So I was idly browsing Memebox US and adding things to my cart, as I do, when I realized that a shopping guide would be a much more constructive outlet for my window-shopping energy.
Memebox US, one of my favorite shops of 2015 thanks to generally reasonable prices and fast domestic shipping, is always one of the first sites I visit when I wantneed to buy something. But their selection can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to K-beauty. Not every item is a gem (though plenty of them are). I combed through every brand listed on the site to find products I’ve personally used and enjoyed. You’ll find the ones that passed the test below, organized by the possible steps of your skincare routine. You’ll also hear about the things I didn’t love. Enjoy, remember that YMMV, and if you’ve never hauled from Memebox before, register with my referral link* to get 20% off your first purchase!
Affiliate and referral links in this post are marked with an asterisk(*). Products that were given to me for review are marked with double asterisks(**).
Use these oil-based cleansers to break down and remove sunscreen and makeup at the end of the day.
- Banila Co Clean It Zero, $16*: Arguably one of the best-known cleansing balms in the international K-beauty community, the OG Clean It Zero in the pink jar starts off solid, melts down to a softly fragranced cleansing oil when spread over skin, easily removes most makeup, emulsifies well and rinses away cleanly. It’s a classic.
- Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet, $24*, is, for me, a step up from BanilaCo CIZ. It softens to a thicker and more luxurious-feeling oil and does a better job of handling waterproof mascara. I’ve already repurchased this once and will do again. (Full review)
- Nooni Snowflake Cleanser**, $13*, is Clean It Zero on a budget, without any loss of quality as far as I could tell. In fact, I like it more than CIZ. (Full review)
Consider passing on: I’m Meme cleansing oils in Fresh and Moist. After extensive testing of both, I’ve found that while they remove makeup exceptionally well, the Fresh cleansing oil has an unbearably strong fragrance, while the Moist cleansing oil stings my eyes in a way that few other cleansing oils I’ve tried have.
Use a non-stripping, low-pH foaming cleanser to clean the skin after removing makeup at night, and if needed in the morning as well.
- COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, $10*, can be used either as a single-step gel cleanser or foamed with water as a traditional second cleanser. Either way, I never found it stripping and always found it effective. Mr. Fiddy loves it; our second tube has been purchased and is on its way to us from Memebox’s SF warehouse as I type this. (Full review)
- Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash, $9*: If you want a little more oomph and a little more unf in your second cleanser, or if you need something very travel-friendly, check this one out. With papain for gentle enzyme exfoliation, this cleanser always leaves my skin sparkling clean and buttery smooth but never squeaky or dry. (Full review)
Consider passing on: Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam, COSRX Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser, and Benton Honest Cleansing Foam, all of which are formulated at pH levels high enough to weaken your skin barrier and strip it of the natural and necessary lipids that keep acne-causing germs out, hold moisture in, and give healthy skin a natural glow.
Carefully introduce chemical exfoliants into your skincare routine to address acne or aging problems.
- COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, $17.70*: A hydrating treatment with 7% glycolic acid, this product clears up stubborn clogs and active acne. It also encourages faster cell turnover for brighter, smoother, more youthful skin. Always use sunscreen when using this product and for at least 7 days after discontinuing use. Warning: Strong odor. (Full review)
- COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, $19*: The 4% oil-soluble betaine salicylate in this gentle BHA penetrates deep into skin, dislodging hardened sebum plugs to minimize the appearance of pores and reduce the occurrence of breakouts. (Full review)
- Prelab Toning Peeling Tap**, $14 for 15*: A gentle and very travel-friendly alternative to AHAs and BHAs, these single-use enzyme “peels” deliver mild exfoliation through both the fruit extracts in the essence and through the soft, fuzzy applicator tip.
Heal and prevent breakouts without excessive dryness or irritation with gentle K-beauty treatments for “troubled skin.”
- COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol, $18*: The healing and anti-microbial properties of propolis make it a natural fit for acne-prone skin, and this A-Sol has plenty of it. Use as a preventative and healing toner, and dab on active pimples to reduce inflammation and accelerate recovery. The relatively low pH of this product also helps to balance skin after cleansing. This is one of Mr. Fiddy’s holy grails! (Full review)
Consider passing on: COSRX One Step Pimple Clear Pads, which contain BHA but are formulated at too high of a pH to effectively exfoliate. While these pads do help calm inflammation and reduce redness, I’d expect a product at its price point to do a bit more to back up its claims.
