As I mentioned to Fashionista a bit ago, sometimes a toner is just a toner.
In the case of Son & Park Beauty Water, a product that resembles a toner can be so much more.
I don’t mean that in a philosophical sense; Beauty Water is the Do Kyungsoo (actor/singer/penguin triple-threat) of my makeup table.
But before I begin, a word about bias and beauty blogging.
On Bias, Press Samples/Sponsored Products
, and Late Stage Capitalism
It took me a long time to feel ready to review this product fairly. I bought both my current bottle and the refill that just arrived, so it’s not related to issues of press samples (things sent to bloggers at no cost so we can test and possibly review them).
It’s because Son Daesik, the Son in Son & Park, follows my Instagram and once liked a selfie where I was wearing outrageous feather lashes, thereby signaling that perhaps following me wasn’t a mistake. Umm, the fangirling was intense. Is intense.
I bring this up because I’m concerned about the undue emphasis that’s placed on press samples in the still fairly small world of the international Asian Beauty fan community. To accept press samples seems to invite a critical eye from readers and requires bloggers to demonstrate over and over that they have not been “bought” by a $25 face cream.
Just as disconcerting to me is the use of “I bought it” by bloggers who buy products (and their readers) to set aside questions of bias, at least publicly. “I bought it” isn’t a free pass to the promised land of unbias because there is no such land.
Humans are biased, even when we really try not to be. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t made it to chapter 2 of Psych 101 yet or is lying to you.
Part of the problem is that memories aren’t stored whole in our brains; researchers now theorize that we have tiny units of sensory impressions stashed away and they’re only assembled into a memory when we try to recall something. The problem is that the memory is shaped by our working goals at the moment. The result is that your memories, distant or even very recent, of testing a product are shaped by your conscious and unconscious working goals in seeking the memory. We’re hardwired for bias–although that method of assembling memory is also responsible for helping humans to think quickly and stay alive in nasty situations.
The solution, in my opinion, is not to force bloggers to recount every pure and unpure thought they’ve had related to a product before actually getting down to reviewing it. That sort of self-flagellation honesty olympics invites performance rather than real thoughtfulness and then the whole thing would be about who can act most honest. And, yes, I get the irony of mentioning that in the context of my own exploration of this issue and I promise to get back to the damn product soon. It’s a good one and it deserves our attention.
I think that the solution is to confront the fact that we all are, by our very nature, biased, and to not back away from engaging with that even when we have the chance to do so without being called out.
Although “I bought it” there are plenty of reasons I could–consciously or unconsciously–be biased for or against this product. “I bought it” with the help of a $15-off code from Soko Glam, a thank you for referring a new customer to the shop. These days, Soko Glam is the sole U.S. seller of Beauty Water, and my dislike of products only being available from one U.S. shop makes me grit my teeth when reviewing them–in fact, I really prefer not to unless they’re exceptional. At the same time, I wrote for Soko Glam’s The KLOG in the past. Most of all, more than any free product, the validation derived from an actual, famous makeup artist who owns the company that made this product liking a photo of a look done by me on my own dumb face…well, it’s enough to set me off on this philosophical journey in the middle of a fairly straightforward product review. Trust me, free samples of even the fanciest products can’t compare to a person, brand, or shop that I respect tossing some validation into my Bottomless Need for Validation pit.
I feel the need to crack into this issue because I think that the emphasis on press samples as a signal of blogger honesty is troubling. It gives advantage, first off, to bloggers who have disposable income for buying products–whether that comes from their work, the work of a family member, or income from their blog. It means that “honest” is most often assigned to bloggers with more money and with fewer financial burdens (including school and children). I’ve certainly benefitted from the label, but that’s all the more reason I feel the need to make my unease public.
All the same, people without blogs are subject to many of the same biases. We’re all in this together and all pretty fucked.
This begs a question: why do I turn down the vast majority of offers of press samples if I don’t think that they’re necessarily the road to dishonesty that people sometimes make them out to be? For me, it’s about minimizing the amount of time I spend on email outside of work, having absolute control over what I talk about here (as in only talking about the products that inspire me to write), and having zero pressure or expectation of publishing anything on any sort of timeline. The last bit is critical for me since I have hormonal acne and a massive stash of products that I like to use; it takes a long time to feel really certain about a product. Other people–luckily–aren’t dealing with those issues and can evaluate products more efficiently. That doesn’t make one of us more honest than the other.
The only way to deal with inevitable bias, I think, is to accept that we have biases, take inventory of them, and then check our impressions of products against our internal bullshit/bias filter over and over before sitting down to write. There’s no way to be bias-free without, I dunno, living in a sealed, soundless room on other planet (and that alone without be enough to drive one crazy), so walk into the fire and get to know the flames that were around you all along.
On Son & Park Beauty Water
It took about about 6 months and 300ml to be ready to write this review. After buying Beauty Water in August I used it, thought about the issues involved in reviewing it, and recently got to the end of my first bottle. That was the signal.
To put this in context: I have something like 160ish skincare, bodycare, and haircare products in my house. Somewhere. With more on the way. That’s not counting makeup, not by a longshot. For me to use up a whole bottle of anything is nothing short of miraculous. I’m running a skincare deathmatch and nothing but the very best makes it on my face each day.
