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Oriental Route to Silky Hair

2008/09/04 | Permalink | Source

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Medicinal Herb Shampoos, Traditional Brushes Are on the Rise

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

Women's ― and men's these days ― desire for lustrous locks seems to be timeless, whether it be modern Koreans wanting Jun Ji-hyun's signature long, wavy hair in Elastine shampoo ads or Joseon (1392-1910) women swearing by sweet flag-infused water.

Fast on the rise are premium hair products featuring "hanbang" or oriental medicine herbs. The old becomes new, as traditional remedies take the average shampoo to a new level. It's the birth of a super shampoo fueled by the national hype on "well-being" or organic lifestyle. Natural medicinal ingredients promise both silkiness and healthiness.

Daenggimeori shampoo (referring to long braids worn by Joseon girls) has established a reputation and is selling furiously in home shopping and online malls. Originally produced for local beauty salons in a small town in South Chungcheong Province, Daenggimeori was introduced nationwide via CJ Home Shopping (Open the link). It continues to rank as the number one hit item at the franchise since 2005. The shampoo is made with hanbang medicine ingredients such as ginseng and green tea that have been boiled for 72 hours, and users have posted comments that it helps thicken and add volume to thin, limp hair and strengthen the roots.

"Two years ago, premium shampoos only took up about 1 percent of the shampoo market, but this year they account for 10 percent", said Kim Joo-young from LG Household & Health Care. "The range of products also became more diverse ― dandruff care, scalp care, hair loss care".

Hanbang answer the woes of many young urbanites suffering from hair loss. The shampoos straddle the functional role of conventional medicated shampoos, and the natural appeal of organic brands like Aveda while also promising healthy shine like Pantene Pro-V.

Of course good things, or the promise of good things, come with a price. While you can get a bottle of shampoo for around 5,000 won, hanbang products range from 10,000 won to 30,000 won for a 500-milileter bottle.

"Regular medicated shampoos are very expensive and don't always give drastic results. Hanbang shampoos don't patch up bald spots either but they are less expensive and nourishing", said Koo Hak-hyun, brand manager for hanbang shampoo Ryoe. Launched by major cosmetics company Amore Pacific, Ryoe comes in three lines: "hambitmo" in red bottles for damaged hair; "cheongamo" in green and blue for dry and oily scalps, respectively; and "heukunmo" or brown for hair loss. Ingredients range from honey to black bean and foxglove.

"Maintaining a healthy scalp is integral to healthy hair", Guy, a hair stylist at Kim Chung-kyung hair salon, told The Korea Times. "If you don't take good care of your scalp, dead skin and sebum block the pores and your hair becomes thin and weak. In worse cases, you can get bald spots because the pores get completely covered", he said. Those with dry scalps should watch out for dead skin while oily heads should pay heed to sebum. But one can have an oily scalp and dry locks, so in such cases, Guy advised using shampoo for oily hair and a minimum of rich conditioner on just two to three inches of the hair ends.

The luxurious packaging adds to the appeal. Designer Jung Ku-ho, head of KUHO couture house who designed exquisite looks for the period movie "Hwang Jin Yi " starring Song Hye-kyo, was in charge of crafting Ryoe's image. Popular actress Yoon Eun-hye wears a modernized hanbok (traditional dress) and hair accessories in the advertising campaign. The shampoo itself comes in a sleek bottle with oriental emblems, also designed by Jung.

"The luxurious image appeals a lot to the `artigen"', said Koo. "Artigen" refers to today's "artistic generation" for whom design matters as much as function.

Traditional Brushes

Hair is always falling out for new hair to grow, but here are those who fear showering or combing out tangles due to excessive hair loss. Some are turning to traditional Korean wooden brushes. Using these half-moon shaped combs is said to be effective in making way for new locks. They stimulate and massage the scalp and strengthen the hair roots, eliminate dead skin, sebum and other pollutants and also facilitate blood circulation.

They are made from natural wood like Jujube trees, and the hand crafted ones have rounded edges. These traditional brushes can be found in Insa-dong or at souvenir shops of Buddhist temples. They can also be purchased online at This is the largest online shopping mall for traditional brushes made of natural materials, including even silver.

To use the comb, instead of combing down from the crown of your head, tilt your neck down and brush toward the crown from above your ears. Repeat on all sides, from your forehead to the crown and the neck to the crown. Making about 50 to 100 strokes for about five minutes, two to three times per day is advised. It is most effective right before you wash your hair, while combing your hair while wet can damage your mane.
Actress Yoon Eun-hye, right, models for Amore Pacific's shampoo Ryoe, which contains (from top left) medicinal herb foxglove, green tea leaves, mung beans and ginseng. / Korea Times File, Amore Pacific

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