The Hanbang Set Project: Part II; The Brand, Initial Thoughts, & 백수오 Vitality Cream Ingredients

Here's the second installment of February's Project!

In last week’s blog post, I introduced the special feature I’m doing for February; instead of a motley of products and a mash up of reviews, science, and skincare, this month I'm focusing exclusively on the highly mysterious [Princess] Jeonghyo line from the Hanbang brand Buyonghwa. 

This week I'll be deep diving into the hilariously mistranslated “Oh Unemployed Vitality Cream” (thanks Google!) as it was the first product I tried, the only one I've completely translated and researched, and coincidentally my favourite of the set.

In this post:
  • What I've learned about the brand
  • What I've learned about the set so far
  • My initial thoughts of the products
  • My translation progress
  • Details of the “Oh Unemployed Vitality Cream” - ingredients analysis and research
I'm just going to take a moment of silence for all the bottles of wine that were sacrificed to the translating cause; translating ingredients when you don't speak Korean is an act of madness. Even advanced Korean speakers were like "Why are you doing something so hard?!"

For beauty! For science! For the love of Asian Cosmetics!

Let's do this!

What I've learned about the brand

It turns out that Buyonghwa (부용화) is a species of hibiscus, although sometimes it is translated as ‘lotus’, ‘bouillon’, or ‘confederate rose’; but if you search for the Korean term, you will see that it’s a very specific flower, which looks like this:

Images property of their original photographers: white variant Source, pink variant Source, red variant Source
Once I saw the variants of the flower (which comes in shades of white through red, like the tiny motif on the box), I realized that the gorgeous gold filigree on the lids of the jars was actually stylized 부용화 flowers and I was completely charmed by that.

Here’s a picture of the whole set to compare the lid designs to the above flowers:

The tiny red flowers on the bottles, jars, and the boxes are also little 부용화 flowers. :3

While I was researching the brand, as I can find very little about it, I learned that the significance of Buyonghwa flowers to cosmetics/beauty actually stems (ha!) from from a Korean folktale called the 부용 상사곡 orBouillon Sangsagok, and the heroine of the story is where the flower gets its name. The story was found in a historical era novel which may have been written by a concubine.

The title is written right-to-left and says "부용의 상사곡" which translates to "The <Flower's> Song of Mutual Love and Affection" which is just that much more adorable.

The story is about a extraordinarily beautiful woman who falls in love with a scholar, who then has to leave for the capital to take an important exam; leaving her behind and alone, patiently waiting for his return.

(If you have ever seen any K-dramas set in historical eras, these ‘exams’ make a frequent appearance and are always very serious matters that seem more like trying to pass the bar or defending your dissertation than the tests we take in university.)

While her husband is away for this critical and unavoidable matter, her phenomenal beauty attracts the unwanted interest of the village headman, and being unable to protect herself with her husband away, she decides to throw herself into the river to protect her virtue and remain true to her husband, choosing death over defilement.  (Welp, that's depressing, but not unexpected, considering how these kinds of folktales go.)

However, unlike most stories in this vein, this one has a happy ending; someone rescues her from the river before she drowns and she is eventually happily reunited with her husband. :3

The flowers are named after her, as they are said to be as beautiful as she; it makes perfect sense that the brand is named after a flower associated with a legendary beauty.

What I've learned about the set so far

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to learn much more about Princess Jeonghyo; she has a mausoleum associated with her, which is pictured at right.  If sketchy Google translate efforts are to be believed, supposedly she had a very renowned beauty routine and was lovely, regal, and elegant- I suppose that alone is a good reason to name a skincare line after her!

As remains of horses were found in the tomb, she was either very fond of of them or was a noted horsewoman herself.  Either way, she doesn't seem to be a particularly significant figure in Korean history; some of the Koreans I've spoken with vaguely recalled the folktale of Bouillon Sangsagok, but had never heard of Princess Jeonghyo.  

As I work through my translations and particularly the ingredients, I have discovered that fermentation is a major focus of this line. The plant extracts are fermented with things like lactobacillus and saccharomyces in bamboo casks (대나무통) using traditional Hanbang (Korean herbal medicine) techniques. If you have heard of SK-II, they’re famous for using fermentation in their products, so ironically, the fermentation bonanza of this set is right in the hot zone of current Asian beauty trends.

