Best Korean Moisturizer Drugstore Dupes Spring 2023

Why should you be using a Korean Moisturizer?

Because Korea loves skincare. And it's good at it too. If snail mucin isn't your thing (yes, it's a thing), we've got some great drugstore dupes for you to try too. 

Disclosure: empyri is a participant in affiliate services which provide a means for us to earn a small commission through links to Amazon and other sites at no additional cost to you. 

Empyri's Top Korean Moisturizers 

Top Overall

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

1.7 oz for $9.00
Top Budget


e.l.f. Holy Hydration Face Cream with Hyaluronic Acid + peptides

1.8 oz for $13.00
Top Lux

Paula's Choice Replenishing Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid + Peptides

2 oz for $33.00


The hub of Korean skincare, called "K-beauty", is Seoul, South Korea. It's the birthplace of major beauty trends like like glass skin and innovations like sheet masks.

K-beauty is best known for layering. Routines are designed with  10 to 17 steps. No skinimalism here. We could devote an entire article to layering. Things like its history, philosophy and how to do it yourself at home. But today, let’s focus on one step. 


You’ll hear me say this a few times: hydrated skin is healthy skin. 

I know it, you know it and K-beauty knows it. 

There are thousands of Korean skincare products out there. And lots of best sellers! It can be difficult to know where to start.

That's why we’ve rounded up the 10 Best Korean Moisturizers you need to try. And we’ll answer some share-worthy skin care questions along the way. 

Are you ready? 

The 9 Best Korean Moisturizers You Need to Try in 2023

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA


The best part of this cream from The Ordinary is that it protects against surface moisture loss - which can be a key culprit of dry skin, even for normal to combination skin types. The formula is lightweight, hydrating and applies super smoothly, creating the perfect base for sunscreen and makeup application. 



#2e.l.f. Holy Hydration Face Cream with Hyaluronic Acid + peptides


This is a great everyday face cream, lightweight and non-greasy for daytime use. It smooths skin under makeup and provides a good boost of hydration with hyaluronic acid and peptides. Bonus: like all e.l.f. products, it's vegan and cruelty-free!


This budget-friendly e.l.f. moisturizer comes at a cost. It is not a clean formula by most standards and contains stearic acid which is a potential allergen for some skin types. Given the price and performance, it is definitely still worth a try - just be sure to patch test before applying to your entire face. 

#3Paula's Choice Replenishing Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid + Peptides


 This daily moisturizer from Paula's Choice is the perfect Korean moisturizer dupe for sensitive skin types. The formula is gentle, soothing redness and helping to repair the skin barrier for healthier function. Plus it's fortified with hyaluronic acid, the hydration powerhouse, to plump fine lines. 


 At $33, it's not the most affordable option available. But it's worth the splurge, trust us! 

#4 Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Cream with Green Tea Seed


We couldn’t resist kicking off the list with a product from innisfree - a beloved K-beauty brand that has really made a name for itself in North America. The star of the show here is Jeju green tea seed - both an oil and an extract. The combination ensures that skin is both hydrated and protected. It’s light enough for daily use, but intense enough to heal dry skin. 


This product does contain fragrance/parfum. For some, this is a red flag because we know fragrance formulations do not have to be disclosed and can contain many harsh chemicals. For others, the scent may just be too strong. It’s lovely, but definitely lingers. If you’re at all sensitive to scent, this is not the Korean moisturizer for you.


#5 Dr. Jart Ceramidin Cream


This moisturizing cream belongs to the Ceramidin™ Collection by Dr. Jart+ - another popular K-beauty brand. It uses a 5-Cera Complex, which is a group of 5 ceramides. Ceramides are lipids (fats) that occur naturally in our skin, mostly on the outer layers. Their job is to keep the skin barrier strong and protect from external threats. 

So, this Ceramidin™ cream is moisturizing and it’s a powerhouse protector. It prevents transdermal moisture loss - meaning water trying to escape your skin - and protects from environmental stressors trying to come in.


This cream is very thick. While that’s what helps it form such a protective layer on your skin, it can feel a bit heavy. It probably won’t be your go-to daily moisturizer for layering under SPF and makeup. 

# 6 Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream


Another protector, this soothing cream forms a rich barrier on the skin to lock in nutrients and moisture. The noteworthy ingredient here is beta glucan, derived from yeast! It’s a soothing agent, beneficial for calming redness and drawing moisture to the skin. 


Like the name states, this cream rich - a little too rich - for acne-prone skin. It can clog pores and lead to breakouts if you’re sensitive to that type of thing. But don’t worry if you’ve got it sitting on your shelf. Use it up on your legs, especially as an aftershave! Legs are usually less sensitive and this cream would be perfect to lock in moisture after shaving.


#7 belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb


Belif it or not, The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb is clinically proven to retain moisture for up to 26 hours. It’s formulated with oat extract to soothe skin. The hydration comes mostly from comfrey leaf extract (this was a new ingredient to me!). Comfrey leaf is an herb with traditions of being used to heal dry, calloused hands. 


