Rich in anti-inflammatories, antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties, cica has been shown by Dr. Ava Shanban, a dermatologist based in Los Angeles, to fight off free radicals, regulate collagen synthesis and prevent future damage from environmental stressors. It is well tolerated by sensitive skin and is very effective as a night-time treatment when the skin is in repair mode. This is significant since more and more companies are marketing their formulas to people with sensitive skin because at least 71% of facial skin care users crave ultra-gentle products. These people have found their answer in cica creams, and as a result, cica products have become popular.
Cica’s rise in popularity is in lockstep with the K-beauty movement. According to the Korea Customs Institute, last year, South Korea exported $4.93 billion worth of beauty products. Globally, the South Korean beauty market ranks among the top 10, with an estimated value of over $13.1 billion sales in 2018, according to Mintel, the market research company. Centella asiatica has been subjected to extensive experimental and clinical investigations, which reveal that its complexion benefits are the result of a number of active substances. Centella asiatica is an antioxidant-rich extract that may be listed on the product labels as “Asiatic acid,” “hydrocotyl,” or “Gotu Kola.” It is a rich source of amino acids and has superior soothing properties. It improves skin moisture content at levels of 3-5%. Its high levels of essential fatty acids help to strengthen skin, boost hydration and protect skin from environmental damage because it has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, pro-healing and scar-inhibiting potential. Cica provides these skin benefits without irritation, making it ideal for people with sensitive skin and for those people who cannot tolerate products formulated with retinoids, benzoyl peroxide or hydroquinone.
A History of Use
According to Dr. Hadley King, a New York City-based dermatologist, clinical studies have shown that the cica extract is not only an effective wound healing agent; it is also effective in the treatment of keloids, phlebitis, cellulitis, stretch marks and slow healing wounds.
Today, cica creams can be found in the medicinal aisles of most pharmacies, but cica is far from being a new phenomenon. Centella asiatica has been a cornerstone of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Ayurveda, a traditional Indian medical science, prescribes plants such as aloe vera or Centella asiatica for “pitta” skin, a type of skin that is very similar to our own notion of sensitive skin. In India, Centella asiatica is known as “Mandukaparni” or “Jalbrhmi.” In China it is known as “Goto Cola” and in the UK it is known as “Pennywort.”
According to dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain, recent research proves that regular application of cica-based creams increases collagen production, skin thickness and growth of blood vessels. Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe says Centella asiatica is often recognized for its ability to protect skin molecules from degradation and bolster skin’s healthy barrier. This so-called tiger grass is even sometimes referred to as “the fountain of youth” in Chinese culture due to its rumored positive effect on longevity. Dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner notes that Centella asiatica is beneficial in treating dry, irritated and inflamed skin, in addition to providing anti-aging benefits. Whether one desires general hydration or needs to help calm inflammation, cica can be used broadly regardless of skin type.
Cica can even be used all year long because it will heal wind- and cold-battered skin in the winter and it won’t make you sensitive to the sun in the summer. It pairs especially well with green tea, ceramides, vitamins A and C, and omega-3 fatty acids.
According to Dr. Sejal Shah, the founder of Smart Skin Dermatology, while cica-containing products are not exactly designed for healing wounds, they do soothe, repair and protect skin. Cica’s complexion benefits are the result of a number of active substances that have wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and skin barrier-repairing properties. With so many benefits, it should be no surprise that the number of cica-based formulas is rising.
What’s Out There?
Cica creams have become the flagship for new skin care launches claiming efficacy, safety and mildness. These products not only make it possible to regenerate damaged skin and strengthen or protect skin, they also fight wrinkles. Brands are already trying to differentiate their cica creams by adding supporting ingredients such as probiotics. Make P:rem Cicapro Revitalizing Cream contains fermented probiotics that purportedly help soothe and strengthen the skin barrier. It addresses skin dehydration, sensitivity and blemishes.
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Cica Cream Anti-Wrinkle+Skin Barrier Repair Cream contains pro-retinol, a powerful ingredient that helps skin produce collagen and rejuvenate the skin. According to Dr. Rocio Rivera, scientific communications director for L’Oréal Paris, external factors such as pollution and dirt, and internal factors like stress and dehydration, can age skin as they break down the moisture barrier. Revitalift Cica Cream is proven to strengthen the skin barrier.
Innisfree Cica Balm with Bija Seed Oil combines the power of cica and bija fruit to create a blend that works to improve the skin’s protective barrier, tone and texture.
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Repair Serum imparts multiple benefits, such as reducing redness, soothing uneven skin tone, and fighting acne and blemishes.
Sundri Gotu Kola and Yucca Facial Serum is an intense firming serum for the face with gotu kola oil to stimulate and lift tired skin. It also contains peptides, algae extract and yucca extract to promote a youthful look.
Peach & Lily sells a jelly-like exfoliating wash-off mask with Centella asiatica as well as AHA, BHA, blue agave extract, hyaluronic acid, chamomile and aloe.
La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5, a moisturizer, contains shea butter, panthenol and dimethicone, as well as cica.
Bioderma Cicabio soothing and preparing cream is a moisturizer for itchy, irritated skin with an impressive mix of antioxidants. It has a thick texture and is occlusive. Balancium Corsx is another facial moisturizer that also protects the skin barrier. It contains Centella asiatica, leaf water and ceramide, and is suitable for all skin types. Furthermore, Mixa Cica repair body lotion, Erborium CC cream SPF 25, Mask No7 Laboratories and Cica-Rescue Skin Paste ($23, Walgreens) are also in the market right now. Both Asian and Western markets are seeing a cica skin care boom due to its history and clinical results. Cica is a trending ingredient right now, and its science shows that the hype is warranted. This should come as no surprise. Based on numerous studies, it works!
Navin M. Geria
Chief Scientific Officer
AyurDerm Technologies, LLC
Navin Geria, former Pfizer Research Fellow is a cosmetic and pharmaceutical product development chemist and the chief scientific officer of AyurDerm Technologies LLC, which provides Ayurvedic, natural and cosmeceutical custom formulation development and consulting services to the spa-wellness-dermatology industries. He has launched dozens of cosmeceutical and ayurvedic anti-aging products. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick-Energizer, Bristol-Myers and Spa Dermaceuticals. He has nearly 20 US patents and has been published extensively. Geria edited the “Handbook of Skin-Aging Theories for Cosmetic Formulation Development” focus book published in April 2016 by Harry’s Cosmeticology. He is a speaker, moderator and chairman at cosmetic industry events.