The History of Whoo – Gongjinhyang Seol line
The History of Whoo’s Gongjinhyang Seol (공진향:설) is a brightening skincare line developed to restore skin’s natural radiance by reducing both visible dark spots (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma and sun damage) and latent hyperpigmentation. The line offers an intensive skin brightening treatment and enhanced skin immunity, with fresh, lightweight formulas.
Disclaimer: I personally translated the majority of facts and contents in this article from original Korean sources, so I kindly ask you to credit my work if you’re planning to use any of the information included in this guide.
Many concepts mentioned in this guide are based on Oriental Medicine principles, for a better understanding please refer to the introduction to Traditional Korean Medicine on this website. It’s important to stress out that there is no correspondence between Oriental Medicine organs and Western anatomy so capitalised names in this article shouldn’t be interpreted in the Western medical sense.
⬥ Recommended for
- Hyperpigmentation (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma and age spots)
- Dull and tired-looking skin
- First signs of aging
- Combination and mild dry skin
In other words, this means that skin pigmentation has both internal causes (weakened immunity) and external causes (Pathological Wind). “Gongjinhyang Seol” was created to address both internal and external causes of skin pigmentation.
On an external level, the products work to brighten superficial dark spots triggered by environmental aggressors like UV rays and air pollution.
Internally, the line contains ingredients that improve skin’s immunity by rebalancing the function of the Five Organs (오장, 五臟), a delicate harmony that deteriorates with age, and relieve mental stress, which is considered the leading cause of Qi flow stagnation9.
This combined approach promises to even out skin tone and boost skin’s immunity to prevent a new invasion of Pathological Wind, and in turn future hyperpigmentation.
To understand the effects of Pathological Wind, first it’s important to understand the meaning of the “6 Pernicious Influences“.
In Oriental Medicine, the theory of 5 Periods and 6 Qi (오운육기, 五運六気) describes the influence of seasonal and climatic changes on the health of human beings. According to the “Advanced Textbook of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology”:
Wind, cold, summer-heat, damp, dryness, and fire are the six climatic factors which correspond to normal seasonal changes. Normally, they are known as the “Six Qi.” (…). The Six Qi normally will not cause diseases. However, if and when the Six Qi become abnormal or excessive, as happens in abrupt changes in environmental conditions, and if the body’s resistance is too weak to adapt to these variations, the Six Qi may become the six excesses: pathogenic factors that cause diseases6.Advanced Textbook of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology
When body’s immunity is weakened or compromised, the 6 environmental forces called 6 Qi become injurious by invading the body and they are traditionally referred to as “6 Pernicious Influences” or “6 Evils” in Oriental Medicine.
In relation to the skin aging process, the 6 Evils manifest through these symptoms:
- Fire (火) – Decrease in elasticity
- Damp (湿) – Wrinkles
- Heat (暑) – Red flushes
- Dryness (燥) – Extreme dryness
- Cold (寒) – Body Fluids deficiency (t/n In Oriental Medicine, “Body Fluids” are one of the 5 Vital Substances and are responsible for providing moisture and nourishment to the tissues)
- Wind (风) – Tight-feeling skin. Pigmentation disorders (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma)
Wind is the leading pathogen among the 6 Evils. While the other 5 Evils are seasonal, wind exists all year round and causes disease whenever the defensive ability of the body declines7.
In particular, all products in the Gongjinhyang Seol line contain four precious herbal complexes for a complete brightening and reinvigorating treatment:
- Jinjusansam™ (진주산삼, 珍珠山蔘) – reduces existing pigmentation, boosts radiance and promotes synthesis of collagen
- Chilhyangpalbaeksan (칠향팔백산, 七香八白散) – reduces existing pigmentation, rebalances energy flow, improves blood circulation and relieves mental stress for enhanced skin immunity.
- Chrysanthemum Indicum Water (감국수, 甘菊水) – prevents moisture loss and inhibits the formation of new hyperpigmentation.
- Seolgamsan (설감산, 雪甘散) – nourishes skin and replenishes vital energy.
