Michele Humes (I live in New York and I write about food.)

I Am Unlikely To Ever Use These Cosmetics But It Delights Me That They Exist

So there is this Korean makeup/skincare brand called Tony Moly, it is totally nuts, and I have to tell you about it. I just discovered it this weekend, while poking around one of the shiny new apothecaries that have lately been popping up in New York’s various Chinatowns (this particular one was in Sunset Park, Brooklyn) to tempt this Sephora-jaded soul with their cult Asian wares.

Most cosmetics brands have a single overarching theme: Clinique, for example, puts counter staff in lab coats to lend credence to its claims of clinical effectiveness; Tarte invokes the exotic power of the jungle with (what are no doubt chemically insignificant amounts of) Amazonian clay and passion fruit extracts (for real, though, this stuff is great); and Benefit traffics in pinup imagery and over-the-top wordplay to affect a general nudge-nudge-wink-wink vibe that I find tiresome in the extreme (but somehow does not stop me from purchasing They’re Real! mascara, which really is the best).

(You see that it is possible to be both a big cynic and a bigger dupe.)

If Tony Moly has a dominant motif, I have no idea what it is. This is a brand that makes cat-themed powder compacts, a whole subrange built around the curative properties of snail trail (over 70% mucus!), darkness-correcting eye patches sold under the rather fantastic name of “Panda’s Dream,” and what may be the world’s only face mask to harness the power of broccoli. Still, if you spend some time in their catalog, some patterns start to emerge. For one, you’ll notice that an awful lot of their products play on edible (or drinkable) objects.

Do you like coffee? Do you like tearing your face to shreds with St. Ives Apricot Scrub? Then you’ll love Tony Moly’s Latte Art Cappuccino Cream-In Scrub, the item that first attracted my attention in the Asian pharmacy. Screw off the impressively true-to-life foamy top to reveal exfoliating beads suspended in a coffee-like gel. The removable “spoon” is a spatula you can use to apply the product to your face.

Fear not, coffee-avoiders, for Tony Moly does not discriminate against those who prefer their caffeine in tea form. There is also a Latte Art Tea Morning Pack, a leave-on treatment for rough skin that comes with its own “creamer” capsule for extra nourishment.

This is really real, and here is the footage to prove it:

Continuing in the A.M. vein, do you like eggs? Do you like Biore pore strips? Then you’ll love Tony Moly’s Eggpore Shiny Skin Soap, which promises to draw out blackheads, and, more importantly, comes in its own mini-carton.

The Eggpore line also includes three creams: a brown egg for tightening skin, a white egg for sucking out all the blackheads the egg soap missed, and a gold egg that contains a pore-smoothing foundation primer. (Each of those links leads to a blog post with plenty of photos, if you’re anxious to know more, as I’m sure you are.)

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The most fantastic thing about these creams is a bonus function I’m pretty sure no other cosmetic company has ever touted in connection with its packaging: Once you’ve used up the product, you are instructed to “crack” open that exposed top and use the container as a plant pot.

Moving on, I find it hard to resist Tony Moly’s line of fruity lotions and lip balms, each packaged in the very fruit it purports to be powered by.

This perfect momofuku screws open to reveal an anti-aging hand cream:

Does it work? Do I care? And check out the matching mini-peach lip balm (pictured with the cherry version, also a winner).  That EOS stuff can go to hell.

Of course, there is no shortage of dessert-inspired products among Western skincare brands, but these tend to start and stop at the fragrance–typically, something buttery and vanilla-ish that I find too sickly to slather on or shower with. Tony Moly raises the bar for dessert verisimilitude by lacing its Ice Queen line of shaved-ice-inspired face treatments with a mystery ingredient that mimics ice crystals. (Photos here.)

I should note that Tony Moly does not have a monopoly on zany, food-inspired cosmetics. There’s another Korean brand called the Face Shop that makes a honeypot lip balm, and it comes with its own tiny honey dipper for hygienic (and probably deeply inconvenient) application. It’s difficult to express how much I covet this item, but I always manage to talk myself out of buying it because it costs something ridiculous like 16 bucks and isn’t even especially moisturizing.

