Why Korean Foundations
I think Korean foundations – especially the ones that I introduce here – are the all-round player. I’ve found US/non-Korean foundations are mostly matte and very true to its original goal, which is… makeup. They have great coverage and are long-lasting but not a lot of them have sunscreen function nor hydrating enough. There are good moisturizing SPFs but then their coverage is not enough.
It might be the difference in tastes of different target customers. I believe Korean customers have higher needs for the SPF in foundations. It is actually harder to find one without sunscreen function. The preference for the “natural glow” also has led some foundations to have more hydrating, glowy finish, and ultimately to create the “foundation pact” category. Even when it comes to the matte foundation, the recent Korean products are using the term “semi-matte” to emphasize that they are not too dry and care hydration.
Korean Foundation Types
Similar to the foundations from the global beauty brands, Korean foundations are mostly liquid type, followed by the pact (balm) type – mostly combined with “essence” which helps moisturization of the skin. There are creams (mostly in jars), stick products as well but these two are not as popular as the liquid or pact types.
Of course, “cushions” can fall under the foundation category, but in this post, I would like to focus just on liquid and pact type foundations. Cushions started as the products that help revise the makeup during the day, not as the primary product to build the face makeup from scratch. Although recently, I see a lot of people replace foundations with cushions as some of them provide enough coverage and lasting effect. The world of cushion (foundation) is just so extensive that I would like to cover it more in detail at another post soon 😉
Korean Foundation Brands
When you think about K Beauty, you will be able to think of the skincare brands/products more easily than the makeup brands/products. Especially when it comes to foundation, Korean customers still love some of the non-Korean brands such as Estee Lauder, Lancome, Dior, Bobbi Brown, Nars, Armani Beauty, and Yves Saint Laurant. Estee Lauder’s Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup has been the best-seller like… forever.
However, some competitive Korean makeup brands have risen quickly to the top seller list in the foundation category. It includes the reputational “road shop” brands like The Face Shop.
- Hera (part of Amore Pacific Group) | Black Foundation
- Espoir | Pro Tailor Foundation Beglow
- Banila Co | Covericious Power Fit Foundation
- The Face Shop (part of LG Household & Healthcare) | Ink Lasting Foundation
- Luna (part of AK Beauty) | Essence Water Pact CX
- Age 20s (part of AK Beauty) | Original Essence Cover Pact
Korean Foundation Shades
Unfortunately, Korean foundations are not the best for someone looking for a wide range of shades. Mainly because Korean customers consist of a single race, and the variation within Asian (Korean) might not be comparable to that of the countries consist of multiple races. However, some of the brands/products recently started to extend the shades. You should also note that the pact type products tend to have fewer options in the shades.
The parameters that Korean brands generally use to define the shades are two: brightness and the base color.
- the higher the number, the darker the shade is.
- Ranges from 13 ~ 28 depending on a brand. 13 (pale), 21 (bright), 23 (dark) used to be the three standardized shades before. (Yes! only three) However, a lot of brands recently extended the options up to 28.
2. Base Color
- Pink base: each brand might use different naming but usually pink base has the following alphabet in its shade name/code. P(pink) C(cool), R(red), or the words rose, rosie, petal.
- Neutral base: the tone that is somewhere between pink and yellow.
- Yellow base: the yellow base shades have the following alphabets in the name/code. W(warm), Y(yellow), or the words ivory or beige.
With the different combinations of these two parameters, each product that I introduce at this post has a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 12 shades. In order of Hera(12) > Espoir (10) > Banila co (8) > Age 20s (6) > The Face Shop (5) > Luna (3).
Best Korean Foundation for Dry Skin
#1 Espoir Pro Tailor Foundation Beglow
Like its name, Pro Tailor Foundation Beglow is known for its hydrating, glowy finish. It received multiple awards since 2018 from Olive Young to Glow Pick. It has 10 shades and each shade has different base color and brightness. It has SPF 25 PA++. Available at espoir.
