2016 Holiday Gift Guide: K-Beauty Gift Sets for Beauty Lovers in Their 20s and 30s

Happy Black Friday and welcome back to the 2016 Holiday Gift Guide series, hosted by me and my friend Christina Hello! In our first installments, I gave my skincare gift recommendations for Asian beauty product beginners, while Christina focused on K-beauty makeup intro sets. This time around, we’re talking gift giving for more seasoned beauty lovers, specifically those in their twenties and thirties. Christina’s got the makeup covered. As always, I want to talk about skincare!

Some products featured in this post were provided by Fifty Shades of Snail sponsors and are disclosed individually. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk(*).

K-beauty skincare gift sets
Or you could hoard all the lovely gift sets for yourself. I’m not judging.

I’m not normally into “routine in a box”-style skincare sets, particularly those that feature a single brand. Skincare is so highly personal that I find it unlikely anyone can discover their full perfect routine in a premade kit. But gift-giving is an exception.

The person you’re giving the set to may not end up sticking with every single product in it forever, but if you choose something that’s both well liked and appropriate for their tastes and skin type, chances are good they’ll enjoy their gifts and possibly explore skincare more. They may also appreciate the extended taste of an extended routine!

Also, giving a set as opposed to a single product is much less likely to send the dreaded “So I noticed you have this specific skin problem that you’re probably already feeling self-conscious about; here’s how I think you should fix it!” message the way a single highly targeted product would. A set is more “Yo dawg, I heard you love skincare, so here’s some great skincare.”

Without too much more babbling, here are my K-beauty gift set picks! Once again, these are all items I’ve personally used and enjoyed.

For the mask fan

Skincare lovers come in as many flavors as actual skincare products. Not everyone who’s into beauty is into the idea of a full twice-daily routine. Lots of skincare enthusiasts are more about the occasional spa night or mask party. While shopping around totally for this blog post and not at all for myself, I noticed that Memebox USA has a couple of mask sets tailor-made for those purposes.

Frequent clay maskers

Clay masks are some of the most recognizable skincare around, right? These classic treatments help temporarily reduce oiliness and minimize the appearance of pores, giving a purifying effect. Classic clay masks can be crazy harsh though, especially if used too often.

A while back, Memebox house brand Bonvivant released a trio of “jelly clay” masks. These next-gen gunk suckers are gentler than regular clay masks and lightly hydrate instead of drying out skin. I have all three colors. I personally don’t clay mask much, but when I do, I find these much more suitable for my general skin health than more intense clay mask types.

The Rainbow Masking Jelly Clay set contains all three colors of jelly clay mask to encourage multimasking, which entails using different masks on different facial zones for a fully customized mask session. Gray is the most “purifying,” pink soothes inflammation (like that caused by breakouts) as it clears pores, and blue adds a bit more hydration. This set also comes with a cute cat ears headband and a handy pack brush to use with the masks. (Memebox*)

Sheet mask addicts

Clay masks aren’t an everyday thing, but sheet masks sure can be. It seems like more and more people are getting into the habit of using a sheet mask a day. The increased hydration, bounce, and glow that a decent sheet mask delivers are addictive, after all! Inventory can become a problem for a frequent sheetmasker, though. Sometimes it’s hard to keep enough masks on hand without breaking the wallet.

Memebox put together a set of 50 Bonvivant masks for $25 seemingly with the daily sheetmasker in mind. Made from thin eucalyptus fiber sheets, these masks contain some nice botanical ingredients and work well for basic everyday masking. Lord Fiddy loves these: they fit his face really well and cling better than many other masks he’s tried. He wouldn’t be as into the bear ear(!!) headband that the Bonvivant mask set comes with, but your giftee might be. The mask set also includes a couple of mini Bonvivant jelly clay masks. (Memebox*)

Bonvivant sheet masks and Ettang modeling masks

Adrenaline junkies and horror movie fans

Okay, I’m kind of kidding, but modeling masks really do have elements of danger and fear. Danger in the sense that an incorrect water-to-powder ratio can lead to a drippy mask fail; fear in the sense that when successfully mixed and applied, these masks make the masker look lumpy and terrifying.

