6 Dec 2015

Review: The Saem Urban Eco Harakeke Toner + Emulsion

I wanted to save this review for later after I'm done with my thousands other reviews. But some of my Insta-followers actually showed a lot of interests over these two, which prompts me to jump shift and write about this first as I don't want to keep you guys waiting for too long.

I bought the Urban Eco Harakeke Toner and Emulsion pair from Hermo last year but only started using it in June this year (I have to finish my Nature Republic Saccharomyces and Innisfree Green Tea lines first). For 1-2 times a day, this toner and emulsion pair has lasted me for about 5-6 months, which is pretty standard.


For some of you who don't know about The Saem, The Saem is a lower-middle range Korean cosmetic brand similar to Innisfree, The Face Shop, Skinfood and so on. Their products are targeted for younger people, I think below 30s, and are more affordable compared to middle and higher-end brands such as Laneige and Hera.

The Saem has made its presence in many Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong and Indonesia. It has also opened its first store in Kuching, Malaysia a few months ago. However, I don't think they are popular or have made a global presence in English-speaking countries. I can't even find their English version official website! They have a lot of interesting lines though (see the picture below), but I don't want to risk buying them before getting to try them out first. So I shall wait until they come to the Peninsular.


The Urban Eco Harakeke line is made of harakeke plant from New Zealand, or more commonly known as the New Zealand flax. It is traditionally used by the Maori people in New Zealand to make ropes and fibres. Research done by companies (link1, link2 and link3, link4) that utilize harakeke in their cosmetic products claim that the harakeke has moisturizing, anti-microbial, and soothing properties. Vitro studies also found this to be more moisturizing and soothing than aloe vera. Not a lot of independent studies were done on the skincare benefits of harakeke probably because the ingredient is still relatively new to the beauty industry. But, a lack of studies does not equate a lack of benefits though.

The harakeke line by The Saem is a collaborated work with a New Zealand certified natural skincare company, Living Nature. Active ingredients used in Living Nature products are mostly derived from New Zealand indigenous plants, just like how Innisfree uses ingredients exclusively from the Jeju Island. Only ingredients with powerful healing, purifying and nourishing qualities are chosen into Living Nature products, without any harsh chemicals and synthetic preservatives. 

Does that sound convincing and attractive for those who are into natural skincare products with purifying qualities?

the body label of The Saem toner and emulsion pair in English 


#super moisturizing
#natural antiseptic
#soothing, cooling and calming

The Saem Urban Eco Harakeke Toner
(KRW 13,900)

This toner is the best-selling and most raved product from the line. It contains 92% of harakeke extract and is made of 100% harakeke extracted water instead of plain water (aqua). The toner has a watery gel texture that will melt once it touches your skin. The magical thing about this toner is that despite the gel texture, it doesn't leave any greasiness or stickiness. Everything just sinks into your skin without a trace like splashing water onto your face. The only difference between splashing this and water onto your face is that -- this toner will leave a cooling, refreshing and hydrating finish. If you have tried Nature Republic Aloe Vera Soothing Gel, the feeling is similar but a little less refreshed more hydrated.

I also love the fact that it comes with a pump instead of a twisted-open cap which makes it more hygienic and convenient to use. Only a pea sized amount will come out each time so you need to dispense at least 4-5 pumps to cover your entire face. Be generous, this will last.

Individuals with combination to oily skin will love this. The texture of this toner is extremely light but is powerful enough to deliver moisture deep into your skin. Since it is not heavy at all for your skin, it will be perfect for dehydrated oily skin who might want to avoid overly nourishing products. This is cool for the summer time but is equally good for the winter time as well as long as you apply a cream. I am not entirely sure about very dry or flaky skin but I think normal to dry skin will fare well with this too.

(click here for my Cosdna profile)

Phormium Tenax Extract, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, Glycereth-26, PEG-32, Honey, Calendula Officinalis Flower Water, Echinacea Angustifolia Root Cell Culture Extract, PEG-240/HDI Copolymer Bis-Decyltetradeceth-20 Ether, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Sucrose Distearate, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PEG-12 Glyceryl Laurate, PEG-36 Castor Oil, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Hydroxide, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA, Perfume


The major ingredient in this toner is harakeke leaf juice. As we've discussed above, harakeke is a powerful skin hydrator with oil controlling, anti-bacterial, soothing and cooling properties. This makes it great for those individuals with acne problem, fungal-infection, sebum overproduction intensive hydration who appreciates greater hydration.

Other nice side-dishes include:
  • honey extract: moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, promotes wound-healing
  • marigold flower extract: moisturizing, antioxidant, anti-acne, anti-inflammatory, oil-controlling
  • echinacea angustifolia root extract: antioxidant, can stimulate collagen production, anti-bacterial, soothing, boosts skin renewal
  • lecithin: skin-repairing, natural moisturizing agent, can improve skin elasticity, emollient, soothing
  • glycerin: moisturizing

Those flagged in blue are common moisturizers found in cosmetic products. Flagged in red are ingredients that score "4/5" on hazardous scale in Cosdna; whereas those in yellow score "3/5" on hazardous scale in Cosdna. (Note: a score of 1-2 are considered safe on skin for long-term usage). I am not sure why PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer and PEG-36 Castor Oil are considered "hazardous" but my own research confirms that they are safe to be used on your skin. PEG/PPG-17/6 has been approved by US FDA for use in cosmetics whereas PEG-36 Castor Oil are rated "safe" by the CIR expert panel (link can be found here, see the "safety" column; original report).

