Sunday, June 11, 2017

MŪN Skincare - first impressions

Last year, sometime around October, I took a look at MŪN (pronounced "moon"), and thought it would be nice to try it.
Then, I guess it was in November, I actually commented somewhere that I was thinking of getting the MŪN Anarose toner, because I love roses. And up until then, all rose products I had tried were, well... not very rosy.

A few days later I had an email from MŪN waiting for me in my mailbox, offering to send me a set of their products to test and to review. Whoa! Serendipidipidipity. Or perhaps a very active social media presence?

I had already told the man to get me the toner for Christmas. I quickly told him to get me something else instead (he commented with why is it something something for women something something so hard to make up their minds, something something). And then I replied to MŪN that I'd be delighted to accept their offer.

See, I don't normally accept sponsored products. Unless they are from cool Taiwanese brands, or from brands that I've been going to try anyway.

With MŪN, I decided it was the universe's way of telling me that MŪN and I were meant to be.

"Wait a minute..." I hear you say, "isn't MŪN an American brand? Why are you blogging about it?"

Yes, MŪN is a US based company and they are very clear and upfront about it (unlike Tatcha). But, there is a connection to Asia.
The founder of MŪN is Munemi Imai, a Japanese makeup artist based in New York City.
Ms. Imai doesn't know it, but way back when, in a far distant land, our paths actually crossed on one occasion. I didn't realize it either until I started reading about MŪN and had my "whoa! I remember this woman!" moment. I used to work in the fashion and beauty business, too, just in a more behind-the-scenes capacity.

Here you can read more about MŪN and its founders - link.

Now, I hope you can understand why I was so excited to try MŪN.

It took some time for the MŪN goodies to get to me. First, I was in China and North Korea, then I was sick, and then work hit me full force in the face. And then my beautiful MŪN goodies arrived here, just when I desperately needed something to cheer me up and brighten my day. Serendipidipidipity.

But first things first.
What is MŪN?

It's a minimalist, natural skincare brand that is based on the oil from the seeds of the prickly pear cactus a.k.a. Opuntia ficus-indica.

Opuntia oil had its moment of glory in the beauty world in 2015. Everyone and their mother were talking about it then. Yes, it is indeed a very beneficial cosmetic ingredient.
In general, thanks to their skincare properties, Opuntia-based ingredients are very popular in Asian cosmetics. You can find them in a huge variety of products, from face washes to sunscreens.

image: Wikipedia

So, is Opuntia good for your skin? Yes, it is. It is known for its skin repairing and anti-aging benefits. In folk medicine, Opuntia was used for wound healing and scientific studies (conducted, among other places, in Italy) confirmed these healing properties.

So, is Opuntia a new ingredient? It's not. It's been around for a very long time.

Back to MŪN.

What does MŪN mean by minimalist?



All fans of multi-step "Asian" skincare routines must be in total shock now. Such words? Coming from a Japanese woman? How is this possible? The world is going to end!!!

Actually, I am not surprised. Japan, unlike Korea, is the capital of all-in-one products. Drugstores here are full of them. And I like quite a few of them, too.

When MŪN said "minimalist", they weren't joking. The entire routine, from start to finish, consists of just three steps. Three.

There is just one cleanser - MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanserlink.
There is just one toner - MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Tonerlink.
There is just one serum - MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serumlink.

There is also a body toning serum and argan oil, but I didn't try those.

I received this Daily Face Essentials set:


So, let's get started, shall we?

This is what my set looked like:

I fell in love with the tagline:
Your #munglow starts from within (but our products help too).

I also loved the minimalistic package design and the black glass bottles - simple, clean, sleek yet sturdy at the same time.

And these are the official descriptions. Yes, the "Pure Beauty Ritual" phrasing makes me cringe, too.

I cleared my skincare schedule and started testing.
Here is my MŪN story.


MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser - 100 ml for US$60.00
I did not finish the bottle.

In theory this cleanser sounds great. It's not a first cleanser. It's not a second cleanser. It's the only cleanser.

As someone who religiously double cleanses (I credit double cleansing with keeping my breakout-prone skin zit free) and refrains from scrubbing, rubbing and using washcloths, I knew this cleanser would be hard to take.

