Asian Beauty, Review

Review: Kikumasamune – High Moist Lotion

Packaging: The product comes in a large pink bottle (500ml) with a pump. This pump is notorious for its ability to shoot the product across the goddamned room. SO. I find it easiest to cup my hand and pump the product directly into it, but others have gone so far as to use different bottles altogether (but I like to live on the wild side, so it is still in its original bottle for me).

Price: I personally bought this in Canada for a hefty price of $30 CAD, but looking online on Amazon, it goes for $15 USD which is a great deal considering how much product you get out of it and how long it lasts (I have had mine for about five months now and as you can see from the photos above, it is nowhere near being finished).

Consistency: It is slightly more viscous than water, but is still very watery in general. When applied, it feels immediately hydrating upon the skin and is only slightly tacky. This product is perfect for when you want multiple light layers of hydration as it plays nicely with everything you put on top of it. (And remember, since this is a Japanese product, the word “lotion” actually means “toner” in this context, so be sure to use it before any serums, ampoules, etc.)

Scent: If you have ever gotten drunk off of sake, then this may be exactly what you smell when you put it on. Some people cannot stand this scent because it can be strange applying something that once made you sick when ingested (ha), but for those of us who have not had such an experience, the scent seems to vary between bubble gum to bananas (or in my case, a little of both). At any rate, you can expect the scent to be very different than your average toner. I happen to love it, but my husband says it smells like farty putty to him, so every opportunity I get, I chase him down with it all over my hands. 🙂

Ingredients: When this product first blew up all over the internet, people were in love. It is easily one of the best hydrating toners I have ever used; it is damn effective and amazingly priced. But once people started looking into its ingredients, it became highly controversial. But why? Take a look at the ingredient list:

Water, glycerin, butylene glycol, rice ferment filtrate (sake), glutamate, arginine, leucine, ceramide 3ceramide 6 IIplacenta extractarbutinglycyrrhizic acid, soy protein, maltitol, methyl gluceth-10, peg-60 hydrogenated castor oil, hydroxyethyl cellulose, alkyl styrene/acrylic acid copolymer, citric acid, sodium citrate, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, fragrance

(CosDNA Analysis)

If the bolded words were obvious enough, you should have come across the ingredient listed as “placenta extract.” Not only did this irk the vegans of the skincare world, but it also bothered everybody else, as you can probably imagine. Placenta? How in the hell was that sourced? Was it cruelty-free? Is it really even necessary? I bought this product before being aware of this ingredient because my eyes zoned in on the ceramides so high up on the list… and my point is, I am guilty for not taking a closer look at the ingredient list.

After doing some research, it turns out that the placenta extract is, in fact, a matter of ethical debate because it is derived from horses. In Japan, horse racing is big, hence the reason they have a high market for horse breeding which even cosmetic industries such as Kikumasamune partake in. One of the companies that sources the placenta extract adds that the expected functions of horse placenta may be one or more of the following:

– Internal use: strength liver & body, anti-fatigue, adjusting autonomic nerves, adjusting endocrine, and immunopotentiative action.
– External use: whitening effect, activating skin metabolism and etc.


A redditor that took part in the discussion of Kikumasamune’s placenta ingredient was able to shed more light on the situation by mentioning:

Regardless, the thing is: we eat horse meat here. It’s not a staple meat, but you can find raw horse meat sushi in some restaurants and other horse meat products as delicacies. It sounds weird, but many Japanese feel the same about Americans eating deer, elk, bison, even goat and lamb meat. So these products could be byproducts of the horse meat industry, and the animals aren’t being slaughtered solely for the sake of their placentas!

(Full reddit post here, for those of you who are interested.)

Despite its controversial nature, I do wish to include the other beneficial ingredients of this product because had that one ingredient not been involved, I would easily call this a holy grail product due to how effective it is. I mentioned earlier that the product was the most hydrating toner I had ever used, but it also noticeably brightens the skin and fades any post-acne scars. Rice ferment filtrate (sake) contains kojic acid which is responsible for skin-lightening and is also a great source of antioxidants. Arbutin and glycyrrhizic acid (a derivative of licorice root) are another set of powerful skin-lightening agents. Arginine has healing and anti-aging effects, and the ceramides are responsible for repairing the moisture barrier and enhancing the overall health of your skin.

