I’m upset to have fallen in love with a product.
I haven’t been this upset since the last time I fell in love with a lavishly priced Sulwhasoo mask, the Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Creamy Mask, and that was back in 2017. The only reason I’m not more upset right now is that while the Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask is a solid $80 more than the ginseng sheet masks, at least the $200 Timetreasure sleeping mask is a nice big 80mL jar, which lasts me a lot longer than a $120 box of five sheet masks. So that’s something.
The product featured in this post was provided for review by Sulwhasoo US. Affiliate links, which allow me to earn a small commission on purchases made using the links, are marked with an asterisk(*).
Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask Review
There I was, just chugging along, enjoying my life and my skincare perfectly fine without any particularly luxurious or outrageously priced products in my perfectly fine routine, when a box from Sulwhasoo’s US offices landed on my doorstep. Upon opening, I found it contained a huge (120mL), insanely shiny limited edition gold bottle of the First Care Activating Serum* that I’ve loved for ages, a bottle of my much-loved luxury first cleanser favorite Gentle Cleansing Oil*, a corresponding bottle of the wonderful Gentle Cleansing Water*, and the Timetreasure Extra Creamy Cleansing Foam (pH too high for me to recommend) and Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask.
(Also a set of fancy bronze chopsticks and spoons.)
As the most unfamiliar, high-impact, and high-priced item in the box, the Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask immediately caught my attention.
My personal experience with the Timetreasure line hasn’t been promising. My main interaction with it was at a Sulwhasoo brand event in LA a couple of years ago, where I and the friend I brought with me stifled wide-eyed giggles at claims that the red pine extract featured in the Timetreasure products can essentially stop aging by protecting your telomeres. Telomeres are structures found at the ends of our chromosomes, forming a sort of protective cap over them. They break down and shorten with subsequent cell duplications. This shortening is associated with aging and cell destruction. I stand by what I whispered to my friend that day, which is that if this red pine extract can really do that, then I imagine the entire scientific community would like a piece of this pie. I mean, that’s basically the secret of immortality.
I came away from that event with a bottle of the Timetreasure Invigorating Eye Serum*, which did deliver nicely firmed eye skin but felt too heavy to use under eye cream yet not moisturizing enough to use without eye cream. I finished up the eye serum, put it away without another thought, and have been cheerfully living my life without giving this line another thought until now.
Purpose: Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask is an overnight moisturizing cream that claims to brighten, firm, and strengthen skin overnight for a more youthful and translucent appearance in the morning.
Best suited for: Dry and aging skin backed by a solid beauty budget.
Do not use if: Your skin is sensitive to alcohol, fatty alcohols, fragrance, limonene, linanool, silicones, or anything else in the ingredients list, or if your budget doesn’t want to potentially assume the burden of a $200/jar beauty product.
When and how to use: Use as the last step of your evening skincare routine. Using hands, a skincare spoon (my preference), or the included brush (which I have found makes no difference whatsoever to final results but feels really nice), scoop an appropriate amount of cream out of the jar and massage evenly over face, neck, and upper chest. Don’t go to bed right away. This stuff is COSTLY. Your pillowcase does NOT need its benefits. Wait at least 20-30 minutes for it to dry down before you lie down. Go to bed. Get a good night’s sleep, because good sleep also helps your skin look its best.
Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask ingredients: Water, propanediol, glycerin, dimethicone, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, hydrogenated polyisobutene, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, PEG-40 stearate, alcohol, butylene glycol, 1,2-hexanediol, cetearyl alcohol, octyldodecanol, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, nylon-12, sorbitan stearate, phytosteryl/beheyl/octyldodecyl lauroyl glutamate, jojoba esters, stearic acid, palmitic acid, fragrance, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, honey, glyceryl caprylate, methoxy PEG-114/polyepsilon caprolactone, tromethamine, nelumbo nucifera flower extract, polygonatum officinale rhizome/root extract, rehmannia glutinosa root extract, paeonia albiflora root extract, lilium candidum bulb extract, sorbitan isostearate, polysorbate 60, disodium EDTA, ethylhexylglycerin, adenosine, cymbopogon martini oil, geraniol, hydroxypropyl cyclodextrin, phenoxyethanol, tricholoma matsutake extract, pinus densiflora leaf extract, glycyrrhiza uralensis (licorice) root extract, ophiopogon japonicus root extract, limonene, dextrin, theobroma cacao (cocoa) extract, linalool, panax ginseng root extract, hydrolyzed proanthocyanidin, hydrolyzed ginseng saponins (enzyme-treated red ginseng saponins), lithospermum erythrorhizon root extract, morus alba leaf extract, prunus armeniaca (apricot) kernel extract, farnesol, myristic acid, arachidic acid, carthamus tinctorius (safflower) seed oil, coix lacryma-jobi ma-yuen seed extract, tocopherol
Notable ingredients and a rant about extracts: Looking at the top few lines of the ingredients list, we can expect the Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask to be a well-balanced cream, with hydrating, emollient, and texture-softening properties thanks to a combination of humectants like glycerin, moisturizing agents like meadowfoam seed oil and shea butter, and quick-fix skin conditioning agents like dimethicone. Sleeping packs are theoretically meant to combine night cream moisture with mask-like special effects, so it makes sense.
The exciting herbal ingredients that we’re here for begin appearing around the middle and bottom half of the ingredients list. At first glance, that can feel a bit disappointing, and I’ve definitely dragged my share of luxury brands for seemingly packing their high-priced products full of bland filler and putting the fun stuff at the end of the list. It isn’t an automatic disqualification, though.
