Note from your Auntie Snail: Glow Recipe provided the product I review in this post. I review it as honestly as I review products I purchased myself. I do not have an affiliate account with Glow Recipe and will not earn any revenue from sales of this mask. You can read my sponsorship policy here.
Two of my favorite perks of being a beauty blogger are the interesting things I get to try and the interesting people I get to meet. These two perks converged when Christine Chang, cofounder and co-CEO of Glow Recipe, reached out to me late last month to introduce herself and offer me a bottle of Lee Ji Ham Vita Propolis Ampoule for review. I took her up on the offer (LJH review to come after my 4-week ampoule testing period is up) and ended up on the phone with her for a quick intro to Glow Recipe. The day after we spoke, my package arrived with two bonus Whamisa hydrogel masks snuggled in next to my LJH ampoule!
Though very new to the K-beauty webshop scene–Glow Recipe launched just last November–the site’s profile has already risen to recognizable status among AB bloggers. In my opinion, its mission and curation standards are interesting enough to merit an interview. Ready to learn a little more about Glow Recipe and the Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Hydrogel mask?
Christine Chang Talks Glow Recipe Standards
If you compare Glow Recipe to the other well-known US-based K-beauty sites, you may notice something a little bit different. Glow Recipe doesn’t carry the kinds of Korean skin care brands that US audiences are starting to recognize (often more for cutesy packaging or gimmick ingredients than for real skin benefits). Nor does Glow Recipe offer a large selection. At present, the site’s offerings are limited to just a few brands: Caolion, Dr. Oracle, Goodal, Isoi, LJH, Shara Shara, The Lotus, and Whamisa.
Glow Recipe’s narrow selection is by design. Both Chang and her fellow co-founder and co-CEO, Sarah Lee, bring a decade of experience at L’Oreal in South Korea to their ingredients-focused perspective on K-beauty.
Chang: “Our goal for skincare has not been ‘curiosities.’ We felt a lot of the products [being popularized Stateside] were too trendy, and US customers were buying it once, but were they really buying it again?”
In contrast, Glow Recipe takes a serious approach to skin, with a rigorous curation process and strict standards.
Chang: “Our curation process starts with ingredients. We want to minimize certain ingredients that we prefer not to have in our products, like parabens, synthetic dyes, fragrances, things like that. We know that brands can formulate without them and create beautiful products without them. Not that everything on the site is 100% ‘natural’–greenwashing is rampant and we do not want to do that. But we curate based on ingredients.
“We have a multiethnic panel of people, 15 right now. We refresh it every quarter. They blind test each sample for a minimum of two weeks, up to three. We’re making sure it works on all skin types, because certain ethnicities are a little more oily or a little more dry, and we want to make sure it’s right for US customers. If anyone breaks out or has a problem, we don’t curate the product.”
That strict curation process reduces the legwork that a serious, ingredients-aware skincare consumer would normally have to do before making a choice. Glow Recipe does the work of plowing through the vast universe of currently trending Korean skincare products, weeding out everything except a very small but highly vetted collection of products.
In my opinion, Glow Recipe’s approach helps visitors to the site see the potential long-term value of Korean skincare products, rather than allowing consumers to view K-beauty as just a fad. The Glow Recipe website provides clear, detailed information on each product.
Chang: “US women tend to be practical in their approach to skincare, whereas Korean women have a huge rush to buy it, [following] trends, not testing. They’re okay to experiment and be adventurous, and that is what fuels the industry today. The US market is more practical, a little more cautious. That’s why we had trial kits on our site for a while, and we’re revamping that. We’re mindful that we need to be very clear in our descriptions and extensive in our instructions, because if K-beauty is not paired with the right education, it’s just a fad. The main difference [between US and Korean cosmetics consumers] comes from that practicality, and it forces brands to be clear and bring really value-driven products.”
Of course, trends have value too, especially when they’re based around real advancements in technology. Two of the trends Chang is most enthusiastic about are fermentation and “waterless skincare,” the eschewing of water as a skincare ingredient in favor of other liquids, like botanical extracts, that can deliver not only hydration, but also other skin benefits. It’s a clear rejection of fillers in skincare formulations.
The Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Hydrogel Facial Mask that Glow Recipe sent me does contain water, but when it comes to fermentation, this mask is king. But is it as amazing as Glow Recipe’s standards might lead one to expect?
Review: Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Hydrogel Facial Mask, courtesy of Glow Recipe
Ever since I read The Beauty Wolf’s glowing review of the Whamisa Organic Fruits & Tomato Fermented Hydrogel Facial Mask, I’ve been avoiding the brand like the plague. I’m afraid I’ll fall too hard for the pricey masks and end up with an addiction worthy of a Dr. Drew show. (Okay, I did round out my Shara Shara Honey Bomb AIO purchase with one Organic Sea Kelp mask after The Beauty Wolf raved about it, but you haven’t heard about that mask yet because it’s on back order.) Let’s just say that I was more than a little excited when I got my hands on these Whamisa hydrogel masks.
Purpose: The Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Hydrogel Facial Mask claims to lift, whiten, and moisturize skin.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to botanical extracts.
When and how to use: Use after cleansing and toning, either in place of or following your usual essence, serum, and/or ampoule steps. Peel the front of the package off and put it down on the counter. Take out the mask sheets in their protective backings and lay them down on the peeled-off label. Now use your hands to scoop up all the excess mask goo still in the tray and spread it liberally over your face, neck, and chest.
