Does the new Hanacure nano emulsion moisturizer work?

Like everyone, I spent a recent weekend gawking at my television, wondering what the hell was going on.

I was watching a show called “Love is Blind,” transfixed over a man announcing himself as “Obviously Nick Lachey,” and it got me thinking: Are things in life so obvious?  

SEE ALSO: We tested Hanacure’s Internet-famous All-In-One mask

I began binge-watching the show until its reunion episode and as I ate my Pringles, drowned it with a gulp of La Croix thought this question could very well translate to my beauty products. With my hands that I washed for no less than the length of singing “Happy Birthday” in its entirety, I reached for a beauty product and pumped it into my pores. It was Hanacure’s new Nano Emulsion moisturizer, the second product in its lineup. Could this beautiful product, with its minimal, clean, all-white packaging, prove that love is blind? Or would I be affected by the fact that this was from the same brand that created an absolute sensation with its All-In-One-Facial.

Hanacure emulsion moisturizer review

(Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

To refresh you, Hancure’s All-In-One-Facial is the same you’ve probably seen somewhere on Facebook or Instagram. You can catch the review here. With its serum mixed with a gelling solution, the product tightens your skin and shrivels it so tightly, you resembled Betsy DeVos. But the product works! Afterwards, you get not only a gleaming complexion, but skin so taut, you’re like a newly birthed child. It’s why celebs from Drew Barrymore to the Kardashians have endorsed it.

Could Hanacure’s Nano Emulsion moisturizer evoke the same kind of devotion?


Hanacure emulsion moisturizer review

(Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

The formula’s supposed to drench your pores with instant hydration, leaving your skin dewy and moisturized for the entire day.. More so, it’s supposed to improve your skin’s appearance and tone. The secret sauce? Its peptides mixed with a mushroom called antrodia cinnamomea, aka “Ruby of the Forest.” The mushroom is so elusive, its trees it’s grown on are protected by the Taiwanese government. Supposedly, the mushrooms alone account for over $100 million in sales, with there being a general consensus that it cures ailments including cancer.

That being said, could it work on my crusty AF face? It’s been a long and dreary winter and with a certain flu becoming a global pandemic, I’ve been over-cleansing my hands, wrists, and face as a pre-caution. As such, my face in particular has been screaming for a drench of moisture.

First thoughts

Guy hand with Korean beauty moisturizer for review

(Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

At first pump, the creamy formula soaked into my pores as quickly as a kernal of oatmeal soaks water. I instantly felt dewy, plump, as if I went to a facial. The product is oil-free and as such, it’s lightweight, not unlike water, and feels like nothing when wearing it on your face. It’s fragrance-free, and for some that may be a problem – natural scents aren’t always a winner. But I felt as if this one wasn’t offensive and at the very least, is an amazing first step before an SPF or night cream, so that point becomes moot.

While totally providing me with instant moisture, I don’t know if this product alone will last me from day to night. I’m currently in Colorado, one of more barren states in the country, where the climate seems so soak out any moisture for your skin cells. I do feel that this is great for the summertime. As an emulsion, it’s probably all you need in wet and humid climates and perfect for allowing your skin to breathe.

Love isn’t blind, I concluded for this review. But love can be sparked on first sight, alone. As for the Hanacure nano emulsion moisturizer? Yes, I will be keeping it in my beauty arsenal – perfect for that extra step before a heavy cream – on those nights when all I care to do is luxuriate in my thoughts, be one with my skin, with a delightful television show blasting in the background.


Hand with Korean beauty moisturizer for review

(Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

So uh, does the Hanacure Nano Emulsion Moisturizer ~actually~ work?

-Instantly provides you with moisture.

-Lightweight and soaks into skin really well.

-Doesn’t last all day, but great for a first-step to a heavier moisturizer.

-Buy or Bye? Definitely BUY this one.

BUY Hanacure’s Nano Emulsion Moisturizer HERE, $47

Lightning Awards for Best Skincare 2019 ⚡️

Best Serum: Sulwahsoo’s First Care Activating Serum 

Hands down, the best serum on the market – we can stand behind that sentiment. The world now knows Korean beauty as synonymous with cutesy packaging, inexpensive products, jam-packed with efficacious ingredients. What most don’t know is how the country also develops the most innovative beauty products well, ever. Like Sulwahsoo’s First Care Activating Serum, which is formulated with traditional Korean medicinal herbs. Not only does it absorb quickly into the skin, it replenishes moisture loss and provides nutrients. That all means that you’ll get your best glow, well, ever.

