• 10 Best Korean Serums in 2021 (Innisfree, Sulwahsoo, and More) 1
  • 10 Best Korean Serums in 2021 (Innisfree, Sulwahsoo, and More) 2
  • 10 Best Korean Serums in 2021 (Innisfree, Sulwahsoo, and More) 3
  • 10 Best Korean Serums in 2021 (Innisfree, Sulwahsoo, and More) 4
  • 10 Best Korean Serums in 2021 (Innisfree, Sulwahsoo, and More) 5

10 Best Korean Serums in 2021 (Innisfree, Sulwahsoo, and More)

Want to make your skin glow? Korean serums are mild, lightweight, and contain a high concentration of active ingredients that can help all skin types. Some common skin-nourishing ingredients are ginseng, green tea, and aloe vera. Korean skincare also utilizes more unique ingredients, like snail mucin, placenta, and propolis! 


Check out our buying guide, which we prepared with the help of aesthetician Devan Jesmer, where you'll find all the necessary information regarding Korean serums, and our top 10 highly recommended products. Innisfree's Green Tea Seed Serum is our top-ranking product because it absorbs quickly, soothes irritated skin, and prevents signs of aging. If you want to know more, don't forget to check out the rest products on our list!

Experts featured in this article

Devan Jesmer
Abiola Adebayo
  • Last updated: 06-15-2021
  • 16,562 views
Table of Contents

In Collaboration With Aesthetician Devan Jesmer

In Collaboration With Aesthetician Devan Jesmer

Devan Jesmer is a beauty content creator and licensed aesthetician who creates content centered around all things beauty, with her main focus being skincare. Through her industry insight, honest reviews, and educational content, her goal is to help her clients and others navigate the constant influx of products and information in the beauty industry, and achieve their skin goals.


She runs a blog and Instagram (@devsday) where she talks about new products and posts unfiltered reviews so that anyone looking can get advice on what to buy next.

Best 3 Korean Serums

Here are the best Korean serums that you can buy online. They have different ingredients, textures, and packaging. Make sure you choose one that will address your skin concerns! 


※These rankings were decided based on user reviews and popular rank lists from Amazon gathered on June 7th. Please note that these products were not picked by Devan Jesmer, but chosen through extensive research and by combing through customer reviews by our staff at mybest.

1
Formulated withGreen tea, cocoa extract, citric acid
HighlightsFree from parabens, mineral oils
Amount2.7 oz.
2
Formulated withOphiopogon japonicus root extract, honey, castor oil
HighlightsFree from parabens, sulfates, phthalates
Amount2.02 oz.
3

Seoul CeuticalsDay Glow Serum

$17.95

Formulated withVitamin C, witch hazel, orange stem cells
HighlightsCruelty-free; free from parabens, sulfates, alcohol, phthalates
Amount1 oz.

Compare the Best 3 Korean Serums

Image
1
Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum 1

Innisfree

2
Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum 1

Sulwhasoo

3
Seoul Ceuticals Day Glow Serum 1

Seoul Ceuticals

Name

Green Tea Seed Serum

First Care Activating Serum

Day Glow Serum

Features

Our Top Choice - The Best-Selling Organic Green Tea Serum

Best Nutrient-Dense Serum to Improve Overall Skin Health

Best for Affordable Vitamin C Care Packed With Active Ingredients

Price$27.00$75.60$17.95
Formulated withGreen tea, cocoa extract, citric acidOphiopogon japonicus root extract, honey, castor oilVitamin C, witch hazel, orange stem cells
HighlightsFree from parabens, mineral oilsFree from parabens, sulfates, phthalatesCruelty-free; free from parabens, sulfates, alcohol, phthalates
Amount2.7 oz. 2.02 oz. 1 oz.
Link

More Great Korean Serums to Consider

While our top three picks are great all around, these seven other choices are good picks for more specific skincare concerns. Take a look if you want to treat acne, look for anti-aging serums, or find something invigorating!

MeebakCica Serum

$22.97

Formulated withCica extract, fig extract, aloe water
HighlightsCruelty-free; free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates
Amount1 oz.

Dear KlairsRich Moist Soothing Serum

$21.00

Formulated withCica extract, licorice root extract, grapefruit extract
HighlightsCruelty-free; free from parabens, alcohol, fragrance
Amount2.7 oz.

NEOGENWhite Truffle Serum In Oil Drop

$35.00

Formulated withWhite truffle, niacinamide, hyaluronic Acid
HighlightsFree from parabens, sulfates, alcohol
Amount1.69 oz.

