Beauty, Cosmetic Reviews
Comment 1

Review: Tosowoong Time Shift First Essence

This essence has stood the test of time, continually trending as one of South Korea’s most popular essence waters on the market. I have been seeking a replacement to my discontinued Holy Grail [Still bitter about that, Missha] so I was held out hope this Tosowoong product from their Time Shift line would be “the one” to make me swoon.

Awful pun intended.


Tosowoong is a South Korean cosmetic brand that launched in 2004. It quickly became a cult favorite brand, producing botanical based products with a reputation for whitening & anti-aging benefits. The brand initially became known for luxury cosmetics, but their affordable product lines have had commercialized success in recent years.

Product Claims

I struggled to find this product on a brand website where I prefer to gather advertising information, but here are the product claims from Jolse:

  • Black Yeast Ferment Filtrate contains full of Beta-Glucan which improves skin condition.
  • It protects the skin from outer harmful factors and keeps skin moist and soft with intense moisture.
  • Functional essence for Whitening and Anti-wrinkle!
  • The first-step booster after wash!
  • It improves skin moisture and texture.
  • It prevents dehydration after wash and keeps skin moist!

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Initially this may seem like a lot of claims, but most of these bullet points are repetitive. The two broad claims are this first treatment essence will be moisturizing & improve skin texture. First treatment essences normally fall under the broader category of hydrating toners so the moisturizing claim in expected & nothing listed in the ingredients negates this. So let’s focus on these other two claims:

Skin Whitening

Whitening & Anti-Inflammatory are commonly interchangeable terms in East Asian advertising, even though they are distinctly separate categories in culturally Western countries. This Tosowoong product does not contain any bleaching agents so will not lighten the shade of skin tone.

However, this essence does contain Niacinamide & botanical antioxidants, that are shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits that lead to an even complexion.


There are a of ingredients that can help with the aging process, like ceramides & peptides. However, an anti-aging regimen will likely require chemical exfoliation to have visible results on fine lines & hyper-pigmentation, like retinol or 20% concentrations of Vitamin C. The claims allude to the idea that this product will reduce damage that is commonly accumulated with urban living, like free radical or sun damage. Antioxidants can boost these effects, but this is another aspect where a skincare routine will need to include chemical exfoliants to reduce visible damage.

The Tosowoong Time Shift Essence is not a chemical exfoliant so any anti-aging benefits will be minimal at best.



It is a transparent liquid, however it is a thicker watery formula like most other first treatment essences so the product is easier to control during application. I find it easy enough to apply this with just my hands, no cotton round necessary!


There is barely a trace of scent, only a slight yeasty sweetness if searching for it & there is no added artificial fragrance.


The packaging is functional & does not leak, which is all I really require in a product. It is packaged like most other first treatment essences to come before it, a frosted glass bottle with hole opening for dispensing the product. The foiled screw-off cap is a bulky plastic & feels cheaper than other similar product I have owned, but this does not affect the durability.



I have been on a mission the last few years to find the perfect hydrating toner replacement for Missha’s Original First Treatment Essence. This is the closest I have come so far, but it is definitely no OG Missha.

Let’s change up the pace of my normal reviews, I want to start with the con first. My main qualm with the Tosowoong FTE is it does not seamlessly absorb into the skin. Normally, I would apply any active products [AHA, Vitamin C, etc] onto my skin first for maximum exfoliation benefit, then follow-up with a hydrating toner. However, Tosowoong wants to be first in line after cleansing for any skincare routine.

If I try to apply any other product before this Tosowoong essence, it feels like Tosowoong is washing off the previous product. When I attempt to use this Time Shift product as a second step instead of a first step, it makes my face feel sticky & the previous product “pills” on my skin.

My main concern with applying Tosowoong prior to a chemical exfoliant is the Time Shift essence contains a high concentration of dimethicone, which is a silicone. Silicons act as a barrier in cosmetics, they make the skin feel more smooth & act as a gatekeeper to all previously applied skincare products. It is common to see silicones in moisturizers & sleeping masks for this reason because they are some of the last steps in a skincare routine, but I am concerned how the Tosowoong Time Shift may interfere with the performance of my other skincare products. The type of fermented base used in this essence is commonly used as a formula thickener in other cosmetics so I am concerned this interferes with subsequent skincare steps as well.


While there is a significant drawback to this Tosowoong cosmetic, it is best stand alone product for this skincare step I have tried since Missha was discontinued. Tosowoong does everything a well-formulated first treatment essence promises to do. It brightens my skin & makes me look alive in the mornings before I have had time to consume an adequate amount of coffee. It tones down redness after cleansing. It makes my skin feel more plump, though these results are not as long-lasting as other hydrating toners I have tried.

The main benefit is this performs the most similarly to Missha’s original formula, but it is not a dupe.

2 Acne Triggers & 0 Irritants according to CosDNA.

Ingredient List
Aureobasidium Pullulans Ferment, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Dimethicone, Water, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Glycosyl Trehalose, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Sucrose Palmitate, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Asparagus Lucidus Root Extract, Tussilago Farfara (Coltsfoot) Flower Extract, Laminaria Japonica Extract, Leontopodium Alpinum Flower/Leaf Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Pinus sylvestris bud Extract, Pinellia Ternata Root Extract, Plantago asiatica seed extract, Portulaca Grandiflora Extract, Robinia Pseudacacia Flower Extract, Psidium Guajava Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Abronia Villosa Leaf Extract, Cinchona Succirubra Bark Extract, Rhodiola Rosea Root Extract, Badger Oil, Adenosine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin

Aureobasidium Pullulans Ferment

Water-binding agent that acts as an antioxidant, it is shown to be a film former so this may play a role in the formula thickness. The ingredient is not well-studied in terms of a dermatology, but it has shown to be twice as moisturizing as Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate [Fermented base of Missha’s Original First Treatment Essence].


It it is a naturally occurring substance that helps repair the outer skin barrier. This ingredients works to soften skin so other ingredients can more easily penetrate the skin.


More commonly known as Vitamin B3, this ingredient can brighten & reduce uneven skin tone. It can promote cell regeneration in concentrations of 5% or higher as well.


Water-binding emollient that can have skin-restoring properties in high concentrations.

Portulaca Oleracea Extract

An antioxidant rich in fatty acid that reduces skin inflammation.

Laminaria Japonica Extract

Brown seaweed acts as a soothing, water-binding agent.

Leontopodium Alpinum

An antioxidant that has skin soothing & antibacterial properties.

Miscellaneous Notes

This ingredient list is something many would lust after, most of the ingredients in the first-half of the list are rated as the absolute best cosmetic ingredients by the critical Paula’s Choice. The very first ingredient is 80% of the formula so it is important to note that while an attractive ingredient list is better than “bad boys”, ALL of these other ingredients makeup only 20% of the formula so most of these ingredients are not high enough concentrations to be as effective as shown in studies.


Price: $23.17 / 150ml, $4.57 per Ounce

This is one of the more affordable first treatment essences I have tried, but it is objectively not a cheap product so it is up to the user if it is worth the price. My skin reacts nicely with this type of product so I like having in my routine, but it is not a staple step like cleansing or moisturizing. This product is widely available online for international consumers so accessibility should not be an issue.


Ranking: 4 / 5

This is a beautiful product & it is the first fermented essence I have loved since Missha stomped on my heart a few years ago by discontinuing the original formula. Yeah, I am still bitter, Missha! However, it is still not a Holy Grail replacement for me. It does not absorb as easily into my skin & I would prefer for this product not to contain silicone, the ingredient list is still missing the elusive licorice extract as well.

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