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Sulwhasoo Herbal Soap

Herbal Soap

A mild everyday soap that gently cleanses while helping to support your all-important skin’s moisture barrier with antioxidant-rich Korean red ginseng.
Uploaded by: whishaw on

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water solvent
Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil antioxidant, emollient, perfuming 0, 0-2 goodie
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil emollient, perfuming 0, 4 goodie
Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil emollient
Sodium Hydroxide buffering
Stearic Acid emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 2-3
Alcohol antimicrobial/​antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling icky
Triethanolamine buffering 0, 2
Lauric Acid anti-acne, surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying 1, 4 goodie
Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract
Nelumbo Nucifera Seed Extract antimicrobial/​antibacterial, antioxidant, emollient
Polygonatum Officinale Rhizome/Root Extract
Lilium Tigrinum Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract
Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Extract
Chrysanthemum Morifolium Flower Extract
Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract
Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract skin brightening, antioxidant
Adenophora Stricta Root Extract moisturizer/​humectant
Lycium Chinense Root Extract
Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-Yuen Seed Extract
Angelica Tenuissima Root Extract
Honey soothing, moisturizer/​humectant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Panax Ginseng Root Extract antioxidant, emollient goodie
Angelica Acutiloba Root Extract
Nelumbo Nucifera Leaf Extract
Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Terminalia Chebula Fruit Extract
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Sodium Chloride viscosity controlling
Polyquaternium-7
Etidronic Acid chelating
Iron Oxides (Ci 77499) colorant 0, 0
Yellow 5 Lake (Ci 19140) colorant
Red 17 (Ci 26100) colorant 0, 3
Fragrance perfuming icky

Sulwhasoo Herbal Soap
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua | 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. 

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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. 

Also-called: Olive Fruit Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

You probably know olive oil from the kitchen as a great and healthy option for salad dressing but it's also a great and healthy option to moisturize and nourish the skin, especially if it's on the dry side. 

Similar to other emollient plant oils, it's loaded with nourishing fatty acids: oleic is the main component (55-83%), and also contains linoleic (3.5-20%) and palmitic acids (7-20%). It also contains antioxidant polyphenols, tocopherols (types of vitamin E) and carotenoids and it's one of the best plant sources of skin-identical emollient, Squalene

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Overall, a great option for dry skin but less so for acne-prone or damaged skin.

Also-called: Coconut Oil | What-it-does: emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 4

There is definitely some craze going on for coconut oil both in the healthy eating space (often claimed to be the healthiest oil to cook with but this is a topic for another site) and in the skin and hair care space. 

We will talk here about the latter two and see why we might want to smear it all over ourselves. Chemically speaking, coconut oil has a unique fatty acid profile. Unlike many plant oils that mostly contain unsaturated fatty acids (fatty acids with double bonds and kinky structure such as linoleic or oleic), coconut oil is mostly saturated (fatty acids with single bonds only) and its most important fatty acid is Lauric Acid (about 50%).  Saturated fatty acids have a linear structure that can stack nice and tight and hence they are normally solid at room temperature. Coconut oil melts around 25 °C so it is solid in the tub but melts on contact with the skin. 

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The saturated nature of coconut oil also means that it is a heavy-duty-oil ideal for dry skin types. A double-blind research confirmed that extra virgin coconut oil is as effective in treating xerosis (aka very dry skin) as mineral oil. Another study found that coconut oil is more effective than mineral oil in treating mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (aka eczema) in children.

So when it comes to dry skin, coconut oil is a goodie, no question there. The question is if it is good or bad for acne-prone skin. Its main fatty acid, Lauric Acid has some research showing that it is a promising ingredient against evil acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes but at the same time, both Lauric Acid and coconut oil have a very high comedogenic rating (4 out of 5). Though comedogenic ratings are not very reliable, anecdotal evidence (i.e. people commenting in forums) shows that people have mixed experiences. While some claim that it worked wonders on their acne others say that it gave them serious blackheads and zits. Try it at your own risk. 

