With a focus on holistic beauty, Sulwhasoo shows itself to be the perfect balance between modernity and tradition. Elizabeth Lee flies to Hong Kong to find out more about the Korean brand’s history

Anyone who is a fan of K-beauty would probably be familiar with Sulwhasoo. After all, the storied brand has a history that spans at least 50 years, starting with the first ABC Ginseng Cream created by founder Suh Sung Hwan.

His story begins in the Korean city of Kaesong, which was known for its superior ginseng products, and where Suh studied under the apprenticeship of his mother, a master in camellia oil. In 1960, the young man started his own cosmetics firm, and travelled to France’s Grasse region, the epicentre of fragrances, to broaden his horizons. After finding out that ginseng—the plant revered by Koreans for its many beneficial properties—had never been used in any beauty product, he worked with researchers to create the ABC Ginseng Cream, the first product of the brand we know today as Sulwhasoo.

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So how did the vision of one man turn a brand into a beauty powerhouse? A look back into its archives tells a story where dedicated research, with ginseng as the star ingredient, has always been a part of the brand’s legacy. By 1973, Sulwhasoo had already created a product called Ginseng Sammi, the world’s first cosmetic with ginseng saponin, a naturally occurring chemical compound in herbs and vegetables that has also been used in vaccine formulations to regulate immune function.

In a time where globalisation was not as widespread, the brand was already importing its products to 25 countries in the 1980s. In 1997, the brand, previously known only as Sulwha, added “soo” to its name, and completed its research on the seven-year ageing cycle of skin, giving birth to different skincare ranges targeting women of various ages. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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We were in Hong Kong in September to celebrate the global launch of the new Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Serum. Big-names celebrities such as Dakota Fanning, Carina Lau and Charmaine Sheh were in attendance at the event held at the IFC Mall. More importantly, the face of Sulwhasoo and star of megahit TV show Descendants of the Sun, Song Hye Kyo made an appearance, much to the delight of her fans.

The newest addition to the famed Ginseng range, the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Serum, is history-making on its own. The anti‑ageing serum is said to firm facial contours so one can look flawless from every angle, much like its ambassador Song. This is thanks to a groundbreaking ingredient called the Ginsenisphere. The “shell-less” microcapsules of Ginsenisphere are infused with precious ginseng seed oil, and when applied onto skin, releases a creamy texture that feels incredibly nourishing and pampering.

Ginseng seed oil is not the only ingredient present in the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Serum. After carefully studying the anti-ageing properties of various parts of the ginseng plant, the beauty brand found that the ginseng leaves, stems and roots all worked in tandem with Ginsenisphere to improve the dermal and epidermal layers, firming skin from within.

Joining the serum are the Concentrated Renewing Ginseng Water and Concentrated Renewing Ginseng Emulsion. Formulated with Steamed Ginseng Water Concentrate, the former gives skin a major moisture boost, while promoting skin’s resilience. On the other hand, the latter, which has a lightweight finish on application, preps skin for the next skincare steps, and works to firm and protect.

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Armed with cutting-edge technology, 50 years of knowledge gleaned from rigorous research, and a healthy respect for Asian wisdom, Sulwhasoo remains a brand that stays true to its pursuit of harmony and timeless beauty.