Although I might not be attuned to the latest wave of TikTok skin-care influencers (pardon me, skinfluencers), my interest was piqued when I heard about the arrival of a new skin-care line aimed at Generation Z. The latest brainchild of MBX, formerly known as Memebox, Otzi joins the ranks of other Korean-inspired beauty ventures, such as Kaja Beauty and I Dew Care, while pushing inclusivity to the forefront of its brand mission. In fact, Otzi (pronounced oat-zee) is a play on the Korean word 우리 meaning "us."
The brand is part of the Clean at Sephora program and pairs innovative Korean ingredients, like bamboo water and ginseng berry, with tried-and-true hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, without sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, and mineral oil. (This is also the measure for Allure's definition of clean beauty.) The clean beauty seal also signifies the products contain less than one percent synthetic fragrances and no undisclosed synthetic fragrances. For fans of fragrance-free products (and those with sensitive skin), it's worth noting that all of Otzi's products, except for C-Drip, have fragrance listed as their last ingredient. I don't mind because the clean, floral scent actually makes the application more enticing for me.
I don't adhere to a strictly clean beauty routine, but if certain products are likely to cause less sensitivity, then my face is a welcome testing ground. I tried all five of Otzi's debut products — a vitamin C serum, multi-acid serum, pore-focused wash-off mask, gel moisturizer, and cleanser — over the span of a few weeks to give you my honest thoughts.
Crystal Nova Makeup Removing Cleanser ($25)
In order to avoid the dreaded sensation of tight, stripped skin after a nightly double cleanse, the Crystal Nova Makeup Removing Cleanser is loaded with hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, and a blend of flowers (including chrysanthemum and Korean hibiscus) to soften skin and maintain hydration levels. I find that I break out considerably less when I stick to double cleansing and use this product as my second step — even if I'm not wearing makeup.
But on those rare nights when I forgo my beloved cleansing balm, this face wash alone gets the job done. It lathers beautifully without drying out my skin (a job claimed by my apartment's soul-sucking radiators). While it takes a little more rubbing than I'm used to, my Milk Makeup Kush Waterproof Mascara disappeared without a trace, as did my liquid eyeliner — consider me impressed.
Dough Therapy Pore Treatment Mask ($30)
The name Dough Therapy couldn't be more appropriate since this exfoliating kaolin clay mask has a playful, putty texture that's super easy to scoop out and it melts into skin as you rub it on. Soothing rice ceramides, calming oat, and brightening adlay (also known as pearl barley) ensure skin is properly moisturized as the mask sloughs away dead, dull skin.
After just five minutes (or 10, because I lose track of time as easily as I misplace hair ties), I wash the mask off and the pores on and around my nose — otherwise known as the bane of my skin-care existence — look a tad smaller, which I take as a win. (I'll also use this opportunity to remind you that you can't actually make your pores disappear altogether, sorry.)
Afterward, my skin feels baby-soft and ready to absorb my heavy-duty serums and creams. As my favorite product out of the lineup, it's no mystery why I look forward to slathering on this surprisingly lightweight mask twice a week to unclog my congested complexion.
C-Drip Brightening Serum ($35)
Unlike many vitamin C serums on the market, the C-Drip Brightening Serum doesn't have a strange smell or take far too long to absorb — it's just right. Recently, I've seen a slight increase in breakouts, so this faintly garden-scented formula feels wonderful with its watery, non-tacky texture that absorbs within seconds and leads to visible results.
I've been seeing my lingering dark spots fade little by little, thanks to brightening ethylated ascorbic acid (a highly stable form of vitamin C) and antioxidant-rich fruits, like ginseng berry, mulberry, and date seed.
Multi-Acid Drip AHA/PHA Resurfacing Serum ($35)
In case you're not privy to the wonders of polyhydroxy acids (known as PHAs), they're a godsend for sensitive skin. As New York City-based, board-certified dermatologist Patricia Wexler previously told Allure, PHAs have larger molecules that can't penetrate as deeply as those belonging to alpha and beta hydroxy acids — meaning less irritation.
I've been dealing with abnormally sensitive skin (hello, staying indoors all the time during a pandemic) and I'm convinced the addition of PHAs — 7 percent, to be exact — has done its part to help clear my skin over the past few weeks. Paired with 2.6 percent AHAs, 0.49 percent white willow bark (a natural salicylic acid derivative), and soothing centella asiatica, the Multi-Acid Drip Resurfacing Serum hasn't caused my skin to flare up with redness.
After all, I don't need to wake up to more problems. Don't take it from just me, though. Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, previously told Allure that "PHAs are an attractive option for those with dry skin as they are humectants, meaning they attract water and are ultimately moisturizing."
Hydro Crystal Lightweight Gel Moisturizer ($28)
Contrary to what I've read about wintertime skin care, heavier creams could be doing more harm than good when mask-wearing is in the picture. I don't go outside much at all, but I've experienced enough excessive moisture pooling underneath my mask to know I needed to swap my heavier creams for lighter formulations. "Oil can mix with the increased moisture under the masks forming a waxy substance in our pores that can lead to breakouts," Arash Akhavan, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, previously told Allure.
The refreshing Hydro Crystal Gel Lightweight Moisturizer leaves my skin looking dewy and plump without any hint of residue. I need only the tiniest dollop to cover my entire face and — after a light layer of sunscreen (like KraveBeauty's The Beet Shield) — I'm good to venture outside for a record-breaking grocery run. Just like the Crystal Nova Cleanser, it's spiked with hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, and a blend of floral extracts, making the two products a match made in skin-care heaven.
During the holiday break, I typically reassess my skin-care routine and figure out what's working and what needs to be adjusted. After a few weeks of thoughtful testing, it's safe to say that Otzi has become an integral part of my skin-care routine and plays nicely with my other favorites. Shop these newly debuted products for yourself at sephora.com for $25 to $35.
If you're not done with your Korean skin-care journey, keep reading:
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Originally Appeared on Allure