Lashes in the Lush


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Asian Ingredients Discovered: Horse Oil

Of all Asian Ingredients that I am putting to the test, this is the ingredient I dread most to try: Horse Oil. The name itself already makes me shiver - suddenly Bird’s Nest and Pig Placenta don’t seem so bad anymore... 

The popularity of this ingredient in Asian cosmetics however cannot be denied. Included in the 16th Century standard work for Traditional Chinese Medicine and used by the Japanese as a folk remedy since ancient times, the past years this ingredient has been embraced by beauty innovation heaven South Korea as well. Last year,  Alicia Yoon, a Harvard Business School graduate and co-founder of Korean beauty site Peach and Lily, predicted donkey milk and horse oil to be the newest trends in Korean skincare in New York Magazine.

As far as I can judge she’s right; skincare products from both Japan and South-Korea with horse oil as active ingredient are widely available and promoted in Singapore. Judging the amount of FAKE products (yes you read this correctly, we're not talking counterfeit Vuitton bags here but fake horse oil creams...) on the market, we're dealing with something quite special here.

Benefits of Horse Oil

Orange and brown seem to be THE trending horse oil colours in cosmetics...

As said, medicinal benefits of horse oil go back as early as 16th century China, where it was recorded in the Chinese "Compendium of Materia Medica" (Chinese: Bencao Gangmu or Pen-tsao Kang-mu), a work that is regarded as the most complete and comprehensive medical book ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine. According to the record, horse oil promotes hair growth, prevent freckles, treats piles and chapped skin, as well as relieves tired muscles.

Nowadays, horse oil adoptees praise the ingredient in skincare for the following reasons:

  • Healing properties in treating damaged skin suffering from sunburn, roughness and irritation; 
  • Strong moisturizing properties 
  • Replenishment of nutrients to skin
  • Easy absorption rate due to a fatty acid structure said to be similar to that of human sebum. 

…But what about the horses?!

Well this horse doesn't seem to mind much...kind of freaky though if you ask me, looking so cheery on top of a pack with your own contents...

Let's indeed not forget about the horses, and other animals for that matter. Where possible I choose to use products that are animal friendly and are not tested on animals nor containing ingredients from animals (I'm a vegetarian for 17 years now, actually). When you look at these ingredient lists from PETA and Choose Cruelty Free you’ll realize that this is tougher than it seems to use cosmetics ingredients that are not derived from animals in any way.

For example, Lanolin (derivatives: Aliphatic Alcohols, Cholesterin, Isopropyl Lanolate, Laneth, Lanogene, Lanolin Alcohols, Lanosterols, Sterols, Triterpene Alcohols) is a product of the oil glands of sheep, extracted from their wool. In cosmetics it’s used as an emollient and is found in most lipsticks and makeup removers.

Even Retinol, a potent source of vitamin A and the star active ingredient of in many anti-aging products, is mostly an animal-based ingredient.

Stearic acids (derivatives: Stearamide, Stearamine, Stearates, Stearic Hydrazide, Stearone, Stearoxytrimethylsilane, Stearoyl Lactylic Acid, Stearyl Betaine, Stearyl Imidazoline )  refers to a fatty substance mostly taken from the stomachs of pigs and is used in a.o. makeup, soaps, hairspray, conditioners, deodorants, creams. And the list goes on and on…

According to one of the brands that offers skincare with horse oil, the oil is obtained from horses that are slaughtered for their meat (traditionally, the Japanese have a custom of eating horse meat, raw and in thin slices) and not killed for their oil per se. Some brands (a.o.Son Bahyu) that offer products with horse oil state that the horse oil comes from fat from the horse meat, whereas others (a.o. Kaeru) state the oil is extracted from horse mane, the base of tale and subcutaneous fat layer.

The Best-Seller: Guerisson 9 Complex Cream

Guerisson 9 Complex Cream with Horse Oil is regarded a cult product in Asia and one of the top selling skincare products from South Korea. The look of the product is equestrian chic and reminds me of (no big surprise - the founders of equestrian chic) Hermès - same orange colours, same style. Although the price isn’t that high (I remeber seeing it for around 38 SGD on Changi Airport) many fake versions of this cream which may contain unknown (and potentially dangerous) ingredients are flooding the market. The counterfeit creams are abundant enough that there are several online resources dedicated solely to identifying counterfeit versions of the Guerisson 9 product. In some instances, the retailers that offer fake products aren’t even aware that the product they carry isn’t the real deal.

