Last month I mentioned that I was having a bit of Birchbox fatigue. Well, my interest has been renewed because my first Birchbox of 2016 is the most exciting one I’ve received in quite some time! For January, subscribers were given the option to pick an Eyeko liquid eyeliner, a TONYMOLY lip tint, an IPKN radiant makeup primer, or a K-beauty box curated by Charlotte Cho, certified esthetician and co-founder of Soko Glam—a popular online Korean beauty shop. Beauty blogs have been raving about Korean beauty products for a while now, so I selected the K-beauty box to see for myself what all the fuss is about.

Before I talk about my samples, I have to say that I absolutely LOVE the January 2016 Birchbox design. Bright colors and delicate botanical illustrations? So perfect.


Charlotte Cho has written a book called the little book of skin care, and Birchbox included a 50% discount code for Birchbox subscribers. I most likely won’t buy one, but it’s a nice extra for those who are interested.


So…what’s the deal with K-beauty? Korean beauty products are on the cutting edge of skin care technology—BB creams, sheet masks, cushion compacts, essences, and much more were developed in South Korea. The K-beauty philosophy is all about a radiant, dewy complexion…which I’m totally down with. The Korean skin care routine is also a thing; it’s a multi-step process involving double cleansing (first removing oil and makeup, then removing dirt and impurities), toning, treating, and moisturizing. Seems like a lot of work, but hey, treating yo self can be fun. Korean beauty brands are growing in popularity in the U.S., and stores like Sephora have begun carrying K-beauty brands like Dr. Jart+ (which I totally didn’t realize was a Korean brand until just now), Amore Pacific, and TONYMOLY, which has the most ridiculously cute packaging.

I’ve just scratched the surface of the K-beauty craze here, but now I’m very curious to read up more on it. For now, let’s go through the goodies in my K-beauty Birchbox! Here’s the product description card, which includes usage tips from Charlotte Cho:


And my samples:


Ahhhhh! Very exciting. Okay…first up is the Manefit Beauty Planner Cucumber Soothing + Moisturizing Mask. This is a sheet mask; I first learned of these masks during visits to Spa Castle in Queens (a Korean day spa) a few years ago. I’d see Korean women walking around the spa with these sorta creepy-looking white masks on their faces, and one time I figured, “when in Rome,” and tried one on myself. I’ve also used Garnier sheet masks at home (and terrified my husband while wearing them). Sheet masks come in single-serve packaging and are made of cloth that has a layer of product on one side. You apply the side with product to your face, Hannibal Lecter-style, and let it sit for a given amount of time. When the time is up, you remove the sheet and tap or massage the remaining product into your skin. I can’t wait to scare the crap out of my husband try this sheet mask on my face! Also? The full-sized product available on is just $10 for a set of five masks, so it’s a totally affordable mini-luxury.

Next is the IPKN Flash Cream Radiant Primer. This product contains SPF 15, which is great because you don’t often see primers with SPF. According to Birchbox, the primer  “creates a smooth, luminous canvas for makeup.” Its blend of shimmer pearl powder and fruit extracts are supposed to make your skin appear radiant—with or without foundation. This primer smells fruity but it’s fortunately not overpowering. It has a very pearlescent finish, which is a bit much for everyday wear for me, but it’ll be great for date night or going-out-with-friends makeup.

The only brand from this box that I’d heard of was TONYMOLY, and I was excited to have the opportunity to try the Delight Tony Tint in Red. You know how much I love lip products, so I’m always thrilled to get a lip sample in my Birchbox! This tint reminds me of Benefit’s cult classic Benetint. Like Benetint, TONYMOLY’s version is scented, but it smells like strawberry bubblegum instead of roses. I swatched the product on my arm first—the swatch in the left pic below is directly from the tube, and the right pic is the same swatch blended a bit:


I used the doe-foot applicator to pat the tint onto my lips, and then I smoothed the color out on my lips with my index finger. The color itself is very nice, but I have to say that this product looked patchy on my lips. It’s been a long time since I used Benetint but I think it had the same uneven distribution; it’s like parts of my lips suck up the color while other parts repel it. I don’t know if it’s just my lips or if other people have the same issue with tints. You can’t really see the patchiness  in the below photo, so maybe it’s not that big of a deal. I’ll try exfoliating my lips before I apply it next time and see if that helps. It really is a fun pop of color on my face! A full-sized tube of this lip tint is just $6…a rarity these days.


On to the next sample: Goodal Waterest First Essence. This facial essence is supposed to help skin retain moisture, and according to Charlotte Cho, essence is the key to dewy skin. Essence is meant to be used after cleansing and toning but before applying facial treatments and moisturizer. I’ve never tried an essence before, but I’m looking forward to giving this one a shot!

My final standard sample this month is the RE:P Bio Fresh Mask with Real Calming Herb. (RE:P stands for “Real Elemental Practice.”) The mask contains organic herbs for exfoliation and kaolin clay for deep cleaning pores and reducing redness. I tried the mask out this morning; per the directions on the tube, I applied an even layer and massaged the mask into my skin, then rinsed it off with warm water after 10 minutes. The mask has a pleasant herbal scent, and my skin looked and felt refreshed afterward. I’ll definitely use this product again…and I might even buy a full-sized tub! At $41, this product is the most expensive of my January samples, but the cost isn’t unattainable. Here I am enjoying the mask as it does its work:


I was happy to receive bonus sample packettes this month as well! Both are Goodal: Phytowash Yerba Mate Cleansing Foam and Phytowash Yerba Mate Bubble Peeling. The cleansing foam’s ingredients are supposed to help balance oils and detox your skin, while the bubble peeling is supposed to act as a gentle scrub and peel. Both of these products use the “healing power of plants,” which is a hot trend in beauty right now.  I’ll be trying these out tomorrow—I’ve already used two samples on my face today and I don’t want to freak my skin out by slathering on two more.

Let’s go through my routine of seeing how this month’s samples rate on EWG’s Skin Deep database! (I’m not expecting any of these Korean products to show up in the database, but we’ll see.)

  • Manefit Beauty Planner Cucumber Soothing + Moisturizing Mask: unlisted
  • IPKN Flash Cream Radiant Primer: unlisted
  • TONYMOLY Delight Tony Tint: unlisted
  • Goodal Waterest First Essence: unlisted
  • RE:P Bio Fresh Mask with Real Calming Herb: unlisted
  • Goodal Phytowash Yerba Mate Cleansing Foam: unlisted
  • Goodal Phytowash Yerba Mate Bubble Peeling: unlisted

Yeah, exactly what I thought. There are so many beauty and skin care brands out there that I don’t expect EWG to have analyzed all of them.

Overall, I’m very happy about my January 2016 Birchbox. It’s actually hard to say which sample I’m most excited about this month, because they’re all very intriguing. I guess I’ll say the Goodal essence, because I’ve never tried an essence before and am curious to see what, if anything, it does for my skin. I’m totally psyched to delve into the K-beauty world—thanks, Birchbox, for introducing me to it!

Read My Previous Birchbox Reviews:

What is Birchbox?

In case you’ve never heard of Birchbox, it’s a $10/month subscription box that includes five sample sized products based on your preferences (makeup, skin care, hair care, fragrance, etc.). They also have an online store filled with full sized versions of all the products they include in their monthly subscription boxes, so if you fall in love with a sample they sent you, you can go back to their site and buy the real thing. Use my referral link to sign up for your own subscription!