Category Archives: Fermented Ingredients


Swanicoco Fermentation Care Collection Review

In 2016, one of my favorite product discoveries was the Swanicoco Fermentation Snail Care Emulsion. I was blown away with not only its killer ingredient list but also its luxurious, silky texture. That’s why when Swanicoco reached out to me a few months ago and asked if I would be interested in testing and reviewing some other products, I immediately said yes! After some discussion on their different lines and my skin type, they recommended the Fermentation Care line, which I will be reviewing today!

This is a kind of super long review, so I set up a table of contents to make for easier navigation.

Table of Contents

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Nov & Dec Empties

Happy 2017 everyone! These are my empties from November and December of 2016:

Benton Honest TT Mist
My 4th or 5th bottle? Honestly at this point I’ve lost track. Continue reading

manyo factory bifida ferment complex review

Manyo Factory Bifida Complex Review

There are some brands I become obsessed with before I even try any of their products. This is not one of those brands. Manyo Factory, with it’s weird name and Paula’s-Choice-esque (aka boring) packaging, didn’t really interest me at all until Margaret, Joan, and seemingly everyone on Instagram started raving about their Galactomyces 10X The First Treatment Wrap Masks. And you know what? They were right. Those masks are awesome, easily my favorite hydrogel to date, but that’s a review for another day.

Today, let me direct your attention to the Bifida Complex. It’s full of pumpkin (IT’S PUMPKIN PIE SEASON!!) and, thanks to its 6 month shelf-life, I’ve been using pretty much twice a day, most days, for the past 4 weeks so I’ve got thoughts on it to share!


Product Name
Manyo Factory Bifida Ferment Complex Continue reading


Whamisa Organic Flowers Toners Refresh Review

To date, I’ve used quite a few Whamisa products, most of which were overwhelmingly meh. A wiser person would’ve given up on the brand by now, but the marketing- the promise of better skin delivered by organic flowers- keeps me coming back. This time, I’ve found a keeper!


At A Glance

Product Name:
Whamisa Organic Flowers Refresh Toner Continue reading


From Nature Age Treatment Essence Review

I often feel that the Asian beauty products that become popular in the West are somewhat arbitrary. Take first treatment essences, for example. Missha FTE is one of the first products people reach for when first adopting a Korean beauty routine, yet there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other first essences that remain virtually unknown even though they have very similar ingredients.

For example, there’s the From Nature Age Treatment Essence. It first fell on my radar after /u/GiveMeABreak25 repeatedly raved about it and again later, as luck would have it, when I received a sample from a Testerkorea order and fell in love. Whereas the Missha essence did not seem to do much for my skin other than make it wet, this essence feels like it penetrates through to the nether regions of my skin to deliver a much needed dose my hydration and glowiness. Used after cleansing, it makes my skin feel renewed and rebalanced. In other words, I think this essence is due some much deserved attention and so here we are.



The Claim
Wrinkle Repair & Whitening for the first step of skin care

Where does it fit in your routine?
This is a first essence. Use it after all cleansing steps.

Size and Price
This bottle contains 150ml of product. I purchased this from Yesstyle for ~$20, but it is no longer on their website. It is available on Ebay for $22.49 or if you are feeling savvy and want to try your hand at a forwarding service, Memebox Korea has it for 9900KRW ($8.13 USD).

This comes in a glass bottle. I’m in constant battle with the bottle because it likes to collect finger prints like nobody’s business and it drives me bananas!

There’s a hint of yeast, but it’s very mild. I don’t notice it at all anymore. No artificial fragrance, essential oils, or any added fragrance of any kind.

Color and texture
This essence is completely clear and has a thin, runny texture like water, but with more slip.

What’s in it?

The ingredient list is simple but keenly focused. Other than the ingredients discussed above, there are also a handful of extracts, some fermented some not, but very little else! For those of you that don’t like “fillers” in your products, you really can’t ask for much more!

