Franki + Seoul curate brands and products “based on efficacy, high quality natural ingredients, gentle formulations, innovation and commitment to R&D”. They currently stock products from Aromatica, Huxley, Lagom, Lee Ji Ham (LJH), Whamisa and Lindsay, and the prices are pretty much on par with US K-beauty e-tailer prices, which is always a welcome change! (Screw the Australia tax, seriously.) Jayme and Jenny are super friendly and knowledgable, and happy to promptly answer whatever questions you have. I haven’t tried any natural Korean skincare brands before, so I was pretty excited when Franki + Seoul sent me a selection of products to try! Here’s what I thought…
LAGOM CELLUP GEL-TO-WATER CLEANSER
I don’t use cleanser in the morning, mostly because I hate trying to rub cleanser off my face over the sink in the morning. I simply splash water on my face, rub it a little and blot it off (yes it’s OK to not remove all of your nighttime skincare – your skin is made of cells embedded in oily lipids, so you’re never going to remove all the oil from your skin without turning your skin into shredded coconut flakes). I made an exception for Lagom Cellup Gel-to-Water Cleanser, a lightweight cleanser that’s touted to be an amazing morning cleanser.
It’s a clear gel that spreads into a watery texture as you rub it on your skin, and a little goes a long way. It’s at a skin-friendly pH of around 5 and has a light citrus/lavender scent. I was surprised by how easy it was to apply and more importantly, how easy it was to wash off, so it’s not that much more effort than washing with water. It isn’t foaming and doesn’t feel drying, and I managed to forget to put on moisturiser for a few hours after using it despite having dehydration-prone skin (there are lots of humectant ingredients in this cleanser!). I also tested this against a full face of makeup and it fared better than I expected, though not as well as a standard cleanser. If you’re using it as an evening cleanser and you wear makeup or oil-based sunscreen, I’d recommend using a cleansing oil first. I’ll be using this in the mornings after using heavy creams (hello winter!).
Ingredients: Water, Dipropylene Glycol, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, 1,2-Hexanediol, Yeast Amino Acids, Carbomer, Tromethamine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Urea, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Inositol, Betaine, Trehalose, Taurine, Geranium Maculatum Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Rose Flower Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil, Saponaria Officnalis Leaf Extract, Sapindus Mukurossi Fruit Extract, Styrax Benzoin Gum, Commiphora Myrrha Oil, Butylene Glycol, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Glycerin, Disodium EDTA, Chlorphenesin.
WHAMISA ORGANIC FLOWERS CREAMY FOAM CLEANSER
Whamisa is a brand that prides itself on natural, organic products, and being “waterless” in that they use botanicals instead of water (which is more of a clever marketing trick to me than a true benefit, since you could just mix the water into the botanical extract before you add it to the product and it would be technically “waterless”, since most botanical extracts are like 99% water… but anyway). Whamisa Organic Flowers Creamy Foam Cleanser is a foam cleanser that uses decyl glucoside as the surfactant, and includes lots of fermented ingredients.
The creamy cleanser has a citrus scent, a bubbly texture, and lathers up into a rich, dense foam with just a pea-sized dollop. The pH is a little on the high side (I measured it to be pH 7-8), but while it left my skin feeling a little squeaky, it didn’t feel dry, itchy or dehydrated at all. Again, I managed to forget to apply moisturiser afterwards! It’s good at taking off makeup, and I found that I didn’t need to use a cleansing oil first to remove foundation with this cleanser.
Ingredients: Aloe Maculata Leaf Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Decyl Glucoside, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Citrus Junos Fruit Extract, Lactobacillus/Maculata Aloe Leaf/Molasses Ferment Filtrate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Beeswax, Lactobacillus/Chrysanthemum Sinense Flower Ferment Filtrate, Lactobacillus/Nelumbium Speciosum Flower Ferment Filtrate, Lactobacillus/Dandelion Leaf/Root Extract Ferment Filtrate, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Potassium Hydroxide, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil.
AROMATICA CALENDULA JUICY CREAM
I really like the name of Aromatica Calendula Juicy Cream. It sounds like the most hydrating thing ever, and it pretty much is! It has a light gel texture which absorbs quickly, but delivers some oil to your skin as well. There’s also anti-inflammatory calendula extract as the key ingredient, and it’s certified organic if you’re into that.
