5 Best Places to Score Korean Beauty Products in Philly

This list of local K-beauty suppliers may surprise you.


A sampling of K-beauty goods. | Photos via Instagram

I made the switch from American drugstore beauty products to South Korean ones in high school, and I can tell you, without exaggeration, that it changed my life. After being exposed to YouTube beauty vloggers like Bubzbeauty, and learning how to properly double-cleanse, my face went from pepperoni pizza to blemish-free in a matter of two weeks without putting a big dent in my weekly allowance.

I learned firsthand that the secret to great skincare undoubtedly comes from Korea. Don’t take my word for it, though — Korean beauty products are blowing up in the celebrity stratosphere right now. The good news is that you don’t have to be a jet-setting model to score some coveted products. Right here in Philly, you can pick up the very best in K-beauty, from your local mainstays to worth-the-trip Asian grocers.

For soothing sheet masks and serums: Sephora
For curing my frequent bouts of cystic acne, I have a very unexpected ingredient to thank: snail slime. Before you completely jump ship, allow me to explain: Since ancient times, Koreans and Greeks have used snail slime for treating inflammation and scars. Why? The sticky fluids contain around 90 percent water and 10 percent glycolic acid, acknowledged in the beauty world as essential for treating redness, healing acne and boosting elastin production. In other words, don’t judge a beauty product by its, uh … sliminess. 

Join #TeamSnail, and try out the 20-minute TonyMoly Snail Hydro-Gel Face Mask ($9) once or twice a week after your daily cleansing routine. (Warning: It is very drippy, so make sure you have a towel nearby). The trusted skin technicians at Dr. Jart+ also have an amazing Premium Time Returning Serum ($50) that’s 77 percent snail mucin and completely without harmful parabens or sulfates. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but you get what you pay for. 1714 Chestnut Street, Rittenhouse.

For BB cream and cushions: H Mart 
H Mart, the largest East Coast-based Asian grocery chain in the United States, flies surprisingly under-the-radar in this area. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend making the trek out to Elkins Park for this wonderful place, which has several Asian beauty flagships like Shiseido, The Face Shop and Nature Republic.

My staples: Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream ($22), a multi-purpose BB cream with SPF 42 PA+++ and medium coverage, perfect for anyone with oily or color-patchy skin. The only downside is that the range of shades is limited, with the darkest being N31, a honey beige. My solution is to either blend a teeny bit of a darker foundation with it, or try Laneige’s BB Cushion ($34) in Medium-Dark. 7320 Old York Road, Elkins Park.

For lip lints and glosses: Urban Outfitters 
Nothing against the popularized matte and liquid lipsticks, but I fall on the “less is more” side of the fence when it comes to lip colors. Enter lip tint, a water-based, non-sticky stain that gives the natural appearance of having just finished eating cherry water ice on a summer day.

While pretty much any lip stain from the drugstore will do, Urban Outfitters has the real thing straight from Korea. The TonyMoly Delight Tint Crayon ($10) is a moisturizing tint that glides onto your lips and leaves behind a vibrant, dewy color. For an all-in-one tint, gloss and lipstick, choose the TonyMoly Kiss Lover Lip Master ($14) in a spring-appropriate orange creamsicle shade. This product also contains natural ingredients, such as jojoba, argan and rose hip oils. 1627 Walnut Street, Rittenhouse.

For hydrating moisture creams and emulsions: Target
As if we need another reason to love Target, they carry Laneige, a 20-year-strong brand owned by the largest cosmetics company in South Korea. With a reputation for quality and products containing zinc and magnesium (two trace elements that aid in skin regeneration and treat acne, eczema and psoriasis), there’s no reason you shouldn’t try at least one of their products.

Instead of dropping major bucks on Sephora’s AmorePacific Moisture Cream ($150 — yikes), try the award-winning Laneige Water Bank Moisture Cream ($30). (Laneige is actually owned by AmorePacific!) This cream contains vitamin A, C and E-rich mango butter and is the perfect grease-free way to ensure topical hydration during the summer. Just make sure to store your jar someplace cool and dry, and don’t use it as a substitute for drinking actual water. If you’ve got sensitive skin, check out Laneige’s Bright Renew Emulsion ($30), a lightweight facial lotion containing dark spot and rosacea-fading ingredients like acetyl glucosamine and niacinamide. 1 Mifflin Street, Pennsport.

For brightening sleeping packs: Ulta
Korean beauty 101: A “sleeping pack” is basically an overnight facial, a.k.a an intensive night cream (pack = mask). These cream- or gel-based masks contain anti-aging, antioxidant ingredients that work their magic while you’re off in dreamland, so that you wake up with skin that’s softer, brighter and more hydrated.

Ulta carries a wide array of cutely-packaged TonyMoly products: by far, the Banana Sleep Pack ($16.50) is the best option for those suffering with chronically dry skin, with hydrating natural ingredients like chamomile, honey and real bananas. (Plus, it smells amazing). Combine it with the TonyMoly Magic Food Banana Foam Cleanser ($14.50) to gently remove oil, and then simply apply a nickel sized amount of the sleeping pack on the face with a foundation brush before bed. You only need to wash it off in the morning—perfect for self-proclaimed lazy girls. 1619 Walnut Street, Rittenhouse.