September 30, 2019 update: Unfortunately, Beautibi is no longer carrying this box and is in the process of closing down. However, 23.5N products can now be found at GlowieCo, and I’ve updated my links to reflect that.
In the past couple of years, Asian Beauty e-boutiques have popped up across the US and Canada like adorable mushrooms after a hydratingtoner rain. Which is awesome, if you can’t get enough of mushrooms. But I’ve started to notice that most of these mushrooms are painfully similar. Really special mushrooms are rare.
It’s understandable. Originality is difficult and risky. To be first to market with fresh discoveries, a super special mushroom uses up enormous amounts of time, effort, and creative energy. (And money.) The special mushroom grows tall and vibrant, which then attracts parasitic mushrooms that cannibalize it, absorbing the special mushroom’s most popular items and ideas (and sometimes branding and content) instead of developing their own identities. That’s not great. Because of this tendency to cannibalism, the number of really exceptional AB products launching in the US hasn’t grown proportionally to the number of new AB shops.
It’s not a big deal to me from the customer perspective–more shopping options is almost always a good thing, especially for trendy (easily sold out) or classic items–but it is a huge deal to me as a blogger and industry enthusiast. The way I see it, the mainstream growth and success of Asian skincare in the West will require a steady stream of novel product discoveries. YMMV means that the current small pool of AB classics won’t work for everyone. The wider the variety of compelling products to try, the better the chances that people will find products they love. I want lots of people to find lots of Asian skincare they love.
All of that is why I’m a passionate supporter of magical mushrooms like Beautibi. I’ve been a huge fan of Jen’s taste in T-beauty (and also a fan of her personal awesomeness) since way back when, before we had any kind of shop-and-blogger relationship. She’s one of the few who consistently bring exceptional and unknown AB products to US shores.
Today I have a look at Beautibi’s aNEW beauty box, which we’re also giving away to one lucky winner!
The products featured in this post were provided by a Fifty Shades of Snail sponsor. Giveaway prize provided and shipped by Beautibi. Unless otherwise noted, photographs by Jen, because I haven’t fixed my camera problem yet. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk(*).
Beautibi aNEW Box Review
Beautibi boxes often provide a first look at Jen’s newest discoveries. That’s the purpose of the aNEW box, which is the first Beautibi box of 2017.
There are three versions of this box: Balancing, for normal and oily skin; Soothing + Brightening, for combination and sensitive skin; and Hydrating, for dry or normal skin. As you’ll see in a minute, however, the box contents are more flexible than the skin type designations imply. Jen sent me every variety of box item so that I could check them all out.
(Oh, and the giveaway winner gets to choose which box to receive. More on that below.)
On to the contents!
Wishing U Dried Bio-cellulose Masks
For me, these are the stars of the aNEW box.
Each aNEW box contains one each of the Whitening and Firming flavors of Wishing U‘s very unusual masks, which I can’t emphasize enough are very unusual. I got to try these for the first time late last year and have been dying to share the results since then.
You know those biocellulose face condom masks that are kind of like hydrogel except typically thinner and clingier? The Wishing U masks are made of pliable dried biocellulose that’s then coated in a lotiony essence. The masks do an adequate job of the typical plumpy-brighteney-moisturizey mask tasks. That’s not what makes them unusual, though. What is, is their ability to suck sebum out of face pores. That’s what those white dots in the picture are.
You use the mask immediately after cleansing and toning (instead of my usual way, near the end of the skincare routine). Leave it on for 30-45 minutes before peeling the now-dry, onion skin-like sheet off. Then, if you want to see a star map of the constellation of pores on your face, soak the sheet in water for a minute. Rehydrating the biocellulose will cause the sebum spots to stand out. It’s a beautifully gross demonstration of the purifying effects of the mask.
I haven’t used clay masks or other pore treatments for a long time, since I find most of them too drying for my taste these days. What I really enjoyed about the Wishing U masks is that they left my face feeling clarified but also lightly moisturized.
I also enjoy the fact that the back of the mask packet says “Korean Announcer Mask Sheet.” Which Korean Announcer? I wish u knew.
Inviapotheke Peat hair and body set
Each aNEW box also contains a travel set of 50ml hair and body products from Inviapotheke, which features peat water in its formulations. Peat in skincare may deliver anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects, along with other possible benefits. The Inviapotheke products use certified organic aloe water as their base and boast simple ingredients lists that include familiar extracts like licorice root and peony.
