Lately I’ve been trying out the 10-step Korean regimen, using products that are not exclusively from South Korea, but which are highly-concentrated with scientifically-proven ingredients.
The History of Pearl Essence
The pearl essence mask is a relatively new advancement in western skin care. Pearl essence has been used in cosmetics since the 1600’s, at which time it was derived from certain fish (such as herring) to create a certain pearly, shimmery luster on the surface of the skin. Over time, it was found the best quality pearl essence for cosmetics could be obtained from cold-water fish, which have larger platelet-shaped crystals. However, in today’s beauty products, pearl essence is most often chemically created with large platelet-shaped crystals mimicking fish extracts from substances like mercuric chloride.
The Science (or Active Ingredients) Behind Pearl Extract
Pearl extract is most often touted in skin care masks as being “skin brightening” or “rich in vitamins.”
Pearl extract is skin brightening for two reasons. First, it contains light-reflecting crystals made of two purines, guanine and hypoxanthine (Cosmetics and Skin). The light reflecting and refracting aspects of these crystals produces a mother-of-pearl effect that leaves the skin looking brighter, almost “lit from within.” (Crystal Growth and Design).
Second, pearl extract brightens the skin because it is a natural source of trace amounts of calcium, antioxidants, and amino acids. While none of these ingredients instantaneously brightens the skin — that “instant” effect is from light reflection — these ingredients may help to strengthen and improve the texture, tone, and appearance of skin over time, making it appear more bright and even.
The short-term effects of pearl extract almost all appear to be cosmetic, but with regular use, pearl extract appears to have some benefit for the skin.
Personal Use and Opinions
When I used my pearl extract mask, I thought that my skin looked almost shockingly lighter and brighter. It appeared almost white. I was thinking there could be some sort of incredible instantaneous tyrosinase-blocking action going on, but when I checked into the science, it turns out my face just was reflecting a helluva lot more light than usual. Sure enough, without the bright lights of my bathroom shining down, my skin didn’t look any more even-toned or lighter-toned than usual.
How I Fit Pearl Essence Masks Into My Skin Care Routine
The 10-step regimen I’ve been using is:
- Oil-Based Cleanser — I’ve been using AmorePacific. Review to follow in the next few weeks or so.
- Foam-Based Cleanser — I’ve been using AmorePacific. Review to follow in the next few weeks or so.
- Exfoliator — I’ve been using Clinique Seven-Day Scrub Cream. Delicate, yet it works.
- Toner — I’ve been using Clinique Clarifying Lotion 3. It doesn’t upset my skin, but contains enough salicylic acid to cleanse the pores.
- Essence — SK-II all the way! I also like Caudalie Beauty Elixir, but this month, it’s been SK-II.
- Serums, Ampoules, and Boosters — I’ve been using FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Serum by day, and FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 by night. I also follow up with ERASA Serum during the day and MDSUN Wrinkle Smoothener at night.
- Mask — This is where I’ve been trading off between pearl essence masks, pomegranate masks (the ellagic acid in them has been shown in peer-reviewed studies to enhance UV protection), peptide-based masks, and sodium hyaluronate masks.
- Eye Cream — Peter Thomas Roth Power K by day; MD SUN by night.
- Moisturizer — I’ve been alternating between AminoGenesis Therapeutic Facial Repair and Philosophy Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Moisturizer.
- Sunscreen — I layer chemical sunscreen (Neutrogena Ultra Sheer SPF 100) underneath of physical sunscreen (currently Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection SPF 50+). I follow up with enough foundation to cover it all and keep it in place!
The Best Pearl Essence Mask
I actually like the Esfolio Pearl Essence Mask. Not only is the packaging super cute, but it’s a highly-saturated mask. The best masks generally are soaked with an entire bottle of serum, and I really felt that this one was, and it left my skin looking really brightened and more even-toned afterwards.
Pearl essence does a miraculous job at making the skin look more light and even-toned. However, these effects are nearly all purely cosmetic, as pearl essence is comprised of highly light-reflective and refractive particles, and the effect does wear off over the course of 4-6 hours with regular wear.
If you use a pearl essence mask over time, you will get mild skin-firming, hydrating, toning effects from relatively low doses of calcium, antioxidants, and amino acids.
So while I don’t consider pearl essence to be a must-have for anti-aging purposes, I do consider it to be a nice little trick to use before a big event, or even just for a confidence boost before date night or dinner out with friends.
Thoughts on pearl essence? Let me know in Comments below!
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