Sample Stash Quickie: Etude House Sparkling Tocs All-in-One Gel Review

My Sample Stash Quickie Reviews are pretty much just as they say on the tin – reviews where I try out sample(s) of a product and then give my basic, initial thoughts. They obviously won’t be as in-depth as reviews where I’ve been able to use a product for weeks or even months, which I usually prefer, but my hope is that they will still be helpful to people who are looking for any information and thoughts on the reviewed product.

In July, I bought a few things from rinishop and received a stack of Etude House Sparkling Tocs All-in-One Gel samples along with my order.

Etude House Sparkling Tocs Gel

I did a ton of Googling to try and figure out precisely WHAT this product was supposed to do, and found only about ~2 reviews. It turns out that the gel is meant to be a sort of ‘purifying/clarifying’ treatment that you use in place of your normal skincare for one week each month. Of the two reviews, one was a video that said it worked for her despite being somewhat drying, and another one said that it broke her out and was gross and sticky. So… a 50/50 divide, haha. I decided then that I’d use up all my samples the next time that I had a sort of ‘open spot’ in my trying new skincare schedule (basically, not on my period because I don’t want hormonal breakouts to confuse the results, and not too close to any other new products or reactions because I want to be able to easily tell what results come from which new products).

Last week it was finally time, I was pretty excited because hey – it’s always fun to entertain the possibility of a miracle product, even if realistically you know that it won’t/can’t live up to its promises.

As it turned out, each sample had enough for one application, so I only had enough to use it morning and night for four days. Now I suppose there’s a possibility that some sort of cosmic transformation hits your skin on days 5-7 and I’ve missed out, but I doubt that. So for purists, keep in mind that I didn’t get to test this out for the full week that Etude House recommends.

If you’d like to read the results from my four-day Sparkling Tocs treatment run, read on!

Okay, so first of all, I can’t find the full ingredients list for this item. English-translated information is sparse on this product – the only website I could find that had bothered to translate the promo images was Jolse:

This is gel typed massage cream which is used for whole 1 week intensively.

** This is a transparent gel typed cream with carbonic acid So it helps your skin to be clear & transparent.

** Lemon Extracted with rich Vitamin C are contained . So it helps your skin to be soft & sleek.

The effects of Vitamin C are pretty well-known worldwide at this point, but you may have been like me and wondered wtf Carbonic Acid was supposed to do for your skin. Here’s a write-up from WISHTREND that explains the carbonic acid trend in Asia, but the tl;dr is that it’s supposed to exfoliate dead skin and clear pores while also being anti-wrinkle and improving skin elasticity.

Basically, you’re supposed to use the Sparkling Tocs Gel if your skin looks ‘tired’ or ‘stressed’ – the gel is marketed as a sort of ‘crash diet’ for your skin, and you’re supposed to use it for one week out of each month in place of your entire normal skincare regime. So for seven days, you’d wash your face and then apply ONLY this gel cream, nothing else (I cheated and used sunscreen because, well, duh – especially since I had zero idea what was in the product and didn’t know if there were any sun-sensitizing ingredients present).

I decided to take pictures on the morning of every day that I used this product, first thing after washing my face and applying the gel.

My chin is my problem area – I usually don’t break out anywhere else unless it’s a product reaction. I was recovering from my period breakout at the time, that’s why my chin looks so red (I get bad PIH even if I don’t pop a zit) but there’s not any actual breakouts.

sparkling tocs day 1

Here’s how the gel looks applied, I used my cheek because the light hits it well enough that you can see the texture of the gel on my skin better than on my chin, I think:

Sparkling Tocs Texture

It’s a watery gel with teeny-tiny yellow ‘beads’ and it dries/absorbs relatively quickly. The finish is not matte, but not super dewy. I personally didn’t find it sticky at all, but I suspect that if you used more than I did, it could get tackier by virtue of the application being too thick to absorb easily.

