I have a long list of worries. In that list, “COSRX discontinuing their Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence and Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream” falls somewhere in between “never getting to pet another bunny again” and “running out of toilet paper during a toilet paper shortage”: it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but would be pretty terrible. And it is a concern. Products get discontinued all the time. Even products some of us passionately love. Even products some of us consider holy grails.
So imagine my worry when COSRX first announced the new Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence. On paper, it seemed like it could be an upgrade from the OG Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. Snails, now with added brightening! But upgrades are a crapshoot because change doesn’t always mean improvement. Also, upgrades often foreshadow the death of the original product. Which I don’t want to happen.
The product featured in this post was provided for review by COSRX. Affiliate links, which allow me to earn a small commission on purchases made using the links, are marked with an asterisk(*).
COSRX Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence Review
I accepted my bottle of the Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence with mixed feelings. What if it isn’t as great as the Snail 96 and they take the Snail 96 away? What will my face do then?! But what if it is as great? What if it’s greater? Is that even possible?
Only one way to find out.
Purpose: COSRX Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence claims to hydrate, plump, and brighten skin.
Best suited for: All skin types.
Do not use if: Your skin reacts to snail mucin, niacinamide, or anything else in the ingredients list.
When and how to use: Dispense your desired amount of product into palm. I find 2 pumps perfect for covering face, neck, and Upper Tiddy Region; adjust according to your preferences. Rub palms together to mix, then apply wherever you want. I like to take it all the way over my eyelids, because as we know, I love me some snail around my eyes. Can be used both morning and night or just once per day.
COSRX Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence Ingredients: Snail secretion filtrate, butylene glycol, niacinamide, 1,2-hexanediol, betaine, panthenol, water, glycerin, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, allantoin, carbomer, macadamia ternifolia seed oil, sodium polyacrylate, sodium hyaluronate, inulin lauryl carbamate, arginine, argania spinosa kernel oil, xanthan gum, sodium surfactin, ethylhexylglycerin, glutathione
Notable ingredients: While the product is presented and packaged as two separate essences, the ingredients list is presented as one. While this makes it difficult to work out which ingredients are in which side, it ultimately doesn’t really matter, since they get mixed together upon application anyway.
(I do have my theories. I assume the clear side contains the snail secretion filtrate and just a few or just a little bit of some of the other listed ingredients, while the milky side contains some snail, along with the niacinamide and the majority of the other ingredients. Again, it doesn’t really matter. I’m perfectly content treating the “dual” essence as a single formulation.)
According to the brand, the Radiance Dual Essence contains 74.3% of “Triple Snail Complex,” which combines their regular snail mucin along with black and gold snail mucins. Different species of snails may produce mucin with slightly different chemical makeup. I’m doubtful that this will produce markedly different effects than the simple “snail secretion filtrate” used in the Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, however–and I don’t see a need for different effects, at least when it comes to the snail portion of the product.
Where I do see a need for different effects is in the inclusion of niacinamide and glutathione. Unlike the original Snail 96, the Radiance Dual Essence is marketed as a multipurpose product, combining the smoothing, moisturizing, and healing properties of snail mucin with the spot-lightening, tone-brightening abilities of our trusty old friend niacinamide. It also contains a touch of glutathione, another promising brightening ingredient with some research to support its topical use as as depigmenting agent. (Glutathione supplements and even injections are also a thing, but while I’m on the fence about the supplements, I’m 100% against IV glutathione. Or IV anything for cosmetic purposes.)
The glutathione is all the way at the bottom of the ingredients list, so we won’t give it too much weight. On the other hand, COSRX formulated the Radiance Dual Essence with 5% niacinamide, and that’s notable. The studies that demonstrate niacinamide’s effectiveness at lightening hyperpigmentation typically use the ingredient in concentrations of 4-5%, which is why I consider 4-5% the standard for a niacinamide product. 5% in the Radiance Dual Essence is very good news.
The Radiance Dual Essence also contains a few plant oils. At their position in the middle of the ingredients list, they’re likely to be present only in very small amounts, but may help to contribute additional emollient properties to the product.
Let’s find out how it all comes together!
If you’ve been reading my reviews and rants about skincare for long enough, you might have picked up on the fact that I generally don’t love multipurpose products. One of the key reasons I fell in love with K-beauty was the vast selection of very targeted, specialized products available to combine into a routine perfectly curated for my needs and preferences. Multipurpose products that claim to do a lot of things and end up doing none of them well aren’t my thing.
