Korean skincare is highly sought-after by beauty enthusiasts and what sets it apart from others is the use of hanbang in most products’ formulas. Hanbang, or Korean traditional medicine in English, advocates the use of natural ingredients in skincare and is often attributed to the reason behind the dewy, clear and flawless skin seen on Korean women.
If you want to go from noob to pro in Korean skincare, the best way to go about it is to learn everything about hanbang ingredients. Here’s a guide that will take you through the most commonly seen ingredients in Korean skincare products so you’ll know what each of them can do for you.
Key benefits: Anti-wrinkles, firming
Ginseng is widely recognised as a superfood not just in Korean food but also when it comes to skincare. It is one of the most important hanbang ingredients for anti-ageing. On top of improving the appearance of wrinkles, ginseng also helps in boosting micro-circulation and getting rid of skin dullness.
As “potent” as the ingredient may sound, ginseng is generally safe for sensitive skin and can even help improve it! Research has shown that ginseng helps to calm redness and puffiness on the skin. To put it simply, it is great for skins of all types.
Ginseng skincare products to try
Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Serum
Sulwhasoo has a team that specialises in “Ginsenomics”, or the in-depth study of ginseng; they have been doing so for the last 50 years, so you can imagine that they’re quite the expert.
If you want to try a product that’s fortified by ginseng from the Korean brand, consider the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Serum. The newly improved product contains capsules of ginseng extract that offers instant activation of the ingredients upon application.
Besides improving your skin’s vitality and youth, this serum is also superior in its anti-inflammatory benefits and help promote the skin’s resilience while alleviating dryness.
Retails for SGD$265 at all Sulwhasoo boutiques and counters, as well as Sephora.
Missha Geum Sul Overnight Cream
For a moisturising ginseng night cream that won’t break the bank, this one from Missha would make it to your list for consideration.
Reviewers say that this a great moisturiser to plump up extremely dry skin, though those who have oily skin may find it slightly greasy. Many swear by it as a winter skincare product, but those of us in Singapore may be able to benefit from it if we are constantly exposed to dry air-conditioning environments.
Retails for SGD42.90 on YesStyle or SGD45.50 at all Missha boutiques.
Key benefits: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory
Propolis may not be a familiar word to many, but it is actually produced by bees when they’re filling up the crevices in their hives. The ingredient is known for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, which is why you’ll often find them in anti-acne or anti-irritation products.
Propolis is definitely recommended for those who are suffering from acne scars and redness on the skin. To get all the benefits of propolis, you might want to check out the propolis series by COSRX.
Propolis products to try
COSRX Propolis range
Key benefits: Skin repair, improves acne scar
Don’t be disgusted when you see the term “snail mucin”. It has a larger range of skin benefits than you might have ever known. For those suffering from acne and skin pigmentation, this could be the ingredient which you need in your future skincare products.
Skin mucin helps to moisturise the skin and promote collagen production, making it one of the best ingredients to heal and improve acne scars and pigmentation. It is also said to help with skin irritation with its soothing properties.
Snail mucin products to try
TONYMOLY Intense Care Gold 24K Snail Cream
If you are looking for a cream that helps to revitalise your skin, consider Tony Moly’s Intense Care Gold 24K Snail Cream at USD44.56 (SGD61.95) on YesStyle.
It’s Skin Prestige Creme EX D’escargot Snail Cream
Another moisturiser that is worthy of your attention is the award-winning snail cream from It’s Skin that’s priced at SGD48.40 on Shopee.
Key benefits: Antioxidants, skin revitalisation
Mugwort has long been a part of Koreans’ daily lives. This ingredient isn’t just found in their skincare products, but it is also used in many Korean cuisines. It is a weed that’s packed with antioxidants that help to prevent breakouts and get rid of bacteria.
It is even said that mugwort can be used to treat those with skin problems such as eczema. On top of that, it is also a collagen stimulator that helps to revitalise and reduce the appearance of fine lines.
Mugwort products to try
I’m From Mugwort Mask
Some ways you can incorporate mugwort into your skincare routine is through facial masks. I’m From’s Mugwort Mask has received many positive reviews and it can be purchased through Hermo at SGD40.49.
I’m From Mugwort Cream
Aside from that, complete your skincare routine also from I’m From with their Mugwort Cream through Hermo at SGD40.49.
Key benefits: Reduce redness, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory
Centella asiatica is the scientific name for tiger grass, better known as cica! It is one of the ingredients that work best for acne-prone skin as it helps to calm redness and soothe inflamed skin. It is also said to reduce the skin’s sensitivity towards irritants, making it the perfect ingredient for those with sensitive skin.
Centella asiatica products to try
A’PIEU Madecassoside Cream
Acne-prone reviewers have also raved about A’PIEU’s Madecassoside Cream, which contains centella asiatica. It helps to calm irritated skin and moisturise the skin by keeping it hydrated and soft. Give it a try at SGD22.29 on YesStyle.
COSRX Centella Blemish Cream
Another product that includes centella asiatica is none other than the COSRX Centella Blemish Cream. Reviewed by over 1,500 users on YesStyle, it is proven to help reduce the appearance of blemishes and scarring. It is priced at SGD28.54 on YesStyle.