I have oily skin and on the first day, my skin felt fine, hydration-wise. However on days 2, 3, and especially 4, my skin was feeling dryer – whether it’s from the product drying my skin out, the lack of my usual moisturizing products, or a combination of both, I think a full 7 days would have ended up being pretty uncomfortable. Dry skinned people should definitely be wary!

sparkling tocs 2

This is my skin on day two of the Sparkling Tocs treatment. Uh, sorry about the lighting being so different from all my other photos, I think it was the only sunny day we had that weekend! You can really see my yellow undertones that I’m always talking about here, though, right? But overall, my chin looked much the same as the day before. I remember feeling like there was an improvement at the time, but it may have just been a trick of the lighting, looking back.

sparkling tocs 3

Day three. Where did all this redness come from?! My skin is overall looking a little pinker/irritated than it had before, with some redness in my trouble area that hadn’t been there before. You can see some clogged pores and a dark spot starting to develop on the left-center of the image.

sparkling tocs final

Last day. While not as red, you can see that there are now raised bumps indicating whiteheads and clogged pores where there had just been flat redness at the start of the weekend. Noooo!

Unfortunately, it looks like the photo that I took of my nose area didn’t actually save properly, but I was also breaking out in whiteheads on the side of my nose and the philtrum as well as my cheek to a lesser extent. As I said earlier, I usually don’t break out anywhere but my chin unless it’s from a specific product reaction. So the nose area and cheek breakouts are pretty damning, for me, that the fresh breakouts on my chin weren’t just from hormonal fluctuations (plus my hormonal acne is usually in the form of under-the-skin cysts/inflammation, not whiteheads).

I can’t tell what part of this routine prompted the clogged pores and whiteheads – it could be an ingredient in the gel, it could be the lack of my usual exfoliating products allowing my skin to clog easier, it could be the lack of moisture making my skin overcompensate with oil… it could be all three! All I know for sure is that this product seemed to be breaking me out and making my skin look kind of irritated, so for me it was probably a good thing that I only had four day’s worth of product.

The cheek/nose breakouts did go down and heal after I stopped using this product and went back to my normal routine (thank you retinol for how quickly you help PIH fade), and no new blemishes have cropped up in those areas, so I feel pretty comfortable in saying that it was due to this product/the routine this product asks you to follow.

So overall, my Etude House Sparkling Tocs All-in-One Gel review is yet another fail for me. I feel like so many of my sample reviews are negative, maybe I just have picky skin (well, I know that I do, actually)? Or maybe I just have bad luck with the samples I receive. So unfortunately, I have to make the Sparkling Tocs review count 2/3rds negative.

If you have skin that doesn’t irritate easily and you’re not afraid of your skin drying out/missing other steps in your skincare regime like chemical exfoliants, I suppose this could be an interesting experiment. However, I just feel like even if you don’t react to any of the mysterious ingredients in this gel, the fact that it was drying even to my oily skin makes it risky for anyone but the absolute oiliest, hardiest skins on the planet. The video review I linked at the start of the post mentions that it has a high alcohol content in it, which could be the culprit here.

But if I had to make a call, I’d personally say that this doesn’t seem like such a great product. Even the mostly positive review (hoversjelly) said that it dried her out and made her irritated around day four, and I was definitely seeing that plus breakouts around the same time.

It’s pretty widely available, though, if you’re dead set on giving it a shot.


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September 2, 2014
Aw that sucks :( The idea is kinda interesting, but I am not sure if you should take 7 day break from your routine if your routine was working for you already haha.
September 3, 2014
Yeah, I wish I was at that point where I was 100% happy with my skin/routine... but not quite there yet. I think this is more marketed as a sort of 'recovery' product, if your skin is in bad shape due to stress/diet/not finding the right products yet. The marketing text reminded me of, like, the juice fasts and detox products that you see in health stores, you know? So yeah, cute/interesting idea, but not executed well. I'll have to get my Holika Holika Acetyl mask review up soon, because that actually does work wonders as a recovery treatment for when my skin has been irritated or inflamed. It even calms insect bites and burns, haha. I think the success of that product made me more hopeful for the Sparkling Tocs, but they're not in the same league at all!
March 17, 2015
It's a shame this didn't work out for you. More than that, it's scary to get a reaction like that. I'd be freaking out completely. It's apparently the type to dry-out more than it moisturizes, though the gel appearance is deceptive. :(

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