As I mentioned in my last post, the 6 pieces of the set are:
  1. 수액 - Sap 
  2. 유액 - Lotion 
  3. 아이크림 - Eye Cream 
  4. 자생크림 - Wild (herb/flower) cream 
  5. 백수오 활력 크림- Cynanchum wilfordii Vitality cream 
  6. 석류팩 - Pomegranate Pack
Originally I thought I would use them in this order, and that the Sap would be like a First Essence (such as the Missha First Treatment Essence or SK-II), the “Milky Lotion” would be well, a ‘milk’ type/texture emulsion or essence, and that since the translated directions for the Cynanchum wilfordii Vitality cream was to use it as a final step like a sleeping pack, well, that’s what I’d do.

But, that was before I’d used them for a week.

My initial thoughts of the products

The Sap is actually a very rich, ‘hydrating toner’ type of product, which is more like a light serum. It’s clear, spreads easily, and soaks in relatively quickly. Has a noticeable fragrance.

The Lotion is surprisingly very thick, requiring a few ketchup-bottle-style whacks to get the product out, but once is does, it flows out quickly and is very stringy, exactly like latex paint- an irony which is not lost on me considering that google translated this as ‘latex’ in the first place. Maybe it was onto something? Anyway, this is my least favourite product from the bunch.

The Eye Cream is a standard eye cream, I have nothing positive or negative to say about it as I’m not a huge eye cream user. It’s not unpleasant to apply or wear.

The Wild [flower/herb] Cream surprised me as it’s a very heavy, occlusive, traditional cream. I now use this at the very end, and only in my dry areas, because otherwise it will block anything else from soaking into my skin. Smells like generic face cream with a hint of flowers and herbs.

Cynanchum wilfordii Vitality cream - the box is so gorgeous
The Cynanchum wilfordii Vitality cream is the stand out of the bunch; it’s supposed to be a sleeping pack based off the directions I translated last time, as is the Pomegranate Pack (which I have not used yet as they're the same step) but I have swapped the order. I find this cream to be a delicious combination of ultra hydrating with a little occlusive goodness mixed in; applying it feels so good my eyes roll back in my head a bit.

Not only that, but it somehow reset my winter-dry skin and I no longer get dry patches; it does keep my skin feel hydrated all day or night, and I'm impressed. It has the generic cream smell plus a ginseng-y, herbal note to it that may bother some.

My translation progress

Oh god, what have I got myself into.  Apparently if one is planning on learning Korean, one should not pick a 한방 (Hanbang) set as a first attempt, because not only is there a deliberate avoidance of 'modern' (or English loan) words, ultra flowery and stylized language, the ingredients are primarily traditional Korean herbs so there's no easy English equivalents because they're native Korean plants.

It has taken me hours every day to just transcribe the ingredients alone, because welp, you know all those translate apps and converter programs that read an image into text and/or translate it for you?  Well, here's what they come up with for the ingredients:
jipssingkum done Kim Jae-soo, glycerine peullidesan saikeulleu denti ryukssyo siikolloek facilities, butyl / sillokssin Kuah 0 kumgyulla to Hamid ttukssaaegiruryeya silleukssin / panty Cetearyl alcohol abuse saikeulleu dimechaeun, Holly sorbate 60 l rengnangdiye 2 Kohn would help break dance pyoraep ′ dullai a krill, Ami, or the Mula-Mutha river, / but four big kkip isopi, Pokpim / ryaduswaeseu ryeiteu Glyceryl Steger Arie embryo - the key soreubitanseu kkobaksseong Technically / ppeoteu kkweeseutearye Jjiteu diyechikon. sodeum side of low-grade rice, and Ruhr Nate ′ kabeumeo teuraetanyol Aman berian konjorong ppuep, Nominated for the cane to a real hit, puppepok jochujumtyul paribin allanteuyan tokopyeril acetate professional red bean pararendeulleu, Ppaejokssyan,  Lou seven hamneueeraapjjop′ chunghajeu the mycelium / - nunkkotol hisuo balhyochuol you could please take enzyme yeogwameul,  Heunsseongsyankuku yeogwatyul, a Chinese matrimony vine / Russ ryakteubikssil yeogwameul, entered into force chuyulbul heumo / neukchaju chulbalho the filter, ` 4 ' hyeochyeotem yeogwatteul ′ ryaktonyangnep / Russ, pomegranates, fermented chuyulhol rakteu machiyeon / Bacillus Balkh, - ppaemoejikumbamhyochwetyul ′ hyomeu / hwanbaekppal  hyochueutppumgat rakteu yeast. / / Bacillus jieomdelhyochu,  swaeppaetttukssing The truth is that / / Homo Russ batyochuchungmom ′ write / Bree's yeast /  Russ seupeojil chueutppul, asclepias
So ... yeah.  According to the usual translation resources people recommend to me, this cream features Cetearyl-alcohol-addicted lingerie, will help me bust a break dancing move, contains unborn child extract and poor quality rice, and I am going to be beaten by a businesslike legume wielding a cane.  Plus, 80%+ of it couldn't be translated to English, and the parts that are translated are ... uh ... well, you can see it's not going to work.

