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Apr 23, 2013

Sulwhasoo Skincare Basic Kit|Traditional Recipe Infused With Modern Ideology

When reviewing products, I like to experiment with them for at least weeks, if not months, before I form conclusions. However, very rarely, some impress me within the first few tries. My most recent encounter with such exceptional collection is the Sulwhasoo Skincare Basic Kit I ($35 for 5 travel size items). Sulwhasoo (설화수 雪花秀), under the cosmetics giant Amore Pacific, is a high-end Korean beauty brand that incorporates traditional herbs and ginseng in its products.

Many budget friendly Korean brands such as Etude House, The Face Shop, and Skin Food are extremely popular within bloggers, but I seldom see mentions of department store ones like Sulwhasoo and HERA (헤라), which carry top-notch beauty lines.

With some products priced over $100, ensuring their effectiveness before making such big investment is very important. For anyone who are curious about Sulwhasoo, the various skincare sets are great choices to start with.

Sulwhasoo products are infused with traditional herbs, so a strong aroma is inevitable (which I was definitely not fond of at first). However, the scent grew on me gradually, and now I love the relaxing and soothing scent. The natural fragrance doesn't have the kind of processed smell found in many other high-end lines.

The Skincare Basic Kit I comes with 5 travel size products that complete an entire skincare routine.

  1. First Care Serum (8 ml)
  2. Balancing Water (15 ml)
  3. Balancing Emulsion (15 ml)
  4. Concentrated Ginseng Cream (5 ml) 
  5. Overnight Vitalizing Treatment (15 ml)

The best selling First Care Serum (full size $80 for 60 ml) is clearly holy grail material. Contrary to common skincare beliefs, this serum serves as the first step in an effective routine. Containing herbs that function as initial booster for essential hydration and subsequent products, this serum feels heavy but applies lightly. The instant absorption moisturizes the skin for a smooth and glowing result. If you can only pick one product from this brand, this should clearly be your top choice.

No words can describe how wonderful this feels on my skin. It has a thick texture but amazingly, soaks right into my face almost immediately. I bring this with me into my bathroom and apply it right after I stepped out the shower. And then I can leisurely continue onto the rest of my routine. After using this for about a month, I saw huge improvement in the overall condition of my skin for it looks more healthy and radiant. The price tag is hefty, but I didn't hesitant as I paid for a full size.

The Balancing Water (full size $55 for 125 ml) is a gel textured toner that almost feels like a light lotion and again, absorbs into the skin in a second. Prep and nourish our skin with deep hydration, this works great during those cold months when we need that extra moisture.

This is the product that if I have the budget, I would use it 365 days. Personally, I find the price a bit expansive for a toner because I'd rather just pay $5 more and go with the emulsion. But nonetheless, this is unbelievably amazing for the skin. For those rush mornings, I use nothing but this under my foundation, and it would provide enough moisture for an entire day. Now that's an ability that I don't even find in some creams.

My second favorite out of this kit is the Balancing Emulsion (full size $60 for 125 ml), which has a rich and heavy texture but applies effortlessly. Its natural herbal ingredients work to soften and hydrate the skin, leaving it supple and smooth.

I was a bit worried when I first tried this because of the thick texture (think anti-aging lotions), but to my surprise this only took a few padding for it to fully soak into my face. I've since then purchased the full size because the rich emulsion is now a necessity in my everyday routine. Again, my face is well moisturized, so it's gotten less oily. During those nights when my skin is throwing a tantrum, I add a thick layer right before bed and use it as a deep treatment. I always wake up with baby soft skin.

The Concentrated Ginseng Cream (full size $220 for 60 ml) uses extracts from rare six-year-old Korean ginseng root, leaf, and many natural herbs to repair damaged skin and to rejuvenate mature skin. The revitalizing face cream provides anti-oxidants and great hydration that penetrate even the deepest skin layer.

Don't let the anti-aging claim and the rich texture scare you from trying this out, because although it feels heavy when first applied, it's actually quite comfortable for even my oily skin. It doesn't leave the usual greasy feeling that most rich creams do. Instead, massage lightly with this product, and the skin feels supple and moisturized. Now, I have to mention that this contains an extremely strong ginseng scent, which will take some times to get used to. Recently, I purchased the full size for my mom, and according to her, this is the best facial cream she has ever used.

