K-beauty continues to take the world by storm through its innovative formulations and well-thought-of packaging. Usually, you’d find Korean skincare products to help create your own routine according to your skin needs, budget, and lifestyle. What sets them apart from western beauty would be their use of ingredients, and this is where hanbang makes a huge difference and encapsulates what Korean skincare is all about.  

Hanbang is a traditional herbal medicine that makes use of herbal prescriptions and different formulation techniques based on the principles of Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM). It is woven into Koreans’ daily lives as part of their culture, where it’s present in what they eat, drink, and even in their sauna. So, it’s no surprise that hanbang plays an important role in Korean skincare.

What is Hanbang?

Hanbang or traditional herbal medicine is a staple in Korean lifestyle and culture when it comes to health and wellness. It is all about maintaining and rebalancing the harmony of the body using a holistic approach. So, for example, if you are healthy, your body is balanced; if you are sick, your body is considered off-balanced and the root of this sickness is looked into further to help address it properly. 

Rather than treating specific skin concerns or focusing on skin types, it sees it as a sign or a pattern of disharmony, based on TKM’s principles.

Hanbang and How it Applies to Korean Skincare

When it comes to Korean skincare, hanbang is incorporated using traditional medicinal herbs while using modern techniques to process them into the formula. According to Odile Monod, a Korean-based art director in her introduction to Korean Traditional Medicine, hanbang has two main functions: to rebalance the yin and yang of the skin for better skin health and to stimulate the flow of Qi and circulation of blood to function properly. 

Similar to when our body falls sick, it affects other functions of the internal system, which in turn show up on the skin as well. Because as your body malfunctions, the skin loses the energy and nutrients it needs to maintain its optimum health. Your skin will lose its ability to retain moisture, leading to dryness, dullness, and emphasis on fine lines or wrinkles. It can also lead to more breakouts in certain areas of the face, according to face mapping of acne that corresponds to a malfunctioning internal organ. Skin issues, like acne, can also be linked to genetics, lifestyle, and stress. 

Hanbang is present as a general lifestyle, and there’s no denying the influence it has on Korean skincare nowadays. It aims to treat the skin as a whole, no matter what skin concern or skin type you may have. Furthermore, it’s a holistic approach that focuses on consistency and the long-term nourishing of the skin. The main function of hanbang-infused Korean skincare is to rebalance, prevent skin issues from worsening, strengthen skin resilience, promote skin recovery, and combat skin ageing. 

Common Ingredients Found in Hanbang Skincare

Hanbang doesn’t have an official definition of its own, but has its own 2 types of how it is produced. According to Monod, Korean skincare with hanbang is made with ingredients that were used in Korean traditional medicine in the past (modern way of processing while using herbal ingredients) or produced following the traditional processing methods to incorporate the ingredients (for example, fermentation).

Many K-beauty brands use either of these methods to create their products. Whether they use animal, plant, or mineral-derived ingredients, the quality of these components is important in these products. Monod further explains that “active principles and therapeutic effectiveness of herbal substances depends on a variety of factors” such as the species, where it was grown, how it was harvested, and the method of processing used. 

Some of the common herbal ingredients used include ginseng root, sacred lotus, or mugwort. K-beauty brands such as Pyunkang Yul, use Astragalus root extract, which is steeped carefully to turn it into a highly concentrated ingredient. The Astragalus extract is used to replace purified water and is rich in nutrients to keep the skin firm, healthy, and moisturised. Combined with minimal but effective ingredients, it aims to calm, hydrate, and nourish the skin.

Our Top Korean Skincare Picks With Hanbang

Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner 

After cleansing, drench the skin in hydration with Pyunkang Yul! A highly concentrated toner-essence that’s formulated with 7 minimal ingredients, which includes an active ingredient – Astragalus extract which is rich in Isoflavonoids and Calicosine to help firm and nourish the skin. The lightweight but dense consistency absorbs easily into the skin to give it a dewy, soft finish. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties while improving the skin’s elasticity.

Why we love it:

  • Replenishes dehydrated skin
  • Strengthens the skin barrier’s resilience 
  • Ideal for all skin types, including sensitive skin
  • Doubles as a hydrating mask 
  • Makes skin firmer and more plump

Price: starts at RM18.15 (Get 20% off using the code: PYUNESSET at checkout)
Where to Buy: Shopee

Pyunkang Yul Moisture Serum

Rebalance the skin’s oil-water content with Pyunkang Yul’s Moisture Serum! A few drops is enough to cover the face, to help balance and prevent moisture loss. It provides deep moisture while nourishing the skin from the inside and out, thanks to its combination of Olive oil and Astragalus extract. Great for fatigued and dry skin, this helps bring back life to the complexion to keep it glowing and healthy.

Why we love it:

  • Contains vitamin E to repair damaged skin and strengthen it
  • Soothes and hydrates the skin
  • Hypoallergenic and passed for skin-irritation test
  • Can be used as a spot corrector for extra dry areas  
  • Retains moisture on the skin without stickiness

Price: starts at RM17.92(Get 20% off using the code: PYUNSERUM at checkout)
Where to Buy: Shopee

Pyunkang Yul Moisture Cream

Seal in moisture and leave the skin looking dewy with the Pyunkang Yul Moisture Cream! Packed with simple but nourishing ingredients, it refreshes and moisturises the skin while preventing drying throughout the day or night. Its main active ingredient, Coptis Root Extract, delivers intense moisture, soothes inflamed skin, and protects the skin from harsh substances. Furthermore, it’s mixed with Jojoba oil to help rebalance the skin’s oil-water levels without leaving behind a greasy finish. 

Why we love it:

  • Calms damaged, irritated skin
  • Soothes and strengthens skin barrier
  • Free from 20 harmful chemicals
  • Fortifies the skin to keep it healthy and supple
  • Moisturises without feeling greasy

Price: RM82.50 (Get 20% off using the code: PYUNCREAM at checkout)
Where to Buy: Shopee