Amid the love and positivity of the holiday season, I think it’s important to remember that everything is not, in fact, awesome. Actually, for every one stellar skincare product out there, there are probably about twenty duds. As hard as I try to avoid those duds, sometimes they land on my doorstep and then on my face. Here are some of the more notable duds I’ve pulled out of my beauty stash and won’t be putting back.
Some products featured in this post were provided by Fifty Shades of Snail sponsors and are marked with double asterisks(**) and individually disclosed in the text. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk(*).
YMMV still applies, of course. Surely there are people out there who love some of these products. Their feelings on them (and yours, if you find some of your favorites in this list!) are just as valid as mine. But if your skin and/or your tastes are anything like mine, I definitely suggest making note of my anti-picks and staying far, far away from them.
Cleansing can be tedious but has to be done. I consider cleansing one of the most important steps in my skincare routine, so I look for products that cleanse well without drying out my skin and provide at least some kind of enjoyment. These products all failed at least one of those tests.
Papa Recipe White Flower Clear Up Enzyme Powder Cleanser
Considering how much I love Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash, you’d think another low-pH enzyme powder cleanser would be a guaranteed win, right? In fact, objectively, Papa Recipe’s powder cleanser has some advantages. The powder is a little finer (though not as fine as Amorepacific’s Treatment Enzyme Peel), and the Papa Recipe cleanser lacks that slightly detergenty scent that some people dislike. But I just can’t bring myself to finish my bottle.
While the White Flower Clear Up Enzyme Powder Cleanser does clean just fine, it doesn’t leave my skin with that buttery, lipidy, robustly healthy texture that Tosowoong’s does. Also, it smells funny. It has a certain bland funk to it. I don’t like that. After months of struggle, I’ve repurposed this cleanser as an occasional hand wash.
Ciracle Absolute Deep Cleansing Oil
For me, this cleansing oil is absolute disappointment. Thin and runny and dispensed with a pump that likes to squirt product wildly across the room at the speed of light, it’s both messy and unpleasant. The oil blend has little slip, making massaging away sunscreen and makeup a chore. Also, smell is a problem again here. Ciracle Absolute Deep Cleansing Oil smells to me like research chemicals. I don’t mind unfragranced products, and in many cases, unfragranced is preferable to fragranced, but I’d rather my skincare smell like skincare and not an unfinished experiment. I ended up finishing my bottle off as a brush and puff first cleanser.
Nature Republic Forest Garden Chamomile Cleansing Oil
I purchased the Nature Republic chamomile cleansing oil specifically to replace my Ciracle cleansing oil. In some ways, the Forest Garden Chamomile Cleansing Oil does beat the Ciracle. It’s thicker, making it less drippy and runny (especially onto my precious eyelash extensions). It also has more slip for easier massaging. Unfortunately, like many Nature Republic products I’ve tried, this one is just way too perfumey. It also doesn’t emulsify or rinse off particularly well. Using this always results in a noticeable film–not a huge deal since I always double cleanse, but still not optimal. I’ve repurposed what’s left of mine into a brush and puff cleanser the way I did with the Ciracle.
Cosmetea Pore Care Tea Cleanser (Green Tea + Mint)**
Having never gotten around to trying the famous Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, I was pretty excited when I opened up a box of PR samples from Memebox US* and found this inside. Then I pH tested the cleanser and went limp. Mixed with water, this cleanser tests at around a 9 for me, putting it squarely in “please God no” territory. Basically, it’s a nice-smelling bar of soap with coffee grounds embedded in it, packaged in a cute tube. Travel friendly and visually appealing, but it only took a couple of days of use for my skin to start drying up. Also, those coffee grounds don’t exfoliate as much as they just scratch and annoy. I’m not sure how to repurpose this (revenge on an enemy?), but I’ve kept it in the shower in case inspiration hits.
Serums of Unusual Consistencies
I like a weird product as much as the next beauty blogger, but for some reason, almost all of my essence and serum fails happened to be formulated with unconventional consistencies. Sometimes I get the feeling that the desire to come up with something odd and memorable might have trumped the mandate to create something actually pleasant and effective.
Naruko Jingcheng 5-D Face Lift Firming Serum**
This product, sent to me by Naruko US*, made me really sad. I generally love Naruko products, I’m always interested in more firming power, and years of reading Lovecraft have made me cautiously curious about what lies in dimensions higher than those we humans can perceive. Too bad this serum’s creamy lotion consistency worked against it.
Lotions have a tendency to sit on top of skin thanks to all those emollient ingredients. Serums should mostly absorb into skin. This product did the former and didn’t do anything substantial to my skin. It also tended to block absorption of any layers applied on top without providing enough moisture for me to skip an actual moisturizer. I’m repurposing this as a lightweight hand lotion.
Another lotiony “serum” that didn’t work out for me? Teradia TDRepair Emulsion Serum**, sent to me by Jolse. While this product had fewer absorption issues than the Naruko 5D serum, it didn’t produce any improvements in my skin beyond a temporary blur effect due to some iridescent ingredients in the formulation. Also, it apparently contains “nano diamonds.” I am absolutely not a fan of random precious gems and metals in my skincare. The vast majority of them seem to be obvious gimmicks designed to drive up the product’s price rather than produce spectacular results. Since I can’t find any Teradia products on Jolse anymore, I’m guessing this was a deserved flop.