Acne Triggers & Irritants
Cosdna identifies Butylene Glycol (1) as an acne trigger

Full Ingredients
Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Water, Adenosine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Saccharomyces/Angelica Dahurica Root Ferment Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Paeonia Albiflora Flower Extract, Ipomoea Hederacea Seed Extract, Butylene Glycol, Chlorphenesin



I’ve been using this bottle for a little over two months and it is very nearly empty (which is why I’m finally getting my act together to write this review). In that time, it’s become an absolute staple in my routine.

First essences are supposed to deliver a concentrated but easily absorbable dose of skin-beneficial ingredients. This essence does that. With regular use of this essence, my skin looks and feels healthier, and on the days I’ve gone without, my skin looks lackluster, seems to be more easily irritated than usual, and is more prone to dryness. I can’t quite pinpoint exactly what this product is doing, but since I’ve started using it, my skin feels healthier and generally more resilient to thinks like cold, dry weather.

If that was all this essence did, it would still be a great product, but there’s more. Likely due to the significant niacinamide concentration (credit once again to /u/GiveMeABreak25 for obtaining the concentration), this essence is also surprisingly hydrating! When I use this, I don’t feel the need to use a hydrating toner at all. Also, on days when my skin needs a little extra help, I’ve been using this essence to make lotion masks, which expunges any hint of dehydration and also seems to have calming effects to my skin.

The essence also absorbs easily, does not leave any residue or stickiness, and does not irritate my face at all. It also layers extremely well under creams. Overall, you could say I’m quite happy with this essence!


The Takeaway

This is probably the hardest working, dehydration fighting, skin plumping first essence you’ve never heard of. It is by far my favorite essence that I’ve tried to date!

From Nature Age Treatment Essence Review.jpg

Disclosure: This product was purchased by me. This post contains an affiliate link. See here for my full disclosure policy. 

swanicoco 1

Swanicoco Skin Expert One Step Fermentation Snail Care Emulsion Review

If companies were graded on their ingredient lists, Swanicoco would be class valedictorian. Every single one of their products is chock-full of amazing sounding ferments, peptides, extracts, and other droll-worthy ingredients. Unfortunately, their products are not the easiest to come by (yet! hopefully) in the States so when this emulsion popped up on Testerkorea, I jumped at the chance to give it a try!


swanicoco 1.jpg

Size: 120ML aka HUGE. This will last awhile.
Price: $14.26 on Testerkorea
Packaging: Plastic, cylindrical pump bottle
Fragrance: Fresh, fermented Rose / Jasmine scent. It is of medium intensity but very pleasant.
Color: White
Fragrance: Thin, watery (Western) creamy lotion.

Acne Triggers & Irritants: Butylene Glycol (1) and stearic acid(2) are flagged as acne triggers; carbomer (1) is a potential irritant
Full IngredientsWater, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Water, Aspergillus/Rice Ferment Filtrate, Snail Secretion Filtrate, Butylene Glycol, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Stearic Acid, Lactobacillus/Bambusa Vulgaris Shoot Extract/Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract/Luffa Cylindrica Fruit Extract/Morus Alba Root Extract/Pueraria Lobata Root Extract Ferment Filtrate, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Cultured Wild Ginseng Root Extract, rh-Oligopeptide-1, Saccharomyces/Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Ferment Extract, Lactobacillus/Soybean Ferment Extract, Saccharomyces/Imperata Cylindrica Root Ferment Extract, Saussurea Involucrata Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 60, Tocopheryl Acetate, Allantoin, Ceramide 1, Carbomer, Arginine, Saccharomyces/Lycium Chinense Fruit/Rehmannia Glutinosa Root/Cuscuta Chinensis Fruit/Cistanche Deserticola/Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit/Chrysanthemum Morifolium Fruit/Poria Cocos/ Cinnamomum Cassia Ferment, Rosa Centifolia Flower Oil, Magnolia Kobus Bark Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Thujopsis Dolabrata Branch Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Leaf Extract


Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Water
This emulsion may have snail in the title, but licorice was the ingredient I was most interested in! Licorice is an ingredient common to traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine and is known for its anti-inflammatory, lung-repairing, and general rejuvenating properties. I’ve also heard mumblings of its effective yet minimally irritating melanin-dispersing abilities, which I was definitely interested in. Fun fact, licorice also might reduce liver damage when drinking. Something to keep in mind!

