Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream [Empties Review]

I think this is the most expensive product I've used to date.  I had a moment where I was obsessed with all these luxury brands and their snazzy packaging, and I started thinking up ways I could manage to afford them...  Sure, $220 for a moisturizer doesn't sound that bad, I could just eat ramen for a couple of months...  However, I did not splurge yet.  Full disclosure, this review is on the samples that I bought to try it out.

The Description:
A nutrient-rich cream to penetrate the deepest layers of the skin to revive damaged, youth-depleted skin from within.

  • Formulated with the roots, berries, and water of rare five-year-old Korean Ginseng, this treatment stimulates cell regeneration to revitalize and ultimately restore youthful looking skin 
  • Milkvetch and White Mulberry promote an ageless complexion
  • Jojoba, Avocado, Mango Seed, and Sunflower Oils moisturize and condition for soft, smooth skin
About the Brand:

Sulwhasoo is a high end, luxury brand under parent company Amore Pacific (who also has other very popular brands like IOPE and Laneige).  Unlike a lot of other Korean cosmetics, it is pretty well established in the US.  You can find them in higher end stores like Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, or of course, squirreled away in your local H-Mart.

Their motto is "time tested holistic skincare from Korea," so this brand specializes in Korean herbal medicine, or "hanbang" cosmetics.  Established in 1967, they focus on natural ingredients, and the belief in the "seven-year cycle" of women" - where the female body undergoes internal and external changes every seven years.  In the fifth cycle (age 35) are early signs of aging, such as dryness and dullness, then from the sixth cycle (age 42) onward, there is the graying of hair and furthering of the skin's aging.  Sulwhasoo's products are designed to address these issues, and they take them very seriously.  They use ingredients native to Korea, and actually have an AmorePacific herb farm!

Concentrated Ginseng is arguably the most popular Sulwhasoo skincare line.  Its backstory is in Korean history, brides would bathe in ginseng water before their wedding day to make their skin bright and pure.  (Seriously, is this a thing in Korean spas nowadays?  This sounds awesome!)  Sulwhasoo uses 4 year old ginseng, which is suppose to have the highest saponin content.  According to Sulwhasoo, saponin is known for its effect in increasing levels of immunity, regeneration, anti-aging, and antioxidant effects; and the reason why Korean ginseng is better is that it has twice as many types of saponin and about 40% more "content with excellent effect."  From what I've found, saponin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and of course is a natural surfactant, used in soaps.

Sulwhasoo uses distinctly different treatments for their product lines, and the Concentrated Ginseng line uses steam treatment to steam the ginseng roots for days to improve their texture.  This seems to be growing in popularity, as there are a couple of other popular steam creams on the market, notably Benton's Snail Bee Steam Cream.

Price: ($$$$)

For $220, you can get 60 ml of this precious, golden, creamy goodness straight from Sulwhasoo's website or your local Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, or perhaps a Korean grocery store.  The cheapest I've found it regular price is TesterKorea for 172,500 Won (~$159).  That's an average of $3.66/ml, which makes my $0.46/ml su:m37 Gel Lotion look like a jar of generic Vaseline by comparison.


You can get samples.  I got 30 1ml sample packets for $16.90 on eBay from topinkgirl and decanted them into an empty jar.  At $0.56/ml, that's still more expensive than my full size, glorious su:m37 Gel Lotion(!), but it's much easier to at least try it out and get it out of your system.  The prices seem to have gone up, but you can get them in little foil packets or the deluxe sample jars (which are a little bit pricier, but much friendlier).

Cheapest option, although it requires a little more work.

Much friendlier to use, as you don't have to do anything other than open and use, but it does make it a little pricier.
The problem with samples, and why if I sampled something and actually liked it, I would just try to splurge on the actual product, is that they have no expiration dates listed.  They may be significantly cheaper than the regular product, but you don't know how long it's been sitting around, and that can totally affect how well a product performs.  I ordered from this ebay seller specifically because I know she turns over this specific product often, and is constantly getting in fresh stock.

That said, I think this is still an overpriced product (it is a luxury product, after all).  I would say everything considered, it still isn't worth more than $100.  Luckily, if you know where to look, it doesn't have to cost much more than that.



Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Water, Glycerin, Squalane (1), Butylene Glycol (1), Cyclopentasiloxane, Trehalose, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Phytosteryl Isostearyl Dimer Dilinoleate, Octyldodecyl Myristate, Cyclohexasiloxane, PEG-40 Stearate, Phytosteryl/Behenyl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Ophiopogon Japonicus Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Root Extract, Hydrolyzed Ginseng Saponins (Enzyme-treated Red Ginseng Saponins), Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Seed Extract, Polygonatum Officinale Rhizome/Root Extract, Lilium Tigrinum Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Extract, Chrysantheum Morifolium Flower Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Adenophora Stricta Root Extract, Lycium Chinense Root Extract, Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-Yuen Seed Extract, Angelica Tenuissima Root Extract, Honey, Morus Alba Root Extract, Astragalus Membranaceus Root Extract, Angelica Acutiloba Root Extract, Cnidium Officinale Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Leaf Extract, Gardenia Florida Fruit Extract, Paeonia Lactiflora Root Extract, Perilla Ocymoides Seed Extract, Panax Ginseng Berry Extract, Beta-Glucan, Sodium Hyaluronate, Acetyl Glucosamine, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil (3), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil (2), Stearic Acid (2), Jojoba Esters, PEG-100 Stearate (1), Propanediol, Palmitic Acid (2), Polyacrylate-13, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Glyceryl Linoleate, Cetearyl Alcohol (2)(2), Pantethine, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (3/0-1), Dimethicone (1), Propylene Glycol, Cyclodextrin, Dimethiconol, Tocopherol (2)(2), Polyisobutene, Salicylic Acid, Polyquaternium-51, Hexyl Laurate, Methoxy PEG-114/Polyepsilon Caprolactone, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Caffeic Acid, Tocopheryl Linoleate, Polycaprolactone, Glyceryl Linolenate, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, Glyceryl Arachidonate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polysorbate 20, Dextrin, Retinol, Phytosphingosine, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides Citrate, Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance

  • Potential acne triggers are listed in red.
  • Potential irritation triggers are listed in orange.
  • Potentially hazardous ingredients are listed in purple.  (Note:  this is according to the rating system on CosDNA, which rates them according to reports from CIR, RTECS, and the FDA on if these ingredients could be harmful with long term usage to the skin, cells, or human body.)
That's a pretty hefty ingredients list, huh?  What surprised me was there aren't any fermented products in there.  I guess I just assumed that if it was a high end Korean hanbang line, it would be full of fermented ingredients.  I'm not disappointed at all, just surprised.  I want to pick out a few notable ingredients, but where the heck do I even start?

Panax Ginseng root extract is the first ingredient on the list, before water and glycerin, so we're off to a good start.  As mentioned before, it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and is a good emollient.  In fact, the majority of the ingredients on this list are emollients, meaning they soften skin.  Being the star of the "Concentrated Ginseng" line though, it doesn't have ginseng just once, but also has Hydrolyzed Ginseng saponins (18th down) as well as Panax Ginseng berry extract (39th down).

Squalane comes from hydrogenated squalene, which comes from shark livers (although for obvious reasons, olive oil is also used as a source of squalene).  Both are used as emollients and antioxidants.  Squalane is found naturally in your skin as a fantastic lipid that protects against transepidermal water loss (TEWL), but starts declining in numbers in your 20s.

This cream features a bounty of water-binding ingredients, among them Glycerin, Trehalose, Sodium Hyaluronate (sodium salt of Hyaluronic Acid), as well a bunch of silicones, which hold water, but also help fill in wrinkles and give the appearance of plumper skin.  It also contains Retinol, Beta Glucan, Acetyl Glucosamine, Honey, Caffeic Acid, and honestly, the list just goes on with how many good things it has in there.

Now, onto the negative side.  Wow, this has a lot of potential acne and irritation triggers.  So yes, even if you have the money for it, I'd definitely try out a deluxe sample at least to make sure it works for you before commiting.  I've color coded everything, and listed the rating out of 5 (for example, Tocopherol (2)(2) ranks as 2/5 for potential acne trigger, and 2/5 for potential irritant).  The only thing red flagged as a potential hazard is Salicylic Acid, which is super common in skin care since it's very commonly used in treating acne.  Some Googling showed that in its powdered form, it can be explosive at full concentration, and it can be toxic if you consume too much orally, but it's found in aspirin...  Either way, I doubt there's even 2% of it in here, which is the typical usage rate in skin care.  [4/5]


I've actually played around with the full sized product in person.  The jar is about the size of a clementine, and just has a twist off lid and a spatula.  It's beautiful, but I really would love if they embraced a little practicality and stuffed it into an airless pump bottle.  The Overnight Revitalizing Mask is already in a squeeze tube, so it's not that far of a reach.

This product is recommended for all skin types, and is suppose to be for correction and prevention.  I used it for just over two months, and only at night.  I didn't see any "correction" with my skin, and I have no real way of measuring prevention.  However, I did notice that in the mornings, my skin was a lot softer than if I used a different night cream - although not as soft as when I add a sleeping pack (regardless of which night cream I stack it with).

Do you know what ginseng smells like?  I described it to my hubby (who has no sense of smell) as a "sweet root vegetable," and he said he has no idea what that means.  To me, it's like a funky herbal tea, and is a really distinct and incomparable smell, so I'm sorry for that being a very useless description.  It smells nice and comforting, although I can see how some people might not like it.

This is waaaaay more than is needed to apply to your face.  I used maybe 0.3 ml each night.  I know this, because each foil packet has ~1 ml of product, and the first couple of times I tried this was straight out of the packet - and it would last about 3 uses.  After that, I decanted it into my old Missha snail cream jar (which is now housing some DIY Hair Goop - yay, recycling!).

The cream applies so easily - there are a lot of silicones, so it spreads very readily.  It does leave a residue, and is kind of tacky feeling for even a couple of hours after, so while it's recommended for both day and night, I would just use this for night time as it also feels really heavy no matter how little you use.  [3/5]

Personal View:

I'm kind of embarrassed to talk about how obsessed I was with this moisturizer.  Seriously, I tried looking for dupes, and even was looking into DIY options, although with DIY, by the time I collected all the ingredients, I probably would've spent way more than this cream costs.

I am aware that I am not quite at the target age for this product (I've got a little over half a "cycle" to go.  Woohoo!), so I can't speak for how well it addresses aging skin concerns.  I think if I won the lottery, and price was not an issue, I still wouldn't revisit this until I am at least in my mid-30s.  My skin concerns just aren't suited to this product at this point in my life, and the only benefit I'm really getting from it is slightly softer skin, which is not worth the price point for right now.  I would be very willing to recommend it as a high end night cream, as the ingredients list is just spectacular.  Just make sure to patch test and make sure it's not going to clog you up or break you out.  [3/5]


The Good:  Fantastic ingredients list, beautiful packaging.

The Bad:  Leaves a residue, very overpriced, a lot of potentially comedogenic ingredients.
  • Price:  2/5
  • Ingredients:  4/5
  • Performance:  3/5
  • Personal View:  3/5
  • Average:  3/5
This product is NOT for those who:
- Don't want alcohol in products.
- Don't want fragrance in products.
- Can't tolerate cetearyl alcohol.