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My Favorite K-Beauty Subscription Box Product Discoveries

Jessica Hapak
ByJessica HapakJun 15, 2021 | 14 comments

I have always been curious about trying new beauty products and trends, so I jumped at the chance to start reviewing K-Beauty subscription boxes when I first joined the MSA team years ago. Having tested and reviewed hundreds of products, sifting through the best beauty boxes out there, I’ve filtered through my past reviews to round up which products make the cut to be considered among my favorite K-Beauty discoveries thanks to subscription boxes. Let’s take a walk through some memories and dive in, shall we?

The Product: Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask

The Cost: $34.00

How I Found It: Bomibox – January 2020

This is a product I don’t use consistently in my routine right now, but I keep it on standby should my rosacea begin to flare up. It’s a thick, moisturizing sleeping mask (the texture is nothing like the famous Laneige Water Sleeping Mask), made with fermented yeast extract, shea butter, and three different derivatives of Cica (also known as Centella Asiatica). I’d noticed visible improvements in the redness in my cheeks when I used this each evening, and it was hydrating to my skin all night (if that sounds like a nightmare, you may be more of a fan of the water sleeping mask I was talking about earlier). I’ve completely emptied one full-size jar as well as multiple samples, and I have another full-size jar waiting in the wings for when my skin needs it. If you have oily skin, you probably won’t love this, but if you have inflamed sensitive skin that leans dry, this my top recommendation in the night cream category.

 

The Product: Thank You Farmer Sun Project Light Sun Essence

The Cost: $27.00

How I Found It: Soko Glam Glowing Away Travel Set – November 2019

Did you know that when I first started reviewing for MSA, I actually wasn’t a consistent sunscreen wearer? Boy, have times changed a lot, and I have no less than six open bottles of sunscreen open at any given time. If sunscreen is hard for you to wear because you hate the texture or white cast it leaves, then this may be the one for you. It has the word “essence” in the name for a reason; this is a super lightweight sunscreen that absorbs into my skin with ease (no five minutes of rubbing necessary with this one- it has SPF 50 as well as protection from UVA and UVB rays, and it’s formulated with aloe vera and lotus extract to be calming to your skin). I emptied this entire tube pretty fast (don’t forget to apply the proper amount of sunscreen! Check out this post for more details on the method I use), and it worked really well for me under makeup as well as on its own. Because of how much sunscreen I go through, I really don’t have the budget to be falling in love with sunscreens that cost fifty or even seventy-five dollars (Dermalogica, I’m looking at you). This one is under $30.00, which is still more expensive than what you’ll find at your local drug store, but I think the quality is absolutely worth it.

The Product: 2Sol Elixir Propolis Serum

The Cost: $26.49

How I Found It: Akoco Flawless Klean Starter Kit – October 2019

This serum can be a little tough to find, and I have no idea why it isn’t widely available and loved by the masses- I am that crazy about it. The formula contains 10% propolis extract, peptides, oat kernel extract, Centella Asiatica and its derivative, madecassoside, beta-glucan (a hydrating, free radical fighting, and soothing superstar), and hyaluronic acid. It’s alcohol-free, amazing on my sensitive skin, and adds hydration and a boost of nourishment without being heavy. It layers without piling, it helps to keep the redness in my cheeks at bay, and really just does it all. Out of all of the products on this list, I would classify this as the true hidden gem, and I am on my second bottle (that may not sound like a lot, but I review a lot of skincare through both my Instagram and subscription boxes, so it’s already impressive if I empty a bottle, let alone re-purchase).

The Product: Mediheal Warming Eye Mask

The Cost: $2.89

The Matchmaker: Pink Seoul – March 2020

That March Pink Seoul box actually wasn’t the *very* first time I’ve tried the Mediheal Warming Eye Masks, but it’s the only time I can actually remember what box it came from. The first time I tried these also happened to be the first time I’ve ever tried any type of warming eye mask. That was years ago, and while they have become a touch more widely available now, I am still loyal to this one. There are three potential variations- one is unscented, one smells like lavender, and one smells like grapefruit. My favorite is the lavender scent, but I love that they have an unscented version for those who are sensitive to scents- especially because these are a major gamechanger when I have a headache or migrane. The warming sensation feels so incredibly relaxing to my eye area, and wearing this really forces me to lay down and relax without any technology straining my eyes. Even if I don’t have a headache, I like to reach for these if I am having trouble falling asleep. On more than a handful of occasions, I slipped one of these on when I wasn’t able to sleep, and that’s the last thing I remember before waking up the next morning. By now, I have  purchased at least thirty of these masks (I went back through my emails to check the receipts and confirm), and I don’t ever want to be without them. If you carry tension in your face, if you stare at a screen all day, if you get headaches, or if you just want to relax… I strongly recommend these.

