The Fiddy’s Choice Awards, Part 1: My Favorite K-Beauty Products of 2015

Some products featured in this post were originally provided by Fifty Shades of Snail sponsors in compliance with my sponsorship policy. Affiliate links in this post generate commissions that support Fifty Shades of Snail. Press samples are marked with an asterisk (*). Affiliate links are marked with a double asterisk (**).

The year is almost over. For me, it was a blur of bottles and jars and droppers and tubs, of serums and creams and masks and scrubs, of snails and bees and seaweed floating in the tide. I tried some amazing products. I tried some not amazing products. I also tried some pretty godawful products, which I try to forget but never can. Below, I’ve organized the best Korean skincare products I used this year into a handy list, which doubles as my desert island, only one product allowed per step routine. Welcome to…the first annual Fiddy’s Choice Awards!

Before we get started, though, let me apologize for some of the photos in this post. I just started using a new and unfamiliar lighting setup, and I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.

Now imagine a drum roll. Let’s hand out some Fiddies!

Best Oil Cleanser

The nominees are:

And the Best Cleansing Oil of 2015 is: illi Total Aging Care Cleansing Oil*, which I recently named one of my holy grails! This luxurious cleansing oil smells like heaven, removes all traces of makeup and sunscreen in a flash, emulsifies beautifully, and rinses clean. Did I mention it smells like heaven? I’ve already got a second bottle for when I finish off my first.

Best Low-pH Foaming Cleanser

The nominees are:

The Best Low pH Foaming Cleanser of 2015 is Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash! Low-pH cleansers don’t have to be low-foam, low-power snoozefests. Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash lathers up nicely, provides some mild but noticeable bonus exfoliation thanks to the papaya enzymes it contains, and leaves my skin feeling luscious and silky. On top of that, it’s budget- and travel-friendly. I crowned it a holy grail back in August, and I’m deep into my second bottle already.

Best Korean facial cleansers of 2015
A splurge and a steal. This power couple proves that opposites attract. I’m so sorry for the US Weekly-level writing.

Best Hydrating Toner/First Essence

The nominees are:

  • Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum
  • Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence (original recipe)
  • Enprani Dear by Enprani Moistfull Booskin
  • Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner*

The Best Hydrating Toner/First Essence of 2015 is Dear by Enprani Moistfull Booskin, the toner that put the hydrating toner step back into my skincare wardrobe. I first tried this product as a sample back in the summer and liked it so much that I embarked on a quest to find a reliable seller who carried it. A sponsor eventually located a travel-sized bottle for me (as a gift, not a review sample) but couldn’t come up with the full size. In the end, I had to twist Memebox’s arm about it. Now I’ve got a well-loved full-sized bottle of this smooth, slippy, gloriously scented hydrating toner, which makes any products I layer on top sink into my skin like magic.

Best Hydrator

The nominees are:

  • Hada Labo Gokujyun Super Hyaluronic Acid Moist Lotion
  • Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid
  • Goodal Waterest Lasting Water Oil

Although we’re friends and fellow podcasters, Tracy from Fanserviced-B and I rarely share the same favorites. Our skin types are pretty much complete opposites. But we agree on the awesomeness of my Best Hydrator of 2015, the Goodal Waterest Lasting Water Oila booster containing micronized fermented seed oils in a hydrating, watery base. For such a light and liquidy product, it’s deeply, noticeably moisturizing. It’s done wonders for my tretface. I’ve got about one use left in my first bottle, and my second bottle is lined up and ready to go. The version I’m using is the updated one, but everything Tracy said about the original version in the review linked below still holds true. Looks like the reformulation kept all the best qualities of the original.