BUY HERE: Sulwahsoo First Care Activating Serum, $84

Best Toner: AHC Face Toner

This toner is game-changing and complexion-altering. There, we said it. AHC’s toner isn’t only the best on the market, it’ll transform your skin from the inside out. Thanks to its lightweight formula filled with a triple blend of hyaluronic acids, ceramides, French Seawater, seaweed and more, it’ll drench into your every pore and give it life.

BUY HERE: AHC Face Toner, $26.99 

Best Mask: Mediheal

How many times do you sit a little ~too~ long with a sheet mask, or the opposite, remove it too soon? With Mediheal’s offering, you won’t have to second guess as a magical “Mediheal” symbol will appear when it’s ready to peel off. The mask leaves your face looking as if you had a facial and you’ll go throughout the day (or into the night!) with plump, baby-soft skin.

BUY HERE: Mediheal 5-pack, $9.99 

Best Exfoliator: AMOREPACIFIC Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder, $60

This powerful formula starts off as powder and instantly turns into an exfoliating foam. With plant-derived enzymes, it removes dead skin cells, purifies the face, removes dirt, while moisturizing in the process. With green tea-derived probiotic and papaya enzymes, together, it leaves your face radiant and perfectly cleansed.

BUY HERE: AMOREPACIFIC Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder, $60

Best Sleep Mask: Dr. Jart Water Fuse Sleep Mask

We’ve written about Dr. Jart’s innovative Water Fuse Sleep Mask. Not only does it do the hard work for you as you snooze, it’ll repair your moisture barrier for you. With Himalayan Pink Salt to strengthen the skin’s metabolism, Belgium Hot Spring Water to help sooth the pore, and Oligo-HA, promoting intense hydration, this sleep mask isn’t something to well, sleep on. Get this immediately.

BUY HERE: Dr. Jart Water Fuse Sleep Mask, $34

Best Oil Cleanser: Then I Met You’s Living Cleansing Balm, $38

Charlotte Cho did an amazing job with her brand Soko Glam, the first (and best!) e-commerce site offering Korean beauty products. Last year, she introduced her own brand, Then I Met You, a curated brand of beauty products with thoughtful ingredients. We named Then I Met You’s Living Cleansing Balm as the best oil cleanser last year and we’re naming it as a winner a second year in a row for good reason. Its velvety smooth sorbet-like texture melts into your pores, cleanses it completely, and leaves it better than ever. With powerful ingredients like sea buckthorn oil, persimmon extract, Vitamin E, and more, this will nurture your skin to health while cleansing it like nothing else on the market.

BUY HERE: Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm, $38

Best SPF for Deeper Skintone: M-61 Hydroboost, $68

Like spotting a unicorn in the wild, discovering a daily, untinted SPF that truly works for dark complexions is a one-in-a-million experience. Meet your new leader: M-61, whose Hydraboost Moisturizer goes on invisible and rich, absorbing quickly with no ashy residue. Amazing!

BUY HERE: M-61 Hydroboost, $68

Best Tinted SPF: Elta MD, $31

No surprise that the best tinted SPF comes from our favorite sunscreen ever, Elta MD. This lightly tinted SPF 40 formula gives you a slightly airbrushed look. It’s lightweight, oil-free and gives you that all day glow.

EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 protects against damaging UVA and UVB rays to help combat the visible signs of aging. The lightly tinted formula evens tone, creating a smooth, flawless-looking complexion. It infuses your skin with lightweight moisture for a healthy look and comfortable wear.

Best Mist: Bathing Culture Neroli & Rose Mist, $24

When we first received a curious package from Bathing Culture, a new sustainable soap brand from San Francisco, we were a bit skeptical. After all, most brands that have the word “sustainable” with “beauty” are either ineffective, or underwhelming. Bathing Culture’s Neroli & Rose mist is neither. Its hydrating rose water mixed with neroli, an essential oil, drenches your skin intensely with moisture. So much so, that misting throughout the day won’t become a chore, rather, well, addictive. Be warned.

