An in-depth review of Esfolio, a K-Beauty brand that won't break the bank

When I first saw Esfolio products a few years ago on BeautyMNL, I was intrigued. Like most other Korean skincare brands, they have products that highlight natural ingredients like aloe vera, coconut, green tea, and milk. Upon closer inspection, though, I was surprised to also find skincare favorites like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and collagen. Even more surprisingly, the products were priced very reasonably. They had a LOT of products, too, at over 80 variants! But since I like trying on products before buying, I found myself wishing these products were available not just online but in physical stores, as well.

Christian Gothong, managing director at SVAN Cosmetics, with Nikki Tiu of askmewhats.com

Christian Gothong, managing director at SVAN Cosmetics, with Nikki Tiu of askmewhats.com

So I was so happy to learn that Esfolio Philippines is now available in multiple locations nationwide, as well as online! You can now shop Esfolio skincare products at their official stores in Shopee and Lazada, aside from BeautyMNL. They’re also available at Watsons, Landmark, Puregold, Gaisano Malls, Three Sixty Pharmacies in Visayas, and KCC Malls in Mindanao!

During the launch event, we met Christian Gothong, managing director of SVAN Cosmetics (local distributor of Esfolio). He shared about his K-Beauty shopping experience as a student in Korea, and how he liked having so many quality choices that fit his student budget. He wanted to bring that experience home to the Philippines, and Esfolio was one of the brands to make that happen. Although their products are affordable, Esfolio uses high-quality ingredients and processes: their products are ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 accredited!

A quick glance at Esfolio products made me recall Tellie’s article on generational K-Beauty. The cute images on the sheet masks, bright colors, and affordable pricing puts Esfolio under the 10대 brands category. I’m glad that these are marketed to the younger crowd, especially as it offers reliable options versus cheaper products that turn out to be fakes. For that, I am grateful that like Esfolio provide quality alternatives that won’t break the bank!

Convinced to give Esfolio a try? The main challenge is choosing which ones to get! Chris shared that their bestsellers are the Collagen Essence Mask Sheet (P55 each), Aloe Vera Moisture Soothing Gel 100% (P349 for 300ml), and Pure Snail Moisture Soothing Gel 95% (P349 for 300ml).

Collagen Essence Mask, Aloe Vera Soothing Gel, Herb Cleansing Foam, and Egg Cleansing Foam

Collagen Essence Mask, Aloe Vera Soothing Gel, Herb Cleansing Foam, and Egg Cleansing Foam

The Collagen Essence Sheet Mask claims to nourish and strengthen skin with pig collagen in the form of Hydrolyzed Collagen. It also contains a couple of fruit and root extracts known to increase skin elasticity. I also liked that it contained Sodium Hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid that is easily absorbed by the skin. The only thing I didn’t like is the strong floral scent, which may or may not bother you. It also contains denatured alcohol, which might be a deal-breaker for those with sensitive or dry skin. Otherwise, I found my skin feeling plump and moisturized after use, much like my experience with most other sheet masks.

Esfolio Collagen Essence Mask Sheet ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Hydrolyzed Collagen, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Chaenomeles Sinensis Fruit Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Butylene Glycol, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Propylene Glycol, Betaine, Ethylhexylglycerin, Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Fragrance

Aloe Vera Moisture Soothing Gel 100% (P349 for 300ml)

Aloe Vera Moisture Soothing Gel 100% (P349 for 300ml)

Esfolio’s Aloe Vera Moisture Soothing Gel 100% could have been a formidable contender in my Aloe Vera Gel Battle, had I been able to try it back then. I was initially confused to see the lengthy ingredients list, as it was clearly stated on the label that it was 100% Aloe Vera Gel. Chris kindly explained that it wasn’t to be taken literally; it was 100% in the sense that it had superior ingredients and formulation compared to other aloe soothing gels. I did appreciate the addition of green tea extract, which can help find skin stressors as it is rich in antioxidants. It also has Sodium Hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid that effectively hydrates skin. It may be pricier than other soothing gels, but still is affordable even with the addition of these skin-caring actives. I also like that they were straightforward with the use of aloe leaf juice powder at 0.5% of the formula, as 200 times concentrated powder. Apart from that, it looks, smells, and feels like other soothing gels I’ve tried. Its alcohol content makes me hesitant to use this on my face, but I am comfortable using it on the rest of my body. It feels soothing, cooling, and moisturizing, with a little bit of tackiness until it completely dries.

Esfolio Aloe Vera Moisture Soothing Gel 100% ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Propylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder (As 200 Times Concentrated Powder, 0.5%), Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polyglutamic acid, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Butylene Glycol, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance.