Fermented Ingredients (in purple) 
The emulsion definitely delivers on the fermentation part of its name. It’s got everything from fermented rice and bamboo to mistletoe. The theory behind fermentation is that the ingredients are broken down such that the nutrients they contain are made more easily available for the skin to absorb. In addition, some of the ingredients used to faciliate fermentation are beneficial to skin in their own right. For example, saccharomyces (a type of yeast), has skin brightening and anti-oxidant properties.

Snail Secretion Filtrate
I’ve used my fair share of snail products, and for good reason. It is full of bioactive materials, helps the skin take up and hold water better, and has skin healing properties.

Glycerin & Sodium Hyaluronate
By now, glycerin and sodium hyaluronate (the salt form of hyaluronic acid) may seem like ubiquitous, boring ingredients, but they are both powerful humectants and I’m glad to see them included.

Ceramide 1
Ceramides are a key structural component of your skin’s outer layer, and they aid with water retention and barrier repair. There’s probably not a ton of ceramides in this emulsion, but nevertheless I am glad to see it make an appearance!


There are a few things I really like about this emulsion. Out of the bottle, the emulsion looks firms enough to hold its shape, but it actually packs a good dose of hydration! As soon as I start rubbing the emulsion into my skin, it melts quickly and feels very wet. It glides very easily over my skin and has a lovely, silky texture that I am a huge fan of. The texture is one of my favorite things. It makes the emulsion super fast to apply without tugging at my skin at all! Also, it leaves no stickiness and has a scent that I quite like. It smells like rose to me with undertones of something fermented, but not in a bad way.

It took me awhile to figure out where this product goes in my routine. If you look at any Korean beauty how-to guide, emulsions go right before a moisturizing cream. Logically, this makes sense and follows the thin-to-thick rule, but I just don’t enjoy using it this way. This emulsion absorbs easily for something of its texture, but it does leave more residue than an essence or toner would do. I don’t really like applying cream over it because I feel like the creams do not absorb as well.

swanicoco 2 swatch

Instead, I find myself skipping cream when I use this emulsion and either follow up with a face oil, to make sure my skin is adequately moisturized, or I will mix some face oil into this emulsion itself. I imagine if you have oily skin and find traditional moisturizing creams to be too heavy, this emulsion might be a good alternative.

It’s a little difficult to explain why I like this emulsion so much. It doesn’t have any drastic brightening or plumping effects on my skin, nor is it hydrating enough for my skin on its own, but it’s become a skincare staple over the past two months I’ve been using it. It layers extremely well with essences, toners, ampoules, and oils, so it’s easy for me to use, and the fact that it is so easy to apply and has no tug when being spread not only makes it very pleasant to use, but also helps prevent potential irritation. During this winter season, my skin, which is usually not very sensitive, has required a lot of baby-ing. A lot of products that previously worked fine for my skin suddenly fell to the sidelines because they would cause some sort of redness or burning, uncomfortable tingling, burning, or itching sensation when applied. This emulsion didn’t do any of that and actually feels very soothing on my skin, and at the moment that matters more to me than finding products that can brighten my skintone or even out my post-acne hyperpigmentation.

The Takeaway

Very soothing emulsion, containing a high concentration of licorice and fermented ingredients, with a pleasant silky texture and lovely, natural, rose-like scent. Not super moisturizing on its own, but easy to layer with most other products.

