Foam cleansers get a bad rap for being overly irritating and stripping, and in lots of cases, that reputation is justified. But if you’ve been (literally) burned before by a foam cleanser, the best Korean foam cleansers may redeem the category. These cleansers are formulated without harsh sulfates — most notably SLS, the lathering agent most responsible for causing dryness and irritation. Instead, they contain gentler foaming surfactants, which are buffered by hydrating and soothing ingredients that help protect your skin barrier and replenish any moisture that was lost in the cleansing process.
Foam cleansers are a great choice for people with oily skin, since they’re so effective at sweeping away excess sebum. But as is often the case with Korean skin care products, these cleansers feature nourishing ingredients like snail mucin, egg extract, green tea, and fruit and vegetable extracts as the headliners, and relegate surfactants to the supporting cast, if you will. Thanks to those intelligent formulas, the products on this list prove that foams and lathering gels can be suitable even for dry-to-combination skin types.
Whether you like your foams fine, cushy, hypoallergenic, or acne-fighting, you’ll find it in one of the best Korean foam cleansers, listed ahead.
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1. The One With Green Tea
This creamy foam cleanser from Innisfree contains a mild surfactant derived from green tea root, sourced from the brand's USDA certified-organic green tea fields on Korea’s Jeju Island. That form of green tea, plus the plant’s extract and water, actually work to improve your skin’s ability to retain moisture over time. (Probably the opposite of what you’d expect from a traditional foam cleanser.) This gets universally glowing reviews on Amazon, where customers with combination-to-oily skin in particular report that this works to balance and control their skin’s oil production, and promote a smoother texture and brighter complexion overall.
2. The One With Eggs
Hard boiled eggs are probably the least sexy food on the planet, but if you think in terms of skin metaphors, their smooth, firm surfaces are truly enviable. Interestingly enough, using extracts from an egg itself can get your skin looking like one, if that’s what you’re into. This Skinfood cleanser uses two types of egg extracts — the white and the yolk — for their stores of vitamins, proteins, and essential fatty acids, which all work to replenish and plump your skin and minimize the appearance of congested pores. Tons more food-inspired plant extracts (including carrot, tomato, and licorice) also work to brighten skin and reduce inflammation in this formula.
3. The One With Snail Mucin
Love it or fear it, snail mucin can address virtually every skin-care concern imaginable. But in this cleanser, 30% snail slime extract is put to work especially for its acne-fighting benefits, while hydrating baobab extract helps protect your skin's natural protective barrier. Follow it up with their matching snail cream to really lock in moisture.
4. The One For Breakouts
Formulated specifically for calming and preventing breakouts, this belif cleanser is infused with two of nature’s most effective blemish fighters: Tea tree oil and willow bark extract. In addition to fighting active breakouts, this also leaves behind a slightly matte finish — a bonus for people with oily skin. Amazon reviewers report that this is nonirritating on sensitive skin; but since it’s pretty intense, you may want to use this on an as-needed basis if your skin falls into that category.
5. The One For Sensitive Skin
If you’re still intimidated by the prospect of using a foaming cleanser on your sensitive and/or dry-ish skin, consider this one from Klairs. It’s made with a mild amino acid surfactant (sodium lauroyl sarcosinate) rather than harsh detergents, which helps maintain your skin’s moisture levels while providing a deep, thorough clean. And it’s packed with high-performing soothing and hydrating ingredients, like cica, betaine, panthenol, and ginseng. Sensitive-skinned Amazon reviewers credit this cleanser with reducing breakouts, shrinking the appearance of their pores, and leaving their skin feeling comfortably clean. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic.
6. Author's Pick
This COSRX gel cleanser is the only foaming cleanser I’ve ever used on my sensitive, dry-leaning combination skin that doesn't leave my skin feeling tight and dry. That’s due in part to the formula’s mild pH level, which doesn’t strip, irritate, or otherwise disrupt your skin barrier, and its sulfate-free formula. I like using this in lieu of my usual cream cleansers on mornings when I’ve slacked off a bit on my cleansing routine the night before, since the BHA and tea tree oil in here provide a deep, satisfying pore clear-out without being stripping.