A Rant on Reformulations: Stop Breaking the Things I Love!

You know the saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"?  I get that it's not always economically feasible to continue producing a product as-is, but I'm getting really tired of my HGs being taken away or worse, causing skin disasters.

Has it always been this bad, or is the popularity of K-Beauty causing a spike in bait-and-switch style reformulations/cheapening out on formulations and ingredients, or shortcuts in formulation to meet demand?  I don't know, but I'm seeing an uptick in products being reformulated for the worse, to the point where I'm immediately suspicious that differences in experience are not always YMMV but surprise reformulations.  And I'm really grumpy about it.

Smashing the computer in rage
Seriously, just knock it off! [image credit giphy]
It's an ongoing hazard of cosmetics in general; you fall in love with a product only to have it discontinued.  You wail, you gnash your teeth in rage, you stock up on backups.  You're prepared; you allow yourself to go through the stages of grief: denial ("no, it's just a rumour!"), anger ("It's a top-selling product, what the hell are they doing?"), bargaining backup hoarding, depression (self-explanatory) and acceptance ("I guess this means I need to shop a bunch to find a replacement.")

Even so, you know it's coming/it's happened.  You've braced yourself.  You've stockpiled.  You're resigned to the day that you shake the last precious drops onto your palm.

But what if they reformulate it?  As in "we're going to discontinue your favourite product and replace it with hot trash but not tell you so you don't realize the danger and thus stockpile the good stuff."

And supposedly it's totally OK (not to mention legal?) for them to say it's the same product. RARGH!

No it's not!
It's totally the same product, just new and improved! [image credit giphy]
Sometimes, even more  frustratingly, they will reformulate an existing product without telling you.   No warning.  Just poof, one day you're using a tried-and-true sheet mask on your face from a supposedly legitimate seller, and the next thing you know your face is swelling up with red, angry welts.

In this post:


Thankfully there doesn't seem to be any lasting damage from said skin reaction, but I am quite annoyed.  Ironically, I had just written a post about how YMMV differences may actually hide reformulations, and then wound up with a nasty reaction to the reformulation of a product I'd previously used and loved.



Ranty rage about reformulations

I don't think I've ever heard of a reformulation that had a positive effect; the closest thing I can think of is when Cosrx supposedly fixed a consistency/stabilization issue with their BHA Blackhead Power Liquid that caused some people to have an issue with it separating if it froze during transit.   Even then, that was a stabilization issue, not a deliberate reformulation.

Reformulations are like a credibility bomb waiting to happen; people can get products that are completely different than what the blogger originally reviewed, and wonder what the hell sort of toner fumes the blogger was under the influence of when they described a product as "minimally fragranced" when they exploded in sneezes as soon as they unscrewed the lid.

pH testing kit for skincare nerds
If a blogger's digital test says one pH, and mine is another, who is 'wrong' here? Maybe neither.
Reformulations that aren't clearly marked on the packaging/in the press/publicized can cause all kinds of issues, not in the least of which is people getting product other than what they are expecting.  Mixed reviews may be due to different versions, instead of just different opinions.  It's hard to explain away wild discrepancies in pH testing to 'YMMV', eh?

People can panic thinking their products are fake because they don't match descriptions and reviews, or as it was in my case this week, end up having end up having really terrible skin reactions that make them wonder what the hell's going on/why did their formerly fine product suddenly turn against them.


Products I've loved and now lost to reformulation

If you're a regular reader, you might have wondered why my recent post K-Beauty on Amazon: Rebuilding a 15+ Step Routine if My Stash Caught on Fire was conspicuously missing my favourite cleanser to date, the Sulwhasoo Snowise Ex Cleansing Foam reviewed here.

You'd think after I raved about it's pH, it's horny forest scent, it's amazing frankenfoam, and the fact that I bought it off Prime, it should be a shoo-in for my list, right?  Not to mention the fact that I loved this cleanser so much that I didn't want to use anything else.

Korean beauty product routine on Amazon
Click image to view K-Beauty on Amazon: Rebuilding a 15+ Step Routine if My Stash Caught on Fire
Well, that's before I found out from fellow Snailcaster Fiddy of Fifty Shades of Snail that it had been reformlated to a higher pH, and the ingredients list changed.  #%@%#&^$!!!  How could you, Sulwhasoo?!  This cleanser had everything I loved-- a low pH (non-negotiable for me for reasons discussed here) amazing Hanbang scent, beautiful packaging, SLS-free, and mounds of pillowy foam despite being low pH.  Why, just why?  We were happily in love, why couldn't you have just left us alone?!

