(This post has been updated to reflect my views as at 2019)
Hellooo! Gosh, I’ve let the dust build up in here haven’t I? I’m a bad housekeeper, I am 😛
But come, let me dust off the inch thick dust on the blog and jump right in to tell you about a product that came highly recommended to me. By now, most of us will be familiar with the brand Sulwhasoo, which made its appearance on our shores some time last year. A few people had asked me what I thought of it, and I was almost embarrassed to say that I hadn’t tried anything from the brand. So I decided to remedy that, and asked around for recommendations. Almost overwhelmingly, I was told to try the First Care Activating Serum, a Sulwhasoo bestselling product.
What the First Care Activating Serum is, is a pre-serum. I know some people start rolling their eyes at this point. A serum is a serum! I almost hear you cry, what in the flying blazes is a pre-serum?!
Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum – a pre-serum?
Well, this is a concept not uncommon in many Asian ranges of skincare and is basically a product that you apply BEFORE you apply the rest of your skincare, so that it boosts the efficacy of your skincare. So, you can use it together with your other brands of skincare but you have to use it first.
There are different brands with similar products out there naturally, but Sulwhasoo promises that their First Care Activating Serum will give your skin a boost of moisture, refine your skin and balance and replenish nutrients, with their signature use of Jaeumdan and Jaeumboweedan, combinations of Korean Medicinal herbs blended into a prepared in a time-tested Poje method.
Everyone who told me to try this serum has nothing but raves for it, and how it helped refine their skin and make it look better. So, I took the plunge. Slightly half a bottle and a couple of months down the road, how did I find this?
Well, hmm… I’m not sure how to say this, but I didn’t notice anything in particular 😛 (However, please read the quick update below!)
Use the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum BEFORE any other skincare
I’m no stranger to layering different serums and potions on my skin so when I slotted this into my skincare routine, I slotted it in after cleansing and an exfoliating toner (I’m finishing up the one from REN if you’re curious). I figured that it would be the best place to slot it, since my skin would be nice and clean and exfoliated, and it would give the serum a chance to penetrate better into my skin. I then follow up with the rest of my routine.
Please note: The suggested use is like this:
Cleanser -> Sulwhasoo FCAS -> Lotion/Hydrating Toner -> Serum -> Moisturiser
However, if you use an exfoliating toner, then use the exfoliating toner BEFORE the FCAS. Did that make sense? LOL! 😛
The product comes in a very lovely ergonomic ceramic bottle that always brings to my mind a smooth earthen jar. Don’t ask me why, I just think of it that way. It has a lovely heft and I like the cool weight in my hands. The product is dispensed through a pump, and I use 2 pumps in the morning and alternate evenings (I use Alpha H Liquid Gold on alternate evenings which is why this is so. Otherwise, I’d use it every evening as well)
Since Sulwhasoo prides itself on using traditional herbs and a traditional method of preparation, the product reflects it. The serum pumps out a translucent brown that brings to mind a herbal concoction, and the scent is reminiscent of a Chinese medicine shop 😀
Lovely pleasant scent of Chinese herbs
It isn’t unpleasant, at least not to my nose. If you are comfortable with strong herbal, medicinal scents of Chinese/Asian herbs like ginseng, then you will be fine with it. If you aren’t then you may find that it takes some getting used to because it isn’t softly fragranced like most skincare. It is strong, but I like the scent! I find it relaxing 😀 But then, I also like the smell (and taste) of herbs and I don’t mind smelling (or drinking) herbal soups and drinks 🙂
I pump out about 2 pumps, and smooth it over my skin. The serum absorbs into the skin very quickly without any sticky feeling. In fact, it makes skin feel almost immediately smoothened. I could be imagining things, but it does appear to deliver a dose of hydration to the skin, and I like that especially in the evenings, and I’ve been out the whole day.
What results to expect from the First Care Activating Serum?
As lovely as the product is on its own, I have to say I didn’t notice any additional “boosting” benefits. I didn’t experience significantly better skin than what I’d been having, nor did I experience any significant evening out of my skintone, clearing up of spots or better hyrdation as what many people have experienced. I must say however, that I do have my skin at a level that I believe is at its optimum, so it will take something significantly strong, to deliver noticeable results.
