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Korean skin care products are a must-have for anyone who is serious about cleansing their face and achieving clear, bright skin.
And without doubt, one of the key steps is exfoliation. Our faces are usually the first thing that people see when they look at us. For many of us, our faces show who we really are.
Yet at the same time, our faces are very exposed to the elements. Plus we tend to unconsciously touch our faces a lot, spreading whatever bacteria our hands have come into contact with. That’s where exfoliators come into play.
Exfoliating our skin helps us to cleanse it, and remove dead skin cells. It also helps to cleanse the pores and leave your skin looking brighter and feeling fresh. Many exfoliators offer to moisturise or tone your skin too, or perhaps to leave it smoother or toned.
But how are you meant to know which Korean moisturizer is the one for you, or which will work for your skin type? Don’t worry, that’s what we are here for.
We’ve put together a list of our ten favourite Korean exfoliators, looking at the type of application it requires, what skin type it is best suited to, and what some of the key ingredients are. After reading this list, you’ll know exactly which Korean exfoliator is the one for you.
- 10 Best Korean Exfoliators (2020 Update)
- 1. The Face Shop Smart Peeling White Jewel
- 2. Etude House Baking Powder Pore Cleansing Foam
- 3. Skinfood Rice Daily Scrub Foam
- 4. Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Pads
- 5. Mizon Apple Smoothie Peeling Gel
- 6. Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel
- 7. Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peel Gel
- 8. COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad
- 9. Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water
- 10. Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask
- What to Consider When Buying
10 Best Korean Exfoliators (2020 Update)
1. The Face Shop Smart Peeling White Jewel
If you take care of your face with a Korean skin care routine, then no doubt you want to find the exfoliator for you. But the problem with exfoliators is that so often they can aggravate the skin.
Although this can be because people scrub too hard, it can also be because the exfoliator itself has aggravated your face, especially if you have sensitive skin. However, The Face Shop has a great option for anyone who suffers with sensitive skin.
The Smart Peeling White Jewel exfoliator uses natural cellulose to remove dead skin cells from your skin as smoothly as possible. It also promotes blood circulation and cell regeneration to promote natural anti-aging effects.
The product simply has to be massaged into the face for 1-2 minutes. Best of all, it includes real pearl powder, which leaves the skin bright and radiant after exfoliating, rather than red and angry. Plus it contains honey extract, which helps to smooth the skin and leave it looking more lustrous.
- Pearl Powder
- Honey Extract
- Works without additional face cream afterwards
- Delicate scent
- Natural anti-aging effects
- Disappears from the hand quickly
- The skin feels grainy as the pieces of dead skin are exfoliated
2. Etude House Baking Powder Pore Cleansing Foam
This Korean company, Etude, has named itself having been inspired by Chopin’s practice songs, also known as etudes, which were designed to perfect the mastery of performance. This company proposes that their range of make-up products similarly helps beginners to discover and master their true beauty.
In fact, they claim that they can bring “sweet imagination of beautiful transformation to reality”. It is quite a bold statement, which goes well with this bold exfoliator that uses baking powder as one of its key ingredients.
Not only does this foam remove dead skin cells and impurities from the pores, but it also works to clean your face of make-up. The use of baking powder helps to turn it into an abundant foam that provides a deep pore cleansing.
You can use a quantity that is only a little larger than a pea, and that will be sufficient for the whole face. For this exfoliator, the amount of water that you use makes a difference.
If you only use a small amount of water, the exfoliating properties of this foam will be more effective. Whereas, if you use a larger amount of water, it will lather more and be more of a foamy cleanser.
- Baking Powder
- Lathers into a viscous foam
- Pigment free
- Only need a very small amount
- Most affordable option
- Weaker at exfoliating than some options
- Can remove some make-up, but less good at mascara and eye-liner
3. Skinfood Rice Daily Scrub Foam
If you ever worry that your skin is a little dull or rough, and you want to give it a brighter sheen, this is definitely the exfoliator for you. The rice water cleanses your skin, leaving it softer and brighter.
The scrub foam removes keratin with its fine micro-powder particles, and tends to cleanse without irritation. The rice water also works well on oily skin, leaving it exfoliated and smooth.
What makes this exfoliator different from the others is the brand, Skinfood. These guys are a bit different from most brands, and you might have guessed why from its name; it roots itself in food.
In fact, Skinfood believes that the use of nutritive food in the products results in nutritive beauty, producing beautiful, healthy skin. And this daily scrub foam is no exception. It uses rice bran water to cleanse and exfoliate.
