Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence Review

Today I’m going to review a product that I’ve been using for about 4-5 months. I received the Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence in a Memebox (Special #76 The Empress’ Secrets); when I first saw it in the box, I was really excited because A) I’d been using Tosowoong’s Time Shift Emulsion for months and loving it, so was happy to try more from the brand, and B) Weird ingredients are always fun to try out, right? So I set it aside as my ‘next in line’ essence/emulsion product once I finished the Time Shift.

I’ve now been using the Syn-Ake essence for several months, and I feel comfortable enough to make my Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence review at this point. I wanted to post it yesterday for World Snake Day, but it didn’t quite make it – better a day late than never, though, right?

Tosowoong Natural Pure Syn-Ake Essence

Obviously, the primary ‘draw’ of this essence is “SYN-AKE” – a synthetic imitation of venom from the Temple Viper. As an aside, if you find snakes adorable like I do (c’mon, they have such cute little faces), you can find pictures and information about the Temple Viper here. I actually checked to see if my local zoo (the fantastic Columbus Zoo) has one because I’d be kind of entertained by paying respects to the snake that’s inspired a product that I like so much, but sadly they don’t seem to have one in residence at the moment. Boo!

Okay, uh, derail aside – why on earth would people want to put synthetic snake venom on their face? Click the read more if you’re on the main page to find out ?

According to this post on The Derm Review, it’s supposedly a sort of ‘DIY Botox’ in that it reduces cell movement and thus, hopefully, prevents wrinkles from developing. Syn-Ake is, like Botox, a temporary treatment that only works as long as you keep up the product usage.

I’ll be blunt: I don’t give a shit about this part of the product. I’m sure that sounds odd, but really – currently I have no wrinkles to speak of unless I contort my face in absolutely absurd ways designed to produce a temporary skin crinkle, and I’m also not terrified of getting them in the future. People age. So what? My concern is more with keeping my skin healthy, avoiding sun damage, managing my hormonal breakouts, etc. If I gain anti-aging benefits while doing that, so much the better, but I really can’t imagine myself running for Botox. So while any wrinkle prevention that this product may deliver isn’t unwelcome or anything, I’m really not the target audience for Syn-Ake. This means that I’m sorry, but I can’t give a review of how well the wrinkle prevention/relaxing part of this product works – I really don’t have any wrinkles to relax!

So at first, after my research into Syn-Ake, I was kind of disappointed… this didn’t seem particularly appealing to me. However, after looking at the box (sadly, the ingredients list is in Korean, but they do have some of the ‘big name’ ingredients highlighted in English), my interest was rekindled due to the following:

Raspberry Fruit Extract: Fruit extract that has potent antioxidant properties (Source: Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, June 5, 2002, pages 3495–3500) and antibacterial properties (Source: International Journal of Food Microbiology, May 2000, pages 3–12). (from Paula’s Choice Beautypedia)

Niacinamide: An antioxidant that improves skin elasticity, helps heal discolorations, boosts skin barrier function, improves circulation, helps mitigate acne… overall, a superstar ingredient and one that I’ve personally found extremely helpful. My skin does not seem to naturally heal particularly quickly, so before I discovered niacinamide, even blemishes that were “over” (as in no longer active whiteheads/lumps, just the irritation/scar) would still leave a mark for weeks, if not months. Niacinamide and retinoids have both helped to solve that issue.

Bifida Ferment Lysate: According to FutureDerm, this is “A probiotic claimed to work as a DNA repair agent when applied topically. This is not proven by a study.” – so, eh, one of the less exciting ingredients.

rh-Oligopeptide-1(EGF): EGF stands for Epidermal Growth Factor and supposedly aids in the production of collagen, which in turn keeps your skin looking more “youthful” and elastic. Makes sense as an inclusion in an anti-aging formula, no? There seems to be some debate about just how effective EGF actually is in skincare – while there have been some tests that show it to help speed along the process of healing wounds, there have also been tests that indicate no actual effect whatsoever. Internally, EGF is related to cancer cause and therapy in ways I’m a bit too much of a layperson to fully grasp, but thus far there seems to be no known side effects for topical application. There is some fear that it could cause skin overproduction (think psioriasis), but no actual, proven link.

Here is some further reading from Into the Gloss, Paula’s Choice, and Truth in Aging.

So you’re basically going to need to pick a side and gamble – there isn’t enough information yet either way to fully declare EGF in skincare as either a wonder solution or a dangerous ingredient to avoid. I’ll work my thoughts on this into my overall opinion on the product, so keep reading!

Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate: a fermented product of alcoholic brewing. I’m not sure of the source (sake or beer) but I’ve read that the source actually makes little difference; the fermented yeast should be beneficial regardless. Cutting through the hype, it seems to come down to this: worst case scenario, this ingredient will still be a beneficial source of moisture to the skin. Best case scenario, it has serious anti-aging effects by way of increasing hyaluronan production, a process that normally slows down with age. Whatever the case may be, I’ve really liked most products that involve sake ferment, so even if it’s just a different moisture delivery method, it’s one that seems to work for me. I mark the presence of this ingredient as a positive, considering my past experience.

People far more dedicated than I have written much more detailed posts about this ingredient, so here’s further reading for the interested:

Several of these links deal primarily with SK-II products, as they’re the brand that has really popularized sake ferment in skin product, but if it’s true that the source of the ferment doesn’t matter as much as SK-II claims, you can pull some general conclusions/information about the overall concept of using alcoholic yeast ferment in skincare.

