Spring/Summer 2016 Flops and Faves, Part 2: The Best and Worst Ginseng Skincare I’ve Tried So Far

Part 1 Part 3

It’s a hard life, beauty blogging. Much like the hunter-gatherers of prehistoric times, we bloggers enjoy periods of plentyof awesome new beauty finds but also suffer through long spells of hungerfor great skincare. And much like those Paleo nomads of ancient days, we record our victories and defeats for posterity. They did it on cave walls with primitive artistry. We do it on the Internet, with watermarked photos. The primal scribbles here depict the struggles I’ve been facing as I grab my trusty spear and venture forth from my face cave to hunt down my latest obsession: ginseng!


Affiliate links in this post are marked with an asterisk(*). Products provided by sponsors are marked with double asterisks(**) unless they have since been personally purchased. Oogah.


Each spring, the surly caveblogger emerges from the darkness (at least 15 minutes after applying sunscreen) to pick fresh flowers in celebration of the season’s first successful haul.

The skincare benefits of ginseng and other medicinal herbs are nothing new to the wiser members of my caveblogger tribe, but until recently, I was too distracted by snailwrangling and beekeeping to pay attention. Not anymore. I’ve been digging for great ginseng products for a couple of months now, wandering farther afield than I ever have before, and I’ve unearthed some promising-looking specimens among the duds.

Ginseng Flops

Shiny!

Danahan Youth Berry Energy Essence

It had been a long time since I was as excited to start a new product as I was to start using Danahan Youth Berry Energy Essence, which Amy from Korean buying service Boyah Shop found for me. Just look at all the different ginseng ingredients it has.

Danahan Youth Berry Energy Essence ingredients (via Hwahae):  Panax ginseng extract, glycereth-26, butylene glycol, glycerin, panax ginseng berry extract, niacinamide, pentylene glycol, biosaccharide gum-1, bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, polyacrylate crosspolymer-6, water, 1,2-hexaniediol, polyquaternium-51, betaine, caprylic/capric triglyceride, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, portulaca oleracea extract, disodium EDTA, panthenol, dimethicone, gelatin, hydrolyzed ginseng saponins, ethylhexylglycerin, xanthan gum, mica, titanium dioxide, tin oxide, dimethiconol, lecithin, sodium hyaluronate, alcohol, cellulose gum, panax ginseng seed oil, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, glycine soja (soybean) oil, PPG-26-buteth-26, panax ginseng root extract, beta-glucan, copper tripeptide-1, citric acid, triethanolamine, acetyl hexapeptide-8, palmitoyl pentapeptide-4, rh-oligopeptide-1, caprylyl glycol, phenoxyethanol, CI 26100, fragrance (CosDNA)

Panax ginseng extract, panax ginseng berry extract, panax ginseng root extract, panax ginseng seed oiland hydrolyzed ginseng saponins? Plus trace amounts of various peptides and some beta-glucan? CaveFiddy gazed in awe at the mysterious potion with its red capsules suspended in the sparkling, iridescent liquid. There is absolutely no need for sparkles or capsules in a product like this. But they’re pretty. They make the product feel special. Special is good. Specialness turns the mundane rituals of the tribe into everyday magic.

PRETTY. ME LIKE PRETTY.

And then CaveFiddy squirted out a little pump of shimmering essence and howled with rage. Also a little pain.

The fragrance was the problem. In fact, for me, the fragrance of the Youth Berry Energy Essence (and the toner and emulsion that came with it) makes it nearly unusable. The heavy, spicy, robustly artificial floral perfume is so overpowering that after my first few (very uncomfortable) days with the product, I suspected it of causing my round-the-clock headachy nausea. The fragrance definitely made any headaches I got worse. I couldn’t hang, and after a few weeks, I dropped the essence from my routine with relief. I’ve gotten fewer headaches since I stopped using it and haven’t had any nausea since then, either.