I talked a long time ago about the limitations of extracts in skincare. For those of us who don’t have direct visibility into the practices of any given ingredient supplier, it’s impossible to tell whether anyone is using high quality, potent extracts or sad, watered-down versions that appear exactly the same on the product label. If they’re using the good stuff, smaller concentrations may not be a problem. If they’re using the weak shit, even filling the product up with 95% of an extract won’t do much more than substituting it with plain water.
Add to that the fact that none of us really knows very much about the true effects of any of these extracts in isolation. Lots of extracts have some promising studies, often small, often funded directly by corporations, but for the science purist, that’s far from compelling evidence. Unfortunately, “effects of obscure mushroom extract when applied topically to skin” isn’t really a sexy enough topic to attract lots of research funding for large-scale, long-term research.
It is what it is. When dealing with skincare ingredients beyond the heavily researched and overwhelmingly substantiated few (things like SPF, retinoids, and l-ascorbic acid vitamin C), there’s a leap of faith required. We give odd things a chance, like snail or propolis or Sulwhasoo’s aromatic hanbang herbs. If they do things for us, we can add to the pile of anecdote to help others decide whether to take the same leap of faith. I’ve sometimes been mistaken for a super sciencey, “give me the research” skincare blogger, and while I do love to look into ingredients and do give precedence to things like retinoids with strong clinical backing, don’t get me wrong–the leap of faith is where I find the most fun.
The leap of faith to take here is one I’ve taken before, though not to the tune of $200 a jar. Sulwhasoo’s typical cocktail of medicinal herb extracts has served my skin very well before (see: First Care Activating Serum, the now-discontinued Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum, and the Overnight Vitalizing Mask for a start). I’m always happy to see licorice root extract, ginseng root extract, and hydrolyzed ginseng saponins in a Sulwhasoo product. Sulwhasoo products that contain licorice root extract reliably calm redness and increase translucency in my skin, while Sulwhasoo products that contain ginseng extract and saponins reliably impart a lively glow and resilience to my complexion.
The star player in the premium-priced Timetreasure line, however, is Korean red pine: pinus densiflora leaf extract. I haven’t found much to go on in the annals of Google Scholar, beyond a Korean-authored 2015 study indicating this extract’s potential as an anti-aging cosmetic ingredient. So, like I said before, leap of faith. Sulwhasoo places a lot of emphasis on their internal R&D infrastructure* and claims to have “developed a POJE Optimizing Process™ called the Red Pine Concentration Process™ which uses 11 steps of careful purifying to extract [the anti-aging active components of red pine],” for what that’s worth. Maybe they do know something we don’t. Probably not anything as drastic as preventing telomeres from shortening indefinitely, but something.
The proof, as I’ve probably written about a hundred times before, is in the pudding.
The pudding comes lightly but elegantly packaged in two layers of blood-red, gilded and embossed box, with an applicator brush included (but no spatula–I use my trusty NIOD SPOON to dispense). The pudding is a smooth, dense, silky cream with a spicy, heady pine and herbs scent. It spreads easily on skin with no dragging or tugging whether I use my fingers or the brush to apply and leaves a slightly glossy, emollient sheen for about a half an hour while it sinks in. I found it a bit on the heavy side for my normal-ish skin, but not unusably so, and it does dry down fine, given enough time.
I had my doubts the first night I used the product. Sleeping packs are supposed to provide intensive, mask-like effects overnight, but the vast, vast majority of the sleeping packs I’ve tried have been nothing more than normal moisturizers with a different name. I can count on one hand the number of sleeping packs I’ve used that have actually delivered special effects in the morning.
Tragically, I can now add the Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask to that short list, because it does.
The morning after the first night I used this sleeping pack, I washed my face and discovered a visible change to my skin. My skin tone looked brighter, more translucent and more healthily rosy across the cheeks than it usually is at 6am. Even more impressive than that, however, was the firming effect I noticed.
Generally when we talk about firming in skincare, we envision a tightening effect, the pulling up of loose skin. In the case of this product, on the other hand, the firming effect I mean is a little different. With time, the outer surface of skin tends to lose a certain density–it may not sag or wrinkle but still looks less youthful. The Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask restored that appearance of density in my skin, giving a creamy, uniform smoothness and correspondingly improved resilience that left my face bouncy and glowing all day.
I don’t know why it does this, or why the Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Creamy Masks are the only other product I’ve ever tried to have a comparable effect. I just know that the Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask does do this for me, and I love it, and I find it indispensable now in my skincare wardrobe.
The Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask isn’t a perfect product by any means. On some nights, I need a more barrier-repairing moisturizer to fix whatever excesses of tretinoin I’ve inflicted on myself. On other nights, I may reach for something with stronger soothing properties to ease irritation or product breakouts. Also, it’s really fucking expensive, so there’s no way I’m going to use it every single night and end up finishing the entire generously sized 80mL jar in a few months’ time. I’ve made this thing stretch since early fall of last year and I expect to get at least a couple more months’ use out of it. But when I really want my skin to look extra luscious, this is what I turn to.
Until I tried this product, there were only four sleeping packs I found actually special: Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask, Sulwhasoo Radiance Energy Mask, and the COSRX rice and “honey” overnight masks. Now there’s a fifth. Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Invigorating Sleeping Mask won’t be the only nighttime moisturizer in my rotation because I’m not made out of money and my skin does need other things at other times, but it’s a sleeping pack I’ve been treasuring and one that does things hardly any other products ever have. Goddammit. It’s a winner.
I’m taking a half point off of the rating because the price will make it unattainable for many skincare lovers who otherwise could have loved it, but I really want to give it the full 5 stars.