If I had a dollar for every skincare product I've seen with "miracle" ingredients like hyaluronic acid or micellar water stamped on the label, I'd be bathing in tubs of $300 La Mer moisturizer every morning and night. Once the power of an ingredient catches on, it floods the market in about two years, seemingly a cure-all for every single skincare woe. You'll see it absolutely everywhere, whether you're shopping at Sephora or your corner Walgreen's. Bored of all the HAs and micelle bubbles, I've been anxiously awaiting the next ingredient in skincare to geek out on—and I think "cica" might be it.
Cica is short for Centella Asiatica, a green that's both eaten and commonly used as a medicinal herb in Asia. Google it, and you'll see that it looks sort of like a clover. Tigers apparently used to roll around in Centella Asiatica to help heal battle wounds, and it can do some pretty transformative things to human skin, too.
"It has been shown to help calm inflammation through its potent antioxidant content and helps enhance wound healing," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "Its proven track-record in traditional Chinese medicine and growing body of data in Western medicine has made Centella Asiatica a popular and effective ingredient in skincare."
It also has the ability to help repair the skin barrier, which Dr. Zeichner says can be damaged because of aging, dryness, eczema, rosacea, and over-use of harsh skincare products. Some background: Like a shield of armor, the skin barrier is what helps keep your skin moisturized, free of wrinkles, and radiant. "It can be combined with other actives, and we will likely see more products using it either alone or in combination with other actives," Zeichner predicts.
The plant is mostly used in moisturizers, creams, and balm-like products. Dr. Jart+ was one of the first to bring it to the forefront with an entire line appropriately dubbed Cicapair Tiger Grass, dedicated to the power of the ingredient. The expansive line of color-correcting creams, strengthening creams, and even facial masks shows how much you can do with cica. Popular K-beauty line Innisfree also just launched its own version of a cica balm targeted to improve skin texture.
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This year, thanks to an anti-aging retinol balm called L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Cicacream, cica reached mass market. The product only takes two weeks to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but I noticed the most difference in the plumpness and softness of my cheeks after a few weeks of use.
I don't have any battle wounds to heal, but my skin did look more supple, glowy, and healthy. And like kale and the Kardashians, I think it's safe to say this ingredient is about to be everywhere.