Home > Lifestyle > Women > Beauty
Thursday August 29, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday August 29, 2013 MYT 7:30:19 AM
by louisa lim
Sulwhasoo’s flagship product, the First Care Activating Serum, containing ginseng.
Swimming against the tide of facelifts and rhinoplasties, a Korean skincare brand promotes the philosophy of natural beauty.
ONE cannot write about Suh Sung-hwan, man-on-a-mission and the founder of AmorePacific skin care, one of South Korea’s leading cosmetics companies, without first exploring his origins.
His story begins in the lush mountains surrounding a small Korean city through which the Imjin and Yesong rivers flow.
Gaeseong, his birthplace, also happens to be where the most potent ginseng has been harvested since the Goryeo dynasty.
Since 1932, a young Suh would accompany his mother on her trips to the markets in search of the highest quality ingredients for her own beauty elixir (she made a living by selling her own homemade camellia hair oil). Through these regular visits, Suh eventually developed a keen interest in traditional Korean herbs, particularly ginseng.
In South Korea, the root is regarded as nature’s answer to Botox; touted to have anti-wrinkle, anti-ageing and circulation-stimulating properties, the women slather it on their faces and even bathe in it.
Suh’s obsession with ginseng also ran deep. He studied the plant and other indigenous herbs, and distilled these ingredients for their health and beauty benefits.
In 1972, after years of research and development, he started patenting ginseng extracts for his company. One year later, AmorePacific launched Ginseng Sammi, the first cosmetics line in Korea to include the root. Researchers at AmorePacific pored over various tomes from Korea, China and Japan to develop a master list of herbal ingredients with skincare benefits. That eventually led to the birth of the brand Sulwha in 1987 and, eventually, Sulwhasoo in 1997.
Sulwhasoo’s flagship product, the First Care Serum, became one of the most sought-after products in South Korea, proving that time-honoured techniques and ingredients can win out in a country that prides itself on quick fixes à la plastic surgery.
A beautiful balance
The brand sets itself apart by drawing on ancient wisdom to achieve sang-seng, or “harmony between opposite energies”, much like the Chinese yin-yang, for a nourished, healthy complexion. While other brands may use only one part of a plant, Sulwhasoo takes its cue from nature and includes the ingredient in its entirety – leaf, stem and root.
At the heart of Sulwhasoo’s complexion enhancing preparations is Jaeumdan, which means supplementing and protecting the Yin energy in skin. It’s an exclusive complex of five Korean herbs – Adhesive Rehmannia, white lily, Chinese peony, East Indian lotus, and the small but potent Solomon’s seal (celebrated by healers all over the world for its curative properties) – to nourish skin from the inside and out.
In 2004, Sulwhasoo introduced Jaeumboweedan, an updated formula fortified with kobon root, mountain peony root, Adlay millet, dwarf lilyturf root and licorice root for smooth and youthful skin.
There are no short cuts: the raw ingredients are slowly and painstakingly manipulated through the Poje Method to maximise their healing and beautifying benefits. They are steamed, fermented, baked and preserved to bring out the hidden benefits of each herb.
For Sulwhasoo’s basic line, for instance, Jaeumdan and Jaeumboweedan are enhanced by the honey treatment. The ingredients are matured in honey, put into earthen jars and carefully baked. The resulting concoction is said to be three times more efficient in improving the firmness of skin and twice as moisturising.
Meanwhile, Sulwhasoo’s brightening range, the Snowise line, involves baking the ingredients in salt. First, salt is dissolved in water. Then, logs of mulberry tree, known to be a strong whitening agent, are completely soaked in that water and baked. Salt not only clarifies the body and purifies the blood, but also fortifies the Yin energy, and detoxifies inflammation to clarify and brighten skin.
The brand’s Concentrated Ginseng Cream makes use of the Steam Treatment, in which ingredients are refined through high temperature and steam. When Korea-grown ginseng roots are steamed for two to three hours and dried in a sunny, well-ventilated area for several days, the sunshine and the morning dew are claimed to improve its texture, turning it into the coveted red ginseng.
Sulwhasoo makes use of the germinating treatment for its Timetreasure line. Of the five fruits and seeds utilised in the line, red beans and black sesame are cleaned, soaked in hot spring water for four to eight hours, and allowed to germinate in carefully controlled humidity and temperature, increasing their amino acids and glutamine, thereby doubling the natural strength of the defensive barrier on skin.
Finally, for the Men’s Line, Japanese Corneilan cherry and red mushroom extract are treated in alcohol steam to “enhance the circulation of energy in medicine” by tenfold. Its extracts are then dipped inside Andong Soju – a traditional Korean liquor – and kept under airtight conditions until the ingredients absorb all of the liquid. When this process is completed, they are taken out and steamed until they become richer in colour.
Of course, the legacy of Suh’s mother would not be complete without a Hair Treatment Oil, which contains over 50% natural camellia. It’s claimed to help hair grow, boost shine and fortify the scalp. Sulwhasoo’s deep respect for herbal remedies and time-honoured preparations has propelled it to semi-household status in Hong Kong, China and even among Westerners, who get their fix at Bergdof Goodman in New York.
Its arrival in Malaysia last May will surely give a different perspective to beauty.
Products are available at Parkson Pavilion KL from RM120 to RM1,195.
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Lifestyle, Suh Sung-hwan, Sulwhasoo, ginseng, AmorePacific, skincare, beauty, Sulwhasoo
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)