In terms of AB, 2016 has been great for me (although maybe not so great for my wallet). I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about ingredients used in cosmetics, their uses, and also discovered promising new brands. With a lot of experimenting and testing going on, there are bound to be empties…lots of empties. So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be gradually posting reviews and writing about my experience with the products I’ve managed to use up in 2015. Be prepared for a lot of ferments, snails and bees!
In this Product Empties #1, I’ll talk about following products:
- Nature Republic – The First Essence (Green lid/ Rice ferment version)
- Botanic Farm – Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet
- Benton – Snail Bee High Content Essence
- LeeJiHam (LJH) – Vita Propolis Ampoule
Nature Republic Saccharomyces The First Essence
When I first started getting interested in AB and created my first ever shopping list, I did what most newbies did – I bought the Missha Time Revolution First Essence. And while I was quite happy with the hydration boost and subtle brightening effects I got from it, today I can say this essence wasn’t really that great. Back then I didn’t even know precisely what a first essence was or how many options there were and I felt like it was the only first essence worth considering, but I now realise that I was probably just convinced to buy it because of the enormous amount of marketing and the consequent hype created around the Missha essence.
I’ve now gone through several bottles of FTE’s from different brands and am much more aware about the wide range of first essences, ingredients and skin benefits.
The last first essence I used was from Nature Republic which unfortunately seems to have been discontinued (why AB brands regularly seem to discontinue or reformulate amazing and popular products is still a mystery to me). I’ve never used a product from Nature Republic before, but what got me interested in this essence was the fact that the main ingredients were 90% saccharomyces ferment (cellular renewal) and niacinamide (brightening), with the added benefit of liquorice extract (brightening, anti-inflammatory).
After some research I’ve concluded that the saccharomyces ferment in this essence (green lid) seems to be fermented rice, whereas the very similarly named The Number First Essence (Silver/Brown lid) seems to be made of fermented yeast.
Saccharomyces Ferment, Propanediol, Niacinamide (2%), 1,2-Hexandiol, Betaine, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Phellinus Linteus Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Piper Methysticum Leaf/Root/Stem Extract, Pueraria Thunbergiana Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Paeonia Lactiflora Root Extract, Cnidium Officinale Root Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Phellodendron Amurense Bark Extract, Lavandula Angusifola (Lavender) Extract, Althaea Officinalis Leaf/Root Extract, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Flower/Leaf Extract, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Hibiscus Esculentus Fruit Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Water, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Soluble Collagen, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Sodium Hyaluronate, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Seed Oil, Rose Flower Oil, Illicium Verum (Anise) Fruit/Seed Oil, Water, Xanthan Gum, Phenoxyethanol.
Interesting ingredients: This essence is packed with 90% ferment filtrate, but also contains proven brightening and PIH/acne scars fading ingredients (liquorice and niacinamide) as well as several botanical extracts for some moisture and skin softening. Other interesting ingredients are centella asiatica and fennel extracts, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Flagged ingredients: Despite a pretty long ingredient list, COSDNA only flagged olea europaea (olive oil) as a potential acne trigger.
Review: Man, I really like this stuff. I sometimes tend to go a little bit overboard with my cleansing routine, which leaves me with a super clean but tight, dry skin. This first essence will immediately quench my thirsty skin and leave it refreshed, even-toned and soothed. Despite the fact that the fermentation content is so high, it doesn’t have the typical strong, alcoholic and slightly rotten smell of some first essences. The smell is rather clean and a bit floral, but it’s not overwhelming and disperses quickly. I usually just pour a small amount into my palm, rub my hands together and then press them on my face for a bit, before slowly patting the essence in. The absorption is very quick and I don’t feel any stickiness or or ‘film’ left after using it. I use this essence in the morning and evenings immediately after my second cleanser, and since I only need a small amount the 150 ml bottle lasts for several months. With regular use, this essence has kept my skin hydrated post-cleansing, helped fading scars, soothing redness and my complexion clearer and more refreshed (that well-rested look, if you know what I mean).
Verdict: This essence does what it promises with a potent, no-nonsense ingredient list, barely any irritants or acne triggers and comes at a fair price. It’s not a miracle product that will drastically change skin condition and it takes regular use to see any benefits, but it is a nice addition that does show results after a while.