Mizon AHA/BHA Daily Clean Toner & Mizon 8% Peeling Serum is another pair of victims in companies' ongoing insatiable need to mess with wildly popular products.  Like many K-Beauty fans, the Mizon toner especially is a long-term staple of mine, for which I've yet to find a good replacement.

I'm now down to 3 backups and 7 empties, and I'm internally sobbing every day I spritz a few drops of it onto my face after cleansing to mitigate the skin-barrier-destroying effects of my local water.

So many Mizon AHA BHA Daily Clean Toner empties
Click image to read What's In My Skincare Wardrobe: Actives (Prescriptions, Antioxidants, and Acids) Edition
You may have heard that Mizon 'replaced' this toner with a 'reformulated' version of this product called the Mizon Dust Clean Up Peeling Toner, but don't be fooled.  Tracy of Fanserviced-b recently reviewed the product, and it was so alcohol-laden and terrible that she actually experimented to see if it would explode into a fireball if she lit it on fire.  Yep.

Worse, though, is the last example in this hit list of angst.


The worst skin reaction I've ever had to a 'safe' product

You know (actually, if you're a regular reader, you probably do know) I care a lot about product testing.  I space out introduction of new products to monitor and prevent skin reactions.  I have a testing schedule.  I don't introduce new factors into my routine while I'm isolation testing things, so that I may reliably report on their effects.  I consider myself to be a pretty cautious, responsible skincare user.

So when I take a tried-and-true, already-used-and-vetted product, which I've liked so much that I recommended it, and it burns my skin so badly that my face swells up and becomes a bright red, mottled mess of welts, I feel some kinda way about that.  The kind of way that prompts me to sit down and write an entire blog post ranting about how crappy it is that brands ruin good products with reformulation.

I'm speaking of the My Scheming Snail Essence Hydrating silk sheet mask, which I tested, vetted, and loved, only to repurchase an entire box full and discover that they've reformulated them to be 1. no longer silk, 2. have a cheap, inferior fit, and 3. infused with snail filtrate that's been harvested from the mollusks of hell after they've been living on a diet of ghost peppers and the tears of innocents.

Su:m37 Cleansing Water, Curology, My Scheming Snail Silk mask
I love how happy those little snails are at the prospect of unleashing their acrid liquid terror on your unsuspecting face.
I tried to convince myself that the burning sensation I was feeling was just due to using tretinoin that day, but as the burning got worse and worse, I peeled up the mask to discover that my skin was so red that it looked I'd been severely sunburned, complete with overall swelling and terrifying raised welts.

I immediately washed off the residue, repeatedly splashed my face with cool water, and chilled a Mediental mask (one of my special occasion masks) in the hopes that it would soothe my poor skin.  Sure enough, proving that it was not a matter of tretinoin or any other excusable coincidence, my face dramatically calmed down after I used the Mediental mask.  I wish I had taken a photo of how terrifying it looked, but I was in a panic.  My first thought was that they were fake (after all, I'd used the product before and I knew that My Scheming, like many other popular mask brands, is a target for counterfeits) but after digging around I found that no, they're just reformulated.

The fact that a company took a snail product and turned into something that is the antithesis of all the soothing, calming, healing goodness that snail represents, well, that pisses me off.  I'm also not impressed with the fact that they've changed the mask material to something that's no better than your average run-of-the-mill thin paper mask.  I'm annoyed that I had to delay introducing new products because of this skin reaction to a product I'd already tested and vetted!

If it's no longer feasible to produce a product a certain way, fine, discontinue it, but don't just keep selling it so that people purchase it on the strength of what it used to be.  I guess that's just good business, but it damages consumer trust.


Have you had a bad reformulation experience?  Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know!

Have something you'd like to share with me in general?  Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram at @snowwhiteandtheasianpear because I'd love to see it!

All the best,
-Cat

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  Although there are none in this post, this blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.

44 comments

  1. So glad you posted this....almost bought a box off amazon the other night. :(

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    1. I'm so mad. Well, I guess that's pretty obvious from the post, haha! They took something amazing and turned it into ... well.

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  2. First of all, I hope your face is better now. I feel your panic and anger. Please take care.
    Secondly, please feel my panic too.
    So are you saying that the Mizon 8% AHA Peeling Serum will be reformulated too? OMG O_o. I was looking for it every where only to find out that it was sold completely out of the universe, and there were only 2 sellers left from Japan who charge more than SIXTY bucks for each bottle. I also intended to get the Sulwhasoo Snowise Something Cleanser for my mom too after reading your review last night, but ORZ it is reformulated. Please let me know if there is any bright new about replacements of those Holy Grails. I am desperately counting on you!

