Does Ginseng Actually Brighten Skin
Way before kale was cool, ginseng was the queen bee of superfoods. Used since the ancient times of Chinese medicine, this magical herb has outlasted the rise and fall of today’s health trends. So if you've been searching for ways to achieve a sunny complexion, it’s no wonder you’re stumbling on ginseng-based products during your Google beauty search. And yes, there’s a reason why many skin-illuminating products contain this special herb. If you’re wondering whether ginseng can actually brighten skin, here’s everything you need to know about why this ingredient is special in skin care.
What is ginseng?
More than just a supplier of antioxidants, the unique quality about ginseng is that it’s an adaptogenic herb—meaning, it adapts to your needs! Used in Ancient Chinese medicine, this ingredient naturally responds to signals in your body to perform all kinds of duties like increasing energy, balancing blood sugar or lowering stress.
Also known as nature’s Viagra, you may have heard about the mojo-boosting powers of ginseng. Working to strengthen your immune system and promote cardiovascular health, it’s the ideal supplement for spiking your stamina, be it for workouts or (you know…).
But how do these benefits apply to skin care?
Can ginseng brighten your skin?
While there are tons of studies exploring the benefits of oral ginseng supplements, we don’t have as much information on its cosmetic applications. Many studies show that topical ginseng offers measurable anti-aging effects in the skin of hairless mice, but more research is needed on its role in human dermis samples.
So far, researchers are examining ginseng’s ability to deposit antioxidants, relieve inflammation and promote facial circulation. These stimulating effects help increase the oxygen levels in our skin, making our complexion look perkier and rosier, explains dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD, author of Simple Skin Beauty.
How ginseng works in skin care
Cosmetic science is still exploring the potential for ginseng to brighten the skin. Recent studies have shown that its skin-illuminating powers depend on how well it is balanced with complimentary ingredients by the cosmetic chemist.
This technology is called synergy. It refers to the way individual ingredients become exponentially stronger when combined together, as compared to their individual effects.
How ginseng works in synergy
A recent study shows that ginseng does have anti-aging effects when applied synergistically in combination with a supporting ingredient. Researchers monitored the results (on human skin samples) based on a mix of ginseng and Chinese hawthorn.
This herbal combo showed improvements in the following areas: collagen production, depth of fine lines, skin texture, moisture levels and even photodamage. As the researchers noted positive changes especially in signs of UV-related photo-aging, the study confirmed that topical ginseng can brighten the skin.
Choosing a ginseng-based skin treatment
Following this trend in synergistic skin care, scientists are becoming increasingly fascinated with the possibilities of ginseng as a skin-brightening agent.
To uncover these qualities further, the chemists at the EMK research lab in Beverly Hills developed the BLOOM TONER™. This super refreshing toner combines a breakthrough fusion of botanicals, antioxidants and amino acids—while working synergistically with ginseng to energize and lift the skin. But despite its amazing breakthrough, it didn’t go viral until Filipino influencer Carla Abellana posted about the EMK BLOOM TONER™ on Instagram.
Getting real about ginseng
Amid the countless ginseng-based skin products out there, it’s clear that the BLOOM TONER™ is not the only hype-worthy formula in the beauty community.
Both the GINZING™ Into The Glow Brightening Serum by Origins and the Cactus Flower & "Tibetan Ginseng" Hydrating Mist by Kiel’s are hot topics. But how do they all compare?
Let’s unpack their key nutrients and how well they work with ginseng.
Just as your morning coffee gives you that extra jolt of energy, these effects also apply to skin care. It’s why LA-based dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer recommends formulas containing caffeine-based agents to awaken your complexion.
The BLOOM TONER™ by EMK contains coffee to compliment the revitalizing qualities of ginseng. Similarly, the GINZING™ Into The Glow Brightening Serum contains coffee extracts, but is also loaded with multiple vitamin C sources, including orange peel, lemon and papaya. While this blend may sound effective, too many active ingredients can leave sensitive skin raw and red—not radiant!
That’s why Kiel’s takes a calmer approach, just like the BLOOM TONER™, by using fewer active ingredients to tone the skin.
The detox trend isn’t only about green smoothies. In skin care, the purifying powers of plant-based ingredients like algae or spearmint make the ideal partner to ginseng.
The Kiel’s Hydrating Mist contains indica, which offers calming, anti-inflammatory properties. However Cannabis-based products like indica are very new in the cosmetics world, so its effectiveness in skin care still needs more research.
Algae, on the other hand, is a much more veteran ingredient that pairs well with ginseng to brighten skin. It’s dense with vitamins A, C and K, making it a key player in both the GINZING™ Into The Glow Brightening Serum and the BLOOM TONER™.
The BLOOM TONER™ contains retinol, a vitamin A derivative that exfoliates the skin and helps produce new collagen for a more illuminated glow, explains dermatologist Dr. Jason Emer.
Comparatively, the GINZING™ Into The Glow Brightening Serum maxes out on active exfoliants, containing both AHAs and BHAs, plus orange peel oil among other citrus oils. Although theoretically, it seems like a recipe for success, one might question its overall synergy as a formula. As top reviewer on Sephora Caaitlin Reilly, “I feel that my skin as a whole looked glowy, it just caused me to get some cystic acne. If you're sensitive to citrus oils, avoid this product.”
Just because a product delivers a superficially glowy look doesn’t mean your skin is actually glowing from within! That’s the tricky part about developing formulas with ginseng to brighten skin. Like a perfect symphony, every ingredient must work harmoniously together to create something beautiful.
About The Author: Rachel Esco is an educator and consultant in advanced cosmetics who empowers consumers to make informed choices about skin care. With a profound interest in beauty and biochemistry, her articles explore the latest breakthroughs in epigenetics and anti-aging technologies. Rachel is also a passionate advocate for the Beauty Conscious Movement, promoting the use of environmentally safe materials to create a zero waste culture.