J-beauty vs. K-beauty: Which One Reigns Supreme?

The Ultimate #BeautyBattle Between Japan And Korea

By The Savvy Team
September 18, 2019
Health & Beauty

Japan and Korea are absolute queens of the skincare world—but which one does it better?

Sushi, bubble tea, anime, K-pop. It’s no secret that Japan and Korea have become wildly popular in recent years for a number of cute, over-the-top, and somewhat bizarre trends (have you heard of tapioca ramen?) But while trends will come and go, one category that both countries never fail to deliver in is skincare. Japan and Korea produce some of the world’s best beauty products and we’re just over here desperately trying to grab the last bottle on the shelf—but which one are you reaching for?

Round 1: Facial Treatment Essences

SK-II and Missha Time Revolution - K-beauty vs. J-beauty - Skincare

First things first: what exactly is a facial essence? Almost identical in appearance to toner, its a clear liquid that’s applied directly to your face after cleansing. While toners primarily absorb excess dirt quickly and tighten up pores, a facial essence contains high levels of active ingredients that simultaneously hydrates your skin and preps it for any serums or moisturizers you want to lather on.

J-beauty: SK-II Facial Treatment Essence

One of the most trustworthy and best-selling products in Japan, SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is renowned for its patented key ingredient, Pitera. Also known as galactomyces ferment filtrate (that’s a mouthful), Pitera claims its concentrated blend of 50 micronutrients holds powerful anti-aging properties and can produce visible results in as little as 14 days.

Price: ¥15,425 (230ml)

K-beauty: Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence

Missha’s best selling essence formula has been revamped to be even more concentrated in its key ingredient: a fermented yeast extract produced from a Himalayan purple barley. This vital ingredient allows for rapid absorption to moisturize, brighten, even skin tone, and increase collagen levels to produce that ever-fleeting youthful look.

Price: ¥2,230 (130ml)

Savvy’s Pick: Missha wins this one hands down. Both contain similar ingredients to produce a comparable result, but Missha offers a facial essence that doesn’t burn a hole into our pockets.


Round 2: Cleansing Oils

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil and Missha Dryness Off Cleansing Oil - K-beauty vs. J-beauty - Skincare

The ultimate Swiss Army Knife of skincare products, cleansing oils (aka liquid gold) are way too underappreciated. Blend together your favorite makeup remover, best facial cleanser, and nourishing oils together and you’ve got yourself a skincare masterpiece. While facial cleansers can strip your skin of healthy oils and leave it drained of moisture, cleansing oils contain “good oils” to mix with the “bad oils” to gently wash away impurities while also keeping your skin fully hydrated and plump.

J-beauty: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

DHC is a well-known and loved skincare brand in Japan for producing top-notch and affordable products (we’re talking widely available in stores like Don Quijote). This Japanese cleansing oil contains moisturizing ingredients like organic olive oil and Vitamin E which help protect the skin from harmful free radicals to minimize signs of aging.

Price: ¥2,056 (200ml)

K-beauty: Missha Super Off Cleansing Oil (Dryness Off)

The dominant Missha brand carries not just one cleansing oil, but offers an assortment of four different cleansing oils formulated for a variety of skin types. The “Dryness Off” version contains a blend of highly moisturizing ingredients like argan oil, kernel oil, sweet almond oil, and shea butter to quench a thirsty epidermis.

Price: ¥2,400 (340ml)

Savvy’s Pick: While you get a little more product with Missha, DHC’s cleansing oil leaves your skin feeling so incredibly baby soft that the DHC quality takes the (liquid) gold here.


Round 3: Facial Sheet Masks

LuluLun Sheet Mask (Blue) and Mediheal NMF Aquaring Ampoule Mask Ex. - K-beauty vs. J-beauty - Skincare

Born out of the countries that do it best, facial sheet masks are extremely popular in both Japan and Korea. These face-shaped fabric sheets can be made from cotton, microfibres, or even eco-friendly coconut wool, and are soaked in a serum containing ultra-hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and vitamins. Best of all, you won’t have to spend big bucks for these affordable at-home spa treatments.

