If I’ve learned anything about K-beauty in almost a decade of reporting on it, it’s that moisture, especially in the form of Korean moisturizers, is the key to dewy, glassy skin. In fact, Korea-based board-certified dermatologist Choi Bo Youn once told me that if you continually allow your skin to get dry, signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles are more likely to form. To avoid dryness from taking over, she continuously layers on moisturizer from the second she gets home from work to when she falls asleep at night.
But what are the best Korean moisturizers for the job? I asked experts to share their favorites, and I even share some of my own. The highly hydrating formulas below range from lightweight consistencies that feel like splashing your face with cold water to ultra-rich ones that blanket skin in buttery richness. They’re also an amazing way to incorporate trending ingredients, such as ectoin, panthenol, and ginseng, into your skin-care routine. And best of all, these moisturizers are from Korean skin-care brands you probably already know and love, like Cosrx, Laneige, and Sulwhasoo, as well as up-and-coming beauty brands that people in Seoul can’t get enough of, such as Torriden, Round Lab, and Tirtir.
Our Top Picks:
- Best Oil-Free Formula: Torriden Dive-In Low-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid Soothing Cream, $27
- Most Versatile: Round Lab Birch Moisturizing Cream, $22
- Best for Mature Skin: Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream, $260
- Best for Dry Skin: Atopalm MLE Cream, $20
- Allure Korea Best of Beauty Winner: Beyond Angel Aqua Moisture Cream, $28
- Best for a Blurred Matte Finish: Tirtir Rosemary One Cream, $35
- Best for Active Breakouts: Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream, $26
Best Oil-Free Formula: Torriden Dive-In Low-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid Soothing Cream
The buzziest moisturizer of 2023 is undoubtedly Torriden’s Dive-In Low-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid Soothing Cream. You can find the sky-blue formula all over social media and even on the vanity of board-certified dermatologist Hee Jin Koh, MD, who is based in Clifton, New Jersey. Five types of hyaluronic acid of various molecular weights are joined by panthenol, aka vitamin B5, to boost skin’s moisture no matter what your skin type may be, she tells Allure. Plus, it has a featherlight gel-cream texture that doesn’t weigh down skin.
Most Versatile: Round Lab Birch Moisturizing Cream
TikTok has been abuzz with glowing reviews for Round Lab’s Birch Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 50+ because it has a deeply hydrating milkiness that feels far from the chalky, uncomfortable sunscreens of the past. The best-selling formula also comes in fluffy gel moisturizer form that is equally enjoyable to apply. It drenches skin in non-irritating, antioxidant-rich birch tree sap, hyaluronic acid, and jojoba esters that offer up revitalizing moisture for all skin types.
Best for Mature Skin: Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream
Over in Seoul, Allure Korea has its very own Best of Beauty awards and named the Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream a winner in 2022. The rich moisturizer is infused with ginseng saponin and peptides, which help boost the circulation of your skin’s smallest blood vessels to promote collagen synthesis, according to cosmetic chemist Ginger King, which then improves overall elasticity. In the process, this medicinal root is key to this moisturizer firming, lifting, and tightening mature complexions.
Allure Korea Best of Beauty-Winning Gel Cream: Beyond Angel Aqua Moisture Cream
Allure Korea editors hand-selected the Beyond Angel Aqua Moisture Cream as the winner of the moisturizing gel cream category for how quickly it quells redness and floods skin with moisture via bamboo juice and hyaluronic acid, respectively. They even recommend layering the water-based, oil-free formula over another moisturizer as an overnight hydrating mask.
Best for Dry Skin: Atopalm MLE Cream
Looking for a moisturizer that feels like you’re slathering your skin in the finest of butter? Allure Korea editors love how this ultra-rich cream fulfills that fantasy by melting into skin to deliver instant, intense moisture. (You can use it on your body, too.) A medley of nourishing plant-based oils and five types of amino acids, “which are the building blocks for collagen production, according to David Kim, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, help make it happen.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Makep:rem Inteca Soothing Cream
This 2022 Allure Korea Best of Beauty winner is chockful of the most active components of Centella asiatica (or cica for short), namely asiaticoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid, to calm and moisturize the angriest, most sensitive of skin on contact.
Best for Long Days: Isoi Moisture Dr. Cream
The Isoi Moisture Dr. Cream is one of the most popular moisturizers on Powder Room, one of Korea’s oldest and most beloved sources for beauty product reviews. The reason is the fragrance-free gel delivers plumping hydration and skin barrier support that truly lasts all day — and night. Five varieties of hyaluronic acid alongside ceramides help lock in nourishment for the long haul, while tea tree and willow bark extracts help banish breakouts and keep skin clear.
