December 28 update: I’ve been told that the spatula may not be real jade. Checking on that now.
Precious gems in skincare tend to leave me cold, since the skincare benefits of ground up jewelry are, at best, both questionable and temporary. But I have an irrational reverence for jade. My first piece of real jewelry was a classic plain jade bangle, which made nine-year-old me feel like a Real Lady.
I broke the bangle washing my hands like a month later, but that’s not the point. Point is, jade is special to me, so when my friend Sheryll from The Wanderlust Project Snapchatted me a picture of her monitor displaying a new Sulwhasoo product with jade as the star ingredient, I had a moderate-to-severe conniption and an instant need to put the Radiance Energy Mask all over my face.
The product featured in this review was provided by a Fifty Shades of Snail sponsor. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk.
At the time, I was just getting friendly with Sulwhasoo US*. I gently(?) nagged my contact there about the Radiance Energy Mask, it showed up at my door a few days later, and now here we are. Me, a jade-infused sleeping pack, and a (probably imitation but still lovely) jade spatula.
Sulwhasoo Radiance Energy Mask Review
Purpose: Sulwhasoo Radiance Energy Mask is a sleeping mask that claims to hydrate skin and improve its clarity and radiance.
Best suited for: Aging and/or fatigued-looking complexions; all skin types.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to cetearyl alcohol, silicones, stearic acid, palmitic acid, coconut derivatives like caprylic/capric triglycerides, fragrance, or anything else in the ingredients list.
When and how to use: Use in place of moisturizing cream as the final step in your evening skincare routine (or over an emulsion or under a separate cream if extra moisture is needed). Leave on overnight.
Sulwhasoo Radiance Energy Mask ingredients: Water, propanediol, glycerin, cetearyl alcohol, pentaerythrityl tetraethylhexanoate, dimethicone, butylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate, glyceryl stearate, squalane, caprylic/capric triglyceride, butylene glycol, achillea millefolium extract, glycyrrhiza uralensis (licorice) root extract, paeonia albiflora root extract, nelumbo nucifera flower extract, polygonatum officinale rhizome/root extract, lilium candidum bulb extract, rehmannia glutinosa root extract, honey, nephrite powder, lonicera japonica (honeysuckle) flower extract, chenopodium quinoa seed extract, ascorbyl glucoside, cholesterol, hydroxypropyl bispalmitamide MEA, glyceryl caprylate, magnesium sulfate, manganese sulfate, stearic acid, ethylhexylglycerin, xanthan gum, zinc sulfate, carbomer, calcium chloride, trisiloxane, palmitic acid, polyglyceryl-3 methylglucose distearate, polymethyl methacrylate, polysorbate 20, PEG-100 stearate, pentylene glycol, hydrogenated lecithin, tromethamine, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance
Notable ingredients: On paper, the Radiance Energy Mask bears some similarities to Sulwhasoo’s Overnight Vitalizing Mask*, which I love, and the reformulated Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX, which gets a lot of play in my current skincare lineup. The products have many moisturizing ingredients and antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and brightening botanical extracts in common. (If you want to see a side-by-side comparison of the ingredients in the Radiance Energy Mask and the Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX, I put them into a spreadsheet, which you can download here because Fiddy luhh you.) But while the Overnight Vitalizing Mask products boast the comparatively well researched ginseng and mulberry extracts, the Radiance Energy Mask stars nephrite. Jade, that is.
As much as I love jade aesthetically, I assumed that its contributions to the Radiance Energy Mask would be limited to “gives subtle temporary blur effect” and “enhances mystique and price of product.” I read page after page about the history of jade, which goes back at least as far as Neolithic times. I found plenty of claims (without empirical evidence) about its spiritual and mystical and magical healing and cleansing powers. I did not, however, find much about its effects when ground up and applied topically to skin. That is, except for one corporate-funded 2002 paper out of Korea, “Investigation of jewelry powders radiating far-infrared rays and the biological effects on human skin.”
Remember how I said that most powdered gems in skincare leave me cold? Apparently, powdered jade is supposed to do just the opposite.
A single small study, conducted by corporate R&D researchers and published over a decade ago, is most definitely not enough to form any solid conclusions about anything, but this particular 2002 paper captured my imagination like the news that Dan Stevens would play the Beast in the live-action Beauty and the Beast.
Tested against a control in a moisturizing cream at concentrations of 0.25%, 1%, 3%, and 7%, nephrite jade powder was found to emit far infrared rays, optimally at 1%. The 1% jade cream was then found to increase skin temperature by about 1° Celsius. To the researchers, this suggested that the jade powder increases blood circulation in the skin.
To me, this suggests that maybe, just maybe, this jade thing might have a real benefit as far as skin radiance goes. If the paper’s data and conclusions are solid and if the Radiance Energy Mask contains enough nephrite powder and if nothing else in the cream undermines the potential effects of the nephrite powder. If if if.
