This Greek Beauty Brand Transports Me to the Islands

Greece is home to more than 6,000 species of plants, 1,500 of which are endemic. Korres celebrates them at every step of the way.

Blue and white tube of Korres face wash on a background photo of a Greek beach

Korres began as a Greece-based skincare brand in 1996 and has expanded since then.

Background photo by Cosmos Drone Pilot/Unsplash; product shot courtesy of Korres

Welcome to AFAR Approved: a deep dive into the travel items that we’re totally obsessed with, never leave behind, and can’t stop telling our friends about.

For years, I’d been staunch anti-duty-free shopping for no reason in particular, until one spring with too much time on my hands in the Athens airport I wandered in with the countenance of an amused anthropologist observing the madness of airport shopping. Twenty minutes later, I shuffled out, wondering where I was supposed to put all of the things I’d bought in that madness. I blame Korres.

A Greek beauty brand, Korres was started in 1996 by wife and husband duo Lena Philippou and Giorgos Korres; today, their products are sold everywhere from Sephora to Macy’s to Wal-Mart to duty-free stores in airports around the world, where I have bought it by the jar and tube ever since that fateful day a decade ago. But despite this boom in popularity, Lena Philippou, Korres cofounder, brand president, and chief innovation officer, tells me the mission hasn’t changed.

“I still remember the day back in the ’90s when Giorgos and I wrote on a piece of paper what we wanted the Korres brand to stand for: Greece, nature, science, balance, poetry, ethos,” she says. “These are the principles that guide us through to this day.”

Philippou isn’t just talking the talk: To source its products, which are inspired by traditional homeopathic remedies, Korres uses hand-picked ingredients from around the country, working with small farmers and agricultural cooperatives. It has an Indiana Jones–like “plant hunter” who works with the Agricultural University of Athens to identify the best cultivation areas around Greece for specific herbs; it supports solely organic farming and looks to work in underdeveloped rural regions of the country as part of its commitment to zero-waste sourcing. Korres has also created six distinct labs to help it better research—and own—every step: a soil lab, an extraction lab, a molecular lab, a formulation lab, a design lab, and a recycling lab.

Of course, in the end, it all comes back to Greece and its natural wealth. For its body washes, face creams, balms, and rubs, it sources grapes from Santorini, Krokos Kozanis (saffron) from Macedonia, white and black pine from the Pindus Mountains, olive oil from Cretan olive groves, castanea from Arcadia, sage from Thesprotia, almonds from Tyrnavos, and thyme from Naxos, where Giorgos is from.

“We feel proud and lucky to be able to contribute and do our part to preserve our amazing biodiversity, while supporting our local economy and our farmers,” Philippou says. “This is our gift from Greece.”

Here are the Korres products I always have on hand—and why they’re a worthy investment.

Small jar of moisturizer, with background of Pindus Mountains, near Albanian border

Black and white pine are sourced from the Pindus Mountains, near the Albanian border.

Background photo by MNStudio; product shot courtesy of Korres

Black Pine Bounce Firming Moisturizer

This was first recommended to me by a sexagenarian in a tiny pharmacy in Milos. “My wife has used this for decades,” he told me, pointing at the jar. He clapped and spread his palms wide. “She looks 34!” After years of using the product, I’m not sure what age I look, but I know how it makes my skin feel after use: firm yet springy, with no oily residue.

Korres Foaming Cream Cleanser bottle on a background photo of a olive tree orchard

The Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cleanser is vegetarian friendly and cruelty free.

Background photo by Shutterstock; product shot courtesy of Korres

Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cleanser

This cleanser not only lathers incredibly but also leaves skin feeling as soft as freshly baked buns—and yes, it’s made with real probiotic Greek yogurt.

Korres night brightening sleeping facial cream tub on a background of the Acropolis

This night cream evens out dull uneven skin by the morning.

Background photo by Hans Reniers/Unsplash; product shot courtesy of Korres

Apothecary Wild Rose Brightening Sleeping Facial

Some rose scents can be overpowering, but not so with this facial cream, which—despite its thickness—is absorbed into the skin quickly and easily and helps to plump skin. I carry some in my dopp kit, and it’s one of the first things I apply after a long flight to help brighten up my face.

Korres eye gel on a backdrop of the Greek islands

Reduce dark circles and puffiness with this eye gel.

Background photo by Shutterstock; product shot courtesy of Korres

Greek Yoghurt Wide Awake Gel

For this roll-on serum, which comes in a tube slightly bigger than a ChapStick, Korres took its famed Greek yogurt and added a double shot of Greek espresso. The formula helps prevent puffy eyes (and the metallic rollerball also just feels good).

Bottle of perfume on background photo of a fig tree

This fragrance has top notes of lavender and bergamot, heart notes of fig and orange blossom, with base notes of ambergris and cedarwood.

Background photo by Delia Giandeini/Unsplash; product shot courtesy of Korres

Eau De Toilette Avgoustos

Korres has 16 fragrances, including new launches Lefko and Philosia, a close second, but this one—which smells of fresh-cut figs and orange blossom—is my favorite. During dark New York winters, I like to spray some on my pulse points and dream of summer on a Greek island.

This article was originally published in 2021; it was updated with current information on April 19, 2024.

Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at AFAR focused on features and essays.
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