Pure Snail Moisture Soothing Gel 95% (P349 for 300ml)

Pure Snail Moisture Soothing Gel 95% (P349 for 300ml)

For some reason, my skin just LOVES skincare products with snail secretion. Unlike other lab-tested actives, it doesn’t have measured results but my sensitive skin feels soothed, nourished, and healed right after use! For this reason, I was excited to give Esfolio’s Pure Snail Moisture Soothing Gel a try. Unlike most other soothing gels (including their own aloe vera gel), this one doesn’t contain alcohol. Plus, it contains Aloe Vera Leaf Extract, Green Tea Extract, and even Hydrolyzed Collagen! It’s not fragrance-free but my skin luckily didn’t have any bad reactions when I used it as a moisturizer. Applied thinly, it sinks pretty easily into the skin. My skin felt comfortably hydrated without the heavy feel. However, when I tried to use it as a sleeping pack by applying a thicker layer, I was let down. Rather than gradually sinking into the skin, it pills into tacky little balls. I’m really glad I’d found a snail soothing gel that works well as a moisturizer, but advise against using this as a sleeping pack.

Esfolio Pure Snail Moisture Soothing Gel 95% ingredients: Snail Secretion Filtrate, Glycerin, Water, Butylene Glycol, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Trehalose, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance, CI 19140, CI 17200

Nutri Snail Daily Skin Care Products: Soothing Mist (P399 for 150ml), Eye Cream (P440 for 60ml), and Toner (P399 for 150ml)

Nutri Snail Daily Skin Care Products: Soothing Mist (P399 for 150ml), Eye Cream (P440 for 60ml), and Toner (P399 for 150ml)

Speaking of snail, Esfolio also has an entire skin care line based on it! I was able to try three other snail-y products: the Nutri Snail Daily Toner (P799 for 270ml), Nutri Snail Daily Eye Cream (P449 for 60ml), and Nutri Snail Daily Soothing Mist (P399 for 150ml). These might seem pricier than other basic K-Beauty products out there, but if you look at the price per ml, you definitely get bang for your buck. The toner contains more than a regular Coke bottle, and that eye cream tube contains twice the amount of some full-size moisturizers I own.

The Nutri Snail Daily Toner has a pleasing texture. It’s thicker than most toners, I had to double-check the label to see if I had mistakenly picked up an essence. While it has a lot of ingredients I like (snail secretion filtrate, milk protein extract, aloe vera extract, and algae extracts), alcohol is listed third in the ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised that it absorbed quickly into the back of my hand, and the fragrance becomes faint after application.

Esfolio Nutri Snail Daily Toner ingredients: Water, Propanediol, Alcohol, Glycerin, Diglycerin, Snail Secretion Filtrate, Milk Protein Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Caulerpa Lentillifera Extract, Codium Fragile Extract, Butylene Glycol, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sucrose Palmitate, Polyglyceryl-10 Oleate, Diphenyl Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Glyceryl Caprylate, Carbomer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tromethamine, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Disodium EDTA, Chlorphensin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance

The eye cream was my favorite among the three. I like that it came in a tube with a narrow tip, making it travel-friendly, hygienic, and easy to apply. A quick glance through the ingredients list made me think this would be a very moisturizing cream formula as it has squalene and coconut oil in the mix. It’s also alcohol-free (Cetearyl Alcohol is one of the good alcohols). It has all the “natural” components of the toner, but contains additional anti-aging actives like Adenosine and Tocopheryl Acetate or vitamin E. I can’t believe an eye cream with an ingredients list like this sells for less than P500! It does feel a bit heavy on the skin, so this would work best for those with dry or dehydrated undereye areas. I feel like those with dry skin could even use this all over as a moisturizer. This would make a great addition to a travel skin care kit en route to countries with colder climates.

Esfolio Nutri Snail Daily Eye Cream ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Squalane, Cyclomethicone, Coconut Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Betaine, Snail Secretion Filtrate, Milk Protein Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract,  Codium Fragile Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Stearic Acid, Adenosine, Glyceryl Stearate, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Carbomer, Arginine, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlorphenesin, Fragrance

Even though I spotted alcohol on the Soothing Mist ingredients list, I was still excited to try it as a setting or fixing spray. I mostly feel confident to use setting sprays with alcohol, given that it goes on to my skin as a thin veil, over layers of skincare and makeup products. Still, this one sadly gave my skin a bad reaction and I had to immediately wash off everything off my face, including my carefully applied makeup.

Esfolio Nutri Snail Daily Soothing Mist ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Alcohol, Propanediol, Dipropylene Glycol, Snail Secretion Filtrate, Milk Protein Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Codium Fragile Extract, Butylene Glycol, Polysorbate 80, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexlyglycerin, Chlorphenesin, Fragrance

Even though I reviewed a total of six products for this article, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what this K-Beauty brand has to offer. It has SO. MUCH. MORE. PRODUCTS to try! Stacie reviewed their cleansing foams, peeling gels, and sheet masks in a separate article so make sure to check that out as well.

Stay tuned to more Esfolio news by liking their Facebook page and following them on Instagram.

Photography by Nicole Quindara