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Cica Creams Are Great For Sensitive Skin: Learn About The Classic Herb

June 22, 2020
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If you are one to pay close attention to the beauty space, you might have come across a unique type of skin care product: cica creams, a type of moisturizer that contains a unique herb thought to calm skin and reduce redness. Stateside, it's dubbed "cica," but it also goes by centella asiatica, tiger grass, gotu kola, Indian -ennywort, or Ji Xue Cao. 

"It's a type of plant that is considered bitter, pungent, and cold in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbs. Its main focus is to 'cool' the body," says Debbie Kung, DAOM, LAc, who specializes in facial rejuvenation. "In TCM, any skin eruptions are also known as 'heat toxicity,' and this herb helps remedy it. It helps to clear heat, hence helping skin issues such as eczema and acne."

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In its current skin care iteration, it's commonly formulated into creams, masks, or serums and comes by the way of K-Beauty retailers and formulators (it's not an herb specific only to K-Beauty—as we mentioned above, it's a TCM herb, too—however, the wave of K-Beauty products has certainly made it more widely known given how popular K-Beauty as a whole has become). 

These products are typically marketed to those who have redness-prone skin due to acne, inflammation, sensitivities, and so on. Studies have shown centella asiatica can help with a host of other skin benefits1, too: hydration, promote fibroblast proliferation (or, the things in our cells that create collagen and elastin), and aid in wound healing. So while the ingredient's main function is redness reduction, really anyone looking for a soothing cream could benefit from the active. 

It's no wonder it's had such a long history of use—here, our five favorite options.  

Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment

For those with true redness issues—like severe flushing or rosacea—this has a slight green color-correcting tint that will help minimize those tones on contact. (According to color theory, green neutralizes red.) Then the soothing cream can get to work on reducing redness long term; plus, it contains skin-strengthening herbs to help build up your skin barrier

Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment, Dr. Jart ($52)  

Dr. Jart Cicapair treamtnet

Innisfree Cica Gel With Bija Seed Oil

For lighter, more breathable options that are easy to layer, this clear gel has an effortless slip that sinks right in. Not only does it have centella asiatica, but it's paired with bija seed oil, which can help balance and maintain your natural sebum levels. Grab this option if your skin tends to be easily irritated as well as oily or acne-prone. 

Cica Gel With Bija Seed Oil, Innisfree ($25)

inisfree gel

Peach & Lily Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask

Centella asiatica makes a divine addition to an exfoliating mask (like this one), as it will temper any redness you may experience after sloughing off dead skin cells. This option comes with a blend of AHAs, BHAs, and blue agave to "unglue" dead skin cells, so younger, plumper ones can come to the surface. 

Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask, Peach & Lily ($43) 

Peach & Lily resurfacing mask
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COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream

Another effortless, lightweight formula that packs in way more than cica. This also comes with sunflower seed oil (naturally rich in vitamin E) as well as ceramides, which moisturize and prop up the skin barrier. 

Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream, COSRX ($26)

cosrx cream

AHC Essential Stressed Calming Cotton Mask

This luxe cotton sheet mask offers instant, easy relief. (The "bottle," pictured, is actually the packaging for said sheet mask.) The sheet is soaked in cica, niacinamide, ceramides, and a host of other botanicals that can calm the skin after a long day or before a big night out. 

Essential Stressed Calming Cotton Mask, AHC ($24.13)

ahc essential sheet mask
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Alexandra Engler
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.