Centella Asiatica for Skin
If you’re a fan of Korean skin care (aka K-beauty), you’ve probably heard about the ingredient Centella asiatica. Known by a variety of names, including Brahmi, Asiatic pennywort, tiger grass, and gotu kola, this plant extract is hailed as a hydrating skin-saver. Centella asiatica is included in numerous moisturizers from South Korean brands, often labeled “cica creams,” and, not surprisingly, it's also garnering interest from Western beauty brands.
What is Centella Asiatica?
Centella asiatica is a perennial herb that grows primarily in Asia. For years, it’s had both culinary and medicinal uses, but like many traditional plant extracts, it’s gaining popularity as a skin care ingredient.
This swamp-dwelling herb first started appearing in South Korean cica creams a few years ago, although U.S. brands from Estee Lauder have used it off and on over the years—they just didn’t call them cica creams.
Cica creams became cornerstones of the famous K-beauty ritual because of their alleged soothing benefits, and, in a case of everything old being new again, Western beauty brands are claiming it’s the hot new beauty ingredient. But, is Centella asiatica worth the hype?
What Can Centella Asiatica Do for Skin?
Studies show that Centella asiatica isn’t just a passing fad—it really does have benefits for skin, thanks to its active compounds, including madecassoside, which serves as an antioxidant. Centella asiatica itself also has been shown to have potent antioxidant properties and to be a rich source of amino acids, and there’s additional research showing that it’s a good hydrating ingredient to soothe upset or compromised skin.
There's evidence that products with Centella asiatica can help revitalize skin's protective barrier, plus it may mitigate some of the visible effects of sun damage.
That’s a great list of benefits for one plant ingredient, but just to be clear: Centella asiatica isn’t the best or only natural ingredient that can improve skin. There are literally hundreds of beneficial natural ingredients for skin, as well as outstanding synthetic ingredients (hello, peptides!).
In fact, it’s somewhat similar to green tea, in that it’s a plant-derived antioxidant with skin-soothing properties that got its start in traditional medicine but now has the hard science to back up its purported benefits.
While many natural ingredients are big on talk, but small on results, research supports many of the claims around Centella asiatica.
References for this information:
Phytomedicine, April 2018, pages 110–119
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, August 2017, pages 311–315
Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Jan-Feb 2016, pages 27–33
Postepy Dermatologii I, February 2013, pages 46–49
Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2010, pages 546–556
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!