Some products in this post were provided for review by Fifty Shades of Snail sponsors and are individually disclosed below. All opinions and recommendations in this post are my own unless otherwise noted. Learn more about my rules for store partnerships by checking out my sponsorship policy and sponsor list.
Let’s do something a little different today! I recently got some feedback from a reader who wanted to hear more about the products that have left me cold. She had a great point. You guys have heard plenty about the products I love, and I have no problem talking about why I hate the products I hate, but between those two extremes lies a whole universe of things that aren’t holy grail material (at least not for me), but aren’t horrible, either.
The reason I don’t publish a lot of reviews in the 2/5 – 4/5 rating range is pretty simple, and Snow White and the Asian Pear explained why perfectly when she presented her own “meh” list: products that are neither amazing nor godawful are boring. Boring to use, boring to write about, and, I worry, boring to read about, too. That’s why I’ve been putting this off. But then I read Snow’s latest post, the one about taking control of one’s stash, and I realized I’ve got some long-overdue review queue purging to do. So let’s get down to it! Here are the good, the bad, and the blah about five products that failed to make me fall in love, from my most liked to my least.
Mini-review: Leaders Insolution Aquaringer Sparkling Mineral Lotion
Yes, yes, I know, I’m a sucker for fancy water. That’s why I bought this emulsion.
Leaders Insolution Aquaringer Sparkling Mineral Lotion ingredients: Water, butylene glycol, hydrogenated C6-14 olefin polymers, glycerin, propanediol, caprylic/capric triglyceride, dimethicone, mineral water (water), cetyl ethylhexanoate, C12-2 alkyl glucoside, beta-glucan, carbonated water (water), C14-22 alcohols, PEG-100 stearate, glceryl stearate, cetearyl alcohol, hydrogenated lecithin, dimethicone, caprylyl glycol, ethylhexylglycerin, avena sativa (oat) kernel extract, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, polyisobutene, PEG-7 trimethylolpropane coconut ether, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel oil, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), carbomer, arginine, melissa officinalis flower/leaf/stem water, anthemis nobilis flower water, calendula officinalis flower water, rosa damascena flower water, triticum spelta seed water, disodium EDTA
First impressions: I bought this emulsion without knowing the full ingredients. I like the Leaders Insolution biocellulose masks, which contain impressive lists of potentially beneficial extracts and generally do wonderful things to my face. When I got my hands on the Aquaringer Sparkling Mineral Lotion and finally got around to inputting the ingredients into my Evernote, I felt the disappointment that a corporate recruiter might when faced with a candidate who has used fancy corporate buzzwords to pad a thin and unimpressive employment history. The ingredients for the Aquaringer Sparkling Mineral Lotion remind me of the Laneige products I’ve used: lots of silicones, polymers, and fancy waters, with almost all the nice-sounding botanical and herbal ingredients all the way down below the 1% line and most likely in there only for claims and fragrance purposes. Still, mediocre products sometimes have great ingredients lists and vice versa, so I gave it a shot. I gave this emulsion several shots, actually. I used it on and off for a couple of months and have been using it almost daily as my morning moisturizer for the last few weeks.
The good: This emulsion has a very particular clean, herbal lavender fragrance that reminds me strongly of my old favorite Aveda haircare products. I love the way it smells. On days when my tretface isn’t acting up, it makes a pleasant and acceptable day moisturizer. It also mixes nicely with various things, including Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule, which I like to include to get a little extra glow going.
The bad: For an emulsion marketed with water imagery, which (at least for me) implies a watery, weightless hydrating effect, this product is surprisingly thick, rich, and emollient. It takes quite a while to dry down. And can we please talk about the tall, skinny glass bottle? This is not a product that’s runny enough to come in a non-pumping pour bottle. Dispensing the right amount of product to use on my face and neck is harder than slapping the correct amount of ketchup out of a glass ketchup bottle, and significantly more infuriating. It’s a pretty bottle that dresses up a bathroom counter nicely, but a poor design choice for a product of this texture.
