While moisturizers tend to get all the attention in a typical skincare routine, there is another product that deserves some recognition: serum!
Facial serums are liquids that deliver active ingredients to the skin. No matter what your skin care concerns are, there’s a serum out there that can help.
If you’re new to using facial serums, or just want to try some of the best out there, consider a skincare serum from a Korean brand. The best Korean serums are formulated to deliver when you want to see results.
To help you out, I’ve put together a list of the 10 best Korean serums that will appeal to a variety of skin concerns.
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10 Best Korean Serums
Korean beauty brands formulate their products to prevent skin issues while also delivering intense reparative, hydration, and moisturizing benefits.
As a result, Korean serums are packed with active ingredients that are beneficial for the skin.
Even better, these serums are incredibly affordable, with most being available at drugstore prices.
Korean skincare brands formulate their products to appeal to a variety of skin types with various skin concerns, so while most of these serums will work for all skin types, each serum in this list will be noted BEST FOR specific skin types and/or skin concerns.
Now, let’s take a look at the best Korean serums!
The serum is chock full of soothing and moisturizing ingredients and plant extracts like celery, carrot root, and broccoli extracts, in a lightweight easily absorbed formula.
Sodium hyaluronate, the salt form of hyaluronic acid, is the second most concentrated ingredient in this serum.
Sodium hyaluronate has a smaller molecular weight than hyaluronic acid, so it can penetrate the skin more deeply to deliver long-lasting hydration.
There are multiple soothing ingredients in this hydrating serum, such as reparative licorice root extract, panthenol, beta-glucan, Aloe barbadensis leaf extract.
Centella asiatica extract, Portulaca oleracea (purslane) extract, and Scutellaria baicalensis (skullcap) root extract, not only soothe the skin but are also skin-protective antioxidants.
Vitamin C derivative sodium ascorbyl phosphate and niacinamide brighten the skin by inhibiting melanin production and improving skin tone.
Amino acids arginine and proline are building blocks of skin-firming collagen and provide skin-strengthening benefits.
All of these ingredients work together to soothe, hydrate, and brighten dry skin in a silky smooth hydrating serum.
The generous 2.7 oz bottle makes it one of the most affordable Korean serums on this list.
Please note that the serum has been recently reformulated to remove essential oils to make this serum suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
This Korean face serum is rich in snail secretion filtrate, also known as snail mucin or snail slime, that has been fermented by yeast derived-grapes to increase absorption.
It has reparative benefits, improves skin elasticity, and targets acne scars and uneven skin tone.
Tea tree leaf water calms stressed, problem skin while aloe vera (powder and extract) soothes the skin and supports a healthy skin barrier.
Niacinamide and adenosine target wrinkles and help improve skin elasticity. Niacinamide also brightens dull skin tone and has sebum balancing benefits for the skin.
Salix alba (willow) bark extract has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It gently exfoliates the skin by lifting away dead skin cells to reveal brighter-looking skin with improved skin texture.
Bee venom can regenerate the skin and has anti-inflammatory benefits that can help heal the skin and reduce redness. It can even reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
This multifunctional serum has a light texture that quickly absorbs into the skin without feeling heavy or greasy. It has a slightly acidic pH similar to our skin, minimizing irritation.
A few drops of this serum can even be mixed with your foundation for a complexion boost.
3. Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule 5X
BEST FOR: mature, aging skin, wrinkles, sagging skin
Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule 5X is the fifth generation of Missha’s best-selling overnight probiotic treatment serum.
It contains 77.2% Extreme Biome, a complex formulated with 10 probiotics to improve your clarity and radiance.
The ingredients are fermented with a three-step method that provides stabilized active ingredients to the skin.
The ampoule serum also contains Missha’s blend of Purple Energy Actives, including plum, carrot, plum cabbage, eggplant, beetroot, and blueberry.
This proprietary blend brightens, smoothes, calms, and protects the skin against daily environmental stress.
The ampoule also contains Collageneer, an anti-aging active ingredient that combines White lupin seed extract and sunflower seed oil that, per the manufacturer, stimulates collagen production to improve skin elasticity and reduce sagging.
The serum is enriched with skin-loving actives like brightening and smoothing niacinamide, hydrating sodium hyaluronate, moisturizing squalane, and healing adenosine.
This Korean serum is often considered a great alternative for best-selling Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair, so if your main skin concerns are aging, wrinkles, fine lines, and lack of firmness and elasticity, the serum could be worth a try.
Please note that the serum contains essential oils.
4. Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop Serum
BEST FOR: Dull skin, daily antioxidant protection for all skin types, aging, wrinkles, fine lines
Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop Serum is an antioxidant serum that contains pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to protect the skin from UV damage while improving skin texture and tone.
