With all the hype over new skincare products, especially those from cult brands and their strong social media game, we’re often left spoilt for choice. Money’s a limited commodity for most of us, yes, and we want to spend it where it counts. The following reviews might help. Here, we’ve tried and tested all of this season’s most talked-up products, Some are as legitimate as they claim, while others, well, let’s just say they won’t be making our greatest hits list. Here are the latest launches from Laneige, Aesop, Drunk Elephant, Glow Recipe, innisfree, Fresh — go ahead, see how they fare.
1. Laneige Water Sleeping Mask_EX
LANEIGE’s global bestselling formula is hyped about for a reason — it delivers on reliable hydration, serving all our skin needs while we sleep, and obviously, many people’s skins love it. So why the revamp? Easy. Skincare science is getting better every day, and the popular k-beauty brand isn’t going to miss out on that. The newly reformulated Water Sleeping Mask_EX is now enhanced with squalane for its formidable hydrating effect, as well as a Sleeping Microbiome™ and probiotics complex. These help to strengthen and restore skin to its optimal balanced state overnight, making it healthier and better able to defend itself in the day, while improving on skin texture as well.
I seriously love this! Granted, I’m already a huge fan of the OG Water Sleeping Mask, and it’s still one of my top skincare recommendations. One thing I didn’t quite love about the previous version though was that, on slicker skin days, the thick gel formula didn’t get absorbed into my skin as fast as I’d like; I’d sometimes be left worrying about getting product on my pillowcase. None of this applies here. The new formula truly absorbed into the skin faster than before, and I liked that it left my skin feeling supple and plump, instead of weighed down and tacky — it could be the squalene making an impression here as it’s known for effective hydration without any greasy residue. After more than a week of using it daily, which worked in my harsh air-conditioned sleeping environment, I noticed my skin got more firm and smooth too, and stayed more hydrated throughout the day. It was truly refreshed.
Another thing I loved was using it as a quick remedy to calm my skin. It wasn’t in a good place after a sunburn — ah, the effects of prolonged sun exposure firsthand — so it was red and parched. After a bout of Kiehl’s Calendula Mask the moment I got home, I slathered on the Laneige Sleeping Mask for the night. This is where the lightweight gel-cream texture does wonders, since it felt cooling on the skin, while the formula managed to calm a lot of redness overnight. Combined with its calming scent, one that’s actually backed by research in order to help us relax, the effects of a good night’s can really be found in a jar, and LANEIGE hasn’t disappointed yet.
Score: 5/5 — A well-loved overnight mask gets even better with new skin-strengthening ingredients ; good for super hydration.
$45. Available at LANEIGE boutiques and departmental stores, and online on SHOPEE, LAZADA, ZALORA, and sephora.sg.
2. Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray
Drunk Elephant. There you go! The highly-popular cult skincare brand is already hyped about for their clean and effective formulas, but still gives us something to talk about with their first skincare launch of the year — a facial mist. The Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray isn’t content with just hydrating your skin either; the blend of fermented sake extract, kombucha, and hops contains nutrient-rich ingredients that support a healthy microbiome, essentially building a strong and balanced skin barrier. It therefore defends your skin against the harsh environment it’s up against, whether that’s pollution, blue light, UV rays, or other irritants.
Are you a facial mist enthusiast? I never considered myself one until I started working, and being constantly by my laptop meant that I always had a facial mist on standby for a midday spritz. Fans of probiotics would love this of course, as Drunk Elephant has managed to put together fermented sake extract, kombucha, and hops to restore our skin barrier. Electrolyte-rich coconut water, sodium PCA, ceramides, and vitamin F are also present, while natural minerals such as zinc, copper, and calcium gluconate help reduce redness and promote healthy collagen production. If that sounds like a mouthful, just know this: a lot has been packed into this facial mist for you to achieve healthy skin.
