This scenario happens to most of us: you come across a product that steals your heart - and then you check the ingredients list. Shocker. Sometimes it's good, sometimes.. not so. In today's post I'll have an interesting cleanser that uses traditional Korean medicinal herbs while some of the other ingredients may rise eyebrows. Let's see!
Illi Total Aging Care Cleansing Oil
Illi or Illiyoon is part of Amore Pacific, a Korean cosmetic company giant operating many beauty, health and skincare brands such as Etude House, Innisfree, IOPE, Laneige, Sulwhasoo and many others. On their website you can read more about their philosophy, brands and sustainability. Illi's key ingredients are Korean medicinal herbs aka 'hanbang' interpreted in a modern way. Illi Total Aging Care Cleansing oil comes in 200ml / 6.76 fl oz bottle costing $15-18.
What is hanbang?
Hanbang (한방) stands for Korean traditional medicine, which includes an extensive use of herbal remedies to treat illnesses and maintain overall health and wellbeing. In Illi's cleanser there is fermented soy protein and other herbal ingredients, such as ginseng root extract, Japanese camellia seed and green tea extracts. Read more about hangbang and fermented skincare in my previous post.
Illi's cleansing oil comes in a simple plastic bottle, with a brown-burgundy tint. I always like tinted or opaque bottles, no matter how sensitive the ingredients are to light. But what is special is the pump - it's excellent. First of all, you can adjust the amount of product that comes out, the pump doesn't shoot out with a force. Secondly, the pump locks when you turn it sideways, which is great if you happen to travel with it. Thirdly, there is a separate lock that keeps the pump dispenser up and even closes the opening. Simple yet very effective design for such an inexpensive product. Love it!
Using Illi Total Aging Care Cleansing Oil
This is an emulsifying oil cleansing formula, best for 1st cleanse in the evening to remove sunscreen, makeup and other daytime gunk. I take about 1 1/2 pumps of the product in my palms, massage them together and start spreading it on my dry face. Make sure your face is dry so the oil won't emulsify right away! I massage my face in gentle motions, removing my eye makeup as my last step. If I'm wearing a ton of mascara I'll use an extra 1/2 pump to get rid of any traces of makeup. Then I'll rinse my hands and apply my wet palms on my face, letting the oil emulsify and finally rinse my face with lukewarm water. Clean and ready for second cleanse!
I'm enjoying this oil a lot, it's a true work-horse. Not the most elegant of cleansing oil experiences as Illi feels very light, there's no color and the mild scent is barely noticeable. I prefer thicker oils for a facial massage, but Illi doesn't drag or cause friction. It's cost-effective and does its job. In the demo pictures Illi removes easily my Rouge Bunny Rouge eye khol, Anastasia brow pencil, but leaves the finest finest trace of Kate's eyeliner. For me this is effective enough as I'll always perform a 2nd cleanse in the evenings.
Mineral Oil, Isopropyl Palmitate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, PEG-8 Isostearate, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Natto Gum, Dextrin Palmitate, Glyceryl Behenate/Eicosadioate, Butylene Glycol, Water, Fragrance
This cleanser has a couple of questionable ingredients, first of being mineral oil. Mineral oil is colorless and odorless oil, a popular ingredient in skincare. It's inexpensive, a by-product of distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline. In cosmetics, mineral oil should be safe, stable, non-contaminated and non-toxic, but still many sites are full of scares of mineral oil. There has also been a lot of debate whether or not mineral oil is comedogenic aka clogs pores. To my knowledge, mineral oil isn't comedogenic - it just sits on the top of your skin without actually penetrating your skin or getting into the pores. Highly occlusive ingredients are good as they prevent water evaporation from the skin, but because of this nature it may still cause some people to break out. Mineral oil also has little other benefits to your skin: it doesn't provide any nutrients or antioxidants like other oils do.
I recommend patch testing if you are very sensitive to coconut derivative ingredients (Isopropyl Palmitate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride) or fragrance, although its very mild and at the bottom of the ingredients list. Coconut oil itself is listed as comedogenic, but its derivates are usually gentle emollients in skincare. If these raise a concern in you, I think there are plenty of alternatives in the market.
What makes the ingredients list special are the Korean medicinal ingredients: ginseng root extract, green tea leaf extract, camellia seed oil and natto. Ginseng is an "adaptogenic" herb, helping the body adapt in different environments and deal with stress. To my knowledge the amount of studies about ginseng in skincare are limited, but it's a popular ingredient in Asia to reduce the appearance of fine lines and brighten the skin. Effects of green tea are more widely known: its polyphenols are a great antioxidant with skin-soothing properties. Same can be said of camellia japonica aka camellia seed oil. And natto? Natto is fermented soy protein, surprisingly delicious (or disgusting, depending your taste). Natto is commonly eaten in Japan with breakfast and it looks like bean pieces in slimy, grey goo. But fermented ingredients show a potent as antioxidants in skincare, so I'm kind of excited of natto gum.
Personally I try to avoid mineral oil just because I think there are better, more nutrient-rich and natural ingredients. Same with pure coconut oil: I've been very prone to break outs in the past. With cleansers I'm not so fussy if they emulsify and don't need to be removed with a hot cloth. I haven't noticed any problem with Illi Cleansing Oil as it turns into a nice, milky emulsion when it contacts with water and rinses very clean, leaving the skin free of any oil residue, makeup, dirt and gunk. In my case this cleanser is perfectly safe to use, but if you know your skin doesn't agree with coconut derivates or mineral oil, proceed with caution or skip altogether.
Illi Total Aging Care Cleansing oil is a very pleasant, well-performing and fuss free cleansing oil. Personally I haven't had any trouble with the ingredients, but that being said - I'm dubious of the "Aging Care" name as all the herbal potency get washed down the drain within minutes. So, ignore the name altogether. I'm testing other cleansing oils, but I'm already planing to repurchase Illi sooner than later. While I'm very intrigued by herbal medicine in skincare, but above all I admire how effective and inexpensive this cleanser is. Hoping to try more from the brand soon, at least Illi's sheet masks are excellent!