Best Serum

The nominees are:

  • Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Soombi Essence Serum*
  • Tosowoong Timeshift Serum
  • Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum*
  • Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Essence Oil
  • Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule (original and Borabit; I’m not typing that out twice)

The Fiddy for the Best Serum of 2015 goes to Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Essence Oil, the love of my life since June of this year, when I began using this incredible product. I’ve been on the hunt for a great anti-aging serum for some time. None of the others I’ve tried has even come close to this lush blend of extracts, oils, and hydrating humectants, with its near-immediate firming effect (thanks to the collagen extract it uses as its base), its brightening abilities, and the antioxidant and moisturizing power of its fermented honey, propolis, royal jelly, and botanical ingredients.

Best of K-beauty 2015
Pretty on the outside, effective on the inside: that’s what sets these skincare superstars apart from their rivals.

Best Light Moisturizer

The nominees are:

  • COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream*
  • Tosowoong Timeshift Emulsion
  • Tosowoong Super Aqua Cooling Gel
  • Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Lotion

The Best Light Moisturizer of 2015 is COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream*! The more I use this cream, the more I enjoy it. Not only does it satisfy my extreme snail bias, but it leaves my face so velvety soft that I have to stop myself from touching it too much. The simple ingredients and ultra-smooth texture are the icing on top of the clean, snaily cake.

Best Heavy Cream

The nominees are:

This was an extremely difficult category for me to judge, because I have used and currently own a lot of heavy creams, and I love heavy creams in general. Tretinoin and the often desert-dry SoCal air will do that to a woman. After much painful consideration, I’m awarding the Fiddy for the Best Heavy Cream of 2015 to the Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Cream. I love this cream so much that even though it comes in a generous 70ml jar, I’ve already gone through two jars of it and have a third on the way. More than just a supremely rich moisturizer, this cream is a total sensory indulgence. The packaging, fragrance, and texture work beautifully together and I hope this never gets discontinued.

Best Sleeping Pack

The nominees are:

This was another painfully difficult category for me. I love sleeping packs for many of the same reasons I love heavy creams and therefore own a lot of them, which I rotate pretty regularly. But in the end, I’m awarding the Best Sleeping Pack of 2015 to COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask*. Of all my sleeping packs, it’s the most versatile: moisturizing enough for dry nights but not suffocatingly heavy. And nothing else gives my skin quite the same bouncy resilience in the morning.

Best Korean face creams of 2016
Here we see three celebrities of the AB world: the beautiful and glamorous honey cream, the pure and unassuming snail cream, and this year’s surprise superstar, the rice sleeping pack.

Best Wash-Off Pack

The nominees are:

The Best Wash-Off Pack of 2015 goes to the I’m From Honey Mask! I’ve enjoyed most of the wash-off packs I’ve tried this year, from the hydrating and unexpectedly clarifying jelly masks to exfoliating scrubs both gentle and intense, but my skin has never experienced anything quite like the I’m From Honey Mask. I’m From Honey Mask turns its nose up at the honey extract commonly seen in beauty products. Instead, it delivers 38.7% pure honey in a thick, creamy, sweet-smelling, insanely nourishing facial treatment. I haven’t owned this for a while, having gone through mine some time ago. Thinking about it now, my tretface definitely needs a fresh jar.

Best Snail Product

The nominees are:

I feel like even if you aren’t a regular reader of this blog, you shouldn’t be surprised that the Fiddy for Best Snail Product of 2015 goes to COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, the purest and snailiest of Korean snail products. This smooth, slippy, clean and slimy goo slides on like a protective layer of liquid silk, soothing and softening my skin like few other products can.

Best snail skincare of 2015
This luminous bottle contains the power to make my skin luminous, too.

Best Honey Product

The nominees are:

  • I’m From Honey Mask
  • Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Essence Oil
  • Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Cream
  • COSRX Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask*
  • Goodal Nature’s Solution Firming Sleeping Pack

Bet you thought I was going to pick one of those gorgeous Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey products, didn’t you? Surprise! The Fiddy for the Best Honey Product of 2015 actually goes to Goodal Nature’s Solution Firming Sleeping Pack, the thick, rich, sweet-smelling, intensely moisturizing sleeping pack made with fermented honey. I’m giving this sleeping pack the Fiddy because out of all honey products, this one strikes the best balance between performance and price. It’s also very similar in effect (though dissimilar in texture) to my beloved Banila Co honey cream, but generally half the price, making it an economical alternative without any real tradeoff.

