I swear these two products cleared my blackheads

Charlotte Cho handed me two mysterious boxes.

It was September and we were catching up in New York City with two other friends at an Italian joint, when the founder of Then I Met You and Soko Glam handed them over.

SEE ALSO: See our 2018 skincare winners!

“I really am curious about your results,” she told me. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re actually friends with a founder of a brand and you’re a journalist. For one, you’re desperately rooting for their product to be really, really good. One, because you want them to find success, but also because you need to be objective and so you don’t have to give them awkward feedback later. It reminds me of how I’m friends with a few comedians in LA whose jokes are so painfully unfunny I’ve requested they don’t share any new material with me. It’s easier on the friendship.

Then I Met You

(Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

Good thing, then, that Charlotte’s products are legit. In fact, we named the brand’s Living Cleansing Balm, $38, as our best oil cleanser for 2018. And so I knew I could hopefully have the same results and opinions after testing two of her new products.

When I got home and opened the boxes, I found they were part of TIMY’s The Skin Balancing Duo, which includes The Giving Essence, $50, and its Birch Milk Refining Toner, $32. Together, you get a small discount at $78. Both come in the brand’s signature periwinkle blue, not only aesthetic AF but 100 mL, which would probably last me about 3 months with continual use.

After testing the products for almost 3 months, I still have a quarter of product leftover. The results? Well, let’s just say I can keep seeing Charlotte as a friend and talk about her product with her. That is, I loved both of the products, but not for reasons you’d expect.

Then I Met You

(Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

Toner Review

Let’s talk the Birch Milk Refining toner first. The product is milky but isn’t thick – think skim milk consistency, and has relatively no fragrance. It’s made of 76% concentration of birch juice aka sap, which is a natural ingredient that soothes, calms and treats inflamed skin. Mixed together with marshmallow root extract, known for calming itchy skin, as well as squalene, it’s perfect for hydrating skin while soothing it. But this formula also has pore-refining AHAs and PHAs, two acids known for sloughing dead skin cells and exfoliating.

The milky goodness made my skin baby-bottom soft. After the harshness of water, it softened my skin while giving an instant glow. I’d been experiencing hormonal cystic acne, caused mostly by my inability to shave my facial hair, and seems to have calmed it a little.

Then I Met You

(Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

Essence Review

Together with the slightly more expensive essence, made of fermented berries, red algae, and more, the products seemed to work in tandem to plump up my skin. The black chokeberry, a superfood ingredient very high in antioxidants, together with the red algae, brightened my skin over time. After three months, my dull, gray-ish, rather sad skin became renewed. Someone actually complimented me that I seemed more “radiant” and I knew it was this product since it’s the only toner / essence combo I’ve been using.

The product’s galactomyces perhaps explains the biggest breakthrough of this product. According to TIMY’s website, it’s an ingredient that’s “fermented sake that has proven skin care benefits including reducing the appearance of pores, blackheads and sebum.”

I gasped. 

Though I can’t say it cured my cysts, it did something miraculous. Indeed, after using this for weeks on end, the two product in tandem seemed to clear my blackheads. I didn’t expect a toner / essence to actually leave my nose unclogged. My pores are small and I have combination skin, which is the worst as it clogs oils under the skin. But I can confidently say that in three months I haven’t had to think about my blackheads at all. They aren’t leave me squeezing my nose every other week.

THAT’S MAJOR.

TLDR;

Then I Met You

(Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

If products can allow me to free my brain from blackheads to do other things, like, read a new novel about how to destroy my enemies, or cooking a meal to impress a future spouse, I’m sold. That’s pretty much a winner in my book.

But perhaps best part of all: I can still be friends with Charlotte while giving her positive feedback. That my friends, is all worth it!

BUY Then I Met You’s The Skin Balancing Duo HERE 

This genius subscription box sends Korean sheet masks to your door

The worst part of Korean sheet masks (other than essence dripping into your mouth)?