Apart from counterfeit Guerisson products that are difficult to identify, several brands seem to have simply compied the look of Guerisson's product (that copied it from Hermes, but soit) - see examples below.

Although Guerisson's cream is the ultimate horse oil cult product, I decided to opt for a simple face mask with horse oil (hereby immedialy avoiding the chance to purchase and smear-on a fakey). As a bloggin test bunny I do believe I should try a product with horse oil but seriously don’t plan to EVER use such a product again.

Product Review: Medi Heal "Horse Oil Proatin Mask"

I tried Medi Heal’s “Horse Oil Proatin Mask”, with Jeju Horse Oil. Jeju is a volcanic island off the South Korean coast, and in Korean cosmetics the principle of “everything that comes from Jeju is good” applies. There are even brands that thrive solely on ingredients from Jeju, like popular Korean cosmetics brand Innisfree, which uses ingredients like sea mustard & gulfweed, nutmeg, volcanic clay, tangerine, green peas, green tea and camelia (no horse oil though) and regards the island as “the pure island where clean nature and healthy beauty coexist in harmony”. If we apply the same principle to this mask, apparently even the horses from Jeju are pure, clean and pristine. At least that’s a relieve.

According to the ingredient list, apart from horse oil (10,000 ppm) the product also contains several stearate derivatives (glyceryl stearate, stearic acid, PEG-100 stearate), which indicates that the product could contain other ingredients from animals as well.  Apart from the ingredient list and some key ingredients (basically all amino acids - the building blocks of the proteins that make up collagen and elastin substances that give the skin its structural support; used in skincare for antioxidant properties, wound-healing abilities) that are mentioned on the front of the sachet, all text is in Korean.

Fortunately, Mediheal’s website explains a bit more about the amino acids and why the mask is called “proatin”:

"Horse oil Proatin Mask contains excellent skin friendly components unsaturated fatty acid and ceramide, effective on protein absorption. 'Proatin' comes from 'Protein' + 'Amino Acid'. A combination of amino acids and peptides containing protein ingredients, can strengthen skin barrier, maintain skin elasticity and vitality."

Right. This doesn't literally comply with the general beliefs about the benefits of horse oil (i.e. healing properties in treating damaged skin suffering from sunburn, roughness and irritation; strong moisturizing properties; replenishment of nutrients to skin), but more with the benefits of the added amino acids. Let's just blame my lack of Korean (or the company's lack of marketing efforts...) and see what the product does.

What I’m freaked out about is that the product might smell like horses. My sister used to do horse riding as a her hobby when we were kids, and I remember that I found the horsey smell that she brought home from the stables absolutely repulsive.

Fortunately, the product has no distinct horse smell, but a fresh scent like any other sheet mask I've tried. First hurdle taken. However, this relieve was only short, because when I opened the pack the texture looked thick and gooey. Ewwwww! Some product even splashed out of the pack when I opened it. The sheet mask is really richly drenched in the product, and a lot of product stays behind in the pack after taking out the sheet mask. On my face the product fortunately doesn't feel so thick and regardless of the overload of product, the masks stays well in place - like most other Asian sheet masks, the fit of the sheet mask isn't great though especially at the eyes.

I kept the mask on for 20 minutes (!!!) and when you don't rinse off the leftover product with water your face really looks incredibly shiny and even feels somewhat oily. I rinsed off with water twice and still have a bit of a shine going on, it is clear that the product is too rich for my skin . Like said on other beauty blogs, this product is probably great for people with incredibly dry skin. Not for me though, for more reasons than the fact that my skin isn't dry...

Price: 6,00 SGD (currently only 2,00 SGD, with 66% discount)
Available at Althea



  1. thanks for your strong articles and shared awesome pix

  2. We also offer pure and 100% natural essential oils via: that helpful for fastest skin improvements and beauty thanks


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