And it was.

The claims are really impressive. According to MŪN website - MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser unclogs pores, removes waterproof makeup, is non stripping, detoxifying, pH balanced.

Was it?

It pains me to say that, but no. It wasn't.

I've gone through literally hundreds of cleansers in my 46 years. I know a good cleanser when I meet one. Sadly, this wasn't one of them.

It was a thick and sticky mess that cleansed OK, but was impossible to rinse. Let me repeat it. Impossible. To. Rinse.

I tried it with the included washcloth. I followed the directions. I tried it using my hands only. I ignored the directions and improvised. And nothing. Sticky oily mess it was. And sticky oily mess it stayed.

In desperation I started mixing it with my trusty Shu Uemura Ultime8 Cleansing Oil.

And that did the trick. MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser became manageable. But as anyone who uses Shu Uemura cleansing oils can tell you, these are not oils that you want to waste by mixing them with other unruly cleansers. Don't know about you, but I can't afford to literally pour money down the drain.

I switched from Shu to my economy size bottle of cleansing oil that I use in the shower (what? waterproof sunscreen is not going to remove itself from my neck and arms) and this is the only way that I could get MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser to work.

With this method, MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser became a first cleanser and needed to be followed up with a second cleanser. That kind of defeated the purpose of a minimalist skincare routine, didn't it?

MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser ingredients:

Despite beautiful claims and ingredients, I am not a fan of this cleanser.
This is Japan. There are hundreds of better cleansers (including those with natural ingredients) for a fraction of the price.

The website claims that MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser has a pH range of 4.7 to 5.2.
As my electronic pH meter is out of commission for the time being, I used strips to verify this info.

My MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser shows to be definitely closer to pH 6 than between 4 and 5.

Another thing that I wasn't particularly happy about was the pump design. The pump stopper (cap?) was awkward to use.

As I wasn't going to travel with this big bottle of cleanser, I tossed the stopped and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, the same pump design is used for the serum bottle. I wanted to travel with the serum. But that damn cap / stopper drove me bananas.

I thought I was being unfair in my assessment, so I gave the rest of the bottle to Ms Y, so she could test it too. Ms Y usually double cleanses using a simple Muji cleansing oil and Fancl washing powder.

Her opinion of MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser?
"Life is too short for shitty cleansers."
Later, when I told her how much this cleanser costs, she replied, "Go get your head examined."

And that is the end of my adventure with MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser. I wanted to love it so badly, but I just couldn't. We were not meant to be together.


MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner - 100 ml for US$65.00
I finished the bottle.

Let me tell you this.
I am attempting to place an order for not one bottle of this stuff, but TWO. At once. Just to stock up.
I tried to do it yesterday, but it was sold out.
Today it's back in stock, but I just realized that my credit card is expired and I haven't gotten a new one in the mail yet (oops! I hope everything is ok, otherwise I'm screwed!) As soon as I can sort it out, I will complete this order.

Yes, I am repurchasing a sponsored / PR sample product. To use AND to stock up.

That is pretty much all you need to know about MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner, because it hardly ever happens in my case. I am picky, blunt, and nearly impossible to please.

MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner is not 100% perfect. But good enough for me to overlook the gasp-inducing price.

So, let's take a closer look, shall we?

If you are expecting a Japanese style hydrating toner, you will be disappointed. MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner is not a Japanese hydrating toner. It's a western toner designed for western audiences. Whatever hydration is there is minimal when compared to Asian toners.

So, what's so great about it?

I have rosacea. Finding a simple, no fuss toner that would work with my skin AND calm the redness is nearly damn impossible. MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner does it. It soothes my skin, it keeps it glowing, it controls the rosacea demon, it works with all other skincare I threw on top of it.

Even though it doesn't contain any ferments (or galactic mices*, as we call them here for fun), the end result is what I expected from SK-II Facial Treatment Essence but never got. Except SKI-II smells like pee, and MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner smells like, well... roses dnd something very strange.

So yes, MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner smells like roses (kind of), is cheaper than SK-II, works like a dream (I'm willing to forgive that it's not hydrating enough), and performs miracles on rosacea skin. Get on my face already!