BUY HERE: Bathing Culture Neroli & Rose Mist, $24

Best Oil: Supernal Cosmic Glow Oil, $108

First of all, this oil from Supernal looks like the Wicked Witch of the West – in the best way, of course. The black dropper sits on top of a glass container full of emerald green oil. We have to admit, it’s absolutely, bewitchingly beautiful. But the oil isn’t just for your #shelfies or Instagram Stories. This is the real deal. The non-sticky, silky formula has Vitamin C, Omegas 3, 6, and 9 to give your skin that transfixing, other-worldly glow.

BUY HERE: Supernal Cosmic Glow Oil, $108

Best New Serums: Dr. Jart, Peptidin Serum $33

This new serum line from Dr. Jart has eight different peptide complexes, including peach flower extract, and helps treat dull, tired complexions. The result: recharged skin that brightens with use over time.

PREORDER HERE: Dr. Jart Peptidin Serum, $33

Best Moisturizer: Augustinus Bader The Cream, $170

Can a moisturizer have too much hype to fail? Sure. But that’s not the case for Augustinus Bader’s The Cream, a formula that’s revolutionized the beauty industry since it launched in the past few years. The intensively, super hydrating formula rejuvenates your complexion and gives it a much needed boost. With argan, avocado, omega 6 fatty acids, and more, this is complete magic in a bottle.

BUY HERE: Augustinus Bader The Cream, $170

Best Multi-Purpose Balm: Charlotte Tilbury’s Multi-Miracle Glow Balm, $60

Is there a perfect consistency when it comes to beauty products? Yes, we found it. For a second year in a row, we’re naming Charlotte Tilbury’s Multi-Miracle Glow Balm as the best balm ever. The velvety, jelly-like formula has nourishing Vitamins A, C, and E as well as amazing camellia and rose hip moils to soften your face. Use it as a moisturizer, a face mask, or a treatment for deeply dry, cracked skin. One of the best products you’ll come across your beauty journey – guaranteed.

BUY HERE: Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle Glow Balm, $60

Best Gel Cleanser: L’Occitane Cleansing Gel-to-Foam, $24

This L’Occitane cleanser is the freshest cleanser on the market. Not only does it have a beautiful fragrance, its gel-to-foam formula provides your skin looking its dewiest finish, ever. Rich with zinc, this cucumber-infused product removes all impurities, makeup while being super gentle to your pores.

BUY HERE:  L’Occitane Cleansing Gel-to-Foam, $24

Best Oil to Liquid Cleanser: Mamonde, Petal Spa Oil to Foam Cleanser, $21

Mamonde’s Petal Spa Oil-to-Foam cleanser does all the work so you don’t have to. Think of it as a double cleanse in a single bottle. The innovative formula contains soapberry extracts, rose oils, and more for a thorough cleanse that’ll remove all makeup, sunscreen, or oil residue throughout the day. Call it a miracle in a bottle.

BUY HERE: Mamonde Petal Spa Oil to Foam Cleanser, $21

Very Good Light Lightning Awards

Best Vegan Cleanser: Indie Lee, $34

There are some skeptics out there who think because a product is vegan it’s not as effective. To that, we say this: Lies! This vegan cleanser from Indie Lee isn’t only powerful, it’s clean as well. With strawberry seed oil, tomato extracts, wheat protein, this formula leaves your skin squeaky clean with a silky, luminous finish.

BUY HERE: Indie Lee, $34

Best Under Eye Cream: AMOREPACIFIC Time Reserve Eye Reserve Cream, $260

Yes, this eye cream is bougie. Yes, it’ll be one you’ll need to save for. Yes, it’s worth it. The buttery formula quickly absorbs around your eyes and immediately hydrates, softens and almost irons out any and all wrinkles. With concentrated green tea, a powerful antioxidant, this will leave you eyes looking the best it ever has.

BUY HERE: AMOREPACIFIC Time Reserve Eye Reserve Cream, $260

Best Lip Mask: InnisFree Green Tea Hydrating Lip Sleeping Mask, $16

We’ve come across so many lip masks over the years. Some are way too sticky for its own good. Others leave your lips hydrated but not soft. This no-fuss lip mask from InnisFree isn’t only 99.99% natural, it packed with green tea antioxidants as well as green tea seed oil from Korea’s own Jeju island. The formula will leave your lips kissably smooth and perfect for the New Year’s countdown.

