Summer 2017 Dud Awards, + Misc Fiddy News

People often ask me how I can possibly get through the piles of products that my (very appreciated) mail carrier and UPS carrier bring to my door. It’s a fair question, I’ve just now decided, as I gaze into my overflowing beauty closet and then down the long aisle of boxes that lines the wall on my side of my bedroom.

(I will show you guys someday. Today, the shame is too great.)

The answer is pretty simple: I don’t. The vast majority of products that come through my door aren’t really notable enough to keep in my active skincare lineup for long. Sometimes I dislike the smell or the texture too much to go on. Some products are so totally unremarkable in formulation or effects that I don’t want to waste the skin time on them. (Sorry, Innisfree, this applies to about 90% of your products that I’ve tried.) Sometimes they’re just not right for my skin needs.

At least I don’t order their immediate execution, so there’s that.

But sometimes I continue using products I don’t care for, even though every use fills me with annoyance. This is only partly to get material for the blog. A product with a consistency or finish I dislike may turn out to have results I do like, for example.

The three products in today’s Dud Awards are products that I knew I disliked soon after I started using them but kept on testing anyway. As you might guess from the title, they’re not working out.

Some of the products in this post were provided by Fifty Shades of Snail sponsors. These are marked with an asterisk(*) and disclosed in the text.

Fifty Shades of Snail dud report
*insert angryface*

Let’s get started! The award for Most Disappointing Cleansing Oil goes to…

Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil

I don’t remember why I was so excited to try this cleansing oil, but I was. Mostly, I think, because I really wanted to find a more budget-friendly cleansing oil that I would love as much as I love the Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil*. I’m still on the hunt for that wonderful hypothetical budget-friendly cleansing oil, because this isn’t it.

Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil review
Though I do really like the design. Klairs has that apothecary thing locked down.

Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil ingredients: Caprylic/capric triglyceride, cetyl ethylhexanoate, isononyl isononanoate, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, isopropyl myristate, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, glycine soja (soybean) oil, sesamum indicum (sesame) seed oil, ribes nigrum (black currant) seed oil, tocoperyl acetate, PEG-20 glyceryl triisosterate, polysorbate 20, fragrance, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), carapa guaianensis seed oil, vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) seed oil 

CosDNA analysis

Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil ingredients

This cleansing oil has a couple of things going for it that made me think it might be The One. It’s fairly thick, so it doesn’t run and drip. It has plenty of slip–I have a huge problem with cleansing oils that don’t, since I loathe dragging and pulling on my skin when I massage. And it has an exceptionally pleasant vegetal scent.

What the Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil does not have are cleansing power and good emulsifying properties. These are the things that make it a total miss for me.

You may have to put up with a few more Goblin gifs, because I really like Lee Dong Wook.

First, its cleansing abilities (or lack thereof).

Literally the one job a cleansing oil has is to cleanse. Cleansing oils are the key first step in the famous (or notorious) Asian skincare double cleanse method. I expect a cleansing oil to easily cut through whatever makeup, sunscreen, and everyday grime is on my face. It’s really not a lot to ask. The vast majority of other cleansing oils I’ve tried do it without issues.

The Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil handled lightweight, everyday makeup and sunscreen fine. When faced with heavier makeup or sunscreen, or specifically long-wearing, water-resistant sunscreens, however, it dealt about as well as an army of half-naked Dothraki might deal with the biting cold of the North. That is not a spoiler.

Instead of quickly breaking the products up and lifting them from my skin, this cleansing oil mixed with them into a thick, nasty sludge that I could feel clinging stubbornly to my face, no matter how much I massaged. Actually, the sludge felt nastier and nastier the more I massaged. Maybe it’s something about my skin chemistry. Maybe it’s something about the specific products I was trying to remove. Either way, yuck.