MizonAHA 8% Peeling Serum

$16.89

Formulated withGlycolic acid, lemon peel oil, papaya
HighlightsFree from sulfates, silicones
Amount1.69 oz.

Cos De BAHASnail Mucin Hyaluronic Acid Serum

$13.45

Formulated withSnail secretion filtrate, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide
HighlightsCruelty-free; free from parabens, alcohol, fragrance, sulfates
Amount4 oz.

I'M FROMGinseng Serum

$26.00

Formulated withRed ginseng extract, green tea leaf extract, licorice root extract
HighlightsFree from parabens, alcohol, mineral oils
Amount1.01 oz.

SKIN FOODPeach Sake Pore Serum

$16.00

FormulatedRice ferment filtrate, peach extract, butylene glycol
HighlightsFree from sulfates
Amount1.52 oz.

How to Choose a Korean Serum - Buying Guide

Here, we'll be introducing the following three important points to check when you choose a Korean serum. We also compiled specific advice from Devan that should be helpful when picking your next serum!

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

Serums are the workhorse in your routine, meaning that they are designed to target specific areas of concern with your skin. They typically contain a high concentration of active ingredients, that you often will not find in a cleanser or moisturizer. They are fast-absorbing and are typically applied after cleansing and before moisturizing.

Choose a Serum According to Your Skin Type

Different skin types need different skin care products. Thus, it's important to know your skin concerns to find a perfect skin solution. 

Look for Moisturizing Ingredients for Dry Skin

Look for Moisturizing Ingredients for Dry Skin

Snail mucin is one of the most popular ingredients in Korean skin care. It contains glycolic acid, glycoproteins, and hyaluronic acids, all off which can prevent dryness, improve collagen production, and promote dewy skin


Although snail mucin can't penetrate deeply into the skin because of its large molecule size, it helps to improve overall skin texture and quality. Additionally, it helps to treat eczema by soothing itchy and inflamed skin, too!

Look for Moisturizing Ingredients for Dry Skin

Hyaluronic acid can draw and lock moisture into your skin, which results in firmer and healthy-looking skin. It also protects the skin from environmental damage, like sunlight, pollution, and harsh chemicals. Some studies have found that combing hyaluronic and vitamin C can create more effective results in skin elasticity.


Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 and is another ingredient that suits dry, flaky, or irritated skin. It helps to boost hydration, reduce redness, soothe inflammation, and improve skin texture or pigmentation.

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

People with dry skin should look for moisturizing and hydrating ingredients in a serum. Humectants are fantastic at holding water in the skin, to give a plump, bouncy appearance. 


Hydrating ingredients to look for include hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, beta-glucan, aloe, propolis, snail mucin, and centella asiatica. Moisturizing ingredients such as ceramides, urea, shea butter, and other plant oils also help to lock in the water.

Choose Collagen-Boosting Ingredients for Mature Skin

Choose Collagen-Boosting Ingredients for Mature Skin

Aloe vera is a popular ingredient for Korean skincare because of its numerous benefits, including moisture-retention. Some studies have shown that aloe vera can improve skin elasticity and collagen production. It also helps to treat sunburn and prevent peeling skin.

Glycolic acid is an effective anti-aging agent as well! It helps to reduce dark spots, wrinkles, and scars, and it can even out your complexion while gently exfoliating skin. As a result, it leads to smoother, firmer, and younger-looking skin.

Choose Collagen-Boosting Ingredients for Mature Skin

Peptides are a broken down form of collagen, and their small molecules can penetrate the skin. They help to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and dryness. Moreover, they help to increase collagen production. Other anti-aging ingredients that you may look for in Korean serums are neuropeptide, matrixyl, and argireline.

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

Collagen provides structural support in our skin by creating a matrix-like string of fibers, that over time weakens, causing skin laxity. There are plenty of ingredients that help your skin to rebuild collagen. Retinoids (Vitamin A), is the most well-known and most studied when it comes to anti-aging and boosting collagen production. 


Vitamin C and Vitamin E are also fantastic antioxidants, known for helping to preserve fibers by preventing damage from free radicals generated by oxidative stress. Peptides are also known for their collagen-boosting abilities, through signaling to the skin to build new collagen and elastin.

Pick Anti-Bacterial Ingredients for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

Pick Anti-Bacterial Ingredients for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

Honey and propolis have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammation, and anti-fungal agents. Some studies have found that they can cure pimples, treat acne vulgaris, reduce inflammation, and improve collagen production. Although these ingredients can’t prevent hormonal acne, they help to speed up healing time. 


Tea tree oil is a fantastic ingredient for oily and acne-prone skin because it helps to control oil, calm redness, reduce acne, and prevent breakouts.

