The Trendy Ingredient That Will Save Your Skin Before Summer

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 March that still has 12-16 inches of snow in the forecast, 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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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.

Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Nightly Re.Pair Mask, $48, available at Sephora.
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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.

L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Cicacream Anti-Wrinkle + Skin Barrier Repair, $17.99, available at Ulta.
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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.)

Neogen Dermalogy Real Cica Pad, $20, available at Soko Glam.
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There's sensitive skin, which most of us have to some degree, and then there's "holy shit, I just hugged someone wearing perfume and now my face is on fire" skin — and the latter has been screwed by products claiming to be gentle. This lightweight gel moisturizer offers genuine assurance: It's zero-10, meaning it's formulated without the 10 biggest irritants in skin care (including parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, artificial color, fragrance, benzoic acid, triclosan, and more), and has a whopping 68% Centella asiatica.

It's Skin Tiger Cica Gel Cream, $19.59, available at Jet.
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A cica cream by any other name would 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.

Lancôme Advanced Génifique Sensitive Antioxidant Serum, $78, available at Sephora.
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Centella, green tea, and chamomile are just a few of the seven herbs that make up this exfoliating cleanser. It babies your skin as it buffs all the dead, dull stuff away, so you'll get the results of a light peel without any of the stinging or dryness.

Erborian Crème Scrub Beautifying Exfoliating Pearls, $28, available at Sephora.
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