This one’s a good spray. By that, I mean the bottle dispensed a very fine mist that isn’t tacky on the skin. Though lightweight, the formula did not evaporate so quickly that it ironically dries the skin out; instead, it sat nicely on my skin and got quickly absorbed, which recharges skin and made mine immediately more plump. I find that mists are important in my routine, not just to rehydrate the skin, but also to balance it, which helps when I’m going without foundation. This helped my skin stay fresh and not overly oily or dry at the same time (combination skin woes), while I’ve also used it to calm my skin when it’s particularly irritated. DE’s facial mist is a boost for all these things.
Still, it’s hard to say whether this really restored my skin barrier as I haven’t seen a significant change; most modern mists I’ve tried are pretty decent too, so I’d consider this a nice-to-have but not necessary purchase. If you’re an avid DE fan though, adding this to your growing collection won’t hurt.
Score: 4/5 — A facial mist that does more than hydrate ; good for a strong skin barrier that can defend against environmental aggressors.
$60, available at Sephora stores and on SEPHORA.SG.
3. Glow Recipe Papaya Enzyme Cleansing Balm
Glow Recipe’s known for incorporating the best superfruits into their popular skincare products, so this one’s no different. The tropical papaya makes an appearance here in the new Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm, which promises to effortless dissolve makeup, oil, and SPF, while gently resurfacing the skin. Papaya is used in as many ways possible — papaya enzymes are a natural exfoliant, while papaya seed oil and papaya extract hydrate and soothe the skin. Additionally, the clean beauty brand’s known for k-beauty-inspired essentials that are formulated with clean and natural ingredients, made without parabens, sulphates or phthalates. Get ready for the new glow you’re about to have.
Cleansing balms are one of my favourite k-beauty discoveries. Think of it as an oil cleanser that’s gentle, effective, and not at all irritating to the skin, but as a cushiony balm that dissolves into a silky oil when on your face. It’s that sensorial experience I’m looking for when reviewing Glow Recipe’s new balm… which, unfortunately, wasn’t what I found.
Fresh out of the jar, it definitely deserves praise for that pleasant, all-natural papaya scent, and I did like the sorbet-like texture of the balm. It was also effective in melting away my makeup, and wasn’t irritating even around my eyes. It also managed to take off a whole lot of foundation and glitter eyeshadow without much effort.
What I didn’t like though was how it then sat on my skin as a slightly oily layer after, which was hard to wash off with just water. Believe me, I tried rinsing a couple of times and still felt that uncomfortable feeling, which was certainly unusual. I noticed this for Drunk Elephant’s cleansing balm too, so I’m wondering if these formulas might happen to be too heavy for our humid climate, or if there are certain emulsifying ingredients missing. Then again, Farmacy, and the rest of the k-beauty ones (Banila Co!) work just fine. Thankfully, there’s a fix — the brand’s own Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser. It was only with this double-cleanse routine, where I followed up with this frankly impressive cleanser, that I felt the full effects of what was promised. My skin was soft, thoroughly cleansed, and refreshed with a nice afterglow.
My overall verdict? If you’re a frequent double-cleanse stan, this is a decent first step to your regime, especially knowing that this is PEG-free with no synthetic fragrances. I can’t attest to that single cleanse claim though, as much as we love Glow Recipe‘s other stunning fruit-based products, so this would be a pass for me. I’ve got better options!
Score: 2/5 — A papaya-infused cleansing balm that effectively removes makeup, cleanses, and gently resurfaces skin ; good for those who are used to double-cleansing.
$49. Available on SEPHORA.SG.
4. Aesop In Two Minds
While not particularly new, Aesop’s In Two Minds range is highly appropriate this season, especially since it’s primed to deal with combination skin — and our new dreaded skincare woe, maskne. The simple three-step regimen of cleanser, toner, and moisturiser contains powerful botanicals, primarily witch hazel, to help balance and restore skin to its original calm state. We all know how tricky combination skin can be — dry at parts, and yet oily at others, especially along the t-zone. The range helps control sebum production, soothe irritation, and still provide just the right amount of hydration without your skin looking way too slick.