It’s a start, anyway. And since I have gotten increased glow due to seemingly increased blood circulation from a Sulwhasoo product before, there is precedent.
I think it’s important to note that I didn’t start researching nephrite powder until after I’d come to my own conclusions about the product’s effects on my skin. I didn’t find or read that 2002 paper until a couple of days ago. I wanted to go into testing fairly blind, so that I wouldn’t bias myself into seeing what I expected to see. And I’m glad I did.
If you’ve used either the original or the EX version of the Overnight Vitalizing Mask, the Radiance Energy Mask may feel pretty familiar to you despite the different style of packaging.
Like the Overnight Vitalizing Mask, the Radiance Energy Mask is a medium-weight cream with a soft, smooth texture. It glides on easily, with a very slight initial tingle, and dries to a satiny finish, siliconey rather than rich or watery. For me, the product takes about ten minutes to settle into a non-greasy, non-sticky occlusive film that stays put until I cleanse it off in the morning. The scent, which Sulwhasoo describes as “foresty” in the pamphlet, is recognizably herbal, recognizably Sulwhasoo, but lighter and more subtle than in many of their other products. It’s fresh and lovely and fades all too quickly on me.
As a moisturizing product, the Radiance Energy Mask wasn’t always enough for my skin, despite the claims of hydration in the product pamphlet. I can get away with it as my sole moisturizer on nights when my skin is feeling robust or when I’ve really piled on the hydrating and nourishing layers beforehand. When I haven’t had the time to do a full routine, though, or when the weather or my skin are extra dry, relying on this product without at least a lightweight emulsion underneath or decent cream on top leaves my skin feeling a little tight under the occlusive film. Luckily, after several experiments, I’ve found that layering with a separate moisturizer doesn’t diminish the other effects of the Radiance Energy Mask.
Those other effects are, for my skin, exactly what I’d hoped for when I first laid eyes on the product.
There’s something about my favorite Sulwhasoo products, the ones that I’m willing to buy in full size over and over, that I haven’t found elsewhere. That something is the ability to make my skin look more alive. Brighter, but not in that “I just rubbed a bunch of white cast cream on my face” artificial way. Bright as in calm and translucent, capturing light as if from within. More vibrant and awake. My favorite Sulwhasoo products consistently improve on the fine details that convey youth and health, which is what makes them such a great supplement to my front-line anti-agers like tretinoin and vitamin C. The Radiance Energy Mask is now one of my favorite Sulwhasoo products.
I spent several nights testing the Radiance Energy Mask on half face only to get a good sense of its effects and found that it consistently gives me softer, bouncier, more even-toned skin after my morning cleansing, as well as a noticeable glow. I often happily skip even my sheerest complexion makeup (Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint, the foundation that covers next to nothing) because why would I want to cover that up? I’m all about the fast morning skincare routine these days, so the Radiance Energy Mask’s effects are exactly what I need.
I also spent several nights using the Radiance Energy Mask on half my face and the Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX on the other half. That’s where I saw some really interesting differences.
As I mentioned above, I didn’t read up about jade in skincare until I was done with my testing period, so I didn’t know about the supposed skin-warming effects of nephrite powder. What I saw was that while the Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX delivered slightly stronger skin tone-brightening results, the Radiance Energy Mask seemed to boost circulation more, providing a rosier, livelier look. The differences are subtle but, for me, noticeable. Reading that 2002 study just confirmed what I’d noted. Even the bit of tingle I sometimes felt when applying the product makes sense now. Is it all really because of the jade? I don’t know, and I’m still not confident enough to say I think it is. But something in this stuff is very good to my skin.
Conclusion: When it comes to anti-aging, circulation and overall glow tend to come second to things like firmness and smoothness. When it comes to brightening, translucence tends to come second to actual skin tone. But even though circulation, glow, and translucence are generally lower-priority, improving them can make a huge difference to the appearance of skin. I’m really impressed with how much the Radiance Energy Mask did in those areas and super happy with how it makes my skin look and feel (and how I feel about my skin). I wish it were more moisturizing, but overall, this sleeping pack with its precious stone content has definitely become one of my preciouses. It’s a splurge that I’m already budgeting to make once my first jar runs out.
1 – This should be taken off the market, or this failed at its one primary job.
2 – Caused me some problems or doesn’t work very well; would not buy again.
3 – Meh. Neither great nor bad.
4 – Pretty good. Worth rebuying.
5 – I’ll never be in the market for a replacement unless this one is discontinued.
Where can I buy Sulwhasoo Radiance Energy Mask?
I received my 80ml jar of Radiance Energy Mask from Sulwhasoo US, where it is $85 with complimentary shipping and samples*. My special gift code, 50SHADESSULWHASOO, will get you an extra 5ml deluxe sample of Essential Revitalizing Serum. The code stacks with the rest of Sulwhasoo US’s gift with purchase offers*, all of which also stack with each other.