I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t had much luck with fermented products (gasp hiss shock!!!) For many others who love Asian beauty products, fermentation is a magic word of goodness and rainbows. But despite my many attempts, fermented brands and products have been lacklustre at best for me. I’ve tried everything from Sulwhasoo, SK-II, Missha, to non-AB labels Fresh and La Mer… but found nothing fermented that I love as much as stinky tofu. Just when I was about to give up on forcing my skin and fermented ingredients to kiss, I met Whamisa.
I first gained interest in Whamisa because of their sea kelp sheet mask. Ironically, I haven’t had the chance to try that yet – Whamisa products are not the easiest to purchase (unless you’re in Korea) and the only place I’ve seen stocking the sea kelp is Glow Recipe, but I’m just not that keen on getting products shipped from Asia to the States and back again so…
Though I couldn’t get the sea kelp mask, I managed to get my grabby hands on lots of the hydrogel masks and other products through Avecko. I received everything back in September, so most of them have been tested. I’m reviewing this first because *spoiler* it’s my favourite.
Just a quick bio on the brand: Whamisa isn’t exactly drugstore, but their prices are quite affordable. They can be found in departmental stores in Seoul, and focus on organic and fermented ingredients for their products. You can shop (via Avecko) at their official store here for the best deals and prices, but the brand seems to be undergoing some restructuring and everything has been out of stock for months.
Some of the cool stuff about Whamisa: they use plant extracts instead of water as the base for their products and ingredients are fermented twice to maximise the good by-products. They are also free of artificial fragrances, artificial colours, and synthetic preservatives.
Remember SK-II’s brand story about the old lady in a sake brewery with young, unwrinkled, and beautiful hands thanks to a fermented by-product called Pitera? Fermentation in skincare products refer to lacto-fermentation, a process that involves fancy bacteria called lactobacillus (this is a keyword included on Whamisa’s hydrogel masks’ packaging as well) that breaks down and converts sugars and protein in ingredients to lactic acid (a very good AHA for your skin). Other goodies that are produced by the process include peptides as well as amino acids.
In short, fermentation levels up ingredients, increases the number of benefits in them, and makes the end product easier to absorb.
First off, ingredients!
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract: The first ingredient listed – possibly because it forms the base for this essence – is great for soothing skin. Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and contains lots of goodies like fatty acids and vitamins A, C and E.
Galactomyces ferment filtrate: What Pitera is – SK-II’s miracle water is apparently over 90% of this. Galactomyces is an enzyme commonly used to ferment alcoholic beverages, and the filtrate is where all the fun is at. Namely, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. This filtrate reportedly helps to aid hyaluron production in skin as well.
Helichrysum Arenarium Extract: Also known as Immortelle (yes, the same ingredient in L’Occitane Immortelle collection), this perennial flower never fades, even after picking. It has a strong herbaceous scent. Known for healing wounds, it also helps to reduce radical damage, stimulate cell regeneration, and tighten skin.
Other goodies include: Argan, avocado pear, bergamot, lemongrass, and rosewood oils. Fermented Indian lotus. Broccoli, licorice (!!), and hibiscus extracts.
THE (POSSIBLY) BAD
Nothing, really. Only avocado oil came up as a 2/5 on CosDNA for acne. The relatively short list of ingredients make me very happy, though if you’re sensitive to essential oils, please patch test extensively.
Full list of ingredients from Glow Recipe
*Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, *Chrysanthemum Morifolium Flower Extract, *Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, *Lactobacillus/Chrysanthemum Sinense Flower Ferment Filtrate, *Lactobacillus/Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Ferment Filtrate, *Lactobacillus/Teraxacum Officinale (Dandelion) Rhizome/Root Ferment Filtrate, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, *Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, *Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, *Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, *Helichrysum Arenarium Flower Extract, *Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract, *Glycerin, ☆Propanediol, **Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, **Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, **Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract, Lithospermum Erythrorhizon Root Extract, Xanthan Gum, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Oil, *Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, ***Fragrance
*Certified Organically Grown **Natural Preservative ***Natural Origin ☆Ecocert/
Packaging: Frosted sturdy glass bottle mmm. Pretty floral doodles mm hmm. Tiny dispenser so clumsy people (me) don’t have to worry about dumping the entire bottle in one go? OH YES.
