4 Reasons Why I Don't [Always] Agree with "Skincare is YMMV"

One of the least controversial, most-repeated refrains of the international K-Beauty and Asian cosmetic community is "Your Mileage May Vary", meaning "not everything works the same on everyone.  Perfectly logical, and it's often how we agree to disagree and stay polite even as someone else is dragging your favourite skincare product until its label is worn clean off.

Cat dragging a blanket like they dragged your favourite product
"I hated the smell, it broke me out, the packaging design was hard to use, and I don't agree that it was hydrating at all!" [img credit giphy]
I was inspired to write this post because I was complaining to someone that the Lador hair care products I had just tested had a horrible, permeating scent that bothered me and my husband all night, and to my surprise, they said that it was almost odorless for them.  When I pressed for more details, they good-naturedly shrugged off my questions with "I guess it's just YMMV of skincare then" and I actually found myself (gasp!) disagreeing on that too (for reasons I'll explain below.)  Heresy! Blasphemy!  Certainly a shocking departure from my usual mantra of YMMV in all skincare.

YMMV is the great equalizer; almost everyone can agree that a lot of the conflicting results people get with the same product can just be chalked up to their unique skin's reactions, their personal tastes, even how they might be using it.

But I don't always agree, and here's four reasons why.

User Error

Let's just get this one out of the way, because this is nooooot usually the problem, and I think people jump to this conclusion unfairly.  It can happen on occasion, don't get me wrong.  I'm totally guilty of this, and this is why I try to research my products to death before I buy them.  A good example of this is are the sheet masks I used (and hated) because one side of it was weirdly stiff and the mask had a terrible fit.

It turned out the mask had double backing, one peel-off backing on each side.  I'd only peeled the backing off the one side, and the other was still there while I wore the mask.

The exact same thing happened to fellow Snailcaster Fiddy of Fifty Shades of Snail, so I know I am not alone!
Sheet mask with two backing sides
Click image to read Fiddy's post "I dun goofed, y'all" for her too-relatable tale of this exact same problem!
I can feel the disgust and disappointment radiating off this photo.  I also empathize so hard.

Other examples that I've seen people encounter are: putting oil cleansers on a wet face, trying to emulsify an oil cleanser that doesn't have emulsifiers and has to be wiped off, or the blogger [whose name has been withheld to protect the innocent] who admitted to me that she left on a wash-off mask because they didn't realize it was a wash-off type.  It happens, but it's pretty rare.

Counterfeit Product

Let's get this one out of the way too.  While there is always the risk of counterfeit goods, the number of people who are quick to leap to this conclusion actually bothers me, because sometimes it smacks less of "here's logical reasons why I am suspicious of this product and the research I did that supports it" and more of ... well, xenophobia.  The number of real-life people who instantly leap to some really shocking conclusions when they find out about my hobby (partly why I just don't talk about it, in fact) is really disheartening.

Screencap of Soompi's guide to fake cushion foundations
Screencap from Soopmi: How to Differentiate Between Authentic and Counterfeit Cushion Foundations
If you purchase from reputable vendors (and you can find a list of sellers I shop from here) there is no reason to leap immediately to the conclusion that differences in packaging or product automatically means that it's a fake.  If you're buying things from Amazon or eBay, yes, it does get more risky, but you can still do research; sometimes brands will feature anti-counterfeit announcements on their websites, for example.  Just do your research, stick to sellers you trust, and stay calm until you're confident that you have all the facts.

Unstable Product

When someone describes the scent, texture, appearance, etc. of a product as being wildly different than what others are reporting, my mind doesn't go to "fake" it goes to "unstable" and if I'm interested in the product, I start looking at the preservatives it contains.  (Snailcaster Chel of Holysnails has this to say about them.)

To clarify, I don't mean "it smelled like roses and perfume" vs "I don't think it had much of a scent" I mean things like: "it was odorless" vs "It had kinda a fermented, musky smell" vs "it had a really strong chemical odor" to "it smelled so strong and awful, not sure what it was but do not want!"

Those aren't just differences in interpretation of scent, that's implication (for me) that the product is is either prone to spoilage/going bad, was compromised during storage or shipment, the brand has poor consistency or quality control, or that the product itself is unstable.


This, right here, is my #1 suspicion when people start describing a product that smells differently (not bad different, just different) than what I experienced, but in a way that doesn't suggest a product simply going bad.  This was the case with the aforementioned Lador hair care; when the person in question invoked the near-sacred name of YMMV, I found myself replying "I'm more concerned with reformulation, actually."  Then I paused, and realized to my shock I had just pushed back a bit on YMMV.  I did not doubt her experience, but products can and do get reformulated all the time.  So often, in fact, that differences in experience are due to differences in the product itself.

When something has a dramatic, if wholesome, difference in experiences like that, my mind goes to reformulation or inconsistency.

Lador low pH hair care
Taken right before I used the products; click image to see my instagram post with my first impressions
Also, some products get reformulated so often, such as Japanese sunscreens, that they have new versions every single year!  You can see how subtle the differences are in this post featuring the 2014 and 2015 versions of the Bioe UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence sunscreen on Fifty Shades of Snail.

