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Korean beauty is quickly becoming mainstream in the US. Sephora has featured a dedicated K-beauty section for the past year or so, Nordstrom just had a successful temporary K-beauty shop, and Target has been selling K-beauty (a bit under the radar) for several years. Now CVS is the latest retailer — with arguably the largest reach — to embrace K-beauty. The place where you buy Q-tips and Tylenol is now selling over 100 K-beauty products in 2,100 of its 7,900 stores, as well as online.
The drugstore chain tapped Alicia Yoon, the founder of K-beauty e-commerce site Peach & Lily, to bring in products from seven different brands. (She also has K-beauty shops in a couple of Macy’s stores, and has helped to curate mask bars in Barneys.)
With everything from classic sheet masks for a dollar and snail slime-based skincare, this is really going to be 1) a coup for people who already love K-beauty but have a hard time finding it, and 2) a great, inexpensive introduction to shoppers who may not have heard about or tried it. There’s a store finder here, so you can figure out if your local CVS will carry the lines.
Here’s a bit of background on each of the brands — four of which are sold exclusively through CVS in the US — and the products you should check out from each one. (Time to put all those $5 register coupons CVS is always handing out to good use.)
Ariul is best known for its Seven Day Mask series, which is exactly what it sounds like: a different sheet mask for every day of the week and every skin condition you can imagine, from acne to dryness. The Green Tea mask ($2.49), which is crammed with antioxidants, is great. The brand also just launched the Brilliant Tone Up EGG Cream ($28.99) (no link live yet), which contains the oil from egg yolks. This is the first time that ingredient has been used in skincare, because apparently it’s hard to extract. Expect a glowing, brightening, and hydrating effect.
This is a well-established and beloved brand in Korea. For sure grab the Snail Hydrogel Eye Patches ($13.99 for a set of five). If you’re nervous about snail slime (don’t be, it’s an incredible ingredient), the Moist-Up Hyalurone Ampoule Serum ($12.99) is a lightweight hydrator that will be great for warmer weather when creams seem too thick.
Frudia is, yes, a fruit-based line consisting of four different collections to tackle brightening, hydration, moisturizing (more anti-aging than the hydration line), and pore care. The packaging for the creams ($19.99) is a winner — they look like little jelly jars and smell delicious.
There is seemingly a Holika Holika store on every corner in Seoul. The playful line features peeling gels, masks for hangovers, cleansers, and lip balms that look like cupcakes, but you cannot leave without picking up the bizarrely named Pig-Nose Clear Blackhead 3-Step Kit ($9.99 for five kits). If you love nose pore strips, consider this one the holy grail.
JJ Young by Caolion
Caolion has been around in South Korea for decades and is best known for its pore mask packs. This is an offshoot brand aimed at twentysomethings that was supposed to launch first in South Korea, but instead is making its debut at your local CVS. Pores are still the focus of the line. Try the two-step Steaming and Cooling Pore Pack ($17.99) which first de-gunks your face, then tightens it all up.
Alicia Yoon developed this Peach & Lily house brand herself, and it’s a great introduction to the textures and products typically found in K-beauty. The Citrus-Honey Aqua Glow Moisturizing Gel ($11.99) is lightweight and smells like fancy lemonade, but the Acne Spot Dots ($4.49), a dupe of the Cosrx patches I have on hand at all times, is the product to snag.
This brand is flat-out adorable, and it’s hard to choose just one product to go for. The animal face sheet masks ($3.99) and the Chocopie Hand Cream ($7.99), which looks like a giant Oreo cookie, are Instagram must-haves. But this brand is also a good way to dip your toe into K-beauty makeup: Try the Saemmul Wrapping Tint ($6.99), a peel-off temporary “tattoo” for your lips that looks like a stain:
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