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Why Cica Is the Skincare Ingredient You Need In Your Routine

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Sometimes when a skincare ingredient becomes popular all of a sudden, it can seem like it was just created or discovered. But when it comes to cica, that’s not the case. Centella asiatica, the official name for cica, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. But it’s only been in the past decade or so that studies have shown the benefits of using cica specifically for the skin. Korean skincare especially led the charge in producing cica cream for all skin types, but especially for those with sensitive skin.

Now dozens of skincare brands, including those in K-Beauty, have created their creams and moisturizers using centella asiatica extract—and for good reason. The skincare ingredient has been shown to calm the skin, meaning it’s not just great for those with sensitive skin but also used as part of a larger skincare routine for all skin types. Sounds cool, right? To figure out exactly what cica is and what cica skincare options we need to try, we chatted with Dr. S. Mark McKenna, founder and chief medical officer of OVME Aesthetics.


About the Expert:

Dr. S. Mark McKenna is the founder and chief medical officer of OVME Aesthetics.

The Pro Deets on Cica

Cica, aka centella asiatica, is an antioxidant-rich, medicinal herb that “reduces free radicals, inhibits inflammation, and promotes hydrated, healthy skin,” explains Dr. McKenna. “Cica skincare is great for conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, scarring, and cellulite, and is incredibly moisturizing.” That’s because cica contains madecassoside, a compound that has been clinically shown to minimize the harmful effects of free radicals.

“[These are] formed by environmental factors such as UV rays and pollution and inhibit inflammatory cellular messengers called cytokines, which are active during acne flare-ups, eczema, etc.,” he continues. Cica is generally well-tolerated, however, there is always a risk for allergic reaction or paradoxical irritation. “Spot testing the product on the inner forearm prior to use on the face is recommended and best practice,” adds Dr. McKenna.

How Cica Benefits the Skin

Cica cream can be used on all skin types, but it’s especially key for the five following concerns:

1. Inflammation

“Cica skincare is ideally suited to treat sensitized or inflamed skin, i.e., skin that is out of balance and prone to fluctuations due to busy lifestyles, lack of sleep or environmental stress,” says Dr. McKenna. When used too often or combined with certain ingredients, skincare products with retinol and niacinamide can disrupt a healthy skin barrier leaving you with irritated skin. Anti-inflammatory cica can help restore that skin barrier.

2. Dryness

Anyone can have dry skin for a variety of reasons, whether it’s temporary or a long-term skin concern. Cica is especially hydrating in a cream or moisturizer, especially alongside ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and/or peptides to help boost collagen production.

3. Acne

Cica’s anti-inflammatory properties can help with acne, too, taking down the warmth and redness that often comes with a breakout. And that’s not all. “For individuals who suffer from blemish-prone skin, cica can help promote wound healing and decrease scarring,” says Dr. McKenna.

4. Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Cica actually has anti-aging properties, as well. Since it’s packed with antioxidants, cica can help improve the appearance of wrinkles and age spots. It works by protecting the skin against free radicals and external sources of skin damage, such as environmental stress like pollution.

5. Dullness

You know vitamin C can help brighten skin, but did you know cica actually contains vitamin C on its own? It’s also full of amino acids, beta-carotene, fatty acids, and vitamins C, A, B1, and B.

The Best Beauty Products With Cica

1. Dermatologist Fave: DR. OHKIMS+ Cica Peptide Cream

DR. OHKIMS+ Cica Peptide Cream

This derm-approved cica cream is packed with those anti-aging peptides we were talking about earlier. It also contains hydrating squalane, as well as plumping milk proteins. If you’re dealing with inflammation and redness, you’ll want to choose this cica cream for its calming benefits.

2. Best Lightweight Serum: RE:P Phytocell Moisture Cica All in One Serum

RE:P Phytocell Moisture Cica All in One Serum

Just because this serum is more lightweight doesn’t mean it’s not just as hydrating. It has five different types of centella asiatica to soothe skin conditions like eczema and acne. Those with oily skin may find it hydrating enough on its own, while those with dryer skin might like it under a moisturizer.

3. Best SPF: SUNTIQUE I'm Pure Perfect Cica Suncream

SUNTIQUE I'm Pure Perfect Cica Suncream

Cica can even be found in some stellar sunscreens, such as this hydrating SPF. The non-greasy lotion contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to protect skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, and it also has a matte finish that sits beautifully under makeup.

4. Best Calming Mask: FIRST AID BEAUTY FAB Pharma Arnica Relief & Rescue Mask

FIRST AID BEAUTY FAB Pharma Arnica Relief & Rescue Mask

Cica is just one anti-inflammatory ingredient in this skin-calming mask. The addition of calendula and arnica helps the formula nourish and soothe irritated skin, all without sulfates, artificial fragrance, dyes, or alcohol.

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About the author
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Elizabeth Denton
Elizabeth is a freelance beauty writer. Previously, she was a beauty & fashion editor at Time Out New York, Seventeen, & Allure. She has more than a decade of experience in the beauty and fashion world, writing for Nylon, StyleCaster, Cosmopolitan & more.
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Article Last Updated August 5, 2021 12:00 AM