Knowing which ones to use. With hundreds of sheet masks out there, where do you even start? From snail mucin, brightening, rubber to firming masks, Korean sheet masks now target every specific need. Which means there are so may offerings (maybe too many?) that it becomes confusing as to what to buy and for which occasion.

SEE ALSO: Can you actually practice Korean beauty without using any Korean products?

Enter Ko Skin Beauty, a genius subscription service that solves this very problems. We recently discovered the service while browsing Instagram and were instantly intrigued. The entire business revolves around offering dozens upon dozens of sheet masks. There’s some like Meg, a two-step jelly mask to JM Solution’s golden cocoon mask. There are popular brands from CosRX to Son & Park and even KLAVUU, to indie brands like PACKage and Thank You Farmer. You can certainly purchase the masks ranging from $2.20- $6 or you can get subscribe to your own box. There’s a 4 mask option for $15 or a 7 mask option for $25.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BgFY1YqHN41/?taken-by=koskinbeauty

Possibly the coolest aspect of the business is that it’s curated seasonally, meaning, you’re getting targeted sheet masks that go with the changing seasons. We spoke to Ko Skin Beauty’s founder, Tida Pin, who went from working at financial and civil engineering firms to beauty, to get the details of her burgeoning business – it’s one you’ll want to sign up for ASAP.

What is Ko Skin?

Ko Skin Beauty is your go-to monthly subscription and non-subscription beauty box and mask marketplace specializing in premium quality Korean sheet masks. Our boxes are curated every season and shipped out every month. Ko Skin Beauty was inspired by Korean skincare which is based on achieving soft, bright, and glowing skin. We focus on the importance of taking care of the skin by introducing our favorite sheet masks to add to everyone’s normal skincare regimen to help improve the skin overtime.

Where did your subscription service idea come from?

I’m very selective when it comes to skincare brands and products due to battling with hormonal acne and scars while growing up. I remember researching for sheet masks to see which brands and products will work for my skin. It took a lot of time especially when there are so many Korean skincare brands out there. The subscription idea helps people save time so they won’t have to go through that trouble of knowing which products to choose from since there are so many different brands and types of masks out there. It also gives our customers a chance to try out and discover new products and maybe even fall in love with them! A monthly subscription ensures that people will be consistent in using their masks each month to prepare for their new box the following month. Not only is it important to be consistent with your skincare regimen but it’s also important to have fun while doing it!

What is your background? How did you get into beauty?

Beauty has always been a hobby of mine. My professional background actually involves Real Estate, Civil Engineering, Financial Services, and Project Management. I started Ko Skin Beauty as a passion project and currently working on growing the company into a company that people can trust when it comes to face masks and Korean skincare.

What’s the benefits of masking every day? How about once a week? What’s the minimum you need to mask?

Like most skincare products, it’s all about consistency. You can’t expect miracles trying out products only once and same goes for sheet masks. Sheet masks will provide you with that immediate hydration and glow but to actually have it start benefiting your skin long-term you have to be consistent with sheet masking. In Korea, sheet masking is part of most people’s daily lifestyle. Everyone’s skin is different but I recommend sheet masking 3-4 times a week. Sheet masking every day can be beneficial for the skin too but people with sensitive skin might react to that since sheet masks contain essences that are highly concentrated with certain ingredients that people with sensitive skin might react to. There’s also nothing wrong with sheet masking once a week especially if you’re new to sheet masking. It makes a great pampering session especially when you need some time to yourself. Sheet masks are an essential part of everyone’s daily lifestyle especially for those who highly believe in the importance of self-care.

Why in your opinion, have sheet masks become SO popular? Why are they so good for you?

I think that sheet masks slowly became popular as people started to learn more about Korean skincare and the reason why skincare plays such a big role in Korea. Skincare in Korea is mainly used for preventative purposes while people here are used to using skincare only to treat. Also, when Korean entertainment such as Korean Dramas and K-Pop became more popular here in the US, I feel that people’s idols played a big influence in Korean skincare especially sheet masks since they’re used in many dramas and also in music videos. Sheet masks are good for you because they contain highly concentrated essences that will immediately treat your skin with hydration, brightening, plumping, you name it!