As for hair care, coconut oil has pretty solid research showing that it can penetrate into the hair very well (better than mineral oil and sunflower oil) and it can prevent hair protein loss as well as combing damage.  If you have problems with damaged hair, split ends, coconut oil is worth trying as a pre- or/and post-wash treatment.  Labmuffin has an awesome blogpost explaining in more detail why coconut oil is good for your hair.

A couple of other things worth mentioning: coconut oil might help with wound healing (promising animal study), it has some antifungal activity (against dermatophytes that cause the thing known as ringworm) and it also works as an insect repellent against black flies. 

Overall, coconut oil is definitely a goodie for the hair and dry skin. If that warrants for the magic oil status it enjoys, we don't know. 

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: lye | What-it-does: buffering

The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right. 

For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.  

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BTW, lye is not something new. It was already used by ancient Egyptians to help oil and fat magically turn into something else. Can you guess what? Yes, it’s soap. It still often shows up in the ingredient list of soaps and other cleansers.

Sodium hydroxide in itself is a potent skin irritant, but once it's reacted (as it is usually in skin care products, like exfoliants) it is totally harmless.

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2-3

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It makes your skin feel nice and smooth (emollient), gives body to cream type products and helps to stabilize water and oil mixes (aka emulsions).

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. 

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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).

What-it-does: buffering | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

It’s a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be just right. It’s very alkaline (you know the opposite of being very acidic): a 1% solution has a pH of around 10.

It does not have the very best safety reputation but in general, you do not have to worry about it. 

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What is true is that if a product contains so-called N-nitrogenating agents (e.g.: preservatives like 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, 5-Bromo-5-Nitro- 1,3-Dioxane or sodium nitrate - so look out for things with nitro, nitra in the name) that together with TEA can form some not nice carcinogenic stuff (that is called nitrosamines). But with proper formulation that does not happen, TEA in itself is not a bad guy. 

But let’s assume a bad combination of ingredients were used and the nitrosamines formed. :( Even in that case you are probably fine because as far as we know it cannot penetrate the skin. 

But to be on the safe side, if you see Triethanolamine in an INCI and also something with nitra, nitro in the name of it just skip the product, that cannot hurt.

Lauric Acid - goodie
What-it-does: anti-acne, surfactant/cleansing, emulsifying | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 4

A 12 carbon length fatty acid that can be found naturally in coconut milk, coconut oil, laurel oil, and palm kernel oil. It's also in breast milk. As a skincare ingredient, it can be used as an emulsifier or as a cleansing agent.

What's more, there is emerging research about lauric acid being a good anti-acne ingredient.  A 2009 study found that the lowest concentration to prevent evil acne-causing P. acnes growth of lauric acid is over 15 times lower than that of gold standard anti-acne ingredient benzoyl peroxide.

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Though the studies are only in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people), and it also has a high comedogenicity index, it might be worth a try if you are prone to inflamed acne (the type that's caused by P. acnes bacteria).

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.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Satsuma Mandarin, Satsuma Orange | What-it-does: skin brightening, antioxidant

Out of the more than 900 Citrus species known today, Citrus Unshiu is a seedless, easy to peel tangerine coming from the Japanese town Satsuma. The peel extract used in cosmetics is mainly created from the "press-cake", the by-product of the juice industry and as it turns out, what's waste to one industry is a useful ingredient to another. 

In cosmetics, the main thing of the Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract is being a skin-brightening or whitening agent. In-vitro (made in test tubes) and animal studies both show promising results for inhibiting tyrosinase, the famous enzyme regulating melanin production. It also contains antioxidant components such as carotenoids, coumarins,  limonoids, and flavonoids that might be useful for the skin to protect itself from UV caused damages. 

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The downside of citrus peel extracts (that prevents our goodie rating) is that they usually contain some amount of essential oil components, though the amount is probably way too low to worry about unless you're super-duper sensitive. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

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.

Honey - goodie
Also-called: Mel | 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

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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. 

Also-called: True Ginseng, Ginseng, Korean Ginseng | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

A  traditional Korean medicine used for more than 2000 years. Regarding skin care, its main thing seems to be enhancing skin nutrition and metabolism as a result of improving blood circulation.