With all the exciting festive occasions these past few months, it felt like my skin hardly got a good break. Plus, it was getting a little confused from the myriad of ordeals I had put it through — makeup / no makeup, WFH / heading out for events, or say, suffocating under a face mask. Enter Aesop’s combination skin-friendly solutions. I’d usually err on the “dry skin” side of things, but I did notice my t-zone getting more oily throughout the day and was looking for a good remedy.
First up, Aesop’s In Two Minds Facial Cleanser. I liked that this was very gentle on the skin, and even though it’s formulated for oil control thanks to the anti-inflammatory witch hazel, it never left my skin feeling tight at all. The gel went on nice and calming, with no foam and only a very slight lather. My only gripe was the way it dispenses — on my first use, I had poured out way too much cleanser because this wasn’t the typical pump system I was used to. Still, with salicylic acid for gentle exfoliation and sage leaf to fight off free radicals, my skin felt soft and refreshed after.
The next step: Aesop’s In Two Minds Facial Toner. Toners always seem a little unnecessary in a rush, but I can see how this made a difference within such a tight regime. This contains witch hazel and niacinamide to nourish and tone the skin, and the water-like formula was especially soothing when patted on. I like that this prepped my skin for the next moisturising step — I’ve admittedly skipped this on some days and noticed how my skin feels less balanced when I do.
Finally, there’s the In Two Minds Facial Hydrator, which does all the work to balance oily skin while also nourishing it. A trio of Andiroba, Copaiba, Acai oils are here for that, and this is combined again with witch hazel to control sebum production. The result’s a nice matte finish that I love, and the lightweight moisturiser made my skin feel plump, especially at the beginning. Over the course of the day, the slicker areas of my face were thankfully kept in check too. It’s okay to be generous with the amount used here — though it’s quite a small bottle, which does seem like it’ll run out before the other products. Those with combination skin, who are tired of using different products on various parts of your face, ought to give this a go.
Score: 4.5/5 — A must-have regime for those with combination skin ; good for humid climates and those who don’t like to overthink their skincare regimes.
$43 – $80. available at Aesop signature stores, select departmental store counters, and AESOP ONLINE.
5. innisfree Black Tea Youth Enhancing Ampoule
The latest in innisfree’s high-performing anti-ageing skincare, the Black Tea Youth Enhancing Ampoule rescues tired-looking while you sleep with their Reset Concentrate™, an anti-ageing active that’s formulated with 80% fermented Jeju Black Tea. This combats five signs of fatigued skin, including dryness, dullness, texture, sensitivity, and skin health — the goal here is to reset your skin to its glowy, firm, and healthy best in the morning. The brand specifically identified Black Tea as the key ingredient of their new skincare line, as they found that it has the highest percentage of amino acids among its contemporaries. The Jeju-grown black tea is then meticulously extracted in mineral water at 80°C for 12 hours, to enhance the efficacy of theabrownin, a component that makes the Reset Concentrate™ active far more potent.
I love it when skincare does everything for me when I sleep, especially the ones that tell me they can achieve the effects of a full 8-hour sleep cycle when I sometimes get way less. An ampoule is also a good way to add a boost to your skincare regime — I’ve never really considered this extra step on top of the usual toner, serum, moisturiser regime, but I might reconsider. Ampoules differ slightly from serums as they contain even higher concentrations of active ingredients. That can sound scary if you’re new to the skincare game, but innisfree assures that after numerous rounds of skin irritation tests, theirs is good for daily use even for those with sensitive skin.
My favourite part about this was the texture. I’m used to thicker formulas for night products, so I was surprised that this was as lightweight as claimed, especially for a highly-concentrated ampoule. The cloudy liquid was less viscous than I thought, and flowed easily though there was still some weight to it, while also absorbed quickly into my skin without much residue. On top of the Reset Concentrate™, there are also ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramide, and vitamin E, to maintain moisture levels and act as a protective barrier. I followed the brand’s guidelines of doing a three-layer routine too, instead of my usual one, before sealing it all off for the night with a cream.
