Korean beauty has become incredibly popular over the past few years, and those with acne-prone skin can turn to K-beauty skincare products to tackle breakouts and maintain a healthy, clear complexion. Below, we’ve created a guide to the best Korean products for acne.

Our Recommendations

1. Hydrium Centella Aqua Soothing Ampoule

Hydrium Centella Aqua Soothing Ampoule

COSRX Product for Soothing and hydrating

COSRX Hydrium Centella Aqua Soothing Ampoule

This soothing and hydrating serum is packed with effective yet gentle ingredients that help soothe the skin. It is even suitable for calming current breakouts.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Soothing and hydrating
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a few drops of the serum to the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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One of the key ingredients in this gentle serum is centella asiatica extract. This plant extract has been shown to effectively treat wounds and soothe inflammation in the skin. It also contains vitamin B5 (AKA panthenol), an anti-inflammatory ingredient that improves hydration and elasticity while soothing the skin.

Pros

  • Lightweight and non-sticky
  • Gentle
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • The lighter hydration may not be hydrating enough for very dry skin

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this Korean serum contains madecassoside, which has antioxidant benefits, and allantoin, which soothes.

Water, Centella Asiatica Extract, Dipropylene Glycol, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Betaine, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugarcane) Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Octanediol, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Allantoin, Madecassoside, Panthenol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Centella asiatica in cosmetology"

    Accessed Nov. 9, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Skin moisturizing effects of panthenol-based formulations"

    Accessed Nov. 9, 2021.

2. AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon Product for Gentle Exfoliation

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

This toner is an excellent product if you’re looking for gentle daily exfoliation. It contains AHAs, BHAs, and papaya enzymes that exfoliate to unclog pores and smooth tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Gentle Exfoliation
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, soak a cotton pad with the toner, and then swipe all over the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This exfoliating toner contains glycolic acid and lactic acid, which are alpha hydroxy acids. These AHAs work on the surface of the skin to improve tone and texture and minimize signs of aging. It also contains salicylic acid, a BHA that works deep in the pores to unclog and prevent acne.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the AHAs and BHAs, this toner contains glycerin, which hydrates, and papaya fruit extract, which further exfoliates.

Water, Glycerin, Sodium Lactate, Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium (Mugwort) Extract, Achillea Millefolium (Common Yarrow) Extract, Gentiana Lutea (Yellow Gentian) Root Extract, Salicylic Acid, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.

3. Blackhead Power Liquid

Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

COSRX Product for Acne and Blackheads

COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid

This beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) exfoliator is one of the best COSRX products for those prone to acne and blackheads. It penetrates deep into the skin to unclog pores, which helps maintain clear, smooth skin.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Acne and Blackheads
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, dispense the product onto a cotton pad, and then gently wipe all over the face.
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BHAs are some of the most effective chemical exfoliators when it comes to unclogging pores. This product contains gentle BHAs – willow bark water and betaine salicylate – which exfoliate with a minimized risk of irritation.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin

This product contains sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid) and panthenol, which help counteract some of the potentially irritating side effects of the exfoliating ingredients.

Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Butylene Glycol, Betaine, Niacinamide, Betaine Salicylate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

4. Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

COSRX Product for Acne and Daily Cleansing

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

This gentle foaming cleanser removes excess oils and helps unclog pores without drying out the skin.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Acne and Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Dispense the cleanser into your palms, and then gently massage it into wet skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
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If you’re acne-prone, you need a daily cleanser that will remove excess oils and impurities without further irritating breakouts or drying out the skin. This cleanser contains a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps gently unclog pores to minimize breakouts.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the salicylic acid, this cleanser contains willow bark water, tea tree oil, evening primrose extract, and other soothing skincare ingredients.

Water, Glycerin, Myristic Acid, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Lauric Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycol Distearate, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Salicylic Acid, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Melaleuca Alternigolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Saccharomyces Ferment, Cryptomeria Japonica Leaf Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Leaf Extract, Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Flower Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethyl Hexanediol, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

5. Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap

COSRX Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap

COSRX Product for Daily Moisturization

COSRX Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap

This lightweight, oil-free lotion is the perfect daily moisturizer, and is one of the best COSRX products for all skin types.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Daily Moisturization
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing and applying any serums and treatments, gently massage the lotion into the face, neck, and chest. During the day, follow up with a sunscreen.
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This lotion provides deep hydration that all skin types need, but does so without leaving behind a greasy finish. Birch sap helps to restore moisture to the skin and maintain hydration levels.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Lightweight
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains fragrant essential oils

In addition to birch sap, this lotion contains hydrating and soothing ingredients, including glycerin, panthenol, allantoin, and sodium hyaluronate.

Betula Platyphylla Japonica Juice, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Betaine, Cetearyl Alcohol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Allantoin, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ethyl Hexanediol, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Skin moisturizing effects of panthenol-based formulations"

    Accessed Aug. 30, 2021.
  2. Sage Journals. "Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in Cosmetics"

    Accessed Aug. 30, 2021.

FAQs

What are the best Korean products for oily acne-prone skin?

All of the products recommended on this list are suitable for oily acne-prone skin, so it ultimately depends on what type of product you’re looking for and what your skin needs. Two particularly great products for this skin type are the COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser and the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid. These products contain oil-soluble BHAs, which help unclog pores and dissolve excess sebum for a clearer complexion.

What is the best Korean skincare product for acne and redness?

If you’re looking for a Korean skincare product that helps with acne and the redness that accompanies breakouts, you should check out the COSRX Hydrium Centella Aqua Soothing Ampoule. This soothing and lightweight serum is packed with ingredients that help hydrate and calm inflammation, which can in turn minimize redness. You can use this calming ampoule in tandem with other products that more actively work towards actually clearing breakouts (like the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid).

Can I use COSRX BHA on active acne?

Yes, you can absolutely use the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid (and other products containing beta hydroxy acids) on active acne. BHAs are excellent chemical exfoliators for treating current breakouts and preventing future acne from forming. They are oil-soluble, and work deep in the pores, helping to unclog debris for a clearer, acne-free complexion.

The Bottom Line

If you have acne-prone skin, there are plenty of excellent Korean beauty products that you can add to your skincare routine. Consider using any of these recommended products to support a clear and healthy complexion.