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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Soko Glam

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Anyone who has shopped at an online retailer with no physical storefronts knows how hard it can be to figure out where to begin. There are dozens upon dozens of options that all seem as worthy as the next, but the reality is that products from any given brand are not all created equal. When you shop as regularly as we do, you learn that many brands just do some things better than others. Soko Glam — known for their K-Beauty skin-care and makeup, hair, and body essentials — is one of those brands. So to help you narrow down which cleansers, exfoliators, moisturizers, acne spot treatments and more are most worth your money, we culled through our archives to put together a list of the most praised products from Soko Glam that we’ve written about, from the cleansing balm beloved by bloggers and vloggers, to the rose petal toner the Dewy Dudes swear by, to the perfect hair oil Soko Glam co-founder Charlotte Cho uses herself. Note: We’ve structured this story in order of the most to least-recommended product categories, but if you want to jump ahead to a specific section, you can use any of the links below.

Cleansers | Moisturizers | Masks | Toners | Essences | Serums | Acne and spot treatments | Eye cream | Exfoliators | Sunscreen | Hair oil

Cleansers

We’ve heard about more of Soko Glam’s cleansers than any other product type. Our longtime beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton loves this cleansing balm from fragrance-, sulfate-, and paraben-free brand Beauty of Joseon, and relies on it to “easily remove any sweat, dirt, and debris.” Including it as one of the best beauty products under $30 to perk up dull skin, she explained that the fermented grains and chrysanthemum extract nourish without stripping (making this a great alternative to makeup wipes or micellar water).

[Editor’s note: While this product is typically available at Soko Glam, it’s currently sold out, so we’ve included another retailer that has it in stock.]

Vlogger Michelle Choi, the Cut’s Kathleen Hou, and Rio again all recommend this slightly less-expensive, cult-favorite balm as one of the best K-beauty cleansers. It does a “great job of melting down all the oil and dirt stuck in the pores and keeps them clean,” Choi says.

This balm is the first step of Rio’s evening beauty routine whenever she’s battling breakouts because of its anti-inflammatory grape-seed oil and vitamin E ingredients. It also quickly melts away any makeup and dirt that’s accumulated on your skin throughout the day.

For those who prefer a gel cleanser, dermatologists and facialists say this affordable cleanser from cult brand Cosrx should be part of any skin-care routine for oily skin, because it deep cleans without stripping. As facialist and acne certified specialist Sofie Pavitt explains, the cleanser “has BHA [beta hydroxy acid], an active ingredient that really cleans inside the pores” but is still gentle on the skin. Rio is also a fan, and says it “ensures nice, soft skin but also preps for whatever toner or essence you’re putting on next.”

This cleansing foam is made with over 30 natural plant and pearl extracts, the latter of which Rio says are “great for brightening.” (It’s why she included this as one of the best skin-care products for the colder months.)

Making an appearance in Rio’s first Google doc as the travel cleanser she buys “over and over again,” this cleansing stick is also one of her best gym bag beauty products. That’s all because it’s portable, TSA-approved, and easy to use: Simply roll up the stick, wet your face, lather it on, then wash it off.

When we asked bloggers and vloggers about the best K-beauty products, Dot Dot Skin founder Elisa Lee suggested the Troiareuke Oil Cut cleanser, because it’s “an oil-free all-in-one cleanser.” She adds, “I don’t need to double cleanse when using this; it removes all my waterproof makeup and dirt in one go, while leaving my skin hydrated.”

Viera-Newton recommends these cleansing pads as a travel-friendly option since they do double duty as a makeup remover and cleanser. Despite being oil-based, the pads didn’t cause any breakouts the week she used them and left her skin “smooth and supple.” She says they “smell fresh and coconutty but not in an artificial way like some tanning oils.”

Moisturizers

Soko Glam also stocks a lot of great moisturizers. We previously named this steam cream (the ‘steam’ part refers to the production process) of the six best facial moisturizers for dry, acne-prone skin because of its all-star ingredients — snail mucin, bee venom, and niacinamide — that hydrate as well as reducing blemishes. It’s a “holy grail for me,” Rio says.

This tinted moisturizing cream is made with centella asiatica, which helps calm the skin and build collagen. It happens to be writer Garrett Munce’s “favorite tinted moisturizer … lightweight while still providing great coverage.” The cream also has SPF25, and comes in three shades to match different skin tones.

