(Updated) Are Korean Cosmetics Free from Harsh Chemicals?

Hello everyone,

I have been doing so many reviews lately that I wanted to write about something else; Are Korean brands free from harsh chemicals. There are tons of brands out there and this post would be extremely long if I would talk about all of them, so I will be talking about the most popular ones.
First of all, if you are not familiar with K-brands I have made another post about most popular brands; concept, availability, price and their most popular products. I hope this helps to understand what sort of brands are out there.

 Are there Korean cosmetic brands that support natural ingredients and/or are free from harsh chemicals? 
I have gone through a lot of ingredient lists for a lot of products from different brands and I consistently see least amount of harsh chemicals in Innisfree, Etude House, Mizon, NEOGEN, COSRX and BEYOND's products. Of course there might be few products that do have parabens etc. but overall these are the brands that will most likely not have harsh ingredients.

Nature Republic, Skinfood and The Face Shop advertise themselves as being natural cosmetic brands and they do use natural ingredients in their products which is excellent. However, when I checked the most popular products and their ingredients, I found quite often parabens, colourant and sometimes other harsh chemicals (such as Hydroxycitronellal and Methylisothiazolinone)

Other brands that do not advertise themselves to be natural brands such as Skin79, Holika Holika, Missha, Tony Moly etc. seem to have parabens in most of their products and other chemicals such as BHT and Triclosan. I also found these ingredients in Skin79 older BB creams. These two ingredients have sparked some concerns lately about their health safety but are currently listed as safe to use but Triclosan is monitored. 

You can check ingredient lists for products from COSDNA yourself. 

This does not mean that all K-brands use harsh chemicals in their products that are bad for your skin. Cosmetic brands all over the world use similar ingredients in their products! 
That being said, I also do think that other K-brands are starting to do a great job with their products and using a lot of natural ingredients and a lot of brands have stopped using harsh ingredients and using more ingredients that are good for sensitive skin and natural.

I hope you found this post helpful! 

I have a more detailed blog post about the ingredients and their dangers used in cosmetics HERE!


There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion. - Edgar Allan Poe.


  1. I've just started going cruelty free in my beauty regime and this post is a godsend! I've had such a hard time looking for a cruelty-free foundation and one that suits my Asian skin tone in Hong Kong as most of the Japanese and Korean brands do not specify whether they are cruelty free or not on their packages... I'll definitely check out innisfree and beyond! sulwhasoo is another fave of mine too so I really hope they are cruelty-free as well. thanks riina!

    1. Hi!
      Thanks, glad you found it useful :) It's a shame some Asian brands don't really specify whether they are cruelty free or not. I had a really hard time actually finding any information about their policies in general :(
      Hopefully in the future they will start paying more attention to this and start promoting more cruelty free products :)

  2. Problem with AmorePacific (and all their brands) is that they sell in China. Animal testing is OBLIGATORY in China.

    In their website the say in small letters...

    *Exeptions to this principle will apply however, if animal testing is required or bound by local governments or laws.

    So I'm pretty sure they still do it guys... :(

    1. Hi Anna!
      I do mention in the post that they sell their cosmetics in Hong Kong where animal testing is sometimes required by the law.
      So the cosmetics that are sold everywhere else except in Hong Kong (maybe China since we cannot be certain) should not be tested on animals since they have stated they are against it. I did mention in the post that Amorepacific is not completely cruelty free but perhaps they are trying to become one.

    2. Hi Riina, first of all thank you for this post! Since Korean brands are now getting more and more popular, this post is much needed for people who are concerned about the issue of animal testing.

      I would like to also correct what you said in the above comment. Hong Kong does NOT require animal testing - it is, in fact, the only exceptional place in China that allows products being sold without being tested on animals mandatorily. All other places in China are subject the animal-testing requirement, making all brands sold in China NOT cruelty-free.

      For example, Bare Minerals is sold in HK but not in mainland China, so it's keeping its stance on being cruelty-free. But IF they ever start selling in other places in China, they should not be consider cruelty-free anymore.

      Hope this clear things up! Thanks! :)

    3. Thank you for clearing things up! I will be writing an updated blog post about Cruelty-Free Korean Cosmetics soon that will take into account what you have said above.

