WHY I BOUGHT IT
My review and excitement of this product will make a lot more sense if you have some basic understanding of how pH affects the order in which skincare is applied. For a fantastic overview, check out this post over at Snow White and the Asian Pear and scroll down to the part entitled How to incorporate ‘actives’ which are pH dependent. To key take away is that for maximum efficacy, it’s important to allow your skin to adjust to its normal, mildly acidic pH, before applying low-pH actives. This can be done by waiting 15-20 minutes, which is what I had been doing, or by using a pH adjusting toner.
The most popular pH adjusting toner is perhaps Mizon’s AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner. It is widely praised but notoriously difficult to acquire, and has a pH of 4.2, which is at the lower end of the pH range of healthy skin (which is 4.2 – 5.6). Another popular pH adjusting toner is Cosrx’s, but at a pH of 3.8, it may be effective but is unnecessarily low. Let’s Cure’s toner caught my eye because it purportedly has a pH of 4.5. The fact the company seems to appreciate the importance of pH was also a huge selling point.
WHERE I BOUGHT IT
From Memebox’s Korean site via Avecko for 14,800 KRW, which is $12.68. It is also available on various other Korean sites, including 11st, but unfortunately not any easily accessible sites for US customers yet. If you’re looking for it, try searching for “[레츠큐어] 퓨어스킨 베이직스텝 엑스폴리에이터.”
PACKAGING AND APPEARANCE
Packaging is simple and functional. The box and labelling is literally all white with black text. The toner comes in a pretty large plastic bottle and is yellowish in color.
To be clear, this is not an exfoliant, despite its naming. It does contain glycolic acid and salicylic acid, but as the percentages are not listed, both ingredients are assumed to be present in low amounts. Also, at a pH of 4.5, only 2.87% of the salicylic acid and 17.6% of the glycolic acid will be in free acid form, which is the form required for skin to absorb. However, at higher pHs, salicylic acid still retains its anti-inflammatory properties and glycolic acid retains its hydrating properties, so the inclusion of the hydroxy acids are not entirely for naught.
At a pH of 4.5, however, this toner is perfect to use as a pH adjusting toner. I use this after cleansing and before applying l-ascorbic acid, BHA, or AHA, which allows me to bypass a 15-20 minute wait time. Because I use acids in the morning, this means I get to sleep 15 minutes more in the morning!
This toner absorbs quickly and leaves behind no residue. It also does not irritate my skin in any way and has no noticeable fragrance (HUGE win in my book!). Surprisingly, there have been a few unexpected benefits to using this toner. My skin actually feels better hydrated throughout the day when I use it. This benefit might be the result of eliminating 15 minutes where my skin has just been cleansed and dried but has nothing applied to it. However, there are some ingredients in the toner that suggest it might have moisturizing properties as well.
Here are the ingredients, short and sweet, in English and Hangul, translated by yours truly. The only acne trigger, per cosdna, is butylene glycol and the only irritant is carbomer.
In addition to glycolic acid and salicylic acid, this contains sodium hyaluronate, which is a powerhouse hydrator that can hold 1000X its weight in water, along with galactomyces ferment filtrate, aloe juice, witch hazel, and a bunch of extracts, including those from centella asiatica, licorice, and green tea. Also, I am super happy that this does not include papain or papaya extract! Papain is a protein-degrading enzyme extracted from papaya that can disrupt the skin’s barrier and causes allergic reactions. It’s pretty commonly included in cleansing, toning, and exfoliating products (the aforementioned Mizon toner includes it, for instance) and will not trigger a reaction in everyone, but my skin responds very poorly to it. Papaya is now a strict food-only ingredient for me these days!
Not only does this toner do what I need it to, which is to prep my skin for low pH actives, but it also has a fairly impressive ingredient list and helps with my skin’s hydration levels. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a pH adjusting toner!