[Editor’s note: While this product is typically available at Soko Glam, it’s currently sold out, so we’ve included another retailer that has it in stock.]

If you’re feeling stressed or irritated, there’s a good chance your skin is feeling the same way. Rio suggests this calming cream as one of the best products for extracting a blemish, since it’s made with guaiazulene and centella, two ingredients that help reduce irritation. (She also found it to be a reliable dupe for Tatcha’s popular but much more expensive Recovery Cream.)

Lastly, if you’re searching for a gel-like moisturizer, Cho recommends this gel cream. We previously wrote that it “contains three peptides that help improve texture and stimulate collagen production, and ceramides that protect the skin’s natural barrier.”

Masks

Soko Glam also stocks plenty of top-tier masks. Rio says this one (which also appeared in our guide to the best vegan K-beauty products) is similar to her “beloved Mediheal tea tree mask, but even more hydrating, and even better at taming inflamed pimples.”

Strategist readers (and Rio) can’t seem to get enough of this sweetly-packaged Benton mask. Infused with snail secretion and bee venom, Rio says it “works great on my skin because it helps hydrate and treats spots, too.” Along with the mask above, she feels it’s one of the few sheet masks that actually work to calm skin and fight acne at the same time.

Another viral product on Rio’s skin-care Google doc is this overnight mask. It’s highly nourishing, she writes, “thanks to two important ingredients: chamomile and, strangely, birch-tree sap.”

We know Omega-3 fatty acids are good to eat, but they’re also great for our skin. The Enature Skin Pot Sleeping Pack is made with hemp seed oil (an omega-3 fatty acid) that helps builds up the skin’s protective barrier. Cho previously told us it’s suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone and sensitive skin.

Cho also told Rio about her love for this lip mask, calling it a “more neutral, clean-smelling lip product” than the ones she’s tried before. Made from almond, avocado and apricot oils to help lips stay smooth, Cho says that as soon as she skips this step, her lips become flaky.

Lastly, this mask saved Rio when she discovered it during a skin breakout while traveling in Japan. It’s also an essential for author R.O. Kwon, who calls it “magical,” saying it “calms down my skin when nothing else will help.”

Toners

While we have a section on Soko Glam’s Essences coming up, readers who love a 2-in-1 should know that this essence-toner combo is one of Rio’s “all-time favorites to use on bare skin as a kind of toner-slash-essence step right before I apply sunscreen.” She adds that it’s also “great for a quick, on-the-go spritz of hydration,” especially in the summer and fall. (For what it’s worth, Soko Glam co-owner Charlotte Cho told us it’s one of her favorites, too.)

Benton’s Aloe BHA Skin Toner is made with three active acne-fighting ingredients: aloe water, snail secretion and salicylic acid. Beauty blogger Mizu Chan of Marvelika Life loves how gentle it is on her skin. “The toner is really hydrating,” she says. “And it doesn’t make my face sting, like a lot of other popular toners.”

While as Chan notes above, many toners can be harsh on your skin, Rio says the Etude Relief Toner is another that won’t be. Made with almost entirely-naturally derived ingredients, she’s “comfortable using it even on days when my skin is inflamed and eczema-ridden.” It’s designed for every skin type, but especially those with very sensitive skin.

Finally, this is the preferred cleansing water of Evan Shinn, one half of the Dewy Dudes. He loves how quick it is at “extracting any remaining impurities, whisking away excess oil and sebum while balancing my skin’s pH levels.” It’s also designed for sensitive skin, with active ingredients like fruit extracts and real calendula petals (the same ones you can see at the bottom of the bottle).

[Editor’s note: While this product is typically stocked by Soko Glam, it’s currently unavailable, so we’ve included another retailer that currently has it.]

Essences

One of senior editor Crystal Martin’s favorite Korean beauty essences, Missha’s Time Revolution Essence dramatically improves skin texture while decreasing pigmentation. Rio also found that it works “to heal any wounds or old blemishes,” and it’s a favorite, too, of blogger Morgan Stewart, because “it contains fermented ingredients that help smooth and brighten the skin tone, as well as hydrate the skin.”

