Why this Korean beauty brand is topping the charts

As Sulwhasoo celebrates its 50th anniversary, a look back at their history of indefatigable research in ginseng and herbal medicine for beauty proves that the brand is on the very cusp of the extraordinary. By Li Ying Lim.

“Sulwhasoo reflects the very dream and hope of our founder,” says Amore Pacific CEO Suh Kyung-Bae. Amore Pacific is South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company today, which genesis owes very much to Suh Sung-Whan, founder of the company, “who so tirelessly strived to introduce Asian beauty to the world.” Suh Sung-Whan credited a visit to Grasse for the eureka moment when he realised that there could be so much more potential to his hometown’s reputation for Korean ginseng. The ABC Ginseng Cream was launched in 1966. Says CEO Suh, “Our source of beauty originated from his belief in ginseng, a faith that endures and is now in its full fledge.”

Tracing the history of Sulwhasoo back to the ‘60s when the ABC Ginseng Cream was first launched, the brand is the first to admit that the formula was still far from being perfect, with many customers coming back complaining of skin irritation. The real challenge then was to find an effective means to turn the potency of Korean ginseng into something that is extractable for beauty products, and not simply when it is activated via oral consumption.
In 1972, research finally yielded results – the extraction of saponin from the ginseng’s leaves and flowers were found to be usable as an active ingredient. Ginseng Sammi was launched, and it garnered widespread adulations, even reaching the shores of Japan, America, Europe, South America, and the Middle East.

Met with wild success over the recent years, when a sudden boom in demand for Korean cosmetics exploded over the world, Sulwhasoo celebrated this astounding achievement with the grand opening of its first standalone flagship store in the golden triangle of Gangnam, Seoul, adjacent to the verdure of Dosan Park. “Cosmetics is a culture,” says CEO Suh. “And, as it brings life to our skin, it is also infused with nature and science technology that represents the time and area, along with the philosophy and values of beauty. The Sulwhasoo brand is imbued with distinctly Asian culture.”