When it comes to Korean skincare, ritual-and patience- is the holy grail. Beauty brand Saranghae, which is inspired by Southern Korean beauty treatments (these can include upwards of 20 steps!), is looking to bring the classic beautification routine to modern times with a simple, effective line of skin-changing products.
And, it's catching on. In the past few months, Saranghae- a brand born in a small Korean town - has popped up in the beauty influencers' social feeds, in editor's must-try lists, and is discovering a cult following all its own.
Melding a highly scientific approach with 600-year-old beauty secrets and ingredients, Saranghae, or “I Love You" in Korean, is all about the love, literally. Utilizing thoughtful formulations that feature precious ingredients like truffle extract, gold and an extremely rare mushroom with cancer-reversing abilities, the family-owned brand is a noble one. At the heart of the Saranghae universe is a focus on results rather than promises, a dedication to showing real women rather than models, and a commitment to offering classic skin care rather than trend-based formulas.
Packaged in simple but chic royal blue vessels, the Saranghae collection crossed our desk, like many have, but there was just something about this one. The straightforward, scientific nature of the brand, married with centuries of tradition and culture even caught the eye of our Founder, Iman Oubou, a beauty queen and scientist, who knows a thing or two about skincare. “As a scientist, I am a total geek when it comes to ingredients and technology in my skincare formulas," she says. “Intrigued by the unusual extracts in the line, as well as a no-nonsense brand ethos that I related to, I started using Saranghae products a few months ago, and immediately started noticing an improvement in my skin texture. I also love the reminder to stop what I'm doing each day and take some time for myself, which as a female founder I often forget to do."
As a brand, Saranghae is built on the belief that it is important to take time out for yourself, and to do things which make you feel empowered and confident. With their trending hashtag #OurLoveStoryStartsNow, they hope to inspire women across North America and beyond, to be comfortable in the skin that they are in.
“Our mission is to make everyone across North America feel beautiful," says Sandra Starr, Saranghae's Customer Care Manager. “We are passionate about sharing the best in Korean skin care, and staying true to our genuine love for our customers. We want to be your personal skin care gurus."
Rooted in history and modern science, Saranghae offers women a classic 5-step routine with power-packed formulas that feature innovative high-tech ingredients along with ancient Korean botanicals, including a unique mushroom found in a remote part of Southern Korea. Although there have been recent trends in the US towards minimalistic one-size-fits-all products that can act as your toner, serum, and moisturizer in one, the ritual-minded team at Saranghae is looking to provide American women with a complete solution to skincare.
“I'm not into complicated fussy products, but I do like to take my time at night with a beauty routine that I've been doing for over ten years," says Oubou. “At the root of good skincare is routine, and of course, products that have all the right ingredients."
The brand has a marked focus on transparency, revealing each of the ingredients used in each product, as well as sharing images of the results on real people. To wit, they routinely work with influencers across the US and share their personal experience with Saranghae. This includes their authentic, genuine opinion, as well as their photos. Saranghae also features their customer photos and testimonials across their platforms-- you could be next.
What's perhaps the most marked difference between Saranghae and other skincare players today is that they're not promising an incredible overnight transformation. In fact, the brand's three-phase program focuses on a process of longevity and self-care, allowing your skin to rejuvenate and regenerate overtime, the first of which focuses on healing. The dermis layer is repaired with a view to the next step: regeneration. The formula now begins to enrich the deepest layers of your skin with antioxidants and amino acids, smoothing wrinkles and lines to create a more youthful appearance. Finally, Saranghae forms a protective layer that penetrates right through to the cellular level. It's at this stage you will notice results, notably an effervescent glow.
What's in a Mushroom?
At the heart of all Saranghae formulations are ancient ingredients that are proven efficacious, including the Phellinus Linteus Mushroom (Sang Hwang in Korean), which has been used for hundreds of years in Korea to treat everything from obesity to cancer to depression. Fast forward to modern day, Saranghae is the only skincare brand to use this particular mushroom in beauty product formulations, which it also combines with ginseng (not to mention 20 additional botanical ingredients) to support healthy cellular function, and of course, glowing skin.
Rich in phytonutrients that stimulate the skin's metabolic processes, ginseng also contains active compounds that can increase the production of collagen and elastin and neutralize free radicals. Makes sense that the average ginseng-loving Korea lives 8 years longer than the average American!
The 5 Steps
“The 10, 12, 14 step Korean skin care routines are a myth," says Peter Lee, CEO of Saranghae. “In Korea, there is no set 10 or 14 step routine. Every Korean woman has their own routine and it can get as much as 10 to 14 steps. It's because Korean women enjoy the ritual, it is a pleasurable experience."
"Our data tells us that the majority of American customers feel overwhelmed with even a 5 step routine and most American customers do not have time for a daily 10 step routine. We've learned that it was imperative to listen to our customers and fit the routine into the average North American lifestyle, which is different from Korea," he continues.
When it comes to her own beauty ritual, Iman lives by the belief that slow and steady wins the race. While many people might be looking for immediate signs of changes, healing from the inside out as Saranghae does will deliver lasting results.
Despite the fact that we might not have the time in today's fast-paced digital-first world to devote as much time as we'd like to beautification, the Saranghae team has specially formulated the line to fit the lifestyle of the busy North American woman, while still delivering the results from traditional Korean routines. Below, you'll find the step-by-step process:
Long-Lasting Beauty in A Few Steps
First up is the Saranghae Nourishing & Moisturizing Oil + Foam Cleanser, which stars truffle Extract, gold, and 20 Korean essential oils. Combining the skin-healing benefits of an oil cleanser with the makeup-removal power of foam, this power-packed formula will make your skin squeaky clean, not to mention nourished, in no time. Next, you'll reach for your Saranghae Deep Radiance Essence + Serum, which is designed to penetrate skin and deliver antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins directly to your living cells to help increase blood circulation. Step three is the Saranghae Firm & Lift Cellular Regeneration Cream, which is said to reduce damage due to oxidative stress by up to 220 percent, promises fewer dark spots and redness, leaving behind a smooth, soft canvas for your next step.
The eyes have it in step number four, which stars the brand's magical Saranghae Focus Renewal Eye Cream. Packed with ingredients like vitamin B3, elastin and collagen, this light cream will visibly lift and firm and brighten the appearance of dark circles around the eyes. And finally, for days you need an extra dose of radiance, use the Elemental Essence Mask, which is said to actually enhance the natural contours of your face with antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, making your need for complicated makeup steps a thing of the past.
“Every single sheet mask on the market is different. What they all have in common? It all began in South Korea," says Andrea McDonald, the brand's Marketing Manager. “This trend along with many others, originated in South Korea. The Saranghae Elemental Essence Sheet Mask is formulated with Hyaluronic Acid. The unique and intense formula delivers radiant results instantly after use. It's definitely a customer favorite."
Although it may seem complex, various beauty experts report that multi-step regimens are on the rise, as is an interest in holistic wellness, crystal, and essential oil therapies, and ancient beauty hacks, like jade rollers; it's clear that consumers are learning that not every trend is worth chasing.
“If Paris is the capital of Fashion, South Korea is the capital of Skin Care," says McDonald. “Innovative ingredients, advanced product development, harmonized routines and so much more. Saranghae is passionate, excited and thrilled to bring attainable, yet luxury Korean Skin Care to everyone's bathroom counter."
Because when everyone goes for 1, why not go for 5?
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.