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Guide to Korean Beauty Cleansers

August 10, 2021

Guide to Korean Beauty Cleansers

Guide to Korean Beauty Cleansers


Episode Summary:

Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of different K-Beauty cleansing options on the market and which one to pick?

On today's episode of the Korean Beauty Show Podcast, we're going to de-mystify the various types of K-Beauty cleansers and how to pick the perfect one for your skin type.






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Episode Description: 


K-Beauty News Headlines


AmorePacific Luxury Brand Division Head Kim Jongha did an interview on the global luxury industry. 

Last year, Global Luxury Industries posted its first negative growth since 2009. The market was reduced by 23%. The brand is therefore looking to target Gen Z in the mid to long term with some of their brands. For their signature brand, Amore Pacific, he says they have all the advantages of a luxury brand, including their own raw materials, how to use them, stories about them and technologies to maximise their effectiveness.

He wants to use this story to develop a new Korean style that’s less about cost-effectiveness (i.e. with a low price compared to good quality) and more about highlighting the Korean style in the formula of luxury brands. He thinks AmorePacific should focus on providing a "special experience".





Now let’s just be clear – when we say soap, we’re not talking about any old bar lying around your bathroom or laundry. In fact,  regular old bath soap can actually be really bad for your skin, causing it to dry out, flake and become red and irritated.

Korean soaps are an altogether different beast.

For a start, they are packed full of ingredients that are designed to improve your skin.

Soap cleansers can be used to get rid of makeup, as well as clarifying and tightening your pores.

They lather up easily with water, however, if you like, you can use them with sponges, brushes, loofers or even an electric cleansing machine to get a deeper, soapier cleanse happening.

In general, cleansing soaps work really well on oily skin types. I love  JJ Young All in One Soap



Oil Cleansers

Don’t be put off by the oil factor – oilier cleansing formulations (most of which are made with a mix of oil, water and wax) are perfect for dissolving the makeup, dirt and impurities that become lodged in your skin throughout the day. They are also great for blackhead removal.

However, because of the oil factor, don't use them by themselves. This is wherethe  Korean 2 Step Cleansing Method comes in.

Use your oil-based cleanser as Step 1, to whisk away the day’s makeup and then follow it up with a foam cleanser for Step 2. This method will have your skin looking clean and feeling fantastic.


Milk Cleansers

Milk cleansers are another gentle, natural way of washing your face that are similar to cleansing oils. Because milk contains lactic acid, it hydrates your skin. However, it is also an alpha hydroxy acid, which works as a gentle exfoliator.

FIrstly, milk cleansers are very gentle and are great for sensitive or dry skins. In addition, they are also good for restoring any imbalances caused by harsh soaps and cleansers.  Further, they can counteract the harmful effects of hard water (the calcium, magnesium and iron deposits in hard water can irritate and dry out your skin).

Milk cleansing can leave your skin more supple and moisturised.

Foam Cleansers

The vast majority of Korean face washes come in the form of foam cleansers. Foam cleansers are mild and luxurious washes that foam when combined with water. Containing everything from  volcanic clay to baking powder, sugar and egg whites, no matter what skin issue you have, there is a Korean foam cleanser that will sort it out.

Foam cleansers are ideal for deep cleansing however they aren’t always great at removing makeup.

Guide to Korean Beauty Cleansers - Episode 66 of the Korean Beauty Show Podcast


Balm Cleansers

Cleansing balms have soft, buttery or sorbet-like textures that melts away once you apply them to your face. They go on as a solid balm and are usually applied with a spatula or spoon.

Balm cleansers are all the rage in Korea right now, as they effortlessly dissolve stubborn makeup and cast out impurities without stripping your skin of beneficial oils.

Cleansing Sticks

You can’t really beat cleansing sticks for convenience factor — they melt away makeup and leave your face feeling extra clean.

Cleansing Water

Ideal for the lazyand time poor, cleansing waters offer an all-in-one cleanse, tone and hydrating boost that removes makeup and leaves skin soft, cutting your skincare routine in half.

While I wouldn’t recommend relying on them every day, when you’re at the gym or on the road, cleansing waters are a great, handy solution.


TL; DR – Types Of K-beauty Cleansers

The sheer array of Korean face washes, soaps and cleansers can be dizzying, but don’t stress. There are different types of face washes and cleansers that work better for different skin types.

Dry and sensitive skin types work best with cream cleansers, oil cleansers, cleansing milks and lotions.

Normal and combination skin types have the pick of the bunch, as they can usually use almost anything, however they work best with oil cleansers, cleansing foams, sherbet cleansers, powder washes and cleansing tissues.

Oily skins benefit from soaps, cleansing foams, cleansing oils, cleansing powders and tissues / wipes.

Guide to Korean Beauty Cleansers


Now, I’m going to run through some of my favourite products for the first and second step of cleansing. 



The  double cleanse has been used in Korean skincare routines for generations, thanks to its ability to deeply cleanse gently (i.e. without stripping off your face), to produce some of the clearest skin imaginable.

If you’ve ever been left feeling like your skin is still grimy, then double cleansing could be the perfect start to your skincare routine.  

For a more detailed look at the Korean double cleanse, take a listen to Episode 9 of the Korean Beauty Show podcast. 