The Saem Urban Eco Harakeke Emulsion EX
(KRW 13,900)

The Harekeke Emulsion is another very nice product from this line, although not as popular as the toner. It's a milky lotion-type product that is often used as a light moisturizer for the morning. There is a cream version which I might get later, but I am still hesitating between their root cream vs. fresh cream, will it be better than my beloved Innisfree Green Tea Seed Cream???

The packaging of this emulsion is similar to the toner. I think it will be nice if all other toners and emulsions are packed in a pump dispenser like this as well.

The emulsion is milky white, kind of like your body lotion but is much lighter than that. It is not very rich, but is surprisingly hydrating and cooling. I think this is great for summer-time. Any skin types can use this although this might not be powerful enough for flaky or very dry skin in the winter

As for me, someone with normal to dry skin, I think this emulsion provides the right amount of moisture that my skin needs. However, if I apply this without a toner, my skin can get a little greasy later. I prefer using this in the morning. It is great when used with a sunscreen as its light-weighted texture minimizes the greasiness of using both a moisturizer and a sunscreen; but is not sufficiently hydrating enough for the evening compared to a cream.

(click here for my Cosdna profile)

Phormium Tenax Extract, Butylene Glycol, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Glycerin, Honey, Calendula Officinalis Flower Water, Echinacea Angustifolia Root Cell Culture Extract, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Isododecane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Sorbitan Oleate, Stearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Polyacrylate, Potassium Hydroxide, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA, Perfume


Just like the toner, the main ingredient in this emulsion is harakeke leaf juice. Except for macadamia oil, which is a non-greasy emollient with excellent spreadability, other extracts are pretty much the same as the toner.

A few ingredients score a 3/5 on the hazardous scale on Cosdna, which I think is manageable. However, a lot of the ingredients are reported to be comedogenic (acne-triggering) and irritating such as stearyl alcohol, sorbitan oleate, stearic acid, dimethicone, PEG-100 stearate etc. which may be bad for those with acne-prone skin.

In comparison with the toner, the emulsion uses more light-weighted emollients, has less harmful ingredients, contains similar amount of botanical extracts and good ingredients, and has more comedogenic ingredients.

Packaging ★★★★
Texture ★★★★☆
Scent ★★★★☆
Ingredients ★★★★☆
Performance ★★★★☆

Packaging ★★★★
Texture ★★★☆
Scent ★★★★☆
Ingredients ★★★★
Performance ★★★★


To sum up everything, I love these "presents from the nature". Both products come in a nice packaging with hygienic and reusable pumps. Both have very pleasant rain-forest scent. If you have smelled the real aloe vera before, this thing smells like it: very planty that is slightly on the perfumy side.

The toner definitely worths the hypes. It is not watery but will melt into water once applied, leaving your skin so supple and refreshed. It's just like you've had a warm shower in the rain forest. Although this doesn't soften your skin like most other Korean toners, it is very cooling and hydrating. Perfect for all skin types in the summer time, and is also great for oily to combination skin in the winter. With the natural antimicrobial properties of harakeke and other extracts, this will help to soothe and calm acne-prone skin too. I love to use this when my skin feels irritated and sensitive sometimes.

I gave the remaining 20% of this toner to Mr. Terrible Skin. I got bored of this toner (the truth is I want to try other toners that I've bought) and he has just finished his. After using it for 2 weeks, he told me he has lesser acnes than before. His skin doesn't provide as much oil and feels more comfortable after using this toner. However, he doesn't like this as much as Hadalabo Moisturizing Toner though. He has dehydrated and oily skin, and he feels that Hadalabo does a better job at hydrating.

As for the emulsion, it is nicely formulated without being too sticky or light. The absorption is quite fast and doesn't leave any greasy residue. Your skin will feel soft and supple at touch. This is close to the texture of the Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Lotion but I somehow like the Innisfree one better presumably because it is less milky. But The Saem is definitely more hydrating and cooling than Innisfree.

Again, I have given this emulsion to a friend of mine who have flaky and dry skin when I am 80% done with the bottle. He loves it very much, and says that he has never smelled something so nice before. Very natural and refreshing. The product also reduces the flakiness on his face.

Both toner and emulsion have good ingredients, simple and nice. Unless you have very dry or sensitive skin, this harakeke pair will be great to try. I love using them especially when my skin is feeling sensitive or needs some refreshment. It hydrates but not nourishes, which is perfect for Malaysia weather. I would compare this pair to the Innisfree Green Tea Balancing and say that they are equally great. Love them both.

You can get this from: Hermo / TesterKorea / StrawberryNET

[Disclaimer] This is NOT a sponsored review. Products are purchased with my own money. All copy right of contents and images in this article is strictly mine.
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