This cult-favorite Korean vitamin C serum contains 5% pure vitamin C to brighten the skin and even out skin tone while reducing hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to reduce the look of fine lines while keeping the skin firm.
Vitamin C at higher concentrations can irritate the skin, but Klairs has formulated their vitamin C serum at a low 5% and added Centella asiatica extract to help soothe and calm the skin.
This makes the serum suitable for sensitive skin types, but please note that the serum contains essential oils and citrus fruit extracts, so be sure to patch test before using it (and any new skincare product) for the first time.
Scutellaria baicalensis (skullcap) root extract is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to provide anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits against the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes.
It also brightens the skin.
This is one of the best Korean vitamin C serums, as it is suitable for all skin types and provides antioxidant protection while improving the look of wrinkles, fine lines, and uneven skin tone.
5. innisfree Intensive Hydrating Serum with Green Tea Seed
BEST FOR: All skin types, especially dry, dehydrated skin
Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Serum with Green Tea Seed is a lightweight serum formulated with Green Tea Tri-biotics, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and a host of other active ingredients to hydrate, protect, and moisturize the skin.
The Green Tea Tri-biotics formula is a fermented probiotics dissolution combining three ingredients: prebiotics (trehalose), Jeju green tea (lactobacillus ferment lysate), and postbiotics (lactic acid). This complex supports the skin’s ecosystem for a healthy barrier function.
Green tea extracts (green tea water and green tea oil) are included in the formula to soothe, protect and brighten the skin.
The green tea is sourced from a USDA-organic farm on Jeju Island in South Korea. The soil there is rich in volcanic ash and minerals, resulting in a unique green tea rich in 16 moisturizing amino acids.
There are five different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid in the serum. This variety of weights allows the hyaluronic acid to penetrate deeply into the skin at different layers for long-lasting hydration.
The serum also contains niacinamide, an ingredient that brightens the skin, improves uneven skin tone, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Betaine, a plant-derived amino acid, helps lock in moisture, while squalane provides lightweight moisture.
Please note that there is an added green tea fragrance in this serum.
6. iUNIK Tea Tree Relief Serum
BEST FOR: Combination, oily and acne-prone skin, sensitive skin
IUNIK Tea Tree Relief Serum contains 67% tea tree extract and 19.5% Centella extract to target acne, improve skin texture, calm sensitive skin and brighten skin tone.
The high concentration of tea tree extract in this serum is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and healing. It helps to reduce acne breakouts, heal blemishes, and calm redness and inflammation.
Centella asiatica extract helps soothe and calm the skin while improving skin texture. Active ingredients in Centella stimulate hyaluronic acid production (centellosides) and have wound healing properties (madecassoside).
Other notable ingredients in this tea tree serum include niacinamide, which brightens the skin while balancing sebum (oil) production, and licorice root extract, which has anti-inflammatory and skin lightening benefits.
Sodium hyaluronate is a form of hyaluronic acid that helps to hydrate and plump the skin. Allantoin, beta-glucan, and dipotassium glycyrrhizate help soothe and calm the skin.
Six sprout extracts (broccoli, alfalfa, cabbage, wheat germ, rapeseed, and radish) moisturize and nourish the skin.
Adenosine is an ingredient that supports collagen production for smoother skin, soothes the skin, and replenishes the skin barrier.
This light, watery, green-shaded serum is absorbed quickly into the skin and leaves skin soft, smooth, and hydrated. See my complete review here.
7. COSRX Hydrium Triple Hyaluronic Moisture Ampoule
BEST FOR: Dry, dehydrated skin
COSRX Hydrium Triple Hyaluronic Moisture Ampoule quenches thirsty, dry, and dehydrated skin types with three types of hyaluronic acid and panthenol (pro-vitamin B5).
The serum keeps skin soft and supple all day without leaving it feeling greasy.
Low-weight hyaluronic acid pulls in moisture, while medium-weight hyaluronic acid provides below the surface hydration.
High-weight molecular hyaluronic acid forms a protective barrier on the skin to prevent moisture loss. The three weights provide extended hydration that can penetrate different layers of the skin.
Panthenol is a humectant that helps attract and retain moisture and offers anti-inflammatory skin benefits.
This Korean skincare product has a short ingredient list that minimizes the potential for skin irritation. It has a super-thin texture and sinks in quickly for long-lasting hydration.
Skin is plump and hydrated for more youthful-looking skin.
8. Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule
BEST FOR: Sensitive skin, aging skin, damaged skin, redness, wrinkles, acne scars
Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule is a healing ampoule (concentrated serum) formulated with 80% snail secretion filtrate to improve skin resilience.
Snail secretion filtrate has reparative properties thanks to components such as hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein enzymes, and antimicrobial and copper peptides.
These actives work together to repair the skin, fade scars and brighten skin tone.