⬥ Jinjusansam™ (진주산삼, 珍珠山蔘)
Jinjusansam™ (진주산삼, 珍珠山蔘) is a proprietary herbal complex that combines the properties of Wild-Simulated Ginseng and Pearls.
Panax Ginseng is one of the most expensive Hanbang herbs. Ginseng is also known as “Shincho” (신초, 神草), meaning “God’s Herb”, and in Oriental Medicine it’s commonly used to replenish Qi (“tonify Qi”) across the Five Organs (오장, 五臟)3.
Wild Ginseng (Panax Ginseng Meyer cv. Silvatica) and Cultivated Ginseng present significant differences, in terms of market price, morphology and of general properties. In fact, Wild Ginseng was shown to contain at least 10 times the amount of active compounds of Cultivated Ginseng2. This enhanced effectiveness, along with its natural scarcity and difficult availability, make Wild Ginseng one of the most precious herbal remedies in Oriental Medicine.
Different morphological characteristics of Wild Ginseng (sx) and Cultivated Ginseng (dx). (source: YTN)
Due to the scarcity of the plant, many Wild Ginseng plants currently on the market are obtained through human intervention. This type of Wild Ginseng is called “Wild-Simulated Ginseng” and results from humans planting ginseng seeds in an environment where Wild Ginseng usually grows, allowing the plant to develop as naturally as possible.
Wild-Simulated Ginseng is known to contain more active ingredients than Cultivated Ginseng but not as much as real Wild Ginseng, and for this reason the market price of Wild-Simulated Ginseng is slightly more accessible4.
In many East Asian countries, Pearl Powder has been used for centuries as a beauty tonic to promote a brighter complexion. The Donguibogam (the most representative text of Traditional Korean Medicine) describes the benefits of Pearl Powder as follows:
When you mix pearl powder with milk and apply it, it removes dark spots and improves complexion by making skin tone more radiant.
LG Household & Health Care combined these two powerful ingredients in a herbal complex called: Jinjusansam. Jinjusansam is the core ingredient of Gongjinhyang Seol and works to reduce hyperpigmentation, boost skin radiance and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
The complex was developed following a modern reinterpretation of a traditional Oriental Medicine processing technology: Myeonghachobeop (명하초법, 明煆助法). The process consists of two steps:
- Myeonghabeop (명하법, 明煆法) – It’s a form of calcination where the ingredient is exposed to heat directly or indirectly (used a fireproof container). It’s used to facilitate pulverization and decoction because it helps remove water of crystallization, and it also helps to enhance the astringent properties of a remedy5 [T/N In Oriental Medicine “astringent” ingredients have the function of rebalancing Essence, Body Fluids and Qi]. In this case, the Wild-Simulated Ginseng is exposed to hot air to enhance its effectiveness.
- Chobeob (조법, 助法) – A processing method that consists of boosting the active components of an ingredient using a liquid adjuvant. In this case, the active ingredients of Pearl and Wild-Simulated Ginseng were extracted using rice vinegar.
⬥ Chilhyangpalbaeksan (칠향팔백산, 七香八白散)
Chilhyangpalbaeksan (칠향팔백산, 七香八白散) is a brightening herbal complex that helps maintain an even and radiant complexion by rebalancing the function of the Five Organs (오장, 五臟), as well as relieving mental stress.
Chilhyangpalbaeksan combines two traditional royal remedies: Chilhyang and Palbaeksan.
Chilhyang (칠향원, 七香国) consists of a brightening complex of 7 fragrant Oriental Medicine ingredients that are known to have mind clearing properties. Chilhyang is based on a modern scientific reinterpretation of two royal remedies: Chilhyangwon (칠향원, 七香圓) from the Korean medical text Donguibogam and Ohonchilhyangtang (오온칠향탕, 五糖七香湯), a beauty prescription reportedly used by Empress Zhao Feiyan, who was originally one of the “Four Great Beauties” of China10. The treatment was formulated as a AnshinHaeul (안신해울, 安神解鬱), a type of herbal tonic used in Oriental Medicine to treat symptoms of depression.
