A few years ago, Korean beauty brands popularised this medicinal herb called cica, short for Centella Asiatica. It seemed that almost every K-beauty cream contained this ‘miracle’ ingredient, and for good reason.
What is cica, and what does it do for our skin?
In order to understand why cica is trending in the skincare industry, it is necessary to first explain what it is.
According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital, cica (Centella Asiatica) is a herb found in Asia that has been used in Eastern Medicine for various health benefits. It is rich in saponins, which are like nature’s anti-inflammatories and have been shown to calm irritated skin and aid in wound healing.
Another name for cica is actually tiger grass – the reason is because tigers in India actually roll around in the grass there to use it to heal their wounds.
So, why is cica so popular in K-beauty?
Every year, Korea is gripped by Asian dust, or yellow dust as it is more commonly known. Hazardous ultra-fine PM2.5 dust particles are picked up by high-speed surface winds from Mongolia’s deserts and Kazakhstan, then blown over to the rest of East Asia.
Due to the toxic air pollution, soothing properties have sharply risen as the most sought-after benefit among consumers who have come to perceive their skin as sensitive, or who seek protection from pollution, stress and the chemicals in regular skincare.
With high demand comes high supply: in turn, K-beauty brands needed to find a way to counteract the effects of pollution with formulas that are gentle enough for sensitive skin. According to Mintel Global New Products Database, 23% of skincare products launched in South Korea between January and October 2017 were designed ‘for sensitive skin’, which grew from 11% in 2014.
One key ingredient that K-beauty brands turned to for their sensitive skincare range was none other than cica. This ingredient ticked all the right boxes with its anti-inflammatory benefits and abilities to calm irritated skin.
Why have skincare brands from other countries also jumped on board the cica trend?
In recent years, beauty brands from other countries have also started including cica in their skincare products. This could be attributed to the fact that more people worldwide have also reported having sensitive skin, particularly in Asia. According to Aurelie Guyoux, R&D Director of NAOS, there does appear to be a rise in “sensitive skin syndrome” – market studies show that it actually affects 62% of women in China and South Korea.
A trend that Mintel has been seeing is the innovation in textures and formats, where more brands will quickly move from creams to serums, toners and facial masks, while textures will become more lightweight and watery.
Cica is also highly compatible with complexion-aiding products such as tone-up creams, cushion compacts and foundations, so you can look forward to it becoming more prevalent in makeup products as well.
Which are the best cica beauty products in the market?
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Re-cover SPF 30/PA++
Dr. Jart+’s Cicapair series helped to put cica in the international spotlight, and this best-selling treatment cream is the product that started the brand’s ever-expanding Cicapair line of products.
Re-cover is an all-in-one colour-correcting treatment that does everything from regenerating damaged skin, covering skin tone, blocking dust, protecting against UV rays, to providing whitening and anti-wrinkle functions. You can use this as a primer that colour-corrects redness, or as a tinted moisturiser that replaces your foundation.
Whichever way you use this, we are sure that it will become your next holy grail!
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Re-cover SPF 30/PA++ retails at SGD68 for 55ml and SGD74 for default size in Sephora stores and website.
Kiehl’s Dermatologist Solutions Centella Sensitive Facial Cleanser
It’s not just creams that are formulated with cica – Kiehl’s has also used the popular ingredient in the brand’s mildest facial cleanser for sensitive skin. The ultra-gentle pH-balanced cleanser allows you to wash away dirt and oil without hurting your skin or clogging pores; in fact, the cica can even soothe and comfort your irritated skin!
The Centella Sensitive Facial Cleanser also has a unique dual-use formula: you can apply to dry skin and rinse off, or use this as a no-rinse cleanser and remove with a cotton pad. Either way, you’ll definitely be left with clearer skin in no time.
Kiehl’s Dermatologist Solutions Centella Sensitive Facial Cleanser retails at SGD59 in Kiehl’s stores and website.
La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5
Cica is used in this multi-repairer from La Roche-Posay as a daily solution to skin lesions for everyone, be it babies or seniors. You can use this to reduce inflammation, speed up reparation of wounds, as well as strengthening the skin barrier.
Sounds too good to be true? Its efficacy has been demonstrated in clinical studies to work for more than 21 skin conditions and on more than 12,700 patients – we’re convinced!
La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Blaume B5 retails at SGD17.50 in Guardian and Watsons.
BIODERMA Cicabio Cream
BIODERMA’s Cicabio Cream helps to relieve discomfort and reduces the urge to scratch, so you can apply this whenever you spot outbreaks of dryness, irritation or redness on your skin.
This is also gentle enough to be used as follow-up to dermatological procedures like non-abrasive laser treatment, which is why this is the second most commonly prescribed product among French dermatologists!
BIODERMA Cicabio Cream retails at SGD17.50 in Guardian and Watsons.
Etude House Cica Balance 5.5 Foam Cleanser
Formulated at a low pH of 5.5 (which is similar to our skin’s!), Etude House’s new foam cleanser removes only excess sebum and moisturises your skin at the same time to keep it healthy.
Etude House Cica Balance 5.5 Foam Cleanser retails at SGD15.90 in Etude House stores, as well as on Lazada.
LANEIGE Cica Sleeping Mask
You may already be an avid fan of LANEIGE’s famous water sleeping mask, but did you know that there is a cica version of it too?
LANEIGE’s Cica Sleeping Mask helps to treat dryness and redness while you sleep. This unique skincare product is specially infused with patented ‘Forest Yeast’ that is derived from cica, which strengthens the skin’s barrier and deliver a soothing effect to irritated skin, so all you have to do is take a good rest and wake up the next morning to a clear complexion!
LANEIGE Cica Sleeping Mask retails at SGD38.10 on Althea.
Neogen Dermalogy Real Cica Pads
Although exfoliating may be the last thing on your mind when you are dealing with a bad breakout, Neogen Dermalogy’s famous Real Cica Pads will certainly change your opinion.
The concentrated formula in these exfoliating pads works to reduce redness and inflammation while promoting collagen production. The formula also contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin, and is free of potential irritants like parabens, artificial fragrance, and mineral oil.
The result of using these pads? According to multiple satisfied users, it’s clear skin with a healthy glow!
Neogen Dermalogy Real Cica Pads retail at SGD16.90 on Shopee and Lazada.
innisfree Bija Cica Gel
As if using cica was not enough, innisfree has taken it a step further by formulating their famous gel with centella asiatica 4X, a high-purity refined substance that repairs damaged skin by providing intensive care.
That’s not all – the gel also contains bija, which is another ingredient famous for protecting the skin with its antibacterial & regenerating properties. With these two powerful ingredients in the formula, it is little wonder that beauty junkies commonly agree on how this tube really packs a punch when it comes to soothing sensitive skin.
innisfree Bija Cica Gel retails at SGD35 in innisfree stores, as well as on Lazada.
Dr. Belmeur CICA Recovery Serum
Even users previously plagued with acne were impressed by the results they saw after using this serum from Dr. Belmeur. It is made with a custom-made formula Skin-sync Rx™, a blend of fantastic ingredients such as cica and ceramide so that you get healthier skin over time.
Unlike most other serums, CICA Recovery Serum boasts a creamy texture rather than a watery one. It may take some getting used to, but it definitely will not feel too heavy, nor do you have to worry about it clogging your pores.
Dr. Belmeur CICA Recovery Serum retails at SGD48 in THEFACESHOP stores and on Lazada.
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