[REVIEW] Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX

My Skin is Addictedimage

It’s true, I’m addicted. I use too much. I justify it. I love it. This is one of Sulwhasoo’s finest.

I hate really dislike my new job. It has perks over my old one but I’ve been trying to get out of there almost since I started. I was moping around about having to work Saturday night (Not part of my regular schedule but I was doing it the entire month) After grocery shopping at HMart my partner and I went into AMOREPACIFIC because I actually wanted to get myself something. My partner was tired of it and asked what I was eyeing last time and that was Sulwhasoo’s First Care Activating Serum. I told him it was expensive and I don’t really need it, it’s ‘just another step’. He snatched a bottle up and put it on the counter before I could say anything else.

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Also included from the day’s shopping: Ryo Ginsengbo Conditioner for Normal/Dry Hair , Laneige Water Bank Soothing Gel Mask (5pc), Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, Happy Bath Peach & Orange Blossom Foaming Hand Soap (2) [gift w/ purchase!] , Sulwhasoo Basic Care Set 6pc [also gift!])

So to say the least, he did cheer me up. A L O T.

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Sulwhasoo products are really special to me. Once I moved away from such an intensive repairing regime I found myself bored and tired of my skincare routine. While results kept showing, my drive faded. Sulwhasoo brought a fresh take to my idea of skincare. Holistic skincare. Indulging all senses and not just applying product for results. Make your routine relaxing and beneficial inside and out. Textures irresistible to touch, scents that evoke emotion, and most importantly quality and well processed ingredients.

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What is First Care Activating Serum? It was the first product of it’s kind. First launched in 1997 it’s been a best seller in Korea, and now even the US. It’s described as a ‘booster’ or ‘activator’. You can find other products like it, though rare, from other brands such as Naruko 60 Actives Youth Activating Enhancer and Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule are some examples. What is a booster? Well, it’s a serum you apply before any treatment step, first essence (and sometimes toner) included. They all vary slightly on effects but the common theme is enhancing product absorption. First Care Serum promises to do this and more, such as provide a boost in firmness and hydration.

I started experimenting with where I wanted to use this product in my routine because in my routine, I apply actives before essences and above. I let them sit for 20 minutes before applying anything else. At night I use my Curology prescription. In the morning I use Dr. Dennis Gross’ C +Collagen serum. So i’ve applied this before actives and after my actives. I found over a month of testing this is how I like to apply it best:

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The last method with actives requires a bit of time, but it’s the only way I’m truly happy with how my products layer when I’m doing a full routine. Why I say a toner w/ denatured alcohol is because these make much better ‘prep’ toners. For you it may not be a toner with alcohol, Actually, the toner I use with alcohol is designed to increase treatment efficacy and product penetration! I feel like my regular alcohol free toners do not leave my skin feel freshly cleaned and First Care has a slower absorption rate. I use it before and after my actives, then use a refreshing treatment toner as my ‘toner’ step before First Treatment Essence. This is totally unnecessary and I skip it at times, but if you want the whole shebang.. there you go.

Now my favorite part, ingredients. Based with 5 ingredients that were hand picked out through a tedious process. First 3,000 Korean traditional medicinal herbs were studied, from this list 163 were selected. These 163 herbs went through intensive research and an even smaller list of 30 was created. Rigorous tests discover 5 ingredients poised to work harmoniously. These 5 ingredients makeup what is called the ‘JAUM’ balancing complex.

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Peony — Antioxidant powerhouse, anti-inflammatory, skin tone corrector

Sacred Lotus — Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Solomon’s Seal —Anti-inflammatory, UV damage repair/protection

White Lily — powerful anti-inflammatory

Rehmannia —Anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, rich in repairing amino acids

Essentially, these 5 work together to soothe, balance, and protect. Sulwhasoo couldn’t just stop at hours of research to find the 5 perfect herbs. They then tested traditional brewing methods. The poje honey method is used to marry these ingredients with honey in earthen jars. To ensure maximum efficacy the ingredients were checked every 10 minutes when researching. They found no more, and no less than 18 hours was the perfect brewing time. With that the JAUM complex was born.

