Sulwhasoo Herbal Soap Review: The Day I Hanbanged Too Hard

It's finally happened.  I've always been one of those reckless, flirt-with-danger, no-such-thing-as-too-hanbang, hanbang-me-harder types.  There are so many proverbs and fables that warn of this foolhardy approach, but I didn't pay any attention, seeking greater hanbang highs with every product, until it all culminated in traumatizing regret.  I'm talking about the venus flytrap of Hanbang products, the Sulwhasoo Herbal Soap set.  Don't be fooled by it's comely appearance; this product has no concept of boundary limits or safewords.

Sulwhasoo Herbal Soap Review
It looks so pretty, so enticing, so ... innocent.
It was only a matter of time before it happened, to be honest.  My endless thirst toward all things Hanbang is even something I'm known for; the Hanbang tag on my blog is a deep, deep rabbit hole ... the kind that smells of rich earth and ginseng.  Hanbang (한방) is traditional Korean herbal medicine, and has its roots in TCM (traditional Chinese herbal medicine) but with its own local herbs and fermentation-heavy preparation methods.  Many people aren't into the intensely herbal scents of Hanbang, but dried herbs, teas, and tinctures were all forms of torture commonplace during my childhood and I find the herbal notes in Hanbang products an irresistible alternative to the sickly-sweet synthetic florals that pervade most K-Beauty products I've tried.

In this post:

  • Regrets
Also includes: product details & ingredients, but mostly regrets.  Also, this review is going to be firmly NSFW so if you're unamused by concepts like safewords being used in a humorous context, turn away, this is not the review you are looking for.

Regrets: a story in "trapped in my bathroom" texts

As I wrote this review, I struggled to properly convey the horror that grew as I progressed from the unwrapping stage "Hmm, it smells ginseng-y, I like it, let's do this" to fully mired in the campaign of terror this product unleashed upon my unsuspecting self once I exposed it to water.

I finally realized that I should just retell the story exactly as it unfolded, so here's a recap of the increasingly panicked texts I sent to my fellow members of The Snailcast (which, by the way, was recently featured as one of the 5 best beauty podcasts on racked, how exciting is that?!) from my bathtub, like live-tweeting a disaster in progress.

Me (shortly after cracking it open and lathering it up, which unleashed the olfactory reign of terror into my tiny bathroom):
OMG do not get this soap 
The ginseng part is good but it also has that old lady floral so it is literally a Korean version of old lady scent 
So it smells like you hugged your grandmother after she's been gardening with   echinacea 
I need a safe word this was not part of the hanbang fantasy 
But yeah there is a level of hanbang that is too hanbang even for me TIL
Snailcasters: is it just ginseng-y?  Oh no.  If only.

Me (after frantically attempting to use the Skylake hanbang shampoo to cut the putrid reek rising from my skin):
It literally smells like Echinacea and dying old lady
I think the texture is nice
But I'm not really sure because the hanbang keeps punching me in the face so hard that I can't tell if there's anything else going on
It's like I'm stuck in a loop of that kimchi slap gif
image from
Me (after realizing there is no escaping the stench, which has permeated into my very pores):
Dear holy god who approved this smell
This is like your man unexpectedly telling you that he's always had this fantasy of you dressing up like a caterpillar
And you're like what the hell, a cute animal maybe I could understand but not even that just extra level WTF
Save meeee
I feel like this soap is turning into an exercise on the finer degrees of consent
Holy Snails: Noncon soap. omg
Yes seriously it's like I consented to something which was not this
Like I agreed to, you know, possibly some rough sex and mild degradation talk
And this is turning into ball gags, tasers, and blood play
The Snailcasters tried to be sympathetic, but at this point they were just replying in coffin and/or tears  of laughter emojis, so I was all alone, trapped in my bathroom with a body product with no sense of boundaries.  Wait, is it a body product ... do people actually use this on their face?!