In my opinion, if you find a product with ceramides, especially if they are higher up on the ingredient list, it is definitely worth trying. When I get out of the shower, at times the skin on my face begins to flake because I basically boiled myself in there (I love hot showers, okay?), and once I use this product, all of the flakes seem to disappear and my skin no longer feels tight. That is the power of ceramides.

Overall Review: Sooo… truthfully speaking, I do intend to finish the product I bought, but still feel somewhat uncomfortable with the placenta ingredient. I looked for similar products (but without the horse placenta extract, obviously) and was able to find an almost-dupe that looks as though it should perform just as well as the Kikumasamune one: Cezanne – Ceramide Skin Conditioner High Moist (ingredient analysis here). However, I must say that Kikumasamune’s High Moist Lotion is a great product in itself. It lightens post-acne scars, deeply moisturizes and hydrates the skin, and in as little as a week, the quality of my skin never looked better. Ignoring the placenta ingredient, this is, without a doubt, a 5/5.

Asian Beauty, Review

Review: Mamonde – Rose Water Toner

: The product comes in a plastic pink bottle (250ml) with a white cap that comes up. While the cap itself is fine as it is, I prefer switching it out with a misting spray so I can easily mist it onto my face without using too much of the product.

Price: This will depend on what size you would like to get it in; the one pictured above (150ml) goes for about $15 USD on Jolse, whereas the bigger version (500ml) goes for about $25 USD on Jolse. Considering the availability of sizes you can buy, I would say that these prices are rather reasonable, especially since it can last a long time if you choose to switch the cap with a misting spray one instead. I have personally had mine since December 2016 (approx. seven months now) using it once or twice a day.

Consistency: It feels a lot like water as it can be really runny if you choose to apply this product with your hands rather than a cotton ball/pad or misting spray. It feels really refreshing on my skin.

Scent: As one might expect from the name of this product alone, it smells like straight up roses. If you are a fan of roses, you will be extremely pleased with the scent since it smells strongly of real roses instead of perfumed. It smells like absolute heaven. (Note that I did say “strong,” so people who dislike strong fragrances in their products should approach with caution.)

IngredientsCosDNA shows that its ingredient list is, simply put, quite lovely. The only trigger for acne is butylene glycol (solvent + moisturizer) while the only possible irritant is carbomer (viscosity control), both of which scored a 1 and are commonly used in skincare products.

The beauty of this product is that it contains a whopping 90.89% of damask rose (also known as R. damascena) water straight from Bulgaria. To those who love the scent of roses, you may be surprised to know that it does a lot in terms of its neuropharmacology effects. In fact, a 2011 study revealed that:

The effects of this plant on CNS (Central Nervous System) are extensive… R. damascena has been shown to possess a potent depressant activity on CNS in mice. Some of these effects evaluated are hypnotic, anticonvulsant, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, analgesic effects, and nerve growth.

These are some significant effects! So much so, I felt the need to devolve exactly what this study meant by including more detailed quotes involving sleep, pain, brain function, seizures, the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and so forth. Feel free to skip this section and go straight to the topical effects of rose water.


Clinically Significant Effects of R. Damascena Not Involved in Topical Application:

The ethanolic and aqueous extracts [from R. damascena] in doses of 500 and 1000 mg/kg significantly increased the pentobarbital induced sleeping time in mice which was comparable to diazepam [a type of benzodiazepine which treats anxiety and is used short term for insomnia].

Hydroalcoholic extract [from R. damascena] has a potent analgesic effect in acetic acid and formalin tests.

R. damascena has beneficial effects on the brain function such as treatment of dementia. Awale et al (2009)… found that the chloroformic extract of the R. damascena significantly induced the neurite outgrowth activity and inhibited the amyloid β (Aβ). Aβ is thought to be a major pathological cause of Alzheimer.

