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This Greek Beauty Brand Transports Me to the Islands

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.

I’m still not sure how or why it happened, this switch. 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 the hell I was 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 husband and wife 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. 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 the 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. 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.

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

Some of Korres’s most popular products are its wild rose night-brightening serum and its yoghurt foaming cream cleanser, which lathers incredibly and leaves your face feeling as soft as freshly baked buns. My favorite, though, might be the black pine firming moisturizer and the black pine plump-up sleeping facial, which 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. 

  • Buy now: Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cleanser, $16 (was $26), korres.com
  • Buy now: Apothecary Wild Rose Night-Brightening Sleeping Facial, $29 (was $48), korres.com
  • Buy now: Black Pine Plump-Up Sleeping Facial, $41 (was $68), korres.com

Though Greece has reopened to travelers, it will be some time before I return to the country I used to call home for two years after college. In the meantime, I know I can open my medicine cabinet and feel—ever so slightly—that I’m back there. That I’m helping give back to a country I love, in some small way. It is a sentiment I share with Philippou. “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,” she says. “This is our gift from Greece.”

This article was originally published on June 18, 2021; it was updated with current information on November 23, 2021.

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