Review: Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum

Updated 9/26/16

All good things must come to an end, which my Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum did recently, the pump dispensing nothing but air right when I need that capsulized ginseng most, with KCON LA right around the corner.

(ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

But even tragedies have silver linings. The silver lining of this particular sad event is that I can review the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum now: since I consider this a serious investment product, I wanted to finish off the entire bottle before giving my opinion. Keep on reading if you want to hear that opinion, in detail!


Affiliate links in this post are marked with an asterisk(*).


Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying anti-aging serum

The bottle looks pregnant with possibilities and ready to birth one fancy skin baby.

In the pursuit of a more youthful complexion, there are several different dimensions to consider (and work towards, if more youthful-looking skin is your goal). The most obvious dimension is smoothness, a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. Many of us also place skin brightening in the anti-aging category, at least some of the time. Sunspots and a dull overall skin tone are common visible signs of aging, after all. But there’s a third dimension to younger-looking skin, one to which even I haven’t given much thought: elasticity. Mostly because no product I’ve tried has had much of an effect on my skin’s elasticity.

Purpose: Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum is a moisturizing anti-aging serum that claims to diminish fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin’s resilience and elasticity.

Best suited for: All skin types with aging concerns.

Do not use if: Your skin is sensitive to alcohol, fragrance, botanical extracts, or anything else in the ingredients list.

When and how to use: Apply a thin layer to face after cleansing, toning, and any lighter hydrating essences in your skincare routine. Pat in or let dry slightly before applying additional products. I find one and a half pumps of product perfect for my face and neck, but YMMV.

Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum English ingredients and information

I’m tempted to make a scrapbook of Sulwhasoo product inserts for relaxing bedtime reading.

Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum ingredients:  Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, methyl gluceth-20, alcohol, panax ginseng root extract, paeonia albiflora root extract, nelumbo nucifera seed extract, polygonatum officinale rhizome/root extract, lilium tigrinum flower/leaf/stem extract, rehmannia glutinosa root extract, honey, ophiopogon japonicus root extract, glycyrrhiza uralensis (licorice) root extract, hydrolyzed ginseng saponins (enzyme-treated red ginseng saponins), hydrolyzed ginseng saponins (enzyme-treated ginseng saponins), panax ginseng root powder (red ginseng root powder), dimethicone, betaine, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, methoxy PEG-114/polyepsilon caprolactone, sucrose, mannitol, microcrystalline cellulose, zea mays (corn) starch, hydrogenated lecithin, ethlhexylglycerin, cellulose gum, theobroma cacao (cocoa) extract, dextrin, 1,2-hexanediol, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, polyvinyl alcohol, sodium methyl stearoyl taurate, sodium polyaspartate, phytosphingosine, aspergillus ferment, sodium polyacrylate, polyquaternium-51, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance

CosDNA

Notable ingredients: Traditional herbal medicine is the focus of Sulwhasoo’s brand story* and prominent in the ingredients lists of all the Sulwhasoo products I’ve seen. The Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum features a no doubt terrible-tasting brew of brightening, moisturizing, antioxidant, and anti-aging extracts, all supposedly treated to optimize them for topical use. Among them are four different ginseng ingredients: panax ginseng root extract, capsulized red ginseng saponins, liposome-encapsulated saponins and ginseng extract*, and powdered red ginseng root.

Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum close upThe capsulized ginseng ingredients are what convinced me to splurge out on this product instead of continuing my search for ginseng among midrange K-beauty brands.

I’m not especially drawn to skincare with little floaty beads of supposedly special ingredients. Floaty skincare beads are like lettuce on a sandwich. They tart up the look and the texture while adding little actual substance or benefit. I suspected that the capsules might serve a practical purpose in this serum, though. Ginseng is rich in antioxidants, which can break down and lose effectiveness when exposed to light and air*; the degradation isn’t actually as big a deal as some would have you believe, since it only affects the tiny portion of product on the surface, but this is Sulwhasoo we’re talking about here. Whatever can be done to protect those precious, precious Sulwhasoo saponins should be done. The brand packages the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum in a specially coated bottle to shield it from UV exposure, and the capsulization may further preserve the effectiveness of the ginseng ingredients.

But more tantalizing still than the capsulized red ginseng saponins are the liposome-encapsulated ginseng saponins and extracts. Liposomes are an ingredient delivery system that wraps tiny tiny bits of microscopically chopped-up water-soluble ingredients in oil-soluble sacs, increasing the penetration of the encapsulated ingredient. (I explained this a little less awkwardly in an old My Beauty Diary review.) I already knew that my skin responded well to ginseng. I had to find out whether it would respond even better to liposome-encapsulated ginseng. And find out I did.

Performance

Even the best skincare product needs time to deliver real results, but certain formulation tricks can produce instantaneous, though superficial, effects. High doses of pigmented ingredients like titanium dioxide deliver immediate “whitening.”* Shimmer particles like those found in pearl powder and pearl extract make skin glow. Collagen and some other film formers in large enough amounts create an addictive temporary firming effect. On one hand, ingredients like these can be deceptive, making an ineffective product seem better than it is. On the other hand, for people with patience issues, like me, “instant results” do encourage consistent use. If the product has the substance to back up its claims, its active ingredients can work quietly on skin in the background.

