I’ve been fortunate to attend a number of beauty-related events this year. However, they’ve all taken place in New York City. Living in Philadelphia, it’s not too much of a hassle for me to take a train up to The Big Apple.

But lately I’ve been lamenting the lack of a prominent skincare scene in my hometown. While I’m happy to trek to NYC when I can, it makes me wish that Philly hosted similar beauty events — not only for the relative ease of transit, but also for the opportunity to support local businesses.

Then I found Sabbatical Beauty.

Introducing Sabbatical Beauty

sabbatical beauty logo chalkboard

Sabbatical Beauty was founded in 2016 by Adeline Koh, Ph.D., a former humanities professor. While on sabbatical from her tenured position as an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Digital Humanities, Adeline sought self care in the form of skincare. What she found was a cluster of ineffective products and mountains of marketing fluff being pushed by numerous beauty brands.

What particularly bothered Adeline was the low percentage of active ingredients in the items she used. Adeline began experimenting with her own skincare concoctions — products she had wanted to see on the market. Upon seeing improvements in her own “red, dry, and acne-prone” skin, Adeline shared her handmade skincare with friends. Once they started seeing positive changes in their complexions after using the products, Adeline left academia behind to launch her small batch Korean-inspired beauty brand.

sabbatical beauty product line

Sabbatical Beauty began as an eCommerce store before opening a retail shop in South Philly’s historical Bok Building. The spacious storefront allows for Sabbatical Beauty to hold events like the one I recently attended.

Make Your Own Serum Workshop

sabbatical beauty make your own serum workshop

In this workshop, participants learned how to make one of Sabbatical Beauty’s most popular products, the Carol’s Sake & Rice Serum. Adeline originally designed this serum for her friend, Carol, who lives in Singapore. This is a descendant of the brand’s Sake & Rice Sleeping Pack, which was deemed too heavy for Carol’s oily skin amid the humid Singaporean climate.

There were approximately 20 people in attendance. Once everyone was workshop-ready — rubber gloves, hair nets, blue shoe covers, and alcohol spray — it was time to gather ’round the workshop table to create a serum.

Adeline took each ingredient individually and explained its purpose. Everyone was invited to come up and add something to a big plastic beaker. I volunteered to drop in the second ingredient, sake extract, because I love my sake. (Also, I was eager to help.) It was tricky to work with the sake extract because it was quite gooey, but fortunately Adeline guided me so that I didn’t pour anything beyond what was required.

Once everything was added and mixed via the cutest little immersion blender I ever saw, it was time to let the serum settle into its ideal, foam-free consistency. While we waited, we were invited to shop the store at a discount and ask Adeline any questions.

A short while later, everyone received a 7mL travel size vial of Carol’s Sake & Rice Serum, which could then be customized with a fragrance. While I love my scented skincare, I actually opted to leave my serum fragrance-free. I want to experience this serum without any added essential oils.

What’s in the serum, anyway?

Carol’s Sake & Rice Serum aims to even skin tone, fade post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation and dark spots, and provide a hit of hydration. Ingredients include (in order):

Lactobacillus/Oryza Sativa (Rice) BioFerment, Sake Extract, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Lactobacillus/Salix Alba (White Willow) Bark Ferment Filtrate, Lactobacillus/Lemon Peel Ferment Extract & Butylene Glycol, Lactobacillus/Aruninaria Gigantea (Bamboo) Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate & Lactobacillus & Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Panthenol, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, (Water & Caprylyl Glycol & Hexylene Glycol & Wasabia japonica (Wasabi) Root Extract & Zingiber officinale (Ginger) Root Extract & Allium sativum (Garlic) Bulb Extract), Fragrance.

What I gained from this experience

My own bottle of serum (that I helped create)

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I MADE THIS SERUM. . . OK, to be more specific, I HELPED make it. By putting in the sake extract. No, I did not drink it, thanks for asking. . . Today I attended the @sabbaticalbeauty Make Your Own Serum Workshop, led by the founder of SB @adelinekohphd. She led a group of us through the formulation of the brand's popular Carol's Sake and Rice Serum. Everyone had the chance to participate by adding the ingredients (with supervision) while also learning about the science behind what was being included and why. At the end, each person received their own travel-size bottle of the serum, which could then be customized with a scent. (I actually opted to go fragrance free here. And you know I like a good scent! But just my preference this time around.) . . I'll have more details about this event, as well as some additional info on Sabbatical Beauty itself, coming soon in my blog. I really enjoyed the experience of creating skincare and would love to do it again soon! Moreover, I'm just happy that such an event took place in Philly. Love to support hometown brands. 💜 . . Have you ever attended an event like this? Would you want to? . . #skincare #skincarescience #scienceandskincare #creatingskincare #serum #sakeserum #skincarecommunity #igskincare #sabbaticalbeauty #smallbusiness #supportsmallbusiness #phillysmallbusiness #phillyblogger #phillyskincare #skincarephilly

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Yes, this was totally a group effort with plenty of supervision. But every single person at that table contributed to the product we all got to take home, including me and my gooey sake. As someone who has oily skin, I’m especially looking forward to seeing what this serum can do for me in regards to fading PIH and providing hydration. A full-size bottle is $75, so I especially appreciate the opportunity to test drive it first.

Other goodies that I picked up on sale

As I mentioned, participants in the Make Your Own Serum Workshop received a storewide discount on all products. I didn’t go too crazy because I’m working through plenty of products right now, but I wanted to bring home more than just the serum.

Having never used donkey milk as a skincare ingredient, I was keen to give it a try when I saw a trial size of the Donkey Milk Gel Sleeping Pack. According to Adeline, this is ideal for oily skin, whereas the brand’s Donkey Cream is enriched for drier skin.

I also could not pass up an opportunity to try a product called Bite My Sparkly Snowflake Ass. I’m a January baby so it seemed fitting. Plus, I can always use a good sheer lip balm.

Oh, and Sabbatical Beauty dabbles in crystals, as well. I picked up a green aventurine to aid me in personal growth.

Finally, I bought an Eucalyptus Bath Bomb for those nights when I really need to unwind with a good soak.

An opportunity to learn & connect with other Philly-area skincare lovers

I truly enjoyed my time at the workshop. Not only did I receive a lesson in skincare science, I also had the chance to meet some lovely people from the Philly area who are skincare fans like I am. Not to mention, Adeline was great to work with and a true sweetheart. (And I am in awe at how she memorized everyone’s names so quickly!) I appreciate her opening up her space to all of us so we could try something different and fun.

I’m hoping that Sabbatical Beauty’s Make Your Own Serum Workshop marks the beginning of a burgeoning skincare scene in Philadelphia. While it’s great to travel to other locales to meet like-minded people, there’s a certain sense of pride — and yeah, convenience — in being able to experience such events in my own city. As a native Philadelphian, I am all for supporting homegrown brands, especially one as authentic and passionate as Sabbatical Beauty.

Now over to you…

Have you ever participated in such an event? Would you want to? Meanwhile, my fellow Philadelphians! What are some other homegrown beauty brands and stores that should be on my radar? Share it all with me in the comments.

More about Sabbatical Beauty

Sabbatical Beauty has a retail space located at 1901 S. 9th Street, #308, in South Philadelphia. Those outside of the Philadelphia area can order online; domestic and international orders are accepted. Follow the brand on Facebook and Instagram

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I am not a professional. All opinions are my own. 

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