To get your own subscription box, go to KoSkinBeauty.com

Sheet masking is ~so~ 2017. This is what’s next.

Sheet masking is so 2017.

Okay, maybe a bit of an overstatement, but is rubber masking your soon to be new BFF? Of course, rubber masking isn’t anything new, per se. It’s been huge in South Korea for years. But it’s really been the go-to wonder mask thanks to its non-messy formulation. This means you won’t have to worry about essence dripping ~everywhere~ like creature in The Shape of Water.

We’re really into Dr. Jart’s Shake & Shot rubber masks, which have given us the hydration we desperately need. It has the wonder ingredient, niacinamide, fruit oil, and calcium sulfate among others that penetrate deep into your skin more than a sheet mask is able to. The packaging alone is a piece of art. It resembles a Slurpee cup with a Maybe Baby face as its lid. Weird, yes. Really effing cool? Totally.

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about Seoul’s most famous skin clinic

The mask comes in four different concoctions for four different needs: hydrating, soothing, brightening, and firming, the product is a fun, DIY way to try out masking’s latest trend. So, how do you use it?

How to use:

  • Cleanse as you would normally to start with a clean canvas.
  • Open and remove the spatula from the scary baby looking figure’s mouth. (Is it a baby? We’re not sure, but we’re into it.)
  • Combine both the STEP 01 Super Booster Gel and STEP 02 Liquid Ampoule in your mixing cup.

  • Close the lid, cover the hole with your finger, and get to mixing. We prefer our’s shaken, not stirred of course.
  • Once your mask is all one creamy consistency, get your spatula and get to spreading. (Tip: apply an even layer over your face within two to three minutes of mixing, as the properties will begin to firm.)
  • Leave on for 15-20 minutes.
  • Watch a show, read a book, call your local legislator, etc.
  • Starting from the edges, gently peel off the mask and remove any excess with a damp cotton pad.

TLDR;

Each sold individually for $12 (Sephora), the price allows for this to maybe only be a once in awhile, self-care Sunday treat. However, whichever mix you choose the glow shines through.

If you’re wondering what exactly goes into those chemist looking packets, it’s a whole bunch of goodness. The “super booster gel” differs from mask to mask to ensure you’re getting exactly what you signed up for. This includes violet extract to moisturize, aloe vera to soothe, grapefruit to brighten, or retinol to tighten and fight signs of aging. With ingredients your skin loves, and a process that is different than your regular mask, the rubber route is definitely worth a try.

Always on the hunt for all things dewy, this was a hit for us. Our favorite in the bunch? You can’t go wrong with a soothing mask in my opinion. Main ingredients include vitamin K3 (menadione) which helps restore sensitive skin, and guava and aloe leaf extract for a cooling, regenerating effect.

Seriously, my face was as soft as the Maybe Baby on the packaging.

Wait, is honey actually good for your skin?

(A honey essence from Skinfood was seriously amazing for my skin. Photo by David Yi, Very Good Light)

The last time I thought about honey was actually the first Saturday in June (I have a really good memory), when I re-watched Jessica Alba’s abs gyrate and her booty bounce in the legendary (FILL IN THE BLANK ____ musical/drama/classic/life-changing) film.

The movie, called, well, Honey, has Jessica feigning a Harlem accent, dreaming of a better world for her neighbors, teaching hip-hop choreographer as a way to keep kids off the street. The 2003 movie is deep, ya’ll.

via GIPHY

In any case, after re-watching the film for the seventeenth time in my small Brooklyn apartment, I was inspired to do many a thing. One, was change into a tight wife-beater and baggy pants and dance along Dekalb Ave. all the way to Harlem. Two, was doing a gazillion sit-ups (while balancing pizza on my forehead) to get Jessica’s no nonsense abdominals. Finally, to try honey out as a beauty product. It’s funny how my thought process went from Honey the movie toJessica Alba’s abs, to then Jessica Alba IRL beauty guru (Honest Beauty), and then finally to try honey as a beauty product.