What I found the next morning was this — my skin felt smooth, bouncy, and deeply hydrated, with less of the signs of fatigue I might get. While I don’t have sensitive skin, I can say that this did not give me a reaction or cause my skin to be more sensitised the entire time I was testing this. After a week or so, I didn’t quite notice a dramatic effect of de-aged skin or a significantly brighter complexion, though I suppose a product is sometimes good enough if it manages to maintain my skin’s current condition. I’d recommend this if you’re worried about erratic or non-existent sleep cycles, and are looking for a boost to your skincare regime — that’s what a good ampoule does after all.
Score: 4/5 — A highly-concentrated ampoule that fights off signs of bad sleep ; good for those with sensitive skin looking for an ampoule.
$51. Available at innisfree stores and online at the innisfree official Lazada store.
6. Fresh Kombucha Cleansing Treatment
As a health drink, kombucha has gained much popularity on our sunny shores as more people start embracing the benefits probiotics bring to our gut. So, what about our face? As far as I know, Fresh was one of the earliest skincare brands to incorporate kombucha into their formulas, so right after the first anti-pollution toner, comes this — the new Kombucha Cleansing Treatment. With this latest no-rinse 3-in-1 cleanser and treatment, you can beat the effects of indoor, outdoor, and digital pollution on your skin. It first gently cleanses to remove makeup, sunscreen and impurities, while prebiotics and other antioxidant ingredients are in there too to repair barrier function and treat our skin. The key ingredient here is prebiotic inulin, a plant-based extract derived from chicory roots to help support the microbiota, our skin’s natural defense system, to keep it healthy and more able to defend against external aggressors.
If it feel likes this is the 1000th time you’ve heard us talking about the microbiome and prebiotics and fermented ingredients, well then, we’re not about to stop. Healthy skin is probably the most important factor of good skin — unfortunately, with UV rays and pollution hitting us from every angle, these wear our skin down over time, and makes it more perceptible to damage, and therefore, premature signs of ageing. Fresh has even identified three types of pollution: indoor, outdoor, and digital. No surprise which ones we’re most exposed to in 2020. I was, therefore, glad that they’ve extended their very necessary kombucha line to include this cleanser.
As a fan of micellar water, I’d love something as fuss-free as a “no-rinse formula”. For a cleanser, Fresh’s new product is certainly effective — it managed to remove my light makeup with just a soaked cotton pad and no unforgivable tugging, without leaving any unpleasant residue behind. It manages to lift impurities without stripping my skin of moisture. In fact, it went even further to have it feeling fresh and plump, which is where the “treatment” part of the formula came in. I never felt like it irritated my skin at all and it even helped calm some redness and potential flare-ups. I loved how it smelled, and compared to my usual micellar waters, I felt like this really quenched my skin with extra hydration too, which was very welcome.
If you find Bioderma’s Micellar Water already expensive though, you might want to think twice about this product, which already surpasses the $50 benchmark. For a cleanser too, mind you. I also haven’t tried this on heavy makeup, which I think might be tougher to remove with such a gentle formula; it had already took quite a bit of product to make sure my light makeup was completely off. To be fair though, I feel like this is a product for those who are used to no or lighter makeup, say if you happen to be working from home. I don’t think I can probably assess its anti-pollution benefits, but I can say that if you’ve been concerned about skincare prevention over skincare solutions, then this is worth its price tag. I’ll still be using mine to its last drop.
Score: 3.5/5 — A no-rinse cleanser with anti-pollution properties that treats your skin barrier right ; good for those who like multi-tasking products.
$36 (75ml) and $69 (200ml). available at fresh boutiques, takashimaya department store, sephora stores, and on SEPHORA.SG.