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Are your skin problems caused by ‘heatiness’?

Quick, run through this checklist: Do “pillow marks” – y’know, those creases and crinkles you wake up to after a night of smooshing your cheeks against your pillow – take longer than usual to bounce back to normalcy? Is your complexion coarse, crusty and pockmarked with pores? Or are you plagued with particularly persistent pimples?

More “yeas” than “nays” to my little quiz? Girlfriend, hate to break it to you – you may be suffering from a yin deficiency.

Those aforementioned “3 Ps” – pillow marks, pores and pimples – may point to a disturbance in the force, if Paul Kang, one-time Jedi master, senior vice president and head of the Skincare Research Institute, Amorepacific R&D Center in Seoul is to be believed.

The solution? Take it from Paul: “True beauty begins with replenishing yin energy and restoring the balance of your skin.”

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Or hey, just do as I do and spoon soup onto your skin. I jest – but since we’re talking K-Beauty here, allow me to regale you with the fondest memory from my Seoul sojourn a couple of wintry months back.

Picture this: I’m supping with my pals at a rowdy roadside stall, the steam fogging up my spectacles as we shiver around a piping hot pot of sweet, sweet soup. Ah, bliss.

Happily, my bowl of belly-warming broth may well boast beautifying benefits as well. Case in point: Sulwhasoo’s recently reformulated First Care Activating Serum EX ($115 for 60ml), a whitening and anti-ageing ambrosia that comes souped up with a blend of five herbs said to bring balance to your skin by restoring your body’s yin, or “cool” energy.

What is yin and yang, anyway?

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Now, let’s talk real here: To the uninitiated, this whole yin-yang business can read like a steaming pile of mystical mumbo-jumbo.

But approach the ancient arts with an open mind and – like dredging up a prized morsel from the soupy sediment at the bottom of your deep dish – you may just be rewarded with potentially illuminating revelations.

Here’s a useful primer on the erstwhile esoteric subject as it applies to skincare: “According to the Dongui Bogam [a classic text used in traditional Korean medicine], yin and yang are forms of energy that cannot exist separate of each other,” says Paul Kang, senior vice president and head of the Skincare Research Institute, Amorepacific R&D Center in Seoul. “The active substances in the First Care Activating Serum EX supplement one another to balance yin and yang in the skin for calmer, radiant complexion.”

And in a neat twist, a Sulwhasoo rep informs me with no small amount of pride that the botanical blend is extracted using a powerful new process that subjects the herbs to pressure thousands of times greater than the atmospheric norm – a painstaking procedure reminiscent of the labour of love required to produce those double boiled soups I’m so obsessed with!

Know your brew

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But back to said serum. Let’s break down the good stuff in Sulwhasoo’s remedy. The skin-saving symphony is composed of a carefully curated quintet of herbs, culled from a confounding 3,000 potential candidates catalogued in the ancient Asian manual Dongui Bogam.  

Of the famous five – sacred lotus, peony, Solomon’s Seal, white lily and rehmannia – I’ll like to single out the first and last for special attention. Like any self-respecting journalist, I’ve since learnt that sacred lotus can be imbibed as a soothing libation; simply toss a handful into boiling water with some sugar to make an aromatic alternative to your usual afternoon tea.

As for rehmannia, the root is reportedly hugely hydrating in topical form; Dr. Lim Ing, principal medical officer at Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution, recommends steeping 15g of rehmannia root in hot water for about 30 minutes, to yield a nourishing brew to be sipped on throughout the day. Fascinating stuff, right?

The “taste” test

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Intrigued and raring to give Sulwhasoo’s superstar serum a go? Here’s how. Apply this “booster” on your skin right after cleansing, as it’s said to amp up the efficacy of the other products to follow.

The fabulously featherweight fluid has the texture and hue of thin honey, and sank into my skin in seconds. The subtly savoury scent smells exactly like comforting chicken soup and may take some getting used to, but give it a couple of nights and you’ll  learn to love it as much as I do.

The proof is in the pudding – two weeks into my new regime and my complexion was noticeably clearer and calmer, especially on my eczema-prone cheeks (no more patchy redness). Kampai to Korean soups and serums!

Psst. Want more? Try your hand at concocting a depuffing cocktail – Paul from Sulwhasoo says the serum is mild enough to be slathered onto your eyelids. Have fun!