Sulwhasoo is a brand of luxury skincare products with roots in Korean herbal medicine and a long tradition of Eastern holistic philosophy. The name Sulwhasoo comes from a combination of two words, sulwha meaning ‘blooming as a beautiful snow blossom on the skin’ and soo meaning ‘exceptionally beautiful’.
Sulwhasoo was founded by Suh Sung-whan, who grew up in Kaesong, a city renowned for the exceptional quality of its ginseng, Korea’s signature plant. Understanding the efficacies of ginseng, Suh introduced ABC Ginseng Cream in 1966, which began the Sulwhasoo legacy.
Today, this brand is known for the best seller Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum. And when we say best seller, we aren’t exaggerating; one bottle of Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is sold every 10 seconds in Korea, and since its launch in 1997, more than 35 million bottles have been sold worldwide!
But is Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum really worth the hype? To answer this question, we’ll have to evaluate the formulation details, including the key ingredients and the research that supports (or doesn’t support) their use in skincare. We’ll also give you the details on the top 10 best selling Sulwhasoo skincare products. Lastly, we’ll share some Sulwhasoo reviews so that you can get an idea of what customers really think of these products.
What Are The Top 10 Best Sulwhasoo Skincare Products?
The Sulwhasoo skincare collection includes everything from cleansers to oils to eye care and more. Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 best Sulwhasoo skincare products.
Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum
You already know that the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is the product this K-beauty brand is known for, but perhaps you’re wondering what’s so special about this serum. According to the brand, the secret is in JAUM Activator, a proprietary blend of 5 herbs (lotus, rehmannia, peony, Solomon’s seal, and white lily). Together, these herbs are said to improve the look of skin’s hydration, brightness, radiance, translucency, visible wrinkles, and moisture barrier.
Even though Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is quite popular, we have to point out that the formula contains a pretty high concentration of denatured alcohol. In fact, it’s the highest concentration ingredient after water! Why is this a problem? Well, denatured alcohol is well known to cause skin dryness, irritation, and even disruption of the skin barrier. The brand is likely using alcohol in this formula to enhance the penetration of other ingredients. But we can’t ignore the fact that this type of alcohol is drying and can lead to consequences when used long term.
Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask
If you’re struggling with dry patches or dullness, or your skin could just use an extra dose of hydration, then a sleeping mask is the way to go. Sleeping masks are designed to be applied as the final step of your skincare routine in order to lock in moisture while also creating a permeable seal on top of your skin to help the products underneath it penetrate better.
The Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask creates this seal with ingredients like shea butter, squalane, fatty acids, and several different silicones. Together, these ingredients create a soft, non-sticky layer over the skin, thereby reducing moisture loss overnight and supplying plenty of nutrients to the skin.
Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream
Infused with Korean red ginseng, this anti-aging cream has a silky, luxurious texture that provides long term hydration. There are also plenty of nourishing emollients in this formula, such as squalane, meadowfoam seed oil, sunflower seed oil, mango seed butter, and more. Unfortunately, like most Sulwhasoo products, this cream contains a synthetic fragrance blend. While this provides a pleasant smell, fragrance isn’t doing your skin any good!
Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion
This lightweight Korean cushion foundation is housed in a special sponge, making it perfect for when you need to touch-up imperfections on-the-go. The formula is designed to conceal skin imperfections, such as discoloration or unevenness, and seamlessly coat the skin. The formula also contains non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These mineral sunscreen ingredients provide broad spectrum SPF 50 protection. Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion is available in only 6 shades and they are all very light, which excludes those with darker skin from using this product, unfortunately.
Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil
An oil-based formula that contains coconut oil and a mixture of emollients to remove excess oil, makeup, and other impurities — while keeping skin balanced. It has a silky, lightweight texture that cleanses skin without leaving a greasy residue. However, there’s a pretty high amount of fragrance in this formula, so this cleansing oil may not be a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam
This is a gel cleanser that lathers into a rich foam to cleanse while leaving skin hydrated, soft, and balanced. Like most cleansers, the formula contains surfactants as key ingredients. A surfactant molecule contains one end that is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and one end that is lipophilic (attracted to oil). This allows surfactants to attract and suspend oils, dirt, and other impurities that have accumulated on the skin and wash them away.
Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream
A rich, creamy anti-aging eye cream that’s formulated with red ginseng, along with a blend of emollients, such as squalane, hydrogenated castor oil, shea butter, and more. Like many eye creams, the formula also includes caffeine. Caffeine is an excellent ingredient for eye care products because it’s a stimulant that causes vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels) and stimulates blood flow when applied to the skin. This helps to tighten and firm the skin, and also aids in reducing the amount of blood that accumulates under the eyes (a major factor that contributes to dark circles).
Sulwhasoo Essential Firming Cream
Sulwhasoo Essential Firming cream is a rich hydrator that takes care of flakes and tight patches without feeling heavy. The formula also addresses loss of elasticity with JISUN Firming Complex, a blend of antioxidant-rich goji berries, black beans, and arrowroot. Unfortunately, like most Sulwhasoo products, the formula is packed with fragrance ingredients.
Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Water
This lightweight gel-to-liquid beauty water absorbs into the skin quickly and immediately helps to reduce oiliness on your skin. That’s because the highest concentration ingredient in the formula (after water) is alcohol! Like we mentioned above, alcohol may provide short term benefits, but long term alcohol can lead to skin dryness and disruption of the skin barrier. The rest of the Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Water formula primarily consists of humectants (betaine, butylene glycol, glycerin).
Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Emulsion
Mountain peony root extract is the key ingredient in this lightweight Korean skincare emulsion. This extract is rich in antioxidants that help protect skin from environmental free radical damage. The formula also includes beta-glucan from Split Gill Mushroom (Schizophyllum commune), an ingredient that helps clarify the complexion by visibly softening and refining skin texture.
Is Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum Right For You?
Before purchasing this iconic Sulwhasoo serum, here’s a summary of the most important factors to consider:
- Key ingredients? Denatured alcohol, lotus, rehmannia, peony, Solomon’s seal, and white lily
- Skin type? Recommended for all skin types
- Texture? Gel-like serum
- Fragrance? Yes
- Cruelty free? No
- Cost? $89 USD for 60 mL
What Are The Key Ingredients in Sulwhasoo Skincare Products?
We mentioned above that ginseng was the ingredient that inspired the entire line of Sulwhasoo skincare products. But what benefits can you expect from skincare products with ginseng? Let’s take a closer look at the active components in this extract.
Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a tonic for patients with chronic illnesses, and it was believed that this root could promote long life, strength, and wisdom.
Many of the skincare benefits of ginseng come from the presence of ginsenosides, a class of natural steroid glycosides and triterpene saponins. Ginseng also has immunomodulatory, neuroprotective, antioxidative, and antitumor properties, according to a publication in the journal Current Vascular Pharmacology.
Ginseng is included in many of the Sulwhasoo skincare products because of this root’s ability to stimulate the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein found within skin that is responsible for maintaining strength and firmness. Thus, ginseng’s ability to boost collagen production can give the skin a more youthful appearance.
This is why the brand has included ginseng in products like the Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream and the Timetreasure Renovating Eye Serum, which are designed to promote firmness while giving skin a healthy glow.
Ginseng is also used as a skin-whitening agent due to its ability to inhibit melanogenesis, the production of melanin pigments that creates undesirable dark spots on skin. According to the Journal of Ginseng Research, the underlying mechanisms of ginseng’s ability to reduce the appearance of dark spots include the direct inhibition of key enzymes of melanogenesis, inhibition of transcription factors or signaling pathways involved in melanogenesis, decreasing production of inducers of melanogenesis, and enhancing production of anti melanogenic factor.
