When I posted this Galactus-size haul, the product that everyone seemed to be most interested in a review for was this baby, the Skinfood Steam Milk Bubble Mask. I suspect a lot of that attention was because, at least for us non-Korean-speakers, it’s a slightly confusing product. Is it a mask? If so, then why does the product description on the Skinfood site call it a cleanser? Yet Urban Outfitters’ website calls it a mask (no, I’m not linking to them, because, to put it as politely as possible: fuck Urban Outfitters for a myriad of reasons)… is it a cleanser that can double as a wash-off mask?
After testing this product both ways for a little over a month, my verdict is: it’s both. Or at least, it seems to perform quite sufficiently for both roles! I think that I personally like using this product as a wash-off mask a little more than I like it as a cleanser, but I’m probably getting ahead of myself a bit by saying that now. I’ll go over how it works both as a cleanser and a mask, and you can be the judge over which way you think it’s meant to be used!
As you can see, the Steam Milk Bubble Mask comes packaged in a bottle that’s meant to evoke a whipped cream canister. The outer box packaging even continues the theme, with a very traditionally “dairy product” shape:
Of course, they followed the aesthetic all the way to the logical conclusion, and the bottle does in fact have a nozzle-style dispenser! It’s not really a whipped cream type dispenser, but given how easily those can clog, I’d say that’s a good thing. Clogged whip cream nozzles are the bane of coffee drink lovers and baristas everywhere, y’all know what I mean!
Personally, I find the whole look very charming and appealing. I’ve always made the “milk = soothing” connection, whether it’s a glass of warm milk before bed, some ginger tea with milk to settle an upset stomach, or milk in a skincare or body product meant to relieve irritation, so I’m probably exactly the kind of person that Skinfood was hoping to entice with this packaging and theme!
Here is the official product description, from Skinfood’s website:
A convenient self-lathering mask that deep-cleanses, exfoliates, and softens dry skin in a single step with soft, rich foam.
[Steamed Milk Story]
When steamed, milk turns into a mound of microfine bubbles that are sustained with all the benefits milk has, and yet feels silkier and softer to the touch.
To Use: Dispense a few pumps into the palm and massage into dry skin. Wash off thoroughly with lukewarm water. Shake the can lightly before use.
So, as mentioned before, it calls itself a mask, but the instructions seem a lot more like a face wash as it instructs immediate rinsing.
I’ve been using this product two ways:
First, as a normal cleanser. As instructed, I apply it onto dry skin and massage my face, then add water, massage a bit more and rinse everything off with my konjac sponge. This does a pretty good job as a basic cleanser; while it wouldn’t be sufficient on its own for makeup and/or sunscreen removal, it works quite well as your second-step cleanser in a double cleanse system or as your morning face wash if you just need something to wash off overnight excess oil.
Second, as a wash-off mask. I apply it onto my dry skin – either first thing in the morning or after I’ve oil cleansed and patted my face dry – and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. I then wet my hands and start massaging/rinsing off the lather. I find that my face feels VERY soft and looks nicely glowy after using the product this way, so it’s something that I like to do a couple times a week. It’s not on the level of a radiance-oriented sheet mask’s glow, but my skin just feels clean, silky smooth, and looks nice and supple.
I’ve taken photos of the mask process, so you can see what to expect in regards to product texture, lather, how it looks after leaving it on your skin for ~7 minutes, and how well it removed a lip stain.
Here’s how the product looks when it’s first dispensed. Frothy, creamy, milky foam! This stuff lathers up pretty well, so if you’re using it just as a face wash, be sure not to go overboard – you’ll end up with way too much bubbly lather if you use a big pump! Here’s an example of the lather that I got from that dollop:
Very foamy, with peaks just like a whipping cream! The high lather is not as big of a problem when you use it as a mask, since, as you can see here…
…after leaving it on the skin for a few minutes, the bubbles go down and the product absorbs a bit into your skin. Not all the way, though – once you add water again to start rinsing it off, the lather you saw in the above photograph will return, maybe at like… 2/3 of the amount of lather. So some product does definitely either get absorbed, or maybe it’s just a chemical reaction that makes the foaminess dissipate somewhat over exposure to air. I’m not familiar enough with the chemistry involved here to know for sure.
