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Nice packaging, but…

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By Zsarlene B. Chua

Product ReviewExo Celestial Skincare

THE PHILIPPINE skincare industry is a fast-growing sector, with a 2022 GlobalData report predicting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7%, reaching P74.8 billion by 2026. With the growth of the skincare industry, new players keep popping up in the market, each touting new formulations that are perfect and tailored for the needs of the Filipino skin.

One of the new entrants in this segment is EXO Celestial, a brand that prides itself for being “the first and only skincare regime[n] and non-invasive treatment with microsurgical effect that combine the power of exosomes and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN)” said to be specifically for skin regeneration.

If you think that’s a mouthful for a skincare brand, yes, yes it is. But I digress, what exactly are exosomes and NMN? Exosomes are delivery systems that are said to stimulate cell growth and skin repair while NMNs are antioxidants that can “contribute to maintaining the vitality of the skin…and potentially helping to reduce the signs of aging.” (according to the EXO Celestial website).

With these two powerful ingredients, EXO Celestial created a four-step skincare regimen that includes an Anti-Pollution Amino Acid Cleansing Cream (100 ml), Advanced Nano Exosome Repairing Essence (30 ml), Nano Exosome Peptide Revival Cream (30 ml), and UV Expert Sunscreen SPF 30 (30 ml).

But the real question is, are they any good? I was provided the set to try out and have been using it in place of my regular routine — and before I go to the specifics of my experience, a few general observations about the brand.

First, the packaging looks premium with each product encased in silver packaging with the essence and cream in what I believe are airless pumps, which is appreciated as it means you’ll have less problems getting all the product out if you finish it. The packaging makes for a good vanity display, though I did notice that the labels did get worn out after the few weeks I’ve been using it. Plus, the box and the product are numbered so the user knows which one to use first — very helpful for those who are starting out on their skincare journey.

Second, I scoured the website and the social media profiles of the brand and I cannot for the life of me see how much the entire skincare regimen costs as it looks like it’s more of a direct selling kind of company rather than retail as it advertises buying five sets to get one for free and a personalized website, said to be worth P50,000 but no mention of the price of the set. It just asks that you register your interest in getting the set via the website and someone will contact you with the details.

Did that raise a few red flags? Yes. But questionable business practices, aside, I’m only here to review the product. Sadly, I won’t be able to judge whether it’s worth the money as I don’t know how much it is.

Third, the ingredients list is so long! I reckon it’s one of the longest I’ve seen in a while since some local brands have followed The Ordinary’s lead of focusing on just one active ingredient and keeping the ingredient list to only the necessities like water and stabilizers. For EXO Celestial, it seems like “more is more” as the cleansing cream has a whopping 43 ingredients (give or take one or two, I got dizzy counting). I wasn’t able to find exosomes but I did fine Nicotinamide around the middle of the ingredients list as Beta-Nicotinamide Ribose Monophosphate. It has a lot of plant-based ingredients like witch hazel water, butcher’s broom root extract (an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant), Gotu kola or just Centella Asiatica leaf extract (also an anti-inflammatory), Pot Marigold flower extract (also an anti-inflammatory), etc. and that’s just for the cleansing cream.

Moving on to the products themselves. While it’s touted to be usable for those with dry skin (like mine), the Anti-Pollution Amino Acid Cleansing Cream didn’t really work for me as Salicylic Acid and Mandelic Acid (BHA and AHA) or chemical exfoliants really dry out my skin. I only use these products once a week or so.

The cleansing cream has a good lather and good texture but it did leave my skin very tight and dry after, which I did not enjoy so after a few uses, I returned to my usual product or in this case, the Dermorepublic Face Wash with Niacinamide and Botanical Extracts.

After the cleanser, you’re instructed to use the Advanced Nano Exosome Repairing Essence. Essences are products that sit in the space between toners and serums in that they usually have a more liquid texture reminiscent of toners but with concentrated ingredients like serums. These products are perfect for people who want to keep their routines to the very basics.

EXO Celestial’s Essence also contains a ton of ingredients — I didn’t have the patience to count them all, but it also has Nicotinamide alongside Niacinamide which improves collagen production and skin barrier function. Out of all the products in this regimen, I liked the essence the most as using it after my Human Nature Nourishing Face Toner did give me that very hydrating base that I love. I did try it without the toner, but it didn’t hydrate my skin enough after becoming dried out by the cleansing cream.

Used with the Human Nature toner, it makes my skin soft. It has some emollient effect that keeps my skin from drying further, which I really enjoyed.

The Nano Exosome Peptide Revival Cream, which also has a dizzying number of ingredients, meanwhile, was an okay product. It contains the usual suspects — botanicals and nicotinamide, with added ceramide which is perfect for hydration and anti-aging, but it’s dead last on the ingredients list so its concentration might be very little. I did like the texture — it’s light, which is perfect for those with oily to combination skin, and it is hydrating. But it wasn’t enough for me — my skin sucked all that hydration and, while it left it less tight than when I started, it was still tight.

After a few days, I had to use it with beauty oils like the Human Nature Sunflower Oil to make it more hydrating.

Finally, the product I liked the least, the UV Expert Sunscreen SPF30. As an advocate for using sunscreen as part of your daily routine even if you plan on staying inside all day, I like my sunscreens to be at least SPF50 for better sun and UV protection. Second, it leaves a white cast on my face which I dislike greatly.

If you’re looking for good sun protection products, there are so many good local sunscreens to choose from, ranging from my holy grail Belo Essentials Tinted Sunscreen SPF50 for that perfect light makeup base to the gel-type Hello Glow 3-in-1 Lightweight Sun Care Gel SPF50+ for those who want untinted and very lightweight sun protection.

At the end of the day, the EXO essence stayed the longest in my routine while the others are sitting on my vanity as decoration.

Overall, this brand didn’t really work for me, and I believe there are other local skincare brands that will be more effective, transparent with their pricing, and have more targeted ingredients.

Zsarlene Chua is a former BusinessWorld reporter who is now a fledgling PR girl. She’s all about skincare, makeup, and video games. None of the products reviewed are the writer’s clients. Contact the author at zsarlene.chua@gmail.com.

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