It also contains biologically active components referred to as ginseng saponins (ginsenosides) that have potent antioxidant properties

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Skullcap Root Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial, astringent, moisturizer/humectant

A traditional Chinese herbal medicine loaded with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids such as baicalin, baicalein, and wogonin.

If that would not be enough, Skullcap Root is also claimed to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties (also against P.acnes and Malassezia furfur) as well as some skin-brightening activity. A multi-functional skin-goodie.

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: 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.

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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. 

Also-called: Salt | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt

If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. The reason for this is that salt acts as a fantastic thickener in cleansing formulas created with ionic cleansing agents (aka surfactants) such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. A couple of percents (typically 1-3%) turns a runny surfactant solution into a nice gel texture.

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If you are into chemistry (if not, we understand, just skip this paragraph), the reason is that electrolytes (you know, the Na+ and Cl- ions) screen the electrostatic repulsion between the head groups of ionic surfactants and thus support the formation of long shaped micelles (instead of spherical ones) that entangle like spaghetti, and viola, a gel is formed. However, too much of it causes the phenomenon called "salting out", and the surfactant solution goes runny again. 

Other than that, salt also works as an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, that is when water droplets are dispersed in the outer oil (or silicone) phase. And last but not least, when salt is right at the first spot of the ingredient list (and is not dissolved), the product is usually a body scrub where salt is the physical exfoliating agent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: chelating

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Ci 77491/77492/77499 | What-it-does: colorant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A bit of a sloppy ingredient name as it covers not one but three pigments: red, yellow and black iron oxide.

The trio is invaluable for "skin-colored" makeup products  (think your foundation and pressed powder) as blending these three shades carefully can produce almost any shade of natural-looking flesh tones. 

Also-called: Tartrazine, Yellow 5;Ci 19140 | What-it-does: colorant

Ci 19140  or Tartrazine is a super common colorant in skincare, makeup, medicine & food. It’s a synthetic lemon yellow that's used alone or mixed with other colors for special shades. 

FDA says it's possible, but rare, to have an allergic-type reaction to a color additive. As an example, it mentions that Ci 19140 may cause itching and hives in some people but the colorant is always labeled so that you can avoid it if you are sensitive. 

Also-called: D&C Red No. 17;Ci 26100 | What-it-does: colorant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 3

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Fragrance - icky
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 than fragrance is not your best friend - no way to know what’s really in it.  

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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!). 

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 antioxidant | emollient | perfuming
irritancy, com. 0, 0-2
Olive oil - an oleic acid-rich (55-83%) emollient plant oil that can moisturize dry skin. Also, it contains antioxidant polyphenols and vitamin E. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | perfuming
irritancy, com. 0, 4
There is definitely some craze going on for coconut oil both in the healthy eating space (often claimed to be the healthiest oil to cook with but this is a topic for another site) and in the skin and hair care space. We will talk here about the latter two and see why we might want to smear it all over ourselves. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
what‑it‑does buffering
Lye - A solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amount to adjust the pH of the product.  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 2-3
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [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 buffering
irritancy, com. 0, 2
Helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be right. It’s very alkaline. [more]
what‑it‑does anti-acne | surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 1, 4
A fatty acid that can be found in coconut milk and human breast milk. It can be used as an emulsifier or as a cleansing agent. There are also promising studies about lauric acid being an effective anti-acne ingredient. [more]
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial | antioxidant | emollient
what‑it‑does skin brightening | antioxidant
Out of the more than 900 Citrus species known today, Citrus Unshiu is a seedless, easy to peel tangerine coming from the Japanese town Satsuma. The peel extract used in cosmetics is mainly created from the "press-cake", the by-product of the juice industry and as it turns out, what's waste to one industry is a useful ingredient to another. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
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 antioxidant | emollient
Ginseng - A traditional Korean medicine that has antioxidant properties, and is known to improve blood circulation. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial | moisturizer/humectant
A traditional Chinese herbal medicine loaded with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids such as baicalin, baicalein, and wogonin.If that would not be enough, Skullcap Root is also claimed to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties (also against P.acnes and Malassezia furfur) as well  [more]
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 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
Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt.  If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
what‑it‑does colorant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A mix of red, yellow and black iron oxide. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
irritancy, com. 0, 3
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]