First Cleansers (Step 1) 

The first part of the double cleanse is focused on removing the sticky stuff, like sebum, sunscreen and makeup. Contrary to popular belief, the best way to get rid of oily impurities is with an oil-based cleanser.

First cleansers do the heavy lifting by gently dissolving the oils in makeup, skin and sunscreen. If you’re scared off by the thought of oil in your routine, don’t be – there are first-step cleansers for every skincare concern!


All Skin Types 

Bare Skin Balm combines antioxidant-rich Australian Lemon Myrtle with dreamy Sea Buckthorn Oil to melt away oil-based impurities like sunscreen, makeup and excess sebum while nourishing the skin with antioxidants, fatty acids and Vitamin E.

Subi's super-effective formula is 100% free from alcohol, silicones, mineral oil, synthetic fragrances or colours, sulfate detergents, parabens, urea, DEA, PEGs, TEA or phthalates.

Wide Pores & Congested Skin

If you’re looking for a gentle intro to oil-based cleansers,APLB Blackout Cleansing Oil is a great option.  This lightweight cleanser is infused with natural botanicals and salicylic acid to remove impurities and protect easily sensitised skin.


Oily Skin 

Who would’ve thought you could get anti-aging benefits without making skin feel oily? D’Alba Piedmont Peptide No Sebum Mild Gel Cleanser is here for you!  The star ingredient of this flight attendant favourite is white truffle, which is ideal for fresher and younger-looking skin.  


Guide to Korean Beauty Cleansers 

Mature Skin

KLAVUU Pure Pearlsation Divine Pearl Cleansing Oil -is a rich oil cleanser that removes oil-based impurities gently and effectively. The scent of vanilla and macadamia is as luxurious as it is therapeutic and serves as the perfect first step in your double-cleansing routine.

This cleansing oil is formulated around three naturally derived oils - macadamia seed oil, jojoba seed oil and safflower seed oil.  These oils work together to not only deeply cleanse, but nourish dry skin.  As an added bonus, this cleansing oil also contains pearl extract, which works to brighten skin.



Second Cleansers (Step 2)

After all the heavy lifting in the first step of your cleanse, a water-based foam or cream cleanser follows up to get rid of any remaining residue (think sweat and dirt)

Sensitive Skin

For a gentle final cleanse,APLB Sensitive Micro Cleansing Foam is effective to remove residue and is enriched with Centella asiatica to assist with improving acne and soothing skin.  If you don't like gel textures but do like Centella asiatica, try Subi Brightening Powder Cleanser. It is a shapeshifter that does the work of several products in one.


Acne Prone Skin

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanserhelps to reduce breakouts and promotes clear skin.

It combines both salicylic acidand tea tree oil, which ups the cleansing and exfoliating power of this facial wash. 

This cleanser is perfect for people with blemishes, excess oil, blackheads, whiteheads and other impurities. 

Large Pores, Oily Skin and Combination Skin 

Perfect for oily skin,JJ Young by Caolion Lab Black Cleansing Stick is a ph 5.6 balanced cleanser with star ingredients likecharcoal and volcanic ash to remove congestion without  causing irritation. 


Red Skin

COSRX Advanced Snail Mucin Power Gel Cleanser contains 10,000ppm of snail secretion filtrate. It effectively removes impurities without stripping the skin, protecting its barrier. It also moisturises, restoring and healing for a smooth complexion.

This is a great one for snail mucin lovers but probably one to skip if you don't like the texture of snail-based products. 


Guide to Korean Beauty Cleansers - Episode 66 of the Korean Beauty Show Podcast


All Skin Types 

For a powder-based cleanser, Subi Brightening Powderis a great, lightweight and ultra-versatile product.It does the work of several products in one. 

  • Unscented
  • Not tested on animals 
  • Low pH 5.8 - 6.8, so perfect for all skin types 
  • Contains zero harsh surfactants or sulfate detergents 
  • A little goes a long way, so better value for money than liquid cleansers 
  • You add the water yourself, meaning the product has a longer shelf life 
  • Contains antioxidant richCentella asiatica (Cica) combined with nourishingceramides and brighteninglicorice extracts


The importance of pH Balanced Cleansers for Sensitive Skin 

A word on pH levels for your second cleansers, particularly if you are prone to sensitivities. 

If a face wash is not pH balanced, using it can weaken the structure of your skin’s “acid mantle“. The “acid mantle” refers to the protective barrier on your skin – a slightly acidic film that sits on the skin’s surface. This acts as the interface between your skin and the rest of the world.

Your acid mantle can be weakened by plenty of things in the natural environment – air conditioning, heating, dust, sun and pollution, for starters.

If your acid mantle is knocked out of balance, your skin becomes prone to attack.

Once your acid mantle is weakened, the ceramides, lipids and happy fatty acids in your skin can all be damaged. This is bad news because it allows bacteria, allergens and other foreign materials to find a passage through your skin.

If bacteria breed and other foreign materials make their way into your blood stream, this can wreak havoc on your skin. In fact, these can can all be directly linked toinflammation, allergies and breakouts – all the types of things most of us would rather avoid.


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Subi Brightening Powder Cleanser
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"If a face wash is not pH balanced, using it can weaken the structure of your skin’s “acid mantle“....This acts as the interface between your skin and the rest of the world."

- Lauren Lee, Host of the Korean Beauty Show podcast

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