It was only a matter of time before Soko Glam launched its own skincare brand.
Following in the well-glistened footsteps of Then I Met You, Charlotte Cho is at it again, this time spearheading another brand for the online K-beauty mecca, Soko Glam. Called Good (Skin) Days, the four SKUs debuted Monday, including a cleanser, moisturizer, toner, and serum.
The site launched almost a decade ago, and has since been renowned for curating the best South Korea has to offer. From Neogen, Klairs, Dr. Oracle, to Hanskin, Soko Glam has been the leader of bringing the best of Korean beauty to an American audience. The brand’s first skincare line is a nod to its slogan, “Only good (skin) days ahead.”
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
“This launch is important to Soko Glam because it is the culmination of what we have cultivated over the past eight years – it’s a true reflection of our philosophy and our brand story of only good (skin) days ahead,” Charlotte tells Very Good Light.
According to Charlotte, the brand was developed around Soko Glam’s community and their needs. The most important aspects: that the price be accessible without cutting any corners when it came to formulation. This meant one-on-one consultations with her community, focus groups, as well as looking into reviews and testimonials to incorporate into the brand. The result: an affordable line of pH-balanced products that even those with the most sensitive of skins can enjoy. The product prices range from its A New Leaf Cream Cleanser ($16), to its serum, C’s the Day Serum($26).
Soko Glam sent me both their cleanser as well as its moisturizer, On the Bright Side ($24), and I tested them for a month. Here are my thoughts.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
On the Bright Side Moisturizer comes in 50 mL (or 1.69 fl oz), and its main ingredients are rice ferment (in the form of sake!), probiotics, ceramides, among others. A New Leaf Cream Cleanser comes in 100 mL (3.38 fl oz) and includes mugwort, celery, green tea, leaf extracts, citrus acid, among others.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
The New Leaf Cream Cleanser comes out in a gelatinous formula. No surprise, given that its main ingredient is mugwort, a flowering plant common in East Asia. You may recognize it in Korean rice cakes as the fragrant ingredient that makes the chewy treats extra savory. Though it comes out like dduk before it’s steamed, with water, it instantly lathers into a beautiful formula. Created with oil and water, Charlotte says it’s for those who don’t want a two-step oil and water cleansing process. AKA it’ll take off makeup and SPF and give you a squeaky clean feel as a one-stop shop. The formula also comes with pieces of green herbs – with every squirt you feel as if you’re truly getting an antioxidant wash. The experience is enjoyable and I really liked that the cleanser felt as if it was unique in form – just like Then I Met You’s sticky cleanser.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)ays
The On the Bright Side Moisturizer is water-based and soaks into your pores with ease. Not only is it like a soothing emulsion, but it’s also perfect for the humid and hot summer months. The ultra-hydrating formula comes with probiotics, aka good bacteria for your skin, leaving you with a happy skin barrier that will thank you later. After a couple of weeks, I felt soothed, soft and I didn’t have a need for extra hydration. At nights though, you won’t want this to replace your sleeping masks or heavier creams. It’s super light and will last you through the day but won’t be thick enough to satiate your hungry nocturnal skin.
-Charlotte Cho launched Soko Glam’s first product, Good (Skin) Days in four SKU’s
-Ranges from $16 for a cleanser to $26 for a serum
-The cleanser is based off of mugwort, celery and green tea and has a very gelatinous physical form. It mixes well with water to create foam.
-The moisturizer is like a nice probiotic emulsion. But you’ll probably need a sleep mask or heavier cream for bed.
BUY or BYE?
Definitely BUY. Knowing Soko Glam is already the leaders of K-beauty, this was a no-brainer. If you want affordable, reliable, tested products definitely try the cleanser and the moisturizer. As for the toner and the serum? I’ll have to nab those before they’re sold out!
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.
(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.
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.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“You’re going to laugh when you see this,” Liah Yoo, the founder of the skincare brand, Krave Beauty, told me.
We were sitting at Rudy’s for dinner on a rainy New York night, when Liah took out a jar of cream. The star YouTuber and new entrepreneur had already successfully launched four products in the past year. There’s the Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser, Great Barrier Relief serum, The Beet Shield sunscreen, as well as Kale-Lalu-yAHA toner. Adding to the list is a moisturizer in the form of one called Oat So Simple Water Cream.