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  4. does anyone know if Y.E.T cosmetics are cruelty free?? is korean makeup ...I'm vegan

    1. Hi Katherine!
      I did research on the company Y.E.T and could not find much about their company policies...I would recommend that if you want to buy Korean cosmetics while being vegan, to trust the brands that are listed at the top of Animal Rights Advocates Page here: http://animalrightskorea.org/bad-science/korean-cruelty-free-cosmetics.html
      If a brand is not clearly transparent about their testing policies then I would not trust them to be cruelty-free and certainly not vegan unfortunately :/
      However, if you are curious to know more about Y.E.T you can email them here: info@yetkoreacosmetics.com
      Hope this helps!

    2. I am too. If they are not proud enough of their cruelty-free status to state it on their products, I don't buy. Period. I'm done with having to research any time I want to make a purchase.

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  6. Thank you for this post! I do like Etude House, but if I can't be 100% certain that they don't test on animals, I'll stick to other brands that do. I just wish there were more cosmetics companies that were not only vegan/cruelty-free, but whose packaging and products were on the "cute" side and also super green! That would be ideal! ♥

    1. (I got this reply from them a few days ago :D Hope this helps )

      Name: Nahian Noshin
      E-mail: noshinnur1@gmail.com

      Comment: Hello, I have been wanting to try Etude House
      products for a while now but since I only use cruelty free products I was hoping to find out if Etude House is cruelty free.

      I would be really grateful if you could let me know if any of the products are tested on animals, or if any ingredients are tested on animals. Also, does Etude House export and sell products in China?

      Thank you so much.


      Dear. Customer,

      Thank you for your interest in ETUDE HOUSE.

      ETUDE HOUSE doesn't do any animal tests.
      So, we are not able to export to China, because China requires animal test to cosmetic sellers.
      And there are no ingredients from animal.
      For instance, collagen component is synthetic one or marine collagen, instead of extracting from pig.
      And the brush products used different materials according to the product.
      Some brushes are made of artificial hair, and some brushes are made of pig hair, horse hair, etc.

      Best regards,

      Thank you,
      ETUDE HOUSE Global Online Shopping Mall

      On 24 August 2016 at 02:21, ETUDE HOUSE wrote:

  7. Well, I love this! Thank you so much for doing the research!

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Thank you so much for this research! I live in Korea and it's surprising how little people know/care about cruelty free cosmetics. Anyway, I've heard of Beyond and I'm totally going to check them out!
    I'm wondering about Club Clio Professional though - do they test on animals? Since there is so little information about it anywhere, I suppose they do test on animals. Therefore I have now decided to stop buying their stuff!
    Also, how about Innisfree, are they cruelty free? Their foundation is amazing...

    1. Hi fluffighamster!

      Glad you liked the post. Unfortunately I couldn't find much information about Clio Professional in English. Since it's mostly in Korean, I cannot comment on whether they are cruelty-free or not. However, if they do sell their cosmetics in China they are not cruelty-free which brings me to Innisfree. Innisfree is a brand that is affiliated with AmorePacific that claims to have stopped testing on animals (at least in Korea) but they do sell their cosmetics in China where it is required by the law that cosmetics are tested on animals. So the product that you buy in Korea from Innisfree might not have been tested on animals but the company still tests their product on animals in China. You can make up your own mind on this and whether you want to buy their products or not.
      Hope this helps :)

    2. Thank you so much for your reply! :)

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hi,
      I've just completed a new blog post about K-brand animal testing policies. You can find it here: http://koreanbeautylicious.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/animal-testing-policies-by-korean.html

      Unfortunately The Saem is not cruelty-free because they sell their products in China. They are also not vegan because they use animal ingredients in their products. Hope this helps!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. yea ! finally a log that answers my question! thank you!

  12. Hello! Riina thank you for your hard work,is really amazing..but I don't understand a thing....in the end skinfood does test on animals? Also Lucky Trendy?
    Thank you for everything and sorry for disturb!

    1. Hiya!
      I did realise a while back that this post was confusing so I have outlined all of the text about animal testing because I have written a new blog post about it. You can find the link in the beginning of the post.

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  15. I've been searching Korean beauty products that are free from parabean and cruelty free. And this blog gives me a kind of enlightment. Thanks for the info :)

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