FSS (For Skin's Sake): The New Skin-loving Local Brand on the Block
If you follow my blog you know that I am very critical when it comes to skincare ingredients. I am always trying to learn my way around the names of ingredients and what ingredients complement each other and which ones are basically overkill when used together. I know I'm not alone on this one and the success of The Ordinary, a skincare brand by DECIEM focusing on basic skincare ingredients meant to be layered together to create a custom skincare regimen. While there are a lot of online stores selling The Ordinary at a reasonable price (albeit still with a markup), it is not readily available to everyone. Enter FSS or For Skin's Sake, a locally-based skincare brand by the guys behind Brite Indonesia (review for their teeth whitener and tongue cleaner coming up shortly). FSS is the middle ground between clinical and organic skincare. Their philosophy is that they use clean, organic ingredients but are still formulated clinically to ensure efficacy. Their serums are made in the USA and their cotton pads are made in Japan. The serums retail for IDR 200,000 for 30ml and the cotton pads for IDR 25,000 for 60 pads/box. They were kind enough to provide their full range of products for me to review, however, I have not been paid to say anything about the product so thoughts are still my own.
FSS' line consists of 3 serums, cotton pads, and most recently 3 face rollers. I was gifted the serums and cotton pad for me to try out. The 3 serums are called Hydrate, Refresh and Renew. Hydrate is your classic Hyaluronic Acid hydrating serum, Refresh is the Vitamin C serum, and Renew is a Retinol serum. These serums are meant to be used together as part of a skincare regime with Hydrate + Refresh used in the morning and Hydrate + Renew at night. They all come in protective amber glass bottles which ensures that the product stays protected from sunlight, which is especially key for Retinol and Vitamin C. The products are also made without parabens, dyes, and fragrance, and is not tested on animals. I have used each product for a little over three weeks now and have come up with a verdict. I will talk about the serums separately below.
Hyaluronic Acid is nothing new but what's great about this serum is that it also contains other ingredients such as Green Tea, MSM (MethylSulfonylMethane), Vitamin E, and Centella Asiatica (or Gotu Kola) extract. The texture of this serum is very runny and almost water-like, which also allows it to seep into the skin very quickly. The ingredient list looks really clean and doesn’t have a lot of the bad additives that are usually laden in these types of serums.
When applied, the serum absorbs almost immediately, leaving behind a sort of dry, tacky feel. I have been using hyaluronic acid serums for a while and have tried from various brands including The Ordinary, Hylamide, CosRx and Drunk Elephant. My two favourites, Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age and Drunk Elephant B-Hydra use Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymers as their main form of Hyaluronic Acid, which has a smaller molecular weight than Hyaluronic Acid and allows it to penetrate deeper into the skin. CosRx’s Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence uses a low molecular form of Hyaluronic Acid called Sodium Hyaluronate. FSS uses Botanical Hyaluronic Acid derived from the Indian Senna plant, which mimics the skin’s natural Hyaluronic Acid.
This one is by far the runniest and unfortunately the least plumping. I did not feel that it increased the hydration levels of my skin at all. In fact, my skin felt so dry from lack of the hydration I’m used to and took its toll on my skin texture. As much as I wanted this to work, it did the opposite for me. I have heard that other people are liking this so maybe it’s just because my skin is so dry despite living in such a humid country. It could also be that the Witch Hazel, with it being the second ingredient, was too harsh on my skin. I would suggest Hylamide’s SubQ Anti-Age (full review here) which hosts multiple forms of hyaluronic compounds and allows it to penetrate into several layers of the skin or the Drunk Elephant B-Hydra which has a lot of other great ingredients. If you’re in the hunt for just Hyaluronic Acid at a reasonable price, CosRx’s has also worked well for me.
Ingredients: Water, Witch Hazel, Botanical Hyaluronic Acid. Kosher Vegetable, Organic Aloe, MSM, Vitamin E, Organic Jojoba, Geranium Essential Oil, Organic Green Tea, Organic Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica), Horsetail Extract, Dandelion Extract, Wild Geranium Extract, Hydroxyethyl Ethylcellulose, Carrageenan Gum, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Ethylhexylglycerin.
