Meet the inflammation soothing skin-care ingredient you need in your routine.
A scroll through social media or even a walk down the skin-care aisle in any department store will leave you overwhelmed by new and existing products touting the latest and greatest ingredients that claim to instantly transform your skin. But before you double-tap and give that product post a like or bring it up to the store register, do you know what those trendy ingredients actually mean? Will they really work?
There are no-brainer ingredients — think, ceramides — that are considered universal and safe to use on every skin type because, in the case of ceramides, for example, they're fats and lipids naturally found in the skin cells. But what about active ingredients such as centella asiatica aka Centella asiatica extract ? This antioxidant-rich soothing ingredient has been touted on bottles and in products formulated for those with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Here's everything you need to know about the skin-care ingredient centella asiatica, its benefits, and how to decide if centella asiatica is right for your skin.
What Is Centella Asiatica?
Centella asiatica is a "medicinal plant that is native to Asia and has been used for centuries in homeopathic remedies, traditional Chinese medicine, and Western medicine," says Geeta Yadav, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology. It's also known as "cica" and can be labeled as "tiger grass" or "gotu kola" on products that use the centella asiatica plant in their formula. "Centella asiatica is also an adaptogen, meaning it works with your body to help it function more effectively," says Dr. Yadav. Adaptogens, FYI, are herbs that adapt to the skin's needs while helping to protect the skin against environmental aggressors and rebalancing stress-induced skin damage.
Benefits and Risks of Using Centella Asiatica
Centella asiatica is known for its ability to promote collagen synthesis and reduce inflammation, making it an ideal ingredient for the treatment of red, inflamed, or sensitive skin, says Dr. Yadav. Reminder: Collagen helps strengthen the skin by giving the skin elasticity to prevent wrinkles and replacing dead skin cells. Since centella asiatica promotes collagen production, it's also considered an impactful ingredient in anti-aging products, according to Dr. Yadav. Centella asiatica has the ability to protect the skin's molecules from degrading, and the promotion of more collagen helps to prevent wrinkles and keep the skin from sagging.
Centella asiatica extract also has wound-healing properties, which makes it a good ingredient to have on hand for treating cuts and bruises. "Topical formulations [featuring centella asiatica] have been shown to improve wound healing by increasing collagen synthesis and the growth of new blood vessels, while also improving the strength of new skin and inhibiting the inflammatory phase of scars and keloids," says Jessie Cheung, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant-rich nature, there is no major risk in using centella asiatica in your skin-care routine. "Side effects are very rare," says Dr. Yadav. "The most common side effect is an allergic reaction," which would most commonly present as a rash or irritation on the skin.
What Skin Types Should Use Centella Asiatica?
"All skin types can benefit from centella asiatica, as it improves collagen and decreases inflammation," says Dr. Cheung. It's best to find prepackaged topical formulations of centella asiatica to ensure that the product is properly formulated and safe to use on the skin, she explains. Since centella asiatica helps strengthen the skin's barrier (the outermost protective layer of the skin that protects it from dirt, germs, and environmental factors), it's appropriate for anyone to use, regardless of skin type. (FYI, common skin-care concerns, such as texture and extreme dryness, are a result of a compromised skin barrier.)
As for specific skin types, "in addition to sensitive skin types, who benefit most from using this anti-inflammatory ingredient, those with acne-prone skin would also benefit, as acne can often cause facial redness and irritation," says Dr. Yadav. If you experience redness or irritation in your skin, a moisturizer or serum that includes centella asiatica may help keep the skin soothed and reduce inflammation.
While some ingredients can pose adverse side effects for those with darker complexions, centella asiatica will not. "Deeper complexions are more prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation when skin is recovering from a wound, such as a blemish," says Dr. Yadav. "Centella asiatica's wound-healing properties and ability to suppress inflammation would likely reduce the risk of hyperpigmentation."
How to Incorporate Centella Asiatica Into Your Skin-Care Routine
As with any new skin-care ingredient, it's best to slowly incorporate centella asiatica extract into your routine by doing a patch test. This means: Take a dime-sized amount of product and apply it to the skin on the back of your wrist, then monitor the area for any rashes or reactions over the next few days.
When you're browsing the skin-care aisle, purchase products that already include centella asiatica extract in their formulas and "opt to not mix any pure ingredients into products, including [centella asiatica]," says Dr. Yadav. "It's recommended to find [centella asiatica] in existing formulas that have been developed by cosmetic chemists to provide the best possible results."
You'll typically find this ingredient formulated in moisturizers and serums, as well as some cleansers. If you opt to purchase a centella asiatica cleanser, incorporate it into the first step of your routine and follow through with the rest of your skin-care routine. For a facial moisturizer, use that product as the second-to-last step in your routine before applying sunscreen. A centella asiatica serum can be used as a step before applying your moisturizer, as you'll want to use the moisturizer to really lock the serum into your skin. Due to its gentle, anti-inflammatory properties, products formulated with centella asiatica extract can be used twice daily (aka it's fine to use centella asiatica products both morning and night), says Dr. Yadav.
Centella asiatica can also be consumed orally through capsules or powders, much like collagen. However, oral consumption of centella asiatica can have unwanted side effects, so don't take it for longer than six weeks by mouth, explains Dr. Cheung. Finally, centella asiatica creams can also be incorporated into your body care routine, as they "can also be found in products treating aging skin, wounds, cellulite, and stretch marks," shares Dr. Cheung.
Overall, no matter what products you choose to use or what skin type you have, centella asiatica is a powerhouse ingredient to add to your skin-care routine. When used regularly, you'll enjoy stronger, healthier skin and the soothing benefits of this skin-care ingredient.