Best for a Dewy Finish: Wellage Real Hyaluronic Cream
The Wellage Real Hyaluronic Cream launched earlier this year, and it’s already won a Glowpick award for its glass skin-like finish. For those unfamiliar, Glowpick is another go-to destination for Korean beauty product reviews, and its award winners are highly sought after. This one took the top spot for moisturizers thanks to the way it instantly absorbs into skin without leaving it sticky. Try it under makeup, and you’ll notice your skin will look delightfully dewy.
Most Soothing: Hanyul Pure Artemisia Watery Calming Cream
This Glowpick award winner in the soothing cream category has a gorgeous natural floral scent due to its inclusion of anti-inflammatory mugwort, which is known to help skin retain moisture, as King previously shared with Allure.
The Hanyul Pure Artemisia Watery Calming Cream has a luxe creamy texture that can best be described as buildable. Like foundation, you can spread it thinly onto your skin for instant, barely there hydration. Alternatively, you can easily layer on more for a moisturizing mask, especially if your skin is feeling inflamed due to sun exposure, allergies, or hormonal acne.
Most Innovative: Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Cream Moisturizer
Cosmetic chemist Asia Fee is a fan of Laneige’s Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Cream, particularly for summer. Thanks to mint leaf extract, the moisturizer instantly cools skin and has a lightweight consistency, she tells Allure. “But the real star is the Blue Hyaluronic Acid,” Fee adds. “Unlike typical hyaluronic acid, it’s derived through the biofermentation of sea algae, resulting in an amplified humectant.”
Best for a Blurred Matte Finish: Tirtir Rosemary One Cream
My personal pick is the Tirtir Rosemary One Cream. After a particularly aggressive exfoliating facial, my chin was left flaky and raw, but this repairing formula came to the rescue with just the velvety texture my skin needed. It’s spiked with rejuvenating rosemary, calming allantoin, and niacinamide-like ectoin to bring my skin barrier back to a healthy state. The sumptuous cream even gave my complexion a blurred matte effect that looked stunning over Zoom.
Best Fragrance-Free Formula: Aestura A-Cica 365 Calming Cream
Moisture-locking panthenol and squalene power Aestura’s A-Cica 365 Calming Cream alongside cica for complexion-comforting hydration. Fans of the no-frills formula pair it with Tretinoin to keep their skin from freaking out as it gets used to the retinoid.
Best Retinol Alternative: By Wishtrend Vitamin A-mazing Bakuchiol Night Cream
When K-beauty products bring retinol or its plant-based alternative bakuchiol (which we’ve been told is ideal for acne-prone or oily skin) to the table, you can bet that the formula isn’t going to wreak havoc on your skin. The By Wishtrend Vitamin A-mazing Bakuchiol Night Cream packs a gentle combination of both to smooth, firm, and brighten skin as macadamia nut oil and seaweed extract immerses skin in moisture.
Best for Hyperpigmentation: Goodal Green Tangerine Vita C Dark Spot Care Cream
Goodal’s Green Tangerine Vita C Dark Spot Serum has earned its title as one of the best Korean skin-care products for diminishing dark spots and evening skin tone, and the moisturizer version (and eye cream, for that matter) of the beloved formula is becoming just as sought-after. Just like the serum, its brightening abilities come from gentle exfoliants, specifically vitamin C-rich green tangerine extract. However, in moisturizer form, the extract is encapsulated in tiny yellow beads that float in a cream of meadowfoam seed oil and algae extracts for hydrated radiance.
Best for Skin-Care Beginners: Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb
One of the first Korean face creams I ever used back in 2015 was none other than the Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb. Now, I often recommend it to friends when they ask for a recommendation for a lightweight moisturizer. It’s amazing for those who aren’t that excited about skin care but know they want to dive into better care for their body’s largest organ because it has a fun pastel aqua hue, feels like drenching your skin in a tall glass of iced water, and is easy to find at your favorite stores.
Best for Active Breakouts: Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream
The Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream helped popularize snail mucin when it launched almost a decade ago. To this day, it’s one of Cosrx’s best sellers because the brand is constantly updating its packaging to make the formula more effective and accessible. Snail mucin (often labeled as snail secretion filtrate) helps this moisturizer calm inflammation and elevate hydration levels with naturally occurring hyaluronic acid, which is helpful when dealing with painful blemishes and parched skin alike — making it a particularly great choice for acne-prone skin or combination skin.