Follow us on our new Insta page »
Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Water

Essential Balancing Water

A quick-absorbing beauty water packed with moisturizing purslane and antioxidant-rich goji berries that delivers an instant surge of moisture while softening and hydrating skin.
Uploaded by: whishaw on

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water/Aqua/Eau solvent
Alcohol antimicrobial/​antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling icky
Betaine moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Glyceryl Polymethacrylate viscosity controlling
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer emollient, solvent
Glycereth-26 moisturizer/​humectant, emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 0
Phenoxyethanol preservative
PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane emollient, moisturizer/​humectant, surfactant/​cleansing
Honey / Mel / Miel soothing, moisturizer/​humectant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Cross Polymer viscosity controlling
Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Extract
Polygonatum Officinale Rhizome/Root Extract
Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Extract
Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract
Lilium Candidum Bulb Extract
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Diphenylsiloxy Phenyl Trimethicone
Fragrance/Parfum perfuming icky
Portulaca Oleracea Extract soothing, antioxidant goodie
Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract antioxidant, soothing superstar
Potassium Hydroxide buffering
Disodium EDTA chelating, viscosity controlling
Limonene perfuming, solvent icky
Biosaccharide Gum-1 soothing, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Root Extract
Natto Gum
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Linalool perfuming icky
Propanediol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
BHT antioxidant, preservative
Acetic Acid buffering
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie
Beta-Glucan soothing, moisturizer/​humectant goodie

Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Water
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua;Water | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

Expand to read more

Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

Alcohol - icky
Also-called: Ethanol | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling, astringent

Simply alcohol refers to ethanol and it's a pretty controversial ingredient. It has many instant benefits: it's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial. No wonder it's popular in toners and oily skin formulas. 

The downside is that it can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list. 

Expand to read more

Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion. If you wanna know more, we wrote a more detailed explanation about what's the deal with alcohol in skincare products at alcohol denat. (it's also alcohol, but with some additives to make sure no one drinks it).

Betaine - goodie
What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A sugar beet derived amino acid derivative with nice skin protection and moisturization properties. Betain's special thing is being an osmolyte, a molecule that helps to control cell-water balance.  It is also a natural osmoprotectant, meaning that it attracts water away from the protein surface and thus protects them from denaturation and increases their thermodynamic stability. 

It also gives sensorial benefits to the formula and when used in cleansers, it helps to make them milder and gentler. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.  

BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.

Expand to read more

It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive. 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
  • Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A water-loving emollient and humectant that gives a nice skin feel and slip to the product. It works well with facial toners.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.

What-it-does: preservative

It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.

It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic. 

Expand to read more

Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10). 

It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.

A castor oil derived, white, lard-like helper ingredient that is used as a solubilizer to put fragrances (those are oil loving things) into water-based products such as toners.

Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane is a silicone that is water dispersible (as opposed to most other silicones that are usually oil dispersible). It makes the skin smooth and nice (emollient), moisturizes, helps to reduce tackiness, and also has some foam boosting properties. It is often used in light, watery formulas to give them an extra silky feel

Also-called: Mel;Honey | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant, antimicrobial/antibacterial

We all know honey as the sweet, gooey stuff that is lovely to sweeten a good cup of tea and we have good news about putting honey all over our skin. It is just as lovely on the skin as it is in the tea. 

The great review article about honey in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology writes that it is arguably the oldest skincare ingredient and evidence from around 4500 BC mentions honey in some eye cream recipes. Chemically speaking, it is a bee-derived, supersaturated sugar solution.  About 95% of honey dry weight is sugar and the other 5% consists of a great number of other minor components including proteins, amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals

Expand to read more

This unique and complex chemical composition gives honey a bunch of nice skin care properties: it is very moisturizing, has soothing and antioxidant abilities as well as significant antibacterial and antifungal magic powers. There is also a lot of empirical evidence with emerging scientific backup that honey dressing promotes the healing of wounds and burns.

