Can you remember a time when the very buzzy “hyaluronic acid” wasn’t in every single skincare product on the market? Or when peptides, antioxidants, vitamin C, and stem cells weren’t featured in every beauty advertisement as “miracle” ingredients? Probably not. (Consumerism, am I right?)
Welp, hold onto your wallets, because a new ingredient is starting to gain major traction on the interwebs, which means in approximately six months, it’ll enter the same hazy fame as all the other magical, skin-transforming ingredients you don’t remember learning about. Meet Centella asiatica—nicknamed “cica”—an antioxidant-rich herb that’s basically a magic wand for dry, itchy, red, and sensitive skin, thanks to the plant’s natural anti-inflammatory properties.
“Centella asiatica boosts the microcirculation of your skin, which allows for more nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and oxygen to be delivered to the area,” says cosmetic chemist Joseph Cincotta. “It also stimulates cell metabolism, which helps generate more youthful-looking skin.” Basically, this little herb makes your skin operate at 110 percent, boosting its abilities to repair damage, while also protecting it from further irritation.
Of course, Centella isn’t a new ingredient—it’s been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat everything from skin disorders to stomach aches and anxiety—but it’s only recently been scientifically studied for its cosmetic effects. One 2016 study found that Centella asiatica significantly improves skin’s hydration and reduces moisture loss (a major plus for anyone with dry, flaky skin issues), while another study from 2012 found that the herb speeds up wound healing and decreases inflammation (two bonuses for anyone with acne, eczema, or sensitive skin). Research has also found that Centella increases collagen production, improves skin firmness and elasticity, and soothes minor itching. “It’s difficult to sum up the benefits of Centella asiatica, because there are so many of them,” says Cincotta.
So what does all of this jargon mean for you? It means really, really good skin. Skin that doesn’t feel dry, skin that recovers from breakouts and irritation faster, and skin that looks, in a word, better. Of course, Centella isn’t the end-all, be-all ingredient in skincare—there are tons of other products that are equally as effective—though it is one of the very, very few that packs so many benefits without any irritation. And for that, I’m in love with it. So to get you on my cica-loving level, may I suggest these Centella-packed products, that really, truly work.
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30, $52
Helen of Troy may have had a face that launched a thousand ships, but this redness-reducing moisturizer has a formula that’s launching a thousand copycats. It sold out almost overnight when it first launched last year, thanks to the fact that its loaded with soothing Centella, and because its green-hued formula subtly cancels out redness (almost like a color corrector) when you massage it on.
L'Oréal Revitalift Cicacream Anti-Wrinkle + Skin Barrier Repair, $18
Pretty much the catalyst of the “cica” movement, this lightweight night cream (which has garnered more than 1,000 rave reviews) is a dream anti-ager for anyone with sensitive skin. It’s formulated with wrinkle-smoothing retinol, moisturizing shea and cocoa seed butters, and a major dose of Centella, which helps counteract the irritation retinol can naturally cause.
InnisFree Bija Cica Balm, $24
Think of this balm as a protective mask for your skin (except way, way, way more lightweight and breathable). The gel-like formula is filled with anti-inflammatory cactus juice, skin-soothing bija seed oil, and, of course, Centella asiatica, all of which work together to wrap your face in a protective, coddling hug. Smooth it on before your moisturizer in the morning and/or night to keep flakes and irritation at bay.