Pour Some Sugar On Me: Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum Review

01 Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum ReviewThe full name of the product is Black Sugar Perfect First Serum No. 1 Original (as opposed to No. 2 Fraud?).

>>Oct. 2016 Update: Skinfood discontinued this and in fact came out with a No. 2 version: 2X Essential for dry skin, reviewed here, and 2X Light for oily skin.  2X Essential is slightly reformulated and has a pH of 5 but is otherwise indistinguishable from the original, so everything in this post still applies.<<

It’s basically a first treatment essence that claims to exfoliate, brighten, fight wrinkles, and hydrate.  As with other “first essences,” I use this as a toner.  (Skinfood classifies this as a serum, not a toner, but its directions are to use immediately after cleansing.) I tested the pH to be between 4 and 5.  02 Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum ReviewThere are a few physical Skinfood stores in the U.S. now.  I picked up this Black Sugar Serum at one of the stores in Flushing.  (It was my consolation purchase after pH-testing a bunch of cleansers that turned out to be alkaline.)

My experience with first treatment essences is limited.  The only other one I’ve used regularly is the original version of the famed Missha First Treatment Essence.  Compared to the Missha, I prefer Black Sugar Serum. 03 Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum ReviewWhereas the Missha has always felt like applying water, the Skinfood’s texture is slightly thicker and has more instantly gratifying hydrating and soothing effects (important because my skin otherwise dries out while waiting to apply PocketDerm).  The Skinfood leaves a slightly sticky feeling (not nearly as sticky as Hada Labo Gokujyun though) and a residue–but in a good way, like it’s enveloping your skin in a veil of glowiness.  Of course any stickiness goes away when I apply the next step of skincare.

Oh and did I mention the delicious scent of boozy sugar?  I haven’t actually smelled black sugar, so maybe that’s just what black sugar smells like.  In any case, I love the light fragrance (it fades quickly).

07 Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum Claims
Whatever this says…Yes, please!

I wish I could say more about the exfoliating and brightening claims, but since I use stronger products than this for exfoliation and brightening, I can’t tell how much of a difference this product alone made.  To be clear, it could have helped since it contains ingredients with those potential effects.

I’ll note that it did nothing to reduce or prevent pimples despite the presence of salicylic acid.  Its concentration is likely too low to produce real results.  I can’t find the link now, but I recall Paula’s Choice saying that 0.5% is the highest OTC concentration for salicylic acid in Korea, so even assuming the max concentration, that’s quite low compared to the 2% routinely found in U.S. products (and which I already don’t respond to).

Update: Paula’s Choice explains on YouTube here (tee’d up to start at 18:20) that 0.5% salicylic acid/BHA is the maximum concentration allowed under Korean regulations, and that’s why Paula’s Choice sells some different formulations in Korea.

04 Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum ReviewSkinfood sells cotton pads intended to accompany the Black Sugar Serum that actually work very well.  The pads are sturdy with a textured side (to exfoliate) and a smooth side (to press the product into the skin).

I was bummed when I ran out of these, but the Serum does apply just as well with any old pad.  I actually sometimes drip it directly onto my face and smooth it on with my fingers if I don’t need the physical exfoliation of a cotton pad or if I want an extra dose of boozy black sugar goodness.  06 Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum Cotton Pads ReviewOn my box, there is a silver sticker with a different ingredients list than appears on the box. This could just be a matter of different labeling requirements in the U.S. vs. Korea.

What jumped out was that the original list (on the box) has black sugar extract–the star ingredient–as the 2nd ingredient whereas the U.S. list (the sticker) doesn’t, but it does have sucrose listed as the 10th ingredient.

U.S. Ingredient List
U.S. Ingredients List
Original Ingredients List
Original Ingredients List

I would repurchase. It’s a terrific hydrating toner and is pleasant to use.

Pros: Hydrates and soothes.  More instant gratification than Missha FTE.  Light boozy sugar scent.  Cotton pads are high quality.

Cons: “Active” ingredients could be in higher concentrations.

18 Replies to “Pour Some Sugar On Me: Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum Review”

    1. Ooh, the Booskin sounds even more moisturizing! Doesn’t it almost make you wish it were winter so you could try it on very dry skin? (Almost.) Looking forward to your thoughts on both.

      1. I wish it were winter so I would stop sweating so much, but that’s, like, a whole different set of complaints.

        I think I’ll do the Booskin first, because I noticed when I used the sample that it makes my skin just suck in everything after.

      2. Booskin also sounds more intensive, like a serum. Probably more noticeable results with that one. Incidentally, I sort of like this sweaty glow haha. Makes one look younger (or so I tell myself).

      3. Yeah, I’m sure I like super young when I’m standing at the checkout at Panda Express trying to subtly wipe the trickle off my cheek while paying for my damn box of ribs. Yes, this just happened 😣

  1. Missha’s FTE broke me out terribly, and then fell down on the floor and the bottle broke( thank God ahahaha), but I clearly remember I didn’t live the watery texture…I’m more into slightly thicker serums, that i can apply with hands! This Skinfood serum was on my wishlist already, even if I didn’t wanted to purchase it to cure my blemishes, but mostly because I’ve read other reviews where people said it was really moisturizing…I’m glad that you confirmed it! I think I’m slightly more convinced to buy it to be honest… but probably in the Winter *-*

    1. Sorry to hear that FTE broke you out. It was fate that intervened to smash the bottle! I hope you get on better with the Skinfood serum; it’s a nice basic addition to a routine.

  2. The Missha’s FTE broke me out too!!! I felt like a teenager again, but in a bad way 😦 I use it for a week and had to let go…. Now I am torn between getting the SkinFood serum or the Emprani Dear. Which are the differences between the two of them?

    1. I haven’t tried the Enprani, but Fifty Shades of Snail has tried both the Skinfood and Enprani. I swear I’ve asked her how they compare, but I can’t find where any more. I think maybe she said the Enprani is better at making other skincare sink in better? :/ Perhaps try asking her. 🙂

  3. Hi.. I feel like ordering one soon. After using this serum, is it still needed to apply toner and the usual serum/ essence? Or just directly emulsion? It’s a great review anyway! 😉

    1. You could skip toner and essence and go straight to emulsion or moisturizer. But for my particular skin, I like to apply more essences and ampoules for extra hydration and to address other skin concerns. Hope this helps 🙂

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