It’s no secret that Korea and Japan are the leading pioneers of the skincare world. Inspired by centuries-old techniques, practices, and ingredients, as well as new, innovative approaches, both countries offer the best in skin maintenance.
Two luxury brands that have amassed worldwide loyalty, Sulwhasoo and SK-II, are at the top for many a reason. But if we were to compare some of their most popular products side by side, who would come out on top?
We’ve selected a cleanser, serum, and cream from both brands for this beauty battle royale. Time to choose your fighters.
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Sulwhasoo vs SK-II
Before we take the deep plunge for each product, we wanted to note that Sulwhasoo’s items are suitable for all skin types, while SK-II’s are not. Please use discretion before committing one way or another.
First thing’s first: cleansers. Sulwhasoo’s Gentle Cleansing Foam is a mild formula that gently clarifies the skin of impurities and debris without stripping the skin of too much moisture. (96% of users in a clinical trial agreed the cleanser is mild, to boot.)
They credit their Hydra Capture Complex—which is made with morus alba leaf and dioscorea japonica root—for maintaining a healthy skin barrier during and after washing. SK-II’s Facial Treatment Cleanser – Daily Foaming Wash is another gentle foaming cleanser that aims to achieve the same outcome as Sulwhasoo’s.
In contrast, their cleanser is created with PITERA, their exclusive natural yeast-derived ingredient made from a unique fermentation process. This works to gently exfoliate without overly drying the dermis.
Now, on to step two products. Sulwhasoo’s First Care Activating Serum is made with their JAUM Activator golden ratio formula, which their site and product label didn’t exactly elaborate on. Upon looking at the ingredient list, though, we did find some familiar faces, such as walnut seed extract, cacao extract, and honey.
Additionally, there were other notable components, like various root extracts, fruit extracts, and flower extracts. According to a clinical study of 32 women (ages 35 to 56), their serum enhanced the look of skin radiance, increased hydration, and improved the look of skin translucency over eight weeks of use.
On the other hand, SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence is made with their PITERA ingredient, like their face wash. With prolonged use, you can expect a more even skin tone and texture, diminishment of dark spots and fine lines, and a more glowy appearance.
Lastly, in the battle of both trios, is moisturizing creams. As the product name suggests, Sulwhasoo’s Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream EX is created with Ginseng. This anti-aging agent improves skin’s resilience for firmer, more rejuvenated skin. Not to mention, it improves elasticity and improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The SkinPower Cream from SK-II is made with PITERA and their InfinitPower Techonology (which they seemingly withheld details about) to restore the suppleness of youthful skin.
Given that both are luxury brands, you can expect the price tags and reviews to reflect that. Sulwhasoo’s serum is $89 for 2.02oz with a 4.8-star rating; the cleansing foam is $38 6.76oz with a 4.8-star rating; and the renewing cream is $260 for 2.02oz with a 4.7-star rating. SK-II’s essence is $130 for a 2.5oz bottle (but they also have a 5.4oz and 11oz option) with a 4.4-star rating; the foaming wash is $75 for 3.6oz with a 4.2-star rating; and the cream is $235 for a 2.7oz jar with a 4.2-star rating.
So, Sulwhasoo and SK-II have very different approaches when it comes to formulation. While SK-II’s ratings are a bit lower, they remain neck and neck. Perhaps discussing the brands on a larger scale will shed some more light.
In terms of business ethics, CrueltyFreeKitty.com claims that Sulwhasoo is not cruelty-free and isn’t 100% vegan. Their parent company, AmorePacific, has committed to pursuing more sustainable practices. They aim to achieve carbon neutrality and zero waste worldwide and reduce the use of plastics to create 100% reusable, recyclable, and compostable packaging materials by 2030.
According to Cruelty-Free Kitty, SK-II is not cruelty-free but they do have select vegan products. Further, ChinaDaily.com claims that, as of late 2020, SK-II began using bamboo material-based packaging. The more granular statistics surrounding their packaging are unclear, but this sounds like a step in the right direction.
While we’re not thrilled that both brands allegedly test on animals, at least Sulwhasoo is attempting to move the needle forward with their sustainability efforts. That said, it appears we have a winner.