Nooooo, not the face!  image from
When I finally escaped my bathroom and was huddling at my computer, shell shocked and traumatized, I struggled to answer their questions about what had happened what exactly it smelled like:
I am pretty sure I was forced to drink herbal tinctures as a child that smelled like this
This Sulwhasoo makes me feel like I need a restraining order
And I feel a new awareness of fear when contemplating unknown hanbang things
(this is actually srs)
It's like your old lady perfume wearing grandma spent the whole day mincing echinacea plants by hand and then smearing herself with it
If it was just ginseng I would be ok but this is like being brined in a vat of echinacea
Ughgjglkdnldgkfjh.  Just re-reading it is giving me flashbacks to being forced to drink echinacea tinctures and teas as a child.  I'm now eyeing my untried Hanbang products with distrust and suspicion, wondering if their pretty glass jars and gilded lids mask a secret agenda of evil.

Sulwhasoo Herbal Soap Review
The rest of my Sulwhasoo haul from Hyundai Mall

Product details

Full product name: Sulwhasoo Herbal Soap
Purpose: To teach innocent Hanbang fans a harsh lesson about blindly trusting a pretty face.
Scent: I need an adult.  Preferably a therapist if possible.
Texture: From re-reading my texts, apparently it was nice.  I've blocked as much of that night out as I can, so I'm fuzzy on that detail.
Quantity: Two 100g bars, just in case you want to inflict it onto someone else after you survive your own encounter with it.
pH result: I have no idea, and frankly I don't give a damn-- there is no way on this earth I am exposing that monster to water again, it's like a Gremlin.  Do not unleash the hellish beast.  Either way, bar soaps are almost always high pH and I purchased this as a body soap.  Perhaps I could repurpose it to attract carrion birds.
Rating:  HAH!
Where to get it: No.  I bought this directly from Hyundai Mall's Korean site, but it's available in a few places, which I will not be linking as I refuse to be complicit in enabling this savagery to continue.  Not today, satan.
Repurchase:  Not even as a gag gift; I would not wish this stench on my worst enemy.  If it was just echinacea, I could have handled it, but this was like someone tried to hide the smell of their dead grandmother by dousing her decomposing body in every stale perfume she owned, and then threw her onto a medicinal herb garden's compost heap.


Greater love hath no blogger than she who sticks her face inches (aka reading distance) from a tiny booklet that has been marinating this box of nasal death until the very paper itself smells like ... actually I don't want to talk about this anymore.  I need to move on with my life and forget that this ever happened, or I'll never be able to Hanbang in happiness again.

Here's the ingredients, transcribed off the paper, and entered into Cosdna for you.  You're welcome.


Ok, I'm out.  I need a drink, a Xanax, or some therapy.  Possibly all three.

Have you ever had a product that was just way too much of an otherwise good thing?  Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know!

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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. WOW, one of your best entertaining posts yet !!!
    I'm laughing and crying in the office now, making chocking sounds from my laptop :)

    thanks for taking one for the team :)

    1. If tears are going to be shed over this abomination, better that they be tears of laughter than tears of regret if someone bought it! ;)

  2. I totally lost it at "hanbang-me-harder" ahahahahhaha!!!!

    1. I learned my lesson, to be sure! I think if it was just hanbang and not decomposing granny, I could have handled it. D:

  3. So, you wouldn't recommend it then??????? ;0)

    1. That depends on what sort of diabolical plan for revenge you are planning, I guess? :P

  4. Are you and Fiddy in a contest to see who can write the most entertaining negative review? Is Chel going to join in? Because this is hilarious.

    1. I can't even be mad for them laughing at my text updates, because let's face it, if it was happening to them, I would have lost my ish too.

  5. I love your description, it's certainly...different... from most other soap reviews! I have a number of Korean bars of soap in my cupboard, all matching your description perfectly. I picked up 7 bars of ginseng soap in North Korea, and I'm hoping that the 'grandma perfume herb compost' scent trend hasn't made its way north of the border!

    1. If it was just herbal I'd be down, but the other things going on just made it intolerable, aaaugh!

    2. ALL of my South Korean soaps smell like they could fit the description fermenting grandma perfume. I don't know, is this a new trend or something?