With snail in particular, I’ve developed a strong preference for the simplest, snailiest snail products available. In other words, the COSRX Snail 96. I started my snail journey using products similar to the Radiance Dual Essence–brightening ingredients in a snail base–but have found myself consistently happier layering a separate brightening product with the Snail 96.
Then again, COSRX delivers far more winners for my skin than losers, so I can’t discount the product just because it reminds me, on paper, of other products I didn’t love as much.
First things first: the dual chamber pump packaging.
I’ve tried several other products that come in this type of packaging before and found that most dual chamber pumps don’t work very well. The pump mechanism is often unbalanced, leading to one side getting used up way faster than the other and the product having different ingredient proportions than intended.
The dual pump mechanism on the Radiance Dual Essence is an exception. It consistently dispenses an even amount of product, as you can see from the fact that the volume of product left in each chamber is still roughly equal even after a couple months of use. Whether there’s any real point to the dual chambers is an entirely different question.
Dual chamber pump bottles cost more for brands than regular old pump bottles. When brands use them, they typically market them with claims that separating components of the product keeps them at optimal efficacy, which implies that some of the ingredients are most potent when first combined and/or may begin to degrade quickly upon contact with other ingredients. (Sometimes this is valid, sometimes not.)
Looking back through the COSRX Instagram account, I don’t see any particular claims about needing to separate certain ingredients from others. One of their initial launch posts does say that the dual chamber pump bottle provides “optimal delivery of essences at ideal concentrations for maximum effect” and that it “instantly activates essences to target multiple skincare concerns at once,” which is pretty vague. With all else being equal, having everything mixed into a single essence should still deliver the same concentrations of the same ingredients, evenly distributed throughout. As for the idea of instant activation, my usual expectation of skincare is that applying it to skin of course causes the ingredients to be able to target my skincare concerns. They can’t target my skin concerns until they make contact with my face. So I might be missing something here, but I don’t see any specific reason these particular essences need to be separated until application.
That’s a lot of words to say I feel like the dual chamber packaging is more of a fun gimmick than anything really necessary for this product. Don’t get me wrong, though. I also love K-beauty because of the skincaretainment factor (all credit goes to Tracy of Fanserviced-B and the Snailcast for coining this perfect term). I have no problem with gimmicks as long as they don’t interfere with the actual functionality of the product or cause me to perform extra labor (hello, “injection masks” and all other sheet masks that rudely demand I put the essence into the mask packet myself). I also have no problem with gimmicks as long as they don’t drive the price of the product too much higher than it would be for a comparable product without a fun gimmick. I like some gimmicks. They just have to be done right.
The Radiance Dual Essence’s gimmick doesn’t interfere with the actual functionality of the product and doesn’t require me to perform extra labor, so it’s a winner on those two fronts. As mentioned several paragraphs ago, the dual chamber pump dispenses equal amounts of product from each side. Awesome.
We’ll get to price considerations further below, but for now let’s talk about how the product feels and performs, especially in comparison to my absolute holy grail Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence.
Compared to the original Snail 96, the Radiance Dual Essence has a thinner and lighter consistency, which makes sense, given the lower concentration of snail mucin in it. It spreads on easily and sinks in more quickly, making it a little more ideal for a rushed morning routine. Like the Snail 96, it has no scent and feels instantly soothing on my skin, and like the Snail 96, it creates smoother texture and improved hydration immediately upon application.
During normal weather and normal skin days, I notice no difference in the hydrating, moisturizing, and protective effects of the Radiance Dual Essence compared to the Snail 96, despite the Radiance Dual Essence’s thinner consistency. I’ve used it exclusively in place of the Snail 96 ever since it arrived at my doorstep back in September and have been very happy with it as a substitute.
Now that winter is here, I’m rethinking that. The lower humidity outside and my love for running the heater inside have left my skin feeling far more parched than usual, even with heavier creams for day and extra-heavy creams at night. I started to suspect that the Snail 96 might work better for my skin in terms of moisture level and retention than the Radiance Dual Essence, so I experimented with swapping the Radiance Dual Essence back out for the Snail 96.
Turns out I was right. While it’s thicker and therefore less convenient to apply in a morning routine than the Radiance Dual Essence, the Snail 96 definitely gives my skin more moisture and holds that moisture in longer than the Radiance Dual Essence, even when everything else in my routine remains the same. I also find the Snail 96’s thickness more effective for protecting my skin from irritation caused by chilly dry winds and from actions like blowing my nose.