My favorite item out of this set is the Organic Peat Body Cleanser. This pH 5.5 body wash uses the comparatively mild surfactant coco glucoside instead of SLS or SLES, but still foams up nicely in a shower pouf. A little of the (non-staining) jet-black gel goes a long way. It’s unscented and leaves my skin clean but comfortable enough to skip lotion if I want to, which I often do.
I didn’t love the unscented pH 5.5 Peat Hair Cleanser and pH 4.5 Peat Hair Treatment, but Lord Fiddy does, so I’ve happily turned them over to him. My somewhat coarse and dry hair needs more moisture than these products give, but his normal hair has been looking and feeling fantastic since he started using them.
After looking at the ingredients for the hair products, I believe that the reason they work so well for Lord Fiddy is because they have a strong scalp care focus. He has issues with dry, sensitive, and easily irritated scalp. The Peat Hair Cleanser and Peat Hair Treatment have calmed those issues significantly and totally eliminated the redness that used to be visible along his hairline. My scalp, on the other hand, is fine, but my hair thirsts for heavier conditioning.
The Inviapotheke products come in a cute canvas travel pouch.
Thank You Farmer base makeup (variable items)
Here’s where things get customizable.
Each aNEW box comes with one full-size Thank You Farmer base makeup item. Since these are the only variable full-size items in the aNEW boxes, my suggestion (take it or leave it) would be to choose your box based on which one of these you want.
- Balancing box: Thank You Farmer Be Beautiful Pure Make Up Base. This is a gossamer-light color correcting liquid that comes out of the pump mint green but blends out into a brightness boost of no particular color. I was concerned (but also kind of excited) that overdoing it could result in accidental Gamora cosplay. Fortunately (disappointingly?), it’s foolproof enough that I’ve used it both as an allover primer and as a redness corrector on my NC15-ish skin without incurring a single comparison to Madame Vastra.
- Hydrating box: Thank You Farmer Be Beautiful Natural BB Cream. This comes in a single light-medium shade, roughly equivalent to many K-brands’ shade 21. The product applies well with fingertips, better with a Beauty Blender*, and dries down to a nicely balanced finish that’s neither flat matte nor overly dewy. Coverage is moderate, with a nice sheer feel, and lasts me all day, with some shine breaking through at about the 6-hour mark. I like the medium-thickness liquid consistency a lot. The main reason I wouldn’t choose this if I had to pick between the three is that the shade pulls a little too pink for me. My shade leans more neutral-yellow.
- Soothing + Brightening box: Thank You Farmer Be Beautiful Luminous CC Cream. This product is my personal favorite of the three, and, in my opinion, the most versatile and universal. Applied full-face on its own, the delicately iridescent mousse-like cream amps up radiance without looking like makeup, for a total “my skin if I were an angel” look. Mixed into or applied over BB cream or foundation, it gives a soft overall luminosity. Dabbed onto highlight areas like cheekbones and temple, it provides a refined highlight effect. I reach for this one the most out of the three products.
Side note: although I’m generally pretty minimal with makeup–a four-product face is the norm for me–I’ve used all three of these products at once several times. They work very well together and retain their nearly weightless feel even when layered one on top of the other.
For those of you who aren’t interested in the Thank You Farmer makeup items, Jen recently added a new option to the aNEW (hahaha) box. You can substitute a full-size Thank You Farmer Back to Iceland Peeling Cream gommage exfoliator instead. (The giveaway winner can choose this option, too.)
23.5°N skincare travel sets (variable items)
The other variable items in the aNEW box come from 23.5°N, a Taiwanese brand that emphasizes simplicity and makes use of botanical extracts sourced from Taiwanese farms, evocative of the natural beauty of Taiwan.
There are flashier, more superficially “exciting” brands out there, but I think 23.5°N is a fantastic choice for this box. The brand doesn’t use alcohol, fragrance, artificial coloring, SLS, or SLES in its formulas, and there’s little room for other common irritants in the products’ uncomplicated ingredients lists. 23.5°N is also paraben-free, which will please those of you who prefer that, and cruelty-free as well. It’s skincare that many complexions and consciences can enjoy.
Each aNEW box comes with a set of three 23.5°N skincare minis, packaged in another cute canvas travel pouch. As she did with the Thank You Farmer makeup, Jen sent me all the varieties so that I’d have a complete understanding of the options.
After trying all nine products, my understanding is that most people won’t need to stick rigidly to their skin type label. The sets aren’t so specialized that they can’t be used by a variety of complexions.