My least favorite is the Overnight Vitalizing Treatment (full size $50 for 120 ml) not because it's a bad product. As the final step in a skincare routine, this is an overnight mask that helps to brighten and moisturize the skin during sleep.

The basic skincare line from Sulwhasoo is known to provide deep moisture, making just one or two products more than enough for even the driest skin. This is actually not as hydrating as I've hoped for, considering that it's a special treatment rather than a regular skincare product. And I really don't need this after using the previous mentioned items. To put it in perspective, it's kind of like eating candies. The first two pieces taste yummy. The third one is OK, but the fourth piece is probably just too much.

I have extremely oily skin, and these are very beneficial for me. I have also heard positive reviews from girls with dry and normal skin, proving that this versatile line is suitable for all skin types. 

The ideology behind Sulwhasoo is to use traditional ingredients infused with modern advances to praise and harmonize the feminine beauty. Its products are not meant to create dramatic overnight changes but to gradually repair, balance, and energize dull, stressed, or mature skin. Made entirely out of oriental herbs, Sulwhasoo products are so effective and good that the South Korean government actually gifted these (including the famous First Care Serum mentioned) as official presents to wives of world leaders who participated in the G20 Summit. Now that's an accomplish when the government chooses a brand to represent the whole nation.

As I've mentioned, this brand is pricey. I would highly recommend the First Care Serum and the Balancing Emulsion. If you have the budget, getting the Balancing Water is definitely a plus. Then if you really want to be fancy, add in the Concentrated Ginseng Cream.

Where to purchase: Neiman Marcus, Sulwhasoo USA,, SASA, Bergdorf Goodman, and any Amore Pacific locations.   ~Angela


  1. This post was very interesting for me to read. I've visted Korea a couple times recently and I remember seeing this brand, but I never tried it out. I had no idea it was such a high end and high quality brand! Interesting to read and I'd like to try these out sometime!

    Jackie from

  2. Jackie, I'd definitely encourage to you give this brand a try, especially the basic skincare line. It's a luxury brand, so there are a few crazily expansive products, but some of the items are within the average department store range. And I would assume that it'll be cheaper when you actually buy it in Korea. I've lived in Korea for a while a few years back but wasn't really into cosmetics back then. Now I kind of regret of not knowing about Sulwhasoo earlier. If you are into makeups, I would also recommend HERA, which has a few amazing makeup items, but the brand is generally harder to get oversea.

  3. I think I might try this. My skin has been looking wretched lately (6 months of winter will do that to any skin though methinks)...although my current skin regimen yields mostly acne-free skin, it could be better :))

  4. Min, winter definitely took a toll on my skin too and just made me appreciate this line even more. Compared to previous years, this past winter only affected my skin in a minor way. I give credit to the Sulwhasoo products. I don't know how it's going to help with acne, but I think you'll love it.

  5. I've never been into skincare but these products sound amazing! Such a shame for the hefty price tag though.


  6. Louise, I know what you mean. The high-end price tag is definitely not budget friendly for everyone but Sulwhasoo actually fits nicely in the department store range - not drugstore level but not insanely expansive like some (think La Mer).

  7. OMG OMG OMG you got Sulwhasoo! I got SO intrigued by the brand because a Taiwanese blogger I follow claims she got thicker and longer eyelashes as an added bonus of one of their eye creams. I know it costs an arm and a leg, but an eye cream that might make my eyelashes grow out naturally? I really might have to try!

  8. Sunny, I'm in love with this brand. I haven't tried their eye creams yet, but I wouldn't be surprised about the blogger's claim. The reason I love about Sulwhasoo is that their products are not made with some hard to pronounce ingredients or the next patented stuff. The main ingredients in the products are simple Asian herbs that for thousands of years have proved to be effective at healing our bodies. I'm quite curious as to which blogger you are talking about because I follow a few TW bloggers as well.

  9. Oh I'm in! Here is the post I was talking about. It's in Chinese though!

  10. Thanks Sunny. I think I've recently saw the blogger on a Chinese TV show. Her post about the eye cream is very tempting. Now I think I'll it to my wishlist.

