I'm A Cosmetic Chemist — This Underrated Ingredient Is A+ For Stressed-Out Skin
As a self-proclaimed ingredient nerd, I'm always happy to chat about the science behind my favorite skin care formulas. There's just something so satisfying about understanding the chemistry involved—how those ingredients work in tandem to soothe, exfoliate, or brighten the skin—and discovering what makes a product truly sing.
Recently, clean cosmetic chemist Krupa Koestline filled me in on one of her favorite underrated players for stressed-out skin—suffice it to say I drank up the info and did some digging. Her go-to skin soother is a botanical called blue tansy, and it's top-notch for an angry, inflamed complexion.
Fellow ingredient buffs, read on.
What is blue tansy?
Blue tansy (also called blue chamomile) comes from the Tanacetum Annuum plant native to Morocco—which, contrary to what you might think, isn't actually blue: Rather, the plant is yellow with button-like flower heads. It's when the essential oil gets extracted from the leaves and distilled that it transforms into a deep indigo hue, and it's this oil that's commonly used in skin care.
Think of blue tansy as the jewel-toned cousin of chamomile: Both have anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin (which we'll discuss in a jiff), but in slightly different ways. "They are from a completely different genus of plants and smell very different, with different properties, too," says Koestline. (Blue tansy smells fruitier than your average chamomile.)
Benefits for skin.
"Because of its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant potential, it is a great oil for sunburned, sun-damaged, inflamed, or stressed skin," Koestline continues. A worthy grab for summer, it seems.
A few main components are key for blue tansy's ticket to fame: chamazulene, camphor, sabinene, and sesquiterpene lactones. Let's dig in to the science:
- Sesquiterpene lactones: "Research confirms these sesquiterpene lactones display potential anti-inflammatory activity through [blocking] the NF-kB pathway," says Koestline. (That's the molecule that works its way into your cells and turns on genes that lead to inflammation.)
- Camphor: Another anti-inflammatory, camphor also has some skin-healing properties. One animal study, in particular, found that the ingredient was effective for treating wounds and easing UV-induced wrinkles.
- Chamazulene: "Blue tansy also contains around 13% chamazulene, which has been shown to have higher antioxidant capability compared to ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherol, and BHT," says Koestline.
- Sabinene: Blue tansy is also rich in this compound, which has some therapeutic, anti-inflammatory properties for the skin. It also has terpene-like effects, which means it gives off specific aromas that elicit particular responses in the body.
How to incorporate it into your routine.
Yes, blue tansy has some anti-inflammatory properties, but it's still a powerful essential oil—so you should never apply it directly to your skin. You can mix a few drops into your moisturizer or face oil before slathering on, but make sure there's some sort of carrier there to dilute the potency. You may even want to do a patch-test on your arm first, just to make sure you don't face any irritation from the oil.
Plenty of market products incorporate blue tansy, too: Slip on this soothing Sleeping Night Oil from Sunday Riley, or try Herbivore's Blue Tansy BHA and Enzyme Pore Refining Mask to gently slough off dead skin.
As for when to incorporate this calming oil into your regimen, Koestline prefers to use it before bed. "I love blue tansy in my night routine," she says, not only for its ability to cushion the skin while you snooze but also for the "soothing and calming scent that promotes restful sleep."
Ingredients to calm inflamed skin range far and wide—Koestline's favorite just happens to be blue tansy. If you've never dabbled with the oil before, please do perform a patch test before applying it all over your face (we repeat: It's a potent EO, which can be irritating on sensitive skin). Other than that, it's a promising skin soother.
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