Key benefits: Brightening, antioxidant, anti-ageing
If you have issues such as hyperpigmentation and skin ageing, licorice root might be the one skincare ingredient you want to incorporate into your daily routine. It shields your skin from harmful UV rays, stopping premature skin ageing in its tracks. Aside from that, it helps to brighten the skin and speed up skin renewal too.
Licorice root products to try
Acwell Licorice PH Balancing Cleansing Toner
You will know if a skincare product is highly recommended if users repurchase them more than twice, and it looks like Acwell’s Licorice PH Balancing Cleansing Toner is one of them. It is said to have improved the skin of those who struggle to lighten hyperpigmentation and brighten dull skin. It is priced at SGD16.90 on Shopee.
Another product to try is It’s SKIN Power 10 Formula LI Effector, priced at SGD18 on Lazada. The serum contains concentrated key ingredients such as licorice extract that helps deal with skin pigmentation as well as brightens the skin complex.
Key benefits: Antioxidant, anti-ageing, reduce puffiness
It’s amazing how a simple ingredient like green tea is able to provide so many benefits for our skin. Aside from its antioxidant and anti-ageing properties, green tea can also help to bring down any puffiness we may experience in the morning. It also has antibacterial properties to combat blemishes.
Green tea products to try
Innisfree Green Tea Seed Eye Cream
For those who are just starting out with eye cream, go for Innisfree’s Green Tea Seed Eye Cream. Its lightweight texture sinks into the skin easily, without leaving a greasy residue around your eye area. It costs SGD34 at Innisfree stores and SGD16.50 on Lazada.
Benton Deep Green Tea Toner
Looking for a toner to calm down redness and irritation? Try Benton’s Deep Green Tea Toner. It does not contain any additional fragrance and leaves the skin feeling fresh and soft. It costs SGD21.61 on YesStyle.
Key benefits: Skin repair, brightening
Rice bran is commonly used in Japanese skincare products, but throughout the past decade, it has also become a key ingredient in Korean skincare. It is rich in vitamins B and E, which repair the skin and delay skin ageing. Apart from these amazing properties, it also contains brightening antioxidants that boost your skin’s radiance.
Rice bran products to try
COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask
Experience the goodness of rice bran through COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask. It can be used as a leave-on overnight mask or even as a moisturiser in the day to leave your skin smooth and supple. It is priced at SGD28.90 on Watsons.
I’m From Rice Toner
A well-loved toner that’s been raved by editors and influencers, the I’m From Rice Toner has a watery, lightweight formula that brightens your skin and reduces the appearance of your pores. It is priced at SGD42.13 on YesStyle.
Key benefits: Skin rejuvenation, brightening
Drinking yuzu tea to keep yourself warm is a common sight in Korea. However, yuzu has found a place in skincare products too. Yuzu comes from a family of oranges and lemons, making it perfect for rejuvenating and brightening your skin.
Yuzu products to try
Hanyul Yuja Sleeping Mask
Hanyul’s Yuja Sleeping Mask makes your skin look brighter the next morning. You’ll notice supple, bouncier skin when you wake up too. Try it at SGD28.88 from Lazada.
SKINFOOD Yuja Water C Whitening Ampoule in Serum
To combat the first signs of ageing, SKINFOOD’s Yuja Water C Whitening Ampoule in Serum 2X uses yuzu extracts and antioxidants to boost skin radiance and stimulate collagen production. It retails for SGD33.84 at YesStyle.
Key benefits: Exfoliation, anti-ageing, hydration
Nope, they’re not just meant to be worn as accessories. Pearls also have a history in skincare. Centuries ago, pearl extract was incorporated into skincare products for its moisturising, brightening, as well as anti-ageing abilities. It’s also naturally soothing, which helps to calm redness on sensitive areas of the skin.
Pearl extract products to try
KLAVUU Pure Pearlsation Revitalising Facial Cleansing Foam
With almost 300 positive reviews on YesStyle, KLAVUU’s Pure Pearlsation Revitalising Facial Cleansing Foam is said to leave your skin feeling soft and moisturised after every cleanse. It retails for SGD31.56 on YesStyle.
From the same series, KLAVUU also has ‘White Pearlsation Enriched Divine Pearl Cream’ priced at SGD49.68 on Yesstyle. It has a soothing fragrance while locking down the moisture on your skin, giving you the glowy and silky finish.
Key benefits: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-ageing, hydration
Kelp, also known as seaweed, has been used in skincare products for decades, thanks to its amazing benefits. It amps up your skin’s hydration levels, and provides antibacterial properties that’s extra beneficial for acne-prone skin. Kelp extracts also help to reduce inflammation, redness, as it prevents new breakouts from forming.
Kelp products to try
MIZON Seaweed Solution Black Mask
MIZON’s Seaweed Solution Black Mask is packed with a variety of nutrients from seaweed extract! Made from volcanic ash fibre, the sheet mask controls excess sebum production too. It retails for SGD5.89 on YesStyle.
NEOGEN Dermalogy Oceanism Essential Feeding Serum
NEOGEN’s Dermalogy Oceanism Essential Feeding Serum contains moisturising ingredients and seaweed extract. Its lightweight texture sinks into the skin fast, giving you a brighter complexion in no time at all. It retails for SGD57.26 on YesStyle.