I love it when members of the Truth In Aging community write to me with suggestions of products I should try and I was especially pleased to get my first Korean skincare tip, the Su:m 37 line. Intrigued, I decided to buy a bottle of Su:m 37 Secret Programming Essence and ended up learning more about mold and bacteria than I ever thought I’d need to. Not to mention compost.

For those of you, like me, who had never heard of Su:m, here is a bit of background. It was launched in 2007 by the LG Household Corporation (they are better known in Korea as an electronics company that makes mobile phones and television) as a high-end premium line. From what I can tell, it is intended to rival SKll.

Su:m’s schtick is that it uses plant extracts that have been fermented. The story goes that  Su:m plant extracts are fermented for 3 years, using a technique developed in Japan that involves temperatures of 37°C (hence the name Su:m 37) for 1102 days, whist having music (genre not specified) played to them. Although this seemed phenomenally silly, I decided to check up on fermenting plant extracts and see if there is anything to it.

Turns out there is. I found at least one study comparing fermented and non-fermented plant extracts, concluding the fermented extracts were less cytotoxic and better anti-inflammatories.

Now the thing about fermenting is that it requires mold or bacteria and so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that the first ingredient (after water) Su:m 37 Secret Programming Essence is mold (aspergillus). It seems a little gross though. The second ingredient is a bacteria, lactobacillus. I was extremely relieved to find that it is a “friendly” one that typically lives in the human gut and converts milk into yogurt.

There are a couple more fermenting agents and then there is a long (very long) list of botanical extracts. You won’t find the ingredients list for Su:m 37 Secret Programming Serum online and the one printed on the box is in miniscule type. There is everything from papaya, to garlic to horsetail. There’s even cabbage, although I guess its technically sauerkraut since the third ingredient, pediococcus, is the bacteria that ferments cabbage to become the dish that is served alongside a bratwurst and washed down with beer. This was beginning to be more than a little surreal.

If you don’t think about any of this, Su:m 37 Secret Programming Essence is actually rather pleasant to use. It is a lightweight serum with a nice texture and smell. Whether it diminishes wrinkles and improves skin tone remains to be seen

But I have been thinking about it and am suddenly struck that mold and plants are basically compost.

Now if Su:m 37 can market compost as fermented plant extracts that have been listening to music for three years and then charge nearly $200 for it, Secret Programming Essence deserves to given a chance in my view.

Su:m 37 Secret Programming Serum is about $190, but can be found on eBay and other online sites for less than $100.