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I'd been lusting over the Then I Met You cleansing balm for so long that earlier this year I was on the brink of biting the bullet and ordering it from Soko Glam when... Cult Beauty announced they were officially bringing the brand to the UK market. Today, after several weeks of trialling their entire facial skincare range, I'm ready to return my verdict on if these products were worth the hype...
Then I Met You was founded by aesthetician Charlotte Cho, as she's Korean-American, the line really has influences from both skincare cultures. The inspiration behind the name is kind of meant to evoke feelings of warmth and familiarity. The packaging is really unique too - it's hard to create something this eye-catching in such a mature market, but Then I Met You is instantly identifiable.
Let's start with the morning (or second cleanse) in the Soothing Tea Cleansing Gel* | £34. I don't know how to describe this texture other than: did you ever play with gunge or aliens as a kid? It's kind of like that slime, it sticks together and to your hands! However, massaging your hands together breaks it down easily into a more manageable consistency. This is a cleansing gel, that lathers but it's not super-foamy or bubbly. It's formulated with PHAs, which are very mildly exfoliating but also have hydrating properties, there's sake (a fermented rice extract), a little bit of tea tree (for its antibacterial benefits), willow bark extract (a milder precursor to salicylic acid, the pore-penetrating acid exfoliant, that's great for blemish-prone skin), centella asiatica (a soothing extract) is in there and also a hyaluronic acid derivative, to act as a water magnet. Just as a note, this does contain fragrance and strangely, sometimes it gets a bit on my lips and I've never had a cleanser taste so terrifying! Look, are these ingredients going to transform your skin all on their own in a wash-off product? Probably not, but they're not going to hurt, and my skin is left soft, smooth, cleansed but not stripped after use. I guess I just prefer fermented ingredients and antioxidants in a leave-on product so they can fight free radical damage throughout the day, though. I wouldn't pick this up again for £34 but it's nice and I'll use it up.
We obviously also have the first cleanse in Then I Met You's star product: the Living Cleansing Balm* | £37. I have to say right of the bat that this is already vying with all-time favourites I've used for many years in the cleansing balm ranks. What makes this really special is that, whilst being a solid balm, it just melts so effortlessly (I have an Instagram Reel demoing it here). It's kind of like a sorbet; it's so soft and requires no work to warm up. It's made with a mixture of fragrant and non-fragrant oils and the ingredient that gives it its identifiable colour is sea buckthorn oil. This melts down makeup and sunscreen effortlessly, it's luxurious to use, it emulsifies fully to leave behind no excess after rinsing (making it suitable for all skin types) and it's just everything I want from a cleansing balm. For me, it's that super-soft texture that sets it apart from other cleansing balms on the market.
Then we have two options for the next step in your routine (or you could layer them, to be fair) and I'll start by talking about the Birch Milk Refining Toner* | £31. Ok, I have a confession to make... it's something you all should do, but sometimes I don't always check the ingredients of a product before using it, just to get an initial gauge of how I feel about its texture and application without any specific expectations. I actually assumed this was a moisturising toner and was using it most evenings before going in with my retinoid. And my skin was looking great! After about a week, I looked it up and realised it was an exfoliating toner... whoops! However, that is a testament to how compatible it is with other ingredients and how gentle the formula is (true to the line's Korean influence). I personally exfoliate 3 times a week, but if you wanted to use this every evening and you don't have sensitive skin, you could probably use this daily (just don't forget the sunscreen the next morning). This is a light but surprisingly moisturising toner that feels refreshing and I just splash on with my hands. It's formulated with 70% birch juice, squalane (a plant-derived skin-similar replenishing oil) and water-attracting hyaluronic acid and glycerin, paired with PHAs and a 1% AHA blend of lactic and glycolic acids. Little and often is a good way to go with exfoliation and this hydrating base with a low concentration of exfoliants is a fantastic idea for smooth, even, radiant skin with very little risk of irritation. I'm sure for some this wouldn't be 'enough' but I'm definitely not into the whole 'higher percentage = better results 'mentality; I've been burnt (literally!) too many times... This smoothed and hydrated my skin with zero irritation so gets a big 'yes' from me.
The other option is the Giving Essence | £48. I won't lie, this was a little more pricey, but I decided to pick it up using a cheeky discount code... It's kind of hard to describe what this does on the skin, because it just seems to make my skin 'better' overall! Let's work back from looking at the ingredients. If you aren't familiar with essences, they're sort of between a toner and serum (in their consistency and in terms of where you'd apply them in your routine) and what makes them unique and not just a more-hydrating version of a toner is their fermented ingredients (this formula contains 80%). These ingredients could potentially have better penetration, meaning the antioxidant benefits (protecting the skin from free radical damage) are more noticeable. There are other antioxidants like turmeric, brightening licorice extract and soothing aloe, alongside polyglutamic acid (a water-attracting humectant) and allantoin to soothe the skin. There's also niaciamide in the mix, which is beneficial at a low percentage, used regularly in a leave-on product. It can help reduce inflammation, regulate oil production in the skin, strengthen the skin's overall barrier and even improve the look of hyperpigmentation (note: it contains one potentially fragrant extract but that's not an issue for me personally). It calms any redness or inflammation I'm experiencing, provides a welcome dose of hydration that feels light and non-sticky and gives my skin an instant glow. I'm not surprised this is already a cult favourite!
Lastly, I have the Calming Tidal Face Cream* | £41. This is a light milky gel-cream formulated with peptides to plump the skin (there isn't enough clinical data to support anything other than Matrixyl in terms of helping to stimulate collagen production but they are hydrating and anecdotally, I do find they work well for my skin), a compound from centella asiatica (to calm and soothe the skin), sodium hyaluronate (a hyaluronic acid derivative) and ceramides (a fatty component of our skin's natural barrier). This product wasn't really for me personally, but it's one of those ones where, even though it wasn't suited to my skin, it could be great for someone else. Ceramides often come in creams that are quite rich, even though all skin types can benefit from their skin-calming benefits and the way they can prevent water loss through the skin, so if you're oily and want a light gel to hydrate but also lock in the hydration: this could be great for you. I'm just a little drier and even in the summer, I do tend to want slightly more!
Overall, my must-haves are the essence, the toner and the cleansing balm. The other two aren't bad, they just aren't perfect for me. Have you tried anything from Then I Met You?