As far as I can tell, Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum uses no quick-fix trickery. I was well into my third week of twice-daily use before I began seeing the more substantial effects of the serum. I had plenty of moments of doubt during those first couple of weeks, but at the same time, now that I’ve seen the product’s effects, I am glad that little to no space was wasted on sparkles or shimmer.

The Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum is much lighter than I thought it would be. Based on my experiences with Sulwhasoo’s Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream and Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream, I’d expected something very rich and emollient, along the lines of Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Essence Oil. I was totally off the mark. The silky, lightweight gel is hydrating rather than heavy and sinks in quickly. It does (and is designed to) form a barrier on skin to help retain moisture, but that barrier is a near-weightless film rather than a layer of oil. And I barely even noticed the ginseng capsules as they broke and dissolved on my skin.

The smell of the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum can take some getting used to. (Lord Fiddy never did get used to it–he can smell it from across the room whenever I put it on.) When first applied, the serum releases a sharp, intense burst of that classic ginseng scent, which I’ve heard can smell artificial or “off” to some people. Personally, I also detected a whiff of alcohol sometimes, but, interestingly, not always. If left alone for a minute or so, however, the strong ginseng smell settles into what is, to my nose, a softer, more flowery fragrance. And the scent disappears within minutes or as soon as you layer any other skincare on top. Unless you follow it up with something else that smells strongly of ginseng, like, say, an Evercos ginseng mask or Sulwhasoo’s own ginseng cream(s), that is. I mention the fragrance in detail because I know the deep, twiggy smell of ginseng isn’t everyone’s cup of roots.

As far as results go, I’m so glad I stuck it out with the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum. A couple of weeks in, I began to see some possible increased firming in my Areas of Decreased Elasticity, particularly around my eyes, where I’d stopped using other anti-aging actives to have an isolation testing zone. While not dramatic, the difference was enough for me to take notice.

A couple more weeks of use made the changes unmistakable. My skin is more resilient now than it was when I started using the product, both in terms of holding on to moisture and in terms of bounciness and elasticity. I tend to mash my face around in my pillow while I sleep and usually wake up with some crazy pillowcase creases in the morning. I hardly get those sleep creases anymore. Smiling or frowning or making other theatrical facial expressions doesn’t leave me with instant creases anymore, either. “Resilience” and “elasticity” have always sounded like vague, unquantifiable buzzwords to me, but Sulwhasoo’s Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum has shown me the light. Much like giant snails, they might sound mythical but turn out to be real.

Sulwhasoo Korean skincare products

Family portrait.

The skin texture improvements I’ve noticed after two months of Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum aren’t the only benefits I’ve experienced from the product. Like Sulwhasoo’s First Care Activating Serum EX (and, to a lesser degree, Sulwhasoo’s Overnight Vitalizing Mask), the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum seems to stimulate the circulation in the upper layers of my skin, giving me a rosy glow that I don’t even get from alcohol unless I’m at “three-day hangover” consumption levels. In fact, one of the reasons I’ve so consistently used all of my Sulwhasoo products is because while using just one will give me a touch of that rosy glow, using several intensifies it substantially. These products give me the complexion of somebody who eats lots of green things and spends plenty of time in the gym. I appreciate that almost as much as I appreciate the textural improvements the ginseng serum has produced in my skin.

Update: And after going without the product for a while, then getting a second bottle, I can confirm that the results I noticed with my first bottle were indeed the results of the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum. The pillow creases came back and the rosy glow faded after I ran out of product. Then I bought more. The pillow creases went away and the rosy glow returned.

Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum Value Analysis

This is not an inexpensive product. In fact, for me, the cost of the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum is its primary shortcoming. Over $100 for a 35ml bottle of serum is a lot to pay for textural improvements, which I imagine many people would consider secondary to more obvious aging concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.

Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying anti-aging serumI don’t think of the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum a front-line, primary anti-aging product. The only products that get that title for me are my Curology and my vast collection of sunscreens. If you’re expecting the Sulwhasoo serum to deliver effects comparable to prescription-strength retinoids, you will most likely be disappointed and should probably invest in those prescription-strength retinoids rather than an over-the-counter product.

With that being said, I consider the product worth a purchase for me. The effects it has on my skin texture and radiance are both exceptional and rare. As I mentioned earlier, I never really even understood the whole “resilience and elasticity” thing until I used this product, because nothing else has delivered noticeable results for me in those areas. The Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum nicely complements the more intensive anti-aging products in my skincare routine, allowing me to address more dimensions of visible skin aging and see more complete improvements.

It’s also a pleasure to use, which I think matters a great deal when it comes to high-end, investment skincare. Like the First Care Activating Serum EX, the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum comes in a heavy, well constructed glass bottle. Product dispenses easily from the pump, and the pump mechanism itself feels solid: it didn’t break down at all even after two months of use, as some products’ pumps will. The UV coating on the glass is a nice touch. I do wish the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum came in an airless pump bottle, but its current packaging is more than adequate and looks and feels lovely. I get a serious “I’m worth it” thrill whenever I hold it in my hand. A product priced like this one had better give me that feeling!

