Why Your Skin Needs Adaptogens

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What Are Adaptogens?

An adaptogen is a non-toxic herbal compound that helps your body to adapt or resist physical, chemical or biological stressors. They’re nothing new – they have been being used for thousands of years in Chinese traditional medicine and Ayurveda but it is only more recently that they are popping up in supplements and topical skincare. But why is this? “Adaptogens not only regulate the body’s response to stress, but they can also increase the lifespan of cells, reduce fatigue and inflammation, and normalise the adrenal system which all bring significant benefits to your skin and overall wellbeing,” explains aesthetic doctor, Dr Barbara Sturm.


Why Should You Use Them In Your Skincare Regime?

Stress and fatigue can play havoc with your skin both short and long term, causing pesky breakouts, inflammation, unwanted dullness and contributing to premature ageing. As adaptogens work to reduce these stressors, they could be the answer to many of your skin woes when combined with other targeted ingredients. “I always balance out a high-tech active ingredient with a soothing botanical to keep my skin in harmony,” says brand founder, Sunday Riley. “I add adaptogens like ginger and liquorice root regularly in to my skin care as they balance the skin in response to high levels of retinoids and acids. I see adaptogens as another tool in my whole 360 outlook on health – not as a super cure-all.”


Ashwagandha is a small plant that is found in India and North Africa. The powder from its root and leaves is one of the most powerful adaptogens there is. “Ashwagandha is a rich antioxidant which can help with adrenal functions and reducing the stress hormone,” says Dr Sturm. “When it comes to skincare, it is antibacterial and incredibly brightening.” Herbivore’s Emerald Deep Moisture Glow Oil calms irritation and promotes a healthy glow thanks to its formula of ashwagandha root, shiitake mushroom and omega-rich cannabis sativa seed oil.

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Not just for golden lattes and seasoning your curries, turmeric is renowned for its ability to calm and soothe. “Turmeric has high levels of a chemical called curcumin which has been proven to be a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory,” says Sunday. “I drink turmeric tea (about 3 grams per mug) and apply a turmeric product to my face daily.” Kora’s Turmeric Brightening and Exfoliating Mask harnesses the power of turmeric to naturally exfoliate the skin to clear pores, promote radiance and give a more even texture, while Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque also uses turmeric to brighten and smooth.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera might be more renowned for slathering on sun burnt skin thanks to its healing properties but it is also great for combatting fine lines and wrinkles as this leafy green is loaded with age-defying vitamins (A, C, E, B1, B2, B3 and B6) and minerals (copper, zinc and potassium). Fresh’s Rose Face Mask, which is not only infused with aloe vera, but cucumber, green tea and fresh rose too, works to restore a supple and plump complexion which looks instantly more youthful. Aloe vera is a great hydrator too making it a wise choice for the coming winter months. Try Kiehl’s Calendula and Aloe Hydration Masque for a refreshing cool burst or Dr Roebucks’ True Blue Ultimate Hydrating Serum for revitalised and well-hydrated skin.


“Mushrooms (particularly reishi ones) are good for detoxifying the skin,” says leading dermatologist Dr Goldfaden. It’s anti-inflammatory benefits make it ideal for acne sufferers and it also assists your body with eliminating toxins. Chantecaille’s Detox Mask uses mushroom extract as an astringent to reduce sebum and draw out impurities for reduced breakouts and blemishes. Dr Dennis Gross’ Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleanser also uses mushroom and willow bark to deeply cleanse and decongest the skin to rid bacteria.