Goodal Firming Camellia Water Oil
As bummed as I was about the Naruko 5-D serum flop, I was even more bummed about how my time with the firming version of my beloved Goodal Waterest Lasting Water Oil turned out. This one falls under the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” category for me. The Waterest Lasting Water Oil gave me a pretty much perfect balance of hydration and lipid barrier support with just the right amount of fresh, pretty fragrance. The Firming Camellia flavor, however, turns the moisture and fragrance up several notches, taking it all too far. For a product meant to be used early in a routine as a booster layer, it’s far too thick and rich. It takes forever to sink in even on my thirsty-ass skin.
Normally, I’d move it to a later point in my routine and consider it a serum since product names don’t really matter when putting products in order in a skincare routine, but I found the strong, heavy, artificial-smelling floral fragrance too much at any step. Ultimately, the moderate firming effect the Firming Camellia Water Oil had didn’t justify the downsides of the product. I’ve repurposed this one as a leg and foot product, where I can enjoy the moisture and anti-aging effects as far from my nose as possible.
While we’re talking about strongly scented products that are a little too thick and moisturizing for their own good, I might as well bring up the Innisfree Orchid Enriched Essence**, provided to me at my request by Jolse. Unpleasantly sticky and syrupy, the Orchid Enriched Essence moisturized my skin well but gave me several actual headaches due to the overpowering fragrance. I used mine up on my legs, just like I did with the Goodal Firming Camellia Water Oil.
Blithe Tundra Chaga Pressed Serum**
Okay, this is exactly what I mean about nonstandard consistencies. New and different is good but isn’t everything. Provided to me by Glow Recipe, this serum has a promising ingredients list, full of sexy extracts and oils, but fell totally short for me. The firm, jiggly, vaguely slimy mass in the pretty lavender jar wasn’t just off-putting but also very resistant to actually absorbing into my skin. Didn’t matter whether I put it on a bare face, a nearly bare face, or a face treated to one of my usual routines, it left a film behind unless I used the barest “what is even the point” minimum. After over a month of regular use, I didn’t see any particular firming effects, either. On the plus side, it smells lovely and not at all the way it looks like it would smell, but this oddity ultimately didn’t justify its oddness. Glow Recipe carries some really fantastic products. For me, this pressed serum isn’t one of them. I haven’t repurposed this one yet because I’m not really sure what to do with it.
(Blithe is the same brand that makes “splash masks,” another memorably nonsensical product category that I and my snailboo Cat of Snow White and the Asian Pear can live without.)
Creams that Make Me Want to Cry
Thanks to tretinoin, chemical exfoliants, a desert climate, and the aging process, I love creams. Can never have enough good creams. These creams didn’t make the cut.
Mizon Gold Starfish All In One Cream
Sigh. Remember that time I jiggled a jar of the original Mizon Returning Starfish Cream? I absolutely loved that stuff! I went through at least two jars of it early in my AB days and still think of it fondly. By the time Mizon discontinued the OG Returning Starfish, I’d moved on and so didn’t mourn too much. Eventually the longing returned (har har), though, so I figured I’d give the gold version a shot.
This is called Gold Starfish Cream because it contains gold flakes. Remember what I said earlier about disliking precious gems and metals in my skincare? Yeah. Not exciting. Less starfish. More gold. Boo.
This cream wasn’t notably moisturizing. It did nothing for either the elasticity or tone of my skin. Oh, and also? THE GOLD FLAKES SCRATCHED ME! Literally scratched my face! Why would you make a product that causes actual injury?!?!?!?!
I’m not repurposing this cream for any reason. To me it is just awful.
Darphin 8-Flower Nectar Oil Cream**
This cream, which came to me courtesy of French luxury brand Darphin*, isn’t terrible. Actually, it’s quite nice. Buttery and rich, with a complicated herbal smell that reminds me (in a nice way) of a certain Chinese herbal burn ointment my parents used to use on me when I was a kid (not all the time, just whenever I’d gotten burned somehow), it moisturizes my skin well. It just…doesn’t really do anything else.
To be fair, most moisturizers just moisturize, and that’s totally okay. That’s what we expect from moisturizers! But for the price of this cream*, I really need it to do something more. I used up over half the jar without seeing that something more. I’ve got nothing against luxury products, but high-end products really need to bring it. The difference between a Sulwhasoo ginseng cream* and the Darphin cream is that Sulwhasoo ginseng creams make my skin tone so glowing and even when I wake up the morning after that I don’t want to use BB cream or any base makeup that might cover up that natural gloriousness. The Darphin cream makes me look and feel exactly the same as if I’d used a perfect decent midrange or budget moisturizing cream.
I’m not even going to try to come up with an amusing title for this section. I’ve already wasted too much effort on these things.
These things are everywhere. I believe the first ones I got were sent by Memebox, but I’ve received a few as freebies with purchases from other shops. It really doesn’t matter where I got them from–they’re gimmicky, create extra work without any particularly extra payoff, decent at best and downright dreadful at worst. I used the Aqua version of these masks last week and nearly lost my mind with anger. The thing smelled like straight rubbing alcohol and did exactly nothing for my skin, and I had to work for that extra nothing by doing the injection (into the mask packet not my face) and massaging the extra essence around in the packet before I could even take the mask out and put it on my face.
There are about a hundred normal sheet masks that hydrate, plump, and brighten skin better than these do, for much less money and with much less effort. I’m torn between trashing these and giving them away, but really, I can’t think of anyone I want to inflict these on.
What are your biggest flops of the year?