Oh yes, what does the brand say about it?

MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner is supposed to be:

  • calming (yes!), 
  • balancing (yes!), 
  • soothing (yes!), 
  • hydrating (not really),
  • pH from 4.5 to 5 (no idea, I didn't check myself).

MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner ingredients:

As you can see, this is a stellar list, and as much as I tend to side-eye natural products and their claims, MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner is the real deal.

Is there anything that I didn't like about it?
Apart from being hydrating only in the name, I wasn't happy with the spray top nozzle.

It failed to dispense enough liquid and after a couple of weeks died completely. This is unacceptable in such an expensive product. I ended up unscrewing the top and removing the nozzle, and taking my chances with a cotton square directly from the bottle.

The official directions are such:

I love how MŪN understands that people mix and match their skincare and doesn't subscribe to the myth that so many brands perpetuate - that you need to use the entire set to get the best results.

What about the toner itself?
It looks like this:


MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner is an excellent product and might be an interesting option for people sensitive to ferments, but who want that ferment-induced first treatment essence glow.

MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner and I are definitely meant to be.


And last but not least - MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum - 20 ml for US$95.00
I finished the bottle.

That price definitely makes you look twice. But then again, compared to other natural high-end skincare products, it's actually one of the more affordable options.

Matt from Dirty Boys Get Clean on Instagram loves this serum. He said, quote, "First impression is : Aknari & I are totally dating". And I totally understand. MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum is a very interesting serum.

I wouldn't call it serum, though. It's a beauty oil. Here, take a look at the ingredients.

MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum ingredients:

Yes, this is not a typo. There are really just three of them: Prickly Pear Seed Oil, Argan Oil and Rose Flower Oil.

That is lovely. What is not lovely, and let me get it out of the way right now, is the smell. Maybe it's just my nose, maybe I got a funky bottle, but this smell is just odd.

I have the same problem with a few other oil serums. They tend to have these weird "natural" scents.
MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum smells like roses and rancid yak butter. The smell takes me back to Bhutan (that's where I learned how yak butter smells.)
Have you ever drunk Bhutanese (Tibetan) tea with salt and yak butter? Now imagine drinking this tea next to a bunch of fresh roses and you have a very close approximation of what MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum smells like.

If you can get past its very "organic" fragrance, then MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum turns out to be a very efficient and effective oil serum.

I used it only at night and mixed and matched with other skincare products. It worked as effectively as pure squalane oil (HABA) or rice oil (Kuramoto Bijin).

The company claims that MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum:

  • smoothes wrinkles (yes, it kinda did)
  • repairs sun damage (can't really confirm or deny)
  • lightens dark spots (not as effectively as Kuramoto Bijin sake serum)
  • soothes inflammation (yes, it does!)
  • brightens under eye circles (I think it's an optical illusion due to the fact that the skin appears plump and nicely moisturized with this serum)
  • makes skin soft and radiant (yes and yes),
  • has a "heavenly" scent (hell no!)

MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum is indeed very lightweight and cosmetically elegant. Too many oil serums feel heavy and greasy and tacky. This one doesn't.

I'm really on the fence with this serum.
On one hand, the results are very good and it is soothing and calming for my rosacea skin. On the other hand the price and the smell bother me.
I'd like to try it again, but it's not a necessity for me the way that MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner is.

If I get MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum again, I think I'll try to mix it with straight up rose oil to see if I can kill the scent of yak butter.
As it is now, MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum is not a "must have" for me. Just a "nice have" if given a chance.


The Daily Face Essentials set also included an Ikeuchi Organic washcloth.

I actually have a set of Organic5 Ikeuchi bath towels (white and purple), so I am familiar with the brand. I used my white Ikeuchi bath towel as the background in the photo of Akwi Purifying Cleanser and the cleansing oil earlier in this blog entry. I love these towels! They are soft and luxurious and make me feel like a princess.  So the washcloth was a nice addition.

This is the end of my MŪN story.
Caroline Hirons reviewed the MŪN Ayour Body Toning Serum last year and she liked it a lot.

As you can see, I really like MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner. 
About MŪN Aknari Brightening Youth Serum I like everything except the smell and price.
And I don't like MŪN Akwi Purifying Cleanser at all.