J-beauty: LuLuLun Face Mask (Blue)

You’ve most likely spotted this brand while perusing through crowded aisles in search of your next beauty product to try from Don Quijote. In the regular series of Japan’s best-selling sheet masks, the ‘Blue’ face mask specifically targets dry skin featuring the key ingredient, Lipidure. Loaded with hydrating components like hyaluronic acid and glyceryl glucoside, this sheet mask is sure to leave your skin soft and radiant.

Price: ¥409 (7 sheets)

K-beauty: Mediheal N.M.F. Aquaring Ampoule Mask

According to Mediheal, “dry skin doesn’t stand a chance against this ultra-hydrating face mask”. The shining ingredient in Korea’s favorite sheet mask is actually something that is naturally produced by our skin: Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF). Rather than one simple substance, NMF is a mixture of water-soluble elements that are essential for healthy, glowing skin. The law of ‘like attracts like’ is in full effect.

Price: ¥1,378 (10 sheets)

Savvy’s Pick: Quality-wise, these sheet masks tie, so we need to look at the other most important factor as to why sheet masks are so popular: pricing. When it comes to being both effective and inexpensive, LuLuLun trumps Mediheal.


Round 4: Eye Creams

Benefique Retino Life Genius Eye Cream and Tony Moly Intesive Care Gold 24k Snail Eye Cream- K-beauty vs. J-beauty - Skincare 1

The more concealer you cake on, the less visible dark circles and crow’s feet will be. False! The more effective way to combat these issues is by investing in a solid eye cream. Thicker in consistency, these creams are specifically formulated to brighten and soften the delicate skin around our oculars. Eye creams also contain anti-aging ingredients like Retinol, peptides, and hyaluronic acid to target fine lines and wrinkles it’s just one less thing you need to worry about.

J-beauty: Benefique Retino Lift Genius Eye Cream

As mentioned in the title, this eye cream contains retinol—also known as Vitamin A1—which has a profound anti-aging reputation. Retinol essentially slows the aging process by quickly ridding your skin of old, dead cells to be replaced with new, healthier cells. This cream also targets dark circles, age spots, and freckles by controlling the production of melanin (the skin-darkening compound) around the eyes.

Price: ¥7,000 (20ml)

K-beauty: Tony Moly Intense Care Gold 24k Snail Eye Cream

Yes, you read that right. This eye cream contains snail filtrate, or in other words, slimy mucus produced by snails. Don’t let the ingredient put you off though—a snail’s mucus is valuable for its high concentration in sun-protective (age-preventing) nutrients. Just as it protects the snail from the harmful environment, human skin is another beneficiary: protection from damaging UV rays, smoothing out epidermal creases, and stimulating new cell growth for fresh, radiant skin.

Price: ¥2,431 (30ml)

Savvy’s Pick: Learning about all the incredible skin benefits that come from something as simple (and icky) as snail mucus really caught our eye. We pick K-beauty’s Tony Moly for this round.


Final Round: Clay Masks

Kinuko Silk Fibroin Clay Pack and Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask 2X - K-beauty vs. J-beauty - Skincare

Throw away all those oil-absorbing blotting sheets: clay masks are the holy grail for anyone plagued with acne-prone skin. Clay masks have been popular for ages for its natural ability to draw out impurities from the skin by unclogging pores, removing excess oils to prevent unwanted face shine, and completely detoxifying the skin.

J-beauty: Kinuko Silk Fibroin Clay Pack

Kinuko’s clay mask contains two different types of clays, Tanakura clay and Bentonite clay. Both clays are able to adhere to sebaceous oils produced by the skin and suck up any excess dirt clogging your pores. Kinuko’s clay pack also placenta extract, which is said to not only control melanin production but to also help eject it from the skin to leave a more glowing and lustrous skin tone.

Price: ¥2,800 (200g)

K-beauty: Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask 2X

Innisfree credits Jeju volcanic clusters for its remarkable pore sebum absorption. This natural ingredient comes from solidified lava on Jeju island and targets ridding your skin of all dirt, sebum, and the tiniest of dust particles to tighten up your pores and leave you looking and feeling cleansed, exfoliated, and brighter.

Price: ¥1,080 (100g)

Savvy’s Pick: When it comes to a staple beauty product, we believe simpler is better. Innisfree keeps it classic with a single key ingredient that completely cleans out our pores and gets the job done.

Did we miss any of your favorite Japanese or Korean skincare products? Tell us in the comments below!

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