There has been a mega-hit ingredient in the Korean beauty market since Spring 2018. It is mugwort, a.k.a., Artemisia. Starting from a local clothing/beauty brand called Vely Vely, multiple brands launched mugwort essence products in the market. There has been a huge hype around them and so many reviews are telling that these actually work for redness and soothing. Do they actually work and what are some products that would worth trying?
What is mugwort?
I believe Mugwort might not sound familiar if you are from the Western culture, but it is quite common in East Asian countries including Korea as a food ingredient. I grew up eating mugwort rice cake (Ssuk Ddeok) as a snack which is so yum with a very unique, somewhat minty aroma. It is known to contain rich Vitamin A and C and also to have a warming effect. One of the massage shops that I used to go to in Seoul used mugwort for steaming therapy sessions to improve circulation and health of women with cold hands and feet. It is also known for its power to detoxify and strengthen immunity.
Mugwort essence benefit: Is Mugwort essence good for acne?
Then is it also good for the skin? Reading the product detail pages and reviews of the major mugwort products, it seems to have two major effects: soothing and moisturizing. Especially a lot of the reviews were saying that the product works for redness. Some reviews were even saying that it was effective in acne. However, most of the brands that I researched were not officially saying about the effectiveness for acne.
In short, when you have or recently suffer from sensitive skin, mugwort essence would be a good option to calm your skin. It “might” work for acne but if your primary goal is to improve acne, mugwort essence might not be your top problem solver.
How to best use Mugwort Essence?
Since most of the products (except for IsnTree’s or BringGreen’s) are watery and light-weight, you can simply use them as toners by soaking a cotton pad and wipe your face. Or just tab your face with several drops of the product.
Another way is to use it for a “toner mask pack”. Meaning you soak several cotton pads all the way with these products, and put them on your face for 10~15 minutes.
Last but not least, you can use it as a mist by putting the product in a spray bottle. You can spray it to your face whenever you feel your skin is irritated.
Mugwort essence ingredients
Korean mugwort essence products became viral not only because of the ingredient’s soothing effect but also because most of them have a very simple ingredient list: 100% mugwort (artemisia) extract. It means that mugwort is the only active ingredient in the product. If you have very sensitive skin and want to soothe your skin, you might prefer a product that is clean and simple. This might be another reason why the mugwort essence really took off.
One thing you should note is that 100% mugwort extract doesn’t mean the product consists of mugwort itself entirely. It means that the only(100%) ‘active’ ingredient is mugwort and might include other ingredients that really do nothing effective such as water or preservatives (e.g., butylene glycol). So even with this simple, clean ingredient list, one thing you would never know is how much of the mugwort itself is contained in a product. It could be 1% mugwort extract + 99% water or 4% mugwort extract + 96% water. Both of them will be shown as “100% mugwort extract” on the ingredient list.
How to Choose the Best Mugwort Essence for You?
It was the question for myself as I was looking for the right product for myself – it is my first time trying a mugwort essence. As I was doing more research, I became more confused. Brands and blog posts/YouTube videos were saying that as the ingredient lists are almost the same as “100% mugwort extract” across the brands, the only difference/standard should be an origin of mugwort and method of extraction.
Origin/Type of Mugwort
However, I only found out there is only one origin of product of the 5 brands/products that I researched: Ganghwa Island. Ganghwa Island is originally famous for harvesting high-quality mugwort with an ample amount of sunshine, sea breeze.
Regarding the type of mugwort/artemisia, three different types are being used across the brands – Artemisia Argyi Leaf, Artemisia Princeps, and Artemisia Annua. As a food, the benefits of the three types are known to be different. However, for the skincare, I could not find any data showing the different benefits of each type. Since most of the brands/products are claiming similar benefits – soothing and moisturizing – I wouldn’t worry too much about the types for now.
Since most of the mugwort essence’s ingredient list is simple enough to have only one active ingredient mugwort, no difficult chemistry or ingredient mix is necessary. I believe that is why the brands emphasize the importance of the extraction method. However, it didn’t work as a valid criterion for as well.
Although there were differences between the extraction methods – from boiling to non-boiling (only using pressure) and the boiling temperature when it’s within the boiling method – I just can’t tell which method is better over another. I am mere a skincare lover not an expert in the extraction and each brand is claiming that the method that it is taking is the best!