BUY HERE: InnisFree Green Tea Hydrating Lip Sleeping Mask, $16

Best Acne Spot Treatment: AcneFree Terminator 10 Spot Treatment, $5

How much would you pay to zap away cystic bumps? Thousands? Hundreds? How about just $5. This spot treatment from AcneFree does exactly what it says it will – terminates any inflamed, angry red bumps. It’s the best and possibly most affordable option when it comes to destroying those pesky cysts.

BUY HERE: AcneFree Terminator 10 Spot Treatment, $5

Best Hyaluronic Acid: Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $300

Okay, this isn’t for the faint of heart – or wallet. For $300 a serum better do its job and go above and beyond. This hyaluronic serum goes above and beyond. Not only do the small hyaluronic acid molecules seep into your skin, they do so, so effectively, you’ll have an all-day glow. More importantly, the formula also has purslane, a potent antioxidant that stimulates the rejuvenation of skin. AKA yes, your skin will thank you over, and over, and over again.

BUY HERE: Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $300

Lip Balm: Olio E Osso, $28

For the second year in a row, we’ve named the best balm to Oilo E Osso. And it’s for pretty obvious reasons. The balm is so buttery and velvety smooth, it soothes your lips and gives you instant hydration. The formula is as effective as it is simple with beeswax, shea nut oil, olive fruit oils as well as eucalyptus, it’s a perfect combination for your softest lips ever.

BUY HERE: Olio E Osso, $28

Skinnovation Award: Apostrophe

There are DTC brands that prescribe creams. But then there’s Apostrophe, a skincare focused brand that prescribes medications over the Internet. The process is simple and in no time, a dermatologist sends over RX to help your skin with problem areas like acne. Along with a cream, the two will give you ~real~ results along with around-the-clock responses from professionals.


Photos by: Chad Chisholm, Custom Creations Photography @chadjchis

2019 Lightning Award Winner Judges

Here’s the real tea when it comes to Augustinus Bader’s hyped $265 cream

The last time I tried a bougie cream, my eyes closed.


I had tested an expensive cream called La Mer and its $325 Moisturizing Soft Cream, and slathered $12 worth of product into my pores. It’d be the biggest beauty mistake of my life. I’m uncertain as to what I’d been allergic to, but the next morning, I was completely frightened and disturbed to face the mirror. My complexion looked as if a spider had gone to town on my eyeballs. It’s as if it munched and crunched all over my eyelids to my cheeks to my lips. They were so swollen I looked as if I was a balloon. When I conducted my research I realized this was he culprit: Mineral oil. That’s right, folks. This $325 cream called La Mer is composed of mineral oil, a filler ingredient that does nothing but evil to your skin. Ugh.

SEE ALSO: Drinkable retinol is actually a thing. 

You could understand why I had reservations over trying another much hyped moisturizer. I’ve been traumatized! This time around, a cream everyone had been talking about was Augustinus Bader’s $265, called straightforwardly, The Rich Cream. It’s a product with so much hype, it’s getting emotional reviews. Some, like Sting’s aesthetician Joanna Czech said that the cream was “unforgettable.”


If you haven’t heard of the product, that’s cool, but it’s been touted by everyone from Victoria Beckham, to Shailene Woodley, to every beauty editor. I came across the product a couple of months ago after one of my friends, also an influencer, had been reviewing it. In her brief review, she said that it completely changed her skin – and life.


Either everyone is dramatic AF or Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream really is good, I began to wonder.

It’s all fascinating because the brand’s founder isn’t a beauty blogger, an aesthetician or celebrity makeup artist. He’s none other than a 59-year old German professor who’s been conducting his many experiments with cell biology at the University of Leipzig. His specialty: working with burn victims and treating their skin. After almost 30 years in science, he came across a formulation that was able to trigger the body’s stem cells to create a natural healing process. The secret ingredient? It’s a complex called TFC-8, aka Trigger Factor Complex, that has over 40 different ingredients. These include amino acids, vitamins, synthesized molecules and more.

The Cut asked Stephen Alain Ko, a cosmetic formula to explain exactly what this means. Stephen says that the cream has the same ingredients that enabled mice with second-degree burns to heal quickly. More so, he says that according to a study, the cream works to show “an improvement in fine lines, a reduction in brown spots and pores, and improvements in the skin’s smoothness.”

