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Shortcut to Translucence: The Magic of My Favorite Naruko Products

Shortcut to Translucence: The Magic of My Favorite Naruko Products

I’ve been reviewing skincare for what feels like a long, long time now. On my blog since early 2015, but for something like a year before that exclusively and extensively on Reddit. In that time, I’ve developed pronounced preferences for certain brands, due to things they do to my skin that other brands don’t. Naruko is one of those brands.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that my favorite Naruko products all share one result in common: they consistently deliver translucent effect to my skin. From the Narcissus Repairing Sheet Mask and Face Renewal Miracle Essence to the Raw Job’s Tears Pore & Brightening Essence, they give my skin an unmistakable clarity that I always miss when it’s gone. I wanted to get an idea of exactly why these products might have that effect on me, so I dug into the ingredients to find out what they had in common. 

The Star Ingredients

Considering the length of some of the ingredients lists, this would have been an overwhelming task. Luckily, my friend Chris, creator of the Skincare Routine app, jumped into action, creating a quick tool for identifying common ingredients among products. I entered the ingredients from the three products I wanted to analyze; it spat out a list of matches and potential matches. From there, I eliminated commonplace ingredients like water, humectants, and preservatives, then did a quick search of the remaining matches to isolate the ones that seemed most likely to contribute a skin tone clarifying effect.

Considering the brand’s emphasis on botanical extract complexes, it wasn’t surprising that most of the matches turned out to be extracts. This does make finding a definitive answer harder—as I’ve said before, extracts in skincare require a certain leap of faith. There simply isn’t much scientifically sound, unbiased (non-corporate) research into the effects of various botanical ingredients on skin. Too many extracts, too little research money or academic interest. Still, that doesn’t mean none of them work. It just means the evidence isn’t nearly as definitive as it is for the very limited list of actives that have been extensively studied.

Most of the extracts included in all the three of the products I analyzed are known primarily for antioxidant or anti-inflammatory effects. Four out of the list, however, showed more promise for the effects I notice in my skin.

Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract

Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract has long been one of my favorite skincare extracts, and for good reason: It's believed to inhibit melanin formation, disperse existing melanin, and fight inflammation, making it one of the most promising natural brightening agents--a small study showed that it "produced excellent results in 16 out of 20 Egyptian women with epidermal melasma." It’s an ingredient we use in Holy Snails Shark Sauce and Sauce du Mois products—unlike many other proven brighteners, like AHAs and retinoids, licorice root extract is gentle and generally non-irritating.

Scutellaria Alpina Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract

Native to central and southern Europe and Russia, scutellaria alpine (alpine skullcap) is a type of mint with pretty purple flowers. Research for this ingredient is unfortunately limited, but even the very conservative Paula’s Choice Beautypedia concedes that there is some evidence for “its promising ability to interrupt the creation and transfer of excess pigment” and further noted that animal testing suggests a standardized scutellaria alpina extract is not sensitizing or irritating, even on compromised skin. I’ll admit that while I’ve seen this extract in products before, I’ve never paid much attention to it until now, simply because it isn’t as well known as licorice.

Tremella Fuciformis Extract

Tremella fuciformis, an edible fungus popular in China, also appears in a variety of skincare products. Brands attribute a variety of effects to the extract, ranging from increased hydration to anti-wrinkle benefits. Interestingly, the results of a 2016 Korean study suggest that tremella fuciformis extract significantly decreases existing melanin content and helps inhibit new melanin formation.

Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract

Now we’re getting out of the pigmentation-lightening arena and into ingredients that may have more indirect, but still visible, effects on skin tone and translucence. Chamomile is one of the most recognizable medicinal herbs out there, and you’ll find it in plenty of skincare products. It’s typically used for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, but what I find promising for my purposes here is the suggestion that it may also help repair photodamage. Pigmentation darkening is usually a response to inflammation and/or photodamage. An extract that can address both effectively would be an asset to any brightening product.