  11. Janet, my results with these Sulwhasoo products are definitely not dramatic. I like to compare it with how traditional Chinese medicines work. They're suppose to gradually and mildly improve and heal our bodies. With Sulwhasoo (at least for their basic skincare line), the transformation was certainly not dramatic or overnight. And sometimes I can't even pinpoint exactly what changed, but my skin looks healthier with an improvement in the overall condition. If you have another chance to try out this brand, may be give it a little bit more time. I would also recommend to not use too many of the products at the same time. As I mentioned in the post, I didn't really like the overnight mask not because it's a bad product, but I felt that it's too much after using all the other Sulwhasoo products before.

  12. yes, the blogger was on 康熙来了 to take off her makeup and show her no makeup face :)

    Sophie from

  13. Thanks Sophie. She looks quite different without makeups, but I have to say that she has great makeup skills. And I love her blog a lot.

  14. Fiona @ Street LoveApr 26, 2013, 4:26:00 AM

    That looks amazing! I'm unsure that I can take strong herbal scent. But I love the after-effect on you :)

  15. I've tried the Balancing Water, one of their foaming cleansers, and a moisturizer. I loved them all. Unfortunately the moisturizer broke me out but I loved the Balancing Water. I loved the consistency, loved the smell, loved everything! I always seem to forget about this brand for some reason. Now that you've reminded me maybe i will check them out again :)

  16. I've always been interested to try this range - your review is making me want to try them even more!

  17. Great review and helpful since I have oily skin as well. I would definitely try this set at the $35 price.

  18. Fiona, the strong herbal scent is certainly not attractive to some people, but I would highly recommend you to actually smell it in person at a counter. I really dislike all types of strong scent in skincare products, but this is not a bad one. You never know. May be you'll like it as well.

  19. Oh no Becca, sorry to hear that the moisturizer broke you out. Some of their products are probably a bit heavy for some people. I think it's all the herbs they use because I remember my parents said that traditional Asian herbs are not meant for all body types. For some people, the nutrition from these herbs may actually cause more harms. May be you can check out lighter products from Sulwhasoo. I remember you said you are from S. Cal. I know there are a few Amore stores that carry Sulwhasoo. You should just ask the girls there to recommend some products for your skin type. They are always so sweet and nice.

  20. :) I'm glad you like this review. This is one that I'll definitely recommend. I've tried quite a few products from their basic skincare line, and I'm hoping to move onto their other collections.

  21. Tina, give it a try, and you may just love it like I do. I don't know if there's a store near you that carries this brand. If there is, definitely head over to the store. These are products that you can feel the difference upon a quick try.

  22. memoiselle memoiselleMay 1, 2013, 5:59:00 AM

    Hi Angela!
    I have heard a lot about Sulwhasoo and its steep price. Thanks for writing a nice review on this brand. The serum sounds great, especially that it sinks into your skin quickly. I am not fond of herbal scents too but I guess I'll try it on the counter first and justify whether I need to try this :)

  23. Meryl, I'm very glad that you found this review helpful. The herbal scent is definitely a deal breaker for some. Try it at a counter, and if the scent doesn't bother you, I'd say go for it. It's quite amazing for the skin.

  24. I love this product. It leaves my skin
    feeling so soft and if you use a corresponding scent in their body
    scrub, you will smell good all day long. It leaves your whole entire
    body smooth feeling and wonderful smelling all day long!

  25. Very helpful post. I really need this information skin care . I will follow all the instructions.

  26. I have just purchased the Sulwahsoo snowise in the small trial kit. I actually saw some slight difference in 2 days around my eyes and on the cheeks. I know its going to kill me with the steep price but we do only have one face afterall and care is necessary. Thank you for this information it is helpful and I must agree with all the points that you wrote about this product. The ginseng smell is very potent but I am getting use to it - I am going into the 3rd week.

  27. A question - does Sulwahsoo have facial cleanser, face wash or purchase one from Amore product?

  28. Great review! I just bought this and I can see now what I am in for :) Thanks

  29. haai... thank you for your review.
    i've been trying to use laneige basic care kit for 3 weeks, get a good result (at least my face didn't get acne using this product). but i still curious about sulwhasoo basic care line.

    but i quite agree with you about this smell, sulwhasoo has a strong herbal scent, i bought the mask and eye cream, and unfortunately i didn't like the scent, but i still want to try this product even though it's more expensive than laneige :(
    maybe i should try first care serum and the emulsion.. is it ok only use 2 product and i combine with another brand for cream and toner?

  30. Can you provide the full ingredients list for each product? Very intrigued.


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