Why is “Centella Asiatica” Popular in Korean Skin Care
South Korea recently passed emergency measures to tackle air pollution, after record levels of fine dust blanketed most of the country earlier this year. Seven major cities suffered record levels of dangerous PM 2.5 particles, according to an article published by The Guardian.
In addition to a host of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, daily exposure to polluted air can irritate skin and cause issues like dryness, sensitivity, inflammation, clogged pores, and breakouts. In some cases, long term exposure to air pollution can even lead to eczema, dermatitis or rosacea.
No wonder savvy Korean consumers have flocked to cosmetic products that help protect skin and/or repair damage caused by environmental stress. One ingredient, in particular, has risen to become the breakout star of this new K-Beauty movement – Centella Asiatica (also known as “Cica”).
Though relatively new to Western skin care (in terms of its popularity), you’d be hard-pressed to miss entire sections of Cica products displayed at every major beauty outlet in Seoul.
A 2018 report released by the Mintel market research firm attributes the increased popularity of Cica creams to a growing concern about sensitive skin, and the effects of pollution, stress, and chemicals on skin. Among all skin care products launched in Korea, those labeled “for sensitive skin” have jumped from 11% in 2014 to over 23% in recent years – according to the report.
What is Centella Asiatica (Cica)?
Centella Asiatica, or “Cica” as it is commonly known, is a small, clover-like herbaceous plant native to the wetlands and marshes of Asia. Also referred to as “Pennywort”, “Tiger Grass” and “Gotu Kola” – Cica has been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. In China, it’s called Jī Xuě Cǎo (“herb that accumulates snow,” or 積雪草 in Traditional Chinese) and was reputed to be a “miracle elixir of life” over 2,000 years ago.
The word “Cica” was inspired by Western dermo-cosmetic soothing creams (e.g. Cicaplast, Cicalfate), which feature this word to signify gentle products with scar-healing properties. The same dermo-cosmetic feel is often conveyed by the packaging of Korean Cica creams, which tend to resemble pharmaceutical ointments.
What Makes Centella Asiatica (Cica) a Great Skin Care Ingredient?
Research results, published in a 2013 study archived by the US National Library of Medicine, indicate that Cica – rich in fatty acids, vitamins, and amino acids – is excellent at healing small wounds, scars and irritation (e.g. burns, psoriasis, blemishes). Cica’s high antioxidant level is also noteworthy – this combined with its ability to promote the synthesis of collagen make it a superstar anti-ager.
As noted by science educator Michelle Wong on her blog, Cica has four specific bioactive compounds, called “triterpenoid saponins,” which have been pharmacologically researched for their skin care benefits: Asiaticoside, Brahmoside, Madecassoside, and Madecassic Acid. These terpenoids have been clinically shown to help heal wounds by increasing the percentage of collagen and cell layer fibronectin at the wound site.
Note: Studies have also shown that Madecassoside, an antioxidant in its own right, works particularly well in conjunction with Vitamin C for soothing redness/irritation, reducing inflammation and rebuilding the skin barrier. (EVENPRIME products incorporate extra doses of Madecassoside, in addition to Centella Asiatica Extract. EVENPRIME uses Kakadu Plum Extract as a Vitamin C carrier due to its stability.)
Centella Asiatica (Cica) Skin Benefits
- Repairs Skin
- Alleviates Irritation
- Strengthens Skin Barrier
- Brightens Skin
- Improves Appearance of Wrinkles and Photo Damage
Is Centella Asiatica (Cica) Suitable for My Skin Type?
As far as trending ingredients go, Cica is an excellent ingredient for sensitive, irritated, blemish-prone skin – given its anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing properties.
Just go slowly, if you do have a skin condition like psoriasis, rosacea, or eczema, as you’re more likely to have a reaction to *any* skin care product, even ones that can help with sensitive skin.
As always, it is recommended to patch test new formulas, particularly those with bio-active ingredients. Whether or not you should try a product depends greatly on your skin’s particular needs.
EVENPRIME Products with Centella Asiatica (Cica) AND Madecassoside
Centella Asiatica, often referred to as “Cica” in K-Beauty threads (meant to indicate it calms irritated skin), is a star ingredient in the EVENPRIME skin care collection.
EVENPRIME incorporates Cica not only for its excellent ability to soothe and relieve dry and irritated skin but also for its ability to strengthen the skin barrier and reduce redness and swelling. In addition to Cica, EVENPRIME incorporates Madecassoside as it’s “Cica–active”, combined with other hydrating ingredients like Panthenol, Niacinamide and Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate for extra skin benefits.
Findings Related to Use of Centella Asiatica (Cica) in Skin Care
- A small trial in 2008 found that a Cica-containing cream improved crow’s feet, compared with a cream that didn’t contain Cica.
- In the previously mentioned 2010 study, wounds treated with Centella extracts showed a higher rate of contraction, or shrinkage of the wounded area, compared to untreated control wounds.
- In a study published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigation Dermatology in 2017, researchers tested out a fluid containing Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, and Centella Asiatica Extract on 20 women’s forearms over the course of 24 hours. One arm got the fluid while the other forearm got a control cream. The researchers measured the hydration level and the amount of water lost throughout the day. Results showed that the arm that got the Centella Asiatica fluid showed significantly more hydration and less water loss compared to both the participants’ baseline measurements and the control.
- In a report published in 2008 in Experimental Dermatology, researchers had 20 participants with photo-aged skin apply a cream containing Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and Madecassoside on their face, one arm, and one half of their neck and chest area twice a day. They applied a control cream to the other half of their neck and chest area and the other arm. (They used a separate tube for the face so they didn’t know which cream was in it.) After a full six months, the researchers saw that participants had significant improvements in wrinkles, firmness, and hydration.
- A study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry earlier this year, researchers found that when they applied Madecassoside to human skin cells that had been stimulated with the bacteria often implicated in acne, the Madecassoside reduced the amount of inflammation associated with that type of acne.
- According to an in vitro study, Madecassoside could prevent hypertrophic scar and keloid formation.