Ever since its cosmetic companies introduced BB creams to the western market, beauty junkies have looked to South Korea for their supply of innovative skincare buys.
Now, with an increased variety of cutting-edge products plus improved availability in the UK (Korean Kosmetics is one of the biggest stockists in Europe and Cult Beauty has just started stocking best-selling brand Mizon), Korean skincare has become an even bigger beauty phenomenon.
Why? Korean women are savvy skincare shoppers - but this doesn't mean they're only investing in the multi-tasking, do-everything-at-once creams and serums many western brands are launching. Instead, their quest to a flawless complexion involves a rigorous, multi-step regime and unsurprisingly, the rest of the world wants in on their secret.
"Korean women spend 7x more on beauty products than the average American woman, and use up to 18 products per day to create their own a la carte answers to their skin's needs," Alexia Inge, co founder at Cult Beauty, told us.
"The skincare tends to have a more ubiquitous and innovative use of natural ingredients, especially those indigenous to Asia such as rice, ginseng, mushroom, snail and starfish extract that help address skincare needs in powerful and effective ways without harsh chemicals."
It's the attention to detail that really sets these products apart. Mizon has its own R&D lab which has resulted in a unique and inventive range including the Returning Starfish Cream and a Korean favourite, the Cotton Shower Sheet Essence face masks.
The brand's Egg Bubble Foam Cleanser is another brilliant example of this. Its star ingredient - egg white extract - is used to cleanse pores while papaya, bilberry leaf, sugar cane, orange and lemon dissolve the bonds that bind dirt and dead cells to the skin's surface. Clever, or what?
So, with an abundance of products out there, what's the trick to buying the best?
"Never judge a Korean skincare product by its cover!" Inge recommends. "As Europeans we are used to our high-tech skincare coming in sleek packaging that looks like it was designed by NASA (you know the type it takes an engineering degree to figure out how to open). Korean beauty packaging doesn't take
itself so seriously, some is brazenly kitsch, but don't be put off by the presentation or you will miss out on the gems inside."
Ready to jump on this beauty bandwagon? Here are a few of our Korean skincare favourites...