Korean skin care has truly changed my skin for the better. Having tried an entire drugstore aisle’s worth of acne products and multiple dermatologists’ recommended brands, the most helpful products I’ve used come from Seoul.
So it piqued my interest that Costco had launched its own Korean skin care kit, The Case Full of Seoul, geared toward people who might be new to the 11-step Korean beauty routine that involves cleansing, toning, moisturizing, applying serums and masks, and more.
The kit retails at $149.99 and includes 11 full-sized beauty products, among them skin care products, makeup primer, sunscreen and face masks. Some of the brands are well-known in the U.S., like Maycoop, and others are new launches on the market, like 9wishes, which is so far exclusive to Costco. The products in this kit are advertised as appropriate for all skin types.
I have sensitive, acne-prone skin, plus hormonal imbalances due to chronic illness and a hormonal IUD. I started really taking skin care seriously when I stopped thinking of it as some kind of Band-Aid for my neurosis and insecurities and began treating it more like a conversation with my body: What do you want today? The results have been pretty lovely. I go out with no makeup on as often as I go out fully made up.
I spent the past few weeks trying out Costco’s products and comparing them to other items in my vast collection to see how they hold up. I’m a beauty writer who has access to all kinds of products at various price points, so I had a lot to compare to. HuffPost purchased this kit instead of receiving a free one to ensure an unbiased review.
Overall, I think the kit is well worth the asking price. Read my product-by-product review below.
9wishes Rice Foaming Cleanser, $20.90 alone
“Unlike other sloughing cleansers, this is fine for my sensitive skin and exfoliates gently with a lather that doesn’t leave a mess.”
Some rice powder-based cleansers feel like too much work ― and also make me feel like I’m lathering my face with drugs ― but not this one. This foaming cleanser uses tiny rice particles to exfoliate skin and rice water to help hydrate and brighten.
I’ve used rice cleansers across price ranges and generally prefer chemical exfoliants, because I’m paranoid about damaging my moisture barrier with rough exfoliation. But unlike other sloughing cleansers, this is fine for my sensitive skin and exfoliates gently with a lather that doesn’t leave a mess. Costco is the only official authorized retailer for 9wishes in the U.S. so far, so there are not many reviews on its products.
Urang True Rose Repair Essence, $47 alone
The ingredients list in the Costco booklet is completely wrong, which is kind of a big deal. I also can’t stand the smell of roses in my beauty products, and this contains around 50 percent rose extract. I only used it a few times and then immediately pawned it off to one of my friends. It didn’t irritate my skin, just my fragrance sensibilities.
Free idea: I wish more fragrances smelled like money ― imagine if we could bottle the smell of financial security. You’re welcome, America.
Maycoop Raw Sauce Mini Duo, $28 alone ($14 each for minis)
This is a toner, emulsion and essence all in one ― which means it’s a great hydrating option that doesn’t overwhelm you with additional steps. You’d think something made primarily of maple tree sap would feel heavier on your skin (maple syrup face masks don’t sound very appealing to me), but this just feels luxurious.
Maple sap (acer mono sap) is the first ingredient listed. If you are on the absolutely-no-alcohol train for your skin care, you should know that alcohol is the second ingredient. The alcohol is fine for me, and I couldn’t actually smell or feel the alcohol content. I suggest you pat it directly onto your skin without a cotton pad to maximize absorption.
If you’d like a really in-depth review with proper scientific references, I like this one, which helpfully debunks a lot of the fear surrounding the specific ingredients.
Core Flex Essential Liquid, $64 alone
“This was my favorite product in the roundup. It's a face mist with amino acids that actually helps address acne and hyperpigmentation.”
This was my favorite product in the roundup ― especially for those of us who might spend the summer on a transportation system devoid of ventilation. It’s a face mist with amino acids that actually helps address acne and hyperpigmentation.
I love easy and effective skin care packaging, and this air-sealed, sun-proof spray bottle is great at evenly distributing a light sheen. All you have to do is tap the product into your face afterward. It’s easier to carry around than say, a bottle of Evian face mist.
I like to apply this as a layer before sunscreen and the rest of my complexion routine because it gives my skin an ever-so-slight glow. Skin loves amino acids, and this has lots of them. It also has arbutin and aspergillus ferment, which are used for skin brightening.