You can buy these products directly from MŪN Skin here - link.

As always with my reviews, even though the products were provided as PR samples, it had zero effect on my opinion of them. And the fact that I am repurchasing MŪN Anarose Hydrating Rose Toner speaks for itself.

I would like to thank the team at MŪN for giving me the opportunity to test and review these products.

You can follow MŪN on Instagram here - link and on Twitter here - link.

Have an amazing week, everyone!
Until next time!

*) galactomyces ferment filtrate a.k.a. galactic mices

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream

Don't scream at me and don't tell me in the comments that I can't spell. Though that is true, too. I can't.
But this thing, up there in the title, that's how it is spelled on the box.

The brand is called Im;BEAUTY, and the product we are going to talk about today is Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream.

We haven't even started yet and things are already getting complicated.
You see, there are actually TWO different products called Cloud 9 made by TWO different companies.
Cloud 9 is made by a company called Claire's (no relation to the worldwide accessories retailer with the same name) and by another company called Im;BEAUTY.

This is the same feud that you might be familiar with regarding the famous Guerisson 9 Complex Cream (horse oil cream). Both Claire's and Im;BEAUTY make this cream. You can read more about it in the excellent Guerisson review by Skin and Tonics - link.

The situation is the same with the Cloud 9 line.
Take a look.

Im;BEAUTY Cloud line:

And Claire's Cloud line:

Complicated? Only a little.

I got my Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream while flying Air China earlier this year.
I was bored out of my mind, the flight was packed, kids were screaming, the toilet stank to high heavens (unfortunately I was sitting right next to the toilet, I didn't mind though, it was a two day delay due to smog and I was ready to sit on the floor in the middle of the aisle just to be able to get out of China) and the fat man next to me kept burping and farting. Oh, and the in-flight entertainment system wasn't working.

I decided to entertain myself and started reading out loud the duty-free catalog. And then translating the entries, also out loud, into any and all languages familiar to me.

About half way through the catalog I realized that:

  • a. my seatmates and flight attendants were ready to murder me in cold blood, and
  • b. I still had some Chinese money left over that I should spend ASAP. 

I wasn't afraid of an angry burping fat man, or some skinny women in heels. I survived a medical emergency in North Korea and lived to see another day.
Ever had the pleasure of getting an IV inserted into your hand in the middle of the night while sitting on a toilet and violently vomiting into a bucket at the same time? Sounds bad, right? Now imagine the same situation in North Korea. At least it was a sit-down toilet and not a squatter...

The needle and the equipment were disposable and brand new, but band aids (plasters) were in short supply. Hence the scotch tape on my hand.

Murderous flight attendants were not going to scare me one bit. I continued being a retard and reading the duty-free catalog out loud. For more fun, this time backwards.

I got to the page with Cloud 9 and suddenly stopped.
I remembered this cream. Once upon a time it was raved about on blogs and instanets. I even considered getting it a couple of years ago but the Im;BEAUTY versus Claire's situation quite successfully discouraged me back then.

And here it was. In the in-flight catalog. For a few Chinese yuan. Duty-free.
I hailed one of the skinny women in heels and placed my order.

This is what I got.

The box sat untouched by human hands until April when I finally got around to opening it and investigating the contents.

Cloud 9 (both variants) seem to be very popular in South East Asia and over there it gets glowing reviews and is highly praised for its magical whitening properties.

I knew I was in trouble the minute I saw these signs:

Good products don't need such endorsements. Good products are good and everybody knows it. Pretty signs of approval can be bought and are totally meaningless.
Personally, I don't give a shit about Korea Model Association Certification, because let's face it, models are models precisely because they don't NEED whitening creams.

And The Korea Film Actor's (again, a misplaced apostrophe) Association endorsement?
Here, I immediately knew this cream was going to be garbage. Why? Take a look at any Korean actress and her face. Ghostly white casts to appear whiter than white seem to be the permanent hip trend.

I expected junk and I wasn't disappointed.
But in all fairness, this junk came very impressively packaged.

Inside a huge sturdy box there was a kitschy plastic jar, along with a plastic spatula and a leaflet in Korean and Chinese.