Goodal Nature's Solution Firming Sleeping Pack
Honey, propolis, and royal jelly, fermented? This sleeping pack was destined to be a star.

There you have it, the best K-beauty skincare products I used this year! Stay tuned, because my next post will be a continuation of the Fiddies. I’ll be handing out Best New Etailer, Best K-Beauty Etailer, and some other shop-focused awards…and maybe a couple Shitties, my “awards” for things that are the opposite of Fiddies.

What were your favorite products this year?



26 thoughts on “The Fiddy’s Choice Awards, Part 1: My Favorite K-Beauty Products of 2015

  1. Love love love this post so much. I’m a newbie on korean skincare and blogger like you and others help me so much to choose which product to go firstly. I’m with you on Tosowoong Enzyme Powder wash. Its the first time for me using low PH cleanser and my face seems agree. No more greasy-after cleansing feeling since.

    Could you give suggestion. In your post you put first essence and hydrathing toner in a same section. are they actually on the same function?
    i use them both on my daily routine. First essence first then hydrathing toner. Thank you. ❤

    and marry christmas for Fiddies's family 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice roundup! And congrats on the new lights; as a photographer, I can tell you they really put the “photo” (light) in…”photos.” Yeah.

    Anyway, back to Earth. Your winners reeeaaally make me wish I had more honey in my routine… My favorite products this year include: dat Mizon All-in-One Snail Repair Cream—a classic that I had just started using this year, and am running out of in probably two days; My Scheming snail essence mask; and the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel. Hnnnng.

    Looking forward to your Shitties! (Oh god, that sentence was a horrible piece of writing that belongs in the comments section of US Weekly…)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yesss so excited for a Worst of 2015!!! This one was great too though, think I’m going to purchase the Banila Co essence oil because I also can’t seem to find an amazing night serum. I think we’ve commiserated on this topic before.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha very nice post, as always. I’m guessing there wasn’t a ‘best AHA & BHA’ category because it’s understood that Cosrx’s blackhead and whitehead power are so secure in their reign that such things would simply be beneath their royal dignity?
    Actually I was curious about the Blackhead Power Essence after reading somewhere about its pH being controversial (possibly too high to be effective). I’ve noticed amazing things since starting my acids routine, but since I’ve been using the AHA too I can’t be 100% sure the BHA is also doing its job.
    I trust Cosrx but figured I’d ask if you’d confirmed its pH as being in the correct range yourself.
    Keep up the great work! Always enjoy reading your posts! Nice new photo equipment too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya! I only did categories where I’ve used at least the different options for an appropriate amount of time. I’ve only ever used the Paula’s Choice and Cosrx acids, so I can’t do AHA and BHA (I have also used Mizon’s AHA but not long enough, as I found it quite drying and only use it as spot treatment now).

      As far as Cosrx BHA’s pH goes, it’s true that it’s slightly higher than optimal. However, BHA effectiveness doesn’t shut down abruptly at a certain pH. Theoretically, its ability to exfoliate would gradually decline as the pH rises. In practice, however, other factors like formulation also play into it and so does YMMV (for example, PC’s BHA did nothing for me despite being at a lower pH). Cosrx also uses 4% betaine salicylate instead of the more common 2% salicylic acid, so it may have different requirements.

      I hope that was helpful! Sorry if it was convoluted. It’s been a while since I sat down and tried to explain acids 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for the reply, it really was helpful! Don’t worry; not convoluted at all. I am glad to hear it’s not necessarily as simple as pH alone.
        I suppose if I really wanted to determine its effects definitively, I could have followed all the logical advice to add only one new product at a time… but… Jolse order! and all the things!