Layer essences over toners for refreshing hydration and basic skincare benefits.
- COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, $18*: This snailiest of snail products packs a whopping 96% snail secretion filtrate, resulting in a delightfully snaily consistency, plenty of skin-softening and damage-repairing power, and a simple formulation suitable for even sensitive skin. (Full review)
Consider passing on: Claire’s Guerisson 9 Complex Essence if you are bothered by the idea of horse oil in your skincare, because the Guerisson 9 Complex line is based on horse oil.
Attack specific skin concerns with serums and ampoules.
- Scinic Honey All In One Ampoule, $20*: The hydrating, moisturizing, healing, and protective power of honey makes it an all-around winner for all skin types. Scinic amps up honey’s benefits with additional brightening and antioxidant ingredients for an ampoule that does a lot. Also, the huuuuge jar gives amazing value.
- Scinic Snail All In One Ampoule, $20*: This soft and slippery substance soothes and softens skin with plenty of snail mucin, as well as an array of brightening and antioxidant extracts and actives similar to those of the Scinic Honey AIO Ampoule. The peachy fragrance is a plus. (Full review)
- Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule, $28*: If you want a great value in a K-beauty ampoule but don’t fancy either of the Scinic AIOs, consider the Tosowoong propolis ampoule, which comes in a jumbo 100ml bottle of deeply hydrating, glow-creating goodness. (Full review)
Consider passing on: COSRX Propolis Light Ampoule, which is a decent propolis ampoule but not a decent value for the small bottle, and the Shara Shara Berry Bomb and Honey Bomb All In One Ampoules, which are excellent products but available from Korean etailers for significantly lower prices.
Sheet Masks and Gel Masks
Fan Bingbing goes through 600 a year. I use at least one a day. Chinese supermodel Liu Wen masks five times a week. Sheet masks are Asian skincare superstars! These intensely hydrating facial treats plump skin up for instant firmness and glow, and you can find a flavor to suit just about every one of your skincare concerns.
- Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Hydrogel Masks, $21 for 5*: There are not enough words in the English language to describe how I feel about these clingy, comfy, sparkling golden hydrogel masks with the heavenly fragrance and spectacular results. They’re my favorite indulgence. (Full review)
- Ciracle From Jeju Mask Bundle Set, $11 for 4* is a great way to try a variety of different high-quality masks. For me, the Camellia Flower Anti-Wrinkle, Jeju Mayu (horse oil, just so you’re aware) Anti-Aging, Citrus Sudachi Whitening, and Volcanic Pore Tightening sheet masks all produce long-lasting results. My favorite is the Camellia Flower.
- Elizavecca Milky Piggy Water Lock Hydro-Gel Melting Mask, $3* are a new favorite of mine for their light, citrusy fragrance and intense hydrating effects. After 45 minutes with one of these, my skin looks supremely smooth and luminously dewy. They do sometimes leave little bits of loose gel behind, so use in the evening to prevent pilling under sunscreen and makeup.