The rice is grown in the Cheorwon, in the Gangwon province in the north-east corner of South Korea. If you’re looking for a real Korean exfoliator, you can’t get much better than that.
- Cheorwan Odae Rice
- Gente exfoliant
- Good for dry, mixed, or oily skin types
- Thick lathery foam
- Subtle scent
- Doesn’t remove make-up well
- Fragrance could be too strong for sensitive skin
4. Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Pads
This Korean exfoliator option is a little different to most of the foams and gels that we have across the rest of the list, as this one comes in a pad form. That means that you don’t need to use water, or even visit a sink to use it.
It is much simpler and ideal for anyone who travels a lot, or for those that live in a shared house and don’t have such easy access to a sink. The tub comes with thirty pads, that should each be enough for one full face exfoliation.
They have three layers that work together to achieve a soft peeling effect, while leaving the skin soft without irritating it. Another great aspect of these pads is that they come in three different flavours: Wine, Green Tea or Lemon.
Each flavour caters for different skin types. The wine serum is great for sensitive skin, as it gently cleanses and purifies the skin. The green tea flavour is best for acne-prone skin, as it soothes and refreshes the skin.
The third flavour is lemon. This is a good choice for people with regular skin, as it just makes it softer and smoother. However, it is worth mentioning that this is the most expensive option on the list, at nearly $30.
- Tea Tree
- Lemon (Depending on flavour)
- Uses fruit
- Easy to use pads
- No need for water
- Different flavours available for different needs
- It contains denatured alcohol, which can cause a problem for some people’s skin
5. Mizon Apple Smoothie Peeling Gel
This exfoliator is a really fresh and fruity option, and is a staple in the selection of Korean exfoliators for anyone with dry skin. It works equally well for men and women. Plus the bottle has a bright, vibrant green colour that really pops compared to most skincare products.
The exfoliator includes a lot of fruit extracts in its ingredients, including orange, grapefruit, tomato, apricot, papaya, and of course, apple.
However, that’s only one of the reasons why this is called the Apple Smoothie Peeling gel. The other reason is because it will leave you with glowing smooth skin, just like a shiny apple peel.
Another difference between this exfoliator and many of the others is that it prioritises elasticity. The natural cellulose in the gel rolls up with the dead skin cells of your face, gently peeling off. The end result provides elasticity and moisturises the skin too.
- Funky green case
- Lots of fruity ingredients
- Good for dry skin
- Provides elasticity
- Includes a small amount of castor oil, which is not included in the ingredients list
Not ideal for sensitive skin
6. Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel
Dr. G brings the best products that Korea’s Gowoonsesang dermatologists have to offer. The Brightening Peeling Gel has a gentle exfoliating effect, which is boosted by the vitamin brightening that it also provides.
It also contains natural cellulose, which is moisture-rich and leaves the skin feeling moisturised, as well as exfoliated. The peeling gel contains black willow, which gives the skin a clearing effect, leaving you with a clear and bright skin tone.
While the vitamins C and E provide a further brightening effect, the honey and trehalose sugar help to soothe and moisturise the skin. This exfoliator is simple to use.
As with so many, you simply massage it onto the skin with water, then rinse it off and see the dead skin peel away with the product. Packed with so many natural products, it works well for sensitive skin, as well as young and old alike.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Lots of natural ingredients
- Works well on sensitive skin
- Effective exfoliator
- Moisturises and brightens the skin too
- Some people have found the peeling effect of the skin to be minimal
- Some people with very sensitive skin reported irritation after use
7. Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peel Gel
This exfoliator really lives up to its name, providing an experience that really is based in lemon and sparkling water. A lot of the options that we have looked at so far offer gentle exfoliating experiences with a rich moisturising foam built into it.
That is not this gel. The Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peel Gel is an exfoliator that uses lemon citric acid to remove the dead skin cells, and then it brightens the skin with vitamin C.
The carbonated water removes the waste from the pores and gives your skin an elasticity care, leaving your face feeling firm and refreshed. It also contains papaya and green tea extracts, which help to remove the porous waste, while the witch hazel and aloe vera extracts act as a soothing moisturiser.
- Witch Hazel
- Aloe Vera
- Green Tea
- Vitamin C
- Effective exfoliator
- Good for oily skin
- Reduces blackheads
- Too strong for sensitive skin
- Can leave the skin feeling a little raw
8. COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad
If you like the idea of using exfoliating pads, but you don’t want to spend as much as some of the options, try the COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad. It is a pack of 70 pads which work as a mild exfoliator with BHA for sensitive skin.
