I’m a #slideordie bitch when it comes to LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence. I first reviewed this inflammation-fighter two years ago, on 9 May 2014. At that point, it was just another bottle in an early Memebox and I had no idea that it would become a massive international hit for the Korean dermocosmetics company. But I knew it was a stunning game-changer for my troubled skin, and that was enough to prompt a breathless, somewhat disorganized review.
I’ve tried hundreds of skincare products since then, but LJH essence is the one I stockpile.
I take long stretches off from using it to test other things, but when I come back I find that, when used consistently, it will soothe my skin in ways that amaze me upon each return.
Tea Tree Essence doesn’t prevent acne. It doesn’t cause less acne. What it does for me is lessen the red, raised, sometimes painful inflammation caused by blemishes. When used in conjunction with an acne-busting routine that includes heavy hitters like BHA, AHA, and tretinoin, it means that clogs and zits surface with the least amount of drama possible and deflate back into regular skin as quickly as possible. It’s a temporary fix, but–trust me–for someone who has struggled with acne for ages, a temporary, fast fix has been much appreciated over the years.
To celebrate two years of love with LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence, I’ve edited and fixed up my original review below, adding some new information and photos. Present-day asides are in [brackets].
LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence Review: My Original Review from 9 May 2014
As I mention on my about me page, my skin is a disaster. Koreans call what I have “trouble,” but where I’m from it’s known as acne. My dream is to be able to wake up each morning and decide if I want to wear bb cream that day. Sure, for work or special events I’ll probably go with makeup, but I’d love to be able to run to the grocery store half a block away without putting on bb cream. [This is still my dream, as I mentioned on a recent episode of The Snailcast.]
Lately I’ve been trying lots of things that have helped my skin get progressively better. But my skin wasn’t fully coming around. I had a moment of clarity when I used IOPE Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning and saw how beautiful the unblemished parts of my skin looked. I resolved more than ever to try to get my skin to a state where I wouldn’t need to cover its natural glow with a lot of bb cream (or any at all).
And then Memebox Luckybox #2 arrived 12 days ago and I opened it to find LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence. I was nervous about the essence at first because I don’t want to walk around smelling like tea tree oil, but this is completely smell-less, quick to absorb, and not oily at all. When I put this on my skin at first it flushes up a bit, especially in places where I have hyperpigmentation or blemishes. The amazing thing is that the redness goes away and my skin somehow becomes less red when I wear this. Not only that, my skin is brighter and more luminous than with other products I’ve tried. [I think that’s related to the fact that I wasn’t using much that delivered water-based moisture before this–other products deliver a similar glow, so it’s the anti-inflammation properties that are exceptional. Don’t buy this if you’re just looking for some glow; there are other things out there for you that cost less.]
Yet the thing that makes this a standout product for me is its ability to help combat my acne. I don’t know about other people with “trouble,” but one of the signs that something good is happening in my skin is when I run my hands over my face while cleansing and everything feels calm—no pain from impending pimples, no bumps under the surface of the skin. My surface acne is lessening, and all the signs are showing that my skin is heading in a very good direction.
Of course, I use other products and there could be other factors helping this essence work well. I gave up sugar as a skincare experiment around the time I started using it and perhaps my hormones are going easier on my skin during this test period. That said, I think that this essence is really working with everything else I’m doing to bring my skin back to health quickly, more than any other product I’ve tried. [Two years of use shows that my early experience wasn’t a fluke; it truly works for my skin.]
I was curious about what makes this essence so effective and wondering if I could find the active ingredients in other products, so I looked into the brand. LJH is a sub-brand of Leejiham, a skincare company and chain of medical dermatology clinics headquartered in Gangnam. The LJH website shows a lot of products that made me really excited, especially a probiotic sleeping mask. I absolutely adore probiotics—the backstory there is that when I was in college and early graduate school I used to get so sick all the time that I kept getting tested for leukemia! I eventually started taking probiotics and now I very rarely get ill. So the idea of using good bacteria to contain bad acne-causing bacteria totally makes sense to me, and I wonder if probiotic skincare could transform my skin the way it has my immune system. Probiotic Korean skincare is my number 1 wished-for product, so I was incredibly excited to see that LJH is making some. [The probiotic sleeping pack was merely meh for me; it really wasn’t anything special for my skin, sadly.]
