Skin health is paramount where Korean beauty is concerned, and typically, a skincare routine rooted in the country's approach to tradition will feature 10 steps: from cleansers and essences to serums and moisturizers. So you can imagine the intrigue of a brand-new (not to mention gender-neutral) skincare line that boasts skin-loving K-beauty inspiration, with a straightforward three-step regimen.
Enter Panacea—a minimal skincare line featuring a Daily Facial Cleanser, Daily Facial Moisturizer, and Daily Facial SPF. And no, you're not missing anything. The three-product set (known as The Aegis Kit, $74) is intentionally designed to combine the extensive benefits of all 10 products found in a traditional Korean skincare routine into a focused regimen of just three products. (Though co-founder Terry Lee exclusively told us the brand may expand its product offering in the future.)
According to the brand's pillars, each of the Panacea products is designed to cleanse, replenish, and protect with the hope of delving deeper into the concept of ritual and routine, all while inspiring the consumer to bring intention and awareness to their morning cleansing regimen. The goal is "balanced skin as a means of achieving a balanced life."
And naturally, the brand's name mirrors that intention. Lee explains the word "panacea" is defined as a “cure-all.” Thus, the seamless three-step system aims to incorporate "thoughtful, good-for-you ingredients" designed to modernize and focus a haphazard skincare routine.
In an industry admittedly saturated with product upon product, Panacea has managed to find a bit of a niche by creating a product line that's not only meant to benefit all skin types but each gender, as well. So where does the Korean-inspiration lie if the brand considers itself an abbreviated (albeit more intentional) alternative? According to Lee, it comes down to the ingredients, formulation, and production.
Growing up, Lee would visit Korea and observe his mother and extended family members adhere to a rigorous 10-step skincare routine. His thought Why not maintain all of the same benefits which are steeped in tradition, but transform it to be more user-friendly?
"We worked with one of the top skincare manufacturers in Korea to develop our products, and our manufacturer sources the best raw materials and ingredients from all over the world to ensure top-tier product quality," Lee tells us. Additionally, Lee put a great amount of importance on working with Korean labs—and some of the best Korean skincare experts—with the goal of ingratiating their advanced formulas: "We tested multiple textures before coming across and fine-tuning the one we knew was going to be a winner in the U.S. market. We also wanted to make sure that the application method didn't affect the efficacy of our product. For instance, you don't need a special applicator or gesture for the product to work, simply apply an appropriate amount all over the face as uniformly as possible, and you'll see results. We worked with one of the top skincare manufacturers in Korea to develop our products, and our manufacturer sources the best raw materials and ingredients from all over the world to ensure top-tier product quality," Lee tells us.
Spoiler: This sulfate-free cleanser was admittedly our favorite product in Panacea's three-step kit. Thanks to gentle yet hydrating cleansing agents (derived from coconut oil), its light and addictive lather helps rid pores of impurities while preventing stripping and dehydration. Plus, we appreciated the scent, which is virtually undetectable, and how after just one wash our skin felt toned, not parched.
Equipped with algae extract (which is sourced directly from Japan) daily morning and night use will help brighten, smooth, and soften the skin over time. Other ingredients include the brand's Moisture Shield Complex (a mix of three hydrating and plumping ingredients: hyaluronic acid, methylpropanediol, and glycerin) plus antioxidants aplenty from the likes of green tea extract, gotu kola, and fig extract.
Multi-purpose in the formulation, this a.m. and p.m. moisturizer is lightweight in texture (it absorbs so fast!) and is intended to restore the skin's moisture balance. In all honesty, we were wary when we noticed alcohol was one of the first ingredients listed on the label (because, well, dryness), but were slightly appeased by how soft and supple our skin felt post-application. The rest of the ingredients list boasts skin-loving ingredients like vitamin E, Laminaria Japonica (a type of Japanese seaweed), fig extract, and shea butter.
Last, but certainly not least, SPF. Featuring an ample dose of sun protection with an SPF of 25, this non-greasy formula surprisingly looked great underneath our makeup (we're haunted by a history of ashy tinges past) and admired how light and whipped it felt in texture, most likely due to it being a chemical sunscreen. Though Lee (and the brand's website) claims the scent is virtually undetectable, we'd beg to differ. In fact, we noticed it right away. However, the scent soon fades and overall, we were duly impressed with the texture and skin-beneficial ingredients.