One of the best things about Korean skincare is that there really is something for everyone. No matter what your skin type and skin concerns are, there are options for you. Often excellent ones.
For example: If you have sensitive skin or just prefer gentle products with an emphasis on natural ingredients, but still want to feel excited about your skincare, Skin1004 is worth a very close look. So many products marketed as safe for sensitive skin either are not (often thanks to the use of fragrant essential oils for scent) or are legitimately low risk but also absolutely joyless.
After all these years of blogging about skincare, I still believe that skincare should inspire joy. The more you enjoy using a product, the easier it will be to use it consistently. And consistency is crucial to getting results. I’ve now tried a ton of Skin1004 products for various skin concerns. They’ve been flying under the radar making elegant, thoughtfully formulated skincare with interesting ingredients and beautiful textures. Here are my favorites—the moisturizers are especially exceptional!
Centella asiatica, aka gotu kola, has a long history in Asian folk medicine as a remedy for burns, wounds, and skin inflammation, and a shorter but still spectacular history in modern skincare as a calming and soothing agent. There’s also some evidence that centella and its derivatives may have brightening and anti-aging benefits. If you’ve ever noticed the word “Cica” in the name of a product or line, you’ll find centella—and often its derivatives, like madecassoside, asiaticoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid—in the ingredients.
Skin1004 sources their centella ingredients from farms in Madagascar, which the brand chose due to the optimal growing conditions and the sevenfold higher asiaticoside content found in centella cultivated there. The brand’s flagship Madagascar Centella line is made to help calm and repair sensitive, sensitized, or damaged skin.
Madagascar Centella Ampoule Foam
I’ve shown this cleanser in my stories a few times because it is one of the standout Madagascar Centella products for me. I’m very picky about cleansers, but this one passed my tests with flying colors!
Madagascar Centella Ampoule Foam ingredients: Centella asiatica extract (33%), sodium cocoyl isethionate, glycerin, water, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, coco betaine, potassium cocoyl glycinate, 1-2 hexanediol, sodium chloride, potassium cocoate, potassium benzoate, polyquaternium-67, citric acid, dextrin, sodium bicarbonate, theobroma cacao (cocoa) extract, disodium EDTA, sodium acetate, butylene glycol, coptis chinensis root extract, sodium hyaluronate, eclipta prostrata extract, coccinia indica fruit extract
What do I want in a foaming cleanser? First of all, foam! I think we all know at this point that foaming ability doesn’t actually equate to better cleansing ability, but massaging thick fluffy foam on my face feels satisfying. Satisfaction keeps me coming back.And yet the foamiest cleansers tend to be the harshest. My other key requirement in a foaming cleanser is a neutral to low pH. The pH of foaming cleansers matters because the pH of a healthy skin barrier is usually between about 4.5 and 6. Washing with a cleanser at a higher pH weakens the skin barrier, stripping away necessary natural lipids and leaving skin more vulnerable to irritation and infection. This is especially damaging to already sensitive or sensitized skin, but even for normal and oily skin types, respecting the skin barrier generally leads to much healthier skin. My pH strips put the Madagascar Centella Ampoule Foam at a pH between 5.5 and 6, which is pretty optimal.
It’s difficult to find the balance between foamy and gentle. The Madagascar Centella Ampoule Foam does so beautifully. It lathers up easily in my hands and feels lush on my face. I’ve used it on very dry days and very sensitive days, and it leaves my face feeling fresh and soft. No irritation, no tightness, no flakiness, no rush to apply a hydrating product immediately afterwards. I’ll be keeping this around happily for a long time.
Madagascar Centella Soothing Cream
This moisturizer far exceeded my expectations too.