- Etude House I Need You! sheet mask, Vita Complex, $2*: I tried an assortment of Etude House sheet masks a while back and picked the Vita Complex flavor as my favorite immediately. A surprisingly solid essence formulation makes my skin instantly brighter and, by the next morning, visibly more translucent. (Full review)
- Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack, $2: $2 is a great value for these hybrid gel and fabric sheet masks, which were among my first gel mask loves. The Aqua* flavor makes my skin like porcelain all through the next day, the Healing* variety calms my skin and erases redness when my face is throwing a fit, and the Whitening* type evens out skin tone and creates a brilliant glow. (If the “whitening” designation weirds you out, check out my discussion of the topic here.) Some people do find the fragrance of these a little intense, though I’ve never noticed much smell; others have found that the Healing variety tingles. Again, that hasn’t happened to me, but it is something to be aware of. (Full review of Aqua and Healing)
- Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Masks, $2, are a solid everyday maintenance mask. I repurchased a few varieties not long ago and found myself liking them more than I used to, which almost never happens–usually it’s the other way around! The Manuka Honey* is nicely moisturizing and the Lime* refreshing and brightening. (Full reviews of Manuka Honey and Lime)
- Mediheal Dress Code Mask – Blue, $2.50*, is one of the very few printed, “novelty”-type sheet masks that I’ve really liked. Printed with an elegantly detailed blue masquerade mask that takes sheet masking from serial killer to (oddly) sexy, this variety of Dress Code Mask leaves skin deeply hydrated and bouncy. (Full review)
- Tosowoong Pure sheet masks in Pure Propolis*, Pure Snail*, Pure Deep Sea Water*, and Pure Green Tea*, $1.50: Lately I’ve been much more into Taiwanese sheet masks than Korean ones, but I try to keep a good amount of these Korean masks on hand at all times. I just bought another 10 of the Pure Propolis and actually regret not getting 20 instead. Generously cut from a thick but soft fabric that holds a ton of essence, Tosowoong’s Pure sheet masks feel great, last for nearly an hour on the face, and deliver intense and long-lasting moisture and brightening effects. (Reviews)
Consider passing on: It’s Skin sheet masks, whose attractive packaging disguises alcohol-laden mediocrity; Botanic Farm hydrogels, which contain amazing ingredients but are made out of thin, stiff, dry, rigid gel sheets that embody everything hydrogel masks shouldn’t be; and Skin Factory Real Honey Moisturizing Ampoule Mask, which likewise has a wonderful essence but a truly terrible mask sheet.
Creams and Sleeping Packs
Lock in the benefits of your essences and serums and keep skin soft with a Korean moisturizing cream. In the evening, swap out your cream for a sleeping pack if your skin is normal or oily, or layer a sleeping pack over your cream if your skin is dry, to further seal in your juices and wake up with soft and glowing skin.
- Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream, $22*: Slippy and luxurious, this herb-infused moisturizer hydrates skin and leaves it soft and resilient, with that youthful bounce that Koreans call chok chok and Taiwanese call QQ. (The review that started it all, at Snow White and the Asian Pear)
- COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask**, $16*: Speaking of bouncy chok chok skin, nothing else I’ve ever tried has given my skin quite as much bounce as COSRX’s rice-based sleeping pack, which also gently brightens skin over time. (Full review)
- Enprani Dear by Enprani Bounce Cheese Cream, $21*: This silky medium-weight cream smells like roses, gives rich but non-greasy moisture that sinks in quickly and plumps skin up overnight, and has a delightfully stretchy consistency that’s really fun to play with.
- Freeset Donkey Milk 3D Moisture Cream, $45*, is one of my holy grail moisturizers. I paid a premium for a friend to mule it to me from a brick and mortar store in New York, fell in love, and eventually talked Memebox into stocking it. The ceramides, cholesterol, donkey milk fatty acids, and botanical oils strengthen and support skin barrier function and recovery. (Full review)
- Goodal Nature’s Solution Firming Sleeping Pack, $18*, is the budget-friendly alternative to my precious Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Cream. Made with fermented honey, this thick and intensely nourishing sleeping mask packs enough moisture to soften and plump up my skin even at its driest. Plus, the big jar of product will last forever. (Full review)
Consider passing on: Claire’s Guerisson 9 Complex Cream, whose horse oil content gives it a slightly steak-y fragrance (at least to me); Goodal Waterest Moisture Barrier Cream, which combines a hard and waxy consistency with a very strong and very “mature” fragrance; and Scinic Aqua EX Jelly Cream, unless you don’t actually need moisturization and want your face to smell like men’s cologne.
Supplement your skincare routine with the occasional wash-off pack.