This cleansing oil also emulsifies very poorly compared to my HG cleansing oils. I like cleansing oils that go milky with a touch of water and that rinse off cleanly. The Klairs cleansing oil did neither. Its emulsification is wimpy and feels incomplete, and rinsing involves a lot of effort. I have to keep splashing and wiping at my face to get the product off. I don’t even like using this to clean my makeup puffs, since I’m worried it leaves too much of itself on the puffs. Most unpleasant. Huge disappointment. SAD!

Moving on. The award for Most Ill-Conceived Packaging of a So Far Pretty Blah Product goes to…

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix Synchronized Recovery*

I received this product from Estee Lauder’s US PR; it’s the first Estee Lauder product I’ve tried since I was a little kid playing with my mom’s fancy skincare collection, and judging by my feelings about it, may well be the last.

First of all. What the HELL is an “eye concentrate matrix synchronized recovery”? That’s some intense word salad right there.

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix Synchronized Recovery review
I dare you to guess what this is.

After a lot of squinting at the package insert, printed in luxury cosmetics standard 3-point font, I determined that the Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix Synchronized Recovery is a kind of…creamy pre-cream. That is not a euphemism.

It’s not quite an eye cream (that honor appears to go to the Syncronized Complex II). It’s not quite an eye serum, since there’s an actual eye serum in the line. This is a…separate eye treatment.

(Also, I heavily side-eye luxury brands that feature hyaluronic acid as a star ingredient. The box touts its “2x concentrated infusion of Hyaluronic Acid.” You guys serious? Hyaluronic acid is in everything. Humectants are not rare premium ingredients.)

Anyway. Silly marketing aside, the real reason the Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Eye Concentrate Matrix bothers me is this:

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Recovery Eye Concentrate Matrix Synchronized Recovery applicator

That’s not a dropper. That’s a DIPSTICK.

This $60+ eye product packaged in a rigid glass bottle comes with no way to dispense the product except by using the included FUCKING DIPSTICK ARE YOU SHITTING ME?!?!?!?!?!?!

Look. I’m not a huge germaphobe, especially since I prefer products that use standard preservatives anyway, but even so, I am a wee tiny bit concerned about this dipstick thing. According to the directions, you’re supposed to use the dipstick as an actual massaging applicator. Meaning: rub it on your eye area. Then stick it back in the bottle. Repeat endlessly until the bottle runs out.

I don’t even use my hands to get creams out of jars. I have a stash of regularly cleaned spatulas (that I give an extra boiling water bath about once a week) for that.

You really want me to rub that stick around my eyes then just put it right back in the bottle to incubate whatever might have been in my eye area so that what comes out next time is harder and stronger and more likely to give me milia or pinkeye or whatever the next time? Yeah, no.

I’ve been using disposable alcohol wipes to carefully clean the dipstick after each use, which is not an optimal use of my skincare time and also represents an extra expense that I deem unreasonable.

Sanitary concerns aside, can you imagine how much of a pain it will be to try to get product out of the bottle when it’s down at the bottom? By the way, the dipstick does not reach anywhere near the bottom of the bottle when the cap is unscrewed, so I have no idea how that’s going to work.

I don’t think I’m going to get that far, though, because after two weeks of daily testing, I’m feeling very blah about the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Matrix Concentrate Synchronized Recovery anyway.

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix ingredients: Water, dimethicone, isohexadecane, glycerin, butylene glycol, Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, PEG-10 dimethicone, disteardimonium hectorite, isopropyl isostearate, PPG-15 stearyl ether, sucrose, trehalose, pentylene glycol, hydroxyethyl urea, cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract, garcinia mangostana peel extract, anthemis nobilis (chamomile) flower extract, hordeum vulgare (barley) extract, slybum marianum (lady’s thistle) extract, glycine soja (soybean) seed extract, lactobacillus ferment, algae extract, sorbitol, betula alba (birch) extract, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, morus bombycis (mulberry) root extract, poria cocos sclerotium extract, camelina sativa seed oil, bifida ferment lysate, propylene glycol dicaprate, caffeine, sodium hyaluronate, sodium polyaspartate, hydrogenated lecithin, aminopropyl ascorbyl phosphate, phytosphingosine, yeast extract, ethylhexylglycerin, sodium RNA, hydrolyzed algin, tripeptide-32, polysilicone-11, isododecane, tocopheryl acetate, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seedcake, polyethylene propylene carbonate, polyacrylate crosspolymer-6, sodium dehydroacetate, potassium sorbate, lecithin, disodium EDTA, BHT, phenoxyethanol, iron oxides (CI 77491)