To read more about these complexes you can find out more from AMOREPACIFIC’s R&D: Here, here, and here

The JAUM Complex is the star of First Care but there’s a few other ingredients I like to see. Licorice Root is the second ingredient, my favorite anti-inflammatory. Betaine, Hyaluronic acid, and Natto Gum are great humectants to include.

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(not an exact comparison due to lighting differences but still noticeable!)

First few applications of the product I didn’t notice any substantial differences. But over time I started to crave the cooling/soothing feeling it left. I would notice days that I had to skip it in my routine; my skin would extremely lackluster compared to what I was getting used to. Once I added it back, immediately that glow was back. I can say with confidence this product has improved my skin’s circulation with its gang of anti-inflammatories.

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First Care Activating Serum throws a huge wrench in the ‘thinnest to thickest’ method of application extensive routines have. Instead of being the thinnest product first it’s actually this guy. Not essence. Not even toner. Like straight after washing your face you take 2-3 pumps of the serum and apply onto dry skin. I was super weirded out by this, especially for my cleansers that have a pH that requires a toner afterwards. I like to keep the brands whole product line in the back of my head when analyzing products. Sulwhasoo doesn’t make pH unbalanced cleansers. Their ‘Waters’ or toners are a cross between toner and essence so a very watery pH balancing toner isn’t a step in a Sulwhasoo only routine.

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First Care’s scent is so lovely. It carries a similar scent the rest of the ‘Essential’ line has, but isn’t excessive and fades quickly. Citrusy with prominent woodsy-hanbang notes, Sulwhasoo scents are part of what make their products unique and a holistic experience.

Overall, I found a new staple. I look forward to it the most in my routine, I can even spend a solid 5 minutes just rubbing this product in. From it’s soothing sensation to the long term circulation benefits I’ve noticed, it’s a keeper.

[Review] Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Brightening Fluid: Emulsion Elegance

As spring arrives and I’m daydreaming about summer, we often look to switch up parts of our routine needing less moisture, and/or more hydration. Emulsions have to face the tightrope of consistency. If they’re too thick, what’s the point of another moisturizer? If they’re too thin, what’s the point of your essence? Emulsions provide us a silky smooth transition from your treatment or hydration steps (I dunno your routine or how you want to categorize, boss.) into your moisturizing step(s). Necessary? No. Beneficial? Ya. How? Let’s find out!

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Sulwhasoo is like a 3 Michelin Star restaurant, a complete sensorial experience. Maybe in different ways, you’re not rubbing foie gras on your face. (I think foie gras would be too blasè for a 3 star restaurant tbh) But there’s a lot more to a product than good ingredients. First is the scent, with a sultry pine/ginseng hanbang-y smell it’s true Sulwhasoo. Second is texture. Sulwhasoo hits it on the head as far as consistency goes. Third is how they process their naturals using the Poje Method. There are 5 different treatments that can be done to the ingredients. Honey treatment (I am so excited to write more about this in another Sulwhasoo post 😉 ) Alcohol Treatment, Germinating Treatment, Steam Treatment, and Salt Treatment. Some of these treatments (like the Honey Treatment) are specific to certain key ingredients in other lines. In this emulsion we see the Salt Treatment used.

“The Salt Treatment involves baking ingredients in salt. Sulwhasoo Snowise line uses Salt Treatment. First, salt is dissolved in water. Then, logs of mulberry tree which is known as a strong whitening agent, is completely soaked in that water and baked. Salt not only clarifies the body and purifies the blood, but it also fortifies the Yin energy and detoxifies inflammation to clarify and brighten skin.

The Salt Treatment enhanced the skin detoxification efficacy of the mulberry tree and improved the power of the active ingredients.“

-eng.amorepacific.co.kr 

Snowise utilizes White Ginseng instead of Red Ginseng. Which isn’t a different root, it refers to the untreated ginseng root which is pale in color compared to the vibrant red steamed ginseng roots. Because of this Sulwhasoo saves time and money on NOT using their precious red ginseng extract that undergoes the Poje style Steam Treatment. But have no fear, you’re still getting the same top notch ginseng. It just may not have gone through the michelin star experience yet. It needs about another $100 tacked onto the price (see: Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum) if we were looking for that type of concentration in a product.

