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May 22, 2020

YMMV for Me: Su:m37 (Yes, All of It) and the Centella Dilemma

If there’s one thing about skincare that you need to know by now, it’s that everything is YMMV — your mileage may vary. Here, Jude Chao talks about why a widely beloved beauty brand and hot new ingredient are not for her.


If you’ve been reading skincare blogs and reviews, you may have come across the concept of YMMV by now. YMMV stands for Your Mileage May Vary, and it is one of the most important principles to understand in skincare. Everyone’s skin is different, and the same product or ingredient may affect your skin differently than it affects another person’s. In fact, that’s why I prefer to write reviews in a descriptive, not prescriptive, style: explaining how a product works on me, rather than telling you how it will work on you.


Everyone’s skin has some individual quirks. Things it hates that others love, things others can’t live without that my skin definitely can. Here are two of mine.



su:m37 ymmv



Su:m37. All of it.


On paper, the higher-end hanbang brand Su:m37 sounds like it would be perfect for me. The brand blends fanciness with tradition, using fermentation to maximize the effects of its signature witch’s brew of about a million herbal extracts and packaging them in sleekly beautiful bottles and jars. The products I’ve tried have had lovely textures and enchanting fragrances.


Unfortunately, my face hates every Su:m37 product with a violent passion.


I’ve never seen anything like it, actually. Years back, I tried the Su:m37 White Award Bubble-De Mask. It left my skin rough, covered in tiny bumps, and sloughing off flakes of skin with every touch. This reaction persisted for days, until eventually my skin puked up whole handfuls of gritty little clogs and and finally returned to normal.



The unsuspecting author trying the Su:m37 White Award Bubble-De Mask.



At the time, I blamed my user error for the reaction. I must have used too much of the product, I reasoned, or not rinsed it off thoroughly enough.


So when I came into possession of a Su:m37 gift set a year or so later, I figured, time to give this gorgeous brand another chance! On my face went the most innocuous-seeming product in the set, a hydrating toner in the Water-full line.


Aaaaaand it happened again. Same thing. Rough, bumpy rash, with dramatic flake shedding making even makeup application impossible, persisting for several days after I discontinued use of the product and finally ending in an alarming purge of gritty little clogs.



The offenders. Instagram @sum37_official



Because I am a truly stubborn bastard, after that reaction subsided and my skin healed up, I tried AGAIN, this time with a moisturizing cream from that set. I feel like I don’t need to explain what happened. You can just read the paragraph immediately before this one to get the picture.


My skin cannot stand Su:m37. I finally admit this.


In most cases, if several products all caused the same reaction on my skin, I’d take some time to compare the ingredients lists and isolate any that could be the cause by looking at ingredients that are not found in other products I do like. Unfortunately, Su:m37 ingredients lists have the approximate word count of a 19th century serial novel. So to save my time, my sanity, and my skin, I’ve just sworn off the brand altogether.



Centella asiatica: Miracle soother for others, just OK for me


Centella asiatica is one of the trendier K-beauty ingredients of the last few years, along with its derivatives madecassoside and asiaticoside. Known for its “nourishing, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory” powers, it’s beloved by people like my fellow blogger and Beautytap editor Sheryll Donerson, who wrote about the ingredient and her favorite centella products for this site.





One of my ongoing skin goals is redness reduction. Mine isn’t particularly severe — just some mild red patches around my nose and mouth, generally from toothpaste — but the better I can keep it under control, the happier I am to go without foundation, and going without foundation is my favorite makeup step, because it saves both time and money. (My One True Shade Match is an Armani foundation, which isn’t the best thing for my wallet.)


In search of the most potent redness-reducing products around, I’ve tried my fair share of centella products. I’ve tried well-reviewed centella and madecassoside toners, essences, serums, masks, and creams. Some have been OK (I like Purito’s centella toner and serum more than most). But most have done next to nothing for my redness, and even the ones that worked all right haven’t worked as well as other ingredients for my skin.





For redness, my skin prefers ginseng. Several ginseng products I’ve tried, including my holy grail Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion, have evened out my skin tone so much that I wake up looking like I already have foundation on. I find propolis and snail more calming for acute irritation. And snail works better for me for maintaining skin resilience so that my face doesn’t get irritated or red as easily in the first place.



