Could you get the results of a 10-step Korean beauty regimen in just 3-steps?

That’s the claim the new beauty brand Panacea is making. The brand, co-founded by Terry Lee, is all about being no-fuss and straightforward. It’s also catering to a gender-neutral consumer, which is noticeable in the brand’s beautifully minimal grey and white packaging. The entire set comes in three products: the Daily Facial Cleanser ($22 for 3.38 fl. oz.), Daily Facial Moisturizer ($46 for 1.69 fl. oz.), and Daily Facial SPF ($38 for 1.69 fl. oz.). Its aim is to be a brand that’s all about intention and awareness.

SEE ALSO: How real Korean think about K-Beauty will surprise you

That means cleansing your skin with products that you’re confident are right for you, moisturizing with something that’ll protect you – doing these steps not out of habit, rather, because you’ve done your due diligence and are happy to do so. After all, Panacea’s mantra is: “balanced skin as a means to achieving a balanced life” all about “thoughtful, good-for-you ingredients.”

(Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

So being the lazy sloth that I am I jumped at the chance to test the products. After all, if I could edit down my list of current products from 15+ down to just three, it’d be a real game changer for me. I wouldn’t have to haul three separate dopp kits while traveling (this is sadly not a lie!) and trim 10-minutes off of my morning routine.

After a month of testing, here’s what I found.

The Aegis, Daily Facial Cleanser

(Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

Upon using The Aegis, the brand’s foam cleanser, I couldn’t help but notice how soothing the fragrance was. It reminded me of my mother’s Isa Knox (an OG Korean beauty brand) she’d slather on her face while I was growing up. It’s a mix between a few fruity and leafy notes with a pleasant Earth-y fragrance as well. Unlike other cleansers, this one was gentle, foamed nicely and did a thorough job at ridding my pores of impurities while keeping it hydrated. No wonder, the ingredients include hyaluronic acid, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Water, along with a few exfoliating ones like lauric acid. It’s the perfect mix between being effective without drying your skin at all, which I appreciated.

(Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

Afterwards, I was left a little confused.

Where was the toner?

For a brand, which claims to be K-beauty in 3-steps, where was the pH-balancing, softening, hydrating, exfoliating, wonder liquid known as the toner? We now know that without a toner, any other step is pretty useless as a moisturizer doesn’t actually get into your pores, rather, evaporates into the atmosphere. A toner’s also important because it balances out the alkalized water that you just splashed onto your skin, leaving your skin barrier out of wack and weakened.

SEE ALSO: What is a toner?

My face feeling a bit tight, I proceeded onto the next step.

The Aegis Daily Facial Moisturizer

(Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

This lightweight formula is meant for use in the day and night and comes in very smart packaging. I appreciate the rotating pump that open and shuts with a swivel a la Drunk Elephant products. This is especially helpful when you’re traveling – there’s no mess and you can be confident your product won’t oxidize.

But the packaging is probably my favorite aspect of this product. The formula had a strong fragrance of alcohol, which came at no surprise as that was its sixth listed ingredient. While there are other ingredients that are moisturizing like the humectant, Butylene Glycol, supple ingredients like Argania Oil, shea butter, it still doesn’t resolve how the formula has a fair amount of the drying agent known as alcohol.

(Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

Now, some dermatologists will say alcohol is fine while others say to avoid it at all costs. It really depends on your skin (an upcoming thorough article on alcohol COMING SOON). But the common use of alcohol is to allow a product to go on smoothly with a matte finish, while stabilizing a product.

For me, I avoid alcohol at all costs. It not only dries out my skin (hello, I’m Korean and we obsessively seek that dew!), it’s something that seems to harm my skin barrier. There’s also lots of research that suggests alcohol can leave your skin open to oxidation, meaning, in turn, you’ll age MUCH faster. For those who seek matte moisturizers, this will feel good and absorb nicely. But in the long run, I fear with any product that contains alcohol, it’ll have negative effects in disrupting your skin barrier and allowing pathogens, allergens, impurities to seep through.

The Aegis Daily Facial SPF 25

(Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

Which brings me to this sunscreen. I really wanted to love this, I did. But packaging aside, the first ingredient listed is … alcohol. We know that with any beauty ingredients, the top 5-6 listed compose of most of the overall product. The product oddly, doesn’t reek of alcohol as much as the moisturizer and does absorb nicely. But the SPF is also … 25. For any Korean beauty brand lover, that’d be an absolute deal breaker as we know that the higher the SPF, the better and how Koreans avoid the sun at ALL COSTS. Yes, the SPF 25 will protect you from 93% of UVB rays, but why not get an SPF 50, which will block 98% of all UVB rays?

Concluding thoughts

It’s obvious after a month of testing that no, this product does not actually replace your 10-steps in Korean beauty. As mentioned, the crown jewels of Korean beauty is the toner, but after that, the heart of it is the essence and serum (both, which are essential to glowing skin). The problem I have with this claim is that it’s untrue. It completely disregards how important toner is and how again, it balances your pH (HUGE in 2018!), doubles as a second cleanser, while providing moisture you lost in the cleansing process.

But at the end of the day, yes, you do need these products – there’s no skimping on them. And for any claim to say otherwise would actually make a product not Korean beauty. I’d have appreciated if the brand didn’t make any of these claims and would have touted itself as simply being gender neutral.

So would I co-sign Panacea? Other than its exaggerated claims that it can replace your 10-steps, yes and no. If you’re okay with alcohol and the effects on your skin, I’d say this is a brand that’d be fine for you to try. For me, I absolutely stray from any alcohol as it weakens my skin. Instead of either of the moisturizers, I’d go for the cleanser. It’s soothing, not too harsh and will give you a hydrating boost, something that the rest of the product line won’t.