“It’s the combination of technology, performance and ‘Kawaii’ that makes Korean beauty so special,” says Millie Kendall. Kendall is a woman who knows a thing or two about Asian beauty, having introduced Shu Uemura to the U.K. and American markets during the 1990s – and, in fact, it was during her time working for Shu Uemura that she found inspiration for the formulations and packaging for Ruby & Millie, the cosmetic brand created in partnership with Ruby Hammer that we all applied with such unadulterated teenage delight back in the early 00s.
Returning to the present day, Kendall has teamed up once more with award winning journalist and all round beauty guru Anna-Marie Solowij to co-found BeautyMART, an online store where the duo stocks an edit of their most revered ‘holy grail’ products. The concept of BeautyMART falls in line with the way in which we now shop for our make-up and skincare: no longer do we haul an entire vanity cabinet’s worth of items from the Clarins counter. The contemporary customer is far more likely to pick and mix, dipping fingers in pots from an assortment of different brands: some classic, some cult.
One of the store’s particular specialties is global beauty, with sections extending from ‘American Drugstore’ to ‘Tokyo Pitstop’. Their Korean Beauty section contains a range of products that the pair stumble across on their travels: Anna visits K-Town whenever she’s in L.A. and once purchased pan scourers in the shape of fruit, thinking they were some form of curious konjac sponge; Millie recounts Mango Sunblock being one of the weirdest lotions she’s sourced thus far, not to mention the Real Lasting Tears Tank eyeliner, designed to provide the ‘just wept for five hours solid’ look (perhaps this is where the translation into western markets becomes lost, she notes).
Considering such niche eccentricities, it’s a wonder why the desire for Korean beauty has exploded in such a way on this side of the world. “It’s so foreign to us but pushes all the desire buttons for cute and clever products,” Kendall and Solowij suggest, before talking us through their edit of the ten best items they’ve found thus far...
“This mask performs as a truly restorative hair treatment for severely parched hair, as it contains macadamia oil and shea butter. Plus, the packaging is just so whimsical and typical of K-Beauty, where’s there’s a real trend for food-inspired products.”
“This is one of our best sellers. Anything Pokémon does really well. Pikachu sells out very quickly – he’s a moisturising mask. Bulbasaur contains green tea to clear the pores and Charmander is brightening with grapefruit extract.”
“Yes, believe it or not, this is really called Pig Nose. Don’t worry, it doesn’t actually provide that effect, but works as a three-step system designed to clear out the pores with kaolin clay, sage, peppermint and mistletoe.”
“We adore this product, but you have to be very careful with using it because it actually tints the skin itself. You apply it in a thick layer, but it’s designed with a very fine wand to pick up even the tiniest of hairs for real definition.”
“Continuing along the lines of the food trend, eggs are really big in K-Beauty. The surface of an eggshell is the way all Koreans want their skin to look – entirely smooth and poreless. In comes this Egg Pore balm which airbrushes out the skin completely.”
“This is one of our favourite products. It also comes in round patches for the cheeks – so you can use it on the lips and cheeks and certain areas of the face. Painfully cute.”
“This is a mini booklet of highlighter and blusher-infused papers, for a chic, make-up quick-fix. Perfect if you’ve had enough of hauling your entire make-up collection around and want to touch up on the go.”
“An Instagrammer’s favourite, these patches contain aloe juice, cucumber and – yes, unsurprisingly – bamboo extract!”
“As you may know, the cushion trend is also extremely prevalent in Korea. Everything you can possibly think of comes in a cushion formula. This blusher is the perfect example, providing an easy application and natural finish.”
“This 30-minute mask will brighten even the most lack-lustre complexions, with the antioxidant effects of red wine, lemon balm, rosemary and thyme. Perhaps this mask takes ‘hair of the dog’ to a whole new level.”