Would I buy it again? Yes, although I intend to try and test other FTE’s first before going back to it.
Where to buy: Sadly, this product has been discontinued and replaced by the White Vita line.
Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet
*Sigh*…Cleansing is definitely my favourite part of the routine, but because thorough cleansing is key to healthy, acne-free skin, I still do it diligently. I have used liquid cleansing oils in the past but didn’t like dealing with oil running down my hands and arms or spilling all over the sink because of the runny texture. So after I ran out of my last bottle of cleansing oil, I started investing in cleansing balms instead. Cleansing balms are basically solidified cleansing oils that come in a tub rather than a pump bottle. Because the balm only turns into oil upon skin contact, the application tends to be a lot less messy.
The Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet follows the same principle. As the name already indicates, the sherbet contains three types of grains: Rice, Rice bran and Soybean. I’m a little bit obsessed with grains in my skincare, and I’m even more obsessed when these ingredients have been fermented. Rice is great for brightening and even has some UV-blocking properties, and the isoflavones found in soy are known to have anti-aging and firming properties. Another thing I liked about it is the short and comprehensive ingredient list and the fact that it doesn’t contain mineral oil. Mineral oil is not necessarily a bad thing, it may actually be a better option for some people, but personally I try to avoid it as my skin doesn’t handle it too well.
Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Polyethylene, PEG-10 Isostearate, Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Saccharomyces/Rice Bran Ferment, Lactobacillus/ Soybean Ferment Extract, Trihydroxystearin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum)
Interesting ingredients: Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Saccharomyces/Rice Bran Ferment & Soybean Ferment Extract.
Flagged ingredients: CosDNA flagged butylene glycol as potential acne trigger.
Review: The first five ingredients of the list are responsible for creating the balmy texture of this product and there’s nothing particularly interesting about them. The following three ingredients are sake, fermented rice and fermented soybean filtrates. While this looks and sounds awesome, I tried researching the exact amount of these extracts and found out that, according to CosDNA, each of them only has a concentration of 100ppm. 100ppm equals 0.1%, which is pretty tiny. Honestly, I’m not convinced that I would get the benefits of these ingredients in such a low concentration, considering the balm doesn’t stay on my face for more than a few minutes while I massage it into my skin to break up make-up and sunscreen. So, as far as skin benefits go, I don’t think it would make a lot of difference. However, how it works on removing makeup and cleansing is a different story. The milky white sherbet is completely solid at first, but starts melting into an oil as soon as I rub my fingers together. What I like about it is that the oil feels ‘drier’ than most liquid oil cleaners, although the texture is still quite thick. It spreads easily, doesn’t drip down my face and has a comfortable feel and nice slip to it, but most importantly, it’s great at removing makeup. I always make sure to add enough balm onto my lashes and eyes and wait for a bit so the oil can start dissolving them, which doesn’t take long with this cleansing sherbet. Afterwards, I can gently massage around the eye-area (very, very gently to avoid premature wrinkles) and watch my mascara and foundation dissolve without having to rub or tug the skin. It also emulsifies well and rinses off without difficulty. I read on Botanic Farm’s official website that the cleansing sherbet leaves a slight, moisturising film behind, but I was surprised to find out this wasn’t the case for me. My skin did feel quite moisturised after rinsing it off, but I don’t feel like it left any significant residue or an oily film on my skin, even when I’ve accidentally used too much product. The 100 ml tub also last a long time because you don’t need a lot to cleanse the whole face.
Verdict: I’m pretty happy with the Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet. It breaks down makeup, sunscreen and other stuff that accumulates on the skin during the day effortlessly and saves me having to harshly rub my skin or using a separate product to remove eye-makeup. It has a luxurious, non-drippy texture and only a faint sweet fragrance that won’t irritate a sensitive nose. It might probably be one of the best first cleansers I’ve used so far, but whether the fermented ingredients really have any benefits remains questionable.
Would I buy it again? I can see myself buying it again in the future if other oil/balm cleansers don’t live up to it.