So why are these in my recommendations? Because when done right, a modeling mask can be a really fun and different path to smoother, softer, brighter, and more poreless-looking skin. I keep a few Ettang modeling masks in my stash for when the mood strikes (as it has tonight!). Modeling masks also have a way of sealing in previous serums and other layers of skincare to maximize the impact of those, too. Memebox carries the Ettang masks in a Modeling Take-Out Cup Pack of eight flavors in a cute cardboard carrying box. (Memebox*)

For those serious about starting a skincare routine

If you’re the skincare fanatic in your family or group of friends, you may know a few people who’ve moved beyond the occasional masking session and are now interested in starting an actual daily skincare routine, or overhauling their current unsatisfactory daily skincare routine. I find that the mid- to late twenties through the thirties are a prime time of life for skincare curiosity to strike, since anti-aging concerns are common and regrets over past skin sins even more so. This is one of the few scenarios in which giving a routine in a box could actually do a lot of good!

Early to mid-twenties, normal/normal to oily skin, few aging concerns

Last year, I went through a serious Innisfree phase and did some major Innisfree hauling. While I ended up deciding that the brand isn’t a perfect fit for me, Lord Fiddy fell hard for their Green Tea line. He still uses the products over a year later and has repurchased items several times. Getting him the Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Set made me realize how useful this popular line can be for skin that wants a comprehensive hydrating and preventative routine but doesn’t need anything particularly serious or clinical.

Innisfree Green Tea Balancing skincare set
I’ve had that box forever. It holds samples now. The products pictured are Lord Fiddy’s.

The products in the Green Tea Balancing Set are weightless and non-oily, with a clean, fresh, unisex green tea scent and the antioxidant protective potential of green tea extracts. The (sturdy and very repurposeable) box contains one full size and one travel mini each of the Green Tea Balancing Skin toner and Green Tea Balancing Lotion emulsion. The set also comes with a travel mini of the similarly light and refreshing Green Tea Balancing Cream. (Amazon*)

By the way, if you want to go all-out, the Green Tea Seed Serum* and Green Tea Sleeping Pack* fit as well into an Innisfree Green Tea routine as you’d expect.

Beauty hipsters of all skin types

Innisfree is a well known, mainstream K-beauty brand. I’ve heard it referred to as the Neutrogena of South Korea, though I’ve never seen Neutrogena put out anything as attractive as Innisfree’s stuff and Neutrogena doesn’t have gorgeous stores with thematically appropriate cafes as far as I know, but okay. Maybe you want to give the gift of a skincare set to someone who turns their nose up at mainstream brands. If so, check out either the Fresh or Balance versions of Beautibi’s Classic Box. They feature products from some exceptional indie K-beauty brands.

Beautibi Classic box contents
Both are represented here.

Jen from Beautibi sent me the Classic boxes to check out a while back. I like the contents so much that I’ve kept several of the items in my own personal rotation (the soap that I talked about in last week’s gift guide, the Hyggee Balance One Step Facial Essence, and the B-Lab I Am Sorry Just Cleansing Natural Peeling Gel exfoliant).

Both the Fresh (for oilier skin) and the Balance (for drier skin) boxes contain the luxurious 107 Oneoseven premium vinegar- and Korean herb-based soaps, a bottle of the impressively hydrating and moisture-retaining Simplistic Wonder Essence, a bottle of whichever Hyggee One Step Facial Essence fits the box theme, and a tube of that amusingly named peeling gel. That’s a lot of full-sized goodness from legitimately awesome new brands. (Beautibi; get $5 off your first order with my referral code)

By the way! If you’d rather give some Classic love in stocking stuffer form, Beautibi also carries the Classic Mini Set, which contains mini versions of many of the products in the big boy set.

Skincare sophisticates with aging concerns

So we’ve talked about beauty hipsters and the younger crowd. What about skincare fans who hate wrinkles and love luxury? Sulwhasoo US recently sent me two gift sets that I’ve been enthusiastically testing and have decided would make great presents for the fancypants giftees in your life. These sets contain indulgent skincare in really, really, really sexy packaging.