What to expect from Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum: Light but lasting hydration, a more well rested glow, and more resilient and elastic skin over longer-term use.

Conclusion: Yeah, I love it. There aren’t many products out there that can surprise me with what they can do to my skin, and even fewer products out there that actually get my skin to do something new. A month into my time with the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum, I knew I wanted to repurchase it, and my sadness now that I’ve run out has solidified that. It’s totally worth it to me. I’m still on the hunt for a more budget-friendly product that delivers comparable results, but in the meantime, I will happily buy another. (And I did and am happily using it and will repurchase again when my second bottle runs out.)

Rating: 4.7/5

Rating scale:

1 – This should be taken off the market, or this failed at its one primary job.
2 – Caused me some problems or doesn’t work very well; would not buy again.
3 – Meh. Neither great nor bad.
4 – Pretty good. Would buy again unless I find something better.
5 – I’ll never be in the market for a replacement unless this one is discontinued.

Where can I buy Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum?

  • Sulwhasoo US* (check the special codes section in my right-hand sidebar, as Sulwhasoo US regularly offers Fifty Shades of Snail readers extra gifts)
  • W2Beauty

Do you consider elasticity and resilience worth investing in improving?

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20 responses to “Review: Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum

  1. Excellent post! Nice description about the face crease too…make the whole resilience thing much more understandable.

    Rough price point though. My inner cheapness side tells me it can’t be worth it but my high maintenance side says the price must mean it’s worth it. Sigh.

    P.S. I don’t know which post you mentioned it in but I love the Saran Wrap face but I think I get that now. I think I’ve been mistaking that look with “glow”…..oops!!

    Like

  2. I have been using the Sulwhasoo serum for a while now and it’s one of my favorite products. It seems to me like it evens out my skintone immediately and locks in the moisture.

    Like

  3. I live in Toronto. Love Sulwhasoo products and your views!! Do you suggest any Sullwhasoo stores in Toronto to buy products at best price? I have been told some fakes sold online altho cheaper

    Like

  4. Elasticity improvement is my holy grail concern! As I’ve been aging I’ve noticed progressive sagging in my cheeks and around my mouth, so if this even slightly helps prevent further elasticity loss it would be worth it, I think. Great review! Might be time to try this…

    Like

  5. Elasticity is a huge concern of mine for the future. At this point in time my skin actually has a decent elasticity, I think it may be because I have such oily skin. The Snail Cast touched on that not to long ago, but I am hugely concerned with it going forward and only a couple years from hitting the big 4-0. Right now I am trying to play a balance of how much I need to use to prevent getting to the “Saran Wrap Face” and maintaining what I have plus fighting my tendency towards breakouts.

    Like

  6. Hi! It sounds really interesting. I’ve been investigating this serum and the First Activating Ex. I smoke so yeah, I need something that provides The Glow…
    As wrinkle prevention which one would you recommend? I’m 26 and starting to have fine lines (I’m not happy).
    Thank you in advance!

    Like

  7. Hello! Obsessed with your blog! This might be a dumb question…but 30 1-ml samples on Amazon are only $12, but a 35 ml bottle is $100? Are the 1-ml samples not really even close to 1ml…because if they were you’d be getting 30 ml for $12??

    Like

    • They are listed as 1ml but they are really .5ml. I bought some from Amazon that were fakes – I had samples direct from Sulwhasoo as a comparison, and full sized products as well. If it is too good to be true, it’s probably fake.

      I’m a devout Sulwhasoo user, I love this brand so much. Being told that your skin is glowing, when compliments like that were as rare as pigs flying, is priceless. That “I’m worth it” feeling in the morning and at night is amazing, along with the lack of pillow creases – which I didn’t think about until this post – thanks!

      Like

  8. Wow! I’m so glad your blog exists. I don’t need anti aging per se right now but definitely will soon, your blog has a future generation of readership! Also… Wow giant snails are real.

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  9. Fiddy, I’m so glad you loved this. I had the samples in and out of my eBay cart for weeks before your review came out. Now, I am happily loving it every day and am amazed how it works to retain moisture. I only use it at night, but each morning after has been something of a fantasy. When coupled with the concentrated ginseng cream, I awake with the plumpest skin ever (and with nary a sleeping pack in sight). I’m totally hooked and will gladly give up some lesser passions to afford this gift (which is not at all an indulgence in my eyes). Broke but happy! Thanks for yet another gloriously helpful review. T.

    Like

  10. Pingback: My August Skincare Hauls and Holy Grails – Well Ignite·

  11. I wonder that 2 kinds of serum (Ginseng & Snowise) which bottles are plastic or glass? I have Innerise Complete Serum & it’s plastic.

    Like

  12. Thank you for your great post !

    I have a question regarding combination of the serum with other products. I would like to use this serum and COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. Does make it sense? And if yes, in which order should I apply them?

    Many thank in advance !

    Like

  13. Hi, I was wondering if you have tried these other two products: I’M FROM Ginseng Serum and Manyo Factory Bifida Ferment Complex and how the compare with the Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum?!
    Thanks!

    Like

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