I recently reviewed a bunch of Korean products from Lagom, Atopalm and Neogen for a sponsored video with StyleKorean. Unlike my usual collaborations with online stores, they chose the products for me, which I was initially a bit skeptical about. But to my pleasant surprise (and honestly, relief) they chose some products that suited my skin and had some really interesting science behind them!
(In hindsight, it wasn’t actually a bad idea to have an online store choose products for me. As I learned when making my Skincare School podcast with Adore Beauty, they have granular search, sales, returns and review data, so they can probably make pretty good predictions about which products might work well.)
The video is here, keep scrolling for the text version.
Lagom means not too little, not too much in Swedish. That’s pretty much what this skincare brand’s approach is – their products try to give skin what it needs in the right amount, and remove what it doesn’t need, but not removing too much.
The main thing that really interested me was that Lagom’s development team includes 12 scientists and dermatologists as well as one of Korea’s top makeup artists, a combination you don’t often see. I think this broad range of input from a lot of different experts is great for coming up with more well-rounded products that give a good user experience as well as just being effective. The branding and packaging is lovely and minimalist (maybe I like it since it’s similar to my website branding…).
I’ve tried a couple of Lagom products before. While I really liked the formulations, they didn’t really fit into my routine. The Cellup Gel to Water Cleanser is a really gentle morning cleanser, but I don’t use cleanser in the morning. Their sunscreen has a really nice formula, but the UVA protection (PA+++) was a bit too low for my needs. So I was pretty excited to try these formulations and I wasn’t disappointed!
Lagom Cellus Deep Moisture Cream is one of the nicest moisturisers I’ve ever used. I’m not sure if I can say favourite yet, but it’s definitely up there!
It’s really lightweight and hydrating, absorbs nicely and has a silky texture. You don’t need to use a lot. It works really well under makeup, as well as mixed into foundation (not surprising, given that a makeup artist had input).
This cream also works really well to hydrate your skin overnight, and it kept my skin hydrated even until morning, and even after washing with cleanser! I have pretty dehydration-prone oily skin, so finding something that keeps my skin dewy and hydrated without being too heavy or greasy is rare. Hydrating your skin well might seem temporary, but it’s a great way of hiding texture – if you plump up your skin, pores and fine lines look a lot less obvious, and you get closer to that elusive Glowy Skin.
This cream is mildly fragranced, and the scent fades away pretty quickly after application. It smells a bit like lemon lollies. It’s been clinically tested to be very non-irritating, so it should be fine for sensitive skin unless you’re really unlucky.
The key ingredients in this include lots of humectants, light emollients and an active called Aqualicia, which is a mix of acacia seed extract and maltodextrin that’s listed as hydrolysed vegetable protein in the ingredients list.
Aqualicia is meant to work on aquaporins. You might’ve heard skincare companies talking about “Nobel Prize winning science”, and most likely it’s this – the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2003 was awarded to two scientists who worked on discovering channels in cell membranes, the “skin” of a cell. For a substance to get into a cell, it can either diffuse through the cell membrane (quite tricky – this really depends on the inherent properties of the molecule, so it can’t really be tweaked), or go through one of these special channels, if it fits. These channels are sort of like a VIP entrance. There are tons of different channels, and there’s one type for water called aquaporins, since they’resort of like a special pore for water.
The top layer of your skin (the stratum corneum) acts a lot like a cell membrane. Much like a cell membrane it has aquaporin channels, and it turns out a lot of ingredients that interact with these aquaporins are really effective at hydrating deep in your skin. For example, glycerin is one of the few molecules that some aquaporins will allow through, and this is probably one of the reasons why glycerin is just so darn good at hydrating skin.
It also turns out that tons of ingredients that we already use in our skincare products seem to interact with aquaporins. Some of them aren’t really well known for moisturising – caffeine and retinoids, for instance, are really good at acting on aquaporins, and we all know that retinoids do not hydrate your skin well. So I don’t think it’s really worth specifically seeking out aquaporin products if you want to help hydrate your skin – it’s much more reliable to read reviews or try it out on your skin.
Aqualicia has been specifically tested to hydrate skin really well. As well as interacting with aquaporins, it also works really well it is also a humectant, so it could also be that. Long story short, whether it’s the Aqualicia or the rest of the ingredients that’s doing the work, this is an absolutely gorgeous moisturiser that hydrates my skin incredibly well.
Lagom Cellus Aqualane Solution is an anti-aging and hydrating essence. It’s a newer launch, and it’s very hydrating – I’d say it’s kind of violently hydrating.
This essence has a really unusual texture that I quite like. It’s very thin and it feels more like an oil than a water-based serum when you first apply it on your skin. It spreads really easily, and it’s dewy after it’s been absorbed. It’s probably the product with the most dewiness packed into each drop I’ve ever tried.
I only needed about 4 small drops to cover my entire face, so it actually works out to be a pretty good value hydrating product because you need so little.
This has a lemon fragrance that’s a bit stronger than the cream, but it isn’t too noticeable if you mix it into another product, plus you don’t need a lot.
