveness and value for money. The "essence" is less sticky than a lot of formulas, sinks into your skin quickly, and I love that it comes in a healthy-sized 100ml bottle. This product is very often sold out, so you should grab it while you can.

    Price: £17.00 at LookFantastic.

    La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+

    Lana Huh

    French pharmacy favourite Effaclar Duo falls somewhere between a spot treatment and a moisturiser, so you can choose whether to put it only on your most breakout-prone areas or to apply a thin layer all over your face. I do the latter because I've found that the combination of niacinamide and salicylic acid helps prevent breakouts. I'm not sure it makes a marked difference in terms of treating the hyperpigmentation left by spots all on its own but the skin-clearing benefits are worth it, in my opinion.

    Price: £12.75 at LookFantastic.

    Melon & Starfish / Via

    This COSRX gel moisturiser is soothing, cooling, and feels like a slightly more heavy-duty version of the hyaluronic acid essence. It's definitely a little bit better suited to summer, so I'm in the market for a creamier facial moisturiser for winter, but until then I'm happy with how easily this non-comedogenic formula sinks into my skin without feeling even the slightest bit greasy.

    Price: £14.50 at Melon & Starfish.

    Neutrogena Hydroboost Eye Awakening Gel-cream

    Amazon / Via

    This gel-cream formula is light but effective. I genuinely feel like it makes my under-eye area less puffy and more hydrated – something that some more expensive eye products have failed to do! There's not a single product out there that's made a difference for my dark circles, so I don't expect that from this product either, but I appreciate that it at least gives me a smoother base for applying concealer.

    Price: £12.00 on Amazon.

    Lana Huh

    I'm a huge advocate for daily sun protection no matter how overcast it is. This sunscreen is SPF 50, protects against UVA and UVB rays, and also claims to protect skin from environmental factors. What I like most about it is that it's non-greasy, non-comedogenic, and doesn't give you the dreaded white/grey cast, which makes it suitable for darker skin tones as well. It's also hydrating enough that I can get away with skipping moisturiser in the warmer months. I'm on my third tube and have yet to find a sunscreen I like even half as much.

    Price: £12.00 at LookFantastic.

    Burt's Bees 100% Natural Lip Balm – Honey

    LookFantastic / Via

    My lips are perpetually dry so I usually have a few different products in rotation but this Burt's Bees Honey formula is my everyday go-to that never lets me down. I love that it smells very lightly of honey but isn't too cloying.

    Price: £3.99 at LookFantastic.

    Shifting gears from day to night: my bedtime skin routine involves most of the same products plus a few extra.

    Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm – Purifying

    Melon & Starfish / Via

    The first step for my end of day routine is a double cleanse, regardless of whether or not I'm wearing makeup. Oil-based cleansers are great for dissolving both dirt and waterproof eye makeup but they can get messy, which is why I love this cleansing balm. It starts off as a solid, turns into an easily spreadable balm on your skin, then emulsifies just like an oil cleanser once it mixes with water. This purifying version was made for sensitive skin; it's also available in original, oily, and dry skin formulations. I like that I can really work this balm into my lashes without it stinging or running into my eyes, and it really feels like it gets everything off my face before I go in for the second cleanse with my foaming cleanser.

    Price: £22.00 at Melon & Starfish.

    The Ordinary Retinoid 2% in Squalane

    Beauty Bay / Via

    I made the mistake of switching to another, lesser retinol serum, and I can't wait to finish it so I can go back to this retinoid instead. I don't think I need to tell you how great Deciem's The Ordinary brand is for affordable acids and serums but in my opinion, this product truly is the best of the best. Retinoids have the same benefits as retinol with less irritation, perfect for those of us with sensitive skin. You do have to take all the same precautions as you would with retinol, so don't use this product on broken skin, avoid using it during the day, and be extra cautious about sun protection the morning after. I use a retinol/retinoid about every two to three days, avoiding any spots that are still healing.

    Price: £7.75 at Beauty Bay.

    Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask – Berry

    Amazon / Via

    This lip mask is worth the hype! I find that there's a noticeable difference between when I put it on at night and when I forget to put it on, especially in winter. The berry scent is sweet but not overpowering and the texture is rich but not too sticky. I sometimes even put on this product over lipstick in the morning for a glossy lip look.

    Price: £12.89 on Amazon.

    COSRX Clear Fit Master Patch

    Melon & Starfish / Via

    I still use the original COSRX acne patches too but I love how thin these ones are. The patches really do help reduce redness and irritation so that any sprouting spots become less noticeable overnight. In a pinch, when I've felt a spot coming on as I'm doing my morning routine, I'll put one of these patches on and do the rest of my skincare and makeup, commute to work, and then take the patch off before I walk into the office – the patches are virtually invisible and no one ever looks that closely at you on the rush hour tube anyway!

    Price: £4.00 for a pack of 18 patches at Melon & Starfish.

    Kate Somerville EradiKate Blemish Treatment

    Cult Beauty / Via

    I've been using the Mario Badescu drying lotion for years now but I recently gave this Kate Somerville version a try. Both spot treatments use salicylic acid but EradiKate uses a higher concentration of sulphur (10%) and doesn't contain calamine lotion. I would say that the two products are extremely similar and both very effective but EradiKate works better on the under-the-skin hormonal breakouts I get on my chin. Using it, I've managed to get huge, cyst-like spots to shrink and then disappear over two nights instead of lingering and ripening. Bow down.

    Price: £22.00 at Cult Beauty.

    And that's it for my everyday skincare routine!

    Skincare is deeply personal and should be tailored to your specific needs, so your mileage with these products may vary, but hopefully some of them will work as well for you as they do for me.