It also contains ingredients that are only beneficial for your skin including: squalane, palmitoyl tripeptide-8, a form of a peptide, shea butter, pantheol, among others. Basically, a magical formula that promotes collagen production and cells to work overtime. That equates to more youthful skin, the brand claims.

Okay, so does The Rich Cream by Augustinus Bader work?

Augustinus Bader

(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)

In short: Yes.

Yes, it does. It works so well that I instantly fell in love with it – which is a difficult feat since I’ve come across hundreds of moisturizers that are just meh. As you all know, I’m seriously skeptical when it comes to hype. From that Summer Fridays Jet Lag mask I hated, to the cystic acne spot treatment from Renee Rouleau that didn’t work AT ALL, I’ve spoken my truth. And so I was completely humbled when I tried Augustinus Bader, thinking I’d actually hate the product as well.

With its super premium packaging with an ocean blue tube and a magnetic cap, it’s weighty and feels expensive. One pump of the product will immediately calm your senses as its texture is rich, velvety-smooth, like creamy milk, and non-sticky. It also soaks into your pores instantly, almost as if your skin is drinking the most delicious nectar – from the GODS.

It’s a very interesting experience, being instantly obsessed with a cream. I’ve never felt so excited to go back and slather something onto my face since I first used Vintner’s Daughter (which, btw is an extremely amazing oil but one you do not need). But unlike the oil, this one actually has made my skin all the more dewier, healthier, all the more even toned. What’s the most impressive is the latter – somehow after 6 weeks of testing, my skin’s dark spots started to fade.

Augustinus Bader cream

(This cream evened out my complexion. This is without makeup, coverage or a filter! Photo by David Yi / Very Good Light)

I’ve had freckles for all of my life, which I don’t mind, but this cream evened my skin out, spots blending into the rest of my complexion. It almost looks as if my skin has B.B. cream over it when I’ve used nothing but sunscreen. Is this effective at everything? No. It doesn’t do anything for blemishes, acne, nor does it pay your bills.

For the price, it’ll do the opposite. While $265 is definitely a splurge and a hard price to swallow, it’s worth it for those who want to save their 9 paychecks for a moisturizer.

Will it solve all of your skin problems? No. But it will give you peace of mind, knowing that a cream really is worth what you pay. La Mer, take note.

BUY Augustinus Bader here, $265

Cult pimple-destroying brand Curology just launched new products

Chances are, if you’ve experienced (or experiencing!) acne, you’ve come across the cult brand, Curology.

The Instagram-famous brand, which has an actual dermatologist suggesting a skincare product made custom for your skin type, is sworn by thousands of customers around the country who say their skin has been cured by Curology’s elixir. I’ve actually been testing it for the past two weeks and have seen a noticeable difference (a more thorough review to come, soon!) But today’s post isn’t a review on the product, rather, an announcement of the brand’s expansion into two new products.

SEE ALSO: This acid is so sensitive it could cry

Starting today, the brand just released The Cleanser and Moisturizer. If it sound pretty straightforward, it is. The brand’s co-founder and board-certified dermatologist, Dr. David Lortscher, says he created a product that was vegan, cruelty-free, without parabens, allergens, sulfates, fragrances, dyes, or pore-clogging ingredients. The result? Two no-frill products that do their jobs – without the bells or whistles.


(Photo courtesy Curology)

“When we started formulating the Cleanser and Moisturizer, we put our focus on simplicity: simple ingredients, simple products and a simple routine,” Dr. Lortscher tells Very Good Light. “We also wanted to create products with ingredients gentle enough for any and all skin types.”

The Cleanser is a light, fragrance-free cleanser meant to be used day and night. The main ingredients are plant sugars and anti-inflammatory oat extracts. “It’s designed to be the only cleanser you’ll ever need—no matter what your skin’s individual quirks may be. And the Moisturizer, is a gel-cream formula that’s super light and oil-free. Created with hyaluronic acid, it is “buildable and breathable,” Dr. Lortscher says, “leaving the skin soft without clogging pores.”


(Photo courtesy Curology)

Curology sent over the products two weeks prior to its launch. I loved how straightforward each product was. The cleanser foamed nicely and afterwards, my face felt as if it was clean without being stripped of its natural oils. The Moisturizer was light and hydrating, but definitely not heavy enough for the upcoming cooler and drier weather. Of course, after cleansing, I had to replenish my skin’s pH with a toner and then an essence. I wouldn’t recommend solely using these products alone. Are either products the best in their respective categories? No. But if you’re looking for simple, vegan products that will soothe your angry skin, Curology’s two new products are a must have.