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    1. Sadly, the Mizon 8% Peeling is already discontinued as far as I know; it's impossible to find at regular price (which was $10-$15) so I think it's gone. :( I am still using up the last of mine; I dread the day when I will have to start searching for replacements. :(

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    2. I have an update! I spoke with the company, and they advised that the 8% AHA Peeling Serum is just out of stock at their warehouse, they are expecting a new restock no earlier than July. Still, out of stock is great news compared to being discontinued!

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    3. And how about the AHA/BHA Toner?
      P/S: Thanks for the update. I was doing a research on the Papa Recipe AHA Something Serum to see if it could be a replacement. What a great relief!

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  3. Oh, God. I think that's what happened with the Cosrx A-sol too! I've been noticing an uptick in negative reviews and the bottle I re-purchased recently is just not the same soothing, acne-busting A-sol I know and love :( I though my skin had changed but how likely is that, considering I haven't had any issues with other products. How could you do me like this, Cosrx ����

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    1. Oh snap! That's not good, eeek! Cosrx is pretty responsive, though, you could ask them on their Instagram maybe?

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  4. I bought my favorite deodorant just to discover that I was suddenly stinking around noon because it is now gloriously aluminium free. Duh.
    Couldn't they at least have waited until summer's over?!?
    Also the Avene Cleanance K which had a great combination of AHAs and Salicylic acid just to be replaced by the Cleanance Expert which is basically not a chemical exfoliant at all. I did like the reformulation of La Roche Posays Effaclar Duo, however. Although I heard the American Version is wildly different from the European one.I don't have many stories to tell about reformulations(possible I didn't noticed because I had no violent reactions, and the products just silently stopped being favorites) but I had my fair share of favorites discontinued before I was able to buy backups.*sob*

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    1. Urghh that's a hell of a way to discover something has been reformulated. Being caught out in public with deodorant is something that I'm regularly nervous about, especially since I tend to apply it when I'm half-asleep and can't remember, so I have to find a way to inconspicuously sniff my armpits to reassure myself that it's there, LOL!

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  5. So I know the Mizon 8% peeling gel has been discontinued which pisses me off to no end btw! But is it replaced with the new 4% product I saw that looked to be in the same line as the shit toner that Tracy reviewed? Mizon, why you do this to me??

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    1. Did you see the recent IG post from Fan-b? It looks like the peeling serum is still in stock although I'm waiting to hear back on why it's so scarce if that is the case. :)

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    2. Good news! I just left a new reply on an earlier comment, I have heard back from the company that the 8% is not discontinued, it is just out of stock. The not-so-great news is that it is not coming back in stock anytime too soon, but at least it's not discontinued!

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  6. I feel you!
    My newest loss: the discontinuation of the only available oil cleanser at the german drugstores :-( it was cheap and did a fabulous job. I paniked and grabed the whole left ones in my lokal store. Now I have to treat it like liquid gold and find a new sorce, but other options from overseas will cost 2-4 times more...
    Best regards, Raguna

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    1. Hey Julia,
      I'm guessing you mean the Balea oil cleanser, right? I hate that I only got to use 1 bottle before they pulled it off the shelves...
      A few months ago I bought some Polysorbate 80 from a UK-based EBay seller, and have been making my own oil cleanser, so I'm not that heavily affected as I could be I guess. The Balea one was pretty much the only affordable one that did not contain mineral oil, that's why I loved it so much. But now I have my own home-made cleansing oil, so it's all good. Maybe you could try making your own too?

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  7. So, how do you know if you bought the revised versions???

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    1. I'm not sure, and it's really frustrating!

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  8. Well I've been thinking that I'd stock the Mizon AHA&BHA Daily Toner after I'm done with the current bottle of Secret Key Witchhazel (which is fine, but not as good).
    Guess I'm running full speed to Amazon now.

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    1. It looks like it's just having an issue with sourcing the containers, although I'm waiting to hear back from the brand directly. :)

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  9. So the stinging sensation I get from the My Scheming rose dew mask with the same yellow tag on top of the package is not a good thing …

    Heard on a Beauty Brains episode that companies reformulate in order to spend less on more expensive ingredients, even for hit products. Follow the money, not any noble/misguided intention to improve the product. All you need is a lousy reformulator to make a hash of it.

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    1. Yeah that is probably not a good thing. D:

      I agree with the primary reason for reformulation is to cheapen out on the ingredients/manufacturing process after establishing a reputation that will let them coast on that rep while producing a poorer product and greater profit margins.

