Whether you’re browsing Instagram or reading Reddit threads in the K-beauty corner of the internet, Isntree is a brand you can’t help noticing continually features in the recommendations from large influencers and everyday skincare enthusiasts alike. Known for their Hyaluronic Acid line, Isntree is a brand that has slowly grown to hold prominence for its transparent manufacturing and ingredient selection process, and simple yet effective formulations. And that’s not surprising considering the brand was born from a blogger who understood the importance of ingredients and industry standards. In today’s piece, we’re going to take a deep dive on this new brand to land at Kōsame, and why Isntree’s products have become a staple for so many skincare lovers.
Back in 2008, regulations for Korean skincare changed dramatically in consumers’ favour. The Korea Food and Drug Administration, KFDA, decided to implement the law that all cosmetics must list all ingredients within the formulas on the packaging. This is something we most definitely take for granted today, but back in 2008 and before that, there was a lot less transparency on formulations and manufacturing within K-beauty.
Jinwoo Kim became one of the first bloggers to write about cosmetic ingredients since this law was changed, and his blog IS SKIN became popular in educating consumers on which ingredients were beneficial and which may be harmful. He felt at the time that cosmetic companies focussed too heavily on marketing and not strongly enough on what was in their products. That’s how ISNTREE was born- he wanted to create a brand based on good ingredients. Kim believes his brand was able to grow “thanks to communication with customers and whole-hearted efforts to produce honest cosmetics dedicated to skin”. Isntree is centred on the idea of going further with quality and becoming a market leader to steer the industry away from marketing and towards wholesome, beneficial ingredients.
The brand name can be broken down as follows, quoted from their website:
ISland- a nature island that is pure and clean and not affected by pollution
Natural- use of pure raw materials from nature
TREE- a strong tree that bears good fruit and grows with our consumers
These ideas and concepts are quite typically Korean in the romantic way they describe their brand values and the clean, natural concept of an island setting, natural surroundings, and growth. Romanticism is a common theme throughout Korean modern pop culture, and Isntree is unique in its blend of scientific emphasis of ingredient selection and quality control, alongside the romantic ideas of nature.
The brand makes numerous promises to consumers, most notably that they will “always be honest and make reliable cosmetics products by actively heeding and applying all feedback”. This is an interesting promise and takes Isntree back to their roots and the fact that the CEO is a skincare blogger and consumer himself. It’s easy to see that his relationship with his readers has helped mould his responsive business model. He promises “all ingredients are 100% honestly labelled”. They are seeking to create trustworthy products that anyone can use, while steering away from excessive packaging or marketing that would detract from the value of the formulation.
The brand is cruelty free and does not engage in animal testing. Thankfully, we are seeing this more and more within K-beauty and I hope this continues. Isntree also strives to use eco-friendly, recyclable containers- another important change we see within the beauty sphere, where many brands are finally paying attention to environmental issues.
It’s unusual to see a section labelled “Manufacturing Process” on a brand website, but this certainly links back to the Isntree transparency promise. The importance of the quality of their raw materials shines through. Isntree even checks the small differences in the natural materials depending on when they’re harvested, to ensure they’re consistent for their purpose within the product. They practice small batch production to ensure the highest quality and they manufacture according to several global standardization certifications. Each product goes through two tests- a skin irritation test, to help ensure products are suitable for all skin types and ages, and a heavy metal test, to prevent the risk of contaminants within the products. Overall, Isntree have worked hard to cultivate a community of trust and transparency and that’s an exciting stance for a brand to take.
Product Line Up
Now that we’ve learned more about the story and values of the brand, I’d like to take a closer look at Isntree’s product range and why they have become so well-loved.
Hyaluronic Acid Line
The Isntree Hyaluronic Acid products are arguably some of their most popular, with regular features in favourite product lists and top-rated reviews, as well as winning multiple awards from both Korean and international beauty bodies.
First up is the Toner and the newer Toner Plus. The famous Toner, winner of multiple awards, contains three different molecular sizes of Hyaluronic Acid to penetrate and hydrate different layers of the skin, and the formula contains 50% Hyaluronic Acid in total. This main ingredient is popular for all skin types, as it can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in moisture and helps skin attract and retain the moisture it needs to prevent dehydration. Dehydrated skin can happen to all skin types and results in a dull complexion susceptible to premature ageing- something we definitely want to avoid! The Toner also contains soothing Aloe Leaf Extract and natural moisturising ingredients to help calm and protect the skin. The consistency of the formula is watery with just a slight slippery texture that glides over the skin and absorbs quickly. The product is fragrance free and skin is left feeling deeply hydrated and plumped, ready for next steps!