 

The Product: TONYMOLY x Moschino All of Gold Super Beam Eyeshadow Palette

The Cost: $33.00 at time of publication (when I received this in a subscription box, the price was $45.00 marked down from $71.00)

How I Found It: TONYMOLY Monthly Bundle – October 2019

It is really hard to find this eyeshadow palette available for sale anywhere; it was a limited edition project collaboration with Moschino, and I can testify that it was fantastic. I have at least 10 eyeshadow palettes in my drawer (probably more scattered around my apartment too), but this is one I will be clinging to until it is absolutely empty. The quality of these shadows are superb; in my initial review I said that these may be on the level of Natasha Denona or Pat McGrath, and now after using it for a few years I stand by this assertion. All of the colors have shimmer, the colors are pigmented, buildable, and blendable, and there is a good mix of pinks and neutrals that make this palette stand out a bit compared to the average palette you can find at Ulta or Sephora. My favorite shade is still that golden peach shimmer (the first shadow on the top row), and it looks amazing blended with other colors or worn on its own. If anyone can think of a dupe for this beautiful color, let me know in the comments- this is one of my favorite eyeshadow shades of all time.

 

The Product: Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Face Mask

The Cost: $49.00 for 70 ml (on sale for $24.50 at the time of publication)

How I Found It: Birchbox: The Masking Made Easy Kit

I know Glow Recipe is a pretty mainstream brand now, but they are still a K-Beauty brand too (perhaps the most well-known of them all?). Even though I am only 26, I still like to have a gentle retinol in my routine to help with my acne and to allow me to age gracefully (I really prefer that term compared to something that talks about fighting signs of aging). I don’t need prescription strength retinol, but I still want to have it. This night cream from Glow Recipe is just about perfect. I have dry, sensitive skin, and retinol is a drying ingredient that can be harsh on sensitive skin in certain forms. Here, the retinol used is the gentle encapsulated retinol (which means the retinol is slowly time-released), and it’s paired with our favorite superfood, avocado, for nourishment and a boost of antioxidants. I have emptied a mini jar of this (and a full-size jar of their Avocado Retinol Eye Cream), and I am working my way through another full-size jar too. I have never felt like this sleeping mask irritated my skin, and consistent retinol use definitely makes a difference in the amount of acne I get. I like to top this off with a hydrating face oil, but on those nights I was too sleepy to bother, this still didn’t dry me out the way many other retinol products would. The only thing that makes me concerned about this product is the fact that it is currently sold out on the Glow Recipe website (and all other retailers). I’m not saying I would cry if this was permanently discontinued, but I’m not saying I wouldn’t, either.

 

The Product: Then I Met You Calming Tide Gel Cream

The Cost: $42.00

How I Found It: Ipsy Glam Plus – April 2021

This product came in my personal Ipsy subscription, and boy am I thankful it did. I have been really curious about trying TIMY for a while- they’re pretty popular on Instagram, and their cleansing balm looks like a real treat. I never actually paid much attention to this cream until it arrived on my doorstep, but it was honestly love at first use. To start, the texture of this is fantastically unique- it is a thin gel with a serum consistency, which definitely isn’t what comes to mind when I think of a moisturizer. Those with oily skin will love how lightweight it is. And if you have dry, sensitive skin like me, then you’ll love using it as a serum under a heavier cream (or as a lightweight moisturizer under sunscreen). I have genuinely been using this at least once a day since receiving it (I love it in both my morning and evening routines), and I already have a backup ready because my current bottle is almost empty. The ingredients list is lovely- just to name my favorites, there are 3 different peptides (their signature tri-tide complex): madecassoside, ceramide NP (ceramides are naturally found in your skin’s moisture barrier and help to keep your skin healthy), and the do-it-all wonder that is niacinamide. This is the product on the list that I’ve had for the shortest length of time, but to me it will have my heart for many years to come.

 

Have you discovered any holy grail K-Beauty products through subscription boxes (or even through reading reviews on MSA)? Do you think there’s something missing that I should have included? If you’re wondering why there weren’t more sheet masks featured, don’t worry- I just couldn’t narrow the sheet masks down enough to fit here, but look out for my list of sheet masks I would repurchase (and I’ve tried hundreds!).