- Elizavecca Milky Piggy Kangsi Pack**, $16*: Elizavecca is kind of the king of wash-off packs, offering a variety of fun and unusual formulations. The Kangsi Pack is an extract-enriched clay mask hybrid containing 24K gold extract. It goes on gold and turns white as it dries; rinsing it off reveals brightened and clarified skin. (Instagram review)
- Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask**, $11*: Speaking of fun, this pore-clearing clay pack starts out as a thin layer of gray goo but quickly fluffs up into a cloud of bubbles on your face, tickling as the bubbles pop. As an added bonus, this mask removes makeup nicely. About once a week or so, I like to swap out my first cleanser for this mask, making makeup removal entertaining for once while pulling built-up gunk from my pores. (Instagram review)
- Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, $15*, is here for those of you who’d rather skip the gold and the bubbles and go straight for a classic clay mask. This powerful purifier draws impurities out from even deep down in the pores and provides a little bonus exfoliation if you massage as you rinse. (See how to use this as part of my three-step pore killer routine)
Hair and Body Care
When I first got into K-beauty (and snails), I didn’t plan to take my addiction any farther than the edges of my face. I didn’t plan to end up using Korean products (containing snails) to moisturize my entire body, and I certainly didn’t plan to end up putting Korean products (containing snails) in my hair. But, you know, life doesn’t always go the way you think it will. Sometimes it goes in a different direction. Sometimes that different direction is better than the one you thought you’d take. Life is full of those little miracles.
- Tonymoly Pure Eco Snail Moisture Gel, $9*, is a lovely lightweight snail gel in a nice big tub, sized to smear all over the body. It dries down quickly, making it perfect for those of us who need body moisturizer but hate feeling slimy while the moisturizer sinks in. Also, snails. (Full review)
- Lador Tea Tree Scalp Clinic Hair Pack, $8*, is the product that turned me to the K-Side when it comes to haircare. This combo nourishing scalp treatment and deep conditioner leaves my hair silky soft and my scalp tingly and refreshed. More importantly, something in this product gives my normally straight, flat, sad hair a noticeable bounce and body that nothing else but blow-drying has before. And most importantly of all, the amount of hair I lose in the shower has dropped significantly since I got this stuff. I love this. I have already ordered two more tubes.
- Lador Scalp Scaling Spa Hair Ampoule, $1.50*, is a sort of superconcentrated version of the Tea Tree Scalp Clinic Hair Pack. I use one ampoule once a week to supplement the rest of my new haircare routine, and after a few treatments, my hair and scalp feel unspeakably lively and healthy. This Lador stuff is the real deal.
- Lador Damage Protector Acid Shampoo, $8*: Speaking of the scalp, did you know that the scalp is skin, too? That didn’t really click in my head until I first looked at this product and saw the pH 4.5 printed on the bottle. A healthy scalp produces healthier hair, while a damaged scalp leads to hair problems. I’m almost done with my first bottle of this, have a second on the way, and have found this stuff cleans my hair effectively but gently (no squeaking!) and may be contributing to the reduced fallout I’m experiencing.
- Lador Hydro LPP Treatment**, $10*: Formulated for dyed and/or damaged hair, this hydrating and deep-conditioning treatment infuses hair with weightless moisture, leaving it silky and soft. I won’t be purchasing this for myself as it isn’t the best choice for my hair type, but I did enjoy using up the tube I was given, and friends of mine with dyed or damaged hair love it.
- IOPE Air Cushion XP cushion foundation + refill, $40: My HG cushion makeup for its sheer but buildable coverage, seamless skin-like finish, and the satiny glow it gives. Available in N21* and N23* for lighter, natural-looking base, and C21* and C23* for more coverage.
- I’m Meme Rubycell Puff, $7 for 5*: To prevent breakouts, it’s important to keep your cushion puffs clean. I try to wash mine at least once every few days, double cleansing them with whatever rejected cleansing oil I have lying around and whatever harsh foaming cleanser samples I can find in my stash. You’d be amazed at how much product comes gushing out of such a thin little puff. But sometimes I don’t get around to cleaning the puff for a little too long, so I keep some of these extra cushion puffs handy to replace mine when needed. Rubycell is the current gold standard of cushion puffs for its durability and anti-microbial properties.
- I’m Meme Dual Pore Brush**, $9*: With a dense and ultra-soft brush on one side and a nubbly but gentle silicone scrubber on the other, this brush can make a cleansing session just a little more thorough without pushing into the danger zone.
Um. So I didn’t realize just how many products I’ve tried in the last couple of years until I put together this list. The blogging life is a hard one, guys. So much struggle.
Finally, I have one more way to make your next Memebox purchase easier: a Fifty Shades of Snail reader coupon code for 10% off of your entire order through the month of March! Use the code FIDDYSHAUL at checkout to get your discount. And again, if you’ve never ordered from Memebox before, registering with my referral link* will get you 20% off of your first order. Happy hauling!
Are you planning on making any Memebox purchases soon?