I’ve tried more than a few centella/cica creams in my time and almost always struggled to finish them. I often outright abandoned them as soon as my skin could handle anything more interesting. I find the majority of sensitive skin-friendly moisturizers just too boring to keep in my routine. On top of that, many are too heavy for my tastes, especially for daytime, when I need to layer a generous amount of sunscreen on top.I started using the Skin1004 Madagascar Centella Soothing Cream during a recent bout of extreme sensitivity. I’d been using my (very strong) tretinoin prescription too continuously, and almost everything I put on my face stung. At the same time, the weather was unusually humid, so I really didn’t want anything oily or sticky on my face.The Madagascar Centella Soothing Cream ended up being nothing like what I expected and yet actually a perfect solution. I was picturing a heavy emollient cream. Instead, it’s a refreshing-feeling, hydrating, lightweight gel cream. It layers smoothly with the rest of my skincare, sinks in quickly, and, most importantly, didn’t sting and did soothe my skin, which was feeling raw just from getting patted with a towel after cleansing.Madagascar Centella Soothing Cream ingredients: Centella asiatica leaf extract (72%), glycerin, propanediol, dipropylene glycol, cyclomethicone, water, 1,2-hexanediol, trehalose, caprylyl methicone, C12-14 pareth-12, carbomer, tromethamine, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, C30-45 alkyl cetearyl dimethicone crosspolymer, xanthan gum, mentha piperita (peppermint) leaf extract, zingiber officinale (ginger) root extract, butylene glycol, ethylhexylglycerin, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, tranexamic acid, coptis chinensis root extract, theobroma cacao (cocoa) extract, dextrin, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, biosaccharide gum-1, disodium EDTA, sodium hyaluronate, beta glucan, ceramide EOP, ceramide NS, ceramide NP, ceramide AP, phytosphingosine, hydrogenated lecithin, cetearyl alcohol, stearic acid, cholesterol
As you might expect, centella headlines the ingredients here, but I want to call out a few other ingredients I liked seeing (and putting on my face). The peppermint might seem like an odd choice in a sensitive skin-oriented product since menthol and peppermint can be irritating for some people. But since it’s an extract and not an oil, and presumably not present in a high concentration, it contributed a slight fresh sensation rather than the full-on burn of, say, Tiger Balm. Ginger root extract, meanwhile, adds some extra antioxidants to the mix. And the combination of ceramides, cholesterol, and phytosphingosine near the end may boost barrier recovery and function, always important for more sensitive skin.
Hydration! I consider it more important in my skincare routine than any actives, for all my personal skin concerns. Well hydrated skin looks plumper, firmer, and smoother than dehydrated skin, which tends to take on a dull, crepey, more aged appearance. The interaction of light with an abundance of water in the upper layers of skin gives it a lit-from-within glow that no makeup can replicate. And in my personal experience, hydration helps my skin heal faster when I’ve damaged it in some way.
Obviously, the main component of a hydrating product needs to be water. But if it were that easy, we could just slap some tap water on our faces and call it a day. An effective hydrating product also needs to contain humectants, which are molecules that attract and bind to water so that it continues to hydrate your skin rather than evaporating away.
Most of us are familiar with more common humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid (and alternative forms of hyaluronic acid like sodium hyaluronate and hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid). But there are other effective humectants as well, like polyglutamic acid and pantolactone. Many plant extracts have humectant properties as well. Also, since many plant extracts are water-based, they make a nice water substitute in a skincare product, allowing the product to achieve the right consistency alongside whatever extra benefits the plant compounds might deliver.
Anyway, I love a good hydrating product. So I slathered on the sleeping pack from this line eagerly.