It’s important to note, of course, that these are only a few of the ingredients shared by all the products I mentioned at the beginning of this article. I chose to focus on these because they appear the most likely to affect pigmentation in the way that I’ve noticed happening on my skin, but ultimately, it’s impossible to say whether these are the true heroes in Naruko’s formulations. Plenty of other products contain these extracts without producing similar effects.

All the products I’ll list below also contain a bevy of other antioxidant plant extracts. Interestingly, antioxidants themselves may help minimize the development of excess pigmentation by preventing the oxidation of melanin in skin.

Cosmetic formulation can be a mystery. What isn’t a mystery to me, on the other hand, is which products produce results. Below are the three that consistently do it for me!

The Star Products

Naruko has been around for a long time and offers a staggering variety of lines and products. I’ve tried many, ranging from their simple and basic Dermalane 1000 Molecules line for hydration all the way to their prestige La Crème luxury anti-aging line. Of all the products I’ve used from the brand, the three below stand out as ones I go back to over and over.

The Sheet Mask: Naruko Narcissus Repairing Sheet Mask

Don’t ask me how many boxes of these I’ve gone through since I first fell in love with them back in 2016, because it’s a lot, and going through my beauty purchase history gives me palpitations. Just know that of the probably hundreds of different sheet masks I’ve used in my time as a beauty blogger, these are in my top 10.

The reason? They make my skin look absolutely incredible, not just immediately after removing the mask, but all the way through the next day. Something about the formula of these sheet masks (like, I don’t know, maybe the combo of ingredients discussed above) leaves my face remarkably brighter, calmer, and more translucent. I always have some on hand in case of special occasions or just as a reliable pick-me-up, and they never fail me.

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The First Essence: Naruko La Crème Face Renewal Miracle Essence

Similar to the narcissus sheet masks, the Face Renewal Miracle Essence has stood the test of time in my skincare routine. I have to have gone through at least six or seven bottles of this by now.

Like the more famous SK-II Facial Treatment Essence or its Korean dupe, Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence, Naruko’s Face Renewal Miracle Essence is a rice ferment essence. Thin and watery, it’s meant to be applied to clean skin immediately after washing. Generally, rice ferment essences are said to soften and hydrate skin, preparing it to more fully absorb subsequent skincare layers, and also claim to brighten skin and increase translucency.

The only rice ferment essence that truly does that for me (and yes, I’ve also tried SK-II and Missha’s version) is Naruko’s Face Renewal Miracle Essence. Prolonged and generous use of this product gives my skin an unmistakable clarity that I always miss when I stop using the Miracle Essence for a while. Basically, yes, it’s pretty miraculous for me.

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The Newcomer: Naruko Raw Job’s Tears Pore Brightening Essence

Unlike the Face Renewal Miracle Essence and the Narcissus Repairing Sheet Mask, the Raw Job’s Tears Pore Brightening Essence is new to me—I just finished my first bottle. Of course, it wouldn’t appear in this list if that were going to be the last bottle.

I’ll be reviewing this product on my own social media at some point, but for now, we can color me impressed. This super light gel serum sinks in quickly, layers well with other products, provides a nice boost of weightless hydration, and contributed to a definite increase in brightness and translucency for my skin. I found its effects especially notable because I used it in late spring and early summer, times when I generally get more sun exposure while using fewer exfoliating actives than usual.

Making this even more impressive was the fact that for most of my time with this product, I was hardly using any other products at all. I’d been feeling depressed and unmotivated to layer on many items, so my evening routine most nights was just cleansing, toner, this essence, and a sheet mask on some nights, but usually just moisturizer and bedtime. Even in isolation, the Raw Job’s Tears Pore Brightening Essence worked some serious magic on my skin. I will definitely be back for more.

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Naruko’s huge selection of products can make choosing what your skin needs an overwhelming task. If you’re here for brightening and glow, I say give one of my picks a shot, or at least look for other products that include the ingredients I listed in the first section. There’s just something about the way Niuer wields botanical brightening ingredients that just works for me. And let me and the team at Glowie Co know how it goes!

Shop Naruko products here