If your giftee’s aesthetic favors the sleek and chic, the Amorepacific Asian Beauty Secret Collection will suit their style.

Amorepacific Secret of Asian Beauty Collection
So sleek it makes me feel kind of bad about all the Thanksgiving food I put away today. Put away in my mouth, I mean. And I don’t actually feel that bad.

A sister brand to Sulwhasoo, Amorepacific’s products also draw on traditional herbal lore in their products, but more subtly than Sulwhasoo does. Think folk medicine-inspired formulations dressed up with elegant floral fragrance rather than emphasized with the scents of ginseng and ginger.

(Incidentally, while I enjoy the fragrances of the Amorepacific products I’ve tried out of this box, it is important to note that the fragrances are most definitely there and most definitely noticeable.)

The Asian Beauty Secret Collection contains a full-size Treatment Enzyme Peel and Moisture Bound Skin Energy Mist. The Treatment Enzyme Peel is a finely milled foaming powder that contains papain for mild exfoliation. Its pH tests at an acceptably neutral 6.5 to 7, and it gives me bright, supple skin. I haven’t used the mist much, since I just don’t use face mists as much as I used to anyway, but I find myself treating it as a face perfume. It smells so pretty!

As for the minis, I’m absolutely loving the Treatment Cleansing Oil and seeing some interesting instant (temporary) firming effects from the Intensive Vitalizing Eye Essence. I haven’t yet tried the Moisture Bound Hydra Gel or the three shades of cushion sample but will soon. (Amorepacific* | Check the special codes section in my right-hand sidebar, as Amorepacific US regularly offers Fifty Shades of Snail readers extra gifts.)

Sulwhasoo and Amorepacific skincare sets

If your giftee likes the hanbang concept and traditional elegance as much as I do, I bet they’ll be easily seduced by the Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Trial Set. I was. This set is one of the few items I’ve seen that really deserves the adjective “exquisite,” because everything from the pattern on the box to the glimmering gold detail is exquisite. You don’t even have to take the box out of its shimmering mesh bag to smell that signature deep, earthy Sulwhasoo scent. Oh, and inside, your giftee will find some of my absolute favorite skincare.


The inner box slides out, presenting its contents like precious treasures. Most prominent is the 30ml bottle of First Care Activating Serum EX. I love this serum so much that I’m halfway through my second purchased bottle, with no need to open the one in the set yet. The set also contains a 25ml jar of the reformulated Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream. So far, I’m seeing the same line-smoothing, redness-erasing results from this rich moisturizer as I did from the older version I tried a while back.

I’ve incorporated the Essential Balancing Water EX toner and Essential Balancing Emulsion EX day moisturizer into my routine, steeping my face in herbal goodness from beginning to end, 24/7 . Even the notorious Herbal Soap has a place in my life, diffusing the smell of Sulwhasoo throughout a drawer in my bedside table. The fragrance might not be for everyone, but I love smelling the soap as long as it’s held in check by the wrapping. (Sulwhasoo* | Check the special codes section in my right-hand sidebar, as Sulwhasoo US regularly offers Fifty Shades of Snail readers extra gifts.)

As I mentioned, I received the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream EX in my box, but Sulwhasoo also offers a version of this set that features the new Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream EX Light, for normal and oilier skin types. Perfect. (Sulwhasoo*)

Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Trial Set

As the holiday shopping season builds momentum, I hope you guys are picking up at least a few ideas from these gift guides! Don’t forget to check out Christina Hello’s makeup picks, and keep an eye out for our next posts in the series. Happy shopping!

Are there any skincare sets you’d be happy to receive?


4 thoughts on “2016 Holiday Gift Guide: K-Beauty Gift Sets for Beauty Lovers in Their 20s and 30s

  1. All the sheet masks. Did a mask-a-day for about 9 days earlier in November and my skin is so much more bouncy and “chokchok” than it was before. Luckily I still have 200+ in my stash after a combo of my big Taiwan haul in the summer and the 50%-off sale at Nature Republic two weeks ago.


  2. Such a thorough post! And I love your comparison between Innisfree and Neutrogena, lol (#noshade). You’ve got Xmas seriously covered with this 🙂


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