Why K-Beauty Lovers are Obsessed with Mugwort
This blog has not been approved by your local health department and is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice.
In this article:
- What Is Mugwort?
- What Are The Skincare Benefits of Mugwort?
- Soothing Mugwort Skincare Products
- Masking with Mugwort
- Is Mugwort Good For Your Skin?
Mugwort isn’t the prettiest-sounding skincare ingredient, but it’s one you may well have heard of if you're a fan of K-Beauty. It is not unusual for the Korean beauty industry to move in on a particular ingredient if the benefits are promising, and for the past few years, Korean beauty brands have been releasing whole ranges of skincare products centered around mugwort. These skincare products have largely focused on the soothing effects of the herbal extract as beauty lovers continue to seek out products to help with skin sensitivity.
Like other popular ingredients within the K-Beauty skincare industry, such as my personal favorites of snail mucin or Centella Asiatica extract, the love for mugwort has firmly stuck. In today’s blog post, we are going to take a deeper dive into the benefits of mugwort and some of the best mugwort beauty products I have tried and tested.
Before we get into mugwort skincare, let’s look at what mugwort is and where it comes from. Mugwort, or artemisia as you may see labeled on your skincare products, is the general name for the aromatic plants within the artemisia family. It now grows naturally in various places throughout the world but is originally native to Europe and Eastern Asia; for many of the K-Beauty skincare products that use mugwort, the plant is grown locally within South Korea.
Mugwort has historically been a significant ingredient within Korean traditional medicine and even folklore. My first memorable experience with ssuk, the Korean name for mugwort, was when I lived in Seoul and frequented the jjimjilbang (the bathhouse). I soaked in mugwort-infused baths, which are supposed to relieve aches, boost circulation, and help regulate menstrual cycles.
The plant possesses numerous medicinal benefits, including its well-documented use for helping with digestive issues and women’s menstrual health, while the essential oil from mugwort is known to have a diverse range of properties including antioxidative, antibacterial, antifungal, and even insect repellent properties. Most descriptions of the plant also note its aromatic scent. The herbal scent is often described as calming and this plays a role in its use within beauty products.
In topical use, mugwort is used throughout the European, American, and Asian beauty markets, however, it is South Korean companies who have shown a real interest in the ingredient and pursued it as a central focus of many skincare products in recent years. Cell-based trials conducted in South Korea demonstrated that fermented mugwort had a positive effect on cell barrier formation, cell regeneration, wound healing, collagen synthesis, and wrinkle improvement. Containing an abundance of antioxidants, mugwort can help protect our skin from environmental aggressors and premature aging. That’s a lot of goodness, demonstrating how mugwort-based products can be highly beneficial for those with sensitivities looking to calm and strengthen their skin, as well as for potentially slowing the skin aging process.
The majority of mugwort skincare we see in the Korean skincare industry is targeted at sensitive skin, based on both anecdotal evidence and trials such as those described above, showing its regenerating, soothing, and calming benefits. Multiple studies have also shown the anti-inflammatory properties of mugwort extract, such as helping relieve symptoms like itching and other inflammatory responses. Sensitivities come in many different skin types, from acne-prone to dry skin, so mugwort products can be used across the skin type spectrum.
One of the most famous lines of mugwort skincare is from a popular Korean beauty brand, I’m From. This essence is one of their best-sellers and is continually shared and talked about in the online Korean skincare community. The only ingredient in this essence? 100% Artemesia preps extract grown in South Korea and nothing else! The formula is also vegan and cruelty-free. The essence is a typical watery consistency and easy to incorporate into any morning and or evening routine by simply patting into the skin generously after cleansing. It absorbs quickly, feels instantly soothing on the skin, and works well for light hydration as well as to combat premature aging.
Toner pads have become particularly popular within Korean skincare over the past few years, and their versatility makes them a great option for your skincare lineup. These thin, round pads are soaked in a mugwort-based liquid and used after cleansing for lightly moisturizing and balancing the skin while soothing. The brand notes that they use sea-based mugwort combined with Centella Asiatica extract for a maximum calming and protective effect on the skin. I personally also like to use a couple of these pads on my cheeks as a mini soothing facial and leave them on for 10 minutes! Doing so visibly reduces redness and heat in my skin and leaves my face feeling soft and calmed.