Chilhyang consists of: Saussurea Sostus + Clove + Indian Sandalwood + Nardostachys Chinensis + Clove Bark + Agarwood + Tangerine Peels.
Palbaeksan (팔백산, 八白散) is a skin brightening complex based on Geumgookgoongnyeo (금국궁녀팔백산, 金 宮女八白歡), a beauty formula commissioned by Emperor Taizu of Jin for the women at the royal court. The complex consists of 8 white-coloured Oriental Medicine ingredients that promise to leave skin clear and radiant like white jade. The complex was developed by the Whoo Oriental Medicine Skin Science Research Center to brighten dark spots, improve blood circulation, reduce blemishes, and make skin luminous and elastic. Palbaeksan was formulated as a Yoonboojoongbaek (윤부증백, 润肤增白), a topical treatment to brighten skin.
Palbaeksan consists of: Atractylodes Macrocephala Koidzumi Root + Bletilla Striata + Paeonia Lactiflora Root + White Ginseng + Tribulus Terrestris + Poria Cocos + Ginkgonis Semen + Ampelopsis Japonica (Thunb.) Makino Root.
⬥ Chrysanthemum Indicum Water (감국수, 菊花水)
In Traditional Oriental medicine, Chrysanthemum is a cold herb which helps dispel pathogenic heat, and in turn, improves eyesight and aids detoxification11. Chrysanthemum Indicum is native to China, where the flower is highly treasured for being associated with longevity and immortality12.
Tamura Yoshinobu, “The Chrysanthemum Boy of the Zhou Dynasty” (Shū no Kikujidō) (1729)
There are many Chinese legends that describe the exceptional properties of the flower, perhaps the most famous one being the story known as “The Chrysanthemum Boy of the Zhou Dynasty”.
According to this classic Chinese legend found in the Liexianzhuan (列仙傳), one day a favorite boy attendant of Emperor Mu of the Western Zhou dynasty, was exiled after he committed the offense of stepping over the emperor’s pillow. Pitying the boy, Emperor Mu secretly gave him a pillow on which he had inscribed two verses of the Lotus Sutra and taught the boy to recite these verses every morning and evening.
While living on a remote mountain, the boy copied the verses onto chrysanthemum leaves to remember them and later discovered that the dewdrops that gathered on the leaves worked as an elixir of immortality.
After some time, the boy changed his name to Peng Zu (彭祖) and became a legendary symbol for longevity in China, allegedly living for over 834 years13. Peng Zu is believed to have passed down his secret for eternal youth to Emperor Cao Pi of Wei (魏文帝), who later became known for his love for Chrysanthemum Wine14.
Chrysanthemum Indicum has been traditionally used as a skin brightening ingredient in many ancient remedies like IksoojiSeonhwan (익수지선환, 益壽地仙丸)15.
LG Household & Health Care studied the extensive medicinal properties of Chrysanthemum Indicum and developed an internationally patented skin brightening ingredient that evens complexion and fights the formation of hyperpigmentation. In particular, the ingredient helps prevent moisture loss and reduces hyperpigmentation (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma and age spots) by inhibiting melanosome transfer.
⬥ Seolgamsan (설감산, 雪甘散)
In Oriental Medicine, the nutrient content of the Flesh (기육, 肌肉) is said to directly affect skin tone and luminosity. For this reason, LG Household & Health Care created herbal complex Seolgamsan to provide nutrients to the skin and, in turn, promote a more radiant complexion.
Seolgamsan is a modern reinterpretation of a royal beauty treatment historically used by Yang Guifei of the Tang Dynasty. Known as one of the Four Beauties of ancient China, Yang Guifei was especially famous for her beautiful and jade-like fair skin16. Seolgamsan was formulated with her favourite herbal ingredients to supply nutrients to skin and replenish Qi (vital energy).
The complex was formulated as a Bobi-ikki (보비익기, 補脾益氣), a herbal tonic that invigorates the Spleen and replenishes Qi. In Oriental Medicine, Spleen is the organ that regulates the transport and metabolism of water and nutrients in the body, while Qi is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness.
