Reviewing Cult Asian Products (with video)

Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a small commission for purchases made via affiliate links.

This video is sponsored by Stylevana.

If you’re into skincare, you’ll know that there’s lots of hype around Asian skincare, particularly Korean and Japanese products. And it’s not hard to see why! Korean and Japanese skincare have lots of product types that you don’t really see with Western brands, and they tend to be really affordable.

But there are so many products that it can get a bit overwhelming. A lot of the time you also need to get these products shipped from overseas, and it can be hard to track them down, plus often you can’t get them all from the one site since many sites only stock particular brands. And if you buy products from multiple sites, the shipping can all add up.

So I was really excited when Stylevana asked me to partner with them on a sponsored video. They have a ridiculously large range of Asian beauty brands, and a pretty low total for free shipping. They let me pick whatever products I wanted to review, plus a discount code (INF10MUFFIN) for 15% off selected brands and 10% off everything else. So I picked out a bunch of really hyped up products that I’ve always wanted to try.

The video is here, keep scrolling for the text version…

Rohto Melano CC 

Rohto Melano CC is probably the Vitamin C product that I’ve read the most about. It’s a Japanese product, and in Japan this is actually regulated as a quasi-drug. It came with a long instruction sheet in Japanese (thank you Google Translate!).

melano-cc

This is an ascorbic acid product. Ascorbic acid is the version of vitamin C with the most evidence behind it… but it’s also a pain. It oxidises easily, which is why you often hear that vitamin C serums only last for about three months. Ascorbic acid can also be quite irritating since it’s acidic, plus it can stain your skin orange, so for a lot of people it’s just not really worth the bother.

Related post: Why Vitamin C Can Stain Your Skin (and How to Avoid It!)

One of the ways that Rohto Melano CC gets around the oxidation issue is with its packaging. It’s pretty innovative and unusual! The tube has a metered dispenser which only dispenses one drop at a time no matter how hard you squeeze it. It also limits any air going back into the tube, which is how it keeps vitamin C stable for so long (I’ve had mine for 2 months and there is zero darkening of the product inside – many online reviews also say the same).

melano-cc-tube

This is meant to be a spot treatment, which is why it comes out so slowly. But it spreads easily, so it’s not too difficult to dispense enough that you can get it all over your face!

Aside from ascorbic acid, there’s also vitamin E, potassium glycyrrhizate and isopropyl methylphenol. Potassium glycyrrhizate is one of the active components in licorice extract, and is anti-inflammatory. Isopropyl methylphenol is an antibacterial ingredient that I haven’t come across on its own before. The two together are meant to target acne, since inflammation and bacteria are two contributory factors. According to the packaging there’s a delivery system which helps these active ingredients penetrate your skin a bit deeper.

This has a slippery oil-like texture with the mildest of scents, and sinks in pretty quickly to leave a very slightly tacky finish. I found this to be one of the least irritating ascorbic acid products I’ve ever tried. This has been working really well for my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (from mask-wearing and trying out far too many sunscreens).

Related post: Pandemic Skincare: Irritation & Breakouts from Masks (with video)

Sunscreens

Speaking of sunscreens, these are probably some of the most popular Asian skincare products! I think it’s primarily due to their light textures. Wearing sunscreen daily has been the norm in Asia for decades, so there are lots of lightweight Asian sunscreens made to be worn under makeup.

It’s important to note that most Asian sunscreens aren’t intended for hardcore wear. Unless they’re specifically water-resistant, they’re not really designed to protect you while you’re sweaty or moving around a lot. So for things like gardening, exercising, bike rides or beach days, these are probably not all that suitable. They’re more “commuter sunscreens”, meant for trips to and from the office and a quick lunch break.

But there are some water-resistant Asian sunscreens with nice textures that can stand up to a bit more activity. “Water-resistant” generally means that their SPF has been tested after dunking in water for prolonged periods, but this isn’t a regulated claim in Japan so there’s a bit of trust in the brand required. Additionally, water-resistant sunscreen should still be reapplied if you sweat a lot, go into the water, or dry off with a towel. 

Related post: My Favourite Sunscreens: 2021 Update (with video)

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence

The process of making this video actually helped me find three water-resistant Asian sunscreens that I actually really liked!