Liah handed the jar over and I did start to chuckle. For anyone who follows Very Good Light or my silly personal Instagram (probably none of you, ha!), knows how I’ve become a self-described #milkinfluencer, one who always jokes about promoting Oat milk. As an oat milk devotee, I have fought for better dairy alternatives, and some cafes in Colorado have actually taken my advice. And so, with this oat cream, I felt as if Liah had created this very moisturizer just for me and my outrageous oat milk obsession.
Alas, I discovered it wasn’t made just for me.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
“The oat milk boom may have made oat seem a bit more relevant in 2019, but oat in skincare was never a ‘trendy’ ingredient,” she tells me. “It has a tried and true tested history and proven track record in calming the skin with heaps of research to back.” Though it’s known to calm skin (like, remember those kids who had itchy poison ivy skin dunking into a tub of oatmeal on television?), it hasn’t been as popular in skincare. “It zens out our skin but has been abandoned in the beauty space for ages,” Liah says. “I see new skincare brands catching up on the latest and the newest ingredient yet I thought there’s always something to be brought back into 2019.”
And that’s oat. According to Liah, oat totally allows your skin to calm TF down, especially since it’s overly stressed and sensitized from pollutants, toxins, UV rays, not to mention technology like your iPhone.
More than anything, it’s about basic skincare, say Liah, who is an ardent champion of the Skincare Diet (we wrote about it here). Basically, taking your 10 steps and paring it down to only a few. “Our approach to the formulation was to simplify to amplify. We let go of unnecessary, trendy, fancy active ingredients, any potential allergens, irritants, sensitizers, and any other ingredients that can be problematic for sensitive and even fungal acne.” The result after two years of testing was a product with less than 10 ingredients.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
In a world where moisturizers have more than 20 ingredients, 10 seems like a really pared down amount. And that was something very conscious for Liah and her team to create. “It’s truly no-frills and like pure oatmeal without any fancy flavors, additives or garnishes.”
The product, which goes on sale next Tuesday, Oct 15 definitely is a product you’ll want to nab. This, especially for those who have sensitive skin. The product is water-based, which means that it’ll seep into your pores really seamlessly, and won’t be harsh for those who find oils to be a little too strong. The texture is also one that’s thick but is smooth to touch, oil-free and light. It’s fragrance-free and definitely for those who like upkeeping a very low-maintenance regimen, one that’s so minimal it’s laughable.
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.
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?
(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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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As your trusted source, we took the Lightning Awards very seriously***. We went through all of the potions out there, testing concoctions for four entire months to see if their claims were real. The results? We’ve never had better, glistening, healthy skin from using the products we’ve deemed Best Of. We’ve named these products below and hope they work for you as much as they have for us. Now get going! Good skin can be yours – in a flash!
***It goes without saying, these are honest reviews and our opinions were not based on any relationship, monetary gain, or a pay for play situation. AKA we weren’t paid to write any of these we simply are obsessed over these products and hope you love them too.
Best Face Oils: Herbivore
It almost seems counterintuitive: Actual oil on your face for better skin? We had the same sentiments. That is, until we tried Herbivore’s oil line up. The brand, which is all natural, organic and uses a cold press method for extracting all oils, offers food-grade products that your skin will slurp up. Try all three with the mini oil set they offer. Lapis is for anti-inflammatory and clarifying; Phoenix is for hydrating; Orchid is for turning dull skin on its head. Aka a glow up is near your future.
We’ve written about Sunday Riley’s U.F.O. (ultra-clarifying facial oil) and deemed it as “alien sludge.” Said sludge invades your pores and exterminates those pesky blemish-causing agents in your skin. This is through 1.5% of salicylic acid, tea tree oil along with black cumin oil which clarifies, treats and prevents your blemishes. Breakouts, beware.
What if water was actually hydrating for your face? Sadly, water by itself is slightly alkalized and a lot of faucet water is ~way~ too harsh to do any good. Enter: Dr. Jart’s Water Drop cream. It’s an innovative product that goes from solid to what feels like super drippy water in seconds. We’ve never come across a product like it. The product seeps into your pores, quenches thirst and leaves you with a nice, dewy complexion.