CosDNA analysis

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix Synchronized Recovery ingredients

Meh. There are some interesting and attractive ingredients in there–lots of ferments, algae extract, various botanical extracts, blah blah blah, but nothing that jumps out at me as super special. The box brags about Estee Lauder’s “exclusive ChronoluxCB™ technology”, but that’s most likely just a proprietary name for a particular blend of otherwise pedestrian ingredients.

Ultimately, this so far is just a lightly moisturizing eye lotion. One that doesn’t really play well with any of my eye creams, whether they’re lightweight or richer. It’s too heavy to layer well yet not moisturizing enough to give the desired plumped-up smoothness I like to see around my eyes.

Estee Lauder ANR eye matrix consistency

The packaging also claims this product will deliver a “fresh, ‘wide-open’ look” to eyes. I’m going to keep using it for now to see if I do eventually notice a difference, but for now, I’m not seeing anything compelling. I saw much faster and more noticeable lifting with the Amorepacific Intensive Vitalizing Eye Essence* (which also has a slightly problematic applicator, now that I think about it, though the roller ball isn’t quite on the same level as a dipstick plunging deep down into the product after every use).

I’m not excited about using this product. And the dipsticks who came up with the applicator (as well as the dipsticks who approved it) deserve a gold medal in the Shitty Packaging Olympics. The Advanced Eye Night Repair Synchronous Recovery Matrix Concentrate is not my thing.

Moving on to our final honoree. The award for Most Annoying Vitamin C Serum goes to…

Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum*

Sigh. I believe I actually specifically requested this product from Sunday Riley. I’d heard very positive things about THDA, the oil-soluble, impressively stable vitamin C derivative used in this product. I love vitamin C for its powerhouse anti-aging and brightening abilities: a good vitamin C product can fade dark spots, even out pigmentation, increase collagen production, and provide strong antioxidant protection for skin. Thus far, I’ve only tried inexpensive vitamin C products like my favorite Timeless Vitamin C+E+Ferulic Acid Serum and the OST C20 and C21.5 serums (now rebranded to Tia’m). A luxury vitamin C? I had to try.

Sunday Riley C.E.O. review
The package I got from Sunday Riley came with a fancy shopping bag inside, so that’s cool.

Sunday Riley C.E.O. ingredients: Water, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbate, squalene, hydrogenated polydecene, polyglyceryl-6 distearate, jojoba esters, polyglyceryl-3 beeswax, cetyl alcohol acetamidoethoxyethanol, sodium acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, PPG-12/SMDI copolymer, phenoxyethanol, glycolic acid, hydrogenated lecithin, saccharide isomerate, glycine soja sterols, sodium phytate, tocopherol, citrus reticulata (tangerine) peel oil, citrus sinensis (sweet orange) oil, chlorphenesin, caprylyl glycol

Sunday Riley uses a hefty 15% THDA, higher than most other THDA serums I’ve seen, and throws in a bit of glycolic acid for good measure. Unfortunately, that 15% didn’t seem to do my skin much visible good. I’ve been using C.E.O. once a day, at least 5 days a week, for a couple of months now. In that time, I’ve not seen any visible improvement to pigmentation issues, particularly the sunspots on my cheeks, which I have seen fade dramatically with various other products (until I inevitably move on from testing them or accidentally skimp on sunscreen one day and they come back, which I suppose is good for continuing to test brightening products, but highly irritating on a personal level).

It’s possible that C.E.O. is working to help my collagen production, but this serum is billed as a Rapid Flash Brightening Serum, and it isn’t brightening anything rapidly for me.

