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Cica cream is quickly making a name for itself as a go-to beauty solution for people with dry, sensitive, or eczema-prone skin.
It’s a popular ingredient in K-beauty products and is commonly found on the shelves of European pharmacies as a scar treatment.
“The ingredient has been used for centuries for wound healing,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, FAAD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York Presbyterian-Cornell and dermatologist at MDCS: Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York City.
She adds that cica cream is often recommended as a calming treatment post-procedure.
It’s also long been recommended by naturopathic doctors to address a variety of medical and skin disorders.
“Centella asiatica has been used to treat psoriasis, eczema, lupus, leprosy, syphilis, wounds, colds, and influenza,” says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, FAAD, a board certified dermatologist at SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care in Beverly Hills, California.
In the past few years, cica cream has made its way stateside. “It’s becoming more popular and is integrated into skin care routines more frequently,” says Garshick.
Read on to learn how cica cream works, whether science backs its benefits, and where to find it.
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Cica cream, also commonly known as gotu kola or tiger grass, is an antioxidant-rich moisturizer for sensitive skin.
The word “cica” is a shortening of Centella asiatica, an herb native to some parts of Asia and Africa. It’s best known for calming eczema and psoriasis flare-ups, as well as healing superficial burns and scratches.
Three thousand years ago, the Centella asiatica herb was used as a cure-all in folk medicine. For the past several hundred years, it’s been used in traditional Asian medicine to speed wound healing and reduce skin inflammation.
The ingredient started to make its way into Western medicine in the nineteenth century and is now sold in sensitive skin care products worldwide.
The main active compounds in Centella asiatica include madecassoside acid, asiatic acid, and asiaticoside — which is why you’ll find cica cream also sold as “madecassoside cream” or “asiaticoside cream.”
In France, for example, you can find 1% madecassoside cream — with the Centella asiatica extract madecassoside — sold as a scar cream at the pharmacy.
Centella asiatica is rich in amino acids, beta carotene, fatty acids, and phytochemicals, says Shainhouse.
It has antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help calm and repair skin. It’s also been shown to help stimulate the creation of collagen, a building block protein of tissues throughout the body that keeps skin elastic.
“It helps to strengthen the skin barrier and can be anti-aging,” explains Garshick.
Cica cream has been used for a long time in traditional Asian medicine, and some scientific research also suggests it may help with several skin issues, including:
- Eczema and psoriasis. A
2017 studyin mice suggested that cica cream might help treat eczema. “Due to its anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties, it can be a helpful addition for someone dealing with psoriasis or eczema,” says Garshick.
- Dryness and irritation. Skin care companies are betting that the anti-inflammatory properties of Centella asiatica may help moisturizers work better by supporting skin’s barrier function. A small
2017 studyof 20 women by a skin care company found that their product, which contains the moisturizing ingredients hyaluronic acid and glycerin as well as Centella asiatica extract, improved skin hydration.
- Wrinkles. A 2008 study of 20 women with chronically sun-damaged skin found that two-thirds who used an antioxidant cream with vitamin C and madecassoside extract had improved skin hydration, elasticity, and the appearance of wrinkles after 6 months. Another 2008 study of asiaticoside, another Centella asiatica extract, found that two-thirds saw improvement in wrinkles around their eyes after using the cream twice a day for 12 weeks.
- Acne. A
2018 test tube (in vitro) studyconcluded that madecassoside improved hydration and decreased acne-linked inflammation in human skin cells.
- Scars. Centella asiatica contains triterpene compounds, which
studiessuggest may increase collagen synthesis, explains Shainhouse. Some researchin animals has found that Centella asiatica improved the skin’s wound-healing process from minor burns and cuts. A small 2018 study in people found it reduced pigmentation (darkening of skin) on skin-graft scars.
While the research on cica cream’s benefits is promising, it’s far from conclusive.
Studies on wound healing, collagen production, and inflammation have been done in animals, notes Dr. Peterson Pierre, a dermatologist with the Pierre Skin Care Institute in Westlake Village, California.
He adds that there are no high-quality, peer-reviewed studies proving cica cream’s benefits for eczema, psoriasis, or acne.
Just wash your face and apply. That’s it!
Some people have
“I recommend starting several nights a week and gradually building up to every night and, eventually, twice a day,” says Pierre.
If you’re using cica in a cream form, Garshick recommends applying it after your other products. “It can serve as a type of thicker moisturizing barrier cream,” she says.
If it’s a serum, use it underneath your moisturizer, she suggests. Either way, apply sunscreen on top in the morning.
Cica cream might be especially helpful after a chemical peel or other facial treatment that might leave your skin feeling a little raw. Post-procedure, apply it twice a day after washing skin for several consecutive days, suggests Garshick.
Ready to try cica cream? Start with one of these highly rated options:
- Dr. Jart’s Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment with SPF 30, $39
- La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5, $15
- Uriage Bariéderm Repairing Cica-Cream, $26
- Kiehl’s Centella Sensitive Cica-Cream, $44
- Innisfree Bija Cica Balm, $20
- Iope Derma Repair Cica Cream, $27
- Lancôme Advanced Génifique Sensitive Dual Concentrate, $60
- L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Cicacream, $14
If you have sensitive skin, cica cream is one good option to keep skin moisturized. Garshick recommends cica cream to her patients, especially post-procedure. “It can be used by all skin types, even those with acne or rosacea-prone skin,” she says.
Even though there’s not a lot of scientific data to back its benefits, “cica cream is benign enough and has some potentially significant benefits, especially with respect to wound healing, that it’s probably worth giving it a try,” says Pierre.
Colleen de Bellefonds is a Paris-based health and wellness journalist with over a decade of experience regularly writing and editing for publications including WhatToExpect.com, Women’s Health, WebMD, Healthgrades.com, and CleanPlates.com. Find her on Twitter.