Pick Anti-Bacterial Ingredients for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

Cica is a plant that has been used in many Korean skincare products, as it’s high in antioxidants that are great for acne-prone skin. It helps to treat acne as well as soothe irritated and inflamed skin.

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

Acne-causing bacteria is best kept at bay with anti-bacterial and anti-septic ingredients, such as AHAs and BHAs, snail mucin, and tea tree oil. 


However, honey and propolis are two of my favorite anti-bacterial ingredients for the skin. In addition to killing acne-causing bacteria, they are also anti-inflammatory and hydrating, helping to speed up the healing process.

Consider Skin-Brightening Ingredients for Dull Skin

Consider Skin-Brightening Ingredients for Dull Skin

Green tea is rich in antioxidants, which can slow down the aging process, heal blemishes, and reduce scars while also improving skin complexion and texture. As a result, your skin becomes brighter, cleaner, and more radiant!


Vitamin E helps to regenerate new skin cells and reduce dark spots.  It's also effective at hydrating and strengthening skin. Vitamin C is also idea for brightening skin, as it helps to restore collagen, repair damaged skin from sunlight and pollution, and improve skin tone.  

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

There are so many well-studied ingredients when it comes to brightening dull skin and reducing hyperpigmentation. Beyond Vitamin A and Vitamin C, which also help brighten and even the skin tone, you want to look for a serum that contains kojic acid, licorice root extract, mandelic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide, or arbutin. 


These ingredients often work better when a few are combined together versus working alone.

Patch Testing is Highly Recommended for Sensitive Skin

Patch Testing is Highly Recommended for Sensitive Skin

Luckily, many Korean skincare products contain natural ingredients and can be used by most skin types. But allergic reactions can be very different from person to person, and you may not know which ingredients can irritate your skin. Thus, we recommend doing a patch test before using new products.


Another way to prevent skin trouble is to avoid common irritating ingredients, like alcohol, parabens, sulfates, essential oils, and fragrances, unless you know that your skin can handle these ingredients.

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

If you are someone who commonly reacts when trying a new product, make sure that you are doing a patch test on a small area of the face that can be easily covered - such as the underside of your jaw near your ear. Apply to clean skin, with no other products to properly test whether you have a reaction.

Look for Popular Korean Skincare Ingredients

Look for Popular Korean Skincare Ingredients

Ginseng is known as a Korean superfood, thus, it’s used in many high-end beauty brands such as Sulwhasoo and The History of Whoo. 


It’s rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help to protect skin cells from damage while regenerating healthy new skin. Additionally, it helps to balance oil, reduce fine lines, brighten skin, eliminate puffiness and redness, as well as calm acne.

Look for Popular Korean Skincare Ingredients

Sake is made from fermented rice and is rich in amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins E and B. It also contains ferulic acid, which is known as a powerful anti-aging ingredient


In addition to that, it helps to moisturize, tighten, and brighten skin. It can also minimize enlarged-pores and acne, control sebum production, and soothe inflammation, as well as reduce eczema symptoms. 

Look for Popular Korean Skincare Ingredients

It may sound gross to use a placenta serum, but it’s very common and has been used widely in Korea! The extract comes from an organ that is used to protect and nurture babies during pregnancy. The extract can come from sheep, pig, or horse placenta.


Placenta extract provides all-in-one benefits, like tightening and brightening skin, increasing collagen production, treating acne, and reducing the signs of aging. Since placenta extract is natural, it’s safe and can be used for all skin types.

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

I also love snail mucin for its hydrating, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an ingredient that can benefit all skin types. Green tea is another antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory favorite, containing antioxidants called polyphenols to soothe irritated skin, reduce redness, and they can be used to treat blemishes. 


Propolis is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and an antioxidant, making it a fabulous ingredient to heal acne, soothe the skin, hydrate, and increase collagen production. Centella asiatica is similar to propolis in its ability to soothe and hydrate the skin, making it great for acne-prone and sensitive skin.

Decide Between Types of Packaging

Decide Between Types of Packaging

Most Korean serums usually come in glass dropper bottles, but you may also find some products that come in plastic bottles, too! 


Glass bottles can provide better protection for natural ingredients, which can increase the shelf life compared to plastic bottles. On the other hand, plastic bottles are lightweight, making them more convenient to carry.


In general, darker bottles are better than transparent bottles. They can provide better protection from light and heat. Heat and light can harm the effectiveness and potency of vitamins, so dark bottles are highly recommended for vitamin C and vitamin E serums. 