An ideal complement to the I’m From Mugwort Essence is their moisturizing cream. The cream has a light gel-cream consistency that feels extremely smooth on the skin. As you massage it in, it is surprisingly nourishing for such a lightweight formula. The ingredients list combines the calming benefits of mugwort with a variety of other fermented botanical extracts and moisturizing elements for anti-aging and nourishment. Although I like something a little heavier in the evenings for my dry skin, this has become a daytime go-to for both soothing and all-day moisturizing, and the wonderful herbal scent makes it a lovely addition to my routine.
Spoiler alert: this is a top-tier sheet mask! The thin material, called I Cell material, is 100% plant-based biodegradable, and most importantly, it fully adheres to the skin, allowing for maximum absorption of the essence. It is extremely soft, breathable, and tailored specifically for sensitive skin. The mask is drenched in a liquidy-gel mugwort essence, containing 91.45% Korean mugwort extract with the purpose of soothing and calming the skin. My face feels incredibly calmed after about 20 minutes of wear and there’s also enough essence to use on my neck, chest, and arms. Easily one of my favorite sheet masks I’ve tried this year, this mask ticks every box.
If you’re looking for a real at-home spa experience, look no further than this wash-off mask containing ground mugwort from Korea’s Ganghwa Island. The calming scent of the mask is a whole experience and adds a gorgeous sensory element to the product. The thick, gel-like consistency is easy to smooth over the face and it instantly cools and soothes. I prefer to use a silicone spatula to apply, but you can also use your fingers. When I rinse it off, my skin feels soft, prepped, and not at all dry. I’ve been using this once or twice a week and like to follow it with plenty of hydrating essences and serums to leave my skin fully rejuvenated and pampered!
For about a year now, this wash-off treatment from K-Beauty brand Isntree has been my go-to clay mask. Clay masks help control excess oil, however, they can often be drying and harsh on the skin. Not this one! This clay mask was specifically formulated to be safe for sensitive skin and non-drying. The formula contains six different types of clay for maximum absorption of sebum alongside exfoliation and hydration ingredients for smoothing the skin and mugwort extract for soothing. I personally find it successfully reduces sebum around my nose and forehead, while simultaneously relieving redness. I always follow with plenty of hydrating layers and my skin is usually soft, calmed, and glowing.
Mugwort has made its presence known in the skincare industry and its popularity continues to grow. There is an abundance of mugwort products to choose from, particularly within K-Beauty, and the selection reviewed above will firmly stay within my routines. With traditional, scientific, and anecdotal evidence supporting its benefits, mugwort represents the ideal ingredient for all skin types, but particularly those dealing with sensitivity. Have you tried mugwort products yet?
- Farooq Anwar, Naveed Ahmad, Khalid M. Alkharfy, Anwar-ul-Hassan Gilani, Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor and Safety, (London, UK: Academic Press, 2016), 573-579
- Ekiert, Halina, Joanna Pajor, Paweł Klin, Agnieszka Rzepiela, Halina Ślesak, and Agnieszka Szopa. 2020. "Significance of Artemisia Vulgaris L. (Common Mugwort) in the History of Medicine and Its Possible Contemporary Applications Substantiated by Phytochemical and Pharmacological Studies" Molecules 25, no. 19 (2020): 4415. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25194415
- Seul Park, Y.; He Nam, G.; Jo Jo, K.; Won Kawk, H.; Yoo, J.-G.; Dong Jang, J.; Moon Kang, S.; Yong Kim, S.; Min Kim, Y.” Adequacy of the Anti-aging and Anti-wrinkle Effects of the Artemisia vulgaris Fermented Solvent Fraction.” Korean Society for Biotechnology and Bioengineering Journal, no. 34 (2019): 199-206 http://dx.doi.org/10.7841/ksbbj.2019.34.3.199
- Watanabe M., Nakata K., Monji K., Nayeshiro H., Makino T. “Studies on anti-inflammatory effects of Mugwort extracts.” Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists of Japan. no. 28 (1994): 178–182. https://doi.org/10.5107/sccj.28.178
DISCLAIMER: This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. Content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options. Information on this blog should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional. The claims made about specific products throughout this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.