You can see that there was a remnant of a lip stain on my hand when I was doing this test – not intentional, that stuff was just HEAVY DUTY. It took an oil cleanser, makeup remover, hand soap, this product, and then the Tony Moly Latte Art Milk-Cacao Pack before it was finally gone! But it does serve some purpose here, as you can see that this mask didn’t really have much effect on the stain. As I said before, it’s not really meant to act as a makeup remover.
Here’s my hand after the mask was washed off. Uh, I don’t know why it looks so… unfocused. I seriously took 6 pictures and they all came out looking like this, so I finally just gave up. But it’s good enough of a photo that you CAN see that the lip stain had faded, albeit not by much. So it does clean, but it’s not a miracle worker that can stand up to the Shara Shara Lip Stain of Doom.
After rinsing this off as a mask or face wash, my face feels comfortable, not stripped at all. The silky-soft feeling is much more obvious after using it as a mask, but my skin texture was nice when I was using this as just a normal cleanser, too.
Now, let’s talk about the ingredients and the pH!
Water, Glycerin, Steareth-21, Sodium Cocoylalaninate, Lauryl Phosphate, Disodium LAureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium, Lactace, Sodium Gluconate, Milk Protein Extract, Butylene Glycol, Alcohol, Butane, Propane, PCA, Sodium Hydroxide, Polyglutamic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Milk Lipids, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Fruit Extract, Gardenia Florida Fruit Extract, Angelica Archangelica Leaf Extract, Houttutnia Cordata Extract, Acorus Calamus Root Extract, Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Fruit Extract, Artemisia Princeps Extract, Cannamomum Cassia Bark Extract, Cnidium Officinale Eoot Extract, Chamomilla Recutitta (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Psidium Guajava Fruit Extract, Maphighia Emarginata (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Actinidia Chinesis (Kiwi) Fruit Extract, Garcinia Mangostana Fruit Extract, Litchi Chinesesis Fruit Extract, Durio Zibethinus Extract, Vaccinum Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit extract, 1,2-Hexandiol, Caprylyl Glycol, Tropolone, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Xanthan Gum, Methylparaben, Phenoxuetanol, Parfum
The CosDNA listing is here. Only one ingredient ticks a result on the acne-risk column – Butylene Glycol with a 1 out of 5 – however, there are a few controversial ingredients in the mix.
Most obvious is alcohol. I’ve alluded to this before, but it really depends on who you believe and how you interpret the studies that each side tends to quote. I go into more depth in this review, so in the interest of not re-typing everything, if you’re interested in the alcohol-in-skincare debate, please visit that post!
Butane and Propane are involved due to the delivery system/packaging, but that was likely obvious as soon as you saw the whipped-cream style container. Looking online, some people have reservations about using ANY products with these ingredients, so that’s something to keep in mind if you find them objectionable.
While “Parfum” is low on the list, the smell is a bit strong. It has that standard baby powder smell that, for some reason, Korean brands seem to like using with the descriptor of “steamed milk” – I’ve seen perfume sticks and other products that were steam milk scent that was really just baby powder. I don’t know why this is a thing, but it clearly is. The smell is a tad too strong for me to be able to get around the fact that I simply don’t like how baby powder smells, and I really do wish that this product actually smelled like sweet milk or cream – total missed opportunity to really capitalize on the amazing packaging and product theme!
Some of the interesting ingredients that, to me, stand out in a positive way:
Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract: Considered to be soothing and good for sensitive and acne-prone skin, or skin that is inflamed or sensitized due to weather, shaving burn, or other irritation.
Glycerin: Excellent moisturizer and humectant.
Milk Lipids: Emollient, hydrating.