It’s time for a truth bomb. This isn’t a clean beauty product by most standards. And it definitely doesn't fall into the category of organic skin care. Sephora doesn’t give it its stamp of clean approval, and neither do we. One main concern is ingredients that are higher than a 2 on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep ranking. PEG-40 STEARATE for example, has concerns about toxicity and contamination. 


# 8 I DEW CARE Say You Dew Moisturizing Vitamin C Cream


A lightweight, gel/cream formula spreads nicely for even coverage and good moisturizing. It features lemon extract and vitamin C, both good antioxidants. That makes it a great AM moisturizer - antioxidants under your SPF is always a good idea. Say You Dew also has niacinamide, which we’re big fans of for it’s skin barrier strengthening abilities. 

Finally, this formulation does include glycerine, a go-to occlusive to lock in moisture and protect. So it’s checking all the boxes… they really dew care. 


If you have dry skin, or harsh climate conditions (winter in Canada anyone?) this is not the moisturizer for you. It’s just not rich enough. But if your skin is generally quite balanced, the added brightening of this cream is a great bonus for dull skin!


#9 Purito Deep Sea Water Cream


This mild, lightweight “water cream” gets its name from the main ingredient. It’s formulated with 60% deep sea water to restore moisture in dehydrated skin. Hyaluronic acid holds the water in, while niacinamide strengthens the skin barrier to prevent future water loss. The philosophy behind this product is get water in and keep it there! 


This cream can feel greasy if worn in warm, humid climates. Because it is water-based, it might not be hydrating enough for folks with really dry skin.


3 reasons for moisturizing your skin


Confession. There are about 100 reasons why you should be moisturizing your skin. But today, I’m going to share 3 big ones in hopes that you’ll remember them. 


#1 To keep skin youthful 


As we age, our skin produces less oil. We need oil to keep skin looking and feeling soft, smooth and plump. When our skin is dry or dehydrated, fine lines and wrinkles become more visible. On our arms, legs, neck and chest it can also lead to crepey skin.


#2 To prevent acne 


We don't think of moisturizers as acne treatment products, but here's the truth. Our skin produces oil naturally, but when our skin is too dry, that oil production goes into overdrive. Extra oiliness can cause acne breakouts! So while it may seem counterintuitive, moisturizing your skin helps to keep things in balance. Choosing the right moisturizer is an important part of the finding best acne treatment. If you naturally have very oily skin, you’ll want to be selective our your moisturizing products, so I’ve given some recommendations on that below. 


#3 To protect from environmental stressors


We moisturize to hydrate, but also to protect. Moisturizers help to strengthen the skin’s outer layer, called the stratum corneum. This plays an important role in preventing damages from our environment, including pollution and UV. 


How to incorporate Korean skin care into your routine


My favourite way to incorporate Korean skin care into my routine is through its philosophy. This might not be the answer you’re expecting, but it’s worth exploring. 


Korea’s 10 (or even 17!) step skin care routine is not about self-indulgence. It’s rooted in a tradition of respect for oneself and one’s body. It encourages slowing down, serving the skin what it needs so that it can thrive. 


No quick fixes here. 


Korean skincare is about understanding how the skin works naturally so that we can support its healthy functioning over the long-term. 


Traditionally, female family members would come together for long rituals of bathing. And today, women gather under the gentle authority of ajumma’s for hours of communal “self” care. 


There’s a lot to be untangled here - like the notion that beauty should be hard work - but at the core is something we can all take into our home routines. 


Just take a little more time for yourself. 


How to Use Korean Moisturizers for Oily Skin


If you have oily skin, there’s no need to fear moisturizers. In fact, Koreans treat acne a little differently than we do here in North America. Moisturizing is key to the solution. 


Moisturizing oily skin helps to promote balance. When we let our skin dry out, it overcompensates and produces more oil to try and protect itself. So the first step is don’t skip on your daily moisturizing cream. 


My final thoughts on which Korean moisturizer is best for all skin types


The truth is, your skin is as unique as you are. There isn’t ever going to be a one-size-fits-all solution for hydrated, healthy skin. 


Some trial and error will be necessary to find the right one(s) for you. Remember, just like you don’t need to limit yourself to one cookie, you don’t need to limit yourself to one moisturizer either. 


K-beauty is the global hub of skincare innovation. And many brands have the science to back up their formulations too. So grab a few, try them out and happy hydrating! 


You Are Loved. 




Jennifer Grant with Hemp Roots


Author Bio: Jennifer is the president and founder of empyri.  Jennifer’s passion for formulation and product development was set ablaze in 2019, when she incorporated the healing power of cannabis roots into her long-standing three-step skin care system. Armed with scientific evidence on the actives in cannabis roots and seeds, a clean and conscious brand was born. Using her masters degree in bio-chemical engineering, Jennifer is forging a path to ...READ FULL BIO