The essential oil of R. damascena… delays the start of epileptic seizuresand decrease the duration of tonic-clonic seizures (stage 4) […]  The effects of the essential oil of R. damascena as an adjunct in treatment of children with refractory seizures were also studied and showed a significant reduction in the mean frequency of seizures in patients using essential oil of the plant. Therefore, the essential oil of R. damascena has beneficial antiepileptic effect in children with refractory seizures.

[R]esults showed a potent relaxant effect of extract and essential oil that was comparable to that of theophylline [which treats asthma and bronchospasm].

It has been shown that R. damascena has wide spectrum antimicrobial activities.

The R. damascena similar to many aromatic and medicinal plants exhibits antioxidant properties. Sources of natural antioxidant are primarily phenolics compound that are found in all parts of plants such as the fruits, vegetables, seeds, leaves, roots and barks… The results showed a potent antioxidant and lipid peroxidation inhibitory effects comparable to -tocopherol and suggest that the plant can be considered as a medical source for the treatment and prevention of many free radical diseases.

Side note: This is not an exhaustive list of the full beneficial effects of R. damascena. I highly recommend reading the full study if you are curious to know what else it does.

Clinically Significant Effects of R. Damascena in Topical Application:

If the overwhelming amount of effects that R. damascena did not already convince you of its many benefits, it turns out that:

R. damascena contains vitamin C which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

This is important to note because as we discussed in an earlier post, vitamin C is a well known ingredient in skincare that fades post-acne scars, controls sebum (oil) production, smooths the skin, reduces the redness and severity of acne, and fades fine lines. Due to its antioxidant effects, it also helps with oxidative damage from the sun, such as sunspots. But we must remember that since vitamin C is also a mild exfoliant, you must still wear sunscreen during the day!

On the subject of it being a mild exfoliant, by the way, do not be mislead into believing that this toner will necessarily moisturize or hydrate the skin, as the Jolse site seems to imply; when I first bought this product, I spent one day spritzing it all over my face like I would with my holy grail Chia Seed Soothing Mist Toner by TheFaceShop and it turned my face into an oily and tight-feeling mess at the same time. When you over-exfoliate the skin, you strip it from its natural oils, causing the skin to feel tight and produce an excess amount of oil to account for the lack of natural oils.

Overall Review: If used correctly, one will find that this toner is a very mild astringent and exfoliating toner that does not lead to any skin irritation, only the benefits: it makes your skin feel smooth, helps fade sunspots and acne, and dissolves the gunk in your pores. And of course, it smells amazing. It is ideal for daily usage just after washing one’s face (before any hydrating toners, serums, etc.) provided that the user remembers to wear sunscreen. And since it is so mild, it can be the perfect product to use for those who are sensitive to other daily formulations with lower percentage AHA/BHA toners. The scent is on the stronger side, but I love it. 5/5.

Asian Beauty, Review

Review: Missha – Super Aqua Ultra Waterful Active Toner

Packaging: The product comes in a sturdy, glass bottle (150ml) with a plastic twist-off cap. The deep blue color reminds me of the ocean.

Price: It goes for $20 USD on MisshaUS, but I got it for sale off of Jolse for $18 USD. This thing will last you many months. I have had mine for about two months now, and as you can see, I am only about a quarter through. In my opinion, it is a bit expensive for what it is, but I will get back to this point in a moment.

Consistency: It resembles a watery essence or serum in that it is too thick to be described as water-like, but too runny to be called anything else. It kind of reminds me of the viscosity of my Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion (Clear) that I reviewed in an earlier post. Upon application this product gives your skin a cooling sensation which I believe would make it a great product for the summer. It spreads easily and after it has absorbed, its finish is smooth and, thankfully, not at all tacky.

Scent: Because the bottle description adds that it has Australia Blue Mountain cave water in it, the scent immediately reminds me of mountains in the way that it seems so nice and fresh. It does not come off as strong to me like the majority of Missha products seem to, and it also does not linger at all.

Ingredients: A CosDNA analysis revealed that the only possible acne-triggering ingredients are the usual suspects: dimethicone (emollient) and butylene glycol (solvent + moisturizer), which are around the middle of the list. I know some people may want to avoid this product anyway because dimethicone is related to silicone, an ingredient known to cause clogged pores and acne in people with silicone-sensitive skin. Another possible culprit is mineral oil, which is the sixth ingredient on the list. As for me personally, this product has not broken me out at all.