So, what I’d say is not to take what I say to heart. I have my skin relatively well hydrated thanks to my skincare routine, and it is about as even toned as it’ll get taking everything into consideration.
RELATED READING: Consider reading about these 3 tips that have helped me improve my skin READ HERE
Perhaps what this serum does then for me is to maintain that balance. Perhaps someone who has something to improve might notice a more significant result. I didn’t, but then neither will I with many other skincare, so this isn’t a slur on the product which I do like, but rather a reflection of the state of my skin.
I maintain that in many cases, significant results when using skincare is usually only noticeable when there is something that needs improving, and is improved. But when the skin is at a certain level, there is only so much you can do to improve, and then, you will be all about maintenance.
So anyone who tells you that that new cream/serum/potion/lotion they just tried is so wonderful and has changed their skin, I’d ask you to pause for a moment and wonder why their skin is perpetually in a state of flux and if this then, is good advice for you to follow 😛
So for me, this serum is something for maintenance. I hesitate to say that I’d repurchase once I’ve finished with this bottle, because my skin seems to have done well even before using this. But I do like the scent and I do like the cooling, hydrating texture so if I feel like treating my skin, I might indulge in the future, just not in the short term.
UPDATE 2019: Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum – the serum you didn’t know you needed
It has been 5 years since my first experience with the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum. In this time, I have gone through 3 bottles of it!
Why would I have bought and used so many bottles, if I found it wasn’t doing much for me, as I initially thought? Well, it’s because when I had finished using it, and moved on, I found that my skin felt like it was lacking something.
One day, about a year after I first posted this review, I decided to buy a bottle and try it again. What I noticed what that my skin perked up. It isn’t terribly noticeable, but it is something you will notice when you are in tune with your skin.
My skin felt smoother and calmer. I won’t say it felt any more hydrated, but it just felt better. Perhaps its anecdotal (which it likely is) but I liked it enough to buy a bottle each year since LOL!
For me therefore, this Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is the product you didn’t know you needed till you didn’t have it 😀 But I know opinions vary, and that’s fine. We will all have different experiences with it 🙂
In a nutshell
The Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is Sulwhasoo’s bestselling product and is a pre-serum i.e. a serum you’d apply to the skin after cleansing, before you apply your other skincare. It boosts the efficacy of skincare while delivering moisture and refining skin. I like the herbal scent which some may find strong, and how quickly it absorbs into the skin. It seems to deliver a boost of moisture, but for me, I did not notice a significant improvement to my skin after using this as opposed to before. I believe that someone who has a skin problem they’d like to address e.g. oily skin, breakouts, poor hydration etc may find themselves benefiting from this more than I did. It isn’t a slur on the product, but a reflection of the condition of my skin i.e. it’s at a level where improvements are almost insignificant. I do like it, and will finish this, and I may repurchase in the future, but not in the short term.
Pros: Nice luxurious packaging, Product absorbs quickly into skin without a sticky after-feel, Skin feels immediately hydrated
Cons: Pricey, Strong herbal scent may not sit well with everyone, I did not notice a significant improvement to my skin
Who will like this: Anyone who is comfortable with herbal scents, Anyone who wants a quick boost of hydration to the skin and are comfortable using pre-serum or booster serums
Where to buy: Sulwhasoo counters and boutique
Here is the ingredient list for anyone keen to know what’s in there.
Have you tried this First Care Activating Serum? Are there other Sulwhasoo products you like?
I can’t say this has been a washout, because I do sort of like it, even if I didn’t have the raving results others had. So I’d be keen to give other Sulwhasoo products a go. Hit me up with your faves! 😀 The next product I want to get is the Overnight Revitalizing Mask, which I’ve read so much good things about! If you had good results with this serum, please share because you could help others who are wondering if it will work for them 🙂
RELATED READING: The Sulwhasoo Overnight Revitalizing Mask is a SUPERSTAR! READ HERE