Benton Honest TT Mist (1)


Disclaimer: I purchased this. There are no affiliate links.

whamisa organic flowers facial oil

Whamisa Organic Flowers Facial Oil Review

I frequently see people recommend thick creams, oils, lotions, and etc to people with dry skin. The logic seems simple – if your skin lacks oil, why not slather some oily things on? As someone with dry skin, I get really frustrated because it’s not that simple! The reason dry skin is so problematic is because it lacks oil, which is the agent by which skin maintains hydration, and thereby dry skin also frequently lacks water. Healthy skin requires oil and water to be in equilibrium, and using a heavy oil or cream only addresses one half of the problem. -rant over-

whamisa organic flowers facial oil

I’ve mentioned before that my skin will usually not cooperate with heavy products without some coaxing by thinner, hydrating and emollient layers first. I learned this after many failed experiences with heavy creams and oils that will sit on my face, feeling heavy and doing nothing. I mention all this because these characteristics of my skin strongly dictate the way I choose, use, and experience face oils. Consider this a reminder that everyone’s skin is unique and my thoughts on this oil may be totally irrelevant for you, depending on your skin. However, if you happen to also struggle with heavy face oils that feel like they won’t sink in, maybe some of the things I learned from using this oil can help you out!

Packaging + Appearance

whamisa organic flowers facial oil
Whamisa never ceases to impress me with its packaging. I love how the subtle backdrop of flowers looks like the imprints from pressed flowers. I also love the gold etching, even though it makes the actual text (i.e. product description + ingredient list) blindingly difficult to read. In case you’re curious, the box states:

Organic Flower Fermentation Facial Oil is made of 98% of pure ingredients derived from nature, and it provides deep moisturizing and soaking into skin without stickiness. Fermented organic ingredients help skin protect from harmful environment and dryness by nourishing and moisturizing film. Also, it improves level of immunity of skin to balance skin oil-moisture and to increase absorbing power. You would feel more elastic, more moisturizing, and brighter on your skin.

The oil is housed in small but sturdy bottle that definitely feels very luxe.

The oil is bright, golden yellow in color and substantially viscous – this is definitely one of the thicker face oils I’ve come across, so I knew right away (see long winded intro) it would challenging to incorporate into my skincare routine. At first, it smells very similar to argan oil but upon further sniffing, there are distinct floral / vegetal notes that remind me of the scent of freshly cut flowers.


So let’s start with the bad. The biggest problem with this oil is that by it is thick, feels heavy, and takes forever to absorb. I learned quickly to apply very sparingly and only at night. Also, I’m willing to live with some heaviness if it means better hydration, but my skin does not feel as after application as it does after using some of my less heavy hydrating products.
whamisa organic flowers facial oil

Initially, I didn’t like this oil at all. I just didn’t see the point of using something that just sits on my skin if it isn’t even doing all that much. Luckily, facial oils are very versatile in their use and after a few angst-filled weeks where I would quietly curse this step in my routine, I realized I should probably play around with different ways of using this oil.

First, I started mixing a drop of this Whamisa oil with Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All in One Cream and found that it makes the cream a whole lot better at retaining moisture. I chose the Cosrx cream because it is a moisturizer that sinks beautifully into my skin, making it silky and soft to the touch, but is a light cream on its own. Adding a drop of oil doesn’t compromise its ability to absorb into my skin at all, but does make it feel more protective of cold and wind, all without leaving behind any heaviness or oily glean.

I was even more excited to learn that adding a drop of this face oil also works really well with ampoules. I started adding it to the Let’s Cure Honeybunny propolis ampoule and found that the result is hydrating and moisturizing enough that I can forego using a cream at all. The ampoule packs a lot of hydration by itself and I think the extra bit of oil helps seal everything in. I also found that by not using a moisturizing cream, my sunscreen seems to sink in better in the mornings, which I’m really excited about!

If you’re sensitive to common moisturizer ingredients, such as butylene glycol or dimethicone, adding oil to an ampoule can be a good moisturizer-alternative as it is much easier to find ampoules without those ingredients than moisturizers (for example, Scinic’s Honey AIO Ampoule is both butylene glycol free and dimethicone free and mixes well with this oil as well).