Ready to meet your beauty box matchmakers? Check out some of our readers’ favorites that hit all the marks.

Jessica Hapak
Jessica Hapak
I am a staunch believer that pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza and when I’m not working as a family law attorney I enjoy hiking the Louisiana trails (alligator sightings are a favorite!) or relaxing with Duchess, my cat. I’m a sucker for anything labeled a mystery box and I’ve never met a bath bomb I didn’t like.

Jessica Hapak
Jessica Hapak
I am a staunch believer that pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza and when I’m not working as a family law attorney I enjoy hiking the Louisiana trails (alligator sightings are a favorite!) or relaxing with Duchess, my cat. I’m a sucker for anything labeled a mystery box and I’ve never met a bath bomb I didn’t like.
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14 comments

Luna

Hi Jessica! Regarding the GR sleeping mask, I know it was steeply discounted (even at Sephora) for a while, and I think the rumor was that it might be because it was being discontinued. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure I have a full size of it in my stash (plus a few samples), so I’m grateful I can try it if it truly is being discontinued because I’m currently using the avocado eye sleeping mask and I LOVE it and I hope I love the face mask just as much (even if I won’t be able to replenish it in the future). 🙂

Catherine Mackay

Love this review, Jessica! Thanks for reminding me that I should definitely be more consistent with my sunscreen use 🥴
You’ve made me want to check out the Glow Recipe Retinol Mask and the Then I Met You Gel Cream, if only for the packaging 😍 I’ve yet to find a good retinol product for the start of my forehead wrinkles (I’m only nineteen), and to hear that it’s helped you with your acne as well is definitely tempting to me. And I might purchase the Gel Cream while I’m at it too, I’ve been into skincare for three years now and I still don’t have a holy grail moisturizer for my combination-oily skin!
You should definitely try the Then I Met You cleansing balm though; I absolutely love it! It makes me feel like I wouldn’t even need a second cleanse (don’t worry, I still do one), and the mango scent is absolutely amazing.
Keep up the great work! 🥰

Marion

I’ve repurchased full sizes of all of these:

I have become a Dr Jart+ fanatic, & it’s all thanks to Birchbox, lol. Their Ceramidin Cream & Ceramidin Liquid are on my permanent repurchase list. Their Sun Fluid is one of my favorite sunscreens. My holy grail daytime moisturizer was their Water Drop gel-cream hybrid, but that’s been discontinued. 😢

Also from Birchbox: IPKN Big Apple Sun Cream. With this stuff, I could skip the moisturizer step on rushed mornings & go straight to the sunscreen.

Ipsy introduced me to one of my favorite night moisturizers, the BRTC Jasmine Waterful Sleeping Mask. There’s more products in this line, & I want to try them once I clear out my product backlog!

Also from Ipsy: Hanhoo Blemish Patches — way cheaper than most brands’ hydrocolloid patches, & just as effective.

From a BoxyCharm pop-up sale: Touch in Sol Metallist Eye Shadow in Holo Mulberry. Such a gorgeous, GORGEOUS duochrome shadow that is very sparkly. The formula is a really cool hybrid semi-loose powder that almost has a creaminess to it (like L’Oréal Infallible shadows, but a little looser).

JoJoB

Marion I love that IPKN Big Apple sunscreen as well (and I also received it from Birchbox, I think you and I both commented to each other about this in a previous post! :)) but I was wondering since you mentioned you love Dr. Jart+ if you have ever tried the tinted BB Cream Dis-a-Pore or the tinted BB Beauty Cream SPF 40? I’m about to purchase one or the other but I can’t decide and would love your input if you have any experience with either one!

Marion

Hope you like it! That Ilia one’s on my Sephora wish list!

I got the Milk Sunshine Tint from a BoxyCharm sale & I’ve only used it a few times so far, but I’m liking it!

JoJoB

Thank you so much for the input! I just ordered the new(ish) Ilia tinted serum instead since you didn’t really love either of these. Crossing my fingers the color matches. 🙂

Marion

I believe I did not like the Dis-a-Pore formula, but I don’t remember why. 😬 (Usually the reasons I would dislike a base formula is if it clings to dry patches or pills upon application.)

The Beauty Balm in the gold tube was fine for me, but I never repurchased after trying it once because it doesn’t give me the amount of coverage I like, or a finish I like. (I prefer a matte finish… which I know is weird for someone into K-Beauty skincare, lol.) I know that this was a big favorite among MSA users a few years back, though.