In addition, Seolgamsan combines the properties of 5 sweet herbs. According to Oriental Medicine theory, herbs can have one or more flavours, based on their real mouth taste. These flavours are used to determine which action of effect a herb will have on the body. Sweet herbs in particular, are used to tonify (replenish Qi), moisten and harmonise.
Seolgamsan is composed of: Litchi Chinensis + Longan Arillus + Zizyphi Fructus + Polygonati Odorati Rhizoma + Dioscoreae Rhizoma.
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Balancer
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Emulsion
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Ampoule
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Ultimate Corrector
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Essence
Gongjinhyang Seol Brightening Peeling Gel
Gongjinhyang Seol Brightening Foam Cleanser
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Moisture Cream
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White BB Sun SPF45/PA+++
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Tone Up Sunscreen SPF50+/PA++++
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Tone Up Sun Cushion SPF50+/PA+++
Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Moisture Cushion Foundation SPF50+/PA+++
⬥ Recommended order of use
- Gongjinhyang Seol Brightening Foam Cleanser
- Gongjinhyang Seol Brightening Peeling Gel (1-2 times a week)
- Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Balancer
- Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Essence
- Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Ampoule
- Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Ultimate Corrector
- Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Emulsion
- Gongjinhyang Seol Radiant White Moisture Cream
⬥ International Retailers
Make sure to check out the Discount & Coupons page to access exclusive offers for major Korean skincare retailers.
⬥ Korean Retailers
1. 양해원. (2021). “[화장품 탐구] 화장품 원료로도 보석인 “진주.”” 매경헬스.
2. LG Household & Health Care. (2017). “1조 브랜드 행차요!“
3. Dharmananda, Subhuti. (2002). “The Nature of Ginseng.” Herbalgram (Number 54), the Journal of the American Botanical Council.
4. 대한민국 산림청. (2020). 임업 및 산촌 진흥촉진에 관한 법률, 제2조.
5. 홍익. (2021). “한의학 용어“.
6. State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. (1995). “Advanced Textbook on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology”. New World Press.
7. Chen, P. (1997). Concepts and Theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Beijing: Science Press.
8. LG생활건강. (2008) “흑화의 보이지 않은 그늘과 지친 정신까지 투명하게 다스리는 피부 미백 궁중 한방 처방, 공진향 : 설.” 뉴스와이어.
9. Kim, S. et al. (2020) “A Review on the Concept Establishment of Stagnation Syndrome,” Journal of Oriental Neuropsychiatry. 대한한방신경정신과학회, 31(2), pp. 121–133. doi: 10.7231/JON.2020.31.2.121
10. iNews. (2022) “Zhao Feiyan was originally one of the “Four Great Beauties in Ancient Times”, but why was it replaced by Diao Chan later?“
11. Shahrajabian, M. Hesam & Sun, Wenli & Zandi, Peiman & Cheng, Qi. (2019). A Review Of Chrysanthemum, The Eastern Queen In Traditional Chinese Medicine With Healing Power In Modern Pharmaceutical Sciences. Applied Ecology and Environmental Research. 17. 13355-13369. 10.15666/aeer/1706_1335513369.
12. Welch P. (2013). Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery. Tuttle Publishing.
13. Jeong Sook Ei;Keum Kyung Soo. (2004). Study on the Food Therapy for the Aged as Discussed in 『천금방』, Journal of Physiology & Pathology in Korean Medicine
14. Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. (2010). “Origin of the Double Ninth Festival” China Culture, Chinadaily.cn.
15. Gayoung Cho, et al. (2010). “Identification of candidate medicinal herbs for skincare via data mining of the classic Donguibogam text on Korean medicine”. Integrative Medicine Research, Volume 9, Issue 4,
16. Cho Kyo. (2012). “The Search for the Beautiful Woman: A Cultural History of Japanese and Chinese Beauty”. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Sources: LG Household & Health Care (unless otherwise stated)
Translation: © 2022 Odile Monod
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The History of Whoo: The Ultimate Guide - The Monodist by Odile Monod