One tricky thing about honey though, is that it can have lots of different floral sources and different types of honey have a somewhat different composition and thus somewhat different properties. For example, the darker the honey the richer it is in antioxidant phenolic compounds.  Two special types of honey are acacia and manuka. The former is unique and popular because of its higher than usual fructose content that makes it more water-soluble and easier to stabilize in cosmetic formulas. The latter comes from the Leptospermum Scoparium tree native to New Zeland and its special thing is its extra strong antibacterial power due to a unique component called methylglyoxal.  

Overall, honey is a real skin-goodie in pretty much every shape and form, and it is a nice one to spot on the ingredient list. 

Though its long name does not reveal it, this polymer molecule (big molecule from repeated subunits or monomers) is a relative to the super common, water-loving thickener, Carbomer. Both of them are big molecules that contain acrylic acid units, but Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer also contains some other monomers that are hydrophobic, i.e. water-hating. 

This means that our molecule is part water- and part oil-loving, so it not only works as a thickener but also as an emulsion stabilizer. It is very common in gel-type formulas that also contain an oil-phase as well as in cleansers as it also works with most cleansing agents (unlike a lot of other thickeners). 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative, deodorant

If you have spotted ethylhexylglycerin on the ingredient list, most probably you will see there also the current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol. They are good friends because ethylhexylglycerin can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too.

Also, it's an effective deodorant and a medium spreading emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Fragrance, Parfum;Parfum/Fragrance | What-it-does: perfuming

Exactly what it sounds: nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. Fragrance in the US and parfum in the EU is a generic term on the ingredient list that is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average (but it can have as much as 200 components!). 

If you are someone who likes to know what you put on your face then fragrance is not your best friend - there's no way to know what’s really in it.  

Expand to read more

Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!). 

Also-called: Purslane Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant

Portulaca Oleracea is a nice succulent with bright yellow flowers and edible nutritious vegetables. It's a famous plant in Korean traditional medicine to treat infection and irritated skin.

Modern research confirms that it's loaded with skin-goodies: it's the richest green plant source of omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid), contains NMFs (polysaccharides and amino acids),  vitamins (β-carotene), minerals, and antioxidants (yellow betaxanthins and reddish betacyanins). Thanks to all its beneficial components, Purslane Extract has several magic properties: it's a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent and also has wound healing abilities

Also-called: Green Tea | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing
  • Green tea is one of the most researched natural ingredients
  • The active parts are called polyphenols, or more precisely catechins (EGCG being the most abundant and most active catechin)
  • There can be huge quality differences between green tea extracts. The good ones contain 50-90% catechins (and often make the product brown and give it a distinctive smell)
  • Green tea is proven to be a great antioxidant, UV protectant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial
  • Because of these awesome properties green tea is a great choice for anti-aging and also for skin diseases including rosacea, acne and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract here >>

What-it-does: buffering

It's a very alkaline stuff that helps to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to be just right. It's similar to the more often used sodium hydroxide and pretty much the same of what we wrote there applies here too. 

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. It is typically used in tiny amounts, around 0.1% or even less.

Limonene - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, solvent, deodorant

A super common and cheap fragrance ingredient. It's in many plants, e.g. rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and it's the main component (about 50-90%) of the peel oil of citrus fruits.

It does smell nice but the problem is that it oxidizes on air exposure and the resulting stuff is not good for the skin. Oxidized limonene can cause allergic contact dermatitis and counts as a frequent skin sensitizer

Expand to read more

Limonene's nr1 function is definitely being a fragrance component, but there are several studies showing that it's also a penetration enhancer, mainly for oil-loving components.

All in all, limonene has some pros and cons, but - especially if your skin is sensitive - the cons probably outweigh the pros.  

Biosaccharide Gum-1 is a pretty interesting kind of sugar ingredient that is created from sorbitol via bacterial fermentation. 