If you live in New York and want to check out this crazy stuff for yourself, there is an older, smaller Face Shop at 35 W32nd St. in K-Town, and a larger, fancier Face Shop at 6B Elizabeth St in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Tony Moly doesn’t have its own boutiques, but you’ll find their products–with testers!–in any of those shiny new apothecaries I mentioned, if you can just work up the courage to enter one.

F. W. Burbidge Really Liked Tropical Fruit

F. W. Burbidge (1847-1905) was a British naturalist who traveled around Southeast Asia eating fruit. Officially, he was there collecting plant specimens, but it is clear from his travelogues what his real agenda was: all durian, all the time. The Gardens of the Sun is an account of his travels in Borneo and the Sulu Archipelago, and of the fruit he ate there, and it contains the most passionate love letters to tropical fruit I have ever read. They are all the more remarkable when you consider that he was an Englishman writing at a time when Englishmen weren’t supposed to enjoy any of the queer things that the savages liked, and were instead expected to sustain themselves between roast beef feedings by sniffing vials of Worcestershire sauce for stamina.

On the bounty of the tropics:

“It is to the tropics one must go for a drink of fresh cocoanut milk — a taste of the fascinating durian, for a luscious mango, or the delicious mangosteen; and while in the matter of flowers our cultivators at home certainly have the advantage, in the case of fruits this much can scarcely be said.”

“Fat juicy mangoes, delicate mangosteen, rambutan, bananas, and other kinds, never eaten in perfection anywhere but in the tropics — the gardens of the sun.”

On mangosteen:

“On cutting the leathery dark purple rind transversely about the middle of the fruit, it is found to be of a port-wine colour in section, and encloses from three to six segments of snow-white pulp, cool and refreshing to the taste, and with a flavour which is something like that of the finest nectarine, but with a dash of strawberry and pine-apple added.”

On durian: 

“It is said that the best of whisky is that made by blending several good kinds together, and Nature seems to have blended four or five good flavours together when she made the durian…In a word, the durian is a natural macédoine — one of Dame Nature’s made dishes — and if it be possible for you to imagine the flavour of a combination of com flour and rotten cheese, nectarines, crushed filberts, a dash of pine-apple, a spoonful of old dry sherry, thick cream, apricot-pulp, and a soupçon of garlic, all reduced to the consistency of a rich custard, you have a glimmering idea of the durian, but, as before pointed out, the odour is almost unmentionable — perfectly indescribable, except it be as ‘the fruit with the fragrant stink !’”

“The flavour of durian is satisfying, but it never cloys; the richness seems counteracted by a delicate acidity, the want of grape-like juiciness is supplied by the moist creamy softness of the pulp as it melts away ice-like on your tongue.”

“Its odour — one scarcely feels justified in using the word ‘perfume’ — is so potent, so vague, but withal so insinuating, that it can scarcely be tolerated inside the house. Indeed Nature here seems to have gone a little aside to disgust us with a fruit which is perhaps of all others the most fascinating to the palate, when once one has ‘broken the ice,’ as represented by the foul odour at first presented to that most critical of all organs of sense, the nose. As a matter of course, it is never brought to table in the usual way, and yet the chances are that whoever is lucky enough to taste a good fruit of it to begin with, soon develops into a surreptitious durian eater; just as a jungle tiger becomes a ‘man-eater’ after its first taste of human blood.”

On haters: 

“The late Dr. Lindley once said, in his usual incisive way, that ‘most tropical fruits were edible,’ but that ‘very few were worth eating;’ but then the probability is he had never tasted a mango or a mangosteen, a tarippe fruit, or the deliciously rich apricot-like pulp which surrounds the seeds of the caoutchouc-yielding willughbeias, and certainly not a durian.”

Ritter Sport: Brooklyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

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