I’m sure by now that Korean skincare needs no introduction. But if you have somehow missed this global phenomenon, Korean skincare is the leading skincare industry in the world. Combining constant innovation and affordability with an increasing focus on natural and non-toxic ingredients, it is no surprise that it has taken over the skincare world. Just look at any beauty magazine, YouTube channel, or blog, and you will find numerous articles and videos on Korean beauty brands. From the 10-step Korean skincare routine, to face masks, to snail mucin products, K-beauty has become so well known that it has transcended the beauty sphere and even BuzzFeed have featured it in some videos.
But as someone who has walked into many a skincare and cosmetics shop in Korea, the choice out there can be overwhelming. There are mask packs of every color, size, and texture. Rows upon rows of oil cleansers, ampoules, moisturizers, and everything in between. How can you tell which serum will give you that “Why yes, I do drink 3 liters of water a day” glow? Or which cleanser won’t break you out like you just hit puberty all over again? Well, HwaHae is here to help.
What is HwaHae (화해)?
HwaHae is a Korean app that uses customer reviews to rank skincare by category, skin type, skin concern, and brand. It lists the ingredients together with their EWG (Environmental Working Group) ratings, equipping you with the knowledge of what you’re actually putting on your face. With over 5 million user reviews since it launched in 2013, it has not only changed the way consumers buy products, but has in turn influenced the products that companies are putting on the market. We, as consumers, are becoming more careful about the ingredients we choose to put on our skin, which has meant companies have to be more mindful about the ingredients they put in their products.
HwaHae has played a big part in this change — especially in Korea — and it has become so well respected among both consumers and companies, that brands use a high rating on the app as a selling point in their marketing. As can be seen here. In fact their little blue sticker of customer satisfaction and teardrop “Beauty Awards” badge can be seen in shops such as Olive Young, Chicor, and Lalavla.
EWG is not without its controversies or allegations of fear mongering, as this blog post on EWG ratings and the influence of HwaHae on the K-beauty market shows. But whatever your opinion on them, the EWG ratings are just one of several information sources available on the app to help inform your product choice: it also gives you the full ingredient list, along with user reviews and pictures.
How to Sign Up
Available on both the iTunes App Store for iOS, and Google Play Store for Android, it is unfortunately only in Korean with no English language option available as of yet. However it is still fairly simple to navigate if you can read Hangul, or with the aid of Google translate.
You can sign up using your Apple ID, Facebook, Google, Naver, or your email. I will show you the steps for the email sign up, but the other options are pretty similar, you will just be prompted to sign in with the details (username/password) of your chosen method.
How to Explore
Now that you have signed up, you can begin to explore! There are two main ways to go about using the app.
From the home page, click on the diamond “Discover” button at the bottom.
From the Discover page you can select which ranking you want to view: category, brand, skin type & concern, age group, baby & pregnant women, male (though there’s no reason why men can’t use the rest of the skincare).
Once you have selected one, you can change it from the drop down menu at the top.
Within that ranking group, you can then adjust the ranking parameters (product type, brand, skin type/concern, age group).
When you click on a product, you can look at: the ingredients, whether it contains any potential irritants based on your skin type, save it to a favorite folder, and scroll down to look at user reviews and pictures.
From the home page, click on the search bar at the top. From here you can type in a brand or specific product name (English is okay) to check out the reviews and rating. Or you can click on the category selection at the bottom of the screen.
From here you can select a category and sub category (for example: “skincare” and “essence/ampoule/serum.”
Within that page you can refine your search further, by selecting a brand or changing the ranking order (by: rating, most reviewed, newest products, lowest price).
Translation of Categories
See: Method 2, Step 2.
Cleansers / exfoliators
Hair / Nail / Perfume / More
Baby & pregnant woman; Male
Is it worth the effort?
Yes! Since I downloaded the app in March, I have loved every product I bought using the HwaHae ranking recommendations for my skin (combination and sensitive). It is always trial and error when trying a new product, because everyone’s skin reacts differently to different ingredients, but thanks to HwaHae I feel like I am no longer wasting money on poorly informed choices.
So the next time you head into an Olive Young or Lalavla, be sure to look out for that little blue badge. And don’t be put off by the fact that the app is in Korean, because it’s time to give our body’s largest organ the thought and care it deserves!
My top 5 HwaHae-influenced products for combination and sensitive skin:
1. Organic Aloe Vera Gel by Aromatica
Greenful pH-Balanced Cleansing Foam by Be Plain
Soft Airy UV Essence Everyday Sun Protector by dear Klairs