Camellia Wrinkle Free Eye Solution, $25 alone
“The pen is not something you could elegantly use when you’re super sleepy and clumsy and about to go to bed.”
I really enjoy the gimmicky packaging (it’s basically a big injection pen), primarily because jar eye creams feel a little less hygienic to me than this option. This pen is filled with camellia oil, a popular skin care ingredient that moisturizes and reduces inflammation.
This eye cream purports to “cover up wrinkles,” which is too lofty a goal, but I do think it’s a worthwhile moisturizer that can help prevent radical skin damage and help promote elasticity. The pen is not something you could elegantly use when you’re super sleepy and clumsy and about to go to bed though ― it takes some adjustment to not press too hard and over-apply.
In any case, camellia oil is wonderful for all skin types and is one of my favorite ingredients to look for in cleansers and moisturizers.
IWLT Protective Base Suncream, $30 alone
“This sunscreen does feel more like a lotion than the white spackling we dread using at the pool.”
This sunscreen is said to contain 70 percent more moisture than regular sun cream, and I don’t know if that’s really the case (I mostly use Korean sunscreens at this point anyway, which have similar formulations). But this sunscreen does feel more like a lotion than the white spackling we dread using at the pool. It doesn’t leave a white cast on me, though I’m also fairly pale.
The ingredients are primarily emollients and sunscreen that address both UVA and UVB rays. It doesn’t smell weird and it absorbs easily and feels more like a primer or moisturizer than a sunscreen. I do hate the idea that a not-gigantic bottle of sunscreen has to be more than $10 to be good. If you’re using sunscreen as often as you’re supposed to, you tend to go through it so quickly!
Touch In Sol No Poreblem Primer, $18 alone
“I’m shook by this primer -- it’s amazing at giving you a velvety-smooth finish with very little product. Pores essentially cease to exist.”
I’m shook by this primer ― it’s amazing at giving you a velvety-smooth finish with very little product. Pores essentially cease to exist. This is because it’s a silicone-based primer (with green tea extract and collagen), so it fills in pores.
If you don’t react well to silicone primers, which is not uncommon, then this isn’t right for you. For everyone else, this is poppin’. It is vegan, cruelty-free and hypoallergenic. And for $18 individually, it’s also a pretty great purchase on its own.
May Coop Raw Moisturizer, $40 alone
Again with the maple tree sap. This is a great softening moisturizer for all skin types, though I think that people with dry and sensitive skin would particularly benefit from the ingredients. It smells heavenly and sinks right into your skin, making it a great moisturizer for both morning and night. I like it a lot, though I do think there’s plenty of drugstore moisturizers that offer similar benefits.
Urang Vitamin Oil Serum, $57 alone
Once again, I dislike rose in my beauty products and I can smell it in this one, but otherwise, it’s fine. It’s vegan with no additives or preservatives (not unusual for oil serums). The rosehip oil and vitamins packed in this are great for skin rejuvenation and your skin’s long-term health, so it’s a good all-in-one serum that can replace specific serums you might be using on and off.
IWLT All-In-One Concentrate Treatment Mask
This sheet mask has some of my favorite skin care ingredients: niacinamide and vitamin C, both of which are great for addressing hyperpigmentation, scarring and dullness. This is a microfiber mask, not a hydrogel or other fabric. I like to keep this kind of mask on until it begins to dry out for maximum absorption on my face, and then I gently tap the remaining serum into my skin.
Is it my favorite mask ever? No, but I’d happily use it again and did see a glowy difference afterward.
“There isn’t a dud product in here -- though if you are adamantly opposed to alcohol in your products or are particularly sensitive to rose fragrances, you might not love one or two products.”
Is this set worth buying? I think so! Purchased separately, you’d be spending well over $300. There isn’t a dud product in here ― though if you are adamantly opposed to alcohol in your products or are particularly sensitive to rose fragrances, you might not love one or two products.
Still, this is a great introduction to Korean skin care, featuring brands not already saturating the U.S. market. And there’s not a lot of solid scientific evidence that the order you apply products in an intricate skin care routine matters much ― so you can mix these items however you see fit to avoid feeling overwhelmed by a sudden change in your routine.
These products all use gentle, proven ingredients for hydration and take skin sensitivity into consideration. I recommend checking out the kit rather than splurging on a single hyped-up product that would only address one issue. Plus, the beautiful suitcase packaging can be reused. Face mask storage, anyone?