My first skincare post has me lying on my back with a sheet mask on, trying to type while keeping my head flat on my pillow. Hooray for multitasking.
It’s probably helpful to mention that I have really dry, partially dehydrated skin. My research (basically me scouring other blogs/AB websites and being really shadowy on AB Reddit) and experience say skin needs two things—water and oil—in a good balance in order to be healthy. When water and oil levels are optimized, skin is bouncy, resilient, and soft. The overwhelming conclusion is that for successful skincare, one must find out their own skin-type (what they are lacking or what they have an excess of), and throw all the things it lacks at it until it is well-balanced.
Dehydrated skin lacks water. Dry skin lacks oils and lipids that form a barrier on the skin to keep water in. As such, the arid LA air is free to wreak havoc on my poor, parched skin. Enter the 7-skin method.
The 7-skin method (& a slight product failure)
The 7-skin method is well-known in the AB blogosphere and has been flying around the internet ever since it became a huge trend in Korea. It’s simple—applying a moisturizing (non-astringent) toner in 7 thin layers. This ensures that your skin is hydrated at every single layer. When I first heard of this method, I snorted a little bit, finding it excessive. As if applying the same thing 7 times but in smaller amounts makes a difference.
Well, it does. After a tussle with a particularly dry spring day, I threw in the towel and grabbed my Hada Labo Gokujun Lotion. Following the instructions, I applied a dime-sized amount 7 times, patting to make sure that it sank it. By the 7th application, my skin was plump and absolutely shining (in a good way). I applied my serum and moisturizer as usual and hopped into bed. The caveat to the amazing initial results was that when I woke up in the morning, my skin felt even more parched than usual.
Needless to say, I felt betrayed. Where was my bouncy egg-skin that would have been to the envy of all those around me? After slathering on my emergency moisturizer and steeping my morning tea, I realized my mistake. I had been using the wrong toner.
The Hada Labo Gokujun Lotion is mainly composed of hyaluronic acid, a humectant that attracts any moisture from the surrounding air. Which in LA, is about zero. When I was in Japan a couple summers ago, it had worked wonders, pulling moisture from the surrounding humidity into my skin. In LA, its efficacy (at least my experience of it) seemed to drop significantly. And I deduced that I had probably compounded its inefficacy by applying it 7 whole times.
Time to find a new moisturizing toner suited for sensitive skin. I had relatively good experiences with other Pyunkang Yul products (foaming cleanser, moisture cream, balancing gel), so I went ahead and got the essence toner. It is recommended for those with dry skin and is supposed to be incredibly hydrating.
Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner
Pyunkang Yul was a brand that caught my interest when I realized that it was gaining popularity in the motherland (yay Korea). Developed by the renowned Pyunkang oriental medicine clinic, it’s essentially a barebones hanbang brand formulated without irritating ingredients whose goal is to optimize the balance of oil and water in the skin. All of its products contain no fragrance (except the cleansing foam) and do not have any alcohol or unnecessary fillers. In other words, clean, pure potency. I noticed that Ohlolly had curated some of their products and had even provided a helpful breakdown of which products were recommended for each skin-type.
The essence toner comes in a crisp-looking navy blue box that certainly reflects the no-frills nature of the brand.
As a sidenote, the box is sealed well with the label on the back acting as a sticker, and it is ridiculously hard to open. I attacked it and rather unceremoniously ended up ripping through the top flap, rather than ripping through the label as intended.
It is housed in an equally elegant looking blue bottle reminiscent of those used in traditional apothecaries that is rather short and squat in comparison to other toner/essence bottles.
Both the box and the bottle have the same slogan written in Korean under the product name: 비움으로 아름다움을 채우다, which roughly translates to “filling up beauty with emptiness or lack,” capturing the brand’s minimalism.
Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner (200ml)
Ingredients: Astragalus Membranaceus Root Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Butylene Glycol, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Carbomer, Arginine
That’s only 7 ingredients in a waterless formula, with the primary ingredient being astragalus membranaceus, or milk vetch, root extract. Milk Vetch root extract is also known as Huang Qi, and is a Chinese medicinal herb that has been used traditionally to improve health and boost immunity. It is an adaptogenic herb that is both anti-inflammatory and an anti-pathogen (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal). This explains why the essence toner is recommended for dry skin that has poor circulation—it is both nourishing and energizing with a plethora of minerals to boost skin health. There is also research that shows milk vetch extract aids in anti-aging by helping stimulate the synthesis of telomeres in DNA to slow down cell division. I’m still in my early twenties, but Korean moms always say that 20 is a good age to start easing into anti-aging treatments, so that’s a bonus in my book.
A quick look at Cosdna shows that Butylene Glycol is at a low rating of 1 as an acne trigger. Likewise, Arginine is a low rating (1) irritant. None of the ingredients are at all dangerous, and I’d say that this is an extremely clean, non-irritating list.
The Pyunkang Yul essence toner is a slightly slippery, bouncy liquid that is clear and has no particular scent. It’s almost impossible to tell apart from the popular Hada Labo Gokujun lotion once it leaves the bottle. As an essence toner, I apply it immediately after cleansing, patting about two drops into my skin with clean hands. Two drops is enough to thinly cover my entire face. The trick to getting the most out of a hydrating toner/essence is to ensure that the skin is still a bit damp before application.
The bottle has a flip-top cap that dispenses easily and not too generously (a few gentle shakes will dispense a few drops). It sinks in incredibly quickly and leaves a slight tackiness (chok-chok!) on the skin that is absorbed easily with a few quick pats. It is a lot less sticky than the Hada Labo upon application, making the 7-skin method a lot faster and way more convenient. If I have time (especially at night), I’ll apply two drops of this toner 7 times, but I find that even after the second or third application, my skin is already plump, even, and dewy.
I have extremely sensitive skin, and the essence toner does not aggravate it at all. In fact, it is soothing and strengthening, and I’ve seen an overall decrease in irritation thanks to this product. Using this essence toner in conjunction with an emollient and occlusive cream has also evened my skin texture, eradicated dry patches, and firmed up the otherwise papery layers of my skin. It really is a no-frills product that might seem kind of boring, but I appreciate the minimalist efficacy—that’s generally what I look for in skincare.
My skin: (1) – The breath of the stinking devil himself (LA’s climate): (0)
Thank you, Pyunkang Yul!
Pyunkang Yul essence toner is $19 dollars for 200 ml at Ohlolly here.
Available at Style Korean for $15.02 here.
I purchase at Ohlolly because they have amazing customer service and are based in the LA area, so shipping only takes a day or two!