Korean skincare is a many-headed hydra, and it doesn’t take walking down the pulsing streets of Myeongdong to realise this. There are numerous ways to categorise Korea’s diverse beauty offerings, from sleek packaging to celebrity appeal and ingredient profiles. Do it by the latter, and hanbang will inevitably top the list.
The term hanbang refers to herbal medicine. The same components found in traditional Korean medicine are also applied to skincare, with brands like Sulwhasoo or History of Whoo being the most familiar. The most common hanbang ingredients are ginseng, chaga mushroom, lotus root, as well as various botanical and fermented extracts. Such products often come with a soothing herbal scent, and faint memories of being fed ginseng soup for your own good. Except this time, the nutrients are going on your face.
Hanbang skincare doesn’t come cheap, especially since some of the ingredients are at luxury level. The packaging is also on a different plane, with most products housed in ornamental vials and jars that give off a distinctly royal impression. No skincaretainment here at all. Combined with a shift in focus towards anti-ageing or maturing skin, this realm of beauty has earned the misnomer of “ahjumma skincare”, which means skincare for older, mature women. Even so, this shouldn’t stop anyone who’s dedicated to a healthy, radiant complexion from giving hanbang products a shot.
It’s important to note that these products aren’t going to be a panacea for all your face troubles, despite the fact that hanbang is used as a form of alternative medication. Most of such products focus on moisturising, plumping, brightening the skin, or helping diminish slight signs of ageing through deep hydration. If you’re keen to give it a try, here are some of the best products on the market.