Benton Bee Snail High Content Essence
I’m a huge fan of Benton products. I’ve not only used their Bee Snail High Content Essence, but also the Bee Snail Sheet masks and the Bee Snail High Content Steam Cream, and all of them were amazing. The sheet masks are still my favourite option to calm down acne and irritation. Benton avoid using unnecessary fillers and artificial ingredients that could cause irritation or breakouts, which I really appreciate. However, this led to a sort of ‘scandal’ a while back because some of the High Content Essence and other products turned out to be contaminated due to the lack of chemical preservatives. I can imagine that this problem has put some people off using Benton products, but I never had any issues with the products I bought and would still consider buying Benton products.
This being said, let’s talk about the (now infamous) Bee Snail High Content Essence. Snail products have become incredibly popular because snail secretion filtrate is rich in skin-loving nutrients such as hyaluronic acid, has anti-microbial properties and supports cell regeneration. This helps snail recover from injuries quickly, but is also great for skin. Snails are not hurt or killed to extract the mucin in professional factories, some are even fed special food such as ginseng to make their mucin even more beneficial for topical use, but this is not the case for the Benton essence. However, this essence still has an amazing ingredient list. Check it out.
Snail Secretion Filtrate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Arbutin, Human Ogliopeptide-1, Bee Venom, Plantago Asiatica Extract, Laminana Digita Extract, Dios Pyros Kaki Leaf Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Ulmus Campestris (Elm) Extract, Bacilus Ferment, Azelaic Acid, Althaea Rosea Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Beta-Glucan, Betaine, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Cross Polymer, Adenosine, Panthenol, Allantoin, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Arginine
Snails. Brighteners. Moisturisers. Anti-Aging and anti-inflammatory ingredients *heavy breathing*. Let’s break this down a bit further and talk about what all these awesome ingredients do:
Snail secretion filtrate: As explained earlier, is a great moisturiser and helps heal and renew skin.
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice: Rich in anti-oxidants and vitamins such A, C and E, as well as salicylic acid, great at soothing and healing irritated/sun burned skin and reducing redness.
Arbutin: Is extracted from bearberry plants and inhibits melanin production. It can lighten acne scars and brighten up skin complexion.
Human Oligopeptide-1 (EGF): Promotes new cell growth, keeping skin elastic and wrinkle-free.
Bee Venom: Probably the most controversial ingredient on the list. It is believed that bee venom has the ability to penetrate the skin, increasing the blood circulation and thus temporarily plumping and lifting the skin (basically filling out wrinkles). Apart form the temporary effects, bee venom can also help in collagen and elastin production as the body reacts to it.
Bacillus ferment: The enzymes in bacillus ferment are mildly exfoliating and usually a more gentle alternative to AHA’s.
Azelaic Acid: Has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and properties. It can reduce the growth of bacteria on skin, one of the problems that can lead to acne.
Adenosine: Derived from yeast and commonly used as an anti-aging ingredient. It also occurs naturally in the body and can boost collagen and elastin in the body and therefore treat wrinkles and sagging skin.
Flagged ingredients: CosDNA only flagged butylene glycol was flagged as a potential acne-trigger.
Review: Apart from these potent ingredients, there are also several plant-extracts and moisturisers in this list. But does the formulation really work? From my experience – yes, it does. The most immediate and obvious change I noticed in my skin after I started using the Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence was that it effectively reduced the redness around my nose, cheeks and mouth, making my complexion look more even-toned and firm. I didn’t have acne when I was a teenager, but I do suffer from hormonal acne now, and during these times, I rely on the Snail Bee Essence for soothing. It soothes the inflamed areas and reduces the healing time after the breakout. Overall, I felt like this essence helped ‘restrain’ the breakouts and speeding up the healing process, while also keeping my skin feeling moisturised and just – I can’t describe it otherwise – calm. It also absorbs very quickly and doesn’t leave any stickiness behind, so I can imagine this product being suitable for most skin-types (that are not allergic to any of the ingredients, of course).
Verdict: This essence rocks. When used during a regular routine, it is decently moisturising and helps brighten and tighten the skin while reducing redness. When used for acne, it’s great at soothing inflammation and speeding up healing time considerably. My only wish is that the bottle was bigger and had more product, as the 60 ml bottle doesn’t last very long when used twice daily.
