There are a few versions of an ancient Laotian legend about the origins of Centella asiatica out there, but this is our basic understanding: A young man, in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy landowner, has been slashed in the stomach by the girl's father, who deems him an unworthy suitor. The only way he can marry her, says the father, is if he proves his strength by coming back the next day with a healed scar.
Instead of telling dad he's a complete lunatic, the young man ventures into the forest, where he's seen tigers rolling in the grass to heal their battle wounds. He rubs the magic plant on his stomach and by morning, the skin is good as new. He gets the girl, the village discovers the power of Centella asiatica, everyone lives happily ever after.
Fake news? Probably, but according to dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, the antioxidant-rich herb does work wonders (within reason) on burns, psoriasis, dermatitis, and generally itchy/dry/red/irritated/sensitive/blah skin, thanks to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and highly moisturizing properties. "It's often recognized for its anti-aging ability to protect your skin molecules from degradation and bolster the skin’s healthy barrier," she says.
And in the midst of a summer that'll probably go down in history for its record-breaking high temperatures, your face needs all the extra protection it can get, so it's a good thing Centella asiatica is starting to pop up everywhere — from drugstores to Sephoras — under the nickname "cica."
Ahead, the cica creams that'll keep your skin in fighting shape when you need it most. (But only against the elements — you'll need a restraining order for the violent in-law.)
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Oily, acne-prone, dry, combination, "holy shit, I just hugged someone wearing perfume and now my face is on fire" sensitive — whatever your skin type, this does-it-all mask has a benefit for you. You get your antioxidants, your hydration, and your gently exfoliating AHAs all in one, all in the name of bright, bouncy skin. The Centella asiatica is key for its anti-inflammatory powers, which fends off breakouts and soothes irritation in one fell swoop.
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No matter whether your skin's inflammation comes by way of rosacea, breakouts, -20° wind chill, or your late-night picking habit, this overnight mask (which isn't your typical heavy cream that greases up the pillowcase) is the answer. Don't change your nightly skin routine — just smooth on a layer of this non-sticky, sinks-right-in, green jelly as the final step before bed and let the Centella asiatica, chlorophyll, and botanical oils calm your face down by morning.
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Dr. Bowe says that while more human studies are needed, available research suggests that Centella's ability to stimulate collagen production, as well as its anti-inflammatory and protective properties, make it an ideal complement to retinol. This cream, which goes on before your regular moisturizer, has both ingredients and can be used morning and night.
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These pads come pre-soaked in the good shit: a soothing, gently exfoliating blend of Centella asiatica, hyaluronic acid, allantoin, and trendy PHA gluconolactone that's somewhere between a toner and an essence. Swipe one on dry skin after cleansing, pat in the remaining product, and go straight to your serum and moisturizer. (Or you could just go to bed — the lightweight hydration will be enough to keep oily and combination skin types satisfied.)
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A cica cream by any other name would still feel as soothing, which holds true for this antioxidant-rich serum that doesn't advertise its CC status but lists centella right up there with ferulic acid and vitamin E.
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The term "balm" brings waxy salves and rich creams to mind, so it's a bit of a misnomer in the case of this lightweight, highly absorbent gel formula — packed with Centella asiatica, bija seed oil, and green tea extract to protect and rebalance the skin's moisture barrier — which spreads easily onto skin to soothe and reduce redness instantly.