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Asian Skincare Ingredient 101: Centella Asiatica

One of my favorite things about working in the beauty industry is seeing how the trends change over time. When I first started writing about, trying, and using K-beauty, a focus on ingredients wasn’t at the forefront of skincare in the U.S. It was all about product claims—this mask brightens, this toner cleanses, this moisturizer helps dry skin. No one cared how the products were achieving these claims...but the packaging was cute and the marketing seemed to back it up.

Fast forward nearly a decade later, and ingredients is all anyone wants to talk about. And honestly, I love it. The more informed you are as a consumer, the more power you have over your purchases. And the more power you have over your purchases, the more brands are forced to change their tactics. So now, instead of brands making all these general claims, they have to market to us what ingredients their products have in them. Honestly, it’s a dream.

All this talk of ingredients brings me to today’s topic, and one of my all-time, favorite skincare ingredients: Centella Asiatica. Centella Asiatica is the new hot ingredient on the block now, all thanks to its powerful soothing and calming properties. But what is it exactly? Why is it good in our skincare products? Keep scrolling to find out all of the deets.

Centella Asiatica is an incredibly popular Asian beauty ingredient. It’s sometimes marketed as “Cica” or simply “Centella”. But what is it exactly? Well, it’s a perennial flowering herb that grows in warm climates—some countries where it grows includes Indonesia, South China, India, and some parts of Japan. It’s been used for centuries as a healing plant and is known for helping to heal wounds, burns, and cuts. People would take the plant and create “packs” with it and apply it to the affected area...kind of like a bandage of sorts.

Thankfully, Centella Asiatica isn’t some weird K-beauty marketing gimmick (everyone remember the whole snake venom trend?). It’s soothing and calming effects are backed by research. So what does Centella Asiatica actually do? Well, the plant is chock full of good-for-your-skin antioxidants that help fight free radical damage and protect your skin from harm. And according to my BFF in my head, Michelle from Lab Muffin, Centella Asiatica “seems to help healing by speeding up skin cell production and collagen synthesis. It’s also antibacterial, and may increase antioxidant activity and blood vessel formation.” And Paula’s Choice says that there is evidence that the all-natural ingredient can help improve your skin’s moisture barrier and possibly help improve sun damage. So basically, Centella Asiatica is that girl.

Centella Asiatica can be used in all sorts of skincare products, from creams to serums to sheet masks to toners to cleansers. Most centella-focused skincare is dedicated to calming and soothing irritated skin, whether it’s from sun damage, acne, dry skin, or just extra sensitivity. And considering my skin has been all over the place for the past couple months (long story short, I went on birth control for six or so months, got off birth control, and now we’re in the midst of a pretty chilly winter here in ATL), I decided to put a few Centella Asiatica products to the test.

My Scheming Aloe Vera + Vitamin E Mask

My Scheming Aloe Vera + Vitamin E Repairing Sheet Mask

I love a good My Scheming mask, and this one definitely delivers on the hydrating front. Winter has come in full force in Atlanta, with the temps dropping into the 20s, which means my heater has been doing overdrive. I’m probably the last skincare guru on the planet without a humidifier, but this mask kinda does that job for me. I love to use it at night in the shower, or even during my nightly tea + Animal Crossing moment. And like the name states, it’s formulated with Aloe Vera, Vitamin E, and of course, our fave centella to soothe, nourish, and hydrate dry, dehydrated, and irritated skin. Like a lot of Taiwanese masks, it’s a bit drippy, but nothing out of control. More serum-y goodness for me!

Holy Snails Hanbang Shark

Holy Snails Hanbang Shark

I am incredibly late to the Holy Snails train but I am SO glad that I am on board now. The Hanbang Shark Sauce has been a game changer in my routine—like literally I had visible results after just a few days of incorporating it into my nighttime routine. What results? Well, I’m glad you asked. Dewy, juicy-looking skin (which is a task with this weather), visibly brighter skin, and lots of calming on my pesky hormonal acne spots that kept cropping up during that time on the month. It’s formulated with a whopping five percent niacinamide (another one of my favorite ingredients), ginseng extract for a dose of brightening, and centella asiatica to help soothe irritated skin. It has a slightly-thicker-than-water texture that absorbs into the skin almost immediately, and when I wake up in the morning, it’s like my skin has been renewed overnight. Would I buy this? Yes. Should you try it? Yes, and yes again.

Beauty of Joseon Centella Asiatica Calming Mask

Beauty of Joseon Centella Asiatica Calming Mask
Another day, another amazing sheet mask. The Beauty of Joseon Centella Asiatica Calming Mask is one of my new favorite sheet masks, and that’s saying something. Sometimes you just need a mask that does what it says it’s going to do, and that’s what this one does. It’s formulated with a ton of centella asiatica (how much? 15 percent!) and soothes and calms overworked and dry skin. This is the mask you bring out when you need the big guns for tired, dull skin. When I tested out this mask for the first time, I pulled it off and audibly gasped as I tapped the remaining essence into my skin. My rough, dry skin had seemingly transformed into a soft, supple, baby-like texture. There’s a lot of extra essence, so I like to follow the brand instructions and take a reusable cotton pad to tap in the remaining essence so nothing goes to waste.
Do I stan? Yes. I absolutely do.