Sometimes there are regional differences as well, such as with the Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing mask; I ordered this myself expecting it to be the same pretty, patterned tube like Sheryll of The Wanderlust Project reviewed, but both Fifty Shades and Snail and I received only a plain tube, as you can see in her image below left:

Comparison of Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask Packaging
Left: image from Fifty Shades of Snail . Right screencap from The Wanderlust Project.
Both products are legit, it's just a packaging difference that I've read is related to the region you purchase it from.  I am full of sadness that I did  not get the fancier packaging, but at least I know the product is the same!

Obviously I still believe in the overall truism of YMMV; the way that someone else's skin reacted to a product isn't a predictor of how it will react to yours, so there's no shortcut around trying and exploring things on your own.  Just remember to isolation test and patch test, and have fun!

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to do some frantic googling to confirm your product was legit, only to find out that was a mundane reason such as reformulation?  Have you too had a user error snafu? 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,

**Disclaimer:  All products reviewed on 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.


  1. I totally co-sign this post!
    And also, whaaaaaaaat? Lador had a smell for you? I am dying to know about this because it smells like basically nothing to me. I'm wondering if my nose is broken lol

    1. Really? I've actually taken to doing a second wash of my hair with these Skylake shampoo afterwards to cut the smell. It seems like people have a really inconsistent experience with the smell of this product, though. I wonder what the reason is?

  2. I can totally related to this post, my personal experience -When the world was raving about Mizon snail cream, but it gave me nothing but extereme breakout in a week use. After my Google Phd about the product I realised I received the fake one from Amazon.

    1. This is my nightmare right here. What happened after you figured out it was a fake?

  3. This post had me cracking up because of that gif. It also brought up some interesting thought re. spoilage. Good to know. Great read!

    1. Full disclosure: cat dragging gifs are my new favourite thing.

  4. *"...this is why I try to research my products to death before I buy them".*

    yeah, me too. and when I'm reading reviews for, say, cleansers on Sephora, and the reviewers keep dissing a product because it does not remove eye makeup properly i want to tell them all about point cleansers, cleansing oils and the art of double cleansing!! another example is when a person expects a targeted serum to be super hydrating because they don't know about multi-layering of products with varying viscosities. this is not a case of YMMV!

    so in effect, their rating of the product is lower than maybe it should be and it's one more thing i have to take into account when deciding to buy something (based on other's reviews).

    as a side-point, i do think there is a difference in k-beauty practitioners and the average consumer in regards to product knowledge, ingredient knowledge, etc.

    1. Oooooo yeah people who give poor reviews because they are misusing the product drives me crazy. I saw this recently on Amazon reviews of a Japanese facial cotton, that people were dragging for being a bad vaping cotton. Apparently these cotton squares that are supposed to be used on. your. face. had a bad taste. THEY GO ON YOUR FACE, THEY AREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE TASTED. It made me quite angry, actually, because hear this poor product is being unfairly dragged for being not good at a purpose that it's not supposed to be used for?!

  5. I do agree that the Lador hair products have a smell, wouldn't be surprise to know if they have added fragrance. The smell also does linger, I found that the scent stays on my hair for a day or two. Those who said it's scentless may have gotten use to the scent after a while. Kinda like not smelling your perfume after you've had it on for some time.
    On the other hand, I don't mind the scent and actually like it. I have to say the scent is interesting, like nothing i've ever smelled before....Assuming your bottles are not a result of the reasons you detailed, I can see why you wouldn't like the scent.

    1. Liked the scent, eh? Now that is a true ymmv statement, Hi-5! I think your observation about people going nose blind could definitely be a factor, that's a great point. I wonder if it's also related to people's differences in scent detection in general; for example my husband can not smell the weird scent that asparagus leaves behind when you pee, but it's really potent for me. Maybe there's something in this scent that is undetectable for some people?

  6. The YMMV phrase grates me for another reason. A reason that I've realised makes me my Father... I'M IN AUSTRALIA AND WE USE THE METRIC SYSTEM.

    1. LOL! As a Canadian, I empathize with you, but somehow " your kilometres may vary" doesn't have the same ring to it?

  7. The Lador shampoo I've been using definitely has a fragrance. The only thing I can put a name to that it smells like is almond oil, but it doesn't even smell much like that, and there's a strong chemicaliness to the fragrance, too. I don't hate it, and rinsing well seems to keep it from lingering, but it's less pleasant than I'd like.

    If you're tracking Lador product reformulations, the manufacture date stamp on the shampoo is a little cramped, but it seems to say "20160225". The expiration date is definitely "20190130".

    1. I can definitely see that! It's a sort of sickly sweet over top of a super chemical scent, but rather than masking it, it just sort of ends up making it smell weird? Kind of like when you use a bathroom spray that supposed to, um, mask the odors in the bathroom, but instead it just end up smelling like citrus-and-poop.