The jar holds 50 grams of cream. There was a manufacturing date printed on the bottom, but I forgot to take a photo.

Up until now everything looks pretty much standard, doesn't it?

Then, what about the name? Why Cloud? And why is it important?

You see, according to the manufacturer, the cream is supposed to resemble a cloud. Though personally, I thought it looked like rancid cottage cheese.

If it was rotten cottage cheese, I'd flush it down the toilet and recycle the package.

But no. Instead of cheese, I got here Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream in all of its curdled glory.

Yes, this cream is supposed to look like that. I knew to expect that so I wasn't overly surprised. This is its namesake "cloud" texture and consistency.

According to the manufacturer, this cream is supposed to be your standard issue Korean skincare miracle worker. It's supposed to: brighten, whiten, diminish freckles, protect from UV rays, lift, hydrate, erase wrinkles, improve elasticity, give orgasms, do the dishes and solve math problems for your school age children's homework.

Did it do any of them?

Hmmm... I decided to test it on my hands, because gods know my hands need some whitening and anti-aging care.

Picking the stuff out of the jar was hard. The pieces kept breaking up and refused to cooperate.

A spoonful of old yogurt? Or a chunk of soft tofu?
Honestly, it doesn't really make that much of a difference. I suppose if I rubbed tofu on my skin the effects would be pretty much the same.
Meaning, none at all. But at least with tofu or yogurt I could lick my hand if I suddenly got hungry.

So, does this Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream do anything at all?
Oh yes, it does.
It gives you the mother of all white casts.

The company does promise "instant" whitening, and they didn't lie. You will get a ghostly, white, chalky cast that will last until you either rub it off (your hands), or wash it off (your face, if you're brave enough to actually put this thing on your face).

Despite the wonky color in this photo, my skin is actually quite pale, yet you can STILL see the cast.

This is the "instant" result, but were there any long-term effects?
Any actual brightening? Fading of freckles? Anti-aging effect?

Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
After a month and a half of using this rotten cottage cheese abomination, my hands are still as nasty as they used to be. I purposely chose to slather it on my left hand, because that's where the freckles are. And they are as visible now as they were a month ago.

Now, let's talk about the ingredients.

Despite internet claims by bloggers (who apparently didn't bother to look closely) that Cloud 9 creams made by Im;BEAUTY and Claire's are identical, they are not.
They are actually quite different.

You can find several different ingredient lists for Claire's Cloud 9 Whitening Cream. The ingredient order there looks to be arranged according to the Korean specifications.

Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Cream seems to follow no particular standard of listing the ingredients. I'd like to believe that it adheres to the internationally (Japan, USA, EU, Canada) followed rules where the ingredients are listed in the descending order of weight.
But since Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream is a Korean product, you can't ever be sure.

As I couldn't find anything that looked vaguely plausible on the internet, I just translated what was printed on the box.
"Cherry" confused me, because I couldn't figure out what type of cherry it was supposed to be.

Anyway, here they are.

Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream ingredients:
Water, Butylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Titanium Dioxide, Cyclohexasiloxane, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Magnolia Liliiflora Phytoplacenta Extract, Cherry Phytoplacenta Culture Extract, Adenosine, Bellis Perennis (Daisy) Flower Extract, Lilium Candidum Flower Extract, Eucalyptus Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Leontopodium Alpinum (Edelweiss) Flower Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera (Indian Lotus) Flower Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Callus Culture Extract, Freesia Refracta Extract, Saussurea Involucrata Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dipropylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Isohexadecane, Caprylyl Glycol, Stearic Acid, Aluminum Hydroxide, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Polysorbate 80, Glyceryl Caprate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Fragrance

So there you have it. The dud known as Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream.

If you feel the burning need to have it, or suffer from an acute excess of money, you can purchase it from IBBI - non affiliate link here.

In conclusion:

Im;BEAUTY Cloud 9 Whitening Anti-Aging Cream is a perfect example of why I am so over Korean cosmetics. The cheap ones are major fails and not worth the money. The wins are mostly pricey but if I'm going to spend that much, I'd expect my skincare products to work. And if I'm going to spend that much money, I might as well buy local, Japanese stuff.
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