Wandering the ingredient list, I was stoked to see it wasn’t based with any silicones or cleansing agents. Even more stoked to see Squalane as the third ingredient. Squalane is a lovely skin replenishing ingredient that mimics our own lipid content. It sounds dramatic, but the proof in how much I love this brand is in the holes Sulwhasoo has made in my wallet. I purchase Sulwhasoo products over other maybe potentially more ‘active’ for the whole experience. The way this emulsion absorbs is like no other, but also when I put it on in, take a deep breath in and get a whiff.. It’s like a shot of relaxation. That to me is worth every cent of the price difference.

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Under the hood the Snowise Fluid has a killer brightening complex. I can’t describe it better than the people who made it:  “Snowise Tri-White Complex includes White Ginseng Saponin, which prevents melanin generation; White Cloud Grass™, a potent defense against light and heat; and White Ginseng Polysaccharides, which minimize sallowness in the skin—all of which help strengthen and protect the skin.”

Okay maybe I can describe it better in some ways than they did.. Starting with the White Ginseng Saponin, this is a component of ginseng. L O A D E D with antioxidants and provide soothing and protecting effects. White Cloud Grass unfortunately, I could not find what this name might relate to…. So that they can describe better than me I guess. Then White Ginseng Polysaccharides, another component of ginseng that is. Polysaccharides, being a NMF (natural moisturizing factor) and antioxidant carrier, and making up 10-20% of the root, makes it a no brainer for the formula.

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Some ingredients Sulwhasoo was too modest to brag about are: Two types of Licorice Root Extract, powerful soothing agents I love to see anywhere and everywhere. Ginkgo Biloba, an anti inflammatory ingredient that helps increase circulation.

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Is she brighter than me? Well she’s covered in silver highlighter head-to-toe…

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Does it brighten? Well.. if you’re speaking about dark spot suppression, not as much. There are specialized dark spot correcting products within the Snowise line. However, the fluid I believe is designed to be more of a multifunctional emulsion / soothing, tone restoring, antioxidant hug.

Why didn’t I go with the popular Essential Balancing Emulsion, when I said I loved it in an IG post? After a short conversation with my Sulwhasoo savvy Ajumma in the Amore boutique, she mentioned the Snowise fluid is more moisturizing. But when I applied them both on the back of my hand I felt like the Snowise absorbed much quicker. I also liked the products high Squalane content, something the Balancing Emulsion lacked.

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One perk of emulsions are finely tuning the amount of lipids, or moisture your skin gets. I would never be able to wear just a gel moisturizer, unless I was in the TROPICS. Unfortunately, Seattle is not the tropics last time I checked. My skin wants at least a little bit of lipids. With it being spring time, my skins doing great with emulsion and gel moisturizer in the morning, and sticking to emulsion, cream, and sleeping pack at night. No face oils have been necessary, luckily.

Overall, Sulwhasoo did it again. I feel like I could pick anything up from them and probably find something to love about it. But this emulsion made me fall in love with it inside and out.

 

 

[REVIEW] Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion #11

I think this is my first makeup post on here! But it’s still skincare, you will see. Look at this cushion! It’s not a new one, it’s not a lesser known one. It’s Sulwhasoo’s best selling, super dewy finish cushion the Perfecting Cushion. When I first discovered this cushion they didn’t actually make it in a color that matched me. But since those days Sulwhasoo now sells their Perfecting Cushion in 6 shades: #11 Pale Pink, #13 Light Pink (what I normally match to in other cushion brands), #21 Medium Pink, #23 Medium Beige, #25 Deep Beige, #33 Dark Beige.

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I actually got this cushion to celebrate a new job! It’s unfortunately (but not that unfortunate) not in skincare, but I’m hoping it’ll give me more creative freedom with this blog! I got a lot of privileges products from my old job that I review on here, so there will be a shift more into solely products I pick out with my own wallet and money! Less branded, overhyped junk you can buy at a cosmetics store, more hidden gems.

