Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum

Although rarely mentioned by Western beauty bloggers, the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is a firm favourite among Asian beauty bloggers and is touted as something of a miracle product. Now, the word "miracle" always makes me a bit skeptical when referring to skincare, but of course I could not resist the urge to try it out for myself.

Sulwhasoo is a high-end Korean beauty brand rooted in traditional Korean herbal medicine. Their products are based around various plant extracts that aim to balance and purify the skin. The First Care Activating Serum is meant to be used as the first step of your skincare routine right after cleansing, so it should be used before any toners, serums, or creams. It claims to replenish moisture in the skin right after natural oils are stripped away by cleansing, improve skin's ability to retain moisture, promote blood circulation in the facial area, and help subsequent skincare products absorb better and thus perform better.

In terms of packaging, the product comes in a hefty ceramic bottle with a plastic lid. It is quite heavy, so may not be the most convenient when travelling. It comes with a pump, which is my preferred way of dispensing serums, because it keeps the product away from air exposure and thus allows the active ingredients to degrade slower. Although the bottle looks like an opaque white, when you hold the bottle against the light, you can see how much product is left inside, which I find very convenient. The actual serum is amber coloured and has a watery-gel texture. It has a pleasant herbal scent and absorbs very quickly into the skin, but doesn't leave that smooth, silicone feeling over the skin that many serums do. I use 3 pumps for my entire face and neck.

When I first started using the product, it was in the hot, humid climate of summer in China. My sensitive skin responded to the heat in that my skin was always red, and I noticed immediate results from this serum when my skin drastically reduced in redness just after the first few days. This effect continued during the whole time I used this product, but apart from that, I wasn't seeing any other immediate results and was a bit put off. I didn't think a little reduction in redness could justify the "miracle product" standing.

I find that while Western skincare products are often more aggressive in the sense that they deliver fast results but can be harsh/irritating on the skin, Asian skincare is often more demure. It is much more gentle on the skin, but can take a much longer time to see substantial results. After using this product every day and night for the last three months, I can now definitively say that it has made three big changes to my skin:

1. It has reduced the redness in my skin.
2. It has made my skin much less sensitive/reactive to other products and environmental factors.
3. It has changed my skin from combination-oily to more of a normal skin type.

These changes happened over a very long period of time, so I didn't think the product was doing very much until I noticed that the foundation on my nose was not slipping off by the end of the day, and that I was suffering from much less break outs every month. This product works to balance the oil-water ratio in the skin, thus reducing any overproduction of oil, but also helps the skin to better retain moisture, resulting in plump, radiant skin for me. It also helps to calm the skin, which means my face doesn't turn into a bright red tomato every time the bae tries to kiss me with stubble, among other skin-irritating things.

I picked up the limited edition 90mL size,which will probably last me 4 months in total, using it twice a day everyday, 3 pumps every time. I like to pump the product into the palm of my hand, rub my palms together, and just smooth over my entire face and neck. I then pat my face a couple times with both palms to ensure that the product absorbs.

Redness, sensitive skin, and combination skin type are three very common skincare concerns that often are met with no adequate solution, so the fact that the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum was able to address all three of these concerns was really impressive. The promise of subsequent products being better absorbed is also tempting, because it means you will be getting better bang for your buck for every skincare product you apply.  However, it's not like my skin is completely void of redness now or that I never break out anymore, so I still wouldn't quite say this is anything of a "miracle". The final verdict? I wouldn't call it a "miracle product", but it's a damn good product as far as skincare goes.

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