Sheet Mask in a Bottle: A K-Beauty Guru Breaks Down Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner
Few toners have garnered such praise and such devotion, but Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner lives up to all its accolades. From its lavish, bouncy texture to its instantly glossy effects, this toner offers in 10 seconds what a sheet mask infuses in 20 minutes. But what makes this toner so different from the others? Here, Jude Chao dissects this cult fave and posits her argument.
There are few skincare products I love quite as much as sheet masks. In 30 to 45 minutes, a good sheet mask suffuses my skin with lasting hydration, plumping it up, making it bouncy, bright, and resilient, and giving it that inner glow that can only come from the way the light interacts with water within the skin, not from any highlighter or foundation.
Unfortunately, there’s not always 30 to 45 minutes available to get the glow. So when I find a product that can approximate those results with a quick application (which is rare), I cling to it like a drowning sailor clings to a piece of driftwood, except with even more hydration.
One of those products is Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner.
In my original mini review of it on my blog, I said:
“As thick as a serum but in a much more generous bottle size, Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner spreads easily and sinks in quickly on my normal-to-sometimes-dry skin, leaving my face softer, smoother, and so engorged with hydration that it gains the dewy brightness typically associated with a good sheet mask session.”
That was back in December 2017, almost a year ago. Since then, I’ve finished my bottle, gone on to other toners, and kept thinking about the Earth’s Recipe. In tribute, I’m going to break down some of the ingredients that make it so special.
Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner ingredients:
Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, betaine, dipropylene glycol, piper methysticum leaf/root/stem extract, dioscorea japonica root extract, phellinus linteus extract, arctium lappa root extract, poria cocos sclerotium extract, epilobium angustifolium flower/leaf/stem extract, portulaca oleracea extract, pueraria thunbergiana root extract, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, paeonia lactiflora root extract, cnidium officinale root extract, lactobacillus/soybean ferment extract, amorphophallus konjac root extract, tremella fuciformis (mushroom) extract, soluble collagen, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, sodium hyaluronate, hydrogenated lecithin, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) oil, citrus limon (lemon) fruit oil, cymbopogon schoenanthus oil, citrus aurantium bergamia (bergamot) fruit oil, cymbopogon nardus (citronella) oil, geranium maculatum oil, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, polyquaternium-51, raffinose, 1,2-hexanediol, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, ethylhexylglycerin, cellulose gum, adenosine, disodium EDTA, glycosyl trehalose, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, biosaccharide gum-1, sodium polyacrylate, PVM/MA copolymer, panthenol, lecithin, xanthan gum, folic acid, ceramide 3, cholesterol, tromethamine, palmitoyl pentapeptide-4, phenoxyethanol
OK, we all know water. Water is everywhere, in cosmetics as in life. Water imparts moisture. Moisture is the essence of wetness, wetness is the essence of beauty, etc.
The thing is, water on its own is not skincare. Water evaporates. It needs other ingredients to bind it and hold it to skin. Otherwise, it’s not really good for anything except wetting and rinsing. That’s where the next few ingredients come in.
Butylene glycol, glycerin, betaine, dipropylene glycol
All humectants to a certain degree, though the two glycols are not great humectants and probably function here as solvents and texture enhancers, giving the Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner its pleasant slippy feeling on skin. The glycerin and betaine are where it’s at. Glycerin in particular is a fantastic humectant. Humectants are ingredients that hold water. In skincare, they hold it against skin, allowing skin to absorb the hydration over time instead of it evaporating into the air uselessly. Betaine is both a humectant and an anti-irritant.
Piper methysticum leaf/root/stem extract
This is an interesting and potentially risky ingredient. There’s not a ton of credible, non-woo research into the cosmetic use of Piper methysticum extract, and while it is a skin-conditioning (smoothing) agent, it can also be an irritant.
Piper methysticum is where my inquiry into the Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner took a twist. See, it wasn’t just the potentially sensitizing effects of the extract that caught my attention, but also the fact that, according to a safety report extract, Piper methysticum and other kava-related extracts are “used as skin-conditioning agents at concentrations from 0.0001% to 0.1%.”
Yeeeeeah. See the position of those decimal points?
Korean ingredient list regulations are different from u.S. ingredient list regulations, as my friend Tracy explained at Fanserviced-B. In the U.S., ingredients need to be listed in descending order of their concentration in the product as a whole, while in Korea, ingredients need to be listed in descending order unless they make up less than 1% of the product, after which point they “may be listed in any order after ingredients in concentrations exceeding 1%.”
Either way, what it looks like is that the Piper methysticum extract is in the product in tiny, tiny, tiny quantities, and so is everything after it.
That’s not to say that none of the herbal extracts or other ingredients present after Piper methysticum are pointless. In fact, some ingredients can be plenty potent even at concentrations of less than 1%. Nor does it mean that the product is inherently not worth it anymore. What it does mean, in my opinion, is a reevaluation of the value of the “basic” ingredients in the formulation, or any formulation, really.
There are 47 ingredients after Piper methysticum extract (by my count). It’s not possible to tell by looking exactly how much of anything is in any given product, but if we’re being generous and assume that every ingredient from Piper methysticum on down is present at 0.09%, we end up with 4.32% of the product that isn’t water, butylene glycol, glycerin, betaine, and dipropylene glycol. That’s at the upper limit of generous estimations, too.
Is Earth’s Recipe Energy Boosting Toner truly more special than other toners that are also primarily made up of water, butylene glycol, glycerin, betaine, and dipropylene glycol with maybe a few percent of combined herbal extracts and other “fun” and novel ingredients mixed in among the preservatives and fragrances?
Yes. It’s not necessarily the fanciness of the main ingredients that matters, but the overall formulation of them. Different proportions create different effects, and something about the proportions of the ingredients in this particular toner create particularly striking effects. It doesn’t matter to me that the more exciting sounding ingredients are present in lower quantities, as long as the product itself does the thing. A skincare product is more than the sum of its individual parts, and Earth’s Recipe got it right with this one.
Remember how I said I keep thinking about this toner? I think I’m going to get another bottle right now.