Calming Serums

Calming Serums

By Kate Limond
30/12/2022 | Read time: 5m

I put two calming serums head to head from two brands I absolutely love: Beauty of Joseon and Mary & May.

My Thoughts on K-Beauty Serums

I have a confession to make: although there are so many great k-beauty serums out there, it’s not my favourite step.

Toners and essences are much larger than serums, and in Korean skincare, they can heal as well as hydrate and even brighten, as you can see from my raves about propolis, Cosrx 96 and Dr Ceuracle Kombucha essence, to name a few favourites!

Moisturisers give obvious immediate benefits in terms of how your skin feels and looks. But serums? It often takes time to see their effects and they’re tiny!

But k-beauty serums punch well above their weight and usually have more concentrated ingredients than any products other step.

Whilst I’m willing to put the effort in to wait for the longer term effects of k-beauty serums, a calming serum really appeals to me as it’s likely to have a more immediate impact and I could always do with extra calming.

I used the serums twice a day and I did one week of the Beauty of Joseon, one week of Mary & May and then a few days of them both together.

Calming Ingredients

Green tea and centella asiatica extracts have a long history of use for skin treatments in Asia for very good reasons, as both are beneficial for skin.

Centella is useful for wound healing and has anti-inflammatory effects: this makes it a key ingredient for calming irritated skin.

Green tea extract can have UV protective benefits, anti-inflammatory effects and “these compounds [from tea extracts] improve microcirculation and the condition of blood vessels, which results in a better skin nutrition and oxygenation”.

Both centella and green tea have antioxidants and can have anti-aging effects , which is a lovely bonus to discover, as I chose products with these extracts primarily for their calming effects.

Beauty of Joseon Calming Serum


Compared to other Beauty of Joseon serums, it’s thinner than their Glow serum, maybe a fraction thinner than their Glow Deep: watery and very spreadable.


Green tea is the main ingredient, with 76.49% green tea leaf water, which is an excellent antioxidant. As I mentioned above, it adds some support against UV damage and provides anti-inflammatory benefits, supported by other anti-inflammatory antioxidants (cacao, propolis and panthenol).

This k-beauty serum contains additional beneficial plant extracts for calming, including centella asiatica and mugwort. For hydration, it contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid.


The serum is very lightweight and applies similarly one of the thicker toners, like Pyunkang Yul essence toner. An easily spreading k-beauty serum feels pleasant when your skin is irritated!

I definitely feel the hydration factor from this serum, which is excellent, as irritated skin can be dehydrated too.

As it has a thin texture for a k-beauty serum, I usually apply it after toner but before essence, and it seems to work well in this order, building on the hydration from my toner.

Mary & May Centella Asiatica serum


This is a thick, syrupy serum: much thicker than the Beauty of Joseon serum. It’s also thicker than the Mary & May Blackberry serum. Although it’s a touch less spreadable than the Beauty of Joseon, I quite like thicker products, because the texture feels comforting and healing to me, so I’m a big fan.


The Mary & May serum contains 95% centella asiatica extract, which is a very high concentration. There are also some emollient and humectant ingredients, providing a little moisturising and hydrating effects.


The smell of this serum is divine! It’s a kind of herbal citrus smell, it reminds me of earl grey tea with lemon. It smells a lot like other products I’ve tried that have a high concentration of centella.

The thick, honey-like texture is still easy to smooth over my skin and it doesn’t feel sticky, despite the thickness.

It feels immediately soothing and I’ve even been known to apply it right after cleansing, if my skin is feeling particularly irritated. I can’t say it performs better in and of itself as a first product but it is immediately calming when applied in this way, even though it’s a thicker texture and therefore technically should be applied later in your routine.

Although it has some ingredients that are humectants and therefore can hydrate, I don’t find this serum as hydrating as the Beauty of Joseon. If calming and hydration is what you are looking for in a k-beauty serum, then the Beauty of Joseon is the better choice. But I’d argue that Mary & May is more calming and soothing of the two.

What About Both Serums?

I felt there was a slight boost to the calming effect when using both together but probably not enough to seriously recommend both at once under normal circumstances.

However, I really do feel a benefit to using the Beauty of Joseon and the Mary and May together on my neck, as each seems to increase the calming potential of the other.

I’ve done a few short routines recently and ended up skipping the serum step entirely – and I notice my neck area is more irritable the next day, which proves their effects for my skin!

I still tend to prefer Mary & May Blackberry serum for my face – it’s a great all-rounder and my face generally doesn’t need as much calming as my neck. You can read my review of the Mary & May Blackberry serum here and the essence here.

I didn’t find that any of these k-beauty serums had much of an effect on my redness in particular but, so far, very little has had more than a brief initial effect on my facial redness so I don’t expect miracles!

Either the Beauty of Joseon or the Mary & May are well worth considering if you’re looking for a calming k-beauty serum: they both work well and are very nice to use!