How 'tiger grass' beauty earned its stripes

How 'tiger grass' beauty earned its stripes

It’s the hot new anti-ageing ingredient. Here CLAIRE COLEMAN reveals: How ‘tiger grass’ beauty earned its stripes

  • Cica is short for centella asiatica and sometimes also called tiger grass
  • Herb grown in Asia, repairs damaged skin while also keeping it firm and bouncy
  • Claire Coleman gives verdict on products in the UK that contain the ingredient 

Spring is here but the unseasonably cold weather, pandemic stress and incessant hand washing and sanitising may have wreaked havoc on your skin.

Whether you’ve got chapped hands, inexplicable dry patches on your legs or a red and inflamed complexion, one four-letter word could be the shortcut to restorative skincare.

Because if you spot the word ‘cica’ on a product label, chances are it’s exactly what you need to tackle every single one of those skin woes.

Cica is short for centella asiatica, an ingredient that’s been popular in traditional medicine for years.

It’s a herb that grows primarily in Asia and legend has it that when tigers are injured, they rub their wounds against it, so it’s sometimes also called tiger grass.

Claire Coleman gives her verdict on a selection of products available in the UK that contain Cica, short for centella asiatica. Pictured: This Works Stress Check CBD Skin Booster + Cica Extract

But what’s in this herb that makes it such a godsend for ravaged skin?

‘The four main active ingredients are asiatic acid, madecassic acid, asiaticoside and madecassoside,’ explains Dr Sonia Khorana, an NHS GP and community dermatology doctor based in the West Midlands. ‘So you might see the individual ingredients, or just “centella asiatica extract” on the listing.’

These four ingredients appear to pack a powerful punch when it comes to skincare.

Not only do they help with wound healing, they also help to reduce scarring and hyperpigmentation, have an anti-inflammatory effect on the bacteria that cause acne and boost the production of collagen — the protein that is needed to repair damaged skin, but also keeps skin firm and bouncy — so it’s a bit of an all-round wonder.

Happily, it also regenerates quite quickly, so despite the proliferation of cica products on the market, it’s relatively sustainably farmed, not least because, according to Dr Khorana, you don’t even need a lot for it to be effective. ‘It’s been used in concentrations as low as 0.01 per cent,’ she says.

Want to try a tiger grass treatment? Whether you’re looking for something for your lips, legs, hands or feet, there’s something that can help — and with everything from cleansers and toners to serums and night creams also on offer, there’s bound to be space for some cica in your routine.

ANTI-STRESS SERUM

This Works Stress Check CBD Skin Booster + Cica Extract, £38, thisworkscbd.com

A combination of ingredients — including centella asiatica and CBD (or cannabidiol, derived from hemp) — this soothing and hydrating serum was created in response to the pandemic to help combat the effects of maskne. It’s also scented with a blend of oils that are meant to have an emotionally calming effect.

Verdict: I’m not convinced by the CBD but the fragrance will definitely calm your mind.

POWER-PACKED GEL

Dr. Ceuracle Cica Regen 95 Soothing Gel, £22, kosame beauty.com

Claire said Dr. Ceuracle Cica Regen 95 Soothing Gel (pictured) is one to keep for emergency sunburn and stings on holiday

For an instant soothing effect — and lashings of centella asiatica — this cooling gel, which is 95 per cent centella, is hard to beat. Made in South Korea, where the trend for cica originated, it’s easily absorbed and doesn’t leave the skin feeling sticky.

Verdict: This is one to keep for emergencies. I can see it coming into its own on holidays for sunburn and stings.

MULTI MUST-HAVE

Bioderma CicaBio Cream, £5.76, nvspharmacy.co.uk

Claire said Bioderma CicaBio Cream (pictured) is for those who want an affordable ‘magic cream’ to soothe anything

This cream from an inexpensive French pharmacy brand contains three of the four main active compounds in centella, in combination with a number of other soothing and hydrating ingredients. Fans swear it helps with everything from insect bites and sunburn to eczema and rosacea, and it can be used on babies too.

