Swanicoco is one of those Korean beauty brands that I remember desperately coveting when I first started to dip a toe into the Asian Beauty world. I’d read posts extolling the virtues of their products on the blogs of some of my greatest inspirations, Fiddy and Vanity Rex, and my curiosity immediately piqued. Enticed by the glowing reviews, polished packaging, and intriguing lists of ingredients, I immediately pounced on the opportunity to become a Swanicoco Swan and was utterly delighted to be accepted into the program. Kevin, the representative at Swanicoco I partnered with, was both helpful and patient in helping me build out a routine featuring their products. They were SUPER generous (THANK YOU!) with the amount of products they sent over so I’ll be spreading out the reviews a bit. First up:
Swanicoco Fermentation Care Serum
Aspergillus/Rice Ferment Filtrate, Human Oligopeptide-1, Tissue cultured Wild Ginseng Extract, Astaxanthin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Butylene Glycol, Caffeoyl Tripeptide-1, sh-Octapeptide-4, Nicotinoyl Tripeptide-1, Lactobacillus/Soybean Ferment Extract, Saccharomyces/Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Ferment Extract, Saccharomyces/Imperata Cylindrica Root Ferment Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ceramide 1, Saccharomyces/Asparagus Cochinchinensis Root/Lycium Chinense Root/Ophiopogon Japonicus Root/Panax Ginseng Root/Poria Cocos/Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Saccharomyces/Lycium Chinense Fruit/Rehmannia Glutinosa Root/Cuscuta Chinensis Fruit/Cistanche Deserticola/Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit/Chrysanthemum Morifolium Fruit/Poria Cocos/ Cinnamomum Cassia Ferment, Polysorbate 60, Allantoin, Carbomer, Hydrolyzed Elastin, Arginine, Magnolia Kobus Bark Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Rhus Semialata Gall Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Saccharomyces/Angelica Dahurica Root Ferment Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Adenosine, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Leaf Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Thujopsis Dolabrata BRANCH Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil
There’s oodles of ingredients packed into this serum and unfortunately a good portion of it is tricky to find good information on. Lots of ground to cover here, so I won’t be rehashing old stuff — if you’d like information on the ingredients in bold, it can be found in the Ingredient Glossary. Details on those in bold and green are provided below:
- Aspergillus/Rice Ferment Filtrate – Research on fermented ingredients is still in its early stages near as I can tell, but based on my research it seems that fermented rice is a potent source of flavonoids such as kaempferol, which can reduce tyrosinase activity and help with depigmentation. It also features polyphenolic compounds. Studies indicate that fermenting these ingredients increases the amount of antioxidant activity and phenolic acid content available. (source, source, source, source)
- Human Oligopeptide-1 – Otherwise known as “epidermal growth factor” or EGF, this is a somewhat controversial ingredient. Originally used clinically to treat wounds due to its ability to stimulate skin growth, further research indicates that EGF may also promote collagenase secretion (source, source). In theory this translates to anti-aging benefits, but wound care is a very different beast than treating and preventing wrinkles. In one study elevated levels of EGF were found in the plaque scales of patients with psoriasis (source) and one lawsuit brought against a skincare company alleges that human growth factors — such as EGF — can “alter the production of cells, including the ability to initiate cell division, which could stimulate growth of cancerous tumor cells.” (source) I take these complaints with as massive a grain of salt as I do the supposed benefits of EGF.
- Tissue cultured Wild Ginseng Extract – How can something be wild when it’s been derived from a culture, presumably in a lab? The world will never know. Ginseng has wound healing properties and it may stimulate collagen production (source).
- Astaxanthin – An antioxidant derived from plants and fish. (source)
- Caffeoyl Tripeptide-1 – A CIR Review notes that this ingredient has anti-acne and antioxidant benefits.
- sh-Octapeptide-4 – I think this is actually supposed to be “Caffeoyl sh-Octapeptide-4” but I’m hardly a cosmetic chemist, so who knows? I was able to find a little information about that ingredient, however, that indicates it has anti-inflammatory and anti-irritation properties. (source)
- Nicotinoyl Tripeptide-1 – According to the CIR Review published about various oligopeptides, this is primarily a chelating agent which may also have antioxidant and skin protecting functions.