Vitamin C is known to do amazing things to the skin, mainly to brighten and helps with dullness and hyperpigmentation. This makes it a perfect ingredient for people wanting dat glow. That said, Vitamin C, like most other antioxidants, is one of the most volatile cosmetic ingredients–it breaks down and loses efficacy very easily. FSS Refresh uses Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, which is a stable, water-soluble form of Vitamin C derivative. More common forms of Vitamin C include L-Ascorbic Acid and Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate. Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, while not backed with as much research as Ascorbic Acid, has been found to be one of the most–if not the most stable form of Vitamin C that stays effective throughout months of opening. You can read more about SAP here. As for my Vitamin C background, I have tried SAP from Oz Naturals Vitamin C Serum and The Ordinary’s Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA 2% (this one was a flop and I broke out terribly).
The texture of this serum is thick and more jelly-like compared to the other three. It absorbs easily and leaves a slightly tacky residue, but nothing annoying. I loved the way it made my skin feel, however, I did not see drastic improvements in my skin. The photoprotective (sun protection) effects are great but the skin-lightening (aka hyperpigmentation reducing) effects still require more research for this form of Vitamin C. That said, if you are like me and is sensitive to L-Ascorbic Acid (which has been found to cause acne and adverse effects on sensitive, reactive and acne-prone skin), this is a great serum to try! I will keep using this one even just for its photoprotective effects!
Side note, if you see the ingredients list below and freak out at the sight of Phenoxyethanol, maybe calm down a bit. It is not denatured alcohol like Ethanol or Benzyl Alcohol, it’s a naturally-occurring preservative found in Green Tea (though it can also be chemically created). Some people prefer to stay away from it but it is generally accepted as a gentler form of common preservative. For more info on alcohol, read my post about it here.
Ingredients: Water, Botanical Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin C, MSM, Organic Aloe, Vitamin E, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Gotu Kola, Horsetail Extract, Wild Geranium Extract, Dandelion Extract, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.
Retinol recently has gained a cult-following as THE anti-ageing ingredient that does it all. It is a form of Vitamin A that increases the amount of collagen in the skin, increasing cellular turnover and works as an antioxidant too. Retinol can help with fine lines and wrinkles, acne, and helps to reveal new skin. Retinol, like Vitamin C, also requires opaque, airless packaging. FSS got the opaque part right at least. Retinol is a type of product that you have to get used to overtime, much like a chemical exfoliant. I have been on Accutane before (under a derm’s supervision), which is a form of Vitamin A like Retinol, and have tried The Ordinary’s Advanced Retinoid 2%*, however, have not tried pure forms of Retinol.
FSS’s Renew contains 2.5% Retinol, which is quite high considering most other brands offer 1% or 2%. The texture is the middle ground between Hydrate and Refresh, meaning it has a viscous serum-like consistency. The product absorbs quickly despite Retinol being known as a stubborn ingredient when it comes to product absorption. This is where the Alcohol comes in, which I did not notice until recently. Alcohol breaks down the skin’s barrier and allows other ingredients to sink in. It sounds great at first but it can prove detrimental to skin health in the long run and can permanently damage the skin’s protective lipid barriers (read more here). I also happen to be sensitive to denatured alcohol (if you follow me you know this very well) and every time I use something that breaks me out, 9 times out of 10 the presence of denatured alcohol is the culprit. Unfortunately, this is one of those 9. I found myself breaking out pretty badly, to the point where my colleagues at work were asking why I was breaking out. I have since stopped using this product.
Throughout the use of this product, I did not see any significant improvements, however, that may also be because of my skin reacting badly. Sadly, I cannot recommend this product to anyone, even those with oily skin as alcohol can increase oil production and make your face even slicker.
Ingredients: Organic Aloe, Water, Organic Sunflower Oil, Botanical Hyaluronic Acid, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Organic Jojoba Oil, Shea Butter, Vitamin E, Vitamin B5, Retinol, Organic Green Tea, Propolis Extract, Organic Gotu Kola, Horsetail Extract, Wild Geranium Extract, Organic Dandelion Extract, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Pentylene Glycol, Alcohol, Lecithin, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.
These cotton pads are thin but strong. It is made from 100% Organic Cotton and is not made with artificial colouring. 1 box consists of 60 cotton rounds, which would last you about a month or so of daily use. I use cotton pads for both cleansing and toning, however I find that these cotton pads in particular are best for toning or depositing product. It does not hold enough product for me to remove makeup with (I usually use a bi-phase micellar water to remove my waterproof makeup), but works tremendously to apply toner or removing excess product after masking. It is gentle enough and doesn't irritate my skin. Overall, I would keep repurchasing and recommend these cotton pads as it is quite affordable, but I wouldn't use it for cleansing.