There are a lot of “all-natural beauty” types out there who swear by the refrain if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. I’ve always thought thought that guideline was silly, not only because there are a lot of chemicals that are awesome for your skin, but also because if I only put stuff on my skin that I eat, I would be toning my face with Coke Zero and moisturizing with butter.
I also would not be using any ginseng products, because despite having grown up with it and forced to consume it in my childhood, I don’t actually like eating ginseng. It tastes like perfumey dirt and is frequently served with jujube fruit in chicken soup, which is a terrible association because I happen to detest jujube. Yet, on my skin, none of this seems to matter – I not only love how ginseng makes my skin feel but also love how it smells!
And so today I’m going to talk about ginseng, what it is, what it does, and what are some of my favorite products that contain it!
WHAT IS GINSENG and WHAT DOES IT DO?
Panax ginseng is a root used widely in traditional Eastern medicine. You may have heard the term hanbang (한방) being thrown around to describe certain skincare products that contain traditional, oriental medicine ingredients. Ginseng is one of the cornerstone ingredients of hanbang and is touted as a cure to everything from erectile dysfunction to high blood pressure. Most of these claims revolve around eating ginseng, but if you dig through the scientific literature there’s a good amount of evidence ginseng has positive effects when applied topically as well! For example:
- Saponins extracted from ginseng has been shown to significantly inhibit wrinkle formation, increases in skin thickness, and reduction in skin elasticity induced by long-term UVB radiation. Ginseng also delays the unset of tumors in UVB irradiated mice
- Ginseng has been shown to improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis in mice
- In an in vitro experiment, collagen has been shown to potentially promote collagen production (word of warning, my scientist friend warms against reading too much into in vitro studies, as I’ve previously discussed here)
In addition to these healing and UV protective effects, I personally find ginseng to have aromatherapeutic mind-calming effects! Putting on a ginseng sheet mask at the end of a long day is a quick, effective, and alcohol-free way to destress!
Here are some of the ginseng products I’ve been using, grouped into different levels of ginseng enthusiasm:
For the Ginseng Newbie –
Evercos ginseng masks are everything! First of all, Evercos masks are my favorite sheet masks. I even like them better than any silk masks or hydrogels I’ve used because they are just so incredibly soft, pliable, and generously soaked in essence without being drippy.
The ginseng masks might be my favorite amongst the six Evercos varieties. I find the mask to be very hydrating and calming. My skin inflames and reddens easily and these masks have a way of quickly calming things down.
For those interested, here are the translated ingredients for the Evercos Ginseng masks:
Korean Ingredients: 정제수, 부틸렌글라이콜, 글리세린, 홍삼 추출물 ( 1.0% 함유), 위치 하젤 추출물, 안젤리카 잎 추출물, 당귀추출물, 낫토검, 디포타슘글리시리제이트, 밀아미노산, 소듐 아스코빌 포스페이트, 소듐하이알루로네이트, 카보머, 토코페릴아세테이트, 트리에탄올아민, 피이지-60하이드로제네이티드캐스터오일, 하이드록시에칠셀룰로오스, 디소듐이디티에이, 에칠헥실 글리세린, 페녹 시 에탄올, 메칠파라벤, 향료
English Ingredients: Purified Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Ginseng Extract (1% concentration), Witch Hazel Extract, Angelica Leaf Extract, Angelica Extract, Natto gum, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Wheat Amino Acids, Sodium ascorbyl phosphate, Sodium hyaluronate, Carbomer, Tocopherol Acetate, Triethanolamine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Methyl paraben, Fragrance
I purchased my Evercos masks from 11st. For a guide on how to order from 11st, please see this very helpful tutorial put together by Cat Cactus on Snow White and the Asian Pear. Coincidentally, she’s the one who turned me onto Evercos in the first place!
For the Casual Ginseng Fan –
I have very thick and very straight hair and have yet to find the perfect shampoo for it. However, the History of Whoo Spa Shampoo and Rinse is a current favorite! I find it to clean better than Damoae Therapy Shampoo, which I am also a big fan of, and leaves my hair looking shinier and feeling lighter than Shiseido’s red bottle Tsubaki shampoo and conditioner, although Tsubaki definitely leaves my hair feeling softer and silkier.
It also smells amazing! The shampoo fills my shower with the sweet and perfumey but not overwhelming scent of ginseng. The rinse (which is basically just a conditioner) has a different fragrance, one that is less exclusively of ginseng, but still very hanbang in a refreshing and pleasant way. The two together make for a very pampering, hair washing experience! I definitely recommend both, although I do think the duo would work best for thick and straight-to-wavy hair-types. The shampoo might not be appropriate for frizzier hair types, and the rinse might be too heavy for people with tight curls, although I am definitely not an expert on hair types so I could be totally off base.
I purchased sample packs of this shampoo and rinse from Testerkorea (shampoo, rinse). They also carry the full size but it’s NEVER in stock and it drives me crazy because I want it and it’s not outrageously expensive like History of Whoo’s other stuff either. Someday it WILL be mine. Someday…
For the Ginseng Obsessed –
If you really, really love ginseng, maybe even more than I do, you will probably like this essence and cream from Sooryehan.
I picked up this essence + cream set because I fell in love with the packaging. They both have gel-like textures and even though the cream is a a bit thicker and denser than the essence, I find the two to be quite similar in how they feel and absorb into my skin. I actually prefer the cream, but the essence does include a handful of other extracts in addition to ginseng. See ingredients for both products here.
For those of you frustrated with skincare products where the top ingredients are all water and filler ingredients like butylene glycol, you’ll be happy to know that the first two ingredients in both are water and ginseng extract. There’s plenty of ginseng in these and it’s very obvious! This stuff smells VERY strongly of ginseng so consider yourself warned!
Unfortunately, these products are not quite hydrating or moisturizing enough for my skin type. I imagine people with normal or oily skin, or those living in more humid and tropical climates may have better luck with it! Regardless, it does feel very luxurious to use this essence and cream and to display them in my bathroom!
Have you guys tried any ginseng products? What are your favorites?