- Lactobacillus/Soybean Ferment Extract – Cursory research shows that this ingredient may help with depigmentation (source) and two derivatives from a Korean fermented soybean paste demonstrated a further capacity for depigmentation (source).
- Saccharomyces/Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Ferment Extract and Saccharomyces/Imperata Cylindrica Root Ferment Extract and Saccharomyces/Asparagus Cochinchinensis Root/Lycium Chinense Root/Ophiopogon Japonicus Root/Panax Ginseng Root/Poria Cocos/Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Ferment Filtrate and Saccharomyces/Lycium Chinense Fruit/Rehmannia Glutinosa Root/Cuscuta Chinensis Fruit/Cistanche Deserticola/Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit/Chrysanthemum Morifolium Fruit/Poria Cocos/ Cinnamomum Cassia Ferment– Really tricky to find information on any of these related to skincare and I’m ashamed to say I was unable to locate anything concrete. For now, I’ll just say it’s some hanbang goodness. If anyone can find any sources as to their pros/cons I would be much obliged!
- Ceramide 1 – Ceramides are lipids that make up a fair portion of the outer layers of our skin — roughly 50%, in fact — and help the skin retain water (source, source). There are a variety of different ceramides, but ceramide 1 “[appears] to be crucial for proper lipid phase behavior…” (source)
- Magnolia Kobus Bark Extract – Like most of these obscure plant extracts, there isn’t a whole lot of research available on this ingredient. One study indicates that a methanol extract taken from the bark of the plant may have an anti-inflammatory effect. (source) Magnolia bark also has antibacterial properties. (source)
Not too shabby, wouldn’t you agree? I see some interesting ingredients — including a few I haven’t encountered before. As you might have gathered from the ingredients, this is a serum that aims to target a multitude of skin concerns: it brightens, treats wrinkles, soothes, and nourishes. That’s quite a lot of mileage out of one product! Can it possibly deliver on all these promises?
Well, no. Not entirely. But it gets pretty damn close.
I’m not sure this had any impact on the furrow lines on my forehead, but then again I don’t expect to see much progress on those outside of a few of skincare heavy hitters, so I wasn’t particularly disappointed by that development. What the Fermentation Care Serum does well, at least on my skin, is brightening and soothing. I used this serum as the sole brightening product in my routine for around two and a half weeks, and I was pleased to find that consistent application of this serum kept my face impressively clear and clarified. Sometimes I’d add in a couple of drops of facial oil at night as well, and I’d wake up looking downright luminous the next morning. Eventually I incorporated it into a more “complex” routine, but I found adding other brightening products didn’t improve my skin any further. The Fermentation Care Serum pretty much had it handled on its own, apparently.
This is a light, cloudy serum; it’s thick enough that it has some viscosity, but still thin enough that it’s easily spread and absorbed. That can be a finicky balance sometimes but I actually love how smooth and light it feels against my skin. On stingy days I’ll settle for a single pump, but in my opinion you really need two to get a proper amount of product. The serum has a delicate herbal scent, and it’s surprisingly pleasant and restrained compared to some of the other Swanicoco products I’ve tried, which sometimes smell overly fragranced to my nose. On freshly toned and prepped skin, this serum pretty much sinks in the moment you start to apply it. I just use my hands to lightly pat it in, and within 10-15 seconds I’m ready to move on to my next step.
The size of the packaging is somewhat deceptive. Swanicoco’s Fermentation Care Serum comes in a silvery plastic bottle with a convenient and hygienic airless pump, but despite the apparent height of the bottle it only contains 30ml of product. Not sure why they couldn’t have stored the serum in an appropriately sized vial rather than a fairly large plastic bottle, but I can’t really complain — I loves me an airless pump. I will say the quality of the packaging is top-notch. It looks and feels quite nice, and it looks convincingly shiny and metallic from a distance.