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence is a sunscreen I first reviewed back in 2014, but they keep reformulating it every two years. It’s a tad annoying because it means you have to be really careful about checking what year online reviews are from, and which version you’re buying. But I also really respect that they care enough to keep on reformulating the product to be better, even though the old product was doing so well.

biore-uv-watery-essence

This is SPF50 + and PA ++++, the highest protection levels you can get in Japan. It uses a bunch of the newer filters. Interestingly they don’t use titanium dioxide, which is popular in Asian sunscreens since white cast is often desired and rebranded as “tone up”.

What’s new in the 2019 version is the Micro Defence formula, which they claim is a world first. In their press release they say the reason they developed this was because their old water-based formulas didn’t perform that well since they didn’t always apply evenly, so there were microscopic cracks in the sunscreen film. They also weren’t sweat and chafing resistant, so some sunscreen ingredients would come off quite easily. This new formula uses tiny sub-micron capsules that contain an oil-soluble sunscreen ingredient, which is delivered so it applies really evenly. This gives higher coverage while still keeping that lightweight texture.

This has 80 minutes water resistance, and along with the other two sunscreens reviewed here it has one of the nicest textures I’ve ever tried in a water-resistant sunscreen. There is lots of alcohol, but it didn’t dry out my skin at all – likely due to the added hydrating ingredients. This didn’t sting my eyes as long as I didn’t rub it straight into my open eye. There’s a light floral scent, and it pilled a little with rubbing (pretty standard for water-resistant sunscreens).

Related post: How Bad Is Alcohol in Skincare, Really? The Science (video with KindofStephen)

Skin Aqua Super Moisture Gel

Skin Aqua Super Moisture Gel feels very similar to the Biore sunscreen, but I had zero pilling with it. It has a really fantastically light texture, and is water-resistant and fragrance-free. I love that it comes in a larger pack size than pretty much every Asian (and most Western) face sunscreen I’ve tried (and most Western ones too), plus the pump is super handy.

skin-aqua-moisture-gel

The downside: this stung my eyes quite a lot. The first time I tried it around my eyes was right before driving, so I was driving while crying out of one eye. Don’t do that. (Other people have said that this doesn’t sting their eyes so it might work for you, but learn from my fail and don’t try it out right before driving.)

This does also have a ton of alcohol, but it doesn’t feel drying – I think that’s because they’ve also included lots of glycerin, hyaluronic acid and hydrolysed collagen. But the alcohol will kind of whack you in the nose.

Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk

Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk is my favourite sunscreen of the three. Last year I tried the Mild Milk but unfortunately my skin hated it – it seemed to shift around endlessly without really setting, so my makeup bunched up everywhere and it looked greasy. I think it’s the combination of my oily skin plus my humid climate that stops these sorts of silicone-y sunscreens from working – a lot of people with dry skin have told me they love these. The Mild Milk also clogged my pores.

But the Skincare Milk (the 2020 version) is much better! It comes in a slightly darker gold bottle with a blue top that looks very similar to the Mild Milk (be really careful if you’re buying these online). It’s a combination sunscreen that contains seemingly every sunscreen filter. It’s 80 minutes water-resistant, and also claims to be resistant to rubbing, sweat, heat and “mask stuffiness” (a very 2020 claim, I’m curious how they tested it).

anessa-perfect-skincare-milk

I found that this doesn’t pill on my skin, gives me no eye irritation, and works beautifully well under makeup like a primer. However it’s also the most expensive of the three sunscreens I tried (at the time of writing, Skin Aqua ends up the cheapest per mL but the Biore comes in a smaller pack size so the outright cost is lowest). 

Some By Mi AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Acne Clear Body Cleanser

Some By Mi AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Acne Clear Body Cleanser excited me because it’s a body acne product. Since I destroyed my hair for fashion I have to use really heavy hair conditioners, and a lot of the time they stay on my back and clog my pores, leading to back acne. The best way to limit it is to wash my back really thoroughly in the shower, but that can be difficult since I’m kind of buff, and so it can be hard to reach.

some-by-mi-aha-pha-acne-cleanser

This cleanser comes in a huge bottle, has a convenient pump top, foams up really well, and rinses away easily. Ingredient-wise, there’s 10 000 ppm tea tree oil which translates to about 1%. There’s also AHA, 0.5% salicylic acid and PHA. I don’t know if it’s the active ingredients, or just the fact that it’s a really effective cleanser (probably a combination of both), but after using this for 6 weeks I’ve seen a lot less back acne. It’s not stripping on my skin, and there’s no tightness or irritation, but I also tried it out during summer.

some-by-mi-aha-pha-acne-cleanser-foam

Interestingly, after trialing it I noticed some soap-like ingredients on the ingredient list. Lo and behold, it turns out the pH is actually quite high (9-10)! I usually avoid soaps and high pH cleansers, but I think in this case it was actually effective – perhaps the high pH actually helped wash away acidic conditioner residue. So maybe I was sabotaging myself by using only low pH cleansers on my back, and the drawbacks of high pH were counteracted by how effective it is. 

