The Bottle That Stole My Heart: Sooryehan Hyo Biyeon Concentrated Brightening Essence Review

Sometimes we use skincare because it's an excellent product that gives good results, sometimes we use it because it's got an entertaining gimmick, and sometimes it's both.  Sometimes, we just like the pretty packaging, and today's review is firmly in the latter category, but I have no regrets.

Why?  Because it looks like this:

Prepare yourselves for a lot of senseless glamour shots 
I suppose I should feel some modicum of shame as a blogger that the primary impression I have of this product is of the packaging, but when the packaging looks like this, can you blame me?

In this post:
  • Gratuitous photos
  • Product details
  • Ingredients
  • Full review
This bottle was so pretty that I actually managed to completely empty it, to the point where I was caught unawares by it's abrupt end, unable to eke out enough of the serum to show the colour or consistency, whoops!  I think I have some ill-fated serum blend attempt photos somewhere, come to think of it.  Anyway, let's begin with the eyecandy and ... stuff.  Review stuff?  Mmm, shiny pretty things.  What were we talking about?

Product details

Full product name: Sooryehan Hyo Biyeon Concentrated Brightening Essence
Purpose: A serum (it's a bit thicker than an essence) that hydrates, and is intended to whiten/brighten the skin, which means reducing areas darkened due to damage without impacting your natural skin tone.
Scent:  It has a definite Hanbang scent (Hanbang is traditional Korean herbal medicine, usually featuring a lot of ginseng) but it's a gentle, polite Hanbang scent, unlike say, Sulwhasoo.  I love Hanbang things in general, including the smell, so I appreciate it whether it's strong or subtle- this isn't overpowering but if you don't like the herbal medicine smell, skip it.
Texture: A watery serum that can get a little sticky if you over-apply it, but not oily.  It's midway between the Leejiham Tea Tree 90 Essence and the Hada Labo Gokujyun Moist Lotion, if you have ever tried either of those.  It's called an 'essence' but it's more viscous than the watery essences I have used.
Quantity: 30ml, and it somehow lasted forever without any signs of running out, until it abruptly went from a full dropper in the AM to totally unable to siphon up a single drop in the PM.  You only use 1-2 drops so it lasts a long time.
Rating:  The serum 3.5/5, the bottle is 5/5.  The serum is pleasant, but that bottle ... mmm.
Where to get it: I purchased mine from Avecko, which is a buying service, and you can read a Guide to Avecko's buying service when you don't know Korean, ft blogger Kahime if you'd like to dip a toe into using a buying service, but it's also available via EBay $20-$25 w/ free shipping.
Repurchase:  No, but that's because I have a million serums I want to try, and while I enjoyed using it and got my money's worth, the main attraction was the bottle and I still have it to re-purpose for other things.  Things like decanting expensive skincare samples into it, because it's cheaper per ml to get samples than a full-size.

So happy I could catch a little of the purple glow with sunlight- the indoor shots did not pick it up.


Finding translated ingredients lists for Korean beauty products is a serious struggle.  As is all too common, the ingredients list for this serum/essence wasn't available anywhere other than the packet (in Korean of course), so I had to go hunting.

Luckily, Tracy at fanserviced-b kindly sent me over a link to a partial ingredients list here, and then it was a matter of looking up the ingredients using her guide on How to Translate Korean Cosmetic Ingredients Lists, which is a must-have for anyone trying to translate without knowing Korean.  Copy and paste for the win!

I used her 3rd method of copying and pasting each ingredient into a dictionary, which means that it's a lot of work, but not as much work as translating it all yourself and it's very accurate.  I have now entered the partial list into Cosdna if you'd like to check it out, but it has minimal flags and the only 'scary' looking flag is the pH-adjuster which of course is long since reacted before it hits your face.
Lactobacillus/Evening Primrose Seed Ferment Filtrate, Glycerin, Water, Butylene Glycol, Methyl Gluceth-20, Saccharomyces/Ophiopogon Japonicus Root/Panax Ginseng Root/Poria Cocos/Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Ferment Filtrate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Saccharomyces/Achyranthes Bidentata Root/Angelica Gigas Root/Angelica Pubescens Root/Angelica Tenuissima Root/Cnidium Officinale Root/ Eucommia Ulmoides Bark/Ledebouriella Divaricata Root/ Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Ferment Filtrate, Angelica Tenuissima Root Extract, Phaseolus Radiatus Seed Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Ceratonia Siliqua (Carob) Fruit Extract, Trichosanthes Kirilowii Root Extract, Pogostemon Cablin Leaf Extract, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Extract, Poria Cocos Sclerotium Extract, Beta-Glucan, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Panthenol, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Triethanolamine, Gardenia Florida Fruit Extract, Sodium Polyacrylate, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Juniperus Virginiana Oil, Coriandrum Sativum (Coriander) Fruit Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Trisodium EDTA
That's a lot of Hanbang ingredients in there, and since blogger and K-Beauty skincare-inspired DIY nerd extraordinaire Holy Snails has been exploring Hanbang-style formulations lately, I asked her to take a look and tell me if she had any comments about the ingredients, because I had some ... suspicions.