The lessons of YMMV


Will Su:m37 products make your face explode the way they explode mine? Probably not — plenty of people use and love their products without issues. Similarly, will Centella asiatica disappoint you as it has disappointed me? Probably not. Lots of people adore centella, including many other bloggers whose opinions I trust and respect.


Product reviews can only go so far. Ultimately, the lesson of YMMV is that you cannot know for sure what a product will (or won’t) do for your skin until you test it yourself. That’s part of the fun of skincare, at least for me: figuring out my skin’s quirks and preferences so that as time goes on, I get better and better at choosing products most likely to work for me.


The secondary lesson of YMMV is that patch testing is a really smart thing to do. When starting an unfamiliar product, especially if you’re just beginning to explore skincare, test it for at least a few days/nights on a small and inconspicuous patch of skin. That way, any reaction you have is limited in scope. That’ll put you in a better position than I was every time I did “full face patch testing” with Su:m37 products.





Jude writes as Fiddy Snails at the K-beauty and skincare blog Fifty Shades of Snail and can be found on Instagram @fiddysnails. Named the ELLE Malaysia Beauty Blogger of the Month for June/July 2017 and one of ELLE Magazine‘s 10 Cool Beauty Bloggers to Watch in 2018, Jude loves ginseng, snail, honey, propolis, and tuna fish kimbap, though she generally doesn’t put the kimbap on her face.




My skin always reacted to sunscreens that people would swear by. I found that a hydrating spf that’s non comedogenic and is allergy tested worked best!


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

She brings up some eye opening points. Red coloring in products is a nightmare for me while some people have no problems. Similarly papaya wreaks havoc on my skin while making others radiant. It all depends on your personal chemistry which I've wanted to delve more into, I've always chalked it up to sensitive vs non sensitive skin. But I see that there must be much than that to it. Test test test!


Love this article! Everyone's skin is different, and it's okay if something doesn't work for you! Each skincare routine has to be tailored to the individual!


This is so important to get out there. It is so easy to get hyped up about a new product you see on insta and just have to try it, and it HAS to work for you too. I know I've personally done this so many times, and when I've had products not work for me, I'd have a moment of, "I was had!" The best thing you can do is just get to know your skin, educate yourself on ingredients, and of course, ALWAYS PATCH TEST!📢 This can be a life saver for you!


When reading reviews and seeing new products, I always keep YMMV in the back of my mind before purchasing. Everyone's skin is so different and reacts to different things. One of the products that I can remember being just meh about is the sum37 rose cleansing stick... I thought it was just okay. The Dr Jart color correcting treatment broke me out while others absolutely loved it.


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Micellar water would be that product for me. I've tried it from many different brands and always without a doubt my under eyes will become red, scales, and flaky. Many people swear by it but it just isn't for me.


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I have the same problem with micellar water. I have found that getting a cotton round damp first before adding the micellar water works great. Keep your eyes closed and hold the cotton round on your closed eye for around 15 seconds. Keeping your eye closed, you gently sweep the cotton outwards. Do this a few times. I swear by it. Definitely dont scrub. When you finally get enough off your lids. Open your eyes, look up and wipe underneath them.

I had first heard of centella asiatica from Dr. Jart products, a brand I love! The smell and claims were promising but I also did not notice much difference despite converting to many products with anti-inflammatory ingredients/claims. 


My skin is so sensitive! I can never find the right sunscreen. I think that’s one of the reasons why my skin is so terrible, as I’m in the sun a lot of the time.


I think it's really easy to get caught up in the hype and price tag of a product, especially in the skincare and beauty industry. Like you said, paying attention to how YOUR skin reacts to certain things and making sure to sample products in respect to those differences is extremely important, but something I've noticed in your experience with Su:m37 is that "19th century serial novel" list of ingredients. I try to steer CLEAR of products like that. Most of the time products with that amount of ingredients are usually full of alcohols and other harsh chemicals that can... Read more


I can't use most sunscreens on my face. My skin isn't sensitive, but my eyes really are! Most sunscreens irritate my eyes if they're anywhere on my face even when I'm super careful not to get close to my eyes. I have no idea why that happens, but I have to be really careful about what sunscreens I use.


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Just curious to know what sunscreen you're using now. As a two-time skin cancer survivor (most recently melanoma - my article will be posted here soon) I always try as many SPF products as possible. Have you tried either of the Dr. Oracle sunblocks?