Here is the CosDNA page for Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence.

So, when looking at all of these ingredients together, this is an anti-aging product with an emphasis on keeping skin youthful by boosting elasticity, increasing moisture retention, improving healing/regeneration, and temporarily relaxing any wrinkles/tension.

But does Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence work?

Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence

As mentioned above, I can’t really give feedback on the wrinkle relaxing aspect – if anyone uses this product for that purpose and writes their own review, please link me in the comments so that I can edit in a link to your review here!

However, when dealing with skin healing and texture – yes, I would absolutely say this 100% works. I’ve written about it countless times before, but left to its own devices, my skin will cling to a discoloration (from a breakout, bug bite, whatever) for literally months. It’s completely absurd and very rude of my skin ?

When using this product regularly, though, blemishes heal up within a couple days. It may simply be the niacinamide – as mentioned before, I react very well to this particular ingredient and try to have it in my skincare routine at all times. I do, however, notice that the healing is slightly faster after using this product than it was with my prior niacinamide formula (also a Tosowoong product, their Snail Emulsion – which is rightfully beloved by many). This could be due to the EGF, or perhaps the one-two punch of niacinamide and the sake ferment. I’ve yet to meet a sake ferment skincare product that didn’t help my skin’s texture and moisture level, so it’s entirely plausible that the combination of the two is just a sweet spot for my skin.

Saying that, it probably follows that I’m ascribing much of the textural improvements that my skin experienced over the use of this product to the sake ferment. My skin looks very smooth, very elastic, and I have no hint of dryness from my Curology retinoid. However, given how the Syn-ake is supposed to work, this could also be due to the synthetic Temple Viper venom helping to relax or smooth things out – even if it’s not a noticeable wrinkle reduction, perhaps it’s still giving a small effect in regards to my perceived skin texture?

Once again, with so many ingredients that overlap in purpose somewhat, it’s a bit difficult to outright say “my skin texture was improved by the Syn-Ake” because it could also be the niacinamide + sake ferment, or the EGF, or the antioxidants… or some perfect combination of all of the above.

It’s probably obvious, but I experienced zero irritation, clogging, or breakouts from the Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence.

Texture & Application of Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence

The Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence has a medium-thin, watery-gel texture. I find that one pump is enough to cover my face and neck, and after a few pats it’s usually completely absorbed, even in humid weather. It doesn’t pill or cause problems with any serums, toners, or moisturizers that I’ve tried before and after applying this product, which is always a plus.

This is one full pump, AKA the amount I usually use for my entire face/neck.
This is one full pump, AKA the amount I usually use for my entire face/neck.


This is the essence immediately after application. I find it absorbs very quickly - I can usually apply my next skincare step within 10-20 seconds.
This is the essence immediately after application. I find it absorbs very quickly – I can usually apply my next skincare step within 10-20 seconds.


This, is... okay, listen. I took 15 photos, trying to get my camera to focus on my skin properly after the essence absorbed, and literally every single one looked like some Google NSFW blur filter shit. It's like photoshop shit. I got nothing.
This, is… okay, listen. I took 15 photos, trying to get my camera to focus on my skin properly after the essence absorbed, and literally every single one looked like this – it’s like the Google NSFW blur filter invaded my camera. I got nothing.

I appreciate the pump packaging, both for sanitary reasons and because it delivers the exact amount of necessary product in each pump. This is something that I think we all wish for in our skincare, right?

Syn-Ake Essence Pump

Packaging engineers so often seem to focus on form over function, that even a simple black pump bottle can end up being a huge relief ?

Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence Bottom Line

Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence definitely helps my skin to recover more quickly from blemishes as well as present a much smoother, more hydrated, more elastic texture. I’m very pleased with how my skin looks lately – I haven’t even needed my normal full-coverage BB cream (I was using it largely to cover PIH from hormonal breakouts) – rather, I can now get away with just my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. That is really, really awesome!

It’s also such a relief to be able to trust the one-two punch of this product + my Curology script – I don’t freak out or stress out about bites or blemishes on my face anymore (unless I’m hormonal or something) because I know that I can trust this essence and my retinoid cream to take care of business reliably and quickly. After years of PIH and frustration about blemishes, dark marks, and redness loooong overstaying their welcome, this is an incredible feeling.

The downside is, of course, that Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence does contain controversial ingredients. While we often have to make woefully uninformed decisions about new skincare ingredients just by virtue of the limited lifetime of said ingredients in skincare preventing concrete, long-term data, the information about EGF is slightly concerning. This is something that everyone will have to research individually in order to weigh the risks on their own personal terms, I think.

For my part, I am still not entirely sure that I’ll repurchase this exact essence – at least not immediately. Tosowoong tends to use a similar ‘base’ setup for their essences, so I’m interested in trying some of those out to see if they have largely the same effect (meaning it’s the niacinamide/EGF doing the magic), or if I really just should swear allegiance to the temple viper and stick to this stuff. I’m also interested in that Boscia sake-based essence/serum type product… and I also have so many essences from Memeboxes past to push through…

The struggles of a skincare addict!

However, if I can’t find anything better, I’ll probably return to Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence in the end.

Where to Buy Tosowoong Syn-Ake Natural Pure Essence

There are affiliate links present in this post; please see the site disclaimer for more info. If you use any of these links for purchases, THANK YOU! 

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