All anyone can talk about in the beauty community is Korean skincare. It has even become a global phenomenon, garnering fans from all over the world, and inspiring countless product spin-offs.
And while they contain unusual ingredients—snail slime, anyone?—Korean beauty products are best known for their innovative formats and game-changing textures.
Yet, if you take a close look at the ingredient lists on your frequently used products, there’s another group of ingredients that are much less talked about.
Unbeknownst to most, many popular skincare brands such as Fresh, Caudalié and Philosophy contain ingredients that are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It’s been the underdog of the beauty industry but thanks to brands like Wei Beauty, more people are gaining a deeper understanding about how they can benefit us beyond ingesting medicinal soups.
For starters, most of us know that TCM subscribes to the philosophy of balance in mind and body. It governs everything, including treating the common flu, postpartum recovery to inside-out radiance. It does so by addressing specific needs using the concepts of yin yang, the five elements the health of our internal organs health.
Here, the commonly found ingredients to look out for, their benefits and products that contain them.
Chinese Angelica Root
Chinese angelica root is often added in TCM soup recipes to alleviate gynecological ailments, fatigue, mild anemia and treat high blood pressure. It’s also a great ingredient to look out for in beauty products as it promotes vitality with its incredible anti-photoageing properties.
Try the Shiseido Vital-Perfection Sculpting Lift Cream, $310 for 50ml, which counts skin tightening, enhanced skin resilience and brightened skin tone as key benefits. These are all thanks to its infusion of pine and rubus leaf extracts which regulate fat cells that causes skin sagging and the appearance of laugh lines.
The infusion of angelica root extract promotes collagen synthesis and inhibits collagen degeneration.
For an instant boost, try Wei Beauty Dang Gui Deeply Nourishing Sheet Masks, $40 for 4 sheets.
Formulated with angelica root extract, a powerful antioxidant that also addresses blemishes, the sheet mask also targets sallowness, fine lines and helps restore the skin’s vitality and is anti-ageing. It also contains goji berry extract which preserves the skin’s vitality.
Ginseng is a popular ingredient in TCM as it’s used to revitalise and brighten the skin, prevent UV damage, enhance collagen synthesis and overcome signs of ageing. And while you can benefit from these benefits by consuming it in a broth, you can also apply ginseng extracts topically in skincare.
If you’re looking for a luxurious anti-ageing cream, try Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream, $220 for 60ml.Notable ingredients here are Compound K, found in ginseng root and Ginsenoside Re, from ginseng flower, which penetrates the skin easily to improve skin firmness and elasticity.
If you’re looking for makeup with skin care benefits, try The Balm Read My Lips Lip Gloss, $35.00 for 6.5ml. Fortified with antioxidant-rich ginseng, it’s a great non-sticky lip gloss that’ll help you achieve a picture-perfect pout, while hydrating your lips and keeping them supple.
Often consumed in traditional Chinese desserts such as cheng tng for its memory-boosting abilities, gingko biloba is also great for skin care.
If you have dry skin in need of nourishment, try Caudalié Nourishing Body Lotion, $35 for 250ml. It’s perfect for anyone looking to enjoy the antioxidant properties of the gingko nuts as it promotes microcirculation and aids in preventing premature skin ageing.
For your face, try the lightweight Mario Badescu Herbal Hydrating Serum, $44 for 29ml. It’s infused with ceramides, gingko biloba extracts and ginseng, to soften, hydrate and invigorate the skin resulting in a dewy, lit-from-within complexion.
Rice is used in TCM to promote the yang, or warmth in the body, as well as to nourish the muscles and tissues.
It’s also a potent antioxidant as it contains high levels of with vitamin E. If you’re in the market for hair care, try THANN Oriental Essence Shampoo Extra Nourishing, $26 for 250ml. It is infused with rice bran oils rich in vitamin E and oleic acid which moisturises and promotes healthy scalp. It’s also formulated with organic argan oil and Pro-Vitamin B5 which strengthens and smooths hair.
For body care, try the Kenzoki Milky-Rice Body Scrub, $68.00 for 200ml. It contains rice wax to help keep bacteria at bay, and rice powder to gently buff away dead skin cells. Suitable for use all over the body, it leaves feeling silky smooth and baby soft, without any uncomfortable tightness.
Benefits from Chinese wolfberries, otherwise known as goji berries, include protection against the sun and keeping collagen and elastin fibres in shape. If you’re looking for skincare-infused makeup, try the First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Triple Protection Skin Tint with Goji Berry SPF 30, $53.00 for 30ml.
Touted as a weightless complexion fluid, it evens out skin tone and conceals imperfections, with a natural-looking finish. The role of goji berries here, combined with astaxanthin and vitamin c, shields skin from environmental damage. It also contains zinc oxide, a popular physical sunscreen ingredient, which filters out UVA and UVB rays to protect skin from photo-ageing.
For something that treats your skin while you sleep, try Herbivore Botanicals Moon Fruit Superfruit Night Treatment, $85 for 50ml.
It’s an overnight cream made with powerful antioxidants such as prickly pear, goji berry and red raspberry seed to combat visible signs of ageing. Coupled with botanical ingredients such as papaya, lemon, cranberry and maple enzymes, it gently resurfaces skin and supports natural cellular renewal.
Generally prescribed by TCM practitioners as oral remedies for digestive disorders, lotus root is also used for its nourishing and skin perfecting properties.
Try the Fresh Lotus Eye Gel, $94.00 for 15ml. Lotus flower extract, a powerful antioxidant, protects against wrinkle-causing free radicals.
On top of that, soft orange extract and gingko biloba help reduce puffiness and invigorate the skin. For instant gratification, try the Sephora Collection Morning 60 Second Face Mask Lotus, $16.00 for 14 sheets. It rejuvenates the skin in a minute and leaves skin smoothed and plumped.
Rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins, cold sweet mung bean soup is commonly consumed in China during the summer.
It’s meant to expel toxins and balance the yin energy to cool down the body during the warmer season.
If cold soups aren’t your thing, try The Face Shop Herb Day 365 Cleansing Foam, $9.90 for 170ml.
Formulated with antioxidant-rich mung beans, it helps neutralise free radical damage while promising a gentle yet thorough cleanse.
Typically prescribed by TCM practitioners to facilitate stomach and spleen functions, liquorice is often used in many beauty products for its capacity to neutralise free radicals. It is also an anti-inflammatory agent that kills bacteria and aids healing. If you’re looking to treat blemish-prone skin, try the Philosophy Brighten My Day Skin Perfecting Brightening Essence, $90.00 for 30ml.
Licorice root extract, together with vitamin C, niacinamide and algae extract, reduces the appearance of dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles and pores.
You can also want to try the Pixi Vitamin Wakeup Mist, $22.00 for 80ml. Combined with orange blossom, citrus extracts, arginine and lavender, it provides a refreshing and hydrating boost to the skin, leaving it luminous. It can also be used a protective veil before and after makeup.