With the level of flawlessness that can be achieved through Korean skincare and beauty products, it’s hard to imagine there being any struggle with anything. Well, hard to imagine if you’re not a non-Korean K-beauty lover who lives outside of Korea.

As much as K-beauty impresses us with dewy complexions and skin trouble fighting action, here are some down points to having a long-distance relationship with the ever so lovely Korean beauty category.  

  • Trying to find makeup that’s your skin tone.

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Don’t try to deny it: a majority of Korean beauty brands are very limiting when it comes to skin tone options for makeup. With the intention of those makeup products being bought by Korean women who look for fair and even complexions, it’s somewhat understandable that there’s little diversity in the shades they provide. Then there are high-end brands that have multiple skin tone options – for a hefty price. For us on the short end of the stick, it kind of sucks. Even when you think you can pass the darkest shade a brand can offer, you pat it on your face to realize the only party you’re going to is a Halloween one. Foundations and cushions aside, even products like primers or sunscreens can leave a white cast on your face. Sure, these products have a handful of other benefits that are insanely helpful for the skin, but your best bet is to put the correct color of makeup for your skin over it to make sure you look like, well, you.

Luckily, American brands are becoming increasingly inspired by Korean cushion compacts. Top brands like L’Oreal and Maybelline have recently released their own line of cushions with a range of skin tone options to adhere to diverse populations. If you want to have a ‘powder your nose’ moment like your favorite K-Pop or K-drama stars, but struggled with finding the perfect shade, here’s an alternative you can try!

  • Two words: shipping and handling.

I wince just writing this. It’s like an Easter Egg hunt to find K-beauty stores, or simply stores that sell K-beauty products, in places outside of Korea. Even when you can find a few golden treasures, the options are pretty limited. However, thank the Heavens for the age of technology! Shopping online for beauty products is an extremely popular way to get your hands on your new holy grail items, but the down point is the price. The actual products themselves can be extremely cheap, especially when you throw in special offers and coupon codes. However, you can’t checkout without getting chest pains after looking at the shipping and handling fees. Why must you be so expensive, fees?!

There are some saints that offer free shipping, even though the products themselves are bumped up a few dollars. If you know any, help a sister and community out by letting us know! My personal favorite shipping method hails from the Innisfree World website. They normally offer free shipping for orders over $60, and if you especially hate the next struggle on this list, the packages are normally delivered within a week! Depending on where you live, of course.  


Here’s another downer to online shopping. Unless money literally falls from the sky and you can afford express shipping, you’re probably not going to see your precious beauty items for another month. Sad, but true. If there’s any light at the end of the tunnel to consider, it’s the fact that you eventually forget you ordered something. By the time the items shows up, it feels like Santa left a present at your door.

  • Can’t enjoy the experience a store offers.

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Have you seen the inside of an Etude House store? Neither have I, but Google says it’s the dollhouse of my dreams – meaning it’s officially on my bucket list. In addition to that, physical stores offer special gifts with purchase and events that are not available online. While we’re talking about Etude House, they once had a promotion where they gifted (not sold) block calendars of their mascot, Etti, to customers that spent over a set price.

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I’m lucky enough to live in New York City where there are quite a few Nature Republics scattered around. With famous boy band EXO being the face of their brand – they, too, offer notebooks or fans of your favorite member when you buy over a specific amount.

Special gifts aside, beauty stores normally allow you to sample and test a product before you buy the actual, full-size item. That’s obviously not the case when you buy online (unless the seller comes through with those free samples). In addition to that, some brands allow you to bring in your emptied products to recycle and reuse, which is – of course – awarded with special points to use for purchasing new items (can someone please bring an Innisfree store to NYC?!).

In summary, you’re really missing out if you live in a place without these stores.

  • When product descriptions are written in hangul.

Learning another language is a task in itself, but you’re really at a loss if you love Korean culture and don’t know Korean. It’s a good thing many products have English names and instructions next to the hangul texts, but there are several that don’t. Your best bet for sheet masks, for example, is to at least find the number of minutes you should keep the mask on your face. There’s only so much Google translate can accurately tell you.

  • Scavenger hunt to find your favorite items.

Unfortunately, official global websites of top K-beauty brands do not offer everything the brand sells. Whether it be because the product became discontinued, or it’s just not popular in your area, some items that would be readily available in a store just aren’t online. This wouldn’t be an issue if you were never exposed to a specific product, but in the case that you were, oh boy. Sometimes seller websites offer that product one day and then don’t the next, other times someone gifts you that product, but you just don’t know how to re-purchase it when it finishes. It’s literally mission impossible to find that product again, and the process is especially agonizing if you’re in love with it.   

  • Trying to convince other people how amazing K-beauty is.  

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“Yes, that bunny shaped bottle is actually hydrating.” Just because something looks cute, doesn’t mean it can’t kick butt. Convincing someone to try a K-beauty product for the first time can be a pretty tough task. The famous 10-step beauty regime is intimidating in itself, and there’s really no way of getting someone to sit down for fifteen minutes to slap on a sheet mask if there’s no sleepover going on.

The main difference between Korean and American beauty products is the ingredients and how they’re made: Korean brands normally focus more on natural ingredients for a long-lasting effect while American brands opt for chemicals that usually provide quick fixes. If you live in a place where a drugstore concealer is a three-minute walk as opposed to a mineral BB cushion being a four-week wait, it’s understandable to pick American brands over Korean ones. It’s simply more convenient, we get it. However, if you’re breaking out a lot, suffering from dryness more often than not, and experience extreme sensitivity – girrrl (or boyyyyy), I got some links for you.    

As foreign K-beauty lovers, we’re just grateful to be a part of the experience and to have the ability to get our hands on the amazing products offered. Makeup can be tricky territory, but the skincare aspect is on point. Minus the holes here and there, K-beauty is pretty awesome.

So let us know, was this list relatable or not? Think we missed some major struggles? We’d love to hear what you have to say!

Until next time, beauties, this is Huma signing off! ♥


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