Recognizing these benefits, the brand has incorporated ginseng into several of their products that are formulated to brighten the complexion, such as the Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Emulsion and the Snowise Brightening Serum.
Where to Buy Sulwhasoo Skincare Products?
Sulwhasoo skincare products are sold on the brand’s website, as well as several third party online retailers, such as Sephora, Nordstrom, Amazon, and more.
What is The Sulwhasoo Return Policy?
The Sulwhasoo return policy states, “We are happy to accept merchandise purchased from our web site at Sulwhasoo.com within 60 days of purchase. Return labels will be provided for a $5 fee.”
Is Sulwhasoo Cruelty Free?
No, Sulwhasoo is not cruelty free because Sulwhasoo skincare products are sold in mainland China where animal testing is required by law.
Sulwhasoo reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive. The product with the most reviews is the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum, which has received an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars after nearly 200 customer reviews.
The positive reviews for this Sulwhasoo Serum mention how it’s very lightweight and absorbs into the skin quickly, helping to promote a smoother, glowing complexion.
For example, one review says, “I love this serum. After using it for 2 days I can already see the difference on my face. My skin is glowing and feels so soft and smooth. I’m very happy I found a product that really works. I will buy this serum again.
And another very positive Sulwhasoo review says, “Been using several Sulwhasoo products for 3 weeks and my skin feels amazing. It does improve my skin tone and does little help with my hyperpigmentation. Also my skin looks very healthy, shiny and bouncy. I’m in love with this skincare line so much. This serum texture is so lightweight and absorbs very easily, preparing our skin first before the next step even when we only use this, it does an amazing job to our skin.”
However, there are a handful of negative reviews for the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum that comment on the amount of alcohol and fragrance in this product.
For example, one review says, “Nice essence, but it feels unnecessary and I am not sure it does anything. It also feels like it has alcohol in it and quite a bit of fragrance. It is thicker than your standard essence and has gold flakes in it. I would not repurchase and likely won’t finish.”
And another reviewer shares her frustration with the added fragrance in this product by leaving this review, “Fragrance is very high up on the ingredient deck. Why?? Why do skin care companies continue to add fragrance? If you like fragrance put on your own perfume put it in the products. GRR!”
Overall, we don’t think Sulwhasoo products are formulated well. Nearly all products are laden with synthetic fragrance ingredients, and many products contain high concentrations of denatured alcohol and low concentrations of key ingredients.
- Many positive Sulwhasoo reviews
- High cost
- Sulwhasoo is not cruelty free
- Several products contain denatured alcohol as the highest concentration ingredient (including Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum)
- Some Sulwhasoo products contain low concentrations of key ingredients
- Most Sulwhasoo products contain fragrance
What Are Some Alternatives to Sulwhasoo Skincare Products?
If you’re looking for skincare products to address the signs of aging, one brand we recommend is Formulyst. Formulyst maximizes the use of powerful ingredients and minimizes the use of superficial ones, resulting in clinically advanced skin care solutions that help promote healthy, more youthful-looking skin.
One Formulyst product we recommend is the Ultimate Youth Concentrate. The formula combines plant cells with a concentrated combination of five unique peptides that can stimulate the production of Epidermal Growth Factors (EGF). EGF is a protein naturally found in cells called fibroblasts, which are responsible for producing collagen. It is thought that EGF signals to fibroblasts to produce more collagen, which leads to cell growth, proliferation, and wound healing. As we age, our ability to produce EGF decreases, resulting in the key signs that contribute to aging skin. Applying products that increase EGF production, such as the Formulyst Ultimate Youth Concentrate, may help increase skin strength, integrity, and youthfulness.
Another brand that balances the power of plants with cutting edge science is Carrot & Stick. Not only is Carrot & Stick good for your skin, it is also good for the environment as the formulas skip harmful chemicals commonly found in skin care products.