The decision to write this review came when I was attempting to shoot a video review of a newish Etude House palette. I was doing swatch after swatch, wiping my hand with Beauty Water over and over to remove the shadow for a clean swatch.
My hand skin serves as something of a canary in the coal mine for skincare testing. It gets red in contact with almost anything and there’s a patch that gets dry and scaly when forced to deal with anything remotely irritating. It slaps down all but the gentlest products. I can’t even use my usual cleansers repeatedly without that happening.
My hand did nothing. It was fine. Nicely moisturized, smooth. Perfectly fine for HD close-ups.
At that point I realized that the story about Son & Park developing Beauty Water for professional use backstage and on set wasn’t just a marketing origin story concocted around a conference table, but reality. I’ve tried a few Asian Beauty cleansing waters including Dr Jart+ and My Beauty Diary, but both irritated my skin horribly and caused later layers of skincare to hurt upon application. My skin feels the difference between Beauty Water and other products, which is why it’s getting reviewed at a point in the work year when I can only write a bit each night due to busyness.
US FDA-compliant ingredient list: Water, Rose Damascena Flower Water, Orange Peel Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana Water, Butylene Glycol, Propanediol, PEG-7 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Alcohol Denat., Xylitol, Phenoxyethanol, Decyl Glucoside, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel, Grapefruit Peel oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Cedrus Atlantica Bark Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Water, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Water, Copaifera Officinalis (Balsam Copaiba) Resin, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine), Illicium Verum (Anise) Fruit/Seed Oil, Sodium Lactate, Sodium PCA, Artemisia Absinthium Extract, Rose Flower Oil, Propylene Glycol, Thuja Occidentalis Leaf Extract, Ferula Galbaniflua (Galbanum) Resin Oil, Malic Acid, Sucrose, Urea, Tartaric Acid, Origanum Majorana Leaf Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Pelargonium Graveolens Extract, Mentha Rotundifolia Leaf Extract, Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Leaf Extract, Mentha Spicata Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Benzyl Alcohol, Chlorphenesin, Methylparaben, Dehydroacetic Acid, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Propylparaben. (from Soko Glam)
First off, holy shit, this ingredient list is actually reshuffled to comply with US FDA ingredient order regulations rather than just translated from Korean. That means that you can look at this list and read it like you would the list on the back of a bottle of lotion sold at Walgreens, which is fantastic imo. Kudos to Soko Glam for stepping up and doing that right. I’m giving credit for this to Soko Glam because the ingredient list on their website is the US FDA reshuffled version while the English ingredient list on the box is just a Korean translation.
CosDNA shows a few possible ingredient triggers. Butylene Glycol rates 1 out of 5 (5 being most problematic) as a potential acne trigger, Denatured Alcohol rates 5 out of 5 as a potential irritant, and Olea Europaea Fruit Oil (olive oil) rates 2 out of 5 as a potential acne trigger.
Alcohol is the ingredient that will raise the most alarms for skincare fans, I think. The horrors of simple alcohol have been greatly exaggerated, especially by certain companies that sell skincare products. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re sensitive to alcohol, avoid it! But if you’ve been avoiding alcohol because someone who is selling something told you to do so…perhaps explore the issue a bit further. I’m not a pro-alcohol cheerleader or anything like that, but I will certainly use products with good formulations that contain alcohol because sometimes alcohol is actually a useful part of the equation. My breaking point is when alcohol fumes waft from a product when it comes in contact with my skin–that’s just unpleasant to use imo. Beauty Water doesn’t smell like alcohol and it’s actually very soothing to my skin, so I have no issue with the use of denatured alcohol in this.
This smells slightly astringent at first but it fades to almost nothingness as it dries–unless you stick your nose right on skin treated with Beauty Water. Although this contains some nice flower-derived ingredients don’t expect a fragrance bouquet; it smells pretty businesslike to me.
Beauty Water comes in a 340ml (or 500ml, if you’re lucky enough to find it) frosted plastic bottle. For being so well designed for use in a household where cats like to destroy things, the bottle is really nicely made. The bottle comes in a box made of thick paper that’s also really pleasingly designed. It’s also sturdy–I stuck the box right into snow for photos and then pulled it out; it was unwarped and fine after drying.
Beauty Water is dispensed through a shaker lid with a hole that’s just a bit narrower than that of most–for me, it ends up being more controlled than most similar shakers while still letting me soak a bunch of cotton squares without getting impatient.
The bottle can be used up to 12 months after opening and my bottle, bought in August, has an expiration date in May of 2018 while my new bottle has an October 2018 expiry; it looks like the bottles expire three years after they’re produced (normal for skincare made with modern preservatives–thumbs up for that, by the way).
It basically feels like water. My skin ends up microscopically moisturized and smoothed, but this isn’t a substitute for a full skincare routine and it may not agree with the skin of people who have, say, dry skin.
My tests put the pH of Beauty Water around a skin-friendly 5.0.