Conclusion and rating: For those times when my face is feeling normal, Leaders Insolution Aquaringer Sparkling Mineral Lotion is a perfectly adequate moisturizer. There’s nothing really wrong with it besides the glass bottle packaging. Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly right about it, either. I’ll keep using it until it’s finished, but when it’s finished, I won’t be considering buying another. At the end of the day, it’s nothing special. 3.2/5 (And that extra 0.2 is for the fragrance.)
If you want to try Leaders Insolution Aquaringer Sparkling Mineral Lotion, it’s currently on sale for $12 at Memebox US.
Mini-review: Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum
Earlier this year, I had a pretty hot fling with Innisfree. I did a bunch of hauling from their global website and tried a few products from different lines, including their Green Tea line. The serum was the product I stuck with the longest–I finished up a bottle and occasionally snag a couple of pumps from Mr. Fiddy’s bottle. He, unlike me, has entered into a serious long term relationship with the line.
Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum ingredients: Green tea extract (75.9%), propanediol, biosaccharide gum-1, ethanol, glycerin, betaine, green tea seed oil (208mg), prickly pear extract, orchid extract, tangerine peel extract, camellia leaf extract, citrus aurantium bergamia extract, grapefruit extract, orange extract, tangerine extract, Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, cetearyl olivate, hydrogenated lecithin, sorbitan olivate, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, ethylhexylglycerin, cocoa extract, dextrin, potassium hydroxide, disodium EDTA, fragrance
First impressions: Green tea is a great, great thing. Packed full of polyphenol antioxidants to aid the body in its battle against wrinkle-producing, cancerous free radical damage, green tea is known to impart significant benefits when ingested. There’s evidence that topically applied green tea is photoprotective as well, as I mentioned and linked in my mini-review of Tosowoong Pure Green Tea sheet masks. I also appreciate all the other antioxidant-rich extracts in this serum and still reach for it when I want an extra boost of UV protection for a day in the sun.
The good: Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum is a light, fast-absorbing gel-type serum that sits well under other skincare products. It pats in quickly and allows me to move right on to the rest of my skincare routine. The 80ml size is generous compared to many other K-beauty serums, which tend to come in 50ml or 30ml bottles. Despite the bigness, Mr. Fiddy is on his second bottle and has plenty of good things to say about it. Here’s his review of The Green Tea Seed Serum, in his words:
My face feels juicy after I use it. I like the texture. The smell is one of my favorite parts. It wakes a man up, you know? It invigorates him. It has a calming power. You should emphasize power.
For context, Mr. Fiddy’s skin is normal with combo-oily leanings.
The bad: It’s funny that the smell is one of his favorite things about this serum, because it’s one of my least favorite things about it. I find the green tea fragrance to be a little too strong and a little too fragrance-y. On top of that, on days when this serum was the only treatment step I used between cleansing and moisturizer, my skin tended to feel tight and dry by the end of the day–and that was before I started using prescription tretinoin. I’m usually not against alcohol in skincare products, but in this case, I have a feeling the ethanol isn’t helping.
Conclusion and rating: Based on my experience with Innisfree products, this is a pretty standard one: lots of good botanical ingredients but also plenty of strong fragrance and less than stellar results. It’s fine for what it is and may work well for skin types different than my own, but I prefer skincare products with more immediate benefits and less perfume. 3/5 (Mr. Fiddy’s rating for this product is 4/5).
If you want to try Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum, it’s currently available for $19.85 on Amazon with free Prime shipping.
Mini-review: Banila Co The Black Pullulans Treatment Ampoule (sponsored)
I’m not just a sucker for fancy water, but also sometimes for fancy packaging, especially from brands I’m already into. I’ve been into the beautifully packaged Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey line for some time, so when BeautyKorea approached me with an offer of my choice of products for review and I saw the Black Pullulans products on their site, I jumped at the opportunity.