JoJoB

I have never used that exact brand of warming eye mask (but I am about to order some now-they are adorable) but I do use the Megrhythm and Pop Mask Starry Eyes brands weekly and they are the same thing. The Megrhytm ones also come in the same scents you mentioned while the Starry Eyes are unscented. I feel the same way about these masks as you do about that propolis product above, I can’t for the life of me figure out why more people don’t know about and use these. They are the best thing I have ever discovered in a subscription box!

I cannot agree with you more about how amazing these are and I am never without them. In fact, I sometimes sell the stuff I won’t use from my subscription boxes on Mercari (I get 10 different boxes so obviously I sometimes have duplicates or things that just don’t interest me-I’m not a “reseller” in that I don’t purposely buy stuff to resale-just trying to purge) and whenever I make a sale I send one of the Starry Eye masks as a free gift with a little hand written thank you note explaining how they work. They have been total life changers for me and I tell anyone who will listen about them.

I use them for all of the reasons you mentioned but I also recently had a giant bug fly right into my eye on a walk through the park and I think these masks are the reason I made it through that ordeal! 🙂 And of course, just as you mentioned, in a world where we are all guilty of too much screen time either from necessity (computer screen at work) or overindulgence in our phones, laptops, etc., eye strain is real and no joke. These are beyond helpful for that not only in the relief they provide but also as you discussed in that they force you to take your eyes off the screen for a little while at least. As long as someone is making them I will never be without them! It was fun to see someone else loves them too!

Linda

Dear Klairs Midnight Blue Calming cream is my HG K-Beauty day cream. It contains Centella Asiatica Extract and Guaiazulene, is very calming, soothing and can help with after sun care, too. Would love to try the Laneige Cica sleeping mask in this review! 😊

Carol

Great reviews! That palette looks so good. I have the Moschino X Sephora palette that looks like a laptop and the shadows are very nice–I just always forget to use it because it is so big and I store it away from my other palettes. I definitely need to try that sleeping mask. I love heavier masks, especially in the winter (Innisfree Jeju Orchid is a good one).

I’ve tried a few K-Beauty sunscreens and currently use Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk (the one with the green top). I gave up trying new ones because they all make me shiny lol.

Jessica Hapak

Hi Carol! I am so excited you said that- I actually am working on a post where I roundup all of the sunscreens I recommend the most that I’ve tried through subscription boxes, and that Missha one is on the list! Be on the lookout for that post in the coming weeks 🙂

I haven’t tried the Innisfree Jeju Orchid cream, but now I want to! Thanks for reading 🙂

Snow

Great article, Jessica! Believe me, when I was in my twenties, sunscreen was the last thing on my mind. I don’t think I started consistently wearing it until my early thirties. Even now the “reapply every 2 hours” seems daunting and overkill. Aren’t we also supposed to cover every inch of our body with clothes and wear a big hat AND stay out of the sun between 10-2? Lol life needs to be enjoyed too!

I wish I had a list like this of my holy grails. Sometimes it’s hard to be impressed by products when you are dealing with the aftermath of severe acne and scarring. I could put 24 kt gold on my face and those dang scars are still going to be looking back at me. Appreciate the recommendations, though. Maybe one day (far far away) I’ll have my own list to share 😁

Jessica Hapak

Thanks for reading, Snow! I’ll be honest and say I am not very diligent about reapplying- my sunscreen habits are a work in progress 😉

As for acne scars, I totally know what you mean- when I was in my very early twenties I had a dermatologist call my cystic acne “severe,” and I was surprised because it wasn’t even as bad as it usually is on the day of the appointment. Some scars can only be helped through professional treatments, but I have seen a big reduction in the hyperpigmentation left behind by switching my exfoliating method to gentle formulas used more frequently (like the First Aid Beauty facial radiance pads or Boscia ACV Resurfacing Treatment Toner).

Snow

Thanks for the recommendations! I have been using a daily glycolic resurfacing pad each morning and honestly my skin isn’t that horrible (though aren’t we all a bit more harsh on ourselves than others? Sometimes I feel like I’m describing Freddy Krueger’s face than my own lol.) I do have to say, Jessica, that your skin has been looking extremely stellar lately. And I definitely want to try those eye masks now!! I hope more of these articles keep coming our way 🥰

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Our reviewers research, test, and recommend the best subscriptions and products independently; click to learn more about our editorial guidelines. We may receive commissions on purchases made through links on our site.