I’d heard of the crazy benefits of honey in the past few years from my own Korean mother, who makes DIY masks at home, but using the substance for my own face never appealed to me. For one, it seems way too sticky, and then there’s the whole cleaning aspect that really turns me off. Seems like a nightmare for any bathroom sink or kitchen.

(Photo by David Yi, Very Good Light)

But then, reading about the benefits really did entice me. Like, did you know honey has better probiotic and antibacterial properties? It also is healing, hydrating while also nourishing your skin. Honey is said to also help with acne, eczema or healing wounds. Most beauty gurus will agree that Manuka honey (named after the New Zealand Manuka bush it comes from) is probably the best because it has antibacterial properties.

SEE ALSO: Why one night stands are perfect for testing beauty products. 

Note: Not all honey is created equal. In fact, there are hundreds of sources for honey and dependent on where it’s from and how it’s harvested can determine its potency. For your skin, you would almost always want to go for raw and unfiltered honey. The terms “organic” and “all natural” doesn’t make any of the product any less processed.

I started out the first week with replacing my cleanser at night and washing my face with honey. I thought that honey would be super sticky and wouldn’t react with water, but when in contact with warm H20, it seems to seep right off. Immediately, I felt my skin was super bouncy and soft, but didn’t see that it did anything out of the ordinary. After using honey everyday for a month, I did see my acne a lot less angry, my skin smoother, bouncier. But I didn’t think that it made such a dramatic difference that I’d need to completely change my beauty regimen in place of honey.

What I learned, instead, was incorporating honey products into my beauty regimen. That is, Manuka honey for a cleanser when I feel dry or need a holistic approach to acne, honey essence for seeping in moisture and treating the skin, or a leave-on mask from brands like Farmacy.

Ultimately, I researched and learned that honey reacts differently to different skin types. So as it might not be the ultimate cure for my own problem areas (like acne or blotchy skin), it could be amazing for someone else. Honey though, no matter how you put it, is definitely only good for your skin, just like Honey the movie, is only amazing for jumpstarting your inspirational day. But like the movie, it isn’t life-changing by any means, though will make you feel that much better, even for a few seconds.

My favorite honey products of the moment:

  1. Manuka honey from Manuka Doctor Bio Active Honey, $19. Any Manuka honey will do but I’m into this one since it’s super active and will jampack those benefits.
  2. Royal Honey Propolis Essence from Skinfood, at SokoGlam, $38. This one has 50% Black Bee Propolis extract, 20% royal jelly extract and 10% royal black honey and keeps your face moist and protected. It totally made my brighter by week two and has a nice, non-sticky gel consistency.
  3. Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask from Farmacy, $56. I am completely obsessed with this new brand I discovered at Sephora. Created as a “farm to table” sort of beauty brand, it’s all about utilizing the best farmers to make the best products. This one is specifically for fine lines, dry skin and completely hydrating. Its light formula is completely delicious.
  4. Fresh Honey Mask, $60. My mother and I have been obsessing over this honey mask from Fresh ever since we tested it out for holiday. It’s super luxe, leaving skin completely hydrated, soft and with fine lines diminished. My mom is so in love with this, she asked only for this for her birthday.
  5. Yellow citrus and honey splash mask by Blithe Energy, at Glow Recipe, $45. At first, I was super confused with the mask. Like, do you directly put onto your face? Do you splash it on and then wash off? Then, I actually read the directions. In it, it says to take a capful and douse into your sink, filled with lukewarm water. The blend of lactic acid and botanical extracts allow your skin to instantly radiate. I tried splashing for a week and now a firm believer. NOT GREAT FOR YOUR BATHROOM FLOOR, THOUGH!