    3. "I use your grandma's soap / I smell incredible / I had to lose my nose / From the hanbang in my soap"

  6. hahaha omg, this is hilarous xD I'm bursting into laughter so hard >_<
    I get it...stay away from this soap, unless you're planning to gift to your evil inlaw

  7. As one exposed to vile herbal tinctures that make your very spine curl up and die I shudder with you and for you.
    Someone had to dream up this concoction I imagine they probably used to to strip wallpaper and thought hmmm this would be a great body soap-erm NO

    1. I have no idea what they were thinking. Who smells rancid perfume and thinks "Ahhh, just add fermenting echinacea and it will be perfect!" X_X

  8. I WANT THIS. It seems like the kind of smell that makes you think stuff is working, you know? Which I suspect is about 70% of how Chinese medicine/traditional treatments work (I base this prejudice on having sniffed a tea one time - when a friend from Singapore had bought some sort of tea concoction from the Chinese apothecary to help with some sort of "women's problems". When she read the ingredient list bat guano (srsly) was somewhere down at the bottom. While we can all agree that the percentage of bat guano present in your tea will make a difference to taste and I presume texture, there probably isn't a cut off point where we decide that any advertised presence of bat guano is ok? My friend decided it probably wasn't halal to drink bat poo and quietly got rid of the tea). I'd fall for that as long as it's just smell.

    1. Sadly, it wasn't just the Hanbang that did me, it was the overpowering rancid old lady perfume + tincture smell. LOL!

  9. About 2 years ago, I bought a soap from Anthropology that smelled like a lovely bouquet in the wrapping. When I set it out on my bathroom counter it was like getting sprayed with old lady perfume. I ended up slicing off a smaller bit and using it that way so it wouldn't be so overwhelming.

  10. When I saw your post title, I was telling myself : 'okay this is the time. Cat will raved in and finally will buy this soap!'

    Instead I laughed off and save my wallet. Thank you! And funny post Btw.

  11. I feel terrible that this soap inflicted itself on you, but this post was HILARIOUS. I lost it at the kimchi slap gif!

    1. I am glad that you were entertained by my pain! LOL! Seriously though, I absolutely love that kimchi slap gif. LOVE. I want to use it every possible opportunity that I can.

  12. Ha ha ... Can't stop laughing .. Soap that's smells like old lady scent .. Omg .. I can't even imagine .. Hope you are feeling better :p

    1. It's part of my duty as a blogger to inflict these things upon myself, so that you don't have to. XD

  13. Is it weird that I really want to buy this now XD (OK yes it is). Saw it on global interpark with free international shipping (just FYI, because I know your readers are desperate to try it now)

    1. Let us not speak of this atrocity. (that's totally where I bought it from.)

  14. I am as dead as the echinacea riddled corpse that soap smells like after reading this.

    As a dedicated perfumista, I can tolerate "old lady perfumes" like classic orientals and chyrpes better than most, but this sh*t sounds next level.

    Basically, you just used the hangbang soap version of Sex Panther, didn't you?

    1. Watch out, if you are smelling like that, you may find yourself kidnapped and rendered into soap, Fight Club Style. If it was just the old lady scent, I might have been able to handle it, but the Echinacea and old lady was just too much for me.

  15. I am currently using this soap as well. I recall when I measured the ph of the soap, its about 7-8, that's the concern for me, together with the fact that it's a little drying on my face after using, i havnt been using it that often.

    But the smell, well..I'm chinese and I am used to all the funny herbal smell. In fact I would say I enjoy the smell actually, and definitely more than the effect of the soap. personally to me, i think that history of whoo products have a worse "old korean lady" powdery smell, I gave away my history of whoo hand cream because I cannot stand smelling it on myself.

    anyway, thanks for the entertaining review and ingredients list!

    1. Man, if that old lady smell was something that I was into, the whole Hanbang world would be my oyster! I am so jealous!

  16. I was just messing around in the US Sulwhasoo site and saw this set on sale for $40 with 0 reviews. All I could think about was this review and how awful you said it was. Apparently they have 1 left.

  17. I have been using this soap for over a year. I adore it. I love the smell... That said, I am a Chinese medicine herbalist and can handle the nastiest tasting herbs with glee.

    It's been fantastic as a facial cleanser and as a body soap. Highly recommend. I prefer it to the Sulwhasoo foaming cleanser.