It’s a shame. My skin drank in the lightweight but surprisingly moisturizing essence, which always left my face feeling velvety soft, and the titanium dioxide and mica, which I had worried would give me a white cast and shimmer face (the effects for which they’re specifically used in some K-beauty products!) didn’t leave any visible tint or sheen after all. I’m still bummed that my skin won’t be making use of all those ginseng extracts. Unfortunately, no amount of ginseng extract is worth headaches and constant queasiness. I can’t even use this stuff as body essence. There’s no way I’m going to smear it all over myself. The smell really lingers.

Boyah Shop helped me club Danahan Youth Berry Energy Essence and drag it back to my cave. Unfortunately, like a particularly feisty sabre-toothed tiger, this particular ginseng product woke up and assaulted me right back. Then it escaped into the wilderness, and I know better than to chase it.

Scinic Red Ginseng Snail Essence reviewScinic Red Ginseng Snail Essence

My other early ginseng catch didn’t claw me to shreds like the Danahan Youth Berry Energy essence did. Snails don’t have claws. And I’m a little more familiar with Scinic as a brand and know them to be generally unspectacular but pretty safe for me. Anyway, when I stumbled across Scinic Red Ginseng Snail Essence on Amazon*, of course I snagged a bottle.

The good news is, nothing about this product caused me any pain or discomfort. Scinic Red Ginseng Snail Essence is a milky, hydrating gel, a bit denser than the brand’s Snail All In One Ampoule but with a very similar light peachy fragrance. The essence sinks in nicely and the scent dissipates rapidly.

The bad news is, nothing about this product did much good for me, either. Incorporated into a full routine or used in isolation (something I like to do in the mornings because checking to see whether I feel the need for cushion or BB cream is a great way to assess the immediate complexion-improving effects of a product), used on half my face for an extended period and not on the other half, no dice, no particular difference. I eventually removed the Red Ginseng Snail Essence from my routine altogether. Again, no particular difference. Like basically every other K-beauty essence in existence, the Red Ginseng Snail Essence lays down a bit of extra hydration, but that’s about it. For me, this product was a bust not because of anything bad about it, but because of the absence of anything notably good about it.

Oh well. At least it didn’t hurt me.

Scinic Red Ginseng Snail Essence ingredients:  Snail secretion filtrate, water, butylene glycol, niacinamide, BIS-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, polyacrylamide, glycereth-26, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, PEG-11 methyl ether dimethicone, ethyl hexanediol, panthenol, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, cyclomethicone, glyceryl caprylate, acer saccharum (sugar maple) extract, C13-14 isoparaffin, sodium polyacrylate, tocopheryl acetate, fragrance, adenosine, ethylhexyl stearate, laureth-7, dimethiconol, cardiospermum halicacabum flower/leaf/vine extract, echium plantagineum seed oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil unsaponifiables, octyldodecanol, acetyl hexapeptide-8, disodium EDTA, hydrolyzed rice extract, hydrolyzed viola tricolor extract, palmitoyl tripeptide-5, panax ginseng root extract, sh-oligopeptide-1, sorbus commixta extract, betula platyphylla japonica juice, trideceth-6, actinidia arguta juice, phenoxyethanol (CosDNA)

Ginseng Faves (so far)

I don’t want to make it sound like I’ve been foraging for great ginseng products for all this time without finding at least a few that worked out. After all, I wouldn’t be searching the K-beauty wilderness for ginseng skincare if I didn’t have any evidence that it can work well for me! In addition to the L’Herboflore ginseng sheet mask and the Sulwhasoo cream and Evercos and Etude House masks I’ve already talked about, I have found a few other items that are working out nicely.

It’s Skin Prestige Ginseng D’Escargot Line

For me, finding the It’s Skin Prestige Ginseng D’Escargot line of snail + ginseng skincare products felt like waking up to a delicious harvest of edible mushrooms growing out of what had been a mere pile of poop the night before. The poop was my previous impression of It’s Skin, and I wouldn’t even have gone to check the pile if I hadn’t been instructed to do so by another wise woman, Coco of The Beauty Wolf, who mentioned how much she liked it when she visited our tribe to record an episode of the Snailcast.