In terms of baseline snail benefits, therefore, I still prefer the Snail 96. I’ve relied on the Snail 96 for years to reinforce my skin’s defenses against dryness and external irritation, and in drier conditions, it still seems better for me for that purpose. I wouldn’t even have noticed the decrease in moisture or protection if the weather hadn’t suddenly gone all chilly and desert-dry on me, though.
I also rely on snail to help my skin recover more quickly from any irritation or breakouts that I experience. When those happened during my testing period, I stuck with the Radiance Dual Essence to see if it would help speed up healing time as well as the Snail 96 does. In my experience, it does. Although thinner, the Radiance Dual Essence feels as comforting on compromised skin as the Snail 96, and my little mishaps healed up just as quickly and completely as I would have expected them to if I’d used the original snail essence. I had a bout of overexfoliation not long ago that the Radiance Dual Essence covered up and calmed down nicely.
So to recap so far: the lower concentration of snail mucin does make a difference in terms of moisturization and barrier support, but not in terms of soothing or healing ability.
The other major formulation difference between the Snail 96 and the Radiance Dual Essence is the inclusion of brightening ingredients in the Radiance Dual Essence. 5% niacinamide, while more common these days than it was a few years ago, is still a pretty big deal. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a few products that contain 5% or more of this great ingredient–most products that include it don’t disclose their usage rate, which my cynical self interprets as meaning they’re not using enough for it to matter. Adding 5% niacinamide to an already solid snail product? It’s so simple but so genius.
For years, my routine has incorporated a ton of actives with brightening effects. At this point, after all the tretinoin and AHAs and vitamin C and regular use of 5% and sometimes 10% niacinamide brightening serums, and after all the gallons and gallons of daily sunscreen applied three fingers at a time, there’s not really anything left to fade. I’ve been in maintenance mode since probably 2018. So I can’t comment much on the Radiance Dual Essence’s brightening abilities one way or the other.
What I can say is that I used the Dual Radiance Essence for over a month without any other dedicated niacinamide or brightening products in my routine. Niacinamide is believed to improve hyperpigmentation by inhibiting the transfer of melanosomes, which make and deposit the melanin that leads to dark spots and uneven skin tone due to hyperpigmentation. This should not only help reduce any existing hyperpigmentation, but also help prevent new spots from forming (when used to support proper sun protection, of course). Here, I’m happy to report that I haven’t had any new sun spots forming, despite sometimes going outside for a minute to check my plants and feed the crows in the morning before putting on sunscreenplease don’t kill me. I’ve also noticed that the couple of little maskne spots I’ve gotten recently have healed up and faded away rapidly. No lingering PIH.
So although I can’t describe any noticeable fading of existing PIH on my skin, I do feel confident that the 5% niacinamide brightening component of the Radiance Dual Essence does all that could be expected with my current skin condition. That makes this a multipurpose product that actually mostly lives up to its stated purposes.
Before going on to conclusions, though, there’s one more thing to talk about. The price.
Based on the official COSRX website, the full retail price of the Radiance Dual Essence is $35 for 80 ml of product. The full retail price of the Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, on the other hand, is $23 for 100 ml. This means the Radiance Dual Essence costs more for less product. Part of that is no doubt due to the packaging, but part of it is also due to the additional brightening ingredients when compared to the simplicity of the Snail 96 formula. It’s basically getting a complete brightening serum and a pretty complete snail essence in one. That’s the final factor that helps me figure out when to recommend each one.
Whether you choose to try the new Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence or stick with the Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence will depend in large part on what your primary objective is.
If you mainly want full snail benefits–the hydration, the moisture, the soothing protective layer that provides extra resilience against external damage–and you either already have, or don’t really want, an added brightening component, then the original Snail 96 will make more sense for your needs.
If, on the other hand, you want to include both a solid brightening serum and some snail benefits in your skincare, and especially if you don’t want to have to add two layers to your routine to do so, the Radiance Dual Essence makes more sense. Under all but the driest conditions, I found the snail component of it perfectly serviceable, and the niacinamide percentage is excellent. It’s one of the very few “two products in one” concepts that I’ve seen actually work out the way it should on my skin.
I’ve been using the Radiance Dual Essence happily and will happily finish the bottle. I’ll most likely go back to the Snail 96 afterwards, at least until the weather warms up and the humidity rises again, but I’m impressed with what COSRX has pulled off with this new addition to the Advanced Snail line (and grateful that they didn’t pull the old Snail 96 to make room for it!).