Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion Review- The highest praise I can give Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion is this: I have over half a dozen interesting new creams and lotions lined up for testing, but I keep putting them off, because I don’t want to stop using this product.
I’m surprised to feel this way. Of all the different K-beauty skincare product types, emulsions are the ones I generally use the least. In fact, I actively hate most of them.
But first, for those of you new to K-beauty …
What is an emulsion?
The dictionary defines an emulsion as a blend of two or more liquids that normally don’t mix, like oil and water, bound together with emulsifiers. Mayonnaise and vinaigrettes are common emulsions. In cosmetics, any products that contain water- and oil-based ingredients or water- and silicone-based ingredients but maintain a uniform consistency throughout (due to the use of emulsifiers) are technically emulsions.
In Korean skincare, though, “emulsion” means something more specific. K-beauty emulsions are fluid moisturizing products, somewhere between serums and lotions. Some are more serum-like. Others are just lotions with a fancy name.
My first taste of a K-beauty emulsion, Laneige Bright Renew Emulsion, put me off of the entire category. Though thin in consistency, the Bright Renew Emulsion felt heavy and oily and never set right on my skin. Most other emulsions I’ve tried have been the same. After all these years, I can count on one hand the ones I don’t hate. If not for Sulwhasoo, I’d be emulsion-free today. I was content in my emulsion hate.
Then the new Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Water and Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion launched.
I requested both from Beautytap’s Korea-based product sourcing team because Sulwhasoo and also ginseng, but I didn’t have high hopes for the emulsion half of the duo. It just goes to show that one can always be wrong one more time.
Review: Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion
According to the product listing on Sulwhasoo’s international website, the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion features “cutting-edge technology and devotion.” The site doesn’t specify what the product is devoted to. I’m going to go with ginseng. I share this devotion.
Purpose: Designated as an anti-aging product, Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion claims to moisturize skin and increase firmness and elasticity.
Best suited for: All skin types.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to silicones, fatty alcohols, fragrance, or anything else in the ingredients list.
When and how to use: The official brand instructions say to use the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion immediately after the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Water. It’s a clever way to imply that your skincare routine should include both products instead of just the one, but also confusing. What about serum — would it go before that? What about cream? Do you put cream on afterwards? Why didn’t they include the rest of the routine in their instructions?
The consistency of the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Water increases the confusion. Contrary to its name, the Renewing “Water” is actually quite thick. It’s “halfway between a gel and an emulsion,” as my friend Cat Cactus wrote in her Beautytap review of it, more a serum than a toner. So what now?
Personally, I find that the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion works best for me as a moisturizer. In the morning, I use it either immediately after cleansing, or after cleansing and toner. In the evening, I apply it following my serums and sheet mask. Given the serum-like consistency of the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Water, this still makes sense to me.
Everyone’s skin is different, though, so if you’re intrigued by the idea of using this emulsion after your toner but before your serums, give it a shot! You may find you like the official method better than mine.
Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion ingredients: Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, panax ginseng root water, pentaerythrityl tetraethylhexanoate, hydrogenated poly(C6-14 olefin), dimethicone, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, 1,2-hexanediol, polyglyceryl-3 methylglucose distearate, dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, carbomer, hydrogenated vegetable oil, glyceryl stearate citrate, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, hydroxyethyl acrylates/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, fragrance, tromethamine, stearic acid, methoxy PEG-114/polyepsilon caprolactone, xanthan gum, palmitic acid, disodium EDTA, adenosine, honey, hydrolyzed ginseng saponins, lilium candidum bulb extract, paeonia albifora root extract, rehmannia glutinosa root extract, polygonatum officinale rhizome/root extract, nelumbo nucifera flower extract, phenoxyethanol, sorbitan isostearate, polysorbate 60, theobroma cacao (cocoa) extract, dextrin, myristic acid, ethylhexylglycerin, lauric acid
The Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion consists primarily of hydrating and skin-conditioning moisturizers and contains two different ginseng ingredients. Ginseng is great, at least for my skin.
According to some of the studies I dredged up for an old ginseng megapost, ginseng extracts have both preventative and reparative anti-aging effects. Topical ginseng in cosmetic products is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Ginseng may also stimulate collagen production as well as brighten skin and reduce hyperpigmentation by blocking melanin. In other words, ginseng fits my skin goals perfectly.
To look at the ingredients list for the Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion, you might not think there’s actually enough of the star ingredient in there. Reassuringly, however, ginseng extracts may be effective even at ultra-low concentrations — we’re talking fractions of a percent. Variables like the overall formulation and the quality and potency of the ginseng extracts make this far from certain, of course, but given my success with other Sulwhasoo ginseng products, I’d say the hanbang masters know what they’re doing.
Higher on the list, though not in the first three ingredients, is “panax ginseng root water.” This refers to Sulwhasoo’s Steamed Ginseng Water Concentrate ™ — presumably, ginseng-infused runoff gathered during the ginseng steaming process. This is likely fairly diluted, but there’s no way to tell without having a spy in the factory.
Lower down, you’ll find hydrolyzed ginseng saponins. Saponins are a class of compounds that, in ginseng, include ginsenosides, the “active” compounds of the plant. Ginsenosides are responsible for many of the effects of the plant. The really good stuff, basically.
The Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Emulsion also contains a few dabs of Sulwhasoo’s signature herbal extracts near the bottom of the list.