According to the manufacturer it’s a “S.M.A.R.T.” sugar: it has Soothing, Moisturizing, Anti-aging, Restructuring and Touch properties. Let’s look at them quickly one by one.

Expand to read more

Soothing: the manufacturer tested out the soothing effect in vivo (meaning on humans that is always a good thing!) by measuring how 3% Biosaccharide Gum-1 decreased the tingling sensation caused by 10% lactic acid. The result was good: the tingling was decreased by 47%.

Moisturizing: Compared to famous hyaluronic acid, it turns out that the two are great together. HA has a quicker effect and provides more instant hydration (much more hydration was measured after 1h of application), while our nice sugar has a somewhat delayed effect demonstrating stronger hydration after 3h of application. After 8 hours both had similar moisturizing effect. 

Anti-aging: According to ex-vivo tests (meaning not on humans, so do not trust it too much) Biosaccharide Gum-1 can stimulate a protein in our skin called sirtuin-1. This is supposed to help our skin cells to live longer, and function better. 

Resurfacing:  The sirtuin-1 stimulation also results in quicker cell renewal - something that happens anyway but slows down as we age. And the quicker cell renewal is good because it helps the regeneration of the barrier function. That is especially nice for fragile, sensitive skin.

Touch: our fermented sugar is not only good to the skin, but it also feels great on the skin. It gives a nice “soft touch” feeling and makes the products pleasant to use. 

The bottom line is that the above info is from the manufacturer (and we could not find any relevant independent research) so obviously take it with a grain of salt. But Biosaccharide Gum-1 does look as an interesting and promising ingredient that’s why it earned our goodie rating. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMFhyaluronic acid (HA). If HA does not tell you anything we have a super detailed, geeky explanation about it here.  The TL; DR version of HA is that it's a huge polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) found in the skin that acts as a sponge helping the skin to hold onto water, being plump and elastic. HA is famous for its crazy water holding capacity as it can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

As far as skincare goes, sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are pretty much the same and the two names are used interchangeably. As cosmetic chemist kindofstephen writes on reddit  "sodium hyaluronate disassociates into hyaluronic acid molecule and a sodium atom in solution". 

Expand to read more

In spite of this, if you search for "hyaluronic acid vs sodium hyaluronate" you will find on multiple places that sodium hyaluronate is smaller and can penetrate the skin better. Chemically, this is definitely not true, as the two forms are almost the same, both are polymers and the subunits can be repeated in both forms as much as you like. (We also checked Prospector for sodium hyaluronate versions actually used in cosmetic products and found that the most common molecular weight was 1.5-1.8 million Da that absolutely counts as high molecular weight).

What seems to be a true difference, though, is that the salt form is more stable, easier to formulate and cheaper so it pops up more often on the ingredient lists. 

If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert you can read way more about the topic at hyaluronic acid (including penetration-questions, differences between high and low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).

Linalool - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

Linalool is a super common fragrance ingredient. It’s kind of everywhere - both in plants and in cosmetic products. It’s part of 200 natural oils including lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, jasmine, geranium and it can be found in 90-95% of prestige perfumes on the market. 

The problem with linalool is, that just like limonene it oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. That’s why a product containing linalool that has been opened for several months is more likely to be allergenic than a fresh one.

Expand to read more

A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results. 

Also-called: Zemea | What-it-does: solvent, moisturizer/humectant

Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved. 

It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. 

Also-called: Butylated Hydroxy Toluene | What-it-does: antioxidant, preservative

It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.

There is some controversy around BHT. It's not a new ingredient, it has been used both as a food and cosmetics additive since the 1970s. Plenty of studies tried to examine if it's a carcinogen or not. This Truth in Aging article details the situation and also writes that all these studies examine BHT when taken orally.

Expand to read more

As for cosmetics, the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) concluded that the amount of BHT used in cosmetic products is low (usually around 0.01-0.1%),  it does not penetrate skin far enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and it is safe to use in cosmetics.