Hyalu-Cica Sleeping Pack
As you might have guessed from the name, the Hyalu-Cica Sleeping Pack is an overnight moisturizing mask that simultaneously targets dehydrated and irritated or sensitive skin.Hyalu-Cica Sleeping Pack ingredients: Centella asiatica leaf water (39%), water, butylene glycol, glycerin, 1,2-hexanediol, niacinamide, polyglutamic acid, pantolactone, hibiscus esculentus fruit extract, carbomer, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, hyaluronic acid, cetearyl olivate, methylpropanediol, arginine, pullulan, sorbitan olivate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, pyrus communis (pear) fruit extract, adenosine, rosa damascena flower water, cucumis melo (melon) fruit extract, iris florentina root extract, ethylhexylglycerin, hedera helix (ivy) leaf/stem extract, sodium phytate, xanthan gum, maltodextrin, artemisia princeps leaf extract, hydrolyzed gardenia florida extract, melatonin, illicium verum (anise) fruit extract, larix sibirica wood extract, quercus mongolica leaf extract, persicaria hydropiper extract, rheum palmatum root/stalk extract, asarum sieboldii root extract, chrysanthellum indicum extract, corydalis turtschaninovii root extract, coptis japonica root extract, machilus thunbergii bark extract, pentylene glycol, hydrogenated lecithin, ceramide NP
I find that the hydrating properties of the Hyalu-Cica Sleeping Pack definitely take precedence over the calming claims. This is a super smooth, silky-feeling gel cream with a quick dry-down and noticeable plumping effects both immediately and the next morning. It has all the main humectants you’d expect to find in a hydration-focused product, some of the more uncommon humectants, and a boatload of extracts to round out the product.
Sleeping packs are an interesting product category. Plenty of people argue that they’re just moisturizers marketed under a different name. Plenty of sleeping packs really do feel like just moisturizers marketed under a different name. Personally, I’m less interested in what a product is called than what it does: how something is marketed is generally determined by what the market seems to want. If people want products called sleeping packs, brands will label products as sleeping packs. And then again, there are sleeping packs that I’ve found to actually deliver different results overnight than a typical moisturizer.
When I use the Hyalu-Cica Sleeping Pack in moderate amounts, as I would a regular moisturizer, it works well for that purpose. It dries down quickly and leaves a smooth, primer-like finish. The moisture level is excellent for normal or oilier skin days and it plays well with my sunscreens.When I use it as a sleeping pack, applying it in a much heavier layer overnight, it pumps an impressive amount of hydration and glow into my skin. My skin in the morning looks as plump and dewy as if I’d slept in a sheet mask, except without having to peel off a dried-up sheet mask off my face and without the disrupted sleep that I would have suffered if I’d tried to sleep with a sheet mask on my face. And, like the rest of the Skin1004 moisturizers that I’ve tried, it’s unfragranced and non-irritating, even when my skin is compromised.
Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit Sun Serum
While I don’t normally advise using sunscreen as moisturizer due to how much sunscreen is required to get the full advertised protection on the label, I can definitely get behind the added benefits of a sunscreen that’s also made to provide some extra hydration. Sometimes you’re in a hurry and don’t want to wait for your separate moisturizer to dry down before adding sun protection. And sometimes your skin just needs whatever extra hydration it can get.With that being said, I’m often wary of “hydrating” or “moisturizing” sunscreens. Too often, they end up being too heavy to wear in the full amounts. Using too little sunscreen at a time can drastically reduce its ability to protect against UV radiation.
As the name suggests, Skin1004 Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit Sun Serum is a hydrating sunscreen that manages to live up to the claim without being too much for me, even over moisturizer.
Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit Sun Serum ingredients: Water, dibutyl adipate, propanediol, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, polymethylsilsesquioxane, ethylhexyl triazone, methylene bis-benzotriazoyl tetramethylbutylphenol, niacinamide, coco-caprylate/caprate, caprylyl methicone, diethylhexyl butamido triazone, glycerin, 1,2-hexanediol, butylene glycol, centella asiatica extract, betula platyphylla japonica bark extract, gingko biloba leaf extract, camellia sinensis leaf extract, triticum vulgare (wheat) sprout extract, medicago sativa (alfalfa) extract, brassica oleracea italica (broccoli) sprout extract, eruca sativa leaf extract, camellia japonica leaf extract, sodium hyaluronate, behenyl alcohol, poly C10-30 alkyl acrylate, polyglyceryl-3 methylglucose distearate, decyl glucoside, tromethamine, carbomer, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, sodium stearoyl glutamate, polyacrylate crosspolymer-6, adenosine, xanthan gum, T-butyl alcohol, tocopherol, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, inositol, hyaluronic acid, pentylene glycol, ethylhexylglycerin
CosDNA analysisThe Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit Sun Serum hits all of my main requirements for a sunscreen. First and most importantly, it’s SPF 50+ and PA++++, so it provides high protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. It uses exclusively chemical filters (Uvinul A Plus, aka diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, and Tinosorb M, aka methylene bis-benzotriazoyl tetramethylbutylphenol), which helps minimize the chances of streaky, chalky white cast—I don’t bother with mineral sunscreens basically ever. And it’s pleasant to use.
