not a professional. just crazy.

This Korean Tea Tree Serum Is My New Pimple-Fighting Holy Grail

Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

It finally happened. I woke up with a bad breakout, went to my medicine cabinet, and found that my trusty Acne Barrier Protect Spots, which I wrote about in both my Google Docs, had run out. And to make matters worse, when I attempted to repurchase it on Amazon, I found they were temporarily sold out. This serum had been my tried-and-true blemish-busting holy grail for the past two years, but instead of freaking out, I took it as a sign: it was time to find something new.

So, of course, I went to oo35mm in Chinatown and explained my tragic situation to the brilliant, amateur derms that work there. They asked if I had ever tried the cruelty-free K-beauty brand iUNIK. When I said I hadn’t, they told me that iUNIK was one of the most coveted, beloved K-beauty brands out right now, and that their serum formulas are effective, affordable, and perfect for anyone with sensitive, reactive skin like mine. I left with some Hyaluronic Acid sheet masks and a bottle of iUNIK’s $16 Tea Tree Relief Serum.

For the next few days, I tapped a few drops of this serum on my problem areas — my chin, jaw, and sides of my face — after exfoliating with my P50. And after a week of incorporating it into my routine, I totally and completely understood the hype surrounding iUNIK. My breakout (which, to be honest, I attribute to eating an entire box of Sour Patch Kids alone at the movie theater) had subsided — my pimples were less inflamed and angry, and the area surrounding them was not dried out or crusty (as it sometimes gets when I treat pimples with my Biossance Tea Tree Clay Mask) — instead it was bright and smooth. After investigating the ingredients in the stuff, I understood why: the serum’s formula is a blend of my beloved healing and soothing Centella asiatica, niacinamide, which brightens up any old blemishes, and tea tree, an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial ingredient that is also in my Acne Barrier.

I loved this serum so much, I actually went back and purchased their Beta Glucan serum, which the ladies told me was incredibly moisturizing. I’ve been using that one for about three days now, and sure enough, it’s another winner: my skin has been so much more supple, dewy, and hydrated. It’s good enough that I plan on using it in place of my extremely expensive Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Acid serum — which is very good news for my wallet.

IUNIK Tea Tree Relief Serum

More of Rio’s favorite pimple fighters

Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patches, 24 Count

One of the most popular things Rio’s ever written about, these pimple patches are best for a pimple that’s reached its whitehead stage: “Drop everything and buy them. Not even going to explain, will just say if you pop or pick a zit, put this on immediately afterward, go to bed, and in the morning you’ll see what I’m talking about and thank me.”

Cosrx Centella Blemish Cream

Rio first discovered the healing properties of centella with this cream, also from Cosrx: “With this in mind, I tested out the product on active zits and found that even then it helped reduce redness and lighten up leftover hyperpigmentation. It’s scentless, paraben-free, and extremely gentle on the skin, which makes it especially perfect for my people (the acne-prone). I’ll use it now as a spot treatment on any problem areas (before I apply my moisturizer), and if I have a scab, I’ll smother this on it.”

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This Korean Tea Tree Serum Is My Pimple-Fighting Holy Grail