Despite containing lots of botanicals, it’s unscented and perfect for irritated or sensitive skin. I used this during a week when I had a cold and it soothed my chapped nose quite impressively. I’ve also been using this on my dry elbows as well, and it’s been great for delivering long-lasting hydration without the greasiness you’d get from a body butter. I wouldn’t recommend using this on your face during the day if you have oily skin – the thin film of oil it left made me a bit shiny. However, I’ve read lots of awesome reviews for this cream for dry skin! I’ve found it fantastic for nighttime facial use though, and as a daytime body moisturiser.
Ingredients: Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Hydrogenated Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Octyldodecanol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Arachidyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Verbena Officinalis Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Propandiol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Palmitamide Mea, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Arginine, Ceramide 3, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Tamarindus Indica Seed Polysaccharide.
HUXLEY SECRET OF SAHARA OIL LIGHT AND MORE
I’ve been hearing a lot about Huxley’s Oil Essence, but since it’s so popular it was out of stock so I tried Huxley Secret of Sahara Oil Light and More instead. It contains the same antioxidant-rich cactus seed oil (Opuntia ficus-indica or barbary fig) as the Oil Essence, but has an oil base rather than an emulsion base, so it’s better suited to dry skin and harsh weather. It was also the best Korean Facial Oil in 2016 according to Allure, so there’s a fair bit of hype going on!
The main ingredient in this oil is caprylic/capric triglyceride, a purified form of coconut oil that doesn’t oxidise like most plant oils, which my skin seems to love. There’s also sunflower and jojoba oil. I found this pleasantly lightweight on the skin, and would potentially mix a drop of this into my foundation in the dead of winter, which is saying something. This would work great for dry skin.
It does have a noticeable perfumey scent, but it dissipates quickly. I like the scent and had no issues with it, but proceed with caution if you’re sensitive to fragrance.
Ingredients: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Squalene, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Fragrance.
WHAMISA ORGANIC SEA KELP FACIAL SHEET MASK
Whamisa Organic Sea Kelp Facial Sheet Mask is made of kelp. Not just infused with kelp, but made with machine-cut chunks of thick seaweed that you’d normally find in ramen. I LOVE the seaweed in ramen and add extra all the time, so I expected that I’d be all over this mask since it smells quite strongly of seaweed. Sadly, I think my love of eating seaweed actually sabotaged my chances with this mask, because it mostly made my stomach confused. My mum loves both this mask and seaweed in ramen, so it can work.
The yellow serum of this mask is full of nourishing botanicals. It comes in two pieces, but unfortunately I still found the stiff kelp a bit difficult to stick to my face (though you can use a silicone mask to hold it in place). It’s definitely unique, and if you can handle the weirdness, it’s very hydrating and I had a noticeable bounce to my skin which lasted til the next day.
Ingredients: Laminaria Japonica, Aloe Maculata Leaf Extract, Laminaria Japonica Extract, Lactobacillus/Maculata Aloe Leaf/Molasses Ferment Filtrate, Serenoa Serrulata Fruit Extract, Angelica Polymorpha Sinensis Root Extract, (-)-alpha-Bisabolol, Trigonella Foenum-Graecum Seed Extract, Natto Gum, Leonurus Sibiricus Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Dioscorea Opposita (Wild Yam) Root Extract, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Centella Asiatica Extract, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Anemarrhena Asphodeloides Root Extract, Bambusa Vulgaris Leaf/Stem Extract, Chlorella Ferment, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Corylus Avellana (Hazel) Seed Oil, Angelica Keiskei Leaf/Stem Extract, Citrus Junos Fruit Extract, Royal Jelly 0.05, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Xanthan Gum, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Plantago Asiatica Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Adenosine, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil.
My favourites here are Lagom Cellup Water-to-Gel Cleanser, Aromatica Calendula Juicy Cream and Huxley Secret of Sahara Oil Light and More. I wasn’t that keen on the Whamisa products I tried, which is funny since that’s the brand I’ve heard the most about! It might have just been the specific products I tried. I really love the emphasis that K-beauty products place on skin hydration, since that’s one of the things I have the most dramas with, and all the products I reviewed here performed fantastically on that front.