After you’ve slathered all the extra goo on yourself, very carefully peel the protective plastic backings from the two mask halves and carefully position them on your face. Now walk quickly to the sofa and lie down as fast as you can. I’ll explain why later.
Ingredients list: Water, camellia sinensis leaf extract, chrysanthemum sinense flower extract, lactobacillus/aloe barbadensis ferment filtrate, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, ceratonia siliqua gum, xanthan gum, lactobacillus/chrysanthemum sinense flower ferment filtrate, lactobacillus/nelumbium speciosum flower ferment filtrate, lactobacillus/dandelion leaf/root extract ferment filtrate, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, paeonia suffruticosa root extract, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, alpha-bisabolol (LOL), aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) wood oil, citrus aurantium bergamia (bergamot) fruit oil
Notable ingredients: Okay, so the first thing you should know about these ingredients is that CosDNA did not flag a single one of them for either acne or irritation. Not a single one. And it’s not because CosDNA didn’t recognize them, either. The site knew what the vast majority of the ingredients were and apparently doesn’t consider a single one of them unsafe for skin.
The second thing you should know about these ingredients is that a significant number of this mask’s calming, brightening, whitening, tightening, and hydrating plant extracts appear here in fermented form. In skincare, fermentation may provide benefits similar to those offered by fermented foods. Namely, fermentation breaks the ingredients down into smaller and more bioavailable components that may be more readily absorbed and utilized by skin.
The third thing you should know is that the vast majority of the ingredients in the Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Hydrogel Facial Mask were organically grown. The anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, penetration-enhancing ingredient alpha-bisabolol (LOL) is even certified organic and environmentally friendly by Ecocert. That’s the eco-conscious icing on top of this fermented flower cake.
As soon as I opened the package, the smell hit me. But not in a bad way. No, the Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera hydrogel mask smells absolutely divine. Citrusy, faintly herbal, crisply floral, it’s a fresh and natural fragrance that I would love to bottle and wear as my signature perfume. And I don’t even wear perfume.
The mask comes in two pieces, like most hydrogel masks, but unlike many, the mask sheets are gel all the way through, with no supportive inner mesh. They’re on the thin side–not as thin or Saran Wrap-y as Leaders coconut gels, but thin enough to make putting them on a challenge. Be careful when handling the Whamisa mask, as the gel sheets are quite slippery.
I felt a little sad when I discovered that while this mask fits me perfectly from the eyebrows on down, the forehead is way, way too short. I know I have a pretty high forehead, but this was ridiculous (though maybe I’d just applied the upper half of the mask a bit too low). Luckily, the mouth cutout had made it into the package, so I popped that onto the top center of my forehead to get a bit more coverage.
Remember when I said to lie down quickly after applying this mask? This mask is very, very slidey at first, especially on skin that’s heavily lubricated with extra mask goo. The mask began trying to slide down off my face immediately after I put it on.
After about 15 minutes, however, the slidey feeling passed. The extra goo had mostly absorbed, and the mask itself had warmed up and begun to adhere snugly to my skin. I stayed on my back, though, since I wanted to let gravity pull as many molecules of the good stuff into my skin as possible.
I wanted to keep this mask on as long as I could, because the Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera hydrogel feels incredible. It has this intense cooling, soothing, refreshing sensation that persists long after the mask isn’t refrigerator temperature anymore.
At the 45-minute mark, the mask had thinned significantly, and I started gently tapping my face, hoping to encourage just a bit more melting and absorption. Amazingly, that cooling, refreshing sensation remained as strong as ever. I tapped and patted away and didn’t want to take the mask off, ever.
I finally made myself take it off after an hour and five minutes. I was very sad about this.
So now let’s talk about the results.
My exact words when I looked in the mirror were:
There are literally no words in the English language available to adequately describe how even and bright and firm my skin looked right after I removed this mask, or how deeply and totally hydrated and plumped and refreshed and rejuvenated it felt. I don’t sleep enough. I don’t eat enough, or as healthily as I should. I’m usually more stressed than is healthy. But this mask. This mask. This mask made my skin look like it belonged to a pampered noblewoman who gets up at noon for her first massage of the day, follows it up with an invigorating hour of hot yoga, and then eats a perfectly balanced and healthful lunch in the bathtub while being gently lathered up and scrubbed by konjac sponge-wielding fairies. Even my skin texture looked more refined, especially on my forehead.
The next morning, after a solid 4.5 hours of sleep, all the brightening, plumping, and skin tone perfecting effects were still very much in evidence.
I’m doomed. Seriously, I’m doomed. In everything except fit, the Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Hydrogel Facial Mask blows my Holy Grail Banila Miss Flower & Mr Honey straight out of the water. Literally, I need a new rating scale to accomodate this mask. I’m just sorry I waited so long to try it out. Also, I’m seriously considering increasing my workload a bit just so that I can keep a comfortable stash of these in the house.
Rating: 8/5. If there’s a heaven, they’re handing these out as welcome gifts at the gates.
Where can I buy the Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Facial Mask?
The Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Facial mask is available at Glow Recipe for $9 apiece. I’m not usually one to find enough value in a mask to justify anything more than $5 for one (sorry, Missha Terribly Underperforming First Treatment Essence Mask), but I completely believe that this one is worth every penny, and that everyone should have at least one on hand for special occasions.
Have you tried a Whamisa mask yet? Are you planning to?