Best Vegan Moisturizer: Youth To The People Age Prevention Superfood Cream
What if there was a green juice for your face? That was a question someone in our office asked before coming across a product that mimics just that. It’s Youth To The People’s Superfood Cream, one that packs real vegetables in it to pack a mean green fighting punch. The product includes kale, spinach, green tea among other vegan ingredients to do an amazing job at delivering antioxidants while keeping your skin nice and moisturized. Now if only someone could tell Popeye.
Could there be a dreamier night cream? That’s what we asked ourselves when we came across Huxley’s entire line. It was love at first sight and you can read about how we encouraged every one of our readers to run to get this product. The Anti-Gravity Cream has a beautifully luxurious, cream, but light feel to it without a hint of oiliness. Packed with prickly pear cactus, an ingredient women in the harsh conditions of the Sahara desert use to preserve their skin, it’s seriously hydrating. If it works for those wonder women, who are we to disagree?
Rubber masks have been all the rage in South Korea for the past few years. Dr Jart’s own Firm Lover Rubber Mask makes it super seamless to bring the mask at home. The two-step system has a highly concentrated ampoule of serum that lifts your skin while making it supple AF. Other ingredients including algae, lipophilic and hydrophilic actives along with a berry complex make for firm, moisturized and dewy skin for days.
When we indulge in a scrub with an exfoliant, we go for this one from Jack Black, which has a nice pebbly consistency and a refreshing, citrusy feel. Just twice a week makes our skin feel like it’s refreshed, without that stripped away feeling. With menthol and Vitamin C, it gives a tingly, refreshing feel that stays with you through half of the day. Coffee, your other best friend, will get you through the rest.
Best Chemical Exfoliator: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
The best way to ward off white and blackheads? A chemical exfoliator. That comes in the form of AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHA (beta hydroxy acids). The former gets rid of dead skin cells on the surface while the latter penetrates deep into your pores to unclog oils (aka blackheads). This one from Dr. Dennis Gross is a two in one: one is for AHA and the other for BHA. Trying this once every day kept most of our blackheads at bay. The best part is that it’s even okay for those with sensitive skin (unless you’re on retinol or any acne medication – then avoid. It will sting!).
Best Face Mask: Fresh’s Creme Ancienne Ultimate Nourishing Honey Mask
We’ve already touted the benefits of honey. The best part about this sweet ingredient is that it is a really, really good moisturizer. This one from Fresh is intensely hydrating. While the brand claims it delivers six hours of nourishment, we feel this hydration lasted us until the next day. Along with echinacea, an ingredient that allows the skin to recover from stress, it gives you a supple, long-lasting glow. Yes, it’s super pricey but it’s well worth the extra money. Time to save – your skin!
Is Missha’s essence a dupe of the WAY more expensive SKII? We’ve made our conclusions here and you can definitely make your own. But on its own, Missha’s toner is seriously impressive. First, it’s made up of 80% fermented yeast concentrate, which energizes your skin. Then, it contains Vitamin B3 and Niacinamide to improve your skin’s barrier function. Finally, it contains Cassia-Alta Extract, helping to give your skin some anti-aging help from damage-causing UV rays. Basically, it’s a wonder product and we KNOW it’ll do you well. We SWEAR by it.
Huxley’s Oil Essence tops our list when it comes to essences. Made of mostly Sahara Cactus Seed Oil, along with Quinoa, Acai berry and more, this essence provides your skin with active antioxidants and high concentrations of Vitamin E. It absorbs into your skin while providing you with long lasting hydration.
Best Cleanser: Klavuu Pearlsation Revitalizing Facial Cleansing Foam
This cleanser is seriously luxuriously creamy in the best way possible. And to top it off, it includes pearl extracts. Like, what? With a marshmallow texture and a sweet smell, Klavuu’s cleansing foam, which includes over 30 natural plant extracts along with seaweed and algae, makes it a product that purifies your skin while hydrating it. We still can’t get over this wonder product and it has us looking forward to washing our face in the morning and night. Yes, it’s just that good.
SPFs are a tricky thing. They either create a grayish chalky film on your face or make you break out. Not fun. Good thing there’s Elta MD’s UV Clear SPF 46. It’s specially formulated for those with hyperpigmentation, sensitive and acne prone skin. Meaning, it’s going to do a great job warding off the sun while also ensuring it does zero damage to you. We’re so obsessed with this SPF we haven’t used another one since. A must buy.
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.
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.
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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.