Some ingredients stuck out to me when I first considered buying this product as they were high up on the list:

– Glycerin (second ingredient)
– Niacinamide (third ingredient)
– Seawater (seventh ingredient)

Glycerin, a glycerol-based emollient, attracts moisture from the air (i.e., a humectant), makes your skin feel smoother, and even promotes faster healing. Another interesting fact is that it makes other ingredients absorb more effectively than what you see with plain water or alcohol. A 2008 study mentioned that glycerol

is known to increase stratum corneum (SC) hydration, improve epidermal barrier function and decrease clinical signs of inflammation.

And as we already know, niacinamide promotes whiter, brighter-looking skin and helps fade post-acne scars.

Seawater, on the other hand, is something I have not seen before in any of my products. When I looked this up, there were numerous articles describing how seawater was beneficial in skin care, that it provided the skin with essential vitamins and minerals. It makes sense, I thought to myself, as to why this might be a rather good ingredient to include. But as I continued to research and look for actual studies involving topical usage of seawater, I found one study that took place in 2007 which painted a much different picture:

SW [seawater] immersion can cause time-dependent apoptosis [death of cells] and proliferation in the epidermis [skin], and the overall effect of SW immersion is injury to the epidermis.

I felt disheartened at first, but then I found a more recent study from 2013 that seemed conflicting when placed against the first study I mentioned:

Marine algae have gained much importance in cosmeceutical product development due to their rich bioactive compounds. […] The marine environment is enriched with a variety of organisms that harbor a wide range of biologically important compounds that are useful for the cosmeceutical benefit of humans.

From what I currently understand, algae is present in seawater; most of which come from seaweeds. So, this more recent study seems to trump the older one, in my opinion, only because the information provided as a whole was a lot more telling than the other, which involved hairless mice immersed in seawater for ridiculous amounts of time (3 hours, 6 hours, and 12 hours) – in other words, did not seem like the most reliable source to turn to in understanding how seawater might work in skin care products. The seawater is likely much less concentrated than pure seawater, and, being “immersed” for hours in it is a lot different than applying a small amount to the skin that absorbs in under a minute.

Overall Review: Despite the promising ingredients it contains, I found that the actual outcome of using this product for about two months was rather disappointing. As a hydrating toner, it only felt hydrating on my skin as I applied it, but would not have any long-lasting effects or make any crazy changes to the quality of my skin like other hydrating toners I have tried. But still, this toner is a simple one that would likely work well for all skin types and be a great starting point for those who are new to using hydrating toners. I find it basic in that it does help following products absorb better (like most toners are expected to do) and maintains the quality of my skin. 3.5/5.

Asian Beauty, Review

Review: Hada Labo – Gokujyun Lotion (Clear)

Packaging: It comes in a clear, plastic bottle (170ml) with a label stuck right on it along with a cap that pulls open. I like that the spout dispenses the product in the exact amount I need when I simply tip the bottle upside down over my hand for a moment. What I don’t like is that its design is so similar to their other products that sometimes we may confuse it for something else. A quick Google search shows that it also appears to go by the name “Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (Moist),” making matters worse. (And remember, Japan refers to toners as “lotions.”)

Price: Because I bought this at a T&T store in Canada, the price was marked up to about $25-30 CAD, but you can get this product off of Amazon for about $16 USD. So far, it has lasted me over five months and I generally use it 2x a day (although, admittedly, I haven’t been using it as often this month since I’m testing out another hydrating toner).

Consistency: The consistency is very watery, but there is still this slightly viscous feel to it. Because of this, I don’t use a cotton ball/pad to apply it since so much of the product can get trapped inside and get wasted; instead, I simply use the palms of my hands to pat it onto my face. Its finish feels dewy (or as the name implies, “moist”), making it the perfect hydrating toner.

Scent: Absolutely no scent! Great for people who are sensitive to fragrances.