Balancing: Comes with the Oriental Beauty Tea Peppermint Refreshing Facial Cleanser, Oriental Beauty Tea Balancing Toner, and Bamboo Ultra Hydrating Serum. Of the three sets, this one is the most skin type-specific. It’s much better suited for normal to oily, combination, and oily skin rather than dry skin.
- The Oriental Beauty Tea Peppermint Refreshing Facial Cleanser is like a grown-up Noxzema, which I haven’t thought about since I was thirteen, which was twenty-four freaking years ago, a thought that has me close to a meltdown. Anyway. The pearly 23.5°N cream cleanser has a fresh minty scent and corresponding light minty tingle; it gets my skin very clean but without tightness. Mixed with water, the pH tests at about 7 on my strips*.
- The watery, fast-absorbing Oriental Beauty Tea Balancing Toner uses the astringent properties of tea to provide gentle oil and pore control.
- Instead of moisturizer, the Balancing Set’s third item is the Bamboo Ultra Hydrating Serum. This is a smooth, clear gel that feels intensely quenching. I can see this working as the hydrating step in just about any skincare routine.
Hydrating: Comes with the Bamboo Ultra Hydrating Facial Cleanser, Red Pearl Barley Whitening Toner, and Bamboo Ultra Hydrating Cream. This set seems pretty universal to me.
- The Bamboo Ultra Hydrating Facial Cleanser is the mildest of the three 23.5°N cleanser options. This cleanser produces a decent amount of loose foam and leaves my skin feeling quite soft afterwards, as if it’s leaving behind some light moisture. The pH of this cleanser tests at about 6.
- The Red Pearl Barley Whitening Toner has the same super-thin, watery consistency as the Oriental Beauty Tea Balancing Toner, but without the slight oil-control effect. Instead, it softens skin in preparation for other skincare products.
- The Bamboo Ultra Hydrating Cream (which is included in a teeny tiny baby jar) is a non-greasy, medium-weight gel cream. For me, it’s light enough for day and layers well under a sleeping pack at night.
Soothing: Comes with the Oriental Beauty Tea Balancing Facial Cleanser, Red Pearl Barley Whitening Serum, and Rice Soothing Gel Mask. This set is the most anti-inflammatory of the three, but again, the consistencies of the products would fit into a routine for most skin types.
- Like the Bamboo Ultra Hydrating Facial Cleanser, the Oriental Beauty Tea Cleanser in the lovely wee tube tests at about a pH 6 according to my strips and also creates loose but plentiful foam when mixed with water. This cleanser doesn’t leave a hydrated feeling, but neither does it feel stripping. It produces a neutral, balanced clean.
- The Red Pearl Barley Whitening Serum’s consistency is nearly identical to the Bamboo Ultra Hydrating Serum. It’s a clear, lightweight gel that goes watery when applied and vanishes into skin. I experienced some mild skin-calming effects when using this. It layers effortlessly with other skincare products.
- The Rice Soothing Gel Mask is the star of this set for me. I have all four varieties of the 23.5°N gel masks. They’re thick gels with a supremely smooth, silky finish. I like a thin layer as a minimal moisturizer during the day and a thicker layer as an occlusive sleeping pack at night. The Rice Soothing Gel Mask leaves my skin soft and even-toned. It’s not super moisturizing, however, so dry skin will probably need some extra skincare layers underneath or a few drops of oil or moisturizing serum mixed in. (If you mix products, do so in your hand for each use, not in the jar–you don’t want to compromise preservative strength by combining products and letting them sit for too long.)
The aNEW box is an unusual one for Beautibi, since it places less emphasis on face care/sheet masks and adds in makeup and hair and body products. For me, this weakens it. The sets of 23.5°N minis are adorable and give welcome variety, but they’re an amuse-bouche, not the giant slab of meat I’d prefer. Substituting the peeling gel for the full-size makeup product could help, though peeling gels last so long that I can imagine many people passing it up simply because they already have one or more.
On the other hand, as a full-body box and a preview of the latest Beautibi additions, the aNEW box is excellent. The Wishing U masks are fun, functional, and really different–they give great skincaretainment without being all gimmick, no value. The Inviapotheke and 23.5°N sets showcase Jen’s originality and willingness to take risks on brands unknown in the US. The Thank You Farmer makeup expands our knowledge of a brand that Jen launched in the US last year and that has now made it big enough to be on Ulta shelves.
Also, the aNEW box is perfect for travelers. You even get cute and convenient little bags to organize your items in. I imagine the convenience aspect of these sets is a thoughtful detail rather than a happy accident, given how much Jen travels.