korean hair products
Photography by Peter Stigter

6 Reasons Korean Hair Products Are the Next Beauty Phenomenon

Korean beauty may still be the underdog in terms of the beauty products you see in Instagram shots, but for those converts who swear by their essences and BB creams and can be seen regularly spooking the halls in sheet masks, it’s not just a passing beauty trend. K-beauty is legit and here to stay.

For the most part, it mostly reigns in the skincare department due to its innovative products and practices. But as far as Korean hair care goes, it’s largely unexplored territory in the Western hem. The apple doesn’t fall entirely too far from that tree so you’ll find that lots of Korean hair treatments and trends are directly related to some of their more popular skincare trends.

korean hair products

Sheet masks for your hair

Yes, your hair can benefit from sheet masks too. The same way that ones for your face are meant to impart hydration-packed serums into your skin, this bonnet full of nourishing and conditioning ingredients uses the heat from your head to help absorb into the hair’s cuticle—kind of like a hot oil treatment, but way less granny. After shampooing, you’re supposed to squeeze excess water from your hair and then wrap the sheet mask around your hair and chill out for a while as it does its thing. Since it’ll take longer than the usual 3-minute hair mask, maybe save this one for a bath day.

Kocostar Hair Therapy ($7, sokoglam.com)

korean hair products

Your hair needs essence too

If you’re familiar with ampoules, they pretty much take after the idea of those week-long pill cases, but with skin care treatments… and now hair treatments. Coming in a set of four vials, Missha’s Dong Baek Gold Premium Hair Essential Ampoule set is for extreme damage control dosing. Apply one vial a day on clean hair (damp or dry) working it into the ends, where most damage tends to me. The tiny potion full of camellia oil, wheat germ oils, avocado, almond, evening primrose, and sunflower seed oil all serve to resurrect your damaged strands from whatever the hell it was that wrecked them in the first place. Each vial is a super concentrated formula—using it in a four-day stint not only serves to nourish your hair, it repairs it consistently enough to make it even more resistant to damage than it was before. It’s hair care on steroids, basically.

Missha Dong Baek Gold Premium Hair Essential Ampule ($13, rubyrubyshopk.com)

korean hair products

Beauty sleep also extends to your hair

We’re just coming around to sleeping masks for our faces, and probably have done many a DIY overnight hair treatment, only to wake up with stained pillowcases (and faces). This sleeping mask for your hair in the hilarious likeness of a condiment bottle takes that notion and makes it virtually grossness-free. Tony Moly’s Haeyo Mayo Hair Nutrition Pack uses yolk extracts (hence the mayo, duh) as well as Shea butter and macadamia seed oil to give you princess hair upon waking up. The best part is that you apply it to your dry hair and it absorbs not unlike a styling cream for you to sleep on, sans shower-cap. No goopy residue to speak of.

Tony Moly Haeyo Mayo Hair Nutrition Pack ($18, urbanoutfitters.com)

korean hair products

Cute packaging knows no bound

We know we aren’t supposed to shampoo our hair every day, but that might be difficult if the packaging on our shampoo is this cool. The neat thing about K-beauty products is that even when the packaging looks as ridiculous as this, the formulas inside them are generally high performance. Rather than sell it on looks alone, Korean brands try to make their products stand out with looks to attract you to buy it since it’s such a competitive market. But then it needs to deliver what it promises because a one-time buy won’t keep them in business long-term.

Economics lesson aside, this shampoo works by stimulating blood circulation as you massage it into your scalp with its peppermint extracts making you feel all tingly. More blood circulating oxygen to your hair follicles mean healthier hair and suddenly your grenade is empty and your hair fabulous. BAM.

Tony Moly Field Manual Fast Shampoo ($10, en.koreadepart.com)

korean hair products

Even the hair styling tools are gentle and cute

If you’re a total spaz with hair styling tools, or just don’t want to abuse your hair any further with heat, you can still style your hair… and have plenty of Instagram selfie-ops to boot. These strawberry sponge rollers from Etude House may look like a pet’s toy, but they’re actually a genius way to give you soft natural-looking waves and soft curls sans heat. You just wrap your damp hair around its core and roll it towards the root. Let it dangle there like a bunch of strawberry fishing bobs while your hair dries (you can speed it up with a diffuser if you like), unfurl, and you’ve got perfectly coiffed curls.

Étude House Strawberry Sponge Rollers ($6, sokoglam.com)

korean hair products

It’s the little things

Sometimes it’s nice to have one of those single-use products that are otherwise useless, but perform their one job with aplomb—which is to help you avoid the slightest inconvenience. Washing your face is a pain if you have bangs because they’re constantly getting wet and in the way. Obviously you could just use a headband but then that could leave awkward dent in your hair. Enter these little “hair pads” from Lioele. It’s a little bow-shaped Velcro thingy that holds your bangs out of your face, like a little helping hand. And when you’re done with face cleansing, sheet masking, or just being sweaty, you can gently pluck the hair pad off and no weird marks!

Lioele Pink Hair Pad ($5, sokoglam.com)