In the reflection: Irrefutable evidence that primitive cavebloggers had access to photographic technology.

I’ve had It’s Skin Prestige Creme Ginseng D’Escargot since March of this year and have tried it out in every possible combination with and without other products that I’ve been able to think of. It’s consistently impressed me. The pale pink cream has a silky, buttery consistency similar to Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream, but with a much lighter, more watery and hydrating finish and much less oil and emolliency than Sulwhasoo’s iconic ginseng product. The It’s Skin cream suits my skin’s needs at this time of year (and this time of life, I suppose) more than the Sulwhasoo cream does. On top of that, since it’s so much lighter (and more economical) than the Sulwhasoo cream, I’m able to layer it on more generously at night, something I enjoy doing to wake up to skin at maximum bounce and dewiness. In fact, while the extra heaviness of the Sulwhasoo cream makes it more effective around my eyes, the hydration the It’s Skin provides makes it slightly more plumping and firming for my face as a whole.

Plumping and firming through balanced, skin-appropriate moisturization are my baseline expectations for any cream, though. It’s the additional effects that make the It’s Skin Prestige Creme Ginseng D’Escargot special to me. Without fail, every morning after using it, I’d wake up looking like I’d dipped my face in a bowl of BB cream. The calming and redness reduction, overall evening out of my skin tone, and subtle progressive brightening effects I saw had me seriously questioning everything I’ve ever thought about It’s Skin. My skin adores this stuff. I’ve been going without any BB cream or cushion and not seeing any real difference so often that I’m out of all my favorite first cleansers and not concerned at all.

It’s not a perfect product by any means. For one thing, the fragrance is a sore point for me. (Again. I know.) While it isn’t overwhelming and doesn’t actively hurt me the way the scent of the Danahan essence does, It’s Skin Prestige Creme Ginseng D’Escargot’s generic soapy-floral scent isn’t something I love. In fact, I dropped the cream for a week or so specifically because the thought of the fragrance made me dread using it. Once I picked the product back up, however, I found that it really isn’t that bad. The scent is much much lighter than the Danahan’s and, two months in, doesn’t bug me anymore!

On a more petty note, I really dislike the jar. It’s pretty, but I find the size of the packaging excessive for the amount of product it contains. On top of that, my jar’s lid has a loose rattle to it that always makes me paranoid I haven’t screwed it on all the way. Not a huge deal, but the rattle cheapens the experience of a product labeled “Prestige.”

Those are very minor complaints, though. I really like this cream, which currently sits near the head of my nightly rotation! (Amazon Prime* | RoseRoseShop)

It’s Skin Prestige Creme Ginseng D’Escargot ingredients:  Panax ginseng root extract, snail secretion filtrate (21%), water, glycerin, caprylic/capric triglyceride, pentaerythrityl tetraisostearate, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), butylene glycol, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl palmitate, dimethicone, niacinamide, octyldodecanol, glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, sodium hyaluronate, betaine, cetearyl glucoside, tricholoma matsutake extract, ethyl hexanediol, polyacrylate-13, opuntia tuna fruit extract, fragrance, malt extract, polyisobutene, cetyl alcohol, glyceryl caprylate, xanthan gum, porphyra yezoensis extract, tocopheryl acetate, caramel, adenosine, polysorbate 20, BHT, disodium EDTA, Red 33 (CI 17200), acetyl hexapeptide-8, pseudoaltermonas ferment extract (CosDNA)