A lot of people like products such as Beauty Water for their ability to cleanse skin without doing a full cleanse. I’m honestly not a fan of that approach to cleansing; despite being absolutely dead lazy, I somehow always manage to fit in a double cleanse at night and proper morning cleanse. I really see cleansing as the foundation of my routine and I’ve invested wildly to find products I like.
That said, I can see how Beauty Water would be a lifesaver for people in certain situations. My parents spend much of the summer on their boat, and yeah it might be a bit difficult to do a full double cleanse while rinsing off at night in the middle of Lake Michigan, so I’m going to send my mom a bottle to test. If you’re exhausted from work or perhaps a bit tipsyyy, cleansing with this would be better than nothing. I mean, once I apparently talked about eating the scrubbing bubbles in the bathroom after a wild night out, so that might not be a situation where it would be good to break out a foaming cleanser.
The reason I’m not hot on micellar water cleansing or makeup wipes is that they’re usually not enough to truly cleanse skin and remove makeup. If you’re whipping out a cotton square, getting it wet, and then dragging that dirty thing around your face in circles…that’s not cleansing, it’s waste redistribution. Caroline Hirons, the British skincare expert, talks about needing to use a stack of cotton squares to really remove makeup and get an ok cleanse when using micellar water. Each square is tossed as soon as it gets dirty so the skin can actually get clean–all while irritating your face due to dragging cotton over it repeatedly. Even then, I find that using a micellar water to remove makeup and cleanse is a great way to fail to fully remove makeup along my hairline, which leads to nasty and avoidable blemishes.
Needless to say, when I debate between using Beauty Water as a makeup remover and cleanser and doing a proper, full double cleanse I haul my lazy ass into the bathroom and start squirting the oil because the idea of blowing through a ton of product and eight cottons and still not being clean is pretty repulsive to me.
As Snow at Snow White and the Asian Pear mentioned in her review of Su:m 37’s micellar water, cleansing waters aren’t a bad option for mornings, when sunscreen and makeup removal aren’t an issue. I still like to use a water-soluble cleanser, in part because it wakes me up and I also just really like cleansing. There’s something about some nice bubbles and warm water that makes me feel good.
Favorite: Quick makeup remover
My favorite way to use Beauty Water is as a quick way to de-scum my face right after arriving home, but before I do a full double cleanse. In this case I use Purederm microfiber pads to remove as much of my makeup as possible and get in a bit of gentle physical exfoliation asap. It’s not going to be enough to remove all of my makeup or cut down on my cleansing, but it feels really really good–especially in the summer–to get a bunch of makeup, oil, and NYC dust off asap.
Favorite: Cleansing finisher and toner
My second favorite way to use Beauty Water is after cleansing as a combination third cleansing step + toner. If I apply it with a cotton square I can pick up any stray makeup while prepping my skin for the rest of my routine.
The pH of Beauty Water is around 5.0, so it can be used to help lower the pH of your skin in preparation for exfoliation. The point of this is to escort skin down closer to the range necessary for exfoliation so that acids and vitamin c themselves don’t blow all of their firepower on just adjusting your skin’s pH level and can instead use that firepower to chemically exfoliate your skin.
Very, very lightly moisturizing toner (that doesn’t contain significant acids)
I like using this as a toner in the two days after I’ve done a significant acid peel and therefore can’t use products containing acids. Malic acid and urea, exfoliants, are ingredients in Beauty Water, but they’re listed after the preservative phenoxyethanol, usually used at 1% concentration in a product. Due to the pH of Beauty Water (too high for exfoliation) and low concentration of the acids (the concentration of them would need to be significantly higher for them to actually exfoliate) this can’t chemically exfoliate my skin in any remotely significant way and it therefore is perfect for when my skin can’t handle toners containing acids like Pixi Glow Tonic (it has 5% glycolic acid). Beauty Water’s gentleness really shines when my skin is in recovery. Beauty Water can obviously exfoliate physically when applied on a cotton square and dragged over your face, so I make sure to apply this with my fingers when my skin is recovering from a peel or is otherwise tender.
If your skin feels gross at some point during the day (when you’re not wearing makeup or sunscreen, womp) you can wipe this on with a cotton square to freshen up. It’s like a mist except with some cleansing thrown in.
Works well with
These microfiber pads have a bumpy side that provides physical exfoliation and a smooth side along with a pocket for two or three fingers. I like to use these pads when my skin is flaky and oily after a long day.
These thin, economical cotton puffs help you work through the 8 or so cotton squares necessary to remove makeup while grabbing the minimal amount of product. I like to use these when I’m attempting to do a full cleanse with Beauty Water.
Comparisons with Similar Products I’ve Tried
The pH level of the Neogen product is slightly lower and it smells like antique roses. It also seems to make my skin a bit itchy maybe? I need to test this more, but it wasn’t love at first swipe.
This irritated my skin, so it didn’t get a long testing period.
This irritated my skin and I only had a sample sachet, so it didn’t get a long testing period. For a full comparison see Ceci Beauty Therapy’s review.
This isn’t a cleansing water and the pH is a bit lower. It’s also more moisturizing.
This isn’t a cleansing water and the pH is a bit lower. It’s also more moisturizing and it smells like candy/grandma perfume.
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