Verdict: A family first aid box favourite in France. If you want an affordable ‘magic cream’ to soothe anything, this is it.

SPLASH & SOOTHE

CosRX Pure Fit Cica Toner, £21, skinsider.co.uk

Claire said CosRX Pure Fit Cica Toner (pictured) is a great alternative to alcohol or acid-based toners

If you don’t want to change your existing routine wholesale but your skin needs calming, this toner from a Korean brand is an easy option. With no fewer than seven centella ingredients — the four major actives, plus extracts of the plant, the leaf and the root — it’s best applied with a cotton pad after cleansing.

Verdict: A great alternative to alcohol or acid-based toners that can sting sensitive skin.

OVERNIGHT SUCCESS

Liz Earle’s Cica Restore Skin Paste, £29, uk.lizearle.com

Claire said Liz Earle’s Cica Restore Skin Paste (pictured) is worth trying if your usual night-moisturiser doesn’t calm redness effectively

More of an ointment than a cream, this night treatment containing centella asiatica gets rave reviews not just for its ability to reduce redness but for its plumping and moisturising effects, which the makers claim last an impressive 48 hours.

Verdict: One to try if your usual night-moisturiser doesn’t seem to calm redness effectively.

COLOUR & CORRECT

Dr Jart Cicapair Color Correcting Treatment, from £12, beautybay.com

Claire said Dr Jart Cicapair Color Correcting Treatment (pictured) treats the cause and symptoms of redness

The entire Cicapair range from this Korean brand contains centella extracts and is designed to soothe skin. This particular green-to-beige cream became a cult product on social media, thanks to its ability to neutralise the appearance of redness while simultaneously soothing and treating the inflammation that causes it.

Verdict: If you already use a redness-neutralising primer, this, which treats the cause as well as the symptom, is a better option.

HELPING HAND

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Mains, £7.50, laroche-posay.co.uk

Claire said La Roche Posay Cicaplast Mains (pictured) is one of the only hand creams that stops hands cracking in harsh winters

This range is designed to be soothing and skin-friendly and the balm is frequently recommended by dermatologists. This hand cream contains madecassoside, one of the ingredients from the centella asiatica plant and is ideal for sanitiser-damaged hands.

Verdict: Highly recommended. One of the only hand creams I have found that stops hands cracking in harsh winters.

CALMING SPRAY

SVR Cicavit SOS Anti-Itch Spray, £12.50, uk.labo-svr.com

Claire said SVR Cicavit SOS Anti-Itch Spray (pictured) is good when you don’t want to touch the skin to rub in a cream 

Whether it’s an allergic reaction, dryness or even bites that caused it, itchy skin doesn’t benefit from being scratched. That’s where this soothing spray comes in. It’s cooling, so has an immediate anti-itch effect, but the combination of centella asiatica and pro-vitamin B5 helps to soothe and promote healing.

Verdict: A good option for when you don’t even want to touch the skin to rub in a cream.

GLOW-GIVING JUICE

Elemis Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice, £40, uk.elemis.com

Claire said Elemis Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice (pictured) offers efficacy and luxury 

Super hydrating and soothing, fans rave about the efficacy of this for calming everything from rosacea flares to sunburn. A combination of centella asiatica, cucumber extract, hyaluronic acid and aloe vera cools, calms, nourishes and hydrates.

Verdict: Pricier than others, but if you are looking for efficacy and luxury, this is it.

P.S. READ THE LABEL

A lot of brands have products which include ‘cica’ on the label, but don’t actually contain any centella asiatica.

This is because, in French, ‘cicatrisation’ means healing, and the contracted form, cica, can be used to indicate that the product offers healing or protection.

Among the culprits are Avene Cicalfate (£9.50, escentual.com), a rich hand cream; Dior’s Cica Recover Balm (£40, dior.com) a soothing cream for face and body; and Decléor Huile Cica-Botanic Oil (£38, decleor.co.uk) a blend of oils for the body.

You have been warned!

Dr Sonia Khorana (@dermgp on Instagram)

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