Sodium hyaluronate, the salt form of hyaluronic acid, is a powerful moisture-binding ingredient that acts like a sponge and pulls water into the skin.]This makes it ideal for those with dehydrated or dry skin. It helps to hydrate and plump the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The serum contains multiple peptides, including copper peptides known for their ability to repair and regenerate damaged skin tissue.
Peptides also support the production of collagen, a protein that keeps skin looking firm and young and helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Adenosine offers anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair benefits while supporting collagen synthesis for improved skin firmness.
Panthenol offers moisturizing, healing, and anti-irritant benefits.
While rich in snail mucin, the ampoule is not sticky or slimy, just nourishing and hydrating on the skin.
9. COSRX Full Fit Propolis Light Ampoule
BEST FOR: Dry, dehydrated, dull skin in need of a hydration boost, irritated, damaged skin, post-acne scars
COSRX Full Fit Propolis Light Ampoule is a best-selling ampoule (concentrated serum) that contains 83.3% black bee propolis extract to hydrate, reduce the visible signs of aging and give the skin a natural-looking glow.
Propolis is a natural resin collected by bees that contains antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal the skin and reduce redness.
Propolis’s antioxidant benefits can help protect the skin from environmental stress like UV rays and pollution. This active ingredient can even help fade acne scars, dark spots, and discoloration.
The 11 ingredient serum contains 0.2% hyaluronic acid in the form of sodium hyaluronate to draw moisture to the skin and increase hydration levels.
The serum also contains 0.1% panthenol to moisturize and soothe the skin.
The lightweight ampoule penetrates quickly to deliver moisture without feeling heavy or greasy on the skin. Skin is plump and hydrated, with a glowing complexion.
10. Skinfood Peach Sake Pore Serum
BEST FOR: Combination, oily, acne-prone skin, enlarged pores
Last on this list but definitely not least, Skinfood Peach Sake Pore Serum uses rice sake and peach extract to reduce the look of enlarged pores and control oil production in the skin.
Rice ferment filtrate (sake) is an active ingredient popular in Asian skincare products that is rich in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It works as an astringent to help reduce the look of pores.
Sake also contains antioxidants that protect the skin while it improves skin elasticity for plumper, smoother skin.
Peach extract is rich in antioxidants and vitamins that benefit the skin. It contains vitamin C, which brightens the skin and evens out skin tone.
Peach extract also contains a natural form of vitamin A that improves the look of dark spots, while vitamin E has antioxidant benefits that can help to protect the skin from environmental aggressors.
The serum also contains antioxidants like reparative Centella asiatica extract, vitamin E, brightening Glycine soja (soybean) seed extract, and soothing chamomile extract.
Licorice root extract brightens and evens skin tone while calming the skin.
One of the standout qualities of this Korean pore serum is that it leaves a matte finish on the skin that lasts, and the skin feels very soft and smooth to the touch.
Pores are minimized, and oil is kept at bay all day.
Please note that there is a fresh peach fragrance to this serum.
How To Use A Korean Serum
When using a Korean serum, be sure to apply it after cleansing and toning but before applying your moisturizer (and sunscreen in your morning skincare routine). If you use a water-based serum, apply it before your oil-based products.
Start with 2-3 drops of serum and massage it into your skin until it is fully absorbed. You can increase the amount of serum you use as needed.
Korean serums are often highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Be sure to follow the directions on the packaging for the best results.
Patch test the serum on a small area of skin before using it for the first time, especially if you have sensitive skin.
How To Choose A Serum For Your Skin Type
When choosing a serum, it is important to consider your skin type and what ingredients best address your specific concerns.
The following Korean serum ingredients are helpful for the following skin types and skin concerns:
- Dry Skin: hyaluronic acid, panthenol, or betaine
- Combination Skin: niacinamide, hyaluronic acid
- Oily Skin: BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) like salicylic acid, niacinamide
- Acne Prone Skin: salicylic acid (BHA), AHAs, niacinamide, retinol, green tea, or tea tree oil
- Sensitive Skin: snail mucin, Centella asiatica extract, aloe, allantoin, or green tea
- Aging Skin: AHAs, peptides, propolis, retinol, or adenosine
- Hyperpigmentation, Dark Spots, and Uneven Skin Tone: vitamin C, licorice root extract, azelalic acid, or niacinamide
Once you have determined your skin concerns, take a look at the ingredients list to see which serums will address those concerns.
Avoid any ingredients that may irritate your skin (especially if you have sensitive skin), such as essential oils or fragrances.
Final Thoughts on The Best Korean Serums
The best Korean serum for your unique complexion will address your skin concerns while working synergistically with your skin type.
By carefully selecting the right ingredients that target your main skin issues, you can achieve a radiant, healthy complexion.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, here’s to your good skin health!