Therefore, I could only rely on a very basic and intuitive component of a product: texture and price. Although most of the products have very similar texture (watery, liquid), some brands/products have more oily and rich texture (e.g., Missha and IsnTree). Your preference on light or rich texture could be a great start in choosing a product.
Another standard could be a price. Compared to other Korean essences/ampoules, and considering most of the products are very lightweight, watery almost closer to toner (and many of their names are actually “essence toner”), mugwort essences are considered as pricy in Korea. For example, one of the most famous products, Time Revolution Artemisia Treatment Essence from Missha is $55 (*official retail price at Missha US). However, other brands provide less pricy options in the $30~$40. Details on the products will follow shortly.
In short, across all the mugwort essence products, there is no recognizable difference in the ingredient list, the origin of the ingredient, and the extraction method. Therefore, I suggest choosing a product based on texture or price if it’s your first purchase of a mugwort essence. If you enjoyed the product, then you could try out different brands from the second bottle to find out which one fits the best for you – this way, you might be able to find out what kind of extraction method works best for you and the best level/concentration of mugwort for you.
Best Mugwort Essence – Watery/Toner Type
Hanyul Artemisia Miracle Relief Essence
Hanyul, one of the brands of K-Beauty behemoth Amorepacific, has actually had the mugwort product line since 2015 but with this new megatrend, launched Artemisia Miracle Relief Essence in 2018. It boils the mugwort that was fermented for three years at 80~95 celsius for 24 hours for extraction. It has a light-weight, watery texture. I read a number of reviews saying that it helps to enhance redness so if you have this issue, highly recommend trying out this product. Shop now at Stylevana.
Tony Moly From Ganghwa Clear Mugwort First Essence
Another product with a light-weight, watery texture is Tony Moly’s From Ganghwa Clear Mugwort First Essence. Its extraction process is quite similar to Hanyul’s. It boils the mugwort that was fermented for three years at 60~80 celsius (slightly lower temperature than Hanyul) for extraction. Available at YesStyle.
I’m From Mugwort Essence
I’m From Mugwort Essence also has a very light, watery texture almost like water. It uses the “Slow Release Extraction” method to extract to boil Artemisia Princeps at low temperatures for 24 hours. It is a certified vegan product from The Vegan Society. Available at YesStyle.
Best Mugwort Essence – Richer Type
Missha Time Revolution Artemisia Treatment Essence
Albeit the product is still lightweight, a lot of the reviews say that Missha’s Time Revolution Artemisia Treatment Essence is slightly oily and feels richer than the other mugwort essences. It was one of the frontiers of the world of mugwort essence and went viral (Korean beauty influencer Holy featured this item in her videos) at its launch stage to sell 200k bottles in just 5 months. Missha claims to only use the mugworts harvested in September when the nutrition is the fullest. It also emphasizes its effective extraction method – double fermented in the traditional pot, then extracted in low-temperature with high-pressure. Shop now at YesStyle.
* Different Ingredient List US vs Korea
One thing to note is that the ingredient list of the product selling in the US – Water, Dipropylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Propanediol, Artemisia Annua Extract – is slightly different than the one selling in South Korea – Artemisia Annua Extract. The additional ingredients added to the Artemisia Annua Extract in the US product are all solvents and considered safe according to EWG Skin Deep. I wouldn’t worry about it too much but I inquired about this to Missha US and sharing their response as below.
“Both products are essentially same product but there is slight difference in ingredients due to 2 countries have different requirement for ingredients and also items that are being shipped to the US is made later than the products that are sold in Korea, therefore, they might add different ingredients to make the product itself better but not too different enough to make the product different item or next generation of the product that is sold in Korea.”
IsnTree Spot Saver Mugwort Ampoule
IsnTree’s Spot Saver Mugwort Ampoule is kind of an outlier in the mugwort essence group since its ingredient list has multiple ingredients besides the mugwort extract. It consists of 85% Artemisia Princeps Extract, and other beneficial ingredients such as Piper Methysticum Leaf (for skin soothing) and Panthenol (for moisturizing). It uses “Time Drop” technology for mugwort extract meaning not using heat at all. It also has a very attractive price point so I actually chose this one for my first experience in Mugwort product – I will write a review post soon to share my experience! Check it out at Olive Young. Available in value set.