Banila Co The Black Pullulans Treatment Ampoule ingredients (via preexisting CosDNA entry): Aureobasidium pullulans ferment, butylene glycol, glycerin, polymethylsilsesquioxane, 1,2-hexanediol, water, dimethicone, gardenia florida fruit extract, gardenia jasminoides fruit extract, monascus extract, carthamus tinctorious flower extract, macadamia ternifolia seed oil, macadamia integrifolia seed oil, limnanthes alba seed oil, helianthus annuus seed oil, olea europaea fruit oil, candida bombicola/sucrose/vegetable acid ester ferment, mineral oil, oxygen, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, pentylene glycol, lecithin, cellulose gum, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, arginine, adenosine, ethylhexylglycerin, maltodextrin, squalane, sodium hyaluronate, beta-glucan, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, camellia sinensis leaf extract, kou-cha ekisu, soybean lecithin
First impressions: That ingredients list looks pretty tantalizing, right? Ferments, extracts, oils, beta-glucan, and squalane. Excellent. This is an anti-aging ampoule which should have long-term preventative benefits, and I chose it hoping that it would also provide some short-term effects as well. The Banila Co Miss Flower and Mr. Honey Essence Oil smooths, plumps, and firms my skin noticeably when I use it, and I definitely see the difference when I don’t, so I hoped that The Black Pullulans Treatment Ampoule would be similarly powerful.
The good: Well, it’s definitely an interesting product. The thin, slick, nicely spreadable and somewhat moisturizing liquid in the shiny shiny shiny black dropper bottle is a milky pale gray, unlike any other skincare product I’ve used before.
Don’t worry, it won’t tint your face; the color and product disappear into skin with just a little patting.
The bad: After several weeks of use, I just didn’t notice anything different about my skin at all. I don’t doubt that my skin could benefit from the ferments and the antioxidants in the long term, but long-term, preventative benefits can’t be measured or documented without way more commitment than I can muster for such a lackluster product experience. I’m A Woman of a Certain Age and I need my anti-aging ampoules to give me some fairly quick and visible effects before I’ll commit to using them for long-term benefits. I didn’t miss this product when I stopped using it and I didn’t notice any difference when I reintroduced it into my routine out of curiosity and a desire to give it a second chance. Also, it smells vaguely of bread dough. I am not a fan of having my face smell like bread dough. I’m more of a protein person.
Conclusion and rating: If you’re intrigued by ferments, looking for an exclusively preventative anti-aging ampoule, and not interested in any side benefits such as brightening or plumping, Banila Co The Black Pullulans Treatment Ampoule may be worth a shot. Personally, I found it did too little for my face to justify a spot on my “potential rebuy” list. 2.5/5
If you want to try Banila Co The Black Pullulans Treatment Ampoule, it’s available at BeautyKorea for $40.95, though I’m sure they have plenty of other products that are more worthy of attention.
Mini-review: Mamonde Rose Honey Sleeping Mask (sponsored)
I’d been dying to try this product for some time. I love sleeping packs, I love honey, and sometimes I love roses, so when it was time to pick some items to try from Jolse, Mamonde Rose Honey Sleeping Mask was a no-brainer.
Mamonde Rose Honey Sleeping Mask ingredients (via preexisting CosDNA entry): Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, glycereth-26, rose extract, rosa canina flower oil, honey, eclipta prostrata extract, moringa pterygosperma seed oil, citrus aurantium dulcis, lavandula angustifolia oil, theanine, epigallocatechin gallate, camellia sinensis flower extract, kaempferol, nelumbo nucifera flower extract, prunus mume fruit extract, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, behenyl alcohol, xanthan gum, jojoba esters, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, carbomer, kaolin, tromethamine, sodium polyacrylate starch, ethylhexylglycerin, adenosine, theobroma cacao extract, dextrin, caprylic/capric triglyceride, alcohol, phytantriol, poloxamer 407, caffeine, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance, hydrogenated poly(C6-14 olefin)
First impressions: I have a lot of reasons to love this product. On paper, that blend of extracts and oils (and honey!) is absolutely lovely. It’s nicely sized at 80ml and very affordable. And I’d heard some pretty great things about the sleeping pack already.