What-it-does: buffering

The acid found in vinegar. Can be a skin irritant and drying in larger amounts but in tiny amounts, it's used to set the pH of the cosmetic formula. Has also some disinfecting properties.

Tocopherol - goodie
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0-3 | Comedogenicity: 0-3
  • Primary fat-soluble antioxidant in our skin
  • Significant photoprotection against UVB rays
  • Vit C + Vit E work in synergy and provide great photoprotection
  • Has emollient properties
  • Easy to formulate, stable and relatively inexpensive
Read all the geeky details about Tocopherol here >>

Beta-Glucan - goodie

Beta-Glucan is a nice big molecule composed of many smaller sugar molecules (called polysaccharide). It’s in the cell walls of yeast, some mushrooms, seaweeds, and cereals.

It’s a real goodie no matter if you eat it or put it on your face. Eating it is anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and even lowers the blood cholesterol. 

Expand to read more

Putting it on your face it also does a bunch of good things: it ‘s shown to have wound healing properties, it’s a mild antioxidant,  it’s a great skin soother and moisturizer, and it even shows promising anti-aging benefits

The manufacturer of the ingredient did a published study with 27 people and examined the effect of 0.1% beta-glucan. They found that despite the large molecular size beta-glucan does penetrate into the skin, even into the dermis (the middle layer of the skin where wrinkles form). After 8 weeks there was a significant reduction of wrinkle depth and height and skin roughness has also improved greatly. 

Bottom line: Beta-glucan is a great ingredient, especially for sensitive skin. It soothes, moisturizes and even shows some anti-aging magic properties. 

You may also want to take a look at...

what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial | solvent | viscosity controlling
Simple alcohol that's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent, and antimicrobial. In large amount can be very drying. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A sugar beet derived amino acid derivative with nice skin protection and moisturization properties. Its special thing is being an osmolyte, a molecule that helps to control cell-water balance.  [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 1
An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
A water-loving emollient and humectant that gives a nice skin feel and slip to the product. It works well with facial toners.
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A castor oil derived, white, lard-like helper ingredient that is used as a solubilizer to put fragrances into water-based products such as toners.
what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant | surfactant/cleansing
A type of silicone that makes the skin smooth and nice (emollient), moisturizes and helps to reduce the tackiness of the products. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The sweet, gooey, sugar-laden stuff with skin moisturizing, soothing, antibacterial and some antioxidant properties. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A common helper ingredient that stabilizes emulsions and helps to thicken up products. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The generic term for nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. It is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | antioxidant
Purslane Extract - a traditional Korean medicinal plant with skin-soothing, antioxidant and wound healing abilities. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing
Green Tea - one of the most researched natural ingredients that contains the superstar actives called catechins. It has proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic properties. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
It's a very alkaline stuff that helps to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to be just right. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming | solvent
A super common fragrance ingredient found naturally in many plants including citrus peel oils, rosemary or lavender. It autoxidizes on air exposure and counts as a common skin sensitizer. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
Biosaccharide Gum-1 is a pretty interesting kind of sugar ingredient that is created from sorbitol via bacterial fermentation.  According to the manufacturer it’s a “S.M.A.R.T.” sugar: [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A super common fragrance ingredient that can be found among others in lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot or jasmine. The downside of it is that it oxidises on air exposure and might become allergenic. [more]
what‑it‑does solvent | moisturizer/humectant
A natural corn sugar derived glycol. It can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
The acid found in vinegar. Can be a skin irritant and drying in larger amounts but in tiny amounts, it's used to set the pH of the cosmetic formula. Has also some disinfecting properties.
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0-3, 0-3
Pure Vitamin E. Great antioxidant that gives significant photoprotection against UVB rays. Works in synergy with Vitamin C. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
A great skin soother and moisturizer, and it even shows promising anti-aging benefits. It‘s also shown to have wound healing properties and is a mild antioxidant. [more]