I next translated the ingredient list from the side of the box into English and uploaded the list to COSDNA, the beauty product ingredient analyzer.
Here’s the result. [See my 2016 update below.] This product’s ingredient list is fantastic: according to COSDNA it has no acne triggers, no irritants, and it’s packed with all sorts of cool extracts that help with acne fighting, skin healing, and light moisturizing. This would account for the pretty dramatic improvement in my skin’s health in respect to acne and its glow.
Here’s a full list of the ingredients with the Korean and English listed:
티트리추출물—Tea tree extract 90%; 바이오사카라이드검-1—biosaccharide gum-1; 메칠글루세스-20—Methyl gluceth-20; 병풀추출물—Centella Asiatica extract; 산자나무추출물—Sea buckthorn extract (hippophae rhamnoides); 흰목이버섯추출물—White fungus (silver Asian mushroom) extract; 브델리아추출물—Buddleja davidii extract (butterfly bush); 선백리향추출물—Thymus vulgaris, thyme; 트레할로스—Trehalose; 소듐하이알루로네이트—sodium hyaluronate; 왕귤나무씨추출물—Grapefruit seed extract; 위버대나무줄기추출물—Bambusa textilis stem extract; 대왕송잎추출물—Pinus palustris leaf extract; 셀룰로오스검—Cellulose gum; 카프릴릴글라이콜—Caprylyl glycol; 1,2-헥산디올—1,2-Hexanediol
The tea tree extract is the heavy-hitter here in terms of acne soothing, but the various plant extracts contribute a lot, too. For example, Sea buckthorn extract is used to decrease inflammation and speed skin healing, Centella Asiatica extract fights acne and bacteria, and Buddleja davidii extract has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. [Keep in mind that ingredient order isn’t by concentration in kbeauty products, so that really can’t tell us anything.]
The ingredient list on my full-size bottle boxes is slightly different than the Korean ingredient list printed on my 2014 sample box. The ingredient list on the LJH Korean website actually matches the list from my 2014 sample box with the exception of two ingredients exchanging order. I reALLY WISH LJH would get their ingredient lists straight because people are allergic/sensitive to things and I don’t like to give incorrect information. My latest bottles are recently produced, so I’m going to assume that the info on the latest box is correct and the LJH website and Hwahae are not. Grr.
Here’s the updated list from my latest box: Tea Tree extract 90%, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Methyl Gluceth-20, Centella Asiatica Extract, Sea Buckthorn Extract (Hippophae Rhamnoides), Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract, Buddleja Davidii Extract (Butterfly Bush), Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Extract, Trehalose, Sodium Hyaluronate, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Bambusa Textilis Stem Extract, Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Cellulose Gum, Illicium Verum (Anise) Fruit Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol.
New to the list is Butylene Glycol, Illicium Verum (Anise) Fruit Extract, and Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract. Out is Caprylyl Glycol.
I’ve uploaded the 2016 list to CosDNA and it’s flawless aside from Butylene Glycol, which rates 1 out of 5 (5 being most potential for skin destruction) as a possible acne trigger.
How to Use it
I slather this on my face, why not, I have a ton. I usually apply three full droppers–one on each cheek and one on my forehead and then rub it in all over. Other fans of this essence use it more sparingly and also seem to have good results, so go with what works for your skin/wallet.
If you’re wondering where in your skincare routine to apply this essence, check out my visual guide to skincare routine order.
Who Might Benefit from this Product
I have oily-normal skin with hormonal acne and this works great for me. This sort of product might benefit people who have inflammation due to acne–but reviews elsewhere suggest that people with dry skin likely won’t find this very moisturizing and might even find it drying.
Where to Buy It
But it at: Amazon (usually ships from the US, but check) | eBay (usually ships from Korea unless otherwise stated–Prime certainly ships from the US and sellers are very carefully reviewed by Amazon) | KoreaDepart (ships from Korea) | TesterKorea (ships from Korea) | HKC Plaza (ships from Singapore)
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