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Here’s What the Term Adaptogen Skincare Really Means


There are certain terms that get thrown around the skincare world that make you pause and say, “what?” It took decades for retinol to get the notoriety it has today; people are finally getting on the hyaluronic acid train; and searches for treatments like microneedling, hydrafacials, and lasers are definitely up. But you’re not alone if the word adaptogens still gives you pause. Which is where we come in. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about adaptogens for your skin (and why you should incorporate them into your routine ASAP).

About the Experts:

Jordana Mattioli is a licensed medical esthetician based in New York City.
Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Westport, CT.

What Are Adaptogens?

First, adaptogens are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic practices. “The idea of topical versus oral adaptogen use seems to be the same: A plant, herb, or mushroom that adapts to what the body needs,” says medical esthetician Jordana Mattioli. “According to the most agreed on definition of adaptogen, we’ve technically been seeing them in skincare for decades. Think of aloe, green tea, turmeric, and licorice root to name a few.”

All these ingredients have long been staples in our beauty routines. They’ve been studied and proven to have amazing benefits for your complexion. But other adaptogens, like ashwagandha and rhodiola, are less known and on the rise.

Adaptogen Skin Benefits:

“Adaptogens are herbal remedies that help the body’s stress response by interacting with the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis,” says dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD. “This is an area lacking clinical research, but it’s backed by years and years of anecdotal success in communities that have long relied on herbal remedies.”

So what does this all mean? Basically, taken orally, adaptogens help calm down the body’s stress response, lessening the amount of cortisol circulating your body. “Cortisol is linked to inflammation, a key component of common skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, psoriasis, and eczema,” says Dr. Robinson. “Used topically, adaptogens may similarly support the skin’s stress response, soothing irritations and inflammation at the surface.”

Adaptogen Beauty Products We Love:

1. HERBIVORE Emerald Deep Moisture Glow Oil

HERBIVORE Emerald Deep Moisture Glow Oil

A few drops are like a warm hug for your skin—it calms, soothes, nourishes, moisturizes, and even protects from environmental aggressors. You can thank the hemp seed oil (it’s rich in fatty acids and vitamin E), squalane, turmeric root, and ashwagandha for those benefits.

2. BELIF Peat Miracle Revital Eye Cream

BELIF Peat Miracle Revital Eye Cream

This velvety eye cream is made from mineral-rich herbal peat water from Finland to help promote skin elasticity and visibly reduce fine lines. It’s also infused with a blend of natural apothecary herbs to deeply moisturize your under-eye area.

3. FEEL BEAUTY Mindful Palo Santo Soothing Mask

FEEL BEAUTY Mindful Palo Santo Soothing Mask

Say “om.” This mask is infused with energy-clearing palo santo (a.k.a. “holy wood”) essential oil. Stressed? Adaptogenic mushrooms immediately help your skin relax. Plus, a healthy dose of lavender and chamomile help soothe and calm sensitive skin.

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Article Last Updated July 28, 2021 12:00 AM