The good: On user experience alone, Mamonde Rose Honey Sleeping Mask is a total winner. The smooth, thick liquid smells delightfully rosy in a very natural way rather than a perfumey way. It glides silkily onto my skin and delivers an instant hit of hydration and emollience. And though I’m not generally a fan of the whole “bits of stuff suspended in beads in the product” gimmick, feeling the little pink bits dissolve on my face is pretty fun. Additionally, the next-morning results when I use this sleeping pack are nice. I wake up to plump and bouncy skin.
The bad: Unfortunately, I also woke up with closed comedones from using this product and had to throw every active in the book at them in order to purge them out and move on with my life. After the first breakout cleared up, I tried again with this product, and again came the clogging. Since I stopped using the Mamonde Rose Honey Sleeping Mask, I haven’t had any more closed comedone issues.
Conclusion and rating: As we all know, skincare is very much YMMV. Just as my holy grails might be your skin’s worst nightmare, the things that break me out might work very nicely for you. Mamonde Rose Honey Sleeping Mask is pretty popular among the AB community I frequent, and I did enjoy its beautiful scent, entertaining texture, and moisturizing abilities. Unfortunately, life’s too short for me to keep using a product that breaks me out. 2.2/5
If you want to try Mamonde Rose Honey Sleeping Mask, it’s available at Jolse for $14.86 with free shipping.
Mini-review: The Face Shop Essential Mask Sheet – Pearl
Okay, I lied. Not every product in this post is not godawful. This one is. Also, I have no excuse for purchasing it (in a set of multiples, no less). I think these were cheap on Amazon at a time when I was going through some sheet mask ennui. Goddammit.
The Face Shop Essential Mask Sheet – Pearl ingredients: Water, glycerin, SD alcohol 40-B, PEG-32, PEG/PPG-17/6 copolymer, polyglutamic acid, methylpropanediol, betaine, butylene glycol, morus alba bark extract, sodium hyaluronate, dipropylene glycol, citrus paradisi (grapefruit) extract, algae extract, dimethicone, hydrogenated lecithin, butylene glycol, phaseolus radiatus extract, betula platyphylla japonica bark extract, rumex crispus root extract, pearl powder, PPG-26-buteth-26, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, disodium EDTA, fragrance, butylphenyl methylpropional, hexyl cinnamal, hydroxycitronellal, hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, linalool
First impressions: I allowed my natural affinity for pretty packaging to lead me astray here. The heavier material and attractive design of the sheet mask packets and the presence of some interesting botanical ingredients (including algae, which we all know I am a huge fan of) had me thinking of these sheet masks as a more premium version of the regular TFS Real Nature sheet masks–some of which are pretty nice. But we all know that appearances can be deceiving.
The good: No.
The bad: I knew this wasn’t going to turn out well as soon as I tore open the packet and unfolded the mask. These sheet masks have a sharp and overpowering perfumey fragrance, the kind that could trigger a big headache if I were already feeling sensitive.
Perfume aside, this is one of the absolutely worst-feeling sheet masks I’ve ever used. The thick, stiff material doesn’t cling or conform well to my features, and though the mask sheet is absolutely drenched in essence, it doesn’t hold on to it very well, resulting in tons of drips down my neck and chest and a mask sheet that dried out after a mere 20 minutes. And the mask sheet itself is huge, making it bunchy, saggy, and droopy on my face, especially around my mouth and chin. Here. Take a look and tell me whether you’d enjoy this experience.
The results were mediocre. No brightening as far as I could tell, and though the mask is hydrating, so is every other sheet mask ever.
Conclusion and rating: With all the wonderful and affordable sheet masks out there, why even bother with this one? Grab something nice from Beautibi or something instead. 2/5
Those are my recent duds! What products have flopped for you?
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