Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2020. We’re republishing it because it is now enabled with on-site shopping, so you can buy Rio’s favorite KNC Beauty products for soothing summer-damaged skin (or forthcoming dry winter lips) without leaving this page. Read more about our on-site-shopping tool here.
On a recent episode of Naked Beauty (one of my favorite podcasts, hosted by Brooke DeVard), KNC’s founder Kristen Noel Crawley said that her “aha moment” happened at Tokyo’s mega-discount store Don Quijote. She saw entire aisles stacked with beautifully packaged, conditioning lip masks and exfoliating scrubs, realized this was a gap in the U.S. market, and decided to create lip products made with the same thoughtfulness and care that more traditional skin-care (like for the face or body) has always been. Since its launch, the brand’s adorable-yet-effective products — which have grown to include eye masks, sheet masks, and lip balms — have seemingly just clicked with people, from celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Emma Stone (who have been known to take selfies in its lip mask before red carpets) to skin-care obsessives like me, my sister, and Strategist contributor Elisa Johnson, who simply rely on them for everyday pick-me-ups.
I first discovered KNC Beauty — an adorably packaged, cruelty-free, Black-owned beauty line — a few years back, when I stumbled across their lip masks on Net-a-Porter. At the time, I was Christmas shopping for my family, and instantly knew that the brand’s Kiss My Lips masks — giant, lip-shaped jelly sheets drenched in a hydrating essence — would be the perfect stocking stuffers for my sister, who’s always complaining about her dry, cracked lips. The masks seemed similar to a cult-favorite treatment by K-beauty brand Etude House that I had tried before, but according to online reviews I read at the time, KNC’s masks are superior for a few reasons: Not only did they do a better job of actually hydrating your lips, but they are also free of synthetic fragrances, artificial dyes, and sulfates, making them a better option if you have ultrasensitive or breakout-prone skin (like my sister), according to those reviewers. Shortly after I gave them to her, I received a series of texts: “The packaging is obviously so cute but they also have really saved me this winter. I haven’t used my lip balm in days! I’m buying more.” Convinced by her review, I purchased a ten-pack for myself and, simply put, I’ve been obsessed with KNC Beauty ever since.
Lately, I’ve been spending even more time with KNC’s products, buying, rebuying, and trying new ones as I grapple with the effects that going from air-conditioned spaces to the ultradry California heat outside (and back) can wreak on my skin and lips, which can get dead-of-winter-level dehydrated and flaky because of it. Below are the products I’ve bought (and bought again) from the brand, as well as one I can’t wait to try after hitting “add to cart” this morning.
These are the masks my sister and I first fell head over heels for. Each one is soaked in glycerin, collagen, prunus cerasus (a.k.a. sour cherry) extract, hyaluronic acid, rose flower oil, and vitamin E–infused essence formula — all of which help condition, hydrate, and smooth the lips. They’re an excellent treatment when lips are feeling extra tight, cracked, or dry, but they’re also an incredible way to prep the skin for a matte lipstick. You simply apply a mask to dry lips, let it sit for 15–20 minutes, then remove and gently tap the lingering essence into the skin.
While the lip masks are better used at home, this is a purse staple that I’ve been relying on for lip care on the go. The KNC rose balm has officially taken the place of my Glossier Rose Balm DotCom (in my opinion, it’s more healing and replenishing). Rosy-tasting and luxurious-feeling, it’s infused with fatty-acid-rich moringa, cotton, kukui oils, and shea butters to provide a long-lasting treatment that conditions, nourishes, and can help tackle even the most stubborn chapped lips.
These emoji-shaped, retinol-infused eye masks contain a blend of hyaluronic acid, gold, collagen, licorice-root extract, aloe, vitamin A, and rosemary extract, which all work together to deeply nourish, moisturize, illuminate, and depuff under-eye areas. I love to use them after long nights or super-early mornings, as the eye masks provide a wonderful cooling, tingling sensation that lifts and wakes up tired under eyes. And, like the lip masks are an ideal prep for lipstick, these are a perfect prep for concealer.
If you’re an avid lipstick wearer or if, like me, flaky lips are a semi-constant issue, having an easy-to-reach-for lip scrub can be incredibly helpful for a quick-and-easy exfoliation. This set comes with a sugar-based scrub and a silicone exfoliating pad for a dual, insanely effective (yet gentle) treatment that always leaves my lips supersoft. I like to follow it with a balm to deliver some nourishment to my freshly exfoliated lips.
These “Big Set” sheet masks are the newest launch from KNC, and what I’m looking forward to covering my face in as soon as my recent order arrives. The mask trio was created to help treat all skin concerns, according to the brand. Included are Big Drip, a sheet mask soaked in a cocktail of hydrating and reparative ingredients such as omega-rich Irish moss, antioxidant-rich marula oil, and calming rosa centifolia); Big Glo, a nourishing, radiance-boosting mask that uses vitamin C–rich pomegranate and healing white lily; and Big Chill, a restorative and soothing mask that uses calming aloe vera and anti-inflammatory centella. Big Drip seems ideal for days when I’m feeling dry and tight from all that sitting in front of the AC, Big Glo for when I’ve picked at my skin (don’t!) or stayed up past my bedtime, and Big Chill for when I’m looking red and blotchy after a day of walking around in the heat in a face mask.
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