I wouldn’t exactly call it a serum, but it is a smooth, lightweight lotion-textured product that spreads easily and dries down fairly quickly. No white cast. It leaves a glowy and slightly dewy finish but doesn’t feel sticky on me. I also found that it sits well over the moisturizers I use and doesn’t pill up under makeup. I managed to use up almost the whole tube before I realized I was running low—hence how skinny it looks in the photo! I’d definitely reach for it again.
If you have sensitive or sensitized skin, you may also appreciate the fact that the Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit Sun Serum contains no fragrance or denatured alcohol, since both are known to increase the risk of irritation.
Another Standout Moisturizer: Tone Brightening Capsule Cream
When I said Skin1004’s moisturizers are exceptional, I meant it. The brand has achieved the feat of making literally the only “tone-up” product I have ever liked. And I like it a lot.The word “tone” in a product name instantly triggers alarm bells in my head. As a category, tone-up products are not my thing. Technically, a “tone-up” product aims to brighten up skin tone. In practice, the majority of tone-up creams I’ve used have simply been loaded with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide and achieved the intended effect by laying a noticeable chalky white cast on the skin.
The Skin1004 Tone Brightening Capsule Cream is not that.
Tone Brightening Capsule Cream ingredients: Centella asiatica extract (60%), water, butylene glycol, propanediol, niacinamide, isotridecyl isononanoate, phenyl trimethicone, 1,2-hexanediol, tranexamic acid, diglycerin, squalane, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, polyglyceryl-3 distearate, xylitylglucoside, cetyl alcohol, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, anhydroxylitol, polyacrylate crosspolymer-6, arginine, trehalose, zea mays (corn) starch, xylitol, panthenol, pentylene glycol, microcrystalline cellulose, mannitol, glyceryl stearate citrate, ethylhexylglycerin, hydroxyethyl urea, glycerin, glucose, madecassoside, sodium hyaluronate, bisabolol, hydrogenated lecithin, glyceryl acrylate/acrylic acid copolymer, pyrus communis (pear) flower extract, lactobacillus ferment
Similar to the other moisturizers in this post, the Tone Brightening Capsule Cream is on the more lightweight and hydrating side, rather than the heavier, more emollient side, making it most suitable for normal or oily skin types. It contains well researched skin-brightening agents niacinamide and tranexamic acid to address dark spots and brighten up dull, uneven skin tone. And it contains skin-soothing, hyperpigmentation-fighting madecassoside encapsulated in tiny beads that burst and release the ingredient upon application to skin. I love a little textural excitement in a cream, and it’s even better when the excitement also serves a purpose!\Long term and combined with daily sunscreen use, the combination of niacinamide, tranexamic acid, and madecassoside are a great combination for lightening up hyperpigmentation and achieving brighter, more even skin tone without thinning or irritating sensitive skin. In the short term, the Tone Brightening Capsule Cream gave my skin a distinct ultra-smooth glow. There aren’t many products I’ve found that produce a blur filter effect on my face in person. This does. I reach for it whenever I need an extra boost and don’t need heavy moisture. I love it.
These days, our standards for skincare are higher than ever, because we know more about skincare than ever before. We want products that effectively treat our skin’s needs, with ingredients that we’re comfortable using. We want those products to be suitable for our skin types too, and we want them to be fun.
Luckily, we also have more options than ever before. More options always beats fewer options. But the Korean skincare landscape can be overwhelming: there’s a different brand everywhere you look and more popping up by the day. It helps to know who makes products that align with your skin’s needs. If your skin is on the sensitive side and you like gentle, lightweight products that emphasize naturally derived ingredients, Skin1004 is a great place to start.