The Korean in that packet is so tiny it's difficult to make out the characters as it is.
Luckily for me, she was relaxing with a glass of fermented Vitis vinifera, and provided the following hilarious commentary on the properties of 'standout' ingredients:
  • Glycerin: This is the plain white rice of the humectants family.  Its name would be Larry.  He always volunteers to clean up after the family parties, and is punctual.
  • Water:  The best ingredient ever.  I need it in my body.  HG
  • Butylene Glycol: Did you know glycols function as solvents, penetration enhancers, and humectants?
  • Poria Cocos Sclerotium Extract:  I have some of this!  It's a hanbaaaaaang mushroom that's shaped like a coconut.
  • Beta-Glucan:  These are interesting!  I have oat and yeast beta glucans.  They're both polymers that have photoprotective properties, as well as wound healing and collagen synthesis.  I'm thinking of tossing them into a sexy hanbang cream.
  • Panthenol:  Good ol' Vitamin B5 - I think it's better for hair than it is for skin, but it's cheap and sounds nice and fancy so it's pretty popular.
  • Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer:  This doesn't sound sexy at all, but it is a good gelling agent/thickener.
Bahahaha!  After I recovered my composure (hilarity and 'sexy hanbang cream' mentions in one go?  I need a breather) I double-checked with her that there was not, in fact, any bona fide whitening/brightening ingredients in this serum.  Although as she pointed out, there were a lot of lovely Hanbang ingredients, so it comes by it's scent and pleasant-ness honestly.  I'm not too dismayed by that revelation, because I prefer to rely on scientifically-backed whitening ingredients (such as Alpha hydroxy acid exfoliants, Vitamin C serums, Niacinamide in confirmed concentrations, Licorice extract, and Azelaic acid, which is my newest whitening obsession) rather than things that are simply labelled as whitening/brightening.

Ironically, Licorice extract has both a science and a Hanbang pedigree, so I was very surprised to see it missing here.  Why not include it?  Mysterious.

Full review

Actually this portion is going to be fairly short. Here's the summary:
Thwarted: nothing but air
  • This has a pretty bottle that inspires me not to be lazy about my routine, because I look forward to using it
  • It is a pleasant, inoffensive serum that is nicely hydrating and plays well with other layers
  • It smells like Hanbang, but not in a "sucker punched with fist full of herbs" kinda way, it's more subtle
  • The bottle is well-made, although plastic, and the dropper bulb has a ball inside it to keep it in good shape as you use it, which means I can repurpose it!
  • It didn't break me out, although it would get sticky if I used 10x the recommended amount (who knew?)
  • It's blue.  No seriously, the serum itself is blue.
Like I mentioned, I ran out of this serum so abruptly that I could not scrounge up enough of it to demo it here; all the upside-down-bottle-whacking and set-at-an-angle-draining produced no effect.  I had a full dropper the prior use, and then empty.  Strange.

At a loss as to how to demo this light but quite noticeably blue serum, I vaguely recalled that I had taken photos of drops of it in some pooled LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence, so after scrolling back through 4 months worth of photos on my camera, I found it!

Sadly the picture quality is lacking (and hence why I had forgotten about it) but it should give you some idea of the blueness:

Tiny drops of blue serum in the colourless LJH essence.
I'm not sure the blueness is adding much; unless one of the extracts is naturally blue (and I highly doubt that- Hanbang fermented filtrates tend to be, well, brown) it's just adding a dye to a product that really doesn't need any extra skincaretainment, because the bottle is doing more than enough:

I could photograph this gorgeous creature all day long.  Oh wait, I did!
So here's my final thoughts: this is a hydrating serum that worked as a humectant step in my skincare routine, but was otherwise unremarkable.  What was remarkable, and why I emptied it (a feat for any skincare blogger with a long to-try list), was that the bottle made it so entertaining to use that I actually looked forward to doing my routine, just so I would have an excuse to use it.

I'll call that a win!

All the best,

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.


  1. That bottle is seriously the bee's knees, much skincaretainment. I'd repurpose that FOREVER. Or at least until it falls apart/something better comes along. Great review!

    1. I plan on repurposing it until I can't repurpose it any longer! \O/

  2. I think I would buy just for the bottle!

  3. Wow the bottle is so pretty I would totally buy it for the packaging alone, really I understand you :) to bad that it doesn't contain any scientifically backed up ingredients, I would at least expect a few

    1. Hi Maya,

      I know right? Ah well, at least it's pretty, and it was pleasant to use.

  4. Hi, Do you know if this item has been discontinue? I purchased a sample of it and I like the way it calmed my skin. I can't seems to find a full size bottle of it. Thanks.