Romand Best Tint Warm Tone

Romand Best Tint Warm Tone is a trio of mini lip products in a warm tone (no surprise there). I got a whole bunch of recommendations for this brand after I complained about how hard it was to find brick-coloured lipsticks in Western stores.

romand-warm-tone

There are two types of products in the pack. The first is the Zero Velvet Tint, a matte lipstick that wears off to leave a really pretty tint. The other two products are Juicy Lasting Tints, which are like a pretty pigmented lip gloss that also leave behind a tint.

The Juicy Lasting Tints give you a much more natural look, while the Zero Velvet Tint is more of a solid lipstick look. Unlike a lot of lip tints I’ve tried in the past, these are really moisturising and don’t cling to dry patches as badly. This is important for me since I have pretty fat lips that tend to dry out easily, so I always have dry patches.

I’ve been loving these for wearing with masks since they last longer than most other lip products. After leaving it on my lips for a bit, I gently blot some off and apply a clear lip gloss or balm on top before wearing the mask (the clear product gives a bit of a shield against smudging). These also look really good on their own (in the video I’m wearing #13 Eat Dotori).

romand-warm-tone-swatches

I like the Juicy Lasting Tints more for their hydrating feel and easy application (they apply like lip gloss). The matte look of the Zero Velvet Tint feels a little dated, but it looks great under a gloss. It’s apparently also great for gradient lips, but that’s beyond my skill level.

Have you tried any of these products yourself? (If you pick anything up, don’t forget to try the discount code INF10MUFFIN!)

cult-asian-products

This video is sponsored by Stylevana; however, the content is all based on my independent research and my honest experience. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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17 thoughts on “Reviewing Cult Asian Products (with video)”

  1. The melano CC is my Holy Grail for many years now. I just reviewed their upgraded version – I think the original will still be around for a while, but the new formula is beautiful

    Reply
  2. I found the vitamin C Product really interesting, but doesn’t the antibacterial ingredient destroy the positive microbiome that our skin needs?

    Reply
    • Whether changing the microbiome with skincare is good or bad (or whether a long term change is even possible) is still undecided, but if you have acne then blasting acne bacteria generally has positive effects even if beneficial bacteria are the collateral damage.

      Reply
  3. I use the biore but since I don’t read the language, not very confident with what version I have. It does have a strong alcohol scent.
    Thanks for this great review.

    Reply
  4. It took me about .2 seconds to order the Rohto Melano CC after reading this haha. I’ve never heard of it before and it looks super innovative! I also re-ordered the Skin Aqua. I know that one was part of the sunscreen controversy but I’ve used it in the dead of summer with no burn or pink skin. Thanks for the promo code and reviews!

    Reply
  5. Was excited to check this site out! The selection IS enormous, which is nice. But after looking through five entire pages of BB/CC creams and only seeing the ingredients listed for maybe ten percent of them, and further googling telling me that every single one has cyclomethicones and/or stearic acid (both guaranteed cystic-breakout triggers for me), AND after getting hit with “WAIT DONT LEAVE US YET!!!1!” popups on evvvvvery single page, I noped out. :/

    That Biore Watery Essence is indeed fantastic tho!

    Reply
  6. Hi! Been reading your work for a while and loved hearing your interview on Fat Mascara! Curious about the Melano CC Vitamin C serum – is it really an ascorbic acid treatment? On the Stylevana link, it indicates Ascorbyl Glucoside as the first active ingredient…. but then the InciDecoder list shows it having ascorbic acid. Sorry, just a little confused. Would be great to hear from you on this – thanks!

    Reply
  7. I would count myself as a K-beauty fan so it’s great to see some new and up-and-coming brands feature in this. Really, Some by Mi is the only one I was familiar with! Thanks for introducing some variety 🙂

    Reply
  8. Thanks for these recommendations! I ordered the Rohto Melano CC directly from your link and was excited to try out the air protective dispenser. However, the one I received is a regular tube dispenser that I can squeeze a ton out at once, and see the product back inside the tube. The tip does not look like the one in your photo / video. Is there several versions of this product? A little disappointing since I though I’d get a stable Vit C. I love the formula so far though, but wanted something that wouldn’t oxidize.

    Reply

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