How Science from Korea Can Save Your Skin

How Science from Korea Can Save Your Skin
Bad news bros: If you wait until your face looks like the surface of the moon, it’s too late.
Tiege Hanley Logo What if there was a company that took all of the world's best skin care science and made a dead simple solution for men without all of the gratuitous markup? Check out Tiege Hanley's system that provides boutique brand results at drug store prices. Primer readers save $5 off their first order with code “primer5”!

What is this?

Your skin is pretty amazing. It’s the largest organ of the body, measuring about 21 square feet and accounting for 15% of your body weight. Each of your skin’s seven layers has a different function, from pathogen protection to supporting the hundreds of species of microflora (i.e., very tiny critters). Every 28 days, your skin renews itself entirely.

I know I should take better care of my skin. I’ve been told how important it is to wear sunscreen and moisturize, etc., etc., but there’s so much information out there about skin care that comes wrapped in scientific jargon and marketing speak that I just haven’t given it much time. What should I use? What products are important? What works and what is snake oil?  I’m not going to go educate myself unless I have a problem, and I’ve been lucky to be relatively acne and blemish free since college.

But here’s the problem: skin starts to show visible signs of aging in your mid-20s, and since time is (unfortunately) linear that process doesn’t stop simply because you’re not paying attention. The moment to start a proactive skin care routine is now. But who has the time or bandwidth?

peptides skin care

Tiege Hanley is a new skin care brand founded to address exactly this problem. It works like this: You pick a level (1, 2, or 3) and they send you everything you need each month to take care of your skin; you can subscribe or just order as needed. Level 1 comes with 4 products that last you a month and only sets you back $25. Tiege Hanley stands out for two reasons: their laser focus on clinically-driven skin health (more on that later) and the work they’ve put into making skin care simple and streamlined.

Tiege Hanley isn’t so much a set of products as it is a system. Each month’s supply comes with an instruction card that tells you when to use each product and a diagram of exactly how much is the right amount. It’s simple to the point of idiot proof. If you want to do more than soap & water, this might be it: a skin care line designed from the ground up for busy guys.

The New Science of Skin

Tiege Hanley was founded by four guys: Rob, Kelley, Aaron and a man known only as The Chemist. Why the cloak and dagger routine? The Chemist is an accomplished international skin care industry scientist and formulator.  He brings decades of insider knowledge to Tiege Hanley but because of professional obligations wants to be discreet about it. He was attracted to the vision Tiege Hanley presented around quality and simplicity. I knew I wanted to talk to this guy. So I got on the phone with him and what he said surprised me.

The Chemist told me the most cutting-edge research on skin care comes out of Korea. Why? Good old capitalism. “They have a huge cosmetic culture for men,” he said. A larger market means more dollars for R&D. “The major cosmetic companies in US and Europe are monitoring Korea for advances.” Another reason? Korea has more permissive rules when it comes to biochemicals in consumer products.

The Chemist’s position as an industry insider means he’s aware of what the Koreans are up to. “We’re drawing on techniques and biochemical research from Korean researchers,” he says, “particularly in the use of peptides.” Peptides are an essential ingredient in Tiege Hanley’s strategy to protect your skin from damage. And it turns out, there’s a lot of things in the world trying to mess with your skin.

Skin Care is Nutrition for the Outside of your Body

Airborne pollution, especially in urban areas, is a leading cause of wear and tear on our skin. The Chemist told me “Aging in today’s world is a combination of stress and environment.” High levels of ozone lead to correspondingly high levels of free radicals in the air. You may have heard of free radicals: they’re the chemical species that attack DNA and cellular membranes, causing damage and mutations.

“Just by walking around the city on a high ozone day your skin cells are being attacked,” says the Chemist, and the solution is antioxidants. Tiege Hanley products have a high amount of antioxidants to counter the effects of environment. “Polyphenolics are a class of chemical in our products,” he says, “they’re no different than what’s in fruit and vegetables to scavenge free radicals. They also act as an antimicrobial.” Most of Tiege’s polyphenolics are derived from green tea and grapeseed.


Another component of Tiege Hanley products are peptides, the building blocks of proteins. Peptides are added to Tiege Hanley products to counter wrinkles. The Chemist explained that wrinkles form when the structural proteins collagen and elastin start to break down. “The peptides in our products actually target organelles within a cell, causing fibroblasts to secrete collagen,” he says. The use of peptides for skin care is one of the key discoveries to come out of Korean research in the last 15 years.

What the Chemist was saying boiled down to: I eat lots of fruit, vegetables, and protein to keep my insides healthy – how is my outside any different?