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

When it comes to packaging for serums, I tend to prefer those that come in dark, airtight, pump packaging. 


This is especially important for Vitamin C serums or other antioxidant serums that tend to be unstable and can oxidize when exposed to sunlight and air. But as long as they're kept out of the sunlight, the packaging isn't the most important thing to consider.

The Proper Way to Apply a Serum

The Proper Way to Apply a Serum

Although some people tend to think more is best, you actually don't need to use a ton of serum every day to reap the benefits! Make sure to wash your face first, dry off, then apply a small drop of serum to your cheeks, forehead, nose, and chin. Use gentle motions to incorporate the serum into your skin.

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

You want to apply about three to five drops of serum, or about a pea sized amount onto clean hands and gently pat into damp skin, to maximise absorption. Never touch a dropper to your face!

Commonly Asked Questions

Commonly Asked Questions

Are you wondering more specifically about how Korean skincare products can benefit you or how the Korean skincare routine works? We asked Devan to give us her insights about the famous routine and to answer a few commonly asked questions about it. 

What Are the Steps of the Korean Skincare Routine, in Which Order Should They Be Followed, and How Is Your Skin Routine?

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

The 10 steps are as follows: 


  1. Makeup Remover or Oil Cleanser
  2. Water-Based Cleanser
  3. Exfoliator
  4. Toner
  5. Essence
  6. Treatments or Ampoules
  7. Sheet Masks
  8. Eye Cream
  9. Moisturizer
  10. Sun Protection

You should try to always layer products from thinnest to thickest, but in the end, it won't have a major impact on your skin if you decide to switch a few steps. The steps that should never be skipped are a cleanse, moisturizer, and sun protection, and sun protection should always be the last step in your routine in the morning, before makeup.

Does the Korean Skincare Routine Have to Use Korean Products?

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

The Korean skincare routine is really focused around light layers of hydration. While it isn't necessary to use only Korean products if following the steps of the Korean skincare routine, Korean brands often have some of the most advanced skincare formulas, and many at an affordable price, making them a fantastic option.

Is the Korean Skincare Routine Exclusive to Women and, if Not, How Can It Differ for Either Sex?

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

Skincare has no gender! Anyone can do the Korean skincare routine. I believe that everyone deserves to have hydrated, smooth, happy, and healthy skin. At a minimum, both men and women need to properly cleanse the skin, moisturize the skin, and wear sun protection. Th sun's UV rays and the damage they cause do not discriminate.

Is There a Difference Between Us and Korean Skincare Formulations That Makes It Specific?

Devan Jesmer
Beauty Content Creator & Licensed Aesthetician
Devan Jesmer

Typically, Korean skincare focuses on hydrating, moisturizing, and brightening the skin, whereas US skincare focuses more on clarifying, exfoliating, and balancing the skin. Also, Korean formulations tend to be quite gentle on the skin, compared to many US formulations. 


Korean formulations also tend to be ahead of the curve; coming out with many of the newest innovations in skincare before they reach the rest of the world. Most of the world really looks to Korea to see what is next in skincare.

More Korean Skincare Products Recommended by Experts

Skincare expert and blogger Abiola of @lifewithabiola, loves finding the best hydrating products for her acne-prone and dry skin. This essence from COSRX, an innovative Korean skincare brand, works wonders on soothing skin.

Expert's
pick

COSRXAdvanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

$16.23

Looking for Summer Skin Care Products?

Looking for Summer Skin Care Products?

With summer approaching, you may want to switch to lightweight skin care products. Besides serums, there are other types of skin care products that suit hot and humid climates. Check out our other suggestions for lightweight moisturizers, face mists, and sunscreens!

Amazon's Best Selling Facial Serums

Summary

The main difference between Korean and other serums is the key ingredients. Most Korean serums are gentle but highly effective! This is because they use a lot of natural ingredients that suit all skin types and all skin concerns. Thus, it's important to know the benefits of the main ingredients in the serum you buy. 


Don't forget to think about the texture of the product and packaging, too! Make sure that it's comfortable on your skin and convenient to use. We recommend reading the reviews to help you understand more about the product and make the right decision. 