To get your own set, head over to Curology.

BUY here, 30-Day Supply Trial Kit (cleanser, moisturizer, customized cream), $4.95 for S&H; 60-Day Supply (cleanser, moisturizer, customized cream) $59.90 (free S&H)

Panacea is the new brand that wants to simplify Korean beauty

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.

This moisturizer that smells exactly like dirt is actually amazing

When I was younger, I used to put all kinds of horrible things in my mouth.

There was red and blue Play-Doh, which I swore tasted saltier and more satisfying than yellow. Processed American cheese that I’d put inside two pieces of white bread slathered with mayo (don’t ask, but I remember it being really really enjoyable). But one thing I never did was put actual dirt anywhere near me. That was just disgusting.

Shodai smells exactly like dirt

Unlike other 3-year olds who enjoyed occasionally dipping their feet in mud puddles or going out and scoping out wet terrain for worms, or dousing their skin with ketchup and mustard, I was afraid to get dirty. And let’s not even talk about literal dirt getting on you. Dirt was meant for the ground only and that’s where it should remain.

So you could imagine the irony that I faced one night, layering on a moisturizer that smelled exactly like dirt. I was testing this new brand called Shodai, after being given its face wash and moisturizer. Before using the products, I was warned that it has a “woodsy” smell to it and to not be alarmed. I would realize that was a euphemism for it actually smelling like a mushroom growing on the side of a cedar tree surrounded by wet, muddy, dirt. Yes, there’s no getting around it. Shodai smells exactly like dirt.


Shodai, which means “first generation,” is a grooming brand from Japan. But its founder, Justin Brown, isn’t Japanese. He’s actually British. After foraging for the perfect grooming brand for him, he decided he’d create his own. Having lived in Tokyo for the past five years, he decided to look into Japanese skincare and see what kind of ingredients were best for the skin.


He found the best products from Japan’s own history came from four main ingredients. Hiba oil, from the Aomori Hiba tree, which apparently takes 300 years to mature and is antibacterial, sake, which has kojic acid and brightens the skin, green tea and finally, onsen water. That’s water from natural hot springs, said to sooth and rejuvenate skin.

Being a snob when it comes to packaging, I truly wasn’t impressed with Shodai’s. It looked and felt all so basic. But I realized that packaging isn’t really everything. It’s obviously what’s inside that counts.

First impressions

But why does it smell like dirt, though? I kept asking, as I used the brand’s face wash and moisturizer every day for a week. While some reviewers said they didn’t mind the smell, coming from using brands like Huxley, which smell of fresh, dewy cactus pears, this was quite a departure. I was definitely skeptical at first and was so repulsed from the fragrance (or lack thereof!) that I totally wanted to stop testing the products altogether. Truly, I’m glad I did not.

In a weird way, this product made me feel more masculine, as if I, myself was Bear Grylls, who found his own ingredients to create a moisturizer out in the wild.

The face wash is like any other standard face wash except, it doesn’t leave you feeling dry. It does, however make you feel as if your face is extra clean, almost like a glass cup you finished rinsing soap from. That’s exactly how I felt my face was left feeling. With a mixture of volcanic ash, tanakura clay, silkworm cocoon extract (yes, you heard that correctly), I felt as if I was Bear Grylls for a moment. All I needed was to squeeze elephant dung to hydrate my parched mouth. My face wasn’t soft, like a lot of women’s products, though it wasn’t left with dry patches. It was almost as if it was in its natural state, which was kinda cool, in a rugged kind of way.

Aside from it smelling, well, “earth-y,” the moisturizer was extremely pleasant. It goes on smooth (though sticky just for a few moments before seeping in to pores!), and instantly rehydrated my skin. So much so, that I felt as if I just had a facial. The product lays on thick, which I didn’t mind, and retains moisture for a long period. When I used the moisturizer at night, I felt as if I came out from a spa the next day. It was pleasant, almost as if I, myself, visited a Japanese onsen. My skin felt supple, smooth, soft matte. In a weird way, this product made me feel more masculine, as if I, myself was Bear Grylls, who found his own ingredients to create a moisturizer out in the wild.