These pads are actually designed specifically for acne-prone skin, working both to wipe out excess dirt, as well as working as a toner. However, it also works well for oily, combination and normal skin.
The pads are really simple to use as they don’t require any water. All you need to do is gently wipe your skin with the pad, and then pat it for extra absorption.
COSRX also suggests that you can leave one on each cheek for 5-7 minutes, in order to restore skin balance and cool down skin temperature, but that’s not something we have tried, so you’ll have to let us know if it works.
- Orange Peel
- Tea Tree
- Easy to use pads
- Excellent for acne-prone skin
- Restores the skin balance
- Also works as a toner
- You don’t get the foamy lather of a gel
- Lack of water can leave your skin feeling slightly sticky
9. Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water
For anyone who suffers from sensitive skin, but still wants to be able to use an exfoliator, Wishtrend’s Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Water is a great choice.
Mandelic acid is a very gentle exfoliator with a large molecular size, so it can be used without irritation, even on sensitive skin. This exfoliator has a pH of 5.0 ± 1.0 and is paraben-free.
Not only does this product work as an exfoliator, but it also helps with pigmentation to improve the skin tone and texture and restore aged-skin. The moisturising elements of this exfoliator make it suitable for dry skin, as well as sensitive skin.
- Mandelic Acid
- Vitamin B5
- It is suitable for sensitive skin
- It moisturises as well as exfoliates
- Doesn’t contain SPF
- More expensive than most options
- Mild exfoliator
10. Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask
We’re going to finish off with a product that’s a little different from the others in this list, in large part because, rather than being a gel, foam, or pad, it is a clay mask. Gently rub it over your face, excluding the mouth and eyes, and leave it for 10-20 minutes, then wash off.
It gives you a chance to relax as well as cleanse your face. The jeju volcanic clay is made from minerals that are very effective at removing sebum and impurities. When the capsule bursts, the mask exfoliates and removes dead skin cells, then smoothes out the skin.
Sometimes the amount of products that we are meant to use on our faces can feel overwhelming. With cleansers, exfoliators, moisturisers, and toners, it can be hard to keep up. However, the Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask acts as a 6-in-1 option for you.
This mask tightens pores, removes sebum, exfoliates dead skin cells, offers deep cleansing, enhances skin tone, and provides cooling effects. It’s probably not the perfect option for every day, but it will certainly work as a nice treat for your face, once or twice a week.
- Jeju volcanic clay
- 6-in-1 features
- Relaxing mask
- Works well for oily and combination skin
- Not well suited for daily use
- Better for cleansing and moisturising than exfoliating
What to Consider When Buying
Now that we’ve been through our top ten options, here’s a quick reminder of the sort of questions that you need to consider when choosing your Korean exfoliator.
What type of skin do you have?
Skin type is a very important factor when it comes to picking an exfoliator. A lot of people have very sensitive skin, and that can often make it tough to find an exfoliator that doesn’t irritate the skin.
If you do, then a gentle or mild exfoliator would be best. On the other hand, other exfoliators can be more vigorous for normal or oily skin. So make sure you check before you buy.
What do you want from your exfoliator?
These days there are so many exfoliator options, it’s important to work out what you want it to do. Are you after a vigorous scrub, or a mild foam?
Would you prefer one that also moisturises and tones your skin, or do you have other products that you prefer for that? It is best to buy a product that fits your specifications.
How often do you want to exfoliate with this product?
Different exfoliators come in a variety of strengths and have different application processes. These are factors that affect how often you should apply it.
If you are looking for something to incorporate into your daily face-wash routine, then you probably don’t want to buy a mask that needs to be left for 10-20 minutes each time.
What sort of exfoliator do you want?
As we’ve seen through this review, there are a number of different types of exfoliator that you can pick from.
There are gels that lather into creamy foams, there are masks that need to be left on, there are peels that gather up rolls of dead skin, and there are pads that just require a simple wipe. Make sure to check what the application process is before purchasing any exfoliator.
So, there you have it. Our top ten Korean exfoliators. Each one has its merits, but they don’t all work for every type of skin. Take the time to check what skin-type they work best for, how vigorous the exfoliating is, and how they are applied before you purchase, and you’ll be able to find the best Korean exfoliator for you.