If there’s anyone who has her finger on the pulse of Korean beauty trends, it’s Soko Glam’s very own founder, Charlotte Cho. In an article she recently penned, Charlotte outlined what she believes will be some of the biggest beauty trends for 2019. One of them is an increase in “hanbang” ingredients, a.k.a. traditional herbal ingredients that have played a key role in Asian health and beauty regimens since ancient times.
Ginseng is a perfect example of a hanbang ingredient, and is one that should be part of your skin care regimen if wrinkles and dark circles are among your skin concerns.
A Brief History of Ginseng in Health and Beauty
“Ginseng — also known as the ‘root of immortality’ — is a sweet, tonic herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat various disorders. It is believed to both stimulate and relax the nervous system and improve stamina,” notes Barbara Close, an esthetician who specializes in therapeutic herbalism. She’s also the founder of her own natural skin care line, Naturopathica.
As you probably gathered from the above, ginseng has traditionally been consumed orally, especially via tea and tinctures. Such usage has been documented as far back as 196 AD, which means it was probably used even years before that.
Interestingly, it took another 2000 or so years before ginseng was formulated for topical usage. You can thank K-Beauty brand, Sulwhasoo, for that. In 1960, the brand’s founder, Sung-hwan Suh, made it his goal to incorporate traditional Korean medicinal plants in skin care, and his sights fell on ginseng specifically.
The Sulwhasoo website reads, “Since ginseng had never been used in cosmetics, researchers studied the skin care benefits of ginseng from scratch. They finally succeeded in producing a cosmetic product formulated with ginseng in 1966, which was then called ‘ABC Ginseng Cream,’ from which today’s Sulwhasoo originated.”
Since then, ginseng has been utilized in numerous skin care products across a variety of brands. Many of these brands are from the East, though a few Western brands — such as Origins and Fresh — have incorporated the ingredient into their lineup, as well.
Ginseng’s Skin Care Benefits
Though it took quite some time for ginseng to be used in skin care, the benefits aren’t any less notable.
“Ginseng root contains numerous bioactive compounds, including saponins, polysaccharides, pectin, sugar, vitamins B1, B2, B12, pantothenic acid and minerals, which help to increase oxygenation and circulation to skin cells [for] a healthy glow,” says Close. “In addition, its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities help to protect skin from free radical damage.”
Close says that all skin types can benefit from ginseng, though it’s particularly useful for anyone who’s concerned about aging. She notes, “Ginseng has a complex of polysaccharides and glycoproteins, which form a weightless film on the surface that helps to firm and smooth the appearance of fine lines.”
In addition to firming and reducing lines, ginseng helps de-puff the area around your eyes and can help minimize dark circles. As such, you’ll find the ingredient in a number of eye creams.
K-Beauty Product Recommendations with Ginseng
Speaking of eye creams, we’re excited to dish on some amazing K-Beauty products that put ginseng front and center. Erborian’s Ginseng Infusion Total Eye ($46) is a great product to start with. It’s a hearty moisturizer, made with ginseng root extract, centella asiatica (cica) extract, licorice extract, and shea butter, that melts into the delicate skin around your eyes.
Erborian also has their BB Creme Au Ginseng ($39), a product that’s received rave reviews since its debut. It comes in three sheer shades, boasts an SPF of 20, and leaves skin moisturized while imparting a silky matte finish. That it’s enriched with ginseng puts it in a league of its own where BB creams are concerned.
In the face cream department, look to Beauty of Joseon, a brand that builds its formulas around traditional hanbang ingredients like ginseng. Its luxe Revitalize Sleeping Mask utilizes ginseng to energize and smooth skin overnight. Other star ingredients in the formula include black soybean (to tighten) and orchid (to brighten and soften). The brand’s cult favorite Dynasty Cream also contains ginseng, along with orchid, and honey to hydrate, brighten, and firm.
The Acwell Honey Anti-Wrinkle Daanje Mask ($2.50) targets fine lines with ginseng extract, mushroom extract, and adenosine. Because the formula also contains honey and propolis, it also boasts healing benefits.
We’d certainly be remiss if we didn’t include a few options from Sulwahsoo. The price points are a little on the splurge-y end, but if you’re in the mood for a #treatyourself moment then peruse the brand’s lineup. Two of our favorites are the Concentrated Ginseng Water ($82), a thin moisturizer that features steamed ginseng water concentrate, and the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion ($92), a more viscous counterpart that’s meant to be applied just after the water.