The Products

tiege hanley products

Daily Face Wash

The name says it all. Tiege Hanley’s Daily Face Wash is your day to day soap-replacer. I asked The Chemist, why not just use soap? “Study after study shows soap actually dehydrates your skin,” he said. “Soaps strip your skin of its natural lipids (fats). Once those lipids are reduced the floodgates are open for moisture to leave your skin.” That rings true to me. Especially in the winter, when my skin is already drier, it can feel unpleasantly tight and sandpaper-y after a wash and shave. Tiege’s Daily Face Wash is designed to clean your skin while maintaining proper lipid balance. The Wash is mild smelling without the overwhelming amount of scent in most face washes. True to the Chemist’s word, it left my skin clean but not dried out. The difference between this and bar soap is enough to be physically noticeable.

Morning Facial Moisturizer

Tiege Hanley’s Morning Facial Moisturizer has three components: moisturizer (of course), polyphenolics, and SPF 20 sun block. As explained above, the polyphenolics are there to address free radicals you encounter in your day to day. But what about the sun block? Turns out, getting a painful sunburn just once every two years triples your risk of melanoma skin cancer. And “sunburn” doesn’t necessarily mean peeling. If your skin has gone pink, it’s sunburned. In other words, we should all be wearing sun block most of the time because, well, cancer.

The Chemist explained the Morning Facial Moisturizer is useful even if you’re not out in the sun. “In the car you’re still getting UV exposure through the windshield. This product isn’t meant for sunbathing, but it gives you protection from daily exposure to UVA and UVB.” The Morning Moisturizer goes on smooth with a slightly minty feeling. Once applied, I quickly forgot I was wearing it – it blends well with my skin.

Bedtime Facial Moisturizer

I struggled with this one. Do I really need to moisturize my face before bed? The Bedtime Facial Moisturizer, however, contains the aforementioned peptides, which stimulate collagen replacement. Tiege co-founder Rob put it like this: “When’s the best time to treat a cold? It’s at night. Take medicine and let it work with the body’s natural healing process.” Fair point. I discovered the Bedtime product to be slightly thicker, with a nude color.

Exfoliating Scrub

Even I know what exfoliation is: the sloughing off of dead skin cells to allow new ones to grow. Tiege Hanley recommends using the Exfoliating Scrub just twice a week to stimulate cell turnover. Of all the Tiege products, this was the most enjoyable to use. It’s minty and after use your face feels like it’s been given a menthol-infused cleansing. Like an Altoid for your face.

AM/PM Eye Cream

I was very curious to hear about this one. Dark circles under the eyes is an issue that gets worse with age for everyone. The key to the Tiege Eyes product is in recognizing that the skin under your eyes is much different than the rest of your face because it’s so much thinner. The fat content in the lips and cheeks makes it easier for them to store moisture and circulate blood. Not so under the eyes. This product is meant to stimulate blood flow and address raccoon circles. Applying Eyes, it’s a thicker lotion that definitely feels like a serious moisturizer.

AM/PM Firming Serum

This was the most questionable Tiege Hanley product. Maybe it’s the word “serum” or “firming,” that set me off but I was skeptical. The Chemist answered my questions by explaining the AM/PM Firming Serum contains a mix of two peptides, Hexapeptide 8 and Pentapeptide 18, which studies have shown to act similar to Botox but, crucially, aren’t Botox. They work to suppress muscle contraction, thereby easing wrinkles and improving skin elasticity. The serum itself is thin and cream colored, and blends with my skin quickly.

The Verdict: Knowledge vs. Culture

After two weeks of use, my pores feel tighter without being dry and my skin feels moisturized in a light, non-greasy way. Tiege Hanley’s system is, without question, a positive experience. Levels range between $25.00 – $45.00 a month and I feel like the experience comes at a fair price. Considering that Neutrogena Gentle Daily face wash and a tube of sunscreen will run you at least $14 at the drugstore it seems reasonable overall.

Just as important as the experience is a new perspective I’ve gotten on skin care: it turns out, there is a real, science-driven logic behind protective skin care that makes sense to me and is worth taking seriously. Girls grow up with their moms teaching them how important it is – for both health and social reasons – to take care of their skin. As co-founder Rob put it, “Guys just don’t get this education.” For a whole bunch of reasons, most having to do with our conditioning, knowledge about skin health and upkeep is ignored. Culture is getting in the way of knowledge.

Rob pointed out, “We’re starting to see it changing out there. This is why Tiege Hanley exists. We’re trying to make skin care as simple as possible.” A proactive skin care regime may not be for you, but if you’ve made it this far at least you have the tools to make an informed decision. And who knows, maybe you’ll impress the skin care pro in your household. “The founder’s wives are all using Tiege Hanley,” says Rob. It’s unscientific data, but compelling all the same.

Primer Exclusive Discount

We've teamed up with Tiege Hanley to give Primer readers an exclusive $5 discount off their first order. It's time to start taking care of your face, seriously. Use code “primer5” at checkout.

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Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.