- Pros: beautiful/natural glow, easy to apply (light texture)
- Cons: not long-lasting, low coverage
#2 Luna Essence Water Pact CX
Like its name, Pro Tailor Foundation Beglow is known for its hydrating, glowy finish. It received multiple awards since 2Luna Essence Water Pact “FX” used to be loved by the customers, but it seems like it is being discontinued as I could not find any info on the brand official site. Instead, they recently launched “CX” by upgrading its essence content to 70%, sunscreen strength to SPF 50+ PA++++, and higher lasting effect. It used mineral water instead of pure water as the base, and Crystal Clear Capsule ™ for the glowy finish. It is clinically proven to increase hydration and to last up to 25 hours. The limited shades (only three) would be the weakness. Available at Olive Young Global.
- Pros: easy to apply (light, thin layering), natural glow, hydrating
- Cons: not longlasting, medium coverage
#3 Age 20s Original Essence Cover Pact
It will be hard to discuss the pact type foundation without the brand Age 20s. It has been one of the first to launch the pact type foundation with the pink/white essence swirl combined to create this new product type in the world of foundation. It is one of my holy grails and I will talk about it more in detail at another post. The product has 3 complex hyaluronic acid for hydration, and soothing, fermented ingredients (e.g., Madecassocide, Yeast Ferment Extract) for the healthy glow. It is available in two color base (white and pink), with 3 shades for each. It has SPF50+ PA+++. Available at Walmart.
- Pros: easy to apply (light, thin layering), cooling effect, hydrating, glow
- Cons: not long-lasting, medium coverage
Best Korean Foundation for OilySkin
#1 Hera Black Foundation
Hera Black Foundation enables soft matte finish by the combination of soft matte powder and hydrating ingredients. It has a long-lasting effect (24H) as well as clean coverage with its “Magnet Fit’ technology. It has the widest range of shades among the products that I introduce here at my post. It has SPF 15 PA+. Available at Beauty Box Korea.
- Pros: semi-matte (not too glowy, not too matte), long lasting, wide range of shades
- Cons: high price, low SPF, strong fragrance
#2 The Face Shop Ink Lasting Foundation
Praised by so many influencers since its launch, Ink Lasting Foundation has become one of the best foundations in Korea, threatening Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation. It is known for very light, fitting coverage that enables a seamless look. It has enough coverage with just a thin layer and semi-matte finish without drying the skin. It has SPF30 PA++. Available at Yesstyle.
- Pros: semi-matte finish (not too glowy, not too matte), easy to apply (light, thin layering), enough coverage, price, long lasting
- Cons: the container easily gets dirty (cap and mouth of a bottle), can be dry, strong fragrance
* Note: It seems like there is another (US) version of the product available in Avon without SPF but with 18 shades available. The information and the reviews above are based on the original/Korean version of the product with SPF and 5 shades.
Best Korean Foundation for Acne-Prone Skin
Banila Co Covericious Power Fit Foundation
With the multiple awards won since 2019, Covercious Power Fit Foundation is known to have four major benefits. First, high coverage by using fine particles and the powder with a high refractive index. Second, it is clinically proven to last long up to 36 hours. Third, seamless layering that enables a flawless look. Fourth, mineral sunscreening foundation that is comparably safe (compared to chemical sunscreen) for troubled or sensitive skin. It has SPF45 PA++. Available at Yesstyle.
- Pros: semi-matte finish (not too glowy, not too matte), easy to apply (light, thin layering), enough coverage
- Cons: not enough lasting effect, can be dry a little, shades are polarized (too pinky or yellowy)
Korean Foundation for Dark Skin or Pale Skin
As I shared at the beginning of the post, Korean foundations might not be the best option regarding the shade variation. However, for the darker shades, I would suggest starting the search from Espoir Pro Tailor Foundation Beglow as it has darker shades available compared to the other products.
For the paler shades, Hera Black Foundation could be a good start since it has 3 options under 21.
Fragrance-Free Korean Foundation
Interestingly, all these best-selling foundations from Korea have fragrance and some reviews were calling out the strong fragrance. So if you are looking for a fragrance-free foundation, Korean products might not be the best option. Please leave comments if you know any good Korean foundation without fragrance!
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