Milk Proteins: Supposedly, these aid in hydrating and calming irritated and dry skin.
Polyglutamic Acid: Bacterially fermented and a component of natto.
Sodium Hyaluronate: The sodium salt of hyaluronic acid. You’ve likely heard many people talking about the benefits of Hyaluronic Acid, but here is a decent write-up for anyone curious.
Overall, there’s a good number of positive, hydrating, and soothing ingredients in this product – I’m not really surprised that my skin felt softened and hydrated when I look at this ingredients list!
Now, on to the pH. For a myriad of reasons, it’s generally advised to use cleansers, toners, etc with a pH of 5.5-6 at the highest. I’ve purchased two different types of pH strips and tested the Skinfood Steam Milk Bubble Mask with both:
Note that these photos are of the cleanser BY ITSELF, not mixed with water. I do this because I have very “hard” water – when it was measured recently, it was around 9, which would probably skew the results a lot as many of you do not have such alkaline tap water. For example, even the famous and beloved SU:M37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick – accepted as 5.5 pH from many, many tests – will test as 6.5 after mixing with my water.
Because I don’t like to introduce this variable into my posted results, I only post pH measurements including water mixing if it cannot be avoided (ie, powder cleansers). So your results may vary after mixing a cleanser with your water, as your water is very likely a different pH than mine.
As I’ve done before, I asked for some extra eyes on /r/AsianBeauty, just because I tend to have trouble discerning between the 5-7 range on the multi-colored strips. They say we all see slight color variations from person to person, and clearly something in the green/yellow shades they use on these strips is just hitting a weird spot for me as I do have trouble telling them apart. The consensus was, though, that the Skinfood Steam Milk Bubble Mask ph was between 5-6, so I’ll call it a 6, just to err on the side of caution. However, you can look at my pH strips above and draw your own conclusions, of course!
I think that is a satisfactory cleanser that seems to be in the acceptable pH range. I did not notice any breakouts, irritation, flaking, dryness, excess oiliness, or any other signs of trouble during the month+ that I used this as my twice-daily cleanser. Be aware, though, that it does not work as a makeup remover or sunscreen remover – you will need to double cleanse with this as your second face wash.
As a wash-off mask, I found the Skinfood Steam Milk Bubble Mask to be a joy. The rich lather and bubbles were fun to leave on my face, and after rinsing my skin was silky-soft, glowy, and felt clean but hydrated. I really enjoy using this as a semi-weekly treatment for an extra boost of soothing moisture with some cleansing action as well!
The packaging and aesthetic of this product is extremely endearing – I love the milk carton outer packaging, the whipped-cream can bottle, and the foamy, creamy, lathery texture of the product.
In regards to the packaging and overall presentation, though, I have only two complaints: First, the smell isn’t to my taste – it’s baby powder, not milk or cream – and a bit too strong. Secondly, I wish they’d coat the label in some sort of water-resistant film as they do on their cleansing oils – as it is now, it’s just paper, and gets water damaged and starts to crumble/disintegrate at the edges very quickly. You can see this beginning to happen to my bottle if you look at the photos above and pay close attention to the edges of the label. I’ve seen other reviewers complaining of this as well, saying that it gets a lot worse as time goes on, with the label peeling and tearing off due to the damage.
So, if I had to say it in tl;dr fashion, my Skinfood Steam Milk Bubble Mask review is that it’s a solid, but not amazing, cleanser and a truly fantastic wash-off mask treatment. I think that if I hadn’t fallen in love with the MRCS (like everyone else in the world, lmao) I’d consider repurchasing this, and the only real thing to keep me away would be the baby powder smell. However, I much prefer using the MRCS as my cleanser and the Steam Milk Bubble Mask as a hydrating/softening/cleansing treatment at least once a week.
Where To Buy
There are affiliate links present in this post; please see the site disclaimer for more info. If you use any of these links for purchases, THANK YOU! You are my beauty-enabling sunshine!