Would I buy this again? For what it does for my skin, yes. However, I’m not sure I would buy it regularly, as the small bottle doesn’t last very long for the price, as well as the chance of receiving a contaminated product ue to the lack of preservatives.
Where can I buy it?
LeeJiHam (LJH) Dr’s Care Vita Propolis Ampoule
When I noticed that more and more AB brands were selling honey- and propolis-based pro ducts, I was excited. I’ve made DIY masks using yogurt and honey before and used pure manuka honey as a face mask whenever I got breakouts or dry, parched skin from the cold weather, and albeit it felt a little bit gross (imaging walking around with a gloopy blob of honey all over your face for hours and carefully trying to keep hairs from sticking to your cheeks all the while), the results were well worth it. But, if I can avoid the sticky mess but still get the results, I’m all in!
The LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule is not exactly a honey product, but more like the ‘grout’ bees use to repair and build their hives. This grout or glue is a mixture of pine resin, pollen, enzymes and beeswax. What makes it interesting for human use is the fact that it works as an anti-septic (reducing the amount of bacteria and viruses) and can even heal burns. Because of these properties, it can treat acne and accelerate cell growth.
The LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule uses 50% propolis extract and three types of vitamins making up 20%. It claims to moisturise, replenish vitality and reduce inflammation.
Propolis extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Panthenol, Rosa Centifolia Flower Water, Niacinamide, 1, 2-Hexanediol, Ethyl Ascorbyl Ether, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Bark/ Twig Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Carbomer, Arginine, Spirodela Polyrrhiza Extract, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Sodium Hyaluronate,Adenosine
Interesting ingredients: Apart from propolis, there are some other notable ingredients in this formulation. Niacinamide is my own personal superhero as far as cosmetic ingredients go because it can treat so many problems. It’s an anti-oxidant that treats pores, evens out skin tone, brightens, reduces the appearance of lines and helps strengthening skin. Sodium Hyaluronate or Hyaluronic Acid is extremely moisture-binding and keeps skin moisturised and plump. Adenosine is an anti-aging ingredient that boosts collagen and elastin in the skin. It also contains Rose extract, Centella Asiatica, Sea Buckthorn extract and Witch Hazel extract for some extra nourishment. All in all a pretty solid ingredient list.
Flagged ingredients: CosDNA only flagged carbomer as a potential irritant.
Review: The reason I wanted to try the LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule was because I wanted add a propolis product into my routine. But what finally convinced me to buy it was the fact that it not only contained propolis as well as niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and adenosine – ingredients that have solid, scientifically proven skin benefits for anti-aging, brightening and moisturising.
However, when my small 15ml bottle finally arrived, my first problem was that I didn’t quite know when to use it in my routine. When used on its own, quite a lot of product is required to cover the whole face, so it wasn’t an option for me as I would run out of it too quickly. So I started mixing 1-2 drops of it to serums or essences to give other products a bit of a boost. This worked pretty well for me, as the Vita Propolis Ampoule blended well with other products and didn’t leave any stickiness behind once I’ve patted it into my skin. I used the ampoule diligently this way, twice a day on most days or just in the evening when I was short on time in the mornings, and while I do feel that it helped me maintain a healthy, slightly more glowy skin, I don’t think it made a drastic difference. In addition to that, it is quite pricy. I paid almost £20 for a 15 ml bottle excluding shipping, so based on the price I’m not sure I will be able to include this into my regular routine, although I did enjoy using it.
Verdict: In my experience, The LeeJiHam or LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule is a nice add-on to the regular routine. It delivers a boost of anti-oxidants, brightening and anti-aging and could be specially beneficial for people suffering from acne due to the antimicrobial properties of propolis. However, it just wasn’t a game changer for me, which makes the priciness for the small bottle another issue.
Would I buy it again? Only if I couldn’t find a cheaper propolis ampoule that gives me the same results (which I am still looking for).
Where can I buy it?
And with this…we’ve finally come to the end of my first empties review for 2017! I have lots of other empty products to review so keep your eyes peeled for more reviews to come. What AB products have you managed to use up and did you repurchase any of them?
Share your thoughts in the comments below 🙂