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

Further Adventures In Korean Cosmetics Madness

I thought at first that these were those Keurig cups that everyone seems to either be fanatically in favor of or attribute the global landfill crisis to. (I don’t drink coffee. I have no opinion.) It turns out they’re potions from Saladit’s “Real Skin Salad Bar” line of baffling face treatments. You all know my feelings on Korean food-themed cosmetics of questionable efficacy, so I’ll just say that they come in Cabbage, Strawberry Yogurt, Mango Pudding, Honey, Cereal Dressing(?), Acorn (??), Broccoli, Cucumber, Kiwi, and Avocado varieties. And then I’ll say “Cabbage” and “Broccoli” again, because that is completely nuts.

What Charles Wallace’s Turkey Dinner Taught Me About Protecting My Palate

There are many reasons to avoid fast or industrially-prepared food. I don’t think I need to list them. But I have my own reason for trying to limit my consumption of 100-calorie packs and all that McJazz, and it’s quite separate from animal welfare, human welfare, nutrition, or even flavor. It owes something to a fictional boy named Charles Wallace, a character in the Wrinkle in Time books by Madeleine L’Engle, and his fierce independence of mind.

Do kids still read those books? They certainly did when I was growing up in the 80s, but the series is more than fifty years old now. Well, if you haven’t read them, or you read them so long ago that you’ve forgotten them, let me give you a bit of background.

In the first book, Meg Murry’s scientist father has gone missing; awkward, bespectacled, teenaged Meg, accompanied by her five-year-old super-genius brother Charles Wallace and her highschool classmate (and secretly sensitive jock) Calvin O’Keefe, travel through the universe to rescue him. (At some point in the fabric of space and time, Meg takes off her glasses and, prefiguring a thousand teen movie makeover scenes, Calvin remarks that she has “dream-boat eyes.”) It turns out that Mr. Murry is being held on the planet Camazotz, a world literally masterminded by a huge pulsating brain with legions of dark-smocked men to do its evil bidding.

When our exhausted, hungry heroes make it to Camazotz, a sinister welcome committee offers them a hot meal. Acknowledging that the food is synthetic, they nevertheless promise that a “slight conditioning” is all it will take to give the illusion of a roast turkey dinner. Dubious at first, Meg and Calvin easily make the mental adjustment; it’s Charles Wallace who can’t quite get there:

The table was set up in front of them, and the dark-smocked men heaped their plates with
 turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy and little green peas with big yellow blobs of
 butter melting in them and cranberries and sweet potatoes topped with gooey browned marshmallows 
and olives and celery and rosebud radishes and—

Meg felt her stomach rumbling loudly. The saliva came to her mouth.

“Oh, Jeeminy—” Calvin mumbled.

Chairs appeared and the four men who had provided the feast slid back into the shadows.

Charles Wallace freed his hands from Meg and Calvin and plunked himself down on one of the 
chairs.

“Come on,” he said. “If it’s poisoned it’s poisoned, but I don’t think it is.”

Calvin sat down. Meg continued to stand indecisively.

Calvin took a bite. He chewed. He swallowed. He looked at Meg. “If this isn’t real, it’s the
 best imitation you’ll ever get.”

Charles Wallace took a bite, made a face, and spit out his
 mouthful. “It’s unfair!” he shouted at the man.

Laughter again. “Go on, little fellow. Eat.”

Meg
 sighed and sat. “I don’t think we should eat this stuff, but if you’re going to, I’d better, too.”
 She took a mouthful. “It tastes all right. Try some of mine, Charles.” She held out a forkful of
 turkey.

Charles Wallace took it, made another face, but managed to swallow. “Still tastes like sand,”
 he said. He looked at the man. “Why?”

“You know perfectly well why. You’ve shut your mind entirely to me. The other two can’t. I can 
get in through the chinks. Not all the way in, but enough to give them a turkey dinner. You see,
 I’m really just a kind, jolly old gentleman.”

“Ha,” Charles Wallace said.

The man lifted his lips into a smile, and his smile was the most horrible thing Meg had ever
 seen. “Why don’t you trust me, Charles? Why don’t you trust me enough to come in and find out what
 I am? I am peace and utter rest. I am freedom from all responsibility. To come in to me is the
 last difficult decision you need ever make.”

“If I come in can I get out again?” Charles Wallace asked.

“But of course, if you want to. But I don’t think you will want to.”

Maybe it’s silly, but I’m almost fanatical about preserving an independent palate. My beliefs, my values, my story of who I am is all tied up in the foods I reach for, prepare, and feed to others–if the dark-smocked men get in my palate, they get in my head. What, you don’t think I like McDonald’s dollar-menu cheeseburgers? I’m not Charles Wallace, I’m Meg. I like them a lot

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.)

21MtvX7RFPL

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.

← Older Newer →