On days when I want to smell like a beautiful, blooming flower, I go with my Korean beauty products. But for other days when I’m feeling more down to Earth and want that spa-like feel, Shodai seems to be a good option.


-Smells like dirt but works as an amazing moisturizer. We felt as if we walked out from a spa after use.

-Has a “woodsy,” “earth-y” fragrance that’s definitely not for everyone. An acquired smell.

Buy Shodai’s moisturizer, $24 and face wash for $20 here

This is the miracle cream that instantly healed my dry, cracked hands

My hands are pretty attractive.

Like, if there were a movie starring just hands, mine would totally be the leading man, a pretty boy along the lines of Zac Efron (that is, pre-puberty and being all orange-7). They stretch long, toned, thin from years of playing the piano, are even-toned, wrinkle-free. My fingers and hands, from the veins that bulge on top, to the baby skin underneath, are objectively pretty, well, pretty. I can’t say the same for any other part of my body, unfortunately.

But one thing that’s really f***ing them up: this dry weather. It’s cracking and splitting them open and making them resemble a current day Mickey Rourke. It’s just not well, that aesthetically pleasing, any more. My hands never cracked or split until one summer, when they opened up so badly, they started to bleed.  I’d never experienced such a painful occurrence. Being completely confused as to what was going on, I went to my dermatologist to see if there was something more nefarious lurking beneath.

So I was surprised to hear my diagnosis: I had a form of eczema. In my case, specifically, it’s called dyshidrotic eczema. It’s basically when your hands get flakey, super dry and itchy, caused by, what the derm said is lack of moisture. He prescribed me a tube of steroid cream and said to use it whenever things got severe. The cream actually did work, and I found my wounds being healed almost immediately.

Years later, I can’t find that damned steroid cream. It must be somewhere in my boxes upon boxes of creams and moisturizers I’ve been sent by very kind and eager publicists, lost forever, never to be found. Which has been a problem now that I’m traveling all over the country. I’m now in California, which is kind of like the weather we see in the hotter days of New York’s spring. And because of this, my hands are starting to split open again, dry from lack of moisturizing. Not having my steroid cream, I’ve been quietly suffering by myself, waiting for my hands to heal. It’s painful and feels as if I have mini paper cuts in between my fingers. Making matters worse is that my hands are calloused from Crossfit, the barbells slowly hardening my hands. Sometimes, they’ll rip from the many pull-ups we have to do.

Out of desperation, I went to the local CVS here, the same that serves one-dollar ice creams. While browsing through the moisturizer section, I was actually impressed by how many creams they had just for my very condition. Then, I came across a product called O’Keeffe’s Working Hand cream in a round, green, fairly basic container.

The color combination of the packaging reminded me of Nickelodeon slime, the same I used as a kid to prank my sister. Make no mistake: there was no fluff in the packaging, nothing chic about the fonts. It simply said it would do the job, healing hands that had a “crack & split.” I quickly did a Google search on my phone to see what O’Keeffe’s, this $7 cream, was about. Review after review, there were people who said that it was the only cream that helped them out. Others wrote how it was an instant miracle, their hands healing almost overnight. The brand is so confident it works, it also touts a 100% Money Back Guarantee on its website.

I purchased the last product on the shelf and immediately moisturized my hands before I even got into my car. I noticed that the texture feels a little like coconut oil. It’s hard at first, but seems to melt into your palms once you lather it together. Your hands don’t feel baby soft, nor do they feel as if you’ve piled on Vaseline onto them. It’s completely non-greasy, and I started wondering if it was even doing anything.

An hour later, I found that my dry hands and the cracks and splits started closing. Was I Wolverine from X-Men? I asked myself. Why did I heal so quickly? Amused, it was like witnessing a miracle.

The next day, I awoke to my hands and fingers having completely healed. It was completely, utterly insane, as I’ve never had a product work so well. Researching about O’Keeffe’s on its website, I found that this works from the cream not only moisturizing the skin, but from also creating a barrier so nothing goes out. “The skin’s natural barrier can be damaged, which leads to increased water loss that causes dry, cracked hands,” the site explained. 

The cream isn’t something with all the fluff and frills, like many products we test here at Very Good Light. But it’s a product that really works. For $7, it’s the best buy that I’ve made all year. Which means, thankfully, my hands are getting back into shape and finally becoming hot again.

Buy HERE for $7.