It's Skin Prestige Ginseng D'Escargot lineAfter my success with the cream, I wanted to try some other products from the line. That bit of extra digging enabled me to unearth It’s Skin Prestige Serum Ginseng D’Escargot, which I now use morning and night. This member of the Ginseng D’Escargot family has a light lotion consistency, the same fragrance as the cream, and, most importantly, the same ability to calm my blotchiness, even out my skin tone, and bring the kind of light into my face that I don’t want to cover up with even my favorite cushion makeup. The Prestige Masque Ginseng D’Escargot hydrogel masks, meanwhile, are exactly the kind of thick but clingy, moist-but-not-slimy hydrogel masks I most enjoy. They have that soapy-floral fragrance too, but they also make my skin look perfectly even, smooth, and bright. Overall, I’m very happy with the line–and very grateful to Coco for introducing it to me! (Amazon| RRS)

It’s Skin Prestige Serum Ginseng D’Escargot ingredients:  Water, panax ginseng root extract (21%), snail secretion filtrate (21%), butylene glycol, sodium hyaluronate, dimethicone, glycereth-26, glycerin, niacinamide, prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, squalane, betaine, cetearyl alcohol, PEG-20 methyl glucose sesquistearate, glyceryl stearate, stearic acid, tricholoma matsutake extract, ethyl hexanediol, methyl glucose sequistearate, fragrance, opuntia tuna fruit extract, sodium polyacrylate, PEG-100 stearate, malt extract, glyceryl caprylate, ethylhexylstearate, triethanolamine, pseudoaltermonas ferment extract, ceramide 3, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, carbomer, adenosine, BHT, caramel, trideceth-6, disodium EDTA, red 33 (CI 17200), acetyl hexapeptide-8 (CosDNA)

What’s Next: Sulwhasoo

No talk of ginseng-infused K-beauty skincare would be complete without mentioning Sulwhasoo, worshiped by my caveblogger tribe as the mother goddess of all things luxuriously hanbang. I finish my morning and evening skincare routines with a generous dab from my hand-decanted jar of Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream samples* every day and night. In fact, I’m convinced enough by the samples that I’m planning to purchase a full-sized jar* of the eye cream when they run out. The cream firms, smooths, and plumps up my eye area just as noticeably as I’d described the face cream doing, but its thicker consistency and totally matte finish make it much easier to work with in my eye area. The Snowise EX Cleansing Foam*, meanwhile, has been my favorite foaming cleanser since early this year.

And I’ve taken the next logical step in my worship of Mother Ginseng: I’ve ordered full sizes of two more Sulwhasoo products, the First Care Activating Serum EX (mislabeled in the picture below as the original, non-EX version) and the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum. One of these products arrives today!

Excuse me while I go clean my altar.

Will my new acquisitions take me from the primitive mound-building stage to the next level of ginseng worship? Will I be building megalithic monuments with my new Sulwhasoo products soon? We’ll see. But before we do, we still have more flops and faves to work through!

Next in this series: Part 3, with the best of the rest…and the rest.

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22 responses to “Spring/Summer 2016 Flops and Faves, Part 2: The Best and Worst Ginseng Skincare I’ve Tried So Far

  1. Bummer about the Scinic but you just saved me money! Good thing I already went ahead and pulled the trigger on Sulwhasoo samples last month 😳

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  2. I’m so glad Coco mentioned the It’s Skin cream during the Snailcast. I believe it was in her book as well, but I missed it (being a complete newbie). I love it, too! I’ve been using the Sulwhasoo Rejuvenating Eye Cream for several months (samples, of course), and I really love it. If/when RoseRoseShop ever has samples of the ginseng eye cream available, I’ll definitely give it a try. I love the smell (‘cuz I live in the forest and dirt and twigs are my potpourri. P.S. If you ever run out of anything, you can come to my house. I pretty much buy everything you like and haven’t been disappointed once. Keep up the good work (and sorry about that fragrance bomb. I hate when that happens (especially when I can’t send the offending product back.).

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    • Hahahahaha! I’ll keep that in mind!