Also, the scent of the Whamisa oil, which I really like, carries through nicely when it is mixed with these other products.

Lastly, I also started using this oil for massages. The thicker texture here is an advantage not only because it is less likely to drip everywhere, but also because I like having a thicker barrier my hands and my skin when I’m moving the oil around. When I work from home, sometimes I will wash my face, apply a few drops of this oil to my skin, jump in the shower, work the oil into my skin, wipe away any excess gently with a towel, then throw on a sheet mask. The oil seems to have some sort of synergistic effect with the steam in my shower and leaves my skin soft and glowing even before the sheet mask.

The ingredients of this face oil are as follows:

Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Corylus Avellana (Hazel) Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Daucus Carota Satica (Carrot) Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Oil, Lactobacillus/Chrysanthemum Sinense Flower Ferment Filtrate, Lactobacillus/Nelumbium Speciosum Flower Ferment Filtrate, Lactobacillus/Taraxacum Officinale (Dandelion) Rhizome/Root Ferment Filtrate, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Paeonia Suffruitcosa Root Extract, Glycyrrihiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Oil, Geranium Maculatum Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil

The primary ingredient is argan oil, which is high in  linoleic acid, making it an excellent emollient, but be warned that this oil is thicker than any argan oil I’ve used. There are also a bunch of extracts and ferments listed but they aren’t noticeable at all in the product. Lastly, if you are acne-prone, this oil does contain a number of cosdna acne triggers: olive oil, jojoba oil, and evening primrose oil.

The Takeaway

This is an oil that grew on me over time. It’s useful for adding to other products to make those products better moisturizers, but is too thick to use on its own. If you don’t mind thicker oils, you will probably like this oil but I definitely prefer something thinner.

I purchased them from GMarket for $8.37 (with Avecko’s help). It is also available on Testerkorea for ~$30 and Glow Recipe for $40 (you can use my refer-a-friend link to get $5 off your first purchase).

Whamisa Oil

Product paid for by me. No affiliate links. 

whamisa organic flowers water cream with natto gum review

Whamisa Organic Flowers Water Cream with Natto Review

Natto. Source.

This is natto. Source.

At a food festival a few years back, my friend spotted a natto vendor and (hardly able to contain her laughter) excitedly urged me to try a sample. I pride myself in not scaring easily when it comes to food, so I grabbed a sample and plopped it in my mouth, only to immediately spit it back out. I love the acidity of most fermented foods but natto had the taste and texture of something that had already made its way through most of the digestive tract.

Fast forward 3 years and I am willingly applying moisturizer with natto to my face. Such is my faith in the Korean cosmetic industry. The good news? None of the gross stickiness of the food ingredient transferred to the cream. The bad news? The cream is overall pretty underwhelming.

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Purebess Special 100% Galactomyces Extract Essence

I’ve been running low on enthusiasm for Asian skincare products as of late, due in part to the number of products everyone else seemed crazy about but didn’t do much for my skin. But it seems like the tides are turning! First with Goodal’s waterest lasting water oil and now with this terrific and economical essence.

SK-II, Pitera, and Dupes

Pitera is the magical ingredient in SK-II’s products. Pitera’s origin story (old sake brewers with youthful hands) stinks of a marketing gimmick but there is some research (albeit mostly done by P&G which owns SK-II) that pitera has antioxidant effects and increases production of hyaluron, a component in the skin’s extra-cellular matrix, the production of which decreases with age. SK-II’s facial treatment essence has been on my radar for years but I am less than eager to drop $100 for 2.5 oz of essence. In comparison, Purebess’s 100% Galactomyces Extract Essence contains 100% Galactomyces ferment filtrate (vs SK-II’s 90%) and cost me under $10, including Avecko fees and shipping. It’s a small bottle, but still comes to about 6 times cheaper than SK-II. Continue reading