        After I give my brand new A-Beauty routine a few months to settle in (and hopefully after I get past the purging stage) I fully intend to indulge in a few of these products to which you’ve awarded you approval. High on the list: Miss Flower & Mr. Honey Essence Oil. It sure looks dreamy.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m sharing my personal experience here, in case it’s helpful to you. I introduced AHA to my routine first, then after almost two months, added BHA. And I did see the improvement brought about by the BHA, specifically. My pores became less visible/clogged and I had less sebaceous filaments on my nose. I knew it was the BHA because the dramatic change happened after I introduced it and not with the AHA. Of course, YMMV, but I do think that the Cosrx BHA is doing its own thing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow I really love this format. And from following I know that there are many that didn’t make it into the nominees (Etude cleansing oil etc.) which makes me EXTREMELY happy as I have the Goodal fermented honey cream on its way to me right now. Thanks for the view into your 2015 year in beauty. I hope 2016 is good to you too Fiddy.

    You asked about which were our holy grails for the year: I’ve mentioned the Sulwhasoo gentle cleansing oil, my favorite cleanser is the SU:M37 MRCS, my favorite first essence between the Nature Republic Soybean and the Primary Raw Soy Milk Ferment essences… my favorite ‘light’ moisturizer (since my skin is dry it’s more on the medium side) is the Beyond Angel Aqua Cream and the heavy moisturizer is the Sulwhasoo ORM.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I really need to try the MRCS! I feel like my AB life is missing something for not having that experience, ha.

      I hope your 2016 is great in every way! And yeah…the Etude cleansing oil isn’t getting close to any awards from me, ha.


  5. COSRX Rice > Sulwhasoo?! Oooh, bold statement. Renee and I are working on a favorites post, but it’s not all K-beauty…one of my K-beauty favorites has to be LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule. So glow, much moist. Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m shocked there isn’t a best sheet mask category! Or will Sheet Masks get their own post (as this category deserves)? Does Whamisa reign supreme? I saw the Reddit thread, but I’m curious about your mask top ten since your Taiwanese Sheet Mask Haul. You and Cat Cactus got me hooked on double masking and absolutely love it. Also, loving everything in the Fiddy Snails Box and Toosowong Enzyme Powder Wash. Thanks for helping me up my skincare.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Ellen, double masking actually is layering masks together such as an eye mask with another mask; however, I was using this term to mean using two masks a day, which is really referred to as double fisting by an beauty bloggers. There is a hash tag called teamdoublefisting as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. How did you like the LJH Propolis Cream? Still working on finding my HG Cream. I tried a few samples of it but that wasn’t enough to really gauge full effects though I love that the scent is mild and it isn’t scented. Haven’t heard anything great about the LJH Tea Tree Cream.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “The scent is mild and isn’t scented.” Oh lorddd… What on earth was I talking about? I’d just woken up from a nap with the kiddo and I was groggy and couldn’t see because I got some of my sleeping pack in my eyes. Haha. Anyway, it’s definitely scented but it wasn’t overly offensive to me. Just curious if you’ve tried it because it was hard for me to get a feel.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love your list and there are definbitively some products which I enjoy, too , but luckily, there are also a couple of products which I didn’T try yet and I’m super curious to try tem now! I didn’t try any Banila Co Skincare and neither did I try the Goodal products (although highly raved…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Fiddy! I was wondering, would you would consider doing a mid-year look back at your 2015 Choice Awards? I’m bored with my current routine and dying to add some new products to my routine, but with all the products you and other bloggers have reviewed in 2016 I feel like a kid in a candy store so overwhelmed with choice I’ll go crazy and grab whatever is in sight before tearing out of there ;P

    I truly appreciate and admire your dedication to the product reviewing process and it would be nice to see how products reviewed so far in 2016 stack up against tried and true favorites overall… The big picture if you will.

    Just a suggestion–you’ve got a loyal reader regardless. Thank you!! 🙂


  10. Planning a RoseRoseShop order, this post and your links have been super useful! Any early tips for this year’s favourites? (Accidentally typo’d it as “faceourites” which also makes sense…)


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