I’m really not the kind of person who says things like, “This [random beauty product] changed my life!” For most of my adulthood, I’ve followed a skin care and makeup routine that can politely be described as boring as hell: Gentle cleanser followed by moisturizer, a dab of CC cream with a little blush or highlighter, and then I throw on some mascara and call it a day.
Still, I’ve always been a little bit jealous of people with elaborate beauty regimens. You know, someone who has a really gorgeous bathroom counter filled with beautiful, minimalistic bottles. The kind of person who regularly matches their lipstick to their outfit, and their facial cleanser to their current skin care conundrum. Someone who knows what clarifying toner is and does. Seriously, though, what is toner? [Ed note: Read this!]
So believe me when I tell you Cure Natural Aqua Gel changed my life. Over the years I tried a lot of rough exfoliators in the hope that they would clean my pores, which always felt like there were blackheads ready to wreck my complexion and ruin my mood at a moment’s notice—especially on my T-zone. My thinking, I guess, was that if I used an abrasive formula, it would slough the crap out of my skin like a dang steel wool sponge. In reality, these exfoliators did little to fix the problem and made me break out. Not great.
But two years ago, when I saw Cure Natural Aqua Gel on a roundup of the best Japanese beauty products available Stateside—and discovered that it’s one of the most popular treatments in Japan, with a bottle sold every 12 seconds—I figured it would be worth a shot. It didn’t hurt that a 250ml bottle was under $26 on Amazon, so it wasn’t some massive investment if it didn’t work.
Turns out, it’s the best pore cleanser I’ve ever used. It worked so well that I’ve since become the person at a party who talks at length about their skin care routine and insists that you buy a bottle of this stuff, like, yesterday. And I don’t care!
This product becomes even more magical when you first open the package and realize that it has the exact consistency, look, and even vaguely the smell of hand sanitizer. Don’t be alarmed. The most important thing is that you follow the directions: If you just try to use it like any ol’ cleanser, you won’t get results. And in case you don’t read Japanese (which you’d need if you were going to go off just what was on the bottle), here’s how to use it:
1. With wet or dry skin, put three or four pumps of the gel on your fingertips and apply it to a small area of your face. I have an issue with the pores on my nose, so I usually start there. (Note that some people will tell you to use it only on your dry skin, but I use this bad boy on just-cleaned, drip-dried skin in the shower and still see killer results.)
2. Let the gel sit for four or five seconds. You won’t feel anything at all during this time—no tingling, no burning—it’s surprisingly gentle.
3. Begin to work the gel in small, gentle circles over the selected area. Do this for about 30 seconds until a film starts to appear.
4. Repeat on other areas of your face. Don’t stop till you get enough.
As you’re working the gel with your fingers between steps 3 and 4, you’ll start to feel small, filmy balls of gunk come to the surface. Like “skin gritting,” it’s not entirely clear what they are. The bottle claims they’re “beads of dead skin cells,” and I swear it’s the stuff from inside my pores because they’re cleaner immediately after, but I checked with a derm (Joshua Zeichner, M.D., at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, he’s great), and technically this gel doesn’t have any exfoliating ingredients. Rather, it’s got hydrating, botanical, and firming ones, along with acrylates that help the gel stick to your skin.
Could it be that glue breaking down, as some suspect? Possibly. All I know is that it’s like Baby Foot in that it is gross and satisfying. But it’s also quick and for your face. It’s like Baby Face! And since you should really only use it a couple times a week, that 250ml bottle will last you months.
My skin’s general appearance is more even and clear after two years of consistent use. Not only am I regularly complimented on my overall face smoothness, but I occasionally insist on having complete strangers come and stroke my cheek so they can confirm its smoothness for themselves. One day, I assume this will lead to a date.
Which is why, in addition to being a great treatment, I can also recommend it as a fantastic way to break the ice at your next social engagement.
Cure Natural Aqua Gel, $25.85, amazon.com