When I landed my first job working in the major Korean beauty world even I was surprised.
As a black male navigating the Korean beauty skincare realm, I was always a bit overwhelmed, considering I didn’t see too many people that looked like me. Korean society often admires fair, “glass skin,” which caused it to be overlooked by darker skin tones for years. But the more I began to learn and experimenting with the Korean beauty philosophy, the more me and my skin began falling in love with it.
Fast-forward a couple of years later and I am now a certified K-beauty skintellectual and my face has never looked or felt better. Throughout my journey, it’s been important that I bring men of color specifically into conversations about self-care, beauty, and what it means to live our most empowered lives.
I’ve written about how Korean beauty’s changed my skin in the past, but what are the best products for more melanin-rich skin? Here are my current favorites below. A friendly reminder: Korean beauty routines are usually highly personalized and address the treatment of specific areas ie it’s more about maintaining the health, hydration, and radiance of the skin rather than a quick fix. With that out of the way, here are my K-beauty recommendations.
Banila Co Clean it up Zero – Double cleansing is the backbone of K-beauty and starting with an oil-based cleanser is extremely effective at lifting dirt, grime, and other pollutants that can accumulate throughout the day. Banila Co Clean it up Zero is formulated with active botanicals, antioxidants like Vitamin E and Vitamin C which are essential for protecting the skin from sun damage that causes hyperpigmentation while also leaving the skin visibly brighter and softer.
Dr.Jart+ DERMACLEAR Micro pH Foam – Follow up with this mild cream cleanser, to remove any excess dirt left behind. This gentle but powerful cleanser is specifically formulated to heal/prevent breakouts, combat inflammation all while improving uneven skin tone.
COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner is a two in one exfoliating fluid that effectively eliminates flakes and dull skin cells while preventing blackheads and whiteheads from forming. This toner can also be used after shaving, the alpha hydroxy acid fights against ingrown hairs which is more prevalent in deeper skin complexions.
Liz K super first vitamin c serum: Deeper skin tones are more prone to dark spots especially with increased sun exposure, Liz K super first vitamin c serum is formulated with 13% pure vitamin c to effectively brighten and even skin tone while treating existing hyperpigmentation. This serum is extremely potent so it’s best to start only applying 2 nights a week.
Ashiness is public enemy # 1 for deeper skin tones, so finding a long-lasting moisturizer to lock in all your hard work is paramount. Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream has been a K-beauty staple for some time now. Its key ingredients include yeast-derived beta-glucan, jojoba oil, and ceramides that works to strengthen your skin’s natural protective barrier and provide long-lasting moisture. Say bye-bye to ashiness!
Properly caring for your skin means proactively guarding it, and that includes wearing a daily sunscreen with SPF—no matter how fair or rich your complexion, unfortunately for those with deeper skin tones it can be hard to find a sunscreen that doesn’t add a thick sticky white cast. Neogen’s Day-Light Protection Sun Screen is as ‘light’ as it claims it easily absorbs into the skin and leaves it feeling soft and hydrated, formulated with rose and honey extract which is high in antioxidants and amino acids, so not only are you protecting your skin, you’re also nourishing it. You can even double it as a moisturizer for a light dewy finish. Remember, sunscreen is most effective when applied 15-20 minutes before sun exposure so that it has enough time to absorb into your skin.