Ingredients: A CosDNA analysis showed that the only flagged item was butylene glycol (solvent + moisturizer) for acne, which only scored a 1. But let us dive right in and analyze the star ingredient, hyaluronic acid. It only sounds scary, but it isn’t – I promise! When we think of “acids,” we generally think of exfoliation and skin peeling, but this ingredient does the exact opposite: it moisturizes, plumps your skin, and sucks moisture out of the air and into your skin. This product includes two forms of hyaluronic acid for increased efficiency due to their differently sized molecules: hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate. They are naturally found within the skin and even between connective tissues.

Its “plumping” effect on the fine lines of my forehead shows that it actually works instantly; the photos above were taken only minutes apart. And take a look at that short ingredient list! I love it! Unless you have a sensitivity to hyaluronic acid, this product may be just what you’re looking for if your fine lines need some plumping.

Important note: If you find that hyaluronic acid actually dries out your skin, this is because there is no moisture in the air for it to draw into the skin, so it sucks the moisture out of your face instead. This issue can easily be mitigated by using a moisturizer on top (which you absolutely should be using anyway!).

Overall Review: This product is ideal for all skin types due to its simple ingredient list and lack of fragrances. I will note that it does contain parabens to keep the other ingredients from breaking down or spoiling, so if that bothers you, then you may not like this product. But if this doesn’t bother you, then you will absolutely love this product for its efficiency just as I do. 5/5.

Asian Beauty, Review

Review: TheFaceShop – Chia Seed Soothing Mist Toner

Packaging: It comes in a green plastic bottle (170ml) with a clear cap that pulls off to reveal a spray nozzle. I absolutely love how fine of a mist this spray produces. I had originally planned on including a photo of it sprayed onto my hand, but even with my Nikon D5000, it looked like there wasn’t anything there – that’s just how fine it is! Side note: The packaging was recently updated, so this is why you see two different types of the bottle in my photos (the recent one being the clear bottle), but the formulation is still the same!

Price: It goes for $27 CAD on TheFaceShop’s Canadian website. As much as I love this mist toner, I do think the price could be cheaper. I can go through it in a single month if I use it consistently in my routine (which would normally be 2x a day, multiple spritzes), but as you can probably tell from my empty bottles in the photos above, the price doesn’t hold me back from buying more!

Consistency: This product is for very, very light layers of hydration. If you’re looking for something of a powerhouse, then this product might feel underwhelming for you. However, the extremely lightness is part of why I love this product so much. It goes well under or over anything (including makeup) and gives me just the right amount of light hydration that my combo skin needs. Even after spraying multiple layers on, it never feels heavy.

Scent: I fell in love with this scent from the very first moment I spritzed it onto my face. It’s light, fresh, and doesn’t linger at all. I couldn’t get enough of the scent, so I’ve bought many products from TheFaceShop’s Chia Seed line*.

Ingredients: According to CosDNA, there are only a few flagged ingredients that might cause acne (all of which scored a measly 1), but they are present in most skincare products and are of little concern: dimethicone (emollient), butylene glycol (solvent + moisturizer), and castor oil (fragrance + moisturizer + emollient). The star ingredient of this product, which is the very first ingredient present in the list, is “Salvia Hispanica Seed Extract” – commonly known as chia seed. It is an emollient and skin conditioner, making it the perfect hydrating element. And even more, chia seeds have been shown to relieve dry, itchy, and irritated skin when applied topically!

In a study by the Annals of Dermatology, researchers found that:

[C]hia seed oil is the richest botanical source of 18:3 n-3 fatty acid currently known. In addition, chia seed oil also contains natural α-linolenic acid and flavonol, which can act as lipid antioxidants… the flavonol has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic and anti-cancer effects.

This is significant because omega-3s also make this product useful to those with troubled (read: acne-infected) skin.

Overall Review: This product is ideal for all skin types, and especially so for those with finicky, sensitive skin. As the name suggests, this chia seed toner will “soothe” your skin even when it is at its worst. Throughout my crazy skin journey, this product has been something I’ve used consistently because it delivers exactly as it promises, and I can’t see myself ever being without it. 5/5.

* Look forward to my future reviews on more of TheFaceShop’s Chia Seed line!