As an online beauty shopping devotee who has abandoned many shopping carts, there are certain products I just can’t seem to escape. Things I’ve casually had my eye on for months will magically appear as advertisements in the far corners of the Internet, and when I see something enough times, I surrender. That’s how I ended up with Cure Natural Aqua Gel ($38), a Japanese peeling mask that’s got a serious cult-following (including many beauty editors), and offers a powerful-yet-gentle exfoliation that yields ultra-smooth skin.
The product has some unquestionably star-studded stats, including 4,000 five-star reviews on Amazon and the title of “top exfoliator in Japan”—so it’s easy to understand why a bottle of it sells every 12 seconds. But what really drew me in was the fact that its fans claim it visibly sloughs away dead skin cells, which can be a complete game-changer when it comes to enhancing the texture of severely dry skin.
Peels have always intimidated me, but because this one is loaded with gentle extracts like rosemary, aloe, and ginkgo, I felt okay using it on my sensitive complexion. Skin-nourishing extracts aside, the real star of the show here is the formula’s 91 percent concentration of activated hydrogen water. It works to restore skin cells by stimulating cell turnover and reduces oxidative stress, which contributes to premature aging, uneven skin and uneven skin tone. Physically, it also promises to solve issues relating to blackheads, enlarged pores, and dullness.
When it came time to test the Aqua Gel for myself, I cleansed and towel-dried my face before diving in. I applied two pumps of product all over my complexion, and let it sit for 10 seconds to allow the formula to interact with the dead skin cells. Then, I massaged it into my skin using light pressure, and instantly began to see balls of dead skin forming on my cheeks, nose, and forehead. I was already impressed with how many dead skin cells were surfacing, but it wasn’t until I got to my chin that I noticed a significant amount piling up—which I’ll attribute to months-worth of wearing a face covering. The formula goes from being smooth to feeling gritty as you rub it into the skin (thanks to those dead skin balls), but I never experienced any tingling, burning, or discomfort.
After roughly a minute of DIY massage, I rinsed it off and had that dreaded “squeaky clean” feeling on my face. For me, this sensation typically means that my skin has been stripped of its natural oils, which can result in tightness, redness, and dehydration. Thankfully, once I patted my skin dry, the feeling went away, and every inch of my skin felt baby-soft, as if I had just finished shaving my face—it was that smooth.
I continued with my nighttime skin-care routine by slathering on the Ranavat Brightening Saffron Serum ($135) to further enhance my skin’s newfound radiance and finished things off with my tried-and-true Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream Moisturizer ($100) to seal in hydration. My skin drank up both products, and I found that they absorbed quickly into my skin versus sitting on top. So if you’re looking to get rid of complexion-dulling dead skin cells with an incredibly gentle formula, Cure Aqua Gel deserves a spot as your new beauty cabinet staple.
Shop now: Cure Natural Aqua Gel, $38
To learn more about exfoliation (and why you should be doing it on the reg), check out the video below.