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All about Centella asiatica for skin

How Centella asiatica may benefit your skin—and how to use it.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Melissa Hunter, NP-C
Centella Asiatica Plant and Product
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Melissa Hunter, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Your skin is irritated. It's dry, tight, and red, and you're struggling with acne. You've tried just about every over-the-counter remedy around, but nothing's worked. 

Luckily, Mother Nature has something that may help your skin heal. But is it right for you?

Allow us to introduce you to a plant called Centella asiatica. Let’s walk through its benefits, as well as potential risks, so you can determine if it might be right for you. 

What is Centella asiatica?

Centella asiatica is a perennial herb that grows in the tropical areas of Asia, Africa, and Australia. Also known as Indian Pennywort, Gotu Kola, and cica, it has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries. In recent years, Centella asiatica has become a popular ingredient in many skincare and makeup products.

Recognized for its soothing properties, Centella asiatica may improve the symptoms of acne and other inflammatory skin conditions (although more research is needed). It is commonly used to help hydrate and soothe skin and heal wounds. This article will explain how cica could help your skin and show you how to add it to your skincare routine.

Centella Asiatica Plant

How could Centella asiatica help my skin? 

Centella asiatica, also sometimes referred to as C. asiatica or cica, is gentle and generally considered safe for sensitive skin,¹ and it may benefit your skin in the following ways:

Reducing inflammation and redness

According to several studies cited in a literature review, C. asiatica may improve the symptoms of acne, atopic dermatitis (eczema), burns, and wounds.² Extracts of the herb have been shown to lower the pH of the skin, and this may help to combat inflammation.³

In another study, cica was shown effective at treating both inflamed and non-inflamed cases of acne, as well as smoothing the skin and decreasing the appearance of scars.⁴

If you have rosacea or struggle with redness and irritation, Centella asiatica extract might help calm your skin, but more research is still needed.

Boosting collagen

Centella asiatica contains asiaticoside and madecassic acid, two compounds that may help stimulate collagen synthesis. Clinical studies show that using creams with C. asiatica extract can improve healing.⁵ This may have positive implications for patients with varying degrees of burns. 

Since cica can boost collagen production, it may theoretically help with healing acne scars and delaying skin aging—although more research is needed. If you’re struggling with stretch marks or worried about developing them, it’s possible that Centella asiatica can help treat them. 

One study found that taking an oral form of cica along with a topical cream helped improve stretch marks in postpartum mothers rather quickly.⁶ Another study showed that, while it didn’t prevent the occurrence of stretch marks, applying a topical cream with cica in it during pregnancy helped reduce the severity of them in expectant mothers.⁷ That said, the researchers in the second study acknowledge that more research is needed on the subject before Centella asiatica can be reliably claimed as a treatment for stretch marks.

Improving hydration

If you have dry or fragile skin, C. asiatica may help you find relief from flaking and tightness. One study found that the herb improves the function of the skin barrier when combined with ceramides, allowing the skin's surface to hold more moisture.⁸ Researchers found that a product with 5% C. asiatica extract increased skin hydration by 25% in one month.⁹

Skin hydration is important for all skin types, including dry, oily, and combination skin. Since you can find C. asiatica in lightweight moisturizers and other similar products, you can still use it even if you have oily skin.

Woman Applying Centella Asiatica to Skin

What are the possible risks of using Centella asiatica on skin?

C. asiatica is unlikely to cause significant side effects when it is used as part of a skincare routine.¹⁰ However, it can cause skin irritation in some users. Like anything else, sensitivities can occur when the fresh herb is rubbed directly onto the skin. In general, the risk of skin irritation is lower when using creams, serums, or other products that mix Centella extract with other ingredients.

If you’re concerned about irritation or allergy, ask your medical provider before using Centella asiatica products.

C. Asiatica in Skincare

How can I incorporate Centella asiatica into my skincare routine? 

We generally suggest adding new products slowly to your routine and increasing the frequency as tolerated. You can begin adding it to your routine by using a serum, eye cream, toner, moisturizer, or other topical product that contains C. asiatica extract. You can use it in the morning, at night, or both by applying the product after cleansing.

If you use retinol, you may want to follow it with a Centella asiatica balm or moisturizer to help soothe your skin and potentially reduce irritation. During your treatment with retinol (or prescription retinoids like tretinoin), you must wear sunscreen every day. And if you apply your retinoid at night, consider following it up with a C. asiatica product, and apply sunscreen every morning.

