korean herbs

Korean skincare is well-known for using weird and wonderful ingredients such as snail slime, bee venom and donkey milk, so much so that little attention is paid to the usage of Korean herbs. In fact, there’s a subset of Korean beauty that focuses on harnessing the benefits of traditional herbs: hanbang.

Hanbang refers to traditional Korean medicine – think of it as the cousin of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). While it was influenced by TCM in its advent, hanbang is different from its Chinese counterpart. Below is what you need to know.


1. What are the types of herbs used in hanbang?


Korean ginseng is well-known around the world for its health benefits. Naturally, it’s also heavily used in Korean skincare. Besides ginseng, other commonly-used Korean herbs include chaga mushroom, lotus root, ginger, angelica root, licorice and goji berries. However, you’ll notice that these ingredients aren’t exclusive to Korean skincare, and neither are they exclusively Korean. So what sets them apart? It’s the process.


2. What is the process involved in hanbang?


The key highlight of hanbang is the process of ageing and fermentation. Hanbang skincare products typically rely heavily on fermented ingredients, and this process gives rise to probiotics and good bacteria.

Probiotics and good bacteria are not just good for your gut – it’s also great for your skin. It helps keep acne-causing bacteria at bay, and also strengthens your skin’s barrier function.

3. What are the benefits of hanbang and Korean herbs in skincare?

Hanbang skincare products generally have a distinct herbal smell, and for some people, that’s a huge plus in the aromatherapy department. Scent is huge part in skincare, and that herbal smell can aid in relaxation.

Korean herbal ingredients also tend to be rich in antioxidants and polyphenol. These herbs often also contain anti-inflammatory properties. When used in skincare, it translates into soothed skin and reduced redness. It can even help with anti-ageing, and improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Combined with probiotics from the fermentation process, regular use of hanbang skincare products enriched with Korean herbs can give you glowy and healthy skin.

4. What are the hanbang brands to take note of?

Korean skincare companies are starting to jump onto the hanbang bandwagon, but it is best to start your Korean herbal journey with established names:

History of Whoo

According to the brand, History of Whoo has a secret herbal blend that was born in the royal courts of Joseon. The brand also uses a mind-boggling blend of ingredients, including velvet deer antler extract, angelica root and even jade. Bonus: Every product is packaged in ultra-luxe, ornate packaging that looks almost too precious to be used.

Available at TANGS at Tang Plaza, TANGS Vivocity and Takashimaya. Visit https://whoo.sg/ for more info.


Sulwhasoo was founded in 1966, with just one product: the ABC Ginseng Cream. The brand places emphasis on holistic balance and harmony, and products are packaged in minimalist bottles adorned with colours inspired by nature. Sulwhasoo’s signature pine scent perfumes most of the brand’s products, adding another layer of luxury and relaxation.

Available at Sulwhasoo Boutiques, TANGS at Tang Plaza, TANGS Vivocity, Robinsons The Heeren, Robinsons Raffles City and Metro Paragon. Visit https://www.sulwhasoo.com/sg/ for more info.


A few years ago, Su:m37 launched a rose cleansing stick formulated with actual rose petals. It quickly sold out and became a coveted cult favourite, and online beauty communities were rife with stories of sales assistants stashing said product away for their own purchase. The fabled rose cleansing stick has since been discontinued, but Su:m37 still has plenty to offer.

The brand purportedly gathers more than 80 types of seasonal plants each season, and ferments ingredients at an optimal 37 degrees Celsius for a full year. The ingredients are then filtered out and blended to create what a brand calls Cytosis, a key ingredient used in Su:m37 products.

Available at TANGS at Tang Plaza, TANGS Vivocity and Isetan Tampines. Visit https://www.sum37.com.sg/ for more info.