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This Korean Beauty Brand Has A Whole New Approach To Whitening

A fair and luminous complexion isn’t just about lightening the surface of one’s skin. Get to know “volume brightening”, one brand’s approach to whitening from within.

“White skin has always been desired, not only in Eastern cultures, but Western ones too,” says Alicia Chang, the porcelain-skinned product manager of Sulwhasoo’s global marketing team during our three-day stay in sunny Ko Samui. It’s a bold claim, but she backs it up by referencing famous fair-skinned beauties, from the fictional Snow White to the historical Queen Elizabeth I, known for painting her visage with hazardous lead-based makeup to achieve alabaster skin. 

Thankfully, advancements in skin care have made it possible (and much safer) to look fairer and more radiant. Think concentrated vitamin C- and arbutin-based products or laser treatments – approaches that inhibit melanin production, break down dark pigments and boost cell renewal to create a fairer skin tone. After all, melanin is what determines the shade of one’s skin.

However, recent studies conducted by the South Korean beauty giant reveal a new trend: Asian women in their 20s and 30s don’t just want fair skin; they want their complexion to look plump and healthy too.


Enter the latest generation of its brightening range Snowise – the eighth since it was launched in 2000 – that puts the spotlight on a different approach to radiance. “Even if your skin has achieved maximum lightness, it will still appear dull if it isn’t resilient and firm,” says Kate Kwon, Sulwhasoo’s brand science manager. This phenomenon, which she terms the “skin shadowing effect”, occurs when facial skin is slack and saggy, creating hollows on the face and making it look darker.

The solution? A concept Kwon calls “volume brightening”, which is exactly what it sounds like: plumping up skin by boosting collagen to make features look lifted and fuller. The result: bright, glowing skin.

Like in its earlier incarnations, the upgraded range continues to use white ginseng, the brand’s signature ingredient. White ginseng saponin, the world’s first ginseng-derived whitening ingredient, is said to suppress excessive melanin production while boosting collagen production, so skin becomes brighter and plumper. Complementing it are white ginseng polysaccharides, which supposedly multiply and thicken the epidermal cells, as well as hydrate skin cells.


The key difference: The concentration of polysaccharides has now been increased by 2.5 times (read: major plumping power). In addition, each of the five products within the improved line boasts its own star ingredient that – according to Kwon – works in harmony with the others. The idea is to use them altogether to create a holistic brightening and firming routine.

The headlining product is the Brightening Serum, which contains mulberry root extract that reportedly protects skin from external aggressors like pollution and UV rays. This is said to allow its accompanying lightening effects to last longer. It boasts a pleasantly fresh herbal scent, with a lightweight gel texture that disappears into skin upon application.

The Exfoliating Gel (to be used after cleansing) contains milled walnut shell that gently removes dead skin as well as excess sebum, while keeping skin hydrated. For stubborn dark spots, the Brightening Spot Treatment works as a localised treatment to penetrate pigmented areas – its pine mushroom extract supposedly soothes inflamed areas and stimulates regeneration. And unlike its predecessor that merely promised to suppress the development of hyperpigmentation and freckles, this one apparently also prevents melanin from being deposited when skin is inflamed. 


Luxuriously velvety yet non-greasy, the Brightening Cream is formulated with moisturising cactus extract, which “fills the skin with hydration” to restore the skin barrier that’s been compromised by pigmentation. And lastly, the bio-cellulose Brightening Mask that – unlike regular sheet masks that are soaked with serum – is produced through a seven-step, 14-day fermentation process using white ginseng polysaccharides to further intensify its benefits.

While using the full range has its benefits, Kwon says the choice is personal. “In fact, blind tests have shown that by using the Brightening Serum alone, women have reported visible results in only two weeks, not just in skin tone lightening, but also in its resilience and radiance.”

Model photos:

An adapted version first appeared in Female‘s April 2016 issue.

Like this? Sulwhasoo’s Spring colour makeup collection debuts in Singapore this May.