As well as Aqualicia, there’s also Aquatide, a really interesting anti-aging peptide that works on texture as well as moisturising skin and performing as an antioxidant. Aquatide has won lots of industry awards since it was launched.
This essence is excellent at hydrating, but I think I’m less impressed by it than the cream, since there are quite a lot of hydrating serums out there. The texture is really lovely and quite unique though, and I think I’ll be using this a lot more going into winter.
I was really excited to try Atopalm products. Atopalm and their parent company Neopharm are really famous for doing a bunch of peer-reviewed studies on skincare. They’re particularly well known for studies on moisturisers – if you read articles and textbooks about the science of moisturisers, you’ll keep coming across them.
MLE stands for multi-lamellar emulsion. This technology involves using the right mix of three types of lipids (oily ingredients) to create a product with a microscopic structure that resembles what’s naturally in your skin barrier. The three types of lipids are cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides – Atopalm use patented plant-derived versions of these. The idea is that the product can mesh with and add to your skin’s lipids with minimal disruption. There’s evidence that this makes the product especially good at hydrating skin, and it acts as a good base for delivering active ingredients.
The research on MLE has been around for almost 20 years, so it was actually quite surreal to be holding and using the products that I’d been seeing scientists hype up for so long. To no one’s surprise, Atopalm has a really good reputation as a dermocosmetic brand in Korea that’s recommended by dermatologists for sensitive skin.
(Fun fact: some of the researchers that did the MLE research, including the founder of Atopalm, were also involved in developing the Aquatide ingredient in the Lagom product!)
Atopalm MLE Cream was the first Korean skincare product to be officially recognised by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety as a functional cosmetic helpful in restoring the skin barrier function. As well as the MLE ingredients, it also has a bunch of other moisturising ingredients like shea butter, hyaluronic acid, amino acids and allantoin.
This is a really thick cream with a mild eucalyptus scent – when you apply it, you get a really light whiff of a scent that’s reminscent of medicated ointment. It’s recommended for dry and sensitive skin, so it’s thicker and more emollient than a lot of the other products I’ve been trying, but it still doesn’t feel greasy.
I have oily skin and it’s coming to the middle of summer here in Australia, so I haven’t really been able to test this properly on my face. But I did have a flaky elbow for a week that I just kept on ignoring (because that’s just who I am). Eventually I remembered I had a whole bunch of skincare and I should do something about it, so I applied a dab of this on my elbow and it pretty much stopped being flaky overnight, which I thought was incredibly impressive!
Atopalm MLE Lotion is pretty much the same sort of product, but with a much more lightweight texture.
I’ve been really impressed by the cream so far – I’m going to have to test it out properly in winter, along with the MLE lotion.
Neogen is a brand I’ve seen around, but haven’t really tried. There isn’t that much info about the brand online, so I don’t really have a good idea of what the brand story is – they have some mysterious “six core technologies”, and they might have some clean beauty in there, which I think they’ve rebranded as “conscious”.
Snail mucin is a classic Korean skincare ingredient, and at least two OG Asian skincare bloggers named their blogs after this ingredient (50 Shades of Snail and Holy Snails). It’s one of the few gimmicky “exotic” Asian skincare ingredients that’s stuck around, unlike starfish extract and horse oil. I think that’s a testament to the fact snail extract works quite well for a lot of people.
Snail mucin is good for a bunch of things, including brightening, hydration and smoothing. Obviously snail mucus isn’t vegan, but the snails don’t get killed in the process of harvesting it. Newer processes claim that snails aren’t harmed – in Neogen’s product descriptions, it actually says:
They really make it sound like the snails are in a day spa. I’m sure it’s not quite that nice, but it does sound pretty humane.
Both products have a lot of snail mucus in them (they claim 96% in the essence and 88% in the cream). Both products also have centella extract, which you can probably tell from the “cica repair” name. The cream also has 2% niacinamide.
Both of the Cica Repair products have really gooey textures, which is pretty typical for snail products. They’re really hydrating and lightweight, and a little goes a long way.
With these, the gooey snail texture was actually a deal breaker for me. I found it really hard to get a small amount of the Cica Repair Cream out of the jar. It’s also a bit liquidy, so with my pathological lack of coordination it feels like it’s always about to spill out of the jar.
I also just really didn’t like the scent of this product, which is a berry/cherry scent that I just have a particular aversion to. The scent is also stronger than I like, so I couldn’t really ignore it.
This does seem to be reasonably good for sensitive skin though – I’ve seen reviewers say that they usually break out with snail products, but not with this cream. The Cica Repair Essence is a lot more manageable, since it comes with a pump but it does have that same scent.
I really like the packaging – it’s pretty cute and fun – but I think I’m just not really the target audience for this. I think maybe I’m just too old. These products will work really well for someone who wants to try some snail products that target uneven skin tone, and are also really good at hydrating skin.
The video is sponsored by StyleKorean, although the blog post is not. This post contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and support Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.