Author: Apinya Masuda


Related Articles

Popular Articles

  • 10 Best Korean Night Creams in 2021 (Etude House, Innisfree, and More)
    10 Best Korean Night Creams in 2021 (Etude House, Innisfree, and More)
    If you're a K-beauty fanatic, you know that ingredients in Korean skincare can do a body good. When it comes to your nighttime routine, night creams are the perfect tool for ensuring a great beauty rest! That's why we went out of our way to research and compile a list of our absolute favorite Korean night creams.In our opinion, Neogen x Joan Kim VitaDuo Day and Night Cream is among the great Korean skincare products that provide great hydrating and moisturizing effects. Aside from being effective, it's also very innovative as it contains two creams - intensive day cream and night cream - in one container. Check out what more skincare products are a good addition to your night skincare routine! And if you're still full of questions, check out our buying guide with tips from aesthetician Devan Jesmer.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    19,896 views
  • Top 23 Best Japanese Moisturizers in 2021 - Tried and True! (Minon, FANCL, and More)
    Top 23 Best Japanese Moisturizers in 2021 - Tried and True! (Minon, FANCL, and More)
    Last time, we talked about toners. Now, we move on to the next step in the Japanese skincare routine: moisturizers and face lotions. Face lotions are important–they are, if you remember, the lid that seals your toner in. And, just like in America, in Japan, we have our high-end and drugstore brands, our revolutionary products, and dupes.We thought it was high time someone separated the wheat from the chaff. That’s why we ordered the 23 most popular moisturizers and face lotions from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited a skincare specialist and had her compare the following:1. Hydration2. ApplicationThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese moisturizers and face lotions. We also talk about the difference between lotion and cream at the very end of the article–be sure not to miss it.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    40,592 views
  • 10 Best Japanese Body Washes in 2021 - Tried and True! (Minon, Clover, and More)
    10 Best Japanese Body Washes in 2021 - Tried and True! (Minon, Clover, and More)
    It can be hard to choose a good body wash when you have to worry about parabens, sensitive skin, oily skin, dry skin, and more. That's why we scoured Japanese e-commerce sites like Amazon, Rakuten, and Kakaku.com to find the best body washes available online. Then we purchased some of the most popular products and tested them for the following:Cleansing powerMoisturizing powerQuality of ingredientsFoam densityWe then compiled everything we learned into a buying guide about and list of the 10 of the best Japanese body washes available online.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    19,070 views
  • Top 26 Best Japanese Toners in 2021 - Tried and True! (Minon, Fancl, and More)
    Top 26 Best Japanese Toners in 2021 - Tried and True! (Minon, Fancl, and More)
    The Japanese skincare routine has quite a few steps. There’s cleansing; then the first step after cleansing is toning. To help you ease into Japanese skincare, we ordered the 26 most popular toners from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited a specialist and had her compare the following:1. Application (How It Feels on Skin)2. HydrationThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese toners. We also consulted our specialist about skincare–for example, we asked about how to properly put on toner and the order in which we should apply toner, lotion, and essences. We share all this information at the end of the article, so stay tuned.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    28,195 views
  • Top 23 Best Japanese Whitening Serums in 2021 - Tried and True! (Haku, SK-II, and More)
    Top 23 Best Japanese Whitening Serums in 2021 - Tried and True! (Haku, SK-II, and More)
    It’s a buzzword in Japan: translucence. It’s similar to Korea’s glass skin–skin so pure that it’s nearly transparent, resembling layers of frosted glass. In the Western world, think "glow" or "dewy finish." In order to respond to that aesthetic, cosmetic companies–both drugstore and high-end–here have been coming out with scores of whitening serums, essences, and ampoules.As always, it’s difficult to tell what kind of skincare is effective and what isn’t. That’s why, this time around, we ordered the 24 most popular whitening serums from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited a skincare specialist and had her compare the following:1. Hydration2. ApplicationThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese whitening serums, essences, and ampoules. See why we picked Chifure's Whitening Essence VC as our top choice and more!
    Cosmetics and skincare
    43,144 views
  • Top 10 Best Cream Blushes for Aging Skin in 2021 (Glossier, Nars, and More)
    Top 10 Best Cream Blushes for Aging Skin in 2021 (Glossier, Nars, and More)
    As we get older, our skin develops wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, and dry skin. Slowly we see our face lose its natural glow. That’s nothing to worry about, it’s totally normal, and everyone will eventually go through it. Fortunately, cream blushes are here to help you reclaim your skin’s natural and youthful glow. Cream blushes are the way to go because they will not settle in your skin’s wrinkles and fine lines, unlike powder blushes. They also usually come with hydrating, plumping, and beneficial ingredients.To make it easier for you, we put together a list of our top 10 favorite cream blushes for aging skin. Glossier's Cloud Paint found its way to the top with its collagen-infused, buildable, and blurring formula. Now, scroll down to find out what other great products made it to our list. Scroll down even further to find a helpful buying guide when you need more tips and information. 
    Cosmetics and skincare
    339 views
  • Popular Expert Picks

    Search by Category