      Living in the forest? Does it ever get creepy at night? I’m so attracted to the idea, but also a huge scaredy cat who likes scary stories o.O

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  3. Are you planning on trying out the It’s Skin PRESTIGE Yeux Ginseng d′escargot eye cream? I saw a 2 pack on Interpark’s free shipping page and I’m tempted. I really enjoy reading your blog and am a huge fan of the snailcast!

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    • It’s nor a cream, though, it’s a roll-on thingie, and i kinda hate that stuff. This said, i am clicking PURCHASE NOW the second someone tells me it’s good. Or kinda good 😀

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  4. No. Stop. Please.
    I’m awash in enough Thank You Fiddy–I mean Farmer–to have me testing ’til the end of the year. So I guess I’ll be hitting up Santa for that Ginseng d’Escargot cream. The mask though…one can always use more masks (taps fingers together maniacally, like Mr. Burns).

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  5. Hey, I am using a cream with a lot of red ginseng in it ( bought it after I read your post about the benefits of the ingredient actually) it’s from the brand secret key. Never used anything from them, but it’s one of the best creams I’ve used so far. And it’s incredibly affordable, seeing as anything with red ginseng in it costs a fortune. Maybe you could check it out! 😉
    Loving you blog BTW. You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for introducing me to Korean skincare!!!

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  6. That It’s Skin Cream is on my potential birthday gift to myself wishlist. Thanks for making it even harder to pick something.

    My skin is clear, it often glows, I have found things (Holy Snails shop…) that keep me from flaking with Tret used daily even with all my other actives. But my skin just can’t be bouncy enough! I used to seek even toned glowing skin but now all I want is bouncy bouncy bouncy. I think my 28th year will be all reviews themed in the quest for the bounciest skin. I can even live with wrinkles if the skin springs back when I poke it.

    The quest for the most “chok chok” has revitalized my love of skincare. Project ultra bouncy skin will now commence.

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    • The serum! Higher concentrations of snail and ginseng, serums are easier to incorporate into my routine regularly (since I generally like to skip from cream to cream as long as I’m not testing something specific but can layer multiple serums), and I find the scent a bit milder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey weird question… On the wrong post… But I’m desperately seeking the bounciest skin… Mainly because I’ve got skin tone down pat at the moment (thanks Chek from Holy Snails,) anyway you reviewed a sea cucumber product that you didn’t fully support due to birds nest… But that ultra chok chok extreme is calling my name. I have far too much Sukwhassoo (samples man.. I’m cheap,) to splurge on the It’s Skin stuff at the moment but I can’t forget about that cream. I know they sent you items for review but did you ever order from them? The source you provided seems to be the ONLY place I can find it and I don’t know anything about how long they take to ship. If you know any other sources for the product let me know… Google has failed me. Health issues leave me feeling saggy (perhaps mostly in my head because I got my ID checked buying a bendy lighter for my candles…) I’m just so after the chok chok extreme at the moment.

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      • Yeah. I think I’m going to break down and order it. I don’t think it will arrive by my birthday but I don’t really celebrate anyway.

        Birthdays are so sad. I’m just going to hide from the world and coat myself in skincare products till it’s over. I’ll emerge from my cocoon softer, brighter, and older.

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      • I refuse to acknowledge my birthdays unless acknowledging them involves boat rides like it did last year. And I’m not budging a year over 35 for at least 10 more years. THE DATE ON MY ID IS A LIE

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m OK with the getting older part it’s just all the stuff birthdays represent to other people. If. I woke up tomorrow and found I was 40 that would be fine by me… As long as there were no cards.

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      • Also, I have ordered from Beauty Korea a couple of times IIRC and I’d think you don’t have anything to worry about with them–in some ways them being less known than the usual suspects means they can process orders faster.

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  7. Every time I read your amazing posts, my wishlist gets longer! You got me into all things honey and propolis … and now ginseng! Anxiously awaiting your review of LJH Propolis cream. I love the ampoule so much and am considering the cream.

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