Review - Roots Base Botanicals (K-Beauty) - Part 2
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
My review on Roots Base cleanser & toner
This is the second part of my comprehensive Roots Base review based on 4 months of use. In this part I review the cleanser & toner in this range.
For an overview on Roots Base and detailed explanation of various ingredients, read part one here, where I also reviewed the essence, emulsion and eye cream.
My Roots Base journey
The set of Roots Base products come in a beautifully presented box, which I received from K Beauty Australia in late April. Even common sense told me I should not have started using 5 new products all at once, I was too excited and I did. Initially, my skin had an immediate and visible glow but I was also struggling badly for hydration. I had to work backwards to drop products out of my routine by elimination. Fortunately, I worked out fairly quickly that the cleanser and the toner were not suitable for my skin type. So at the end, I still got to use the rest of the range (essence, emulsion and eye cream) for another 3.5 months, and I am still really liking them.
In this part of the review, I will focus on the cleanser and the toner.
Roots Base Botanicals Purifying Facial Cleanser | 150mL $32.95
The Roots Base cleanser is a foaming cream cleanser - a rich cream that lathers with water - and it lathers a lot. I find it too much even with a pea size. I use as little cleanser as I can squeeze out from the tube, and that is enough for the entire face and neck. The cleanser cleanses extremely well - in fact, too well for my liking. It leaves my skin feeling squeaky clean, which I would have loved when I was in my early 20s. However, with the increase of age, my skin produces less and less natural oil and my cleansing goal becomes to preserve a balanced state of skin rather than a clean state. Therefore, I do not feel that this cleanser is right for me and have not continued with it passed the first 2 weeks.
Ingredient highlights: apart from foaming agents, it contains a range of root and other plant extracts, beta-glucan, and small amounts of ceramide and almitoyl pentapeptide-4 (Matrixyl).
Roots Base Botanicals Hydrating Essence Toner | 130mL $40.95
The Roots Base Hydrating Essence Toner is a viscous toner that resembles an "essence" more so than a "toner". It can be applied to skin with or without cotton pads. Consistent with the rest of the Roots Base range, it has a beautiful botanical scent, although the smell of alcohol is also quite prominent.
Shortly after switching to Roots Base I realised that the toner was very dehydrating for my skin. I was disappointed but could not say that I was surprised, as alcohol (or more precisely, ethanol, or alcohol denat.) in skincare has been giving me issues - more and more so as age increases.
Note that the second ingredient listed at the back of the box is "phenoxyethanol", which appears again as the second last ingredient in the same list. While I have not verified this with the manufacturer, the second ingredient is likely to be a translation error. Phenoxyethanol is used in skincare as a preservative up to a concentration of 1%. It is deemed to be safe, but at this concentration it is unlikely to (and also has no reason to) be found as the second ingredient. Because of the scent of the toner I think the second ingredient listed should have been "ethanol", a type of "alcohol" and as explained below.
Alcohol in skincare
There are many different types of "alcohols" used in skincare. In technical terms alcohol simply denotes a family of compounds with an -OH functional group. For example, cetearyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol both belong to the "alcohol family" but they have large molecular weights - they are considered the moisturising alcohols. The "alcohol" that often causes concern is ethanol (a specific type of alcohol, CH3CH2OH) - this is the same alcohol that we drink, and also a type of alcohol that is often used in hand sanitisers. In the State, ethanol is often referred to as alcohol denat. It has a low molecular weight and is considered the "drying" type.
Ethanol / alcohol denat. is widely used in skincare products as a solvent. It is also an inexpensive and easy-to-use consistency regulator and preservative. There are two schools of thought on ethanol - one says that it is downright evil, and another says that it can enhance product penetration and absorption.
Ethanol itself, especially in low concentration, does not cause too much issue. Most ethanol content evaporates quickly upon contact with skin. When ethanol evaporates from skin, it takes heat with it to give that cooling sensation. However, ethanol also takes water with it during the evaporation process, and this is where I see as the real problem of using alcohol in skincare. Although it is usually present in low concentrations (up to 4% in some toners), the fact that it evaporates with water means that it is not suitable for dehydrated skin.
During the times when I had oily and combination skin, my skin could tolerate a larger amount of ethanol. I particularly liked the clean, cooling and refreshing feeling. There is no need to demonise this ingredient, as it can have certain benefits for some skin types.
Given the change in skin over the years, my current approach is to avoid it if possible; however, I do not automatically write off a product when I see ethanol in an ingredient list. I look at the position of ethanol/alcohol denat in the list, consider the category of skincare I am looking at (e.g. I can accept a larger amount of ethanol in spot treatments or other products that I do not use on a daily basis), and consider whether there are any beneficial ingredients that outweigh the inclusion of ethanol.
Overall, I wouldn't have purchased this toner myself, given that it has ethanol as the second ingredient in the list. It is such a shame with the inclusion of ethanol because it would otherwise be a great toner for me, with a lovely consistency and scent, and a long list of wonderful ingredients.
Ingredient highlights: ethanol, nacinamide, glycerine, betaine, various plants and roots extracts, sodium hyaluronate, Saccharomyces ferment filtrate.
Neither of these are bad products but they just don't suit my skin type. I would have loved them if they existed 15 years ago. I have a very positive experience with the other three products - essence, emulsion and eye cream, and based on this I would still recommend this range.
Summary for Roots Base range
Perfect experience in ease of use, texture, scent and layerability (essence, emulsion and eye cream)
Excellent for combination to oily skin
Emulsion has a luminous effect which doubles up as a makeup base
Cleanser and toner are not suitable for dry and/or dehydrated skin
No visible effects on hyper-pigmentation (noting that I did not use the matching cleanser and toner - and the results might have been different if I did)
Most Suitable for general skin maintenance and radiance boosting for combination to oily skin.
Love K-beauty? Read my other reviews on K-beauty products:
This review was written based on my opinion after 4 months of trial. The products were given to me by K Beauty Australia for a collaboration campaign. My opinion is honest.
Makeup artist and hair stylist based in Sydney. Founder of the well-known award-winning bridal specialist team Faces Makeup & Hair. Beauty junkie with an obsession for skincare.