Clearly this would not do.  

So I purchased a set of Korean keyboard stickers from Amazon to convert my existing keyboard to Hangul (while still being able to see the English keys) and googled how to install a Korean keyboard converter. I followed this handy guide, and now I can toggle between Hangul and English keystrokes with a click of my mouse.  I have an additional problem in the form of the 'elegant' font that the brand uses for the text; yes it's pretty but it also makes it hard for unlettered newbies like myself to identify which character it's supposed to be.

I transcribe the ingredients into Naver's translation tool, and then use the Lioele product dictionary that Fanserviced recommends (one of my favourite blogs, I might add.)

Details of the “Oh Unemployed Vitality Cream” - ingredients analysis and research

So, I had planned to get all down-n-dirrty with what the 101 Hanbang ingredients were for, but I realized that the length of this post was getting out of controoooool so we're stopping with the translation and analysis of the ingredients.  Stay tuned for next week to find out what all those ferment-y extracts are good for!

As I mentioned last time, the Directions for Use of the accurately-translated Cynanchum wilfordii Vitality Cream are:
잠들기 전에 사용하며 기초 마지막 단계에서 충분한 양을 덜어 얼굴에 펴 바른 후 두드려 흡 수시켜 줍니다. 다음날 까지 촉촉하고 탄력 있게 가꿔줍니다.
Directions for Use:
The last stage before you go to sleep and have used your basic (routine), apply a sufficient amount and spread over the face, patting afterwards. Pampers you (by keeping your skin) moist and supple until the next day.
I've translated the rest of the box for this cream:

The text on this side of the box contains your standard warnings about ceasing use and consulting a dermatologist in the event of a skin reaction, including swelling, itching, etc. It also cautions not to use it on skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis, or open wounds.
It then has instructions on storage and handling, namely 1. Close the lid after use, 2. Keep it away from children, and 3. Avoid extreme temperature changes and direct light.

I haven't bothered to include the transcribed and word-by-word translation of this side as it's nothing out of the ordinary compared to what you would find on a western face cream, so let's move on to the good stuff!

Look at this translation project behemoth:

That may not look like a huge task, but trust me, typing all that out, verifying the spelling, translating each word, and then identifying the ingredients was an ordeal.

I'd just like to point out that Korean does not have the same spacing patterns as English; they're sometimes added, sometimes omitted, and sometimes inexplicably placed.  Extra fun!

For legibility, I have split the translation from the ingredients analysis.

Korean to English Translation:

Ingredients Analysis:

I have marked the key ingredients in blue, and the ones with Cosdna potential flags in red.  I'll discuss both below next week.

If you're squinting at that and thinking "Wait a second, does that @#$%ing say Aspergillus?!  As in, deadly toxic, will literally rot the flesh from your bones Aspergillus?!  And Mycelium?! Are you crazy?!"

Yeah, don't panic.  It's not what you think.


For one thing, these are not direct applications of what can be very dangerous molds and bacteria, and for another, these forms are the type are used to ferment soybeans, brew sake in Japan and makgeolli in Korea, etc.

Nowadays, they're used used to create the trendy fermented Saccharomyces-type products like SK-II and Missha's First Treatment Essence.  Lactobacillus is no stranger to western audiences; we already put it in our food to bolster digestive health.

So, all of the fermented extracts/filtrates above are Hanbang raw ingredients + the fermentation ingredient, and according to the product advertisements I translated last post, they're fermented in traditional bamboo casks using the traditional Hanbang medicinal techniques.  Fancy!

So next week I'll be getting all research- and citation-happy (where possible) and there will be extracts and filtrates of flowers and leaves and roots and seeds galore!

Also pictures if I can find them, because damn some of these ingredients are pretty.  

See you next week for the next installment of adventures in traditional Korean medicinal skincare!

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