So, here’s the bad news: this serum isn’t cheap. My heart sort of instinctively seizes at the idea of spending more than $50 on a single item, and the Swanicoco Fermentation Care Serum clocks in at a wallet-pinching $58-62 on the various sites I checked. That’s a big ask for 30ml of product, in my humble opinion. That being said… I kind of hate myself, but I wouldn’t hesitate to repurchase this serum. I love the texture. I love the fragrance. I love the practical-yet-impractical packaging. More than that, however, I love the glow and clarity this brings to my skin. It’s not the most hydrating serum out there, but something in the ingredients — or some things, perhaps — absolutely agree with my complexion.
I’ll wait until this serum goes on sale before repurchasing, however. I honestly think it’s worth the tall asking price but I seriously can’t bring myself to cough up that much, even if I think it’s well-deserved.
Swanicoco The Bio Therapy 1st Essence
Bifida Ferment Lysate (99%), Butylene Glycol, Allantoin, Xanthan Gum
- Bifida Ferment Lysate – Lysate is a fluid containing lysed cells — cells that have undergone a process where their membrane has been broken down. Bifida ferment lysate is derived from Bifidobacterium, some species of which are used as a probiotic. Unfortunately there still isn’t much research available to provide evidence for its benefits for skin. One double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with sixty-six female volunteers did find that those who used a cream with the bifida lysate had a “significant decrease in skin sensitivity at the end of the treatment.” It was also found to enhance skin barrier function and improve skin dryness. A study was conducted roughly six months ago to further investigate the effects of bifidobacteria on the skin, if you’d enjoy some more light reading!
- Allantoin – For some odd reason I had a lot of trouble finding good sources for this, but allantoin is known to be a safe skin-soothing and conditioning ingredient. It may be derived from certain plants — I’ve seen it associated with comfrey in particular — and it is effective even at low concentrations.
As indicated by the percentages, this product is primarily fermented lysate. As a “first treatment essence”, otherwise known as an FTE, the Swanicoco Bio Therapy 1st Essence is supposed to be used early in your routine. I use mine just after cleansing, before toner, but it’s pretty flexible. FTEs are typically thin, watery liquids that contain a high amount of fermented ingredients — this is no exception. Housed in a ruby red acrylic (I think?) 100ml bottle with a reflective silvery cap, the essence has some intimidating heft, I have to say; I was surprised by how weighty and solid the packaging felt. Hardly a negative, although I would strongly advise against dropping the bottle on your foot like I did a few days back. The Bio Therapy 1st Essence survived the fall completely unscathed, but my poor toes were bruised, crushed, and humiliated.
Similar to other first essences I’ve tried in the past, the Bio Therapy 1st Essence is a lightweight, watery formula with no discernible fragrance. I’ve used first essences in the past that had a bit of thickness to them, but I didn’t find this to be particularly viscous. It looks and feels practically identical to water, with no greasiness or stickiness to the liquid. A few drops shaken into the palm of your hand is all it takes to apply a layer to your whole face, and I’m happy to report that it absorbs quickly and cleanly — no lingering residue, just mild hydration and softness.
Results-wise, however, I’m not sure this did much for me. It left my skin feeling hydrated and conditioned, but I would expect as much from any watery product. That, to me, is the bare minimum. After using this consistently for roughly a month I don’t think my skin looks any brighter or plumper than it did originally. That may have less to do with the product itself and more to do with my skin’s current health, which is pretty good overall. However, I’m not sure I’m convinced by FTEs in general. I’d love to see more solid research that supports their use, but based on my own experiences and what I’ve read, I guess I’m just not sold on their results. I’m always happy to add a hydrating step to my routine but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to purchase a separate FTE at this point, as I think there are other essences that deliver more bang for your buck. That isn’t a slight against this essence in particular, mind you. The Swanicoco Bio Therapy 1st Essence is a perfectly nice product, but at around $50 for a bottle I would not personally purchase it. However, if you love your FTEs and can’t get enough of them, then I can definitely see it being a worthwhile addition.