This snail essence appeared in Rio’s very first Google doc and has become a perennial favorite of other members on staff. It’s an excellent dupe for SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence and a nice addition to your routine if you want a hydrator that’s a little thicker and goopier in winter.

Cho used to use the Missha essence above, but ultimately made the switch to this one because, for her mature skin, she needed something “thicker in consistency than the Missha treatment.” She found this Neogen essence to be even “more hydrating.” Made with birch juice and rice extracts, this essence is also a favorite of beauty guru Michelle Phan.

Last year, Rio’s Instagram followers filled her in on the very best beauty and skin-care dupes out there. Student Hayden Howard revealed that this essence was “actually as good as SK-II” (The cult brand whose famous essence costs $185 or more). “It’s equally as moisturizing, brightening, and replenishing on the skin,” they wrote. “Admittedly, this is expensive. But it’s a quarter of the price.”

Serums

Viera-Newton says this CosRX vitamin C is “an incredible dupe for beloved Drunk Elephant vitamin C serum.” It actually contains a higher percentage of vitamin C than the serum from DE — a “whopping 20.5 percent.” And she says it “just really, really works. After a couple weeks of consistent use, you will notice fading of dark spots and an overall brightness in your complexion.”

Also featured in Rio’s skin-care Google doc, this ‘Time Stop’ collagen serum is highly concentrated with mushroom extract to combat fine lines and wrinkles.

Acne and spot treatments

You’ll probably recognize these pimple patches from a Strategist story (or two, or three). We’ve named them best products to combat active breakouts because each patch contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and oligopeptide-76 — all ingredients known to decrease acne. As an added bonus, the patches come with wipes pre-soaked in salicylic acid and tea tree leaf oil, so you can clean your skin before applying.

Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch
$4 for 24
$4 for 24

Another Strategist staff and Rio favorite, these Cosrx pimple patches are among the best pimple patches we’ve tried. They’re so good at sucking gunk from your skin that Rio deemed them a purse essential. They work best on whiteheads you don’t want to extract on your own or on open zits that still have some stuff left under the skin.

Rio started using these tea tree peeling sticks after multiple recommendations from friends. She loves the cotton swab shape, and the fact it’s formulated with lactic and glycolic acids and extracts. (The acids are known to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells, while the extracts reduce sebum and restore your skin’s barrier.) It’s what qualified these sticks for inclusion as one of Rio’s best products to combat active breakouts.

Eye cream

Free of irritating ingredients like parabens, artificial fragrances and mineral oil, this eye cream made Rio’s most recent Google doc. She says it’s “majorly firming, moisturizing, and plumping” because it’s made up of 80 percent collagen, which is known to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

If you’re more worried about dark circles than wrinkles, the above cream might not help. Rio writes, “The truth of the matter is, there isn’t a ton you can do topically to brighten up your dark circles. However, a good surge of hydration will at least take the edge off and perfectly prep the under eyes for a little color-correcting concealer.” This Acwell cream does just that with its “blend of licorice root water (to soothe and heal) Bifida Ferment extract (to nourish) and Caffeine (to depuff).”

Exfoliators

Known for its lemony citrus smell, this Rio-approved product also features in the Google doc. “It’s a light but effective exfoliant that smells great and gives great smoothing and brightening results,” she writes. Each container consists of 30 single-use pads, although we’ve read that the exfoliating pads are big enough to cut in half, getting you more for your money.

For a bit more exfoliation, Rio recommends this BHA specifically for “anyone struggling with inflammatory or acne issues.” That’s because it “uses betaine salicylate, an exfoliant that penetrates deeper into the skin to break down sebum, as well as White Willow Bark, which can help decrease redness and inflammation.”

Sunscreen

When Evan from the Dewy Dudes wants a “sunscreen [that] checks all the boxes on what a grown-up sunblock should be”, he reaches for this Neogen Day-Light Protection Sunscreen with SPF 50 and PA+++. (PA stands for Protective Grade UVA system — it’s Japan’s version of what we call Broad Spectrum here in the United States, and the +++ part means it’s highly protective.) Because it’s sheer and easily blendable, it also works perfectly under makeup.

Hair oil

Before we go, Soko Glam only has one page of haircare products right now — but Cho says this is the pick of the bunch. “It’s super thin and light-weight, and makes my hair look super shiny and healthy.”

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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Soko Glam