Accessibility: It’s okay, if you don’t really mind mark ups – which is inevitable, really. Glow Recipe has them if you’re closer to the States, and there’s TesterKorea as well. This bottle of Whamisa Deep Rich Toner Essence was from a Korean store, which I can’t track anymore because Avecko doesn’t save that shit.
I recently tried my luck and actually found a pretty new Singaporean distributor Olly.sg! Prices are decent too. I ordered a replacement because I’m halfway through the current bottle, haha.
*Digression* Olly – which stands for the Organic Lifestyle Love Yourself (uh, okay. I did not know that) has awesome service! Maybe it’s early days yet, but I received a text message with my estimated delivery date AND time on the day I placed my order, and again when my order has arrived at my office’s reception – with a handwritten note, no less. I love spending my money at places that care about you actually getting your items, especially after Singpost lost an $800 parcel of mine GRRRRR. Not paid for this, just had a great experience. *End of digression*
Price: I got this for USD23.70 via Avecko before shipping and handling fee. It retails for KRW 32,000 (USD28) on Testerkorea, USD40 on GlowRecipe, and S$52 on Olly (it’s currently on sale for S$39 – which was what I paid for). That’s for 120ml of essence.
Texture: Hmm. Viscous and almost jelly-like, but has as much slip as thinner essences once applied. It’s a little thicker than most first essences, but I like it because I think it holds moisture in better, like when I can’t get to my other essences or sheet masks fast enough. As you can see, the essence trickled down the back of my hand in the few seconds it took for me to snap the picture.
Fragrance: Au naturel, but a little herb-y and very floral. I personally love it because it has a mild ginger snap to it that stops it from getting too flowery. It’s quite invigorating, actually.
Performance: I’m a total believer in essences, and started on this when my second bottle of Missha FTE started to feel lacklustre. In the beginning, I used the Whamisa Deep Rich Essence Toner after the FTE, and trust me when I say that the FTE DEFINITELY felt mediocre after this. My skin was plump, baby soft, and well hydrated, even after the first night of full face application (I only managed to patch test this for 3 days because I got so addicted).
It is so gentle, that when I had broken skin, the FTE stung a little but it didn’t. So much TLC _へ__(‾◡◝ )>
In fact, this essence became my safety blanket. When I travelled, it was the first thing I put in my toiletries bag (oh how I wish I brought this to Melbourne!) and every time I applied it, it felt like my face was swaddled in the loving arms of flowers and ginger. I started skipping the FTE after my second bottle finished because I felt that this thicker toner was doing what the FTE never did: keep my skin’s moisture in.
For example, in the time it takes for me to slap on body lotion/towel my hair, the FTE would have evaporated, leaving my skin… well, not dry, but definitely sapped. Though it admittedly takes a little more time to absorb, the Whamisa Deep Rich Essence Toner keeps my face hydrated for minutes before I finally get around to the next step in my routine. I no longer have skin that feels tight or flake, and when I get my eczema attacks, they flare as flat red patches before disappearing into the ether. Where they should stay forever.
It also has a pH of 4.5, which makes it work before actives as well. My skin used to get painfully tight and dry in the waiting period for my actives (AHA especially) to work, but applying any hydrating essence would be counterproductive so I just put up with it and try to make up with more hydrating products after. But now, even when it’s actives night, I prep my skin with this first and oh man, my skin stays so soft and hydrated!
In a nutshell, it is a super nourishing essence, a ‘toner’ of sorts on steroids. In three months I’ve gotten to about half a bottle with twice daily usage, so it really is quite affordable when you consider how little you have to use each time. I’m feeling very secure and smug now because I have a new unopened bottle in my stash kekeke (*ˊૢᵕˋૢ*)