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Sulwhasoo is one of the brands I’m the most interested in that I don’t get to experience as much as I would want to. Mainly because the products are expensive, and hard(er) to find. Since they’re under AMOREPACIFIC you can often times find teeny tiny boutiques that carry it inside of asian markets. If you don’t have any around you, some Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom stores sell them as well. But it’s hard to find still, Seatte’s Nordstrom just started carrying Sulwhasoo a few months ago. I purchased this at the AMOREPACIFIC inside of the HMart shopping center in Lynnwood, WA because I love supporting local businesses, it’s the same price, and I got showered with love from the Ajummas who work there and samples from not only Sulwhasoo but from other AMORE brands like ARITAUM, IOPE, and Mamonde. Brands you won’t find anywhere other than a true K-beauty store.

If you know me, I want to be g l o w i n g 24/7. I’d like to think I do a pretty good job at this with just my skin routine, but during the day I like to amp it up some. I’ve gone back and forth between doing my whole face everyday to nothing to light makeup styles. Fine tuning my skin’s texture over time has had a lot to do with this. I could never settle on what I prefered the look of because my texture and tone were constantly changing. I’ve settled on cushions finally because I realize I will always want some tint and pore coverage on my nose and inner face. Those bad boys are at a genetic predisposition, thanks Dad.

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What is a cushion compact?

Magical skincare Photoshop sponges. Now you can get foundation, blush, highlighter, color corrector, pretty much anything in a cushion compact. But this is part of the OG first generation of AMOREPACIFIC cushion compacts. The idea of them is to be the next generation of on the go coverage and SPF in one. Brought to life by AMOREPACIFIC’s own R&D Team, the HERA UV Mist Cushion was the first launched in 2008! It was a long work in progress but it has already shaped the world’s cosmetic industry and will continue to do so.

Almost every brand has their own version of these compacts but AMOREPACIFIC has filed 114 patent applications and already registered 13 patents. The amount of time this company put into the product is staggering, but it’s definitely paying off for them. They state in 2014 alone, they sold a cushion every 1.2 seconds. This cushion albeit from their most luxe brand (if you don’t include amore themselves) cost me $65, $5 more than AMOREPAICIFC’s own Color Control Cushion Compact. I wanted to splurge for the Sulwhasoo Perfecting Intense Cushion but at $80 I couldn’t bring myself to pay $40 per sponge. Per sponge? Yup. They give you a refill cushion to use when you finish off the first one! It actually adds up to ~1oz of product which is smaller than a foundation but by less than half.

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The cushion has a unique film fixing polymer that gives it your skin an unrivaled dewy finish as well as a blurring effect. It also helps keep the product on and in place all day long. Sulwhasoo states that this should also insure long lasting coverage, up to 12 hours to be exact. That’s foundation strength wear! The color shown is #11 Pale Pink, comparing to other colors, I feel like it’s pretty dark for ‘11′. I feel like it’s just slightly lighter than Missha’s #21 in their Perfect Cover BB Cream.

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Pale pink isn’t quite pale enough for this pasty-paste.

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Blended in however you can see that gorgeous radiance and no orangey tone.

Part of Cushion benefits are SPF! Since these are hybrid on-the-go formulas they provide decent sun protection and make great SPF touch ups that doesn’t disturb other makeup. This compact sports an SPF 50+ and a PA+++, so maximum protection (in the US that is.) Lastly, I want to point out the quality. After owning a few other cushions I was really impressed with this one. I’ve never owned a legit Amore cushion, only cheap Missha ones. Those not only didn’t come with a refill, some things just feel off. The Sulwhasoo applicator sponge feels really high quality compared to them. I feel like I use a lot less product as well. It lays nicer, feels better. It’s just better.

What makes you really fall in love with the compact is the scent. It’s a signature Sulwhasoo Hanbang scent. Like a sexy ginseng root, this cushion gets a 10/10. I just might splurge (even though the $65 was a splurge) on the Intense Cushion next time, as it’s apart of their newest generation of cushions!

till next time!