Additionally, I’m starting to think I just really dislike the feel of Sunday Riley’s serums. I had the same complaints with the consistency and finish of the C.E.O. that I had with Sunday Riley Good Genes*. The smooth, milky fluid leaves a thick layer of residue that does not sink in no matter how long I wait and no matter how bare my skin is underneath. It layers very poorly with any other products I use. I’ve taken to using it as my only product under emulsion and sunscreen on some mornings, and even that causes me problems. Pilling problems and shine problems, mostly.

This C.E.O. is not the boss of me. I’m going back to my Timeless.

Think I’m done? Think again! Because I have a couple of pieces of news for those of you who don’t follow my Instagram! (Which I completely understand. I’m not mad. Just disappointed.)

First piece of news:

I put together a skincare box for W2Beauty, and it launched earlier this week! The Fifty Shades of Snail Light & Bright Box contains skincare to help brighten skin while being lightweight enough for very hot and humid climates. I chose some old and some new favorites. Links lead to my original reviews of the products.

  • Skinfood Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash-Off for exfoliation without photosensitization
  • COSRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence for gentle brightening
  • Swanicoco Bitamin C Calm Down Emulsion, a silky light moisturizer that sits well under sunscreen and makeup and provides some extra brightening ingredients
  • A’Pieu Pure Block Aqua Sun Gel, my new pretty much HG everyday sunscreen. It dries down beautifully and feels like nothing on my skin.
  • And as a free gift with purchase while supplies last, I’ve also arranged for purchases to come with a deluxe travel size tube of the awesome Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX! I figured it was appropriate both because it is awesome and because my first Sulwhasoo experience, ages ago, was a deluxe travel size tube of this sleeping pack…included as a gift with purchase from an order I made with W2Beauty.
Fifty Shades of Snail Light & Bright Box
Photo credit: W2Beauty

You can get the Light & Bright Box here.

Also in work-related (W2Beauty) news, the W2Beauty community is here! Designed as a social network for K-beauty fans, it’s shaping up to be a great place for AB lovers. Also, there are extra gifts for people who sign up early. Come check it out!

Last piece of news is the biggest.


This year, I’ll be hosting(!!!) a panel on K-dramas and their influence on K-beauty trends. I’ll probably talk about Goblin, but the panelists will have a wider range of dramas to draw on. I’ll also be doing meet & greets at the W2Beauty booth all three days. So come visit!

Want to read more about products I don’t like? Check out my Do Not Like category! The way I feel about the products in this list and that category is this:


13 thoughts on “Summer 2017 Dud Awards, + Misc Fiddy News

  1. Completely agree on the Klairs cleansing oil. It was a pain in the arse to work with and I actually think it might have caused more clogs from me because it didn’t emulsify.


  2. your box looks amazing! but sadly the shipping cost to Canada is $30! Also I was wondering if you have used any simplistic products? I just bought their good moisturizer cuz it looks good but I’m not sure!


  3. More Lee Dong Wook is always good… hehe.

    Not really surprised about seeing Sunday Riley here, I’ve not really got on with the products I’ve tried. They are so overly hyped my brain hurts thinking about it. Congrats on your box!!! I’m so excited for you and happy for all your success!


  4. Have you tried Holy Snails El Dorado Vitamin C Oil Serum with10% THDA?? I just started using it and while I can’t say anything about results yet, I do like how it feels.


  5. Why not simply give away or sell the products you know don’t work / will not work? Somewhere out there an appreciative beauty buff will enjoy them.


    1. I do give away quite a few and actually have a new home for the Estee Lauder eye stuff! Generally I give away things that I didn’t use much of. It’s usually more of a periodic purge than a steady stream of outgoings, however.


  6. Hi Jude! You mention that you’ve seen some dramatic results using certain products on your sunspots – would you mind listing them? My mother’s been trying to fade hers to no avail. Thanks in advance!


  7. Hi Jude!
    How about Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair cream?
    Is it worth all the hype?


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