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  10. I had finally given into temptation and purchased a full size of the Snowise Pine-tree-orgasm cleansing foam. I was so excited! When it came, no matter how hard I tried or what ratio of water to cleanser I tried, I could not get it to foam up like you did in your original review. I chalked it up to user error (I am great at a lot of things, maybe I am not good at creating heavenly pillows from cream cleansers) but then I started to notice mentions of *gulp reformulation on various snailcast members' social media accounts. I've been on the lookout for a confirmation post but I must confess I was REALLY hoping it was just a fluke/error/horrific joke. I only used one sample pack of the original formula so I can only imagine your level of pain. And at the same time that other well loved products suffered the same fate!
    I really enjoy your blog (and love the excel usage) and hope that Sulwhasoo realizes that this is the their version of New Coke and comes back with the classic.

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    1. I'm still stuck between 'betrayal' and 'anger' on the grief curve, to be honest.

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    1. I would assume that the ingredients list has to be updated to match the new contents, but whether or not that happens right away, I have no idea. And you're absolutely right on the cheaper version of the same ingredient not changing the ingredients list. Scary, isn't it?

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  12. I bought the Missha Time Revolution TFTE after reading dozens and dozens of raving reviews, but ended up finding it...not bad but pretty much useless? There's no difference whether I use it or not. I was deeply confused after hearing so much hype, but it turns out I purchased *right* after they reformulated and have come across many others having similar experiences to mine with the new formulation. Which is such a drag because it's not cheap!

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    1. Yeah that confusion due to the hype is a reviewer's worst nightmare when it comes to people relying on our experiences-- skincare is already so ymmv and it doesn't help when it's not even the same product anymore.

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  13. You do wonder what the motivation is behind the reformulations. [cynical face]

    I am gutted about the Mizon toner, I'm not a hoarder though. When a relationship is over, it's over. Best to just get on with it and divvy up the cd collection.

    My new squeeze is orange blossom water, naturally low ph and a pleasure to use. No actives but no nasties either so it does the job plus it's cheap as chips.

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    1. Right? The side eye is strong with this one. *side eyes companies a little more*

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  14. Any update on the Joseon Dynasty Reformulation? I remember reading something about that on the AB reddit a few weeks ago but haven't seen any updates on there since...I have a few stockpiled so I haven't had the chance to order a new one myself yet.

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    1. I have a jar of the 'new' stuff, and it just seems to be ... less dried-out than the regular version, and that could very well be what is going on as they fixed the packaging/leaking issues they had. It's still amazing so I have no complaints! :D

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    2. Oh thank goodness! I'm very relieved :-D

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  15. Oh dear. I just got a box of the My Scheming snail masks from Amazon today. I'm wondering now if they are the new formulation as well....I hate that you had such a reaction but am glad for the warning. I tried these recently from someone on r/asianbeautyexchange, which led me to buying the whole box- but I have no idea if those were old or new version. At the very least, I'll be patch testing.
    Reformations are incredibly frustrating, most especially when they are not disclosed.

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    1. I hope that you have no issues with them!

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  16. How do I know whether my joseon cream and sulwhasoo cleanser are new formulation? Is there any different in packaging?

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    1. Joseon cream is not reformulated according to Memebox, and there's no marker for the SWS reformulations that I know of. It's a crapshoot. I wish they'd at least mark the packaging or change it so we know which is which.

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  17. Oh nooooooooos! I have a half-dozen baby sample bottles of the Sulwhasoo cleanser AND a bunch of My Scheming masks! I will have to pH test the cleanser before I use it again. If I get even a hint of a tingle with the mask I will rip it off and toss. Thanks for the heads up!

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    1. Yeaaaaah definitely not one of those situations where "the tingle means it's working!" D: D: D:

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  18. The Mizon toner seems to sill be available on Amazon so I was going to go and buy some backups btu now I'm scared theyre the reformulated ones or from a sketch source CRI

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    1. Thankfully, both fanserviced and I have discussed this with the brand. It turns out that the issue with the toner is just that they need to find a new supplier for the bottles, because there was an issue with the previous supplier's bottles having the black flakes form once the product was in them? So there is a possibility that you could get a toner from somewhere, which is current stock, and has the black flake issue. However, I have not had that issue with any of the new bottles that I have purchased.

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  19. This post fills me with so much terror. I will have to patch test everything forever. D:

    Also I'm freaking gutted that the Sulwhasoo cleansing foam underwent a reformulation. WHY!? I WAS SUPPOSE TO BUY YOU AND LOVE YOU AND RIDE OFF INTO THE SUNSET. -weeps- Damn you. Damn you, Sulwhasoo.

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    1. I'm so filled with betrayal and anger. How could you have done this to me? You ruined our happy home, Sulwhasoo!

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  20. Cat, just to clarify, the Mizon Daily Clean Toner that we can still buy from some online shops still has the old formulation? Thanks! :)

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