After taking the wellness community by storm, adaptogens are fast becoming the buzziest term in skin care. Not quite sure what they actually are or what they can do for your skin? Read on for a lesson in adaptogens 101.
What are adaptogens?
According to dermatologist Dr. Adriana Lombardi, an associate at Advanced Laser and Skin Cancer Center and The Lombardi Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Center, “adaptogens are ingredients that have been used for hundreds, [maybe thousands] of years in herbal medicine to restore the body to its natural state. These plants and herbs have been found to target the adrenal glands normalizing hormone levels, decreasing stress, decreasing inflammation, and in doing so, restoring the body to baseline.”
If the concept of adaptogens sounds familiar, it’s because they are basically the new age version of hanbang, the term for traditional herbal medicine in Korea.
So what can they do for your skin?
Adaptogens work like antioxidants in that their main purpose is to protect the body from external stressors and bring it back to its normal state. Dr. Lombardi explains, “for almost every process in the body, there is an adaptogen with the ability to help heal. Skin care is exciting when discussing adaptogens because unlike any other organ in the body you can directly apply adaptogens to it.” When used in skin care, “adaptogens have the ability to decrease inflammation, cleanse the skin (killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi) decrease oil production, protect, and provide antioxidants, as well as hydrate.”
But, according to Dr. Neil Sadick, a New York City-based dermatologist, it is important to note that while “adaptogens can be beneficial taken topically or orally, they need to be quality-controlled to have bioavailability and proven ability to reach their target skin layer.”
Where can you find adaptogens in skin care?
Now that we have broken down what adaptogens are, here are some specific ingredients look out for.
One of the most well-known adaptogens is ashwagandha. Dr. Sadick explains, “ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is ideal for breakouts and oily skin as it regulates cortisol and other hormonal levels. In addition, it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can directly detoxify the skin and unclog pores.” The Youth To The People Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream features this ingredient along with a slew of other nourishing adaptogens and medicinal mushrooms.
Mushrooms play a huge role in some of the most popular Korean skin care brands like Missha. Reishi mushroom, a popular adaptogen, is featured in the Missha Geum Sul Vitalizing Eye Cream, for example. This ingredient is a powerful one that is chock full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Reishi is actually rich in polysaccharides, water-binding agents that improve the skin’s ability to retain moisture. This is essential for aging skin because as we age we become more prone to transepidermal water loss, resulting in dry and irritated skin. This is especially true for the delicate eye area.
Some other well-known adaptogens are lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) and snow fungus (Tremella fuciformis) aka the beauty mushroom. These mushrooms infuse the skin with moisture, leaving it feeling more plump and youthful. The Plant Base Time Stop Collagen Ampoule actually contains both of these. This serum is formulated with 76.52% of mushroom extract to stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. The soothing and skin barrier-strengthening Acwell Betaglution Ultra Moisture Cream also contains snow fungus, and as a result (and as its name suggests), plenty of beta glucans.
Dr. Lombardi explains that beta glucans, found in these mushrooms, “have the ability to penetrate the skin and absorb moisture leaving the skin supple and radiant.”.
Adaptogens are nothing new; Eastern cultures have long valued the powerful benefits of these ingredients. However, we’re excited to see that the Western world has taken interest in them, especially when it comes to skin care. While these ingredients may sound intimidating, they’re worth a shot if you’re looking for a complexion boost.