Cica products can also work well with your existing makeup routine. You may want to use it underneath your cosmetics for added hydration. For example, if you use concealer or foundation, you could apply a Centella asiatica serum immediately before to increase moisture. This can help to prevent your makeup from caking and creasing. 

Where can I find out more about using Centella asiatica?

If you have more questions about using Centella asiatica for skin, our licensed dermatology providers would be happy to chat with you. 

At Curology, our providers offer personalized assessments and advice to help you understand ingredients like Centella asiatica and whether this ingredient may work for you.

Started in 2014 by a board-certified dermatologist to make effective skincare accessible to all, Curology helps you reach your skincare goals. We create a personalized skincare routine that treats your skin concerns, including acne, rosacea, dark spots, wrinkles, and clogged pores. We start with an online consultation to understand your symptoms and goals.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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If you decide to start your Curology journey, you just need to take a quiz about your skin, snap a few selfies, and if Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our licensed, in-house dermatology providers who will prescribe a personalized formula for your skin concerns. Why wait? Sign up to start your trial now.*

FAQs

Could Centella asiatica brighten my skin?

It may. Although there's currently no strong evidence that Centella asiatica plays a role in skin brightening, its antioxidant properties may help prevent the skin from developing certain signs of aging. This is because its antioxidant properties may help protect the skin from ultraviolet light, which can give the skin a dull appearance.

Will Centella asiatica reduce acne?

Several studies have indicated that this herb may help in reducing acne, although more research is needed. Your dermatology provider can help you decide if Centella asiatica should be added to your acne treatment routine.

Will Centella asiatica fade dark spots?

There isn’t enough evidence to say that cica can reduce dark spots and other types of hyperpigmentation. You should check with your healthcare professional for more information about treating hyperpigmentation if this is concerning to you.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Ratz-Łyko, A., Arct, J., & Pytkowska, K. Moisturizing and Antiinflammatory Properties of Cosmetic Formulations Containing Centella asiatica Extract. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 78(1), 27–33.(2016).

  2. Park K. S. Pharmacological Effects of Centella asiatica on Skin Diseases: Evidence and Possible Mechanisms. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM, 5462633.(2021).

  3. Ratz-Łyko, A., Arct, J., & Pytkowska, K. Moisturizing and Antiinflammatory Properties of Cosmetic Formulations Containing Centella asiatica Extract. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 78(1), 27–33.(2016).

  4. Beltrami, B., Vassallo, C., Berardesca, E. & Borroni, G. . Antiinflammatory, antimicrobial, comedolytic effects of a topical plant complex treatment in acne vulgaris: A clinical trial, J Appl Cosmetol., 19, 11-20. (2001).

  5. Hou, Q., Li, M., Lu, Y. H., Liu, D. H., & Li, C. C. Burn wound healing properties of asiaticoside and madecassoside. Experimental and therapeutic medicine, 12(3), 1269–1274.(2016).

  6. Hu, S., Belcaro, G., Hosoi, M., Feragalli, B., Luzzi, R., & Dugall, M. Postpartum stretchmarks: repairing activity of an oral Centella asiatica supplementation (Centellicum®). Minerva Ginecol. (2018).

  7. Korgavkar, K.; Wang, F. (2015). Stretch marks during pregnancy: a review of topical prevention. British Journal of Dermatology. 172(3): 606-615.

  8. Anggraeni, S., Umborowati, M. A., Damayanti, D., Endaryanto, A., & Prakoeswa, C. R. S. Role of Centella asiatica and ceramide in skin barrier improvement: a double blind clinical trial of Indonesian batik workers. Journal of basic and clinical physiology and pharmacology, 32(4), 589–593.(2021).

  9. Ratz-Łyko, A., Arct, J., & Pytkowska, K. Moisturizing and Antiinflammatory Properties of Cosmetic Formulations Containing Centella asiatica Extract. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 78(1), 27–33.(2016).

  10. Bergfield, W.F., et al. Safety assessment of Centella asiatica-derived ingredients as used in cosmetics. Cosmetic ingredient review. (2015).

Melissa Hunter is a board certified family nurse practitioner at Curology. She received her MSN from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Melissa Hunter

Melissa Hunter, NP-C

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