So, what is the Toner Plus?! It’s basically a more intense version of the Toner. Described as an “ampoule toner” by Isntree, the Toner Plus contains five different types of molecule size Hyaluronic Acid for fast absorption into the skin and more effective, dense, skin hydration. The texture is noticeably thicker than the regular Toner and the brand suggests this Toner Plus is more for those with dry, flaky skin who experience tightness in their skin. It’s become a personal go-to of mine over the past few weeks when I’ve been dealing with my regular winter dryness.
Next in the Hyaluronic line up is the Watery Essence, also a winner of several different beauty awards. Essence is a step to be applied between toner and moisturiser and is generally a more potent product for treating skin issues. Packaged in a beautiful glass dropper bottle, this essence takes the Hyaluronic Acid up a notch with 8 different types of different molecular sizes to fully hydrate the skin. The milky, serum-type liquid feels so calming on the skin and you can instantly notice the intense hydrating and moisturising. It takes a few minutes to absorb and skin is left plumped and healthy-looking.
The Hyaluronic collection finally includes two different moisturisers: Aqua Gel Cream and Moist Cream. Both contain five types of Hyaluronic Acid, but the textures of the creams differ and are aimed at different skin types. The Aqua Gel Cream is a much lighter cream with an “elastic moisture jelly texture” for oily and combination skin types. It absorbs quickly, hydrating and moisturising the skin without any sticky or heavy feeling. It has a refreshing feel to it and cools the skin, which is ideal for irritation or sensitivity. The Moist Cream is much more of traditional creamy moisturising texture and is aimed at normal to dry skin to fully hydrate and moisturise.
If you want to know more about Hyaluronic Acid and its benefits, be sure to check out our in-depth blog post on the ingredient here.
Green Tea Fresh Toner
Another toning solution from Isntree, this Green Tea Fresh Toner is slightly less well known than the Hyaluronic Acid toners, but really focuses in on the brand’s nature emphasis by using green tea from Jeju Island in Korea as the main ingredient. There are many famous places for green tea fields in Korea, but Isntree explains that Jeju produces the highest quality of green tea because of optimum rainfall and well drained fields. In fact, this toner formula contains 80% green tea extract (Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract) direct from Jeju, known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, soothing properties. It contains an abundance of other soothing ingredients too, including my personal favourite Centella Asiatica Extract, alongside Tannin, a natural astringent supposed to help remove excess sebum. The watery consistency can be patted into the skin and easily absorbed for daily care to help control excess sebum while hydrating and providing anti-inflammatory soothing. This is particularly recommended for those with oily or troubled skin.
Real Mugwort Clay Mask
Over the past couple of years, the ingredient Mugwort has become increasingly popular within Korean skincare and we see it frequently in the K-beauty space. As with many ingredients in K-beauty, Mugwort has historical significance in traditional herbal medicine and is known for its protective, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is still used today for those reasons and Isntree has created several products centred on the ingredient’s suitability for sensitive skin.
This Mugwort Mask comes in a handy tube and is a wash-off clay formula, with the purpose of exfoliating and soothing the skin while reducing excess sebum. It contains six different types of clay for sebum absorption along with mugwort leaf powder and bean powder for gentle exfoliation. It also contains several soothing extracts and hydrating ingredients to help prevent irritation or excessive drying. The mask is aimed at more oily, troubled skin however unlike many clay products, I personally I find it much less drying than a typical clay mask and it’s very usable for my normal-dry skin. The clay should be left on the skin for around 10 minutes, and rinsed off before it fully dries, to leave your face feeling soft and smooth. It noticeably absorbs excess sebum, and my skin is always softer and smoother to touch after using this mask. I love to follow with plenty of hydrating products (like the Hyaluronic line!) to immediately reinfuse moisture to my skin. Treatments like this should only be used around once a week to prevent irritation or drying, and always patch test if you have sensitive skin.
It’s clear that Isntree is not simply a brand looking to exploit trends or jump on gimmicks. The brand’s founder, from blogger to CEO, and founding story demonstrates the focus on the importance of quality ingredients and the commitment to formulas that work. Ingredients that serve purpose while maintaining cruelty free practices and working towards more eco-friendly packaging all make Isntree a brand to watch as they continue to expand their product range and work on innovative formulas. They have products for all skin types and their skincare formulas make a meaningful addition to any skincare line-up or routine! What’s your favourite Isntree product?
Katherine Spowart from www.skinfullofseoul.com