From Ginseng Cream to Essence that Sells “1 Product Every 10 Seconds”
From Ginseng Cream to Essence that Sells “1 Product Every 10 Seconds”
  • 글·한정선 기자│번역·김성혜 인턴기자 (
  • 승인 2021.05.04 17:17
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[10 South Korean Cosmetics That Led K-Beauty] ①Amorepacific’s “Sulwhasoo”

South Korea has become one of the countries that lead the global cosmetics market. The domestic cosmetics industry has grown to the point of creating the term "K-beauty" because of the discernment and vision of companies looking forward to future value and their constant challenges and efforts to achieve it. Now, Korea is writing a history of cosmetics through new value realization day by day. In honor of the efforts of the Korean cosmetics industry, which has raised national pride, we would like to reillumine cosmetics that have shed light on Korea. The first is Amorepacific's Sulwhasoo. <Editor's Note>

Amorepacific (hereinafter referred to as Amore) was born when Mrs. Yoon Dok-jung, the mother of founder Seo Sung-hwan, made and sold camellia oil from raw materials obtained from camellia berries in 1932. After the Korean War, Amore continued to grow its brand through cosmetics launch. As a result, Sulwhasoo, its representative cosmetic brand, was finally created.

The first Korean herbal medicine cosmetic, ABC Ginseng Cream made from ginseng ingredients as raw materials
The first Korean herbal medicine cosmetic, ABC Ginseng Cream made from ginseng ingredients as raw materials

■Sulwhasoo born out of ABC Ginseng Cream

Herbal medicine cosmetics, Sulwhasoo, made its start in 1964 from the first traditional herbal medicine cosmetic, “ABC Ginseng Cream.” In 1960, founder Seo was reminded of the famous Korean ginseng when he saw a certain plant being used as the main ingredient for perfume during his visit to France. Today, ginseng is quite familiar material, but back in the days of the economic slump, the idea of applying the valuable plant root on the skin was unimaginable.

Having spent his childhood in Gaeseong city—a city famous for Korean ginseng—Seo repeated research on ways to apply ginseng to cosmetics and in 1966, finally succeeded in manufacturing ABC Ginseng Cream with ginseng extract as the main ingredient. This marked the beginning of Sulwhasoo. Since then, Amore has developed herbal medicine cosmetic brands in earnest.

Amorepacific’s Sulwhasoo Heritage and Science Center
Amorepacific’s Sulwhasoo Heritage and Science Center

■Traditional herbal medicine infused with modern science—Sulwhasoo Heritage and Science Center

In 1954, Amore was the first to establish a laboratory in the Korean cosmetics industry. The lab was about 6.6m2 located in Huam-dong, and its purpose was to develop more scientific and distinctive cosmetic products. Since 1957, it spared no expense for investments, such as annually sending its researchers to Europe and Japan for acquiring advanced technology for cosmetics.

Today’s Heritage and Science Center is the leading role in developing Sulwhasoo by infusing the brand’s traditional ingredients like Korean ginseng that include core technology with the latest science. A long time ago when ginseng was decided as a cosmetics raw material, providing scientific evidence for its efficacy was not easy. However, now about 500 researchers with their professions in dermatology and herbal medicine conduct research on the efficacy of all extract from the ginseng roots to flowers and collect related data, demonstrating impressive achievement.

“Ginsenomics,” that contain more compound K by 6,000 than ginseng
“Ginsenomics,” that contain more compound K by 6,000 than ginseng

■The core ingredient of Sulwhasoo, “Ginsenomics”

Active ingredients of ginseng depend on the type of ginseng, part of the root, harvested year or period, and efficacy also depends on the manufacturing technique. Amore, after a long period of study, discovered “compound K,” which brings immense effects on the skin, among around 30 types of saponin in ginseng. This component inhibits the activation of collagenase but promotes the production of hyaluronic acid, moisturizing the skin and improving wrinkles.

However, it was difficult to mix compound K with cosmetics because there was only a small amount of ginseng less than 1 ppm. After a long study to obtain a large amount of compound K, it will apply enzymes produced by human intestinal microorganisms to develop "Ginsenomics," which is 6,000 times more complex K than ginseng.

Since compound K exist in a tinge amount less than 1ppm in ginseng, it was difficult to mix it with cosmetics. After a long study to obtain a large amount of compound K, “Ginsenomics”—which contains 6,000 times more compound K than ginseng—was developed by applying enzymes produced by human intestinal microorganisms.

Ginsenomics has become the core ingredient of Sulwhasoo for it helps with skin revitalizing and delays aging. After repeating intense experiments by combining Korea's representative ginseng with modern science, Sulwhasoo has emerged as a cosmetic brand that grabs global attention. This is a proud result of Seo Sung-hwan's determination, challenge, and efforts to promote domestic cosmetics worldwide.

Sulwhasoo’s representative line “Yunjo essence”
Sulwhasoo’s representative line “Yunjo essence”

■1 bottle every 10 seconds

In 2018, Sulwhasoo’s famous line Yunjo essence made a record of a product being sold every 10 seconds by consumers around the world. It was in 2004 that Sulwhasoo, which combines oriental medicine and science, entered the global market in earnest, starting from Hong Kong. As a marketing strategy to target hot places in Hong Kong, it captivated women's hearts by providing various beauty services such as products and spas and even attracted Chinese tourists to solidify its brand. Then in 2010, it quickly gained recognition by joining the wellness beauty trend with luxury skincare as it entered major Sephora stores in the U.S.

Advancing into China—a cosmetics market the world is paying attention to—in 2011, Sulwhasoo succeeded in standing out as a brand enough to win the oriental medicine cosmetics category of "Korean luxury goods loved by Chinese." Since then, it has grown into luxury brands in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia in 2013 following Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore in 2012.

Since then, Sulwhasoo has collaborated with Nykaa, India's largest beauty retailer, to enter India—the country of the world's second-largest population in 2020. Reflecting the characteristics of Indians who carefully examine cosmetics ingredients, it made efforts to localize the brand by leverage the strength of Goryeo ginseng ingredients and launching products specialized for India. Sulwhasoo's sincerity is connected to people all over the world beyond Asia. It has shown the potential of combining the wisdom of oriental medicine with modern science. Keep an eye on Amore to find out its next success story.

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