Because nobody does travel-friendly beauty better than the Koreans.

By Adeline Duff
February 05, 2016
Travel Beauty Products
Credit: Courtesy of Insider Beauty, Soko Glam and Peach & Lily

If you’re into beauty, but you’ve never heard of K-beauty (Korean beauty, that is)—or at least tried a Korean beauty product—you (and your skin) are missing out. Seriously. When it comes to beauty, wellness, and skincare, the Koreans know how to innovate like no other—and they have products for just about everything. From “corset patches” to masks for your elbows, and creams made with pig collagen and snail gel, they consistently make products that become phenomena that are copied worldwide (BB cream, anyone?) and pay attention to areas you never even thought about pampering (foot masks).

With such a diverse range of products fulfilling the needs of everyone and every body part, it should come as no surprise that they’ve got travel-friendly beauty down to a T. From chapped lip lifesavers to “magic” Q-tips, we’ve rounded up the best of Korean beauty—as told by the experts who know best. In this week’s on-the-go beauty hack, we caught up with the three leading K-beauty retailers in the industry: Angela Kim, founder and CEO of Insider Beauty, Alicia Yoon, founder and CEO of Peach & Lily, and Charlotte Cho, cofounder of Soko Glam, board-certified esthetician, and author of The Little Book of Skincare: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin. Read on for their tips, tricks, and favorite travel-friendly products.

Angela Kim/Insider Beauty
Credit: Angela Kim/Insider Beauty

Angela Kim

“Traveling by plane definitely takes its toll on my skin, but I’ve learned a couple simple tricks to minimize the dry-outs. One, I go on the plane sans makeup and use a good, hydrating, sheet mask a couple hours into the flight. Then I always finish with a sleeping mask. My favorite is the Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Sleeping Mask—it really seals in moisture, no matter how long the flight, and keeps my skin glowing. TSA regulations make it tough to bring full-sized bottles, so I squeeze a good amount into a small container. Muji in New York has a great assortment of travel-friendly cases. About an hour or so before landing, I use my cushion compact for a quick makeup touch-up, and I’m done.

Two, hotels don’t come with humidifiers, so instead, I like to drench a couple towels and hang them up next to my bed. It works just as well and keeps my skin from drying out overnight. Finally, I try to drink as much water as possible during the flight. Layering products onto your skin is necessary, but it’s even more important to hydrate from the inside out.”

Angela’s picks:

Laneige Sleeping Lip Mask: There’s nothing that moisturizes my dry lips like this sleeping mask. I love using the convenient applicator to get a fruity dose of vitamin C and intense hydration when I need some extra TLC. I scoop up a small amount, spread it over my lips after my evening skincare regimen and by morning, my lips are pillow-soft. It’s formulated with antioxidant-rich berry extracts like gojiberry, cranberry, blueberry, and Hunza apricot—it smells amazing!

Innisfree Jeju Volcano Mask Pods: These nifty little mask pods are genius for both travel and convenience—or just a girls' night in. They’re small, effective, and even have a little slit so you can rewrap and use again. I love to multi-mask and use this Jeju volcanic version just for my T-zone. It visibly draws out dirt and congestion and minimizes pores, and I love using this just to detox my problem areas.

Clio Tinted Tattoo Kill Brow: This is a bestseller on our site and for a good reason. Women who are constantly on the go love this brow pen, because it allows them to tint their brows at home for five to seven days (!!!) It does an excellent job of transferring feather-like pigment on your brows so that it gives off that really natural effect. Gamechanger.

Sulwhasoo Evenfair Perfecting Cushion: Winter tends to strip my skin dry as a bone, and most foundations and BB creams on the market tend to dehydrate my skin. I’ve tested a multitude of cushion compacts, and this one not only provides amazing coverage, but also it keeps my skin hydrated and glowy.

Innisfree Mineral Stick Concealer: I love when makeup products come in stick form, because they’re just easier to store and use when applying. This concealer does a great job of coverage but best of all, the texture is light and creamy and doesn’t cake.

alicia yoon
2015 © Hye-Ryoung Min, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
| Credit: Hye-Ryoung Min

Alicia Yoon

“I go to Korea every six weeks on average for Peach & Lily. Whenever I go to Korea for work, I am working around the clock. I'm in meetings or out and about, discovering beauty by shopping the streets, doing consumer shop-a-longs, interviewing R&D labs, interviewing beauty industry experts, visiting manufacturers, interviewing brands, etc.

And usually this means I'm out of my home at 7:30 a.m., and back home around 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Once I get home, I check in with the team and I have a good handful of hours of work from the NY office that requires my attention. I only get two to three hours of sleep each night when I'm in Korea, with a bit more on weekends to catch up. The travel and the crazy sleep schedule means that during and after each trip, I have to be extremely diligent about my health and skincare to make up for the taxing lifestyle. I'll make sure to drink a lot of water, I'll take all my vitamins, I take ginseng supplements, and I stick to tons of vegetables and lean proteins. I'll also make time to get my morning meditations in, which helps tremendously with stress. I'll also take baths every other day or so for a good ten minutes, because this gives me just a moment to catch my breath when I come home from a whirlwind day.

As for the actual skincare routine, it begins with the flight over to Korea. I go onto the plane bare-faced, no makeup. I have cleansing wipes that I'll use to take off my cream, and I'll use a mist or toner in-flight. I'll always do two to three sheet masks on my way to Korea. I see a huge difference when I sheet-mask in-flight. I used to be a bit nervous about the stares, but now I'm pretty thick-skinned about it and I even carry extras, because I find that when people stare and I ask if they want one, they usually decide that they want to sheet-mask, too!”

Alicia’s picks:

Sheet masks: My favorite in-flight sheet mask is Cremorlab’s Hydro Plus Aqua Tank Water-full Mask, which drenches skin with much-needed hydration without irritating it; the sheet mask is hydrogel, so stays relatively well-hydrated even in the dry flight, until ingredients are absorbed into the skin. Also, Cremorlab’s Herb Tea Blemish Minus Calming Mask, which hydrates and soothes skin to leave it supple and comfortable. I also love that it doesn't leave skin sticky, so I can dab on my cushion compact right after without my skin feeling and looking like I just flew for 14 hours. I do one sheet mask each night for five consecutive nights after a long-haul flight. My favorite sheet masks for the days after the flight are Ariul’s Avocado Seven Days Mask, which is filled with nourishing ingredients and hydrating and soothing, and Aromatica’s Calendula Soothing Relief Mask, which soothes skin, as I find it to be a little irritated post-flight. I might do the Calendula Mask on day one, the Avocado Mask on days two through four, and the Calendula Mask again on day five.

Dr. Dream Rose Line Mild Natured Powder Cleanser: This cleanser is spill-proof, TSA-friendly, and SLS-free, which makes for a gentle wash during travel days, when skin can be a bit more sensitized due to dryness.

May Coop Mini Raw Sauce: This is a toner + essence + emulsion in-one, and travel-sized to boot. Great for packing light as this will tone, hydrate, and soften skin. Can be applied right after cleansing and before serums.

Mizon All-in-One Snail Repair Cream Tube: This essence is hydrating, helps with firming and combating wrinkles, and helps regenerate skin.

Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Mask Tube: Overnight sleeping masks feel very much like creams, but are intended to be used while you're sleeping. There's no need to wash them off and they deliver beneficial ingredients into the skin, and also include occlusives to seal everything in. This one hydrates skin and also helps boost radiance, so that after some shut-eye on the flight, you wake up with glowing skin. I also like to use sleeping masks the few days following a long-haul flight after sheet-masking, to give skin some extra TLC.

Morihata Binchotan Charcoal Eye Mask: Unlike a typical eye mask, this one is infused with micro-fine charcoal powder in the organic cotton that goes over the eyes (the front is a pretty silver silk), which helps relieve tension, promotes circulation and keeps flight-induced headaches (for me, due to the dryness) at bay. I first tried this on a flight to test it, and now it lives permanently in my travel bag.

SoKo Glam
WeWork Corp.
| Credit: SoKo Glam

Charlotte Cho:

“I usually go [to Korea] 3 times a year, but in 2015 I managed a total of 5 trips. When I’m there I’m checking out the latest and greatest in K-beauty. I make it a point to see Korea with a fresh eye and new perspective each time I go. I lived here for quite a while and many places are now familiar to me, but I really appreciate that it's a place that's ever changing. Old concepts get new life and big ideas begin here. Now I'm inspired to explore how people exercise creativity—the design of the interior and exterior of restaurants, the way they package pastries, and even the rogue street graffiti. I feel like it's a breath of fresh air. They've got such a unique take on traditional beauty items and concept shops that each time I return I come away with so many new ideas and products for Soko Glam. I also like to visit the HQ offices of some of our partners and potential new brands to introduce to the site.”

Charlotte’s picks:

RE:P Organic Cotton Treatment Toning Pads: When I was in Korea earlier this year, I immediately added them to my “lazy girl routine," because they help me quickly tone and exfoliate in one go. I don’t often see travel-friendly toners, and because I spend 1/4 of the year in Korea researching the latest beauty innovations and trends, I felt an immediate connection to these travel saviors.

Skinfood Eggplant Eye Make-up Remover: These are essentially a cotton swab with makeup remover housed inside; it’s one of those products you never want to be without because of its insanely handy and portable delivery system. These ingenious little cotton swabs (or magic Q-tips as I call them) are self-contained “oops” erasers. You know when you're having an off day and you just can't get that other eyeliner to wing out properly, or you've gone overboard on that bottom liner and don't have time to start all over? This is where your new best friend comes in!

Skinfood Avocado Rich Essential Oil: This oil is a great way to keep my skin hydrated during long flights to Korea. It’s wonderfully light yet hydrating which you can use as a stand-alone moisturizer, or use it on top of another one to seal in the moisture. It’s also great for relieving tight, dry skin and cuticles. Tap around the eyes to reduce fine lines